The Nationalism of Nikolai Gogol': Betwixt and Between?1
Mr. Nicolas de Gogol, Ukrainien, etabli a Moscou, auteur de quelques comédies russes.
Almanach de Carlsbad (1846)
On lui reproche, m'a-t-on dit, certain patriotisme provincial. Petit-Russien, il auvrait je ne sais quelle predilection pour la Petite-Russie au prejudice du reste de l'empire.
Prosper Mérimee (1851)2
Ever since his first stories were published in 1831-1832 much has been written about Gogol' as a Ukrainian and his relationship to Ukrainian culture. Nevertheless, Gogol" s dominant image today remains that of the monolithic "Great Russian Writer" (velikii russkii pisatel'). It is amazing how many readers and students (especially Russians from the former Soviet Union) are unaware that Gogol' was a Ukrainian and that he had strong Ukrainian sympathies. Perhaps this should not be surprising given that much of Gogolian scholarship considers his Ukrainian origins to be no more relevant than, say, if he were bom in Tula or Kaluga. Studies of this kind give the impression of deliberately weaving a torturously complex thread tiirough the fabric of his life and work in order to avoid bumping into its Ukrainian aspects. The latter are regularly marginalized as sometiung insignificant and shortlived-or treated as a variant of an ill-defined "Russianness." While tiiere has been serious scholarship, both Ukrainian and Russian, that has demonstrated the centrality of Gogof's Ukrainian background to an understanding of his life and work-one thinks of people as diverse as Panteleimon Kulish, Ievhen Malaniuk, George Luckyj, Iurii Barabash, Iosif Mandelshtam, Vasilii Gippius, to name a few-virtually no one today in mainstream criticism identifies him, as did, say, Piksanov in the 1930s, as a "Ukrainian-Russian" writer.3 The prevalent tendency is still to distance Gogol' from Ukraine and to place him in an unambivalently Russian national context. In 1999 Boris Gasparov expressed the view that
It would be futile to characterize Gogol as an ardent Ukrainian patriot, a champion of its land and people. Such a depiction of Gogol shares the fate of other officious portraits of the writer that view him, for example, as a "critical realist" or as the defender of the "small man.. ."4
Gasparov adds: "Gogol's Romantic mythologization of his double national allegiance offers little to those who would like to see him as a champion of Ukrainian history, language, and literature" (p. 122). Clarence Brown, writing soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, expressed in a feuilleton die hope that "...perhaps Ukrainians will feel sufficiently secure in the possession of tiieir own state, their own language and tiieir own literature to cease claiming Nikolai Gogol' as an ornament of their national culture...."5 The patronizing tone we see here is not untypical for those who see Gogol' as an archetypal Russian writer whose only natural place is in Russian literature and culture.
It is precisely against such positions that Edyta M. Bojanowska's book Nikolai Gogol: Between Ukrainian and Russian Nationalism is written. Diplomatically, elegantly, and with sharp intelligence, she sets out to undermine this "Russocentric view of Gogol" (p. 5):
The standard Russian view of Gogol holds that he was an ardent and sincere Russian patriot. His Ukrainian heritage, for all the fruit it provided his inspiration, amounted to no more than an accident of birth that he shed like a cocoon once he found his true place in Russian culture... Gogol's overriding allegiance to Russian nationalism, according to this canonical view, shines through brilliantly and unambiguously in his writings, which furnish ample 'proofs' for reconstructing the writer's national psyche. The artistic integrity of Gogol's works, their embeddedness in larger social and nationalist contexts, their irony, and the complex devices of narratorial misdirection and distancing that Gogol practiced with considerable skill can all be brushed aside in this grand project of nationalistic exegesis....
Far from an argued position, this view of Gogol is one of the cardinal axioms of Russian cultural criticism, implicitly underlying virtually all of Russian and Western scholarship on the writer... (pp. 3-4).
If Gasparov and Brown appeared to be making an extra effort to bring closure to the annoying debate on whether Gogol' was a Ukrainian or Russian writer-by authoritatively declaring the issue settled in Russia's favour-Bojanowska give this complex problem new life through a scrupulous analysis of Gogof's works, letters and reception history. Much of the ground she covers is familiar but it is constructively 'made strange' through the multifaceted way she unites Russian nationalist concerns with the Ukrainian. Her data allows her to conclude that "Gogol indubitably retains significance for both Russian and Ukrainian literature. His nationalistically inflected fiction and nonfiction participate in both Ukrainian and Russian nationalism" (p. 375). She also believes, that early nineteenth-century critics like Faddei Bulgarin-critics who declined to bestow on Gogol' the mantel of a national Russian writer-were "largely justified" (p. 368) in their position. "[M]y analysis," continues Bojanowska, "suggests that Gogol's Russian nationalism was not a deeply and sincerely held conviction, but a rather contrived aspect of his public persona... While professing complete conformance to various popular orthodoxies of Russian nationalism, Gogol often subverted diem. His treatment of Russian nationalism is as far from an uncomplicated apotheosis as it can be. On the contrary, nearly all of his pronouncements on this subject feature a treacherous false bottom" (pp. 369-370). "Gogol's fiction on Russia offers a national rebuke rather than apotheosis" (p. 368), she adds.
Even though Dead Souls on its surface aspires to nationalist revelation, it continuously balances on the edge of parodic implosion. It presents Russian uniqueness as a catalog of faults and vices. The novel's nationalistic digressions collapse upon contextual ization; the preview of optimist future volumes, which never materialized, only draw attention to the nationalist inadequacies of the book he did publish (pp. 368369).
Bojanowska also concludes that".. .Gogol's notions of what constitutes a worthy, viable nation were rooted in his conception of Ukraine, as he developed it in the years 1830 to 1836. When trying to create a sympathetic image of Russianness, Gogol kept reaching for the Ukrainian particulars that he held dear: folk songs, love of revelry, Cossack abandon, variegated southern nature. His lifelong cultural belonging to Ukraine contrasted with his civic commitment to Russian nationalism (P- 371)."
Bojanowska's book is not an 'either/or' tract, with simplistic answers to longstanding questions about Gogof's nationality and his relationship to two national cultures. It is a helpful primer for anyone who is interested in objectively reassessing Gogof's purported "Russianness" and his relationship to Ukraine in an imperial context. Her book's major achievement lies not in the frequent references to him as a "Ukrainian," but in the elimination of the categorical and homogenizing tendencies that have put him forward as a clear-cut "Russian." Bojanowska situates Gogol' between Ukrainian and Russian nationalism; the former, we are told, came to him naturally, while the latter evolved as a professional writer's duty which, try as he might, he never was able to discharge with the same love and spontaneity he showed Ukraine. Bojanowska places Gogol', quite appropriately, in the in-between space of the empire (rather than in a "Russian national" setting), showing that his work and personal drama transpired in the frenetic atmosphere that characterized the construction of modem national cultures among Ukrainians and Great Russians. To the Ukrainian Gogol' fell the unenviable and complex task of trying to gratify both nationalities through his writings, while trying to remain true to his ethnic self. Gogof's good faitii effort to please the Great Russians in their national quest caused no amount of frustration for both Gogol' himself and for the Great Russians. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the evidence Bojanowska marshals, which shows that many Great Russians were suspicious of Gogof's motives when he tackled Russian themes and unconvinced about his "Russian" credentials.
