Moscow remembers many great literary personalities. One of the most prominent and familiar of these is Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), a celebrated writer of the Golden Agethis term is referred to the first half of the 19th century remarkable for an unprecedented upsurge of creativity illuminated by poet Alexander Pushkin of Russian literature. His works, imbibed with subtle humour and stinging satire, ring true to his readers. Gogol touched upon critical topics such as faith, religion and God, the diversity of people and Russia with all its problems and inner strength.
Gogol was very fond of Moscow. He would often come to stay here for long periods of time, despite his frequent stays in St. Petersburg, his beloved Italy and other places. There are quite a few places in Moscow connected with Gogol, including buildings where he lived and worked, those that he used to visit, and churches and theatres he attended. Moscow also has several monuments dedicated to him. The main building associated with Gogol is the house located on Nikitsky BoulevardRussian: Nikitskiy bulvar or Никитский бульвар, where he spent his last years and which now houses a museum devoted to him. Gogol was buried at Moscow’s Novodevichy CemeteryRussian: Novodevichye kladbische or Новодевичье кладбище.
ON VISITS AND AT HOME
For a long time, Gogol did not have a place of his own in Moscow. Every time he came here, he had to either stay in a hotel or at a friend’s place. Gogol first came to Moscow in 1832. By that time, he had become famous in literary circles after the publication of his first collection of short stories (under his real name) entitled Evenings on a Farm Near DikankaRussian: Vechera na khutore bliz Dikanki or Вечера на хуторе близ Диканьки. The book was very well received; readers appreciated Gogol’s brilliant language and witty humour, as well as the Ukrainian color of his stories. Young Gogol’s idol, Alexander Pushkin, spoke highly of this work.
Gogol was heartily welcomed in Moscow. Writer Sergei Aksakov recognized Gogol’s talent and maintained a close relationship with him, helping and supporting Gogol throughout his life. By a quirk of fate, even their graves at Novodevichy Cemetery are located next to each other. The house where Aksakov lived and where Gogol came to visit him still stands at 12, Bolshoy Afanasyevsky LaneRussian: Bolshoy Afanasyevskiy pereulok or Большой Афанасьевский переулок.
Gogol’s second visit to Moscow was in 1835. What makes this particular trip memorable is that on this trip he decided to play a prank on his friends by realizing the storyline from his renowned comedy, The Government InspectorRussian: Revizor or Ревизор, which he was yet to write. A friend of Gogol’s came into town in advance and began to spread rumours about the expected arrival of some big shot, impersonated by Gogol himself.
During his second stay in Moscow, Gogol recited, at Aksakov’s house, his comedy entitled MarriageRussian: Zhenikhi or Женихи, which attracted wide attention. He also had discussions with literary critic V. Belinsky, writer N. Stankevich and actor M. Shchepkin, who founded the Russian school of acting and, most importantly, played the part of the Mayor and directed The Government Inspector at the Maly TheatreRussian: Malyi teatr or Малый театр (1, Teatralny DriveRussian: Teatralnyi proyezd or Театральный проезд). This production was very important to Gogol because an earlier premiere of this play in St. Petersburg was only partially successful. The actors of the Maly Theatre really grasped what Gogol wanted to do with the play, and the Moscow production was a huge success.
Following the St. Petersburg premiere, Gogol went abroad for a while, then returned to Moscow and stayed at the estate of M. Pogodina Russian historian and journalist (10-12, Pogodinskaya StreetRussian: Pogodinskaya ulitsa or Погодинская улица). It was here that Moscow’s literary elite gathered to celebrate Gogol’s name day, including poet Mikhail Lermontov, who recited excerpts from Novice (MtsyriRussian: Мцыри). Gogol also often recited his works in public (including excerpts from Dead SoulsRussian: Myortvye dushi or Мёртвые души). Many of these literary events took place in the Aksakovs’ house (27, Smolenskaya-Sennaya SquareRussian: Smolenskaya-Sennaya ploschad or Смоленская-Сенная площадь).
In 1848, Gogol decided to settle in Moscow permanently. He moved from one apartment to another for a long time, staying with the Pogodins (10-12, Pogodinskaya Street) and the Shevyryovs (4, Degtyarny Lane)Russian: Degtyarnyi pereulok or Дегтярный переулок before moving in at the Tolstoys’ at 7A, Nikitsky Boulevard. He was offered some of the best rooms in the house where he could work comfortably. Over time, however, Gogol began to feel more and more down; he would often talk about death and became aloof and distant. His health was deteriorating, but doctors failed to find an accurate diagnosis. One day, Gogol asked Tolstoy to hand all of his manuscripts over to the Moscow Metropolitan Philaret, saying that he would die soon. Tolstoy refused, unwilling to indulgence the depressed Gogol too much. He would later regret his decision, since during the night of 11-12 February, 1852 Gogol had his servant light up the fireplace and burn his manuscripts, including the only final draft of the second volume of Dead Souls. Ten days later, on 21 February, 1852, Gogol died.
