November 03, 2021

Gogol in the Middle


Gogol in the Middle
Gogol isn't taking well to this dispute | Alexey Komarov on Flickr

Ex-deputy Irina Farion of the Verkhovna Rada, or Supreme Council, of Ukraine claimed on October 30 that celebrated Ukrainian-born writer Nikolai Gogol lost his mind because of the Russian language.

Gogol is known for his absurdist writing, portraying the contradictions and hypocrisies of subjects ranging from bureaucrats and the aristocracy to the Russian middle class and serfdom. “This is a very tragic person in our culture. That's why he lost his mind, that's why he turned over in his grave. Because there was a contradiction between form and content. He thought in Ukrainian, but wrote in Russian,” Irina said in a YouTube video on the Island channel. She stated that Gogol irritates her “at the genetic level” because she could not comprehend why he wrote in Russian.

The dispute over Gogol's identity hearkens back to at least 2009, the 200th anniversary of Gogol’s birth. The disagreement between Russia and Ukraine centered on his nationality, as Ukraine was a part of Tsarist Russia at the time of his birth. Gogol spent his younger years in Ukraine and moved to St. Petersburg at age 19.

In 2009, Russia opened its first Gogol Museum, and Ukraine responded with a festival in Poltava, the writer’s home region. Russian Gogol scholar Igor Zolotussky said at the time that Gogol was assuredly one hundred percent Russian, undisputed because “there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian national identity" (!).

Ukrainian novelist and MP Vladimir Yavorivsky, on the other hand, refused to “divide” Gogol, which is like “trying to divide air, eternity, or the sky.” The language he used may have been Russian, he said, but “his writing was full of the imagery and thinking of Ukrainian songs and folklore.”

Imagery like large dancing noses, of course. Check it out!

 

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