The book consists of six chapters, an introduction and a conclusion. It does not follow a strict chronological order but rather moves back and forth through Gogof's oeuvre to nail down the main tiieme, i.e., an analysis of "the nationalist discourse he produced" (p. 369), placed in the "larger social and political context" (p. 10) of the empire; it shows that nationalism "was also central to the contemporary reviews of Gogol's work" (p. 10). "The book paints a picture of growing complexity in Gogol's handling of nationalist ideology, particularly pre- and post-1836" (p. 11).
The first chapter, following a short theoretical section, outlines nationalism in Russia and Ukraine from approximately the first quarter of the nineteenth century. "Nationalism" is used "in the sense of a discourse" (p. 17) as defined by Craig Calhoun. Slavophile and Westernizers' notions of the Russian nation are discussed, as is Official Nationality, with a brief overview of Gogof's attitude towards all tiiree. More important, in my view, is the emphasis on "the national-imperial complex," that is, the project of creating a Russian nation on the basis of "the nonRussian East Slavic lands, especially Ukraine" (p. 24). Here Bojanowska declares: "For my purpose, the rise of Gogol as a writer from the Ukrainian periphery to an icon of Russian nationalism demands an analytical framework that pays equal attention to imperial and national issues. Certainly, Gogol himself overlaid an exploration of the national differences between Ukraine and Russia with an acute awareness of the imperial connection that linked diem" (p. 26).
The rise of the Ukrainian cultural movement during this period is succinctly described as well as the reaction to it by imperial authorities and Russian nationalism: "The imperial center viewed Ukrainian nationalism as apostasy from the Russian nation" (p. 32). "The increasingly assertive Russian nationalism cum imperialism found a separate Ukrainian identity unacceptable and proliferated justifications for Russia's domination over Ukraine" (p. 33). Gogol' is presented as contributing to "Russia's imperial-national ideology" (p. 34), "of successfully transplanting into Russian literature" "a Ukrainian vision of national uniqueness and ways of encoding it in art..." (p. 35).
Chapter two examines Gogol' as he moves "from a Ukrainian to a Russian author" (p. 37), providing relatively familiar background about his early writing period and relationship to Ukraine. The core of the chapter is a very good analysis of Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka as a "Ukrainian-Russian contact zone" (p. 40). Here for the first time, en passant, we hear of Gogof's "pro-Mazepist sympathies," which will be given greater attention later. At this stage, Bojanowska establishes a key point: "In translating his native Ukrainian culture into the Russian imperial one," she writes, "Gogol takes the utmost care to make his material palatable and attractive" (p. 42; emphasis mine). For Bojanowska, Gogof's "discursive nationalisms"-Ukrainian and Russian in turn-are contingent basically on his attitude or more precisely, description of, Ukrainian and Russian realia in either a positive or negative way. Evenings, according to Bojanowska, is a "major manifestation of Gogol's Ukrainian nationalism that springs from an anti-imperial impulse" (p. 37) precisely because of the affirmative and affectionate nature of the narrative. This particular use and understanding of "nationalism," it should be stressed, is not only Bojanowska's methodology but also a reflection of contemporary attitudes. As she puts it, "early critics saw it [Evenings] as an emanation of Ukrainian nationalism and treated Gogol as a Ukrainian writer..." (p. 37; emphasis mine). She also sees otiier interesting things in the Dikanka stories, such as "ambiguity and subversive mockery" (p. 43) in relation to the empire, especially its centre, St. Petersburg. Bojanowska summarizes her very detailed reading of Evenings by stating that "Gogol's work participates in the discourse of Russian imperialism only superficially..." (p. 74). He "contrasts the insignificant imperial present with the preimperial glory and by doing so undermines the imperial project" (p. 74). "Russia's civilizing mission is shown to be an abysmal failure..." (p. 75). "In the context of Russia's imperial drive to annihilate Ukrainian alterity, this accentuation of separate identity played a decidedly nationalistic role" (p. 76).
This second chapter also contains a very engaging survey of how critics reacted to Evenings. It is prefaced by the observation that "the author of Evenings was taken to be a Ukrainian, rather than a Russian, writer." Bojanowska then adds: "Russian literary history has been very successful in forgetting this fact" (p. 78). She notes the reactions, among others, of V. A. Ushakov (he "locates the work within contemporary Ukrainian literature despite Gogol's use of the Russian language" [p. 79]); and Nikolai Nadezhdin (who "classifies Gogol as a Ukrainian writer and comments on Ukraine as a nation" [p. 80]). Evenings serves as an occasion (e.g., for Nikolai Polevoi) to draw comparisons between Ukrainians and Russians (cf. p. 82). We see in this chapter also the first attempts (i.e., by Stepan Shevyrev) to claim "Gogol's extraordinary talent for Russian letters" (p. 84). Gogol' earns this "promotion" (p. 84) "by virtue of his talent, originality and imperviousness to the affliction that plagues Russian literature: the imitation of European models" (p. 84). Shevyrev "encourages Gogol to depict Russian high society and to abandon the topic of Ukraine and its simple folk" (p. 84). "The de-Ukrainization of Gogolian humor began by Shevyrev was continued by Belinsky..." (p. 85). Bojanowska at this point cites other examples of how critics transformed Gogol' "from a Ukrainian to a Russian writer" (p. 86).
Chapter 3 is titled "The Politics of Writing History," a focus on "the nationalism of Gogol's historical writings" and how he "opposed the notions of official Russian historiography" (p. 89). The chapter has 80 pages (the second longest in the book) and contains nine sections, among diem: "Gogol the Professional Historian," "Teaching Universal History in the Spirit of Official Nationality," "Ancient Rome: Parallels to the Russian Empire and the Cossack Ukraine," "The Origin of the Ukrainian Nation." Overall, this is an excellent survey of Gogol's historical writings. Of particular interest is the section titled "From Ostranitsa to Mazepa: Abandoned Literary Projects," which begins with this telling statement: "While Russian history did not inspire Gogol to compose a single scholarly or fictional text, the writer's engagement with Ukrainian history produced a variety of works of both kinds" (p. 155). Here Bojanowska focuses on the unfinished novel "The Hetman" and an unpublished fragment, "Mazepa's Meditations," which I have not seen analyzed this carefully anywhere. Bojanowska characterizes the "Meditations" as "the most curious specimen in Gogol's miscellanea on Ukrainian history" (p. 161), a "piece of fiction that grew out of Gogol's historical research, rather than a scholarly note" (p. 161) as previous editors of his work believed. Bojanowska calls this one of Gogof's nationalistic "indiscretions" (p. 161) in that it "radically departs from the denunciations and personal vilification that were the staple of Mazepa's Russian image" (p. 163). Gogol' "portrays Mazepa as a statesman and a prudent politician, motivated not by greed, treachery, or revenge but by thoughts of his people's welfare. Far from a Machiavellian schemer, Gogol's Mazepa is a national leader" (p. 163). "While 'A Glance at the Making of Little Russia' was tentative and evasive on the issue of Ukrainian statehood, 'Mazepa's Meditations' unequivocally affirms it" (p. 163), says Bojanowska.