Along with the heritage of world-famous people and great museums, there are many attractions in Moscow, which are not so popular, but still very remarkable. Beautiful temples in the Orthodox style, the unusual architecture of the Russian Middle Ages or the recent Soviet era, ballet and drama theaters – on our website you can learn more about what to see in Moscow.
Gogol’s funeral service was conducted at the church in the Moscow UniversityRussian: Moskovskiy universitet or Московский университет, the Church of Saint Martyr TatianaRussian: khram svyatoy muchenitsy Tatiany or храм святой мученицы Татианы (1, Bolshaya Nikitskaya StreetRussian: Bolshaya Nikitskaya ulitsa or Большая Никитская улица). He was initially buried at the cemetery of the Danilov MonasteryRussian: Danilov monastyr or Данилов монастырь, but after the monastery was closed, Gogol’s remains were relocated in 1931. They currently rest at Novodevichy Cemetery (2, Luzhnetsky DriveRussian: Luzhnetskiy proyezd or Лужнецкий проезд). Numerous legends exist, which allege that during the exhumation Gogol’s body, it was found to be turned on its side. This prompted speculations that Gogol could have been buried alive, and that he was not dead at all, merely in a state of lethargy. However, none of these rumours has been proven. The most compelling evidence that the writer was dead at the time of his funeral is, along with the official medical report, the fact that sculptor N. Ramazanov, who made the death mask of Gogol, completely ruled out the possibility of a lethargic sleep.
Gogol’s house on Nikitsky boulevard
The house on Nikitsky Boulevard has been turned into Gogol’s memorial museum. Two rooms feature their original interiors, including the room in which Nikolai Gogol died. The exhibits include books, engravings and household items used in Gogol’s time. The museum also has a library with a good collection of books, where visitors can spend over an hour delving into Gogol’s inner world and the atmosphere of his time. The two-level museum combining remembrance of the past with modern elegance offers visitors a memorial room, Gogol’s study, a living room, the Inspector General and Incarnations roomsRussian: zal «Voploscheniy» or зал «Воплощений». That seems more than enough, but the museum is only part of what is on offer in the building at Nikitsky Boulevard, as concerts and stage performances are regularly held here, as well as workshops and various activities open to both children and researchers. Gogol Readings are also on the list of things to do here. Visitors are invited to take advantage of the digital catalogue, the Gogol and music archives, various themed excursions and exhibitions.
Memory and memorials
In the courtyard of the building accommodating Gogol’s memorial museum stands a monument by sculptor N. Andreyev. The idea to create this monument emerged around the same time as the unveiling of the well-known monument to Alexander Pushkin (1880). The statue of Gogol is set on a high pedestal adorned with bas-reliefs depicting characters from Gogol’s works (Dead Souls, The Government Inspector, Taras BulbaRussian: Тарас Бульба). Gogol himself is seated pensively with his head tilted down. The artist did a fantastic job not only at achieving a life-like representation of Gogol, but also in conveying his character as a philosopher and thinker who lived through a lot and suffered greatly during his lifetime. This monument became groundbreaking for monumental sculpture, devoid of any exaltation or praise of its subject. Gogol looks almost broken-spirited, and his figure looks tragic, not majestic.
Not everyone, however, appreciated this deep psychological approach. The monument was initially established on Gogolevsky BoulevardRussian: Gogolevskiy bulvar or Гоголевский бульвар, but was transferred to the Donskoy MonasteryRussian: Donskoy monastyr or Донской монастырь in 1951. Andreyev’s Gogol did not fit into the Soviet authorities’ vision of his artistic radiance. Andreyev was thought to have misunderstood Gogol’s personality by portraying him as a philosopher and a mystic. The official view of Gogol was that he was a relentless castigator of the ills of society, a victim of the regime and even a fighter against it. In 1959, the statue was again moved to the courtyard of the building on Nikitsky Boulevard, where it still stands today.
At some point, it was decided to erect another monument on the previous site, all the more so because Gogolevsky Boulevard was renamed after Nikolai Gogol. The second monument to Gogol by sculptor N. Tomsky was installed at 33/1 Gogolevsky Boulevard in 1952. Nobody really appreciated it, since this monument seemed banal, boring and unexpressive, particularly when compared to Andreyev’s creation. The sculptor himself did not speak too highly of his own work, justifying its mediocrity by an extremely tight deadline – it had to be finished by the anniversary of Gogol’s death.
In addition to the sculptures of Gogol, one can also find portraits of him throughout Moscow. The State Tretyakov GalleryRussian: Gosudarstvennaya Tretiakovskaya galereya or Государственная Третьяковская галерея (10, Lavrushinsky LaneRussian: Lavrushinskiy pereulok or Лаврушинский переулок) has one of them, and the other is at the Abramtsevo Open-Air MuseumRussian: muzey-zapovednik «Abramtsevo» or музей-заповедник «Абрамцево» (Sergiyevo-Posadsky DistrictRussian: Sergiyevo-Posadskiy rayon or Сергиево-Посадский район, Moscow RegionRussian: Moskovskaya oblast or Московская область). Both were painted by Theodor von Möller.© 2016-2021 moscovery.com