Located in the heart of Moscow, a stone’s throw from ArbatRussian: Арбат Street, Gogol’s HouseRussian: Dom Gogolya or Дом Гоголя is rightfully considered one of the most mysterious and alluring places in Moscow. This is where Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol (1809–1852), whose name will be forever associated with the founding of the Russian horror literature genre, lived. He died here also, just a few days after destroying his own manuscripts. At the Nikolai Gogol house, you will discover the unique atmosphere of Gogol’s epoch and his multifaceted creative work.
While both locals and visitors to Moscow know this building, located at 7a Nikitsky BoulevardRussian: Nikitskiy bulvar or Никитский бульвар, as Gogol’s house, the writer never actually owned it. It belonged to the Tolstoy family, friends of Gogol’s. However, Gogol stayed here as a guest for nearly four years. Originally from Ukraine, Gogol spent most of his life in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Europe. Surprisingly, Dead SoulsRussian: Myortvye dushi or Мертвые души, the epoch-making novel about Russia and the Russian people, was written overseas, while the second volume’s fate was sealed in this building, which has now been turned into a museum.
NIKOLAI GOGOL’S SECRET
Much conjecture and uncertainty enshroud Gogol’s short life and sudden death. Gogol scholars working at the museum will most readily help you understand which of the stories surrounding Gogol are true and which of them are not. His life, which he himself was fond of mystifying, is veiled in mystery. His death and funeral are no less enigmatic, and many visitors to Gogol’s House ask guides whether he died of natural causes or was buried alive, something Gogol himself had been terrified of. Gogol’s literary works are equally mysterious: he was himself deeply religious, however his works were filled with mysticism and devilry. There is no adequate explanation as to why Gogol burned the manuscripts of the second volume of Dead Souls, which were eagerly anticipated by his fans in Russia, in the living room of this house on a cold winter night in February, 1852.
Gogol often appeared to have the gift of prophecy. In Dead Souls, he was among the first Russian authors to portray a particular type of entrepreneur which was emerging in Russia: the capitalist. He exposed such human vices as bribery, deception and lack of love for one another, in an attempt to save society from them. Gogol was also one of the first writers in Russian and international literature to depict a “little man” – a character who is no hero but is instead a self-effacing clerk living his own small-scale joys and sorrows. (The OvercoatRussian: Shinel or Шинель). Russian literature has followed this trend, particularly in teaching readers the lessons of love and compassion towards others. As French critic Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé once said quite aptly when talking about the ‘new Gogol’ Fyodor Dostoevsky: ‘We all came out of Gogol’s Overcoat’. It is opinions like these which explain Nikolai Gogol’s immortality.
EXHIBITIONS AT GOGOL’S HOUSE
The two-storey mansion located on Nikitsky Boulevard is more than just a museum. It features a library as well as an exhibition hall and hosts recitals and chamber concerts, Gogol readings and performances. Children have the opportunity to participate in a number of workshops, and Gogol and music archives are open to researchers. The Tolstoys’ former mansion hosts exhibitions entitled Gogol’s MoscowRussian: Gogolevskaya Moskva or Гоголевская Москва and TravelsRussian: Puteshestviya or Путешествия and invites visitors to embark on a great tour of Gogol’s literary works. You can easily spend more than one day here, discovering new details about the surprising lives of Gogol and his contemporaries.
The museum itself occupies six small rooms on the first floor of the main building, including the entrance hall, the living room where Gogol burned his manuscripts in a fireplace, the bedroom, the ‘Government InspectorRussian: Revizor or Ревизор’ satirical comedy room, the memorial room and the so-called Reader’s paradiseRussian: Chitatelskiy ray or Читательский рай. Here, you can find Gogol’s personal effects, as well as modern thematic installations which take visitors’ imagination back 200 years to the time of this mysterious writer. On the second floor are the former ballroom and the music room, where literary and musical evenings are regularly held, just like they were in Gogol’s lifetime. Not many of Gogol’s personal items and manuscripts still exist. However, unlike some museums that boast rich collections without having them on display, Gogol’s House has successfully recreated the atmosphere of Gogol’s time and that of his literary works. In the basement, have a look at the items discovered during archaeological excavations conducted at the estate.
DESTINY OF GOGOL’S HOUSE
The mansion at Nikitsky Boulevard is also interesting in its own right. Together with the estate, it survived the terrible Moscow Fire of 1812 during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, when two-thirds of Moscow was burned down. At that time, the city consisted mainly of these kind of estates inhabited by noble, bourgeois and merchant families. Along with the main building, the estate included a coach house (now housing the ‘New WingRussian: Novoe krylo or Новое крыло’ contemporary art exhibition) and a small garden. The monument to Nikolai Gogol made in 1909 by sculptor Nikolai Andreyev, also known for his numerous portraits of Vladimir Lenin, was moved to the garden in 1951. This monument’s destiny was tough. Legend has it that Joseph Stalin did not like the monument, so he had it removed from his sight, away from Arbat SquareRussian: Arbatskaya ploschad or Арбатская площадь, and installed it in the quiet garden of Gogol’s House, a place that remembers Gogol’s voice, the echo of his steps, his wise and sly smile and the fire that destroyed Dead Souls.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com