As we were discussing Taras Shevchenko, I was fascinated to learn he created over 1,000 pieces of poetry, paintings or sketches within three years! He was born a serf, became educated by his landowner Engelhart, was a painter’s apprentice, was forced to be a soldier and then purged to Siberia. In his short life, he had a huge impact on the way Modern Ukrainian language was viewed/used and his work is looked at. His literary heritage is regarded to be the foundation of modern Ukrainian literature and, to a large extent, the modern Ukrainian language. Shevchenko also wrote in Russian and left many masterpieces as a painter and an illustrator.
Serfdom was abolished in Russia in 1861 by Tsar Nicholas II due to fear that peasants/serfs would revolt. He wanted to free them from the top instead of them rising up against the regime. Shevchenko died in 1861, and so I think it is interesting to question what type of other influences he may have had on Ukrainian culture if he had lived?
Vissarion Grigorievich Belinsky; the champion of the left literary critic called upon Russian literature “to serve the causes of justice for the disadvantaged and of progress toward a more open and democratic society”. Belisnky’s view on Gogol’s work such as the Overcoat, was that it was serving a just cause, that the underdog should rise up against the Russian Empire. Gogol however, viewed himself as a conservative and became devoutly religious. He saw his work as merely fiction and believed that the serf should stay the serf. It is interesting how two Ukrainian men could have such different impacts during their times.
For more information and literary work by Gogol: