Vassarion Belinsky, Letter to Gogol

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V. G. Belinsky, Letter to Nikolai Gogol, 1847.

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Gogol’, born in Ukraine, became Russia’s most famous writer of prose in the 1830s. Belinskii, Russia’s most influential literary critic, praised Gogol’s work extravagantly, reading such satirical works as The Inspector General and Dead Souls as exposés of Russia’s social and political ills and thus as blows struck for liberation. Gogol’s personal views were extremely conservative, however. He made them plain in an eccentric book called Selected Excerpts from Correspondence with Friends, in which he praised autocracy and orthodoxy and instructed serfholders how to run their estates. Belinskii’s published review of Selected Excerpts was unfavorable, but subdued by the pressure of censorship. Gogol’ was nonetheless moved to complain. Belinskii wrote this letter in reply. It circulated in hundreds of manuscript copies and is one of the fundamental texts of Russian radicalism. It was published in Russia only in 1906 Russia only in 1906