Chapter 3 concludes by saying that "Gogol's engagement with Ukrainian history represented the pinnacle of his Ukrainian nationalism" (p. 167) and posits tiiat his failure to receive a professorship in Kyiv as a historian leads him to embrace literature and the path of a "serious writer" (p. 168). This apparently self-conscious career decision is connectd "not merely with literature but specifically with Russian literature concerned with Russian life" which in turn "prompted him to enter the sphere of Russian nationalist concerns..." (p. 169; italics added). "Unlike the cozy but provincial Ukraine, only Russia could provide this new, prophetlike Gogol with the proper cultural matrix in his quest for universal significance" (p. 169).
"Confronting Russia" (chapter 4) is about how Gogol' "fully ventured into the Russian thematic... after his transformation from an amateur to a professional man of letters, which took place around 1836" (p. 170; italics added). The emphasis on "theme" is significant because it is through this that Gogol' will be recognized as a "Russian writer" by his Great Russian contemporaries and treated as such by Bojanowska. But if such are the criteria for 'Russianness,' then Gogof's "scanty experience" (p. 170) and "limited knowledge" (p. 170) of Russia actually brings his 'Russianness' into question. "Until after Dead Souls, he also had little interest in learning about Russia" (p. 170). The seven years he lived in Petersburg "led him to regard Russia as an inorganic culture..." (p. 170) and to conclude that it "lacked a national character" (p. 170). Yet his Russian readers expected nationalistic Russian works in the spirit of his Evenings. Bojanowska goes on to show that Gogol' "depicted Russia in eminently unnationlistic" ways, i.e., "Instead of proud affirmation, we get acerbic ridicule" (p. 171). She continues:
Though the negative aspects of Gogol's portrayal of Russia are typically discussed in terms of the author's social critique, I will demonstrate that-to some extent in the Petersburg stories but especially in Dead Souls-the critique is national... The novel's prognosis of the nation's future glory collapses upon contextual ization... While some argued for the correctness of this image [of Russia] and crowned Gogol as an original Russian talent, others accused him of caricature and antinational calumny. Thus as Gogol moves into Russian tiiemes, he simultaneously enters Russia's nationalist cultural politics... (p. 171).
The next 82 pages of this chapter make for very compelling reading as Bojanowska carefully analyzes the Petersburg tales, The Government Inspector, and Dead Souls, which she terms "a parody of a national novel" (p. 210). Two separate sections also examine the reception of the last two works. At the risk of simplifying this vast material, it can be said that Russia (and it should be emphasized that in most cases Bojanowska means Great Russia, not the empire) comes across in less than flattering terms from under Gogof's pen. Petersburg, "as a place of social rifts, superficiality, dehumanization, and fragmentation" "stands in opposition to the cultural wholeness and communality of Ukraine..." (p. 174). The "Russian capital [is] a multinational rather than a 'Russian' locus" (p. 174). "A nationalist rather than a multiculturalist, Gogol perceived such lack of unified identity and organic culture as unsettling and even demonic" (p. 176). Nevertheless, critics like Belinsky were "pleased to note that 'everyone is Russian'" (p. 187) in stories like "Nevsky Prospect" and "Diary of a Madman," although Bojanowska suggests that the protagonist, Poprishchin, may actually be Ukrainian (cf. pp. 184-186). Be that as it may, through the Petersburg stories (perceived as "Russian," that is, Great Russian) "Gogol's status as a Ukrainian writer... [is] redefined [by Belinsky]: he is now seen as major Russian author of Ukrainian provenance" (p. 187).
About The Government Inspector Bojanowska writes: "Gogol' laughs maliciously, or, to put it more precisely, Gogol's scathing satire is not balanced by the layer of sympathy that characterizes his portrayal of provincial Ukraine" (p. 190). The play "shows Russia as infected with the Petersburg ethos..." (p. 196). "Though the mission of Petersburg was to civilize the periphery, the comedy shows that it corrupts, rather than civilizes, the Russian heartland. The national capital is a cancer on the body of Russia" (p. 197). On die public reception of the play, she notes: "It is a testament to how intensely Russia craved a national self-image that this contemporary social satire, hardly a genre that can gratify patriotic pride, came to be viewed in terms of a national icon. In part, the author's Ukrainianness inspired a feeling of defensiveness about being portrayed in such an uncomplimentary way by an outsider, and this appears to underlie the widespread charges of slander" (pp. 197-198). "The media moguls ingeniously asserted that the comedy portrayed not a Russian but a Ukrainian or a Belorussian town" (p. 199). The responses to the play and the reaction of the audience dismayed Gogol' and Bojanowska goes into some detail to show his responses and rationalizations, as he set out to 'neutralize' "the politics of his play" (p. 207). She concludes: "His struggle with The Government Inspector is marked by persistent reinterpretations of the work's meaning in order to make it less noxious to Russian national pride" (p. 208).
The section on Dead Souls (p. 210) begins with a quotation from a letter Gogol' wrote to M. Pogodin from Geneva in 1836. There he complains about the "ugly mugs in Russia." "Now before me and around me are foreign lands," he says, "but in my heart there is only Russia [Rus'], not repulsive Russia, but a beautiful one" made of select friends and people witii "the right taste" (p. 210). This is a period when Dead Souls was anticipated as a major literary and national event. Through a portrayal of the Great Russian heartland, Gogol' was to ease his "integration in Russian metropolitan culture" (p. 211), satisfy the national needs of Russians and help relieve society's fretfulness about his own national orientation. "[A]s far as the Russians were concerned, Gogol's Ukrainian background was becoming a liability in the 1840s, all the more so since his works on Russian themes failed to conjure up the nationalistic affirmation that Russia craved" (p. 211). "Gogol's uncomplimentary literary images of Russia made it all die more imperative for him to prove his love for it..." (p. 211). "Gogol thus started a campaign aimed to convince his Russian friends and supporters of his loyalty to Russia. He painted die task of writing Dead Souls as his highest patriotic duty..." (pp. 211-212). "All the while Gogol cultivated his feeble love for Russia, or at least pretended to do so, he kept referring to his actual experience of it as a nightmare" (p. 213).
