Nikolai Gogol: Biography, Quotes & Facts

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson goes over the life of a famous Russian man by the name of Nikolai Gogol. You'll learn about where he was born, where he lived, and what he did for a living.

Nikolai Gogol

Every time period and country has its famous authors. For example, in the U.S., Dan Brown is a famous author of the recent past. Hemingway if you go further back. Mark Twain even further back. And so on. In the early part of 19th century Russia, one of the most famous authors was Nikolai Gogol. Let's learn more about this man's life outside of his writings.

Early Life & Education

Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol was born on March 31, 1809 in Sorochintsy in what is now Ukraine but was then part of the Russian Empire. He was born to a moderately well-off landlord, Vasily Afanasyevich, and was named after St. Nicholas.

Gogol was initially homeschooled. He eventually spent two years at the Poltava District College and then began his studies at the Nizhyn Pedagogical University. At the latter institution, Gogol painted, wrote, acted, and learned to play the violin as well.

Later Life

After graduation, he went to St. Petersburg, Russia, then the place to be, in hopes of getting a good job in the civil service. However, he didn't manage to do so nor did he succeed in his audition for an acting gig either. Desperate, he self-financed the publication of his own early writings, which failed disastrously. He was now out of money and in dire straits.

His mother had sent him money that was meant for the payment of a mortgage on her farm. Instead, he stole the money in order to finance a trip to Germany. It's unclear why he went but the money eventually ran out and he went back to St. Petersburg, finally managing to get a poorly paid government job at the Ministry of Domestic Affairs.

In the 1830s, Gogol began to publish some of his writings and began to receive praise and acclaim for his works. In fact, such was his success that famous literary figures of the time, such as Aleksandr Pushkin and Vasily Zhukovsky, were some of his earliest fans.

In 1834, Gogol became assistant professor of medieval history at St. Petersburg University. However, he didn't think he was very good at his job and so left after roughly a year. But he continued to write and publish numerous famous works thereafter.

Nikolai Gogol

In 1836, Gogol published one particular work, The Government Inspector, which caused quite an uproar. See, the work criticized the bureaucracy under the monarchy at the time and many people didn't like it. So, Gogol left Russia and eventually made it to Italy, settling down in Rome.

In the early 1840s, Gogol returned to Russia, where he wrote and published even more works. In January of 1848, he travelled to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage, before returning to Russia for good. He spent most of his remaining years in Moscow, Russia.

Near the end of his life, Gogol was facing a personal crisis in terms of his religious beliefs, his beliefs in himself as a writer, and the sense of approaching death. He even burnt a manuscript of one of his works during this period of time. He passed away on March 4, 1852 in Moscow. It is said he was on the verge of madness and that he might have even starved himself to death.

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