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Lviv. Panoramic view of the Old Town
Tuesday, 16 July 2019

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Must-see in Ukraine > Gogol in Kiev

Mikhail Kalnitskiy, historian, 

 Special for Prime Excursion Bureau ltd.

 

 N.V. Gogol. Engraving of the portrait by F. Miller

 
 

In the autumn of 1831 the first part of “Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka” was published. At first sight the book resembled fashionable at that time “gothic novels” with devil, ghosts and other mystical things. But all this was enveloped in such vivid setting and with such wittiness that compositors were said to giggle while working. The author of the book was an inglorious beekeeper Panko Rudyi. But shortly afterwards the pseudonym was disclosed though and many readers got acquainted with the name of a 22-year-old Nikolai Gogol, Poltava region born.  The second book of “Evenings” came out next year where Kiev and the Dnieper river were mentioned in his tales. This is how firmly the Gogol Kiev entered “literary geography”. Further on extensive Kiev descriptions were featured in “Taras Bulba” and “Viy”

Were they featured from life? The information about Gogol’s coming to our city starts only with 1835. But most likely the future writer took not so distant trips to the city to see its holy places like Kiev Pechersk Lavra Monastery or to feel atmosphere of Contract Fairs in Podol which is especially vividly featured in the Gogol prose.

 

 

  Contract Fair. Beginning of the 20th century postcard

  Kiev Peter Mohyla Academy building

The students of the theologic  Academy were Taras Bulba’s sons and luckless Khoma Brut from ‘Viy’

 

 

Bust of Gogol in Gogolevskaya St. 17th century Bust of Gogol in Gogolevskaya St. now

Meanwhile the favourite writer’s books reveal realities and phantasmagorias of the Gogol Kiev, the Gogol Podol, the Gogol Dnieper.

Troitsky Narodny Dom. Postcard of the beginning of the 20th cent.  

The 50th anniversary of Gogol’s death in 1902 Kiev was marked by naming one of the streets Gogolevskaya . At the same time the busts of Gogol and Shevchenko were placed on the facade of the Troitsky Narodny Dom (the Operetta Theatre now).

 

 The Revizor poster at  Solovtsov’s theatre 

The memory about Gogol’s stay in our city is constantly with us. For instance the first stationary Solovtsov’s drama theatre in Kiev in the 19th cent. chose  the immortal  Revizor (The Government Inspector) as the first performance.  

  Zhytniy market. The postcard of the beginning of the 20th cent.

Just before the first publication of “Taras Bulba” and “Viy” Gogol was mad about “beautiful, ancient, Promised Kiev, crowned with multifruit gardens, surrounded with my southern amazing sky...” He dreamt about being a professor at Kiev University that was opened in 1834. And it was realistic since his friend M. Maksimovich was appointed a rector there. Gogol’s numerous letters to the friend are permeated with such dreams. “I’m excited in advance while imagining how ardently I’ll be working in Kiev... There I’ll finish the history of Ukraine and south of Russia... I’ll collect so many tales, beliefs, songs and the like... It’s the only city where it’s appropriate to have a scholar’s cell...”

But Gogol’s dreams were not doomed to come true. M. Maksimovich did his best but the position was given to another person. In the long run Gogol writes: “I came to the conclusion that I’m not needed, that I don’t have luck to be liked by the Curator. So, from my part it’s quite indecent to impose myself”.

Old Kiev bursa, 18th cent.