In what may prove to be a shock for some readers, Bojanowska sets out to show that Dead Souls "is unsurpassably grim as a national panorama" (p. 214) and "is singularly ineffective as a nationalistic paean. The novel fails as both a national and a nationalistic novel" (p. 214). Much of tiiis conclusion is based on a contrast between Gogof's descriptions of Ukraine and his portrayal of Russia. Bojanowska also takes pain to show that the nationalistic lyrical digressions (the purported proof of his Russian nationalism)-when carefully scrutinized and contextualized-are hardly the basis for national pride. "The vices described in the novel are not just social or political but pointedly nationar (p. 217), she writes. Comparisons of Russia to Europe ("a staple of Russian nationalism" [p. 220]) "is not to Russia's favor" (p. 220). "The novel parodies the very desire to establish superiority over the West" (p. 221). Gogof's famous paean to the Russian 'word' in Chapter 5 of the novel (popular with nationalistic interpreters), proves to be, under closer scrutiny (pp. 226-227), ambiguous, since it appears to be a reference to "an unprintable swearword" and "to reside exclusively in the lower classes" (p. 226). Ironically, Bojanowska points out: "Gogol's Russian word... derives its strength from the linguistic and stylistic heterogeneity, not the least of it of Ukrainian provenance, with which he himself infused it" (p. 227). She, of course, comments also on the famous-idealized-image of Russia as a troika, convincingly showing it to be "ambiguous like all otiier lyrical interludes" (pp. 231-232). She points out that the troika bears associations with Chichikov's vehicle, which "opens up an interpretive can of worms that mars the sublimity of Russia's final image" (p. 232). For Bojanowska all the central lyrical digressions tiiat supposedly signal "nationalistic fervor" are ultimately deflated by Gogof's irony (p. 233). She concludes that the nationalism of Dead Souls is "profoundly tenuous" (p. 233), that much of the novel's content is "antinationlistic, injurious to any self-respecting nation's ego. What makes Russians Russian... is a set of rather uncomplimentary traits..." (p. 233). She calls the novel "ideologically, profoundly out of joint" (p. 233). "Despite appearing intent on flattering the national ego, Gogol at the same time injures it" (p. 233). Although Gogol' ends his novel with a preview of forthcoming positive and heroic images of Russia in future volumes, Bojanowska reminds us that "despite the author's pained, decade-long labor, Gogol's Russian material simply refused to bode forth this apotheosis" (p. 236) of Russians. Ironically, the "best manifestation of 'Russian' heroic prowess, the 'richness of the Russian spirit... are provide by Gogol's Ukrainian Cossacks in the Russified Taras Bulba of 1842" (p. 236), to which she will turn in the next chapter.
Dead Souls was received by readers both positively and negatively: the former opinion was held by those who were captivated by Gogof's lyrical digressions, while the latter was expressed by tiiose who either put no stock in them or were tired of waiting for a complimentary image of Great Russians. Depending on the point of view, the work was construed either as a masterpiece or a slander. At any rate, it failed to put an end to speculation about Gogof's Russian patriotism and nationality. Bojanowska recounts, for example, how Count F. I. Tolstoy called Gogol' an "enemy of Russia" (p. 237), and how Nikolai Grech called the novel's language "barbaric" and "non-Russian" (p. 238). The "author's Ukrainian identity to a large extent explained and magnified his transgression against the Russian people" (p. 239).
"The positive reviews" of Dead Souls, writes Bojanowska, "did not find Gogol's image of Russia offensive or view the author as a Ukrainian fifth column in Russian culture. However apart from Belinsky, with whom Gogol was merely acquainted, all of Gogol's major defenders were his personal friends, certainly inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt..." (p. 240). These reviews spoke of Gogof's genius, emphasized the novel as art, and discovered in it die Russian spirit. In drawing attention to the diametrically opposite responses to Dead Souls, Bojanowska argues that "these contemporary voices perceived the genuine complexity at the heart of Gogol's approach to Russia and offer a refreshing contrast to the axiomatic conviction of Gogol's unquestionable love for Russia that later formed in Russian culture. Gogol's early readers... were truer to the spirit of Gogol's work..." (p. 253). From herself she writes: "I have shown... that Gogol's treatment of Russia represents a national critique rather than an affirmation; it offers a catalog of the nation's vices, rather than an idealization" (p. 253).
"Nationalizing the Empire" (chapter 5)-which is devoted to a detailed discussion of the 1842 redaction of Taras Bul'ba-rests on the premise that, since Gogol' was not able to portray Russia as he did his idealized Ukraine, he created a positive image of the empire by Russifying "his Ukrainian Cossacks" (p. 255; emphasis added). Bojanowska concurs with Carl Proffer that the Russified version of Taras Bul'ba "was meant to preempt the accusations of lack of patriotism [emphasis mine] that Gogol expected from the reception of Dead Souls" (p. 255). The 1842 Taras Bul'ba, according to Bojanowska's reading, becomes "his only fiction that glorifies Russian nationalism" (p. 255). "This is the only fiction in which Gogol makes the ideology of Russian nationalism [emphasis added] integral to the actual narrative and does not relegate it, as in Dead Souls, to mere previews of forthcoming volumes or to ironically compromised digressions" (p. 255). The corollary of the aforementioned is that Taras Bul'ba is also taken to be an overt sign of Gogof's drift away from Ukraine. Bojanowska is emphatic that the "Russified Taras Bulba of 1842 contrasts starkly with its Ukrainofile [sic] 1835 version. As such it demonstrates the distance that Gogol traveled in his national allegiance as a writer. While the Gogol ofEvening on a Farm, 'A Glance at the Making of Little Russian,' and the 1835 Taras Bulba participated in the first stirring of Ukrainian nationalism, the Gogol of the 1842 Taras Bulba lost all connection to the national ferment" (p. 257). She elaborates:
The 1842 Taras Bulba marks a crucial turn for Gogol, as he sacrifices his Ukrainian nationalism on the altar of the Russian one. In the 1842 edition the Cossacks no longer celebrate their Ukrainian uniqueness but rather tiieir loyalty to the concept of Rus. Rus here is not primarily a historic entity, though such were its origins, but a supratemporal cultural community of Orthodox East Slavs. This is precisely the sense in which this chapter's analysis of Taras Bulba will use the terms 'Russia' and 'Russian' [emphasis added; see my comments below]. Under the leadership of the mighty Great Russian tsars, such 'Russians' are projected onto the past and come to represent the Russian nation of Gogol's own day. Gogol aims to reconcile empire and nation in the work (p. 256).
At first glance, therefore, the opening of chapter 5 might remind us of the traditional nationalistic interpreters of Gogol', who see him as a quick convert from the Ukrainian to Russian national faith, and who emphasize his alleged abandonment of Ukraine for Russia. What is suspect about Bojanowska's accent on Gogof's national about-face is that she actually trying to emphasize his orientation on the empire, but without adequately explaining that this has nothing to do with "Russia," i.e., Great Russia, and is a different sort of "Russian nationalism" than hitherto described. Up to this point in the book "Russian nationalism," by and large, was about Great Russian themes and Gogof's inability to render them in a nationally uplifting manner to suit Great Russians. In the 1842 Taras Bul'ba, Gogol' shifts from Great Russian themes (i.e., Petersburg tale, Dead Souls, etc.) back to Ukrainian themes, giving them a broader East Slavic (imperial) treatment. The question is: Can this revised Ukrainian theme legitimately be called "Russian nationalism" without confusing what Gogol' is about? Is it proof that he reversed his national allegiance? Is there really no ideological difference between Gogof's Great Russian subject matter (and the way Great Russians wanted him to depict diem), and his theme of a Ukraine-centred East Slavic realm? In other words, can the dissimilarities between the Great Russian themes and Taras Bul'ba be accounted for by the phrase "Russian nationalism"?
