April 01, 1999


Nikolai Vassiliyevich Gogol was born, appropriately for a satirist, on April 1, 1809, in the Poltava Gubernia of Maloros (“Little Russia,” later officially named Ukraine). His parents were mid-level landowners and his father was also an amateur playwright. Gogol was well-educated in the arts and showed a particular proficiency in acting – later in life, his dramatic readings of his stories would be widely renowned.

Gogol had a very healthy ego and feared obscurity. At the age of 18, he wrote to an uncle: “Cold sweat drenches my face at the thought that I may perish in dust without becoming famous for any extraordinary accomplishment. Living in this world would be terrible if I failed to make my being beneficial.”

At first he dreamed of a legal career. So, in 1828, when he finished his studies at a gymnasium in Nezhin, he set off to make his name in St. Petersburg. But he quickly became discouraged by the monotony, emptiness and pitiful remuneration of a bureaucratic career (so tellingly described in his masterpiece, The Overcoat). Thankfully, he focused his creative energies on writing.

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