This is a blog for use in both of my HIS 241 and HIS 242 Russian history survey courses at Northern Virginia Community College.

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17 May 2009

Nikolai Gogol and Taras Bulba

I'm a little late on this but back in April Russia unveiled a new, blockbuster film version of Gogol's short story Taras Bulba. The story which loosely fits into the late medieval period of Russian-Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian history deals with a rogue Cossack who sallies out to do battle with the Poles--not quite in the nature of a Robin Hood. Russia designed the film for overtly nationalistic and patriotic intentions to show a mighty Russia (that of course included Ukraine) defending church and state from the infidels from the west. Gogol's intentions are a bit murkier, and his writings caused a lot of uproar back in their own day. He straddled the fence between Russia and Ukraine, between support for the tsar and critique of the system, between support for the system and critique of the tsar. Critics and commentators both in Russia and Ukraine and also abroad have made much of the cultural overtones of the film and the intentions of both countries to claim Gogol, but everyone makes films like this. Look no farther than such stuff as The Patriot (2000).

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