Bojanowska writes that Gogol wants to "reconcile empire and nation in the work." Indeed. The 'reconciliation' obviously takes place between the Ukrainian nation and the empire, through the head-of -state, the tsar. However, Great Russia and Great Russianness as such play no role! This is worth emphasizing because it means that the binary opposition between a positive Ukraine and a negative (or in this case, irrelevant) Great Russia remains intact, even as Gogol' seeks to define Ukraine's position in the East Slavic space of the empire. Bojanowska herself writes that the "...Taras Bulba of 1842 achieves an affirmation of the 'greater' Russian nation without having a single ethnically Russian character in it" (p. 256; emphasis added). If he is reconciling Ukrainians to the empire, then something other than "the ideology of Russian nationalism" is speaking in Taras Bul'ba: it is a Ukrainian ideology of accommodation with the state, not some paean to Great Russianness. As Bojanowska states in the block quote above, Ukraine morphs into Rus' and represents "a supratemporal cultural community of Orthodox East Slavs" in the empire. In championing "the 'greater' Russian [i.e., East Slavic] nation" Gogol' is trumpeting a "Russian [i.e., Slavic] nationalism" that is different from the Great Russian variety for which some in his reading public had been clamouring. Bojanowska pretty much admits this by placing "Russia/Russian" in quotation marks and redefining the two words (see the italic sentence in the block quote). Thus on closer examination of her meaning we see that Taras Bul'ba is not an example of "Russian nationalism" but " 'Russian' nationalism," in effect not Russian nationalism at all. If we go through the chapter and insert "Orthodox East Slavs" in place of 'Russia' and 'Russian' (as Bojanowska encourages us to do by her definition) this becomes obvious. For example, Gogol' "sacrifices his Ukrainian nationalism on the altar" of Orthodox East Slavic nationalism-not the Russian as Bojanowska writes. Moreover, if Gogof's Taras Bul'ba is an "affirmation" of Rus' and "a supratemporal cultural community" (not Great Russia per se) then the question arises: are the extreme opposites by which this chapter characterizes his life and "national allegiance as a writer" (p. 257) warranted? In other words, is his earlier "Ukrainian nationalism" so totally incompatible with 'Orthodox East Slavdom' and loyalty to Rus' that it amounts to a "rift," "a crucial turn" and serves as a sign of the great "distance" that Gogol' traveled from Evenings to Taras Bul'bal I think the answer is obviously 'No'-if only because Ukrainian nationalism even in mis period embraced Rus' and toyed with panslavism (more on this below).
Besides, let us note that the revised Taras Bul'ba does virtually nothing for Great Russian nationalism and pride (Bojanowska recognizes this), which, after all, was the big stumbling block to Gogof's full advancement as a "Russian" writer. Thematically the novel is not a response to demands tiiat Gogol' write nicely on Great Russian themes. Given the obvious emphasis on Great Russians in Dead Souls and his "Petersburg" tales, this is an important point to bear in mind. Gogol' is apparently still stuck on his Ukrainians in 1842, imagining them constructively in terms of Rus'. When saying that Gogol' 'Russified' his Taras Bui 'ba, Bojanowska (I am assuming) is not saying that he turned his Ukrainians into Great Russians. Strictly speaking, and according to her own use of 'Russian' in quotation marks, Gogol' 'imperialized' or 'Slavicized' the Cossacks. He did this by contextualizing and broadening the indisputably Ukrainian Cossack culture within a framework of Orthodoxy and East Slavdom-hardly an act of treachery. The "'greater' Russian nation" (p. 256) [read: greater Slavic nation] that he extols is "Little" and "Great" Rus' united in a single empire, with Ukrainian Cossack features and Ukraine itself (the word Ukraina appears in the 1842 edition) typifying the state, while the tsar, who appears ex nihilo, presides as its head-and even this may not necessarily be true (see below).
Contrary to what Bojanowska suggests, this is not radical retreat from Gogof's earlier writings. Let us note, as she does on page 70, that "Christmas Eve" (a story in the second volume of Evenings) already showed the Zaporozhian Cossacks as aggrieved but faithful, even servile, servants of the empire. I would argue that ideologically, on such questions as "autonomist leanings" (p. 256) and "antiimperial impulses" (p. 37), the distance between the early Gogol' and the one of 1842 is not all that significant. It is true tiiat in the new Taras Bul'ba Gogol' is not blind to the shortcomings of the Cossacks; and it is true that they acquire greater intellectual horizons, so to speak, as their eyes are opened to Orthodoxy, Christianity and Slavic brotherhood, but it is a stretch to suggest that these additional qualities thereby deny them their Ukrainian uniqueness (let's recall the myriad of Ukrainian details, from the banduryst to the bursa). The simultaneous and often synonymic use of russkii, Ukraina, and Rus' in the novel does not erase the differences between Ukrainians and Great Russians (Moskoviia in the novel), which for Gogol' is central. These words illustrate the broad range of terms that were applied to Ukraine during Gogof's time and may have been intended to make die work more palatable for Great Russian consumption. The novel may be making a case for the coexistence of Ukrainians and Great Russians in a single state, but Bojanowska errs when she treats any expression of "loyalty to the concept of Rus" (p. 256), or even the recognition of the tsar's suzerainty, as an unequivocal sign of Russian nationalism. Gogof's novel searches for a modus vivendi for Ukrainians in an imperial space; and, except for the tsar, has nothing to say about Great Russians. How, then, is this "Russian nationalism"?
The truth is that Gogol' always insisted not so much on autonomy as on difference in the empire, resisting Great Russian interpretations of Ukrainians as a 'tribe' in a single Russian nation dominated by Great Russians. His 'Russian' (i.e., Slavic) nation is dominated by Ukrainians. The emphasis on difference makes Gogol' very much like most of his Ukrainian contemporaries and specifically recalls Mykola (Nikolai) Kostomarov's writing on the two 'Russian' nationalities. In short, the revised novel of 1842 reiterates a very common position among Ukrainians: Ukraine is a distinct member of the empire, a preeminent constituent of the East Slavic family (after all, it is the true descendant of Rus' [cf. p. 315] and boasts a lively Cossack past)-but it is also a loyal part of the imperial state and, as the Zaporozhians argue in "Christmas Eve," should be respected for this by the Crown. This is an early form of Ukrainian-not Russian-nationalism. Loyalty to the empire was completely compatible with assertions of Ukrainian cultural distinctiveness since at least the beginning of the nineteenth century, if not earlier. This was the message of Istoriia Rusov (History of the Rusians [sic] in Bojanowska's apt translation). Even the by-laws of the Cyril and Metiiodius Brotherhood spoke about "the unification of Slavs" "as their historical purpose" while at the same time identifying each nation by name (Ukrainians and Russians are, respectively, "Iuzhno-Rusy" and "Severno-Rusy," very similar to Gogof's usage in Taras Bul'ba). Gogol', as a member of the gentry and the older generation, may not have been moving in step with the quickly evolving Ukrainian movement, but to claim that he "lost all connection to the national ferment" (p. 257)-and that Taras Bul'ba is a symbol of this-is an extreme exaggeration.
Thus, if we take into consideration the Ukrainian cultural context and tiirow in the "perilous ambiguities" (p. 303) that "compromise" Gogof's "Russian messianism" and "nationalistic pieties" in the 1842 Taras Bul'ba-all of which Bojanowska is correct in foregrounding-we are pretty much forced to the conclude tiiat there is no dramatic reversal in Gogof's Ukrainian nationalism and that the novel itself is not an example of "Russian nationalism." The reception of the novel (discussed very well on pp. 307-313) would seem to support that conclusion as well. Readers referred to it as a "whole Ukrainian wilderness" (p. 307) and even after the appearance of Dead Souls, some kept calling the author a "Ukrainian humorist" (p. 307). Bojanowska ultimately seems to retreat from her categorical remarks at the start of this chapter, admitting that if Taras Bul'ba was "an apotheosis of Russianness" (p. 308), then this "message seems to have fallen on deaf ears. While national issues were parsed and debated in the reception of Dead Souls, the Cossack epic failed to inspire such a reaction" (p. 308). She elaborates:
If Taras Bulba was meant as a proclamation of Gogol's Russian patriotism, it proved unsuccessful, and Gogol was never patted on the shoulder for it. As an experiment with nationalistic fiction, it demonstrated to Gogol that his Russian audience was not likely to be taken with Russian nationalism that springs from Ukrainian subject matter. For the Russians to get a nationalistic boost, he would have to deliver it in Russian topics, or no one would take note (p. 308).
On the basis of these observations, one is inclined to say that, perhaps, Taras Bul'ba was never "meant as a proclamation of Gogol's Russian patriotism" but of his East Slavic or imperial patriotism that simultaneously insisted on Ukrainian exceptionalism. In Gogof's case it is important to draw a contrast between the way he depicted Great Russians and how he viewed the imperial state (Bojanowska shows this to some extent). Gogof's "Russian patriotism" was actually 'imperial'; his "Russian audience" was both Ukrainian and Great Russian (again, 'imperial'). It is the Great Russians (not simply 'Russians') who needed the "nationalistic boost" from "Great Russian" topics since Ukrainians were receiving it already from Gogol' in spades. The revised novel, to reiterate, was an example of a specifically Ukrainian type of 'imperial/state' or civic patriotism, oriented toward a mixed Ukrainian/Great Russian audience. To subsume it under "Russian nationalism" is to read Gogol' from the Great Russian-imperial perspective, not from the Ukrainianimperial one.
It is possible to admit that the revised Taras Bul'ba is different from the first version without positing the difference as an embrace of "Russian nationalism." The latter in this context, by and large, is a terminological fiction that stems from a very loose usage of the word "Russian." Bojanowska is obviously aware that she is dealing with three categories in this chapter (i.e., Great Russia [ethnic Russia], Empire [East Slavdom], and Ukraine) but often uses one term ("Russia/Russian") to signal the first two categories, either individually or as a combined notion. She sets up and tries to maintain a binary terminological opposition (Ukrainian nationalism vs. Russian nationalism), but her analysis keeps pushing her to recognize a third "supratemporal cultural community of Orthodox East Slavs." She keeps attributing to Gogol' the idea of 'Russian' nationalism even as it becomes obvious to her that Gogol' rejects Great Russian nationalism in favor of an imperial state that would respect Ukrainian uniqueness. Unfortunately, this message finally comes through not in chapter 5 but only in the sixth, where she writes:
It deserves emphasis that Gogol never formed a view of Russia [read: empire] as an actually existing nation. Russia always appeared to him as an ongoing project, a community that was in the process of formation and self-definition. As a nationalist, he viewed this as the most essential task facing the country, and he mobilized all his resources to guide it in this transformation. Time and again, however, Russia rejected Gogol's solutions and suggestions. Russian nationalism [read: Great Russian nationalism] was developing in the direction of granting ethnic Great Russians primacy, whereas Gogol encouraged models that aimed to transcend the borders of the Russian ethnos [read: Great Russian ethnos] to include Orthodox East Slavs... [read: Ukrainians] (p. 364).
The national-imperial complex is difficult to discuss because it was Janus-like, witii a Ukrainian and Great Russian face. The empire, as Bojanowska says, did in fact link Ukrainians and Russians (p. 26), but the prospect of creating a "Russian nation" on the foundation of East Slavic lands was based on two distinct Ukrainian and Great Russian perspectives, meaning that the project itself was contested and debated-and, in Gogol' view, also projected into the distant future (cf. his letter to Smirnova, p. 2). The Ukrainian-imperial model (often called the "Little Russian" complex) faced off in the empire against the Great Russian-imperial model of the "Russian nation." These two models shared the empire as a common denominator but at heart they were significantly different, a fact Bojanowska often recognizes in her book, but for which she does not create a clear-cut separate category. Early in the book, however, as I indicated already, she correctly has Gogol' contributing to "Russia's imperial-national ideology" (p. 34), highlighting his "Ukrainian vision of national uniqueness and ways of encoding it in art..." (p. 35). When this observation is combined with his lack of sympathy for all things Great Russian, his opposition to official Russian historiography (p. 86), his treatment of the imperial capital as a "multinational rather than a 'Russian' locus" (p. 174), then it becomes clear that we are dealing with a specific type of 'imperial-national' ideology that slights Great Russian nationalist concerns and cannot be equated with them. While it is convenient for the Great Russian-imperial model to overlook this difference and emphasize the common imperial element-so as to foster the impression of a holistic national psyche and nation-everything about Gogol' cries for recognizing that he sought to inject Ukraine as an active but distinct element into the imperial discourse.
Chapter 5,1 hasten to add, also has very good sections on "Gogol and the Poles," "The Cossacks as Ideal Russians," "Taras: The Evolution of a Nationalist" (a close analysis of the main protagonist), "Religious Conflict and Ethnic Cleansing" and "Andrii's Choice, or Alternative Forms of Comradeship." The virtue of Bojanowska's analysis in tiiese sections is her willingness to explore the subtleties of a novel that, more frequently than not, has been treated as someming self-evident. Bojanowska fleshes out many nuances, arguing against a surface reading, and stressing: "If Taras Bulba idealizes the Cossacks, their war with the Poles, and their ideology of militant nationalism, it does so while continuously subverting itself (p. 306). In this I largely agree with her. She also draws attention to the enigmatic ending, when Taras Bul'ba invokes the "tsar" (svoi tsar) and draws on Iurii Barabash's intriguing suggestion that with this phrase Gogol' is perhaps invoking "the ancient dream of Ukrainian Cossacks about its own statehood-die direct descendant of the state traditions of Kievan Rus..." (p. 304). If true, this would, of course, nullify Bojanowska's earlier statement-"Under the leadership of the mighty Great Russian tsars, such 'Russians' are projected onto the past and come to represent the Russian nation of Gogol's own day" (p. 256)-since now there would be no tsars, just native Cossack self rale. In this light, again, the purported radical shift in Gogof's Ukrainian nationalism would seem to be seriously overstated.
Somewhat unexpected, perhaps, is the last section of chapter 5, which ends with a discussion of "Rome" under the title: "Dead, Living and Reviving Nations" (p. 313). The logic of moving from Taras Bul'ba to "Rome" becomes clear when Bojanowska writes: "Gogol explores in 'Rome' what can happen to a 'dead' but once historical nation, charting an alternative to the scenario he envisaged for Ukraine in the 1842 Taras Bulba. In Taras, the historical Ukrainian nation merges with another one to form a more powerful, synthetic, contemporary nation. In 'Rome,' a historic though now 'obsolete' Italian nation revives independently, from is own roots and for itself alone" (p. 313). Bojanowska argues that the "Roman people... remind one of Gogol's Ukrainians" (p. 313), but points out that Robert Maguire saw a parallel to Russians. While Bojanowska is persuasive in arguing that Ukraine makes a better parallel to Rome (cf. p. 315), she ultimately compromises between her own and Maquire's view, by declaring that Gogol' "imagines the ideal Russian folk according to Ukrainian patterns. He makes a trial run of the strategy that he will pursue in Taras Bulba, that is, of imbuing the Russian nation with the qualities that he appreciated in Ukrainians" (p. 314). The same idea has a more piquant formulation a little later: "Both in Taras Bulba and in 'Rome,' Gogol crossdresses his Ukrainians as Russians" (p. 316). At the risk of repeating myself, I draw attention to what will happen when we take into consideration that the word "Russian" above is not identifying Great Russians but the two East Slavic peoples of the empire collectively. That would mean that Gogol' is modeling the empirestate not on Great Russian national characteristics but the Ukrainian. For some this many not be an adequate sign of Ukrainian patriotism or nationalism (which purportedly is required to show evidence of autonomy and separatism), but in the first half of the nineteenth century, when neither Russians nor Ukrainians had a clear picture of their national identity in the imperial state, this, in my view, was pretty close to the real deal.
The sixtii and final chapter is titled "The Failure of Fiction," a reference to Gogof's inability to embody in artistic form a positive and loving image of Russia, i.e., Great Russia, for which the "preachy and dogmatic" Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends (1847) becomes a substitute. "Though as a citizen he cherished the idea of Russian nationalism, as an artist he proved incapable of delivering its message" (p. 321), says Bojanowska. Following me criticism of Dead Souls, Gogol' immersed himself in the history of Great Russia and pestered his friends and acquaintance for information about her. His "dogged quest for such knowledge seems additionally motivated by his insecurity as a Ukrainian and in some ways resembles an education about a foreign country" (p. 318), explains Bojanowska. Before proceeding to Selected Passages she briefly outlines the straggle Gogol' had in writing the sequel to Dead Souls and dedicates about ten pages to a review of the extant fragments of the second volume, concluding: "While Gogol may have found positive heroes to convey a sense of patriotic concern for Russia, his picture of it is nonetheless far from rosy" (p. 330). "As his work on the continuation of Dead Souls grew increasingly difficult, Gogol transferred his energies to letter writing" (p. 331), which eventually resulted in Selected Passages.
In dealing with this strange work, Bojanowska carefully considers both the published version and the censor's cuts. The latter show tiiat, despite being written in the spirit of Official Nationality, Selected Passages "turned out to be Gogol's most censored book" (p. 344). Gogol' himself referred to the published version as a "bone that was gnawed clean by [the censor] Nikitenko" (p. 344). Bojanowska states that "Gogol's outrage was justified: five articles were not passed, and others suffered numerous changes and cuts, which resulted in a much blander text" (p. 344). "The censor managed to blunt much of Gogol's critical edge with regard to circumstances in Russia while he left fairly intact his prophecies of national greatness and his invocation of the ideals of Official Nationality" (p. 351). A section devoted to the book's reception-aptly titled in a Futurist vein, "A Public Slap in the Face" (p. 351)-demonstrated tiiat Selected Passages not only failed to upgrade Gogol' to the status of "a national Messiah" (p. 351), but also led to accusations that he was a Catholic, and that his book was a "falsehood." Readers raised questions about the "mental state of its author" (p. 353). "One reviewer suspected Gogol of some vague calculation or of 'Little Russian' trickery to dupe the audience" (p. 353). A notable exception was Shevyrev, who expressed "appreciation for Gogol's love for Russia" (p. 354) but was exasperated that he did it in the form of essays instead in a work of art. He speculated that Gogol' did not feel "in himself enough strength to seal in an artistic creation the higher side of a Russian" and hence expressed it "at least didactically" (p. 355). Bojanowska says Shevyrev "appears clearly incensed tiiat Gogol expressed beauty and nobility so effortlessly in his Ukrainian works..., while the same goal poses such tremendous problems to the writer in his Russian works" (p. 355). As one might expect, this section also provides a good summary of Belinsky's famous reaction to Selected Passages, as well as Gogof's response. The final part of this chapter demonstrates how Gogol' set out to defend himself in his "An Author's Confession," by basically redefining Selected Passages "as a mirror of a man, his desire for good and his inner struggle with imperfections" (p. 361). "The retreat inward exemplifies Gogol's typical response to attacks, as, for example, when he attempted to recast the characters of The Government Inspector orDeadSouls as the emanations of his deeply flawed soul" (p. 361). "While Ukrainian subject matter is what typified Gogol's early works for his critics, Gogol redefines it by references to his immaturity, which is aimed to discourage the nationalistic comparisons with his works on Russia" (p. 361). Bojanowska reminds us tiiat it was in tins very late 'author's confession' (published only posthumously but circulated in manuscript) that Gogol' "for the first time announces that he received the plots of his major works from Pushkin, by which he seems intent on enveloping his much criticized creations in the esteemed poet's mantle" (p. 362). Gogof's link to Pushkin (an important subject in its own right), naturally, is a favorite cliché of Gogolian criticism, often invoked to align him better with Russian literature. The purported artistic immaturity of his early works also gets frequent play as, for example, in Nabokov's reading of Gogol'. That tiiese statements arose in circumstances of personal crisis and appeared in a text that "represents a mix of facts and dissimulations, psychologically plausible motivations and pure mystifications" (p. 361) is less often acknowledged.
Selected Passages, writes Bojanowska, was for Gogol' "a feat of civic patriotism," a desire to "emphasize [in nonfiction] his commitment to Russia, which was widely questioned after the first volume of Dead Souls..." (p. 331). "Yet in the end no measure of patriotic education and moral reconstruction made Gogol capable of completing his magnum opus, the planned trilogy of Dead Souls" (p. 364). "In the end, Gogol left nationalist politics and took refuge in religion" (p. 365).
Bojanowska's conclusion that "Gogol indubitably retains significance for both Russian and Ukrainian literature" (p. 375) is not revolutionary (except perhaps in relation to critics like Gasparov and Brown), but her broad and all-encompassing analysis, which harnesses previous research, including tiiat of Ukrainianists (a very welcome development indeed), and combines it with fresh observations, careful reading of the entire oeuvre and perceptive contextualization, makes her book a major accomplishment in Russian and Gogolian studies, a noteworthy antidote to the treatment of Gogol' as an exclusive Russian possession. This book should become required reading for scholars and students alike.
We can now see more clearly that the construction of Gogol' as a Russian was a contentious process and was very much tied to Great Russia's subjective search for national identity under imperial conditions. The multicultural and multiethnic processes of the empire were discursively adapted by Great Russians to ensure that 'high' cultural activity in the empire came out looking primarily like Russian 'national' culture. This discursive creation of "Russian national culture" from the combined Great Russian and Imperial (in this instance, Ukrainian) elements was so successful among the subjects who pursued the goal that the historicity of that formation has receded into the unconscious, with the 'national culture' obstructing any trace of the 'empire.' In Gogof's case, this meant erasing Ukraine and Ukrainians to a greater or lesser degree. This helps explain why Gogol' is for many a 'natural' Russian writer. What Bojanowska has successfully shown is that tiiere is nothing 'natural' about Gogol' as a 'Russian writer' and that there were times in fact that he was simply a Ukrainian writer participating in an imperial process along with Great Russians. As a citizen of the empire with strong civic reflexes, Gogol', like a majority of Ukrainians, had a stake in, and was loyal to, the state-and, it turns out, was mostly indifferent to Great Russia as such, which he hardly knew. His efforts to satisfy Great Russian national aspirations led to mixed results. In typical Ukrainian conservative fashion, Gogol' appears to have been devoted more to the idea of the Russian Crown than to "Russian national culture" as such; this might explain his greater penchant for Official Nationality rather than Great Russianness. The only 'national culture' (narodonost') he really appreciated was Ukrainian and, as Bojanowska proves, hoped to transfer its features to the state.
Given that language played no role in defining Gogol' as a national writer for his contemporaries, it is interesting to see in Bojanowska's work the extent to which thematics and subject matter influenced tiiat definition. Russians evidently were prepared to accept Gogol' as tiieir own writer not so much on the basis of language or even the quality of the writing as on his ability to reflect their own lives. Gogof's adoption of Great Russian themes was a precondition for being accepted as a "Russian writer." Literary scholarship still mimics this requirement to some extent, either by designating the Ukrainian works as juvenilia or by relegating them to a short-lived period tiiat is 'abandoned.' For many, the 'real' Gogol' and the 'really good' Gogol' is the one who writes about Russians. The very popular Taras Bui 'ba is easier to digest when the characters and country can be conceived as 'Russian.' Bojanowska shows this curious criterion at work but does not really speak to its substance. She herself has Gogol' moving from a Ukrainian to a Russian writer on the basis of his thematic shifts. However, she does not question the premise itself: Does a writer's nationality actually change when he switches national themes (as Great Russians were prepared to believe in the first half of the nineteenth century)? Of course, it is enough to pose the query forthrightly to see the absurdity of the proposition, yet it remains a major underlying thesis for calling Gogol' a Russian. (By this logic Ryleev and many other Great Russian writers would be Ukrainian). If we accept that a Ukrainian can write about Russians without loosing his identity (and vice versa), then what makes Gogol' a 'Russian writer'? After reading Bojanowska's book, this may be the more pressing and difficult question to answer, since his Ukrainianness is starkly obvious even when he is trying to write the great Great Russian trilogy. To say that Gogol' has "significance" for Russian literature is absolutely true, but that avoids the issue, because this significance can be readily attributed to a "Ukrainian writer." Gogol' was without doubt a "Russian-language" writer, but there were many of those among Ukrainians, but only he is claimed so vigorously by Russians. It could be said, and Bojanowska does, that Gogol' worked "in" Russian literature and tiierefore that makes him a "Russian writer." But the very notion of "Russian Literature" as an "Institution" is problematic for the period in question. Donald Fanger (The Creation of Nikolai Gogol, pp. 24-26) emphasizes that modem Russian Literature was only beginning in the 1820s and 1830s. He quotes Pushkin as saying in 1824: "We have neither literature nor books." The cultural situation-characterized by "a general absence of criticism as well as literary production" (Fanger 26)-was neither fixed nor a priori 'national'; typically it involved the participation of Ukrainians who were viewed as the very carriers of 'nationality.' If we add to this picture the generally accepted notion that Russian national identity was severely stunted (cf. Geoffrey Hosking, Ronald Suny among others), then the argument for positing a less specifically ("Russian") national literary institution becomes stronger (I would call it 'imperial'). In my view, Gogol', a Ukrainian, participated "in" an imperial literary process along with other Ukrainians and Great Russians, interacting and competing to capture the attention of a multiethnic readership. The circumstances in fact were ideal for a "Ukrainian writer" to step out on the imperial stage in the 1830s. As I tried to point out above, Gogol' was caught not between two nationalism but three, the third being the civic or imperial, which cannot be equated with the Great Russian variety. His personal and creative drama-the tug of war between periphery and centre-was a typically Ukrainian phenomenon in the empire.
If Gogol' is to be called a "Russian writer," then it is because he has entered Russian culture and consciousness so thoroughly that it seems improbable that he might be rejected no matter how many books call him a Ukrainian. Even so, his presence there as a "Russian" continues to be strained by his Ukrainian dimension, which needs to be periodically subordinated to Russianness or rationalized away in some other way, in order to make him a better fit for the Russian national psyche. Bojanowska's great service lies in showing that the Russian readings of Gogol' as a Russian nationalist writer are highly partisan, and almost wittingly blind to ambiguities, ironies and cultural differences, both in his works and in the empire. In releasing Gogol' from this "Russocentric" procrustean bed, she does not take Gogol' 'out' of Russian literature but she does return him there more of a Ukrainian than he has ever been before in Russian or Western scholarship. The question now is whether the Russian consciousness can embrace him as warmly in this new guise as it did when he was know as the 'great Russian writer.'
1 Review of Edyta M. Bojanowska, Nikolai Gogol: Between Ukrainian and Russian Nationalism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007. 460 pp. Bibliography, Index, Index of Works Cited. $59.95, cloth.
2 Both epigraphs are from George S.N. Luckyj, Between Gogol' and Sevcenko (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1971) 122.
3 K. Piksanov, "Ukrainiskie povesti Gogolia," O klassikax. Sbornik statei (Moscow: Moskovskoe T-vo Pisatelei, 1933) 47.
4 Boris Gasparov, "Alienation and Negation: Gogol's View of Ukraine," in Gogol: Exploring Absence (Slavic: Bloomington, Indiana, 1999) 115-116.
5 arence Brown, "Ukrainians Get No Respect," Princeton Alumni Weekly, 9 December (1992): 17.…