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Krylov, Gnedich, and the Mythology of Friendship in Gogol’s The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich

Ekaterina E. Lyamina, Natalia V. Samover


The paper questions the origins of Nikolai Gogol’s The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich (1833) and its specific position in the Mirgorod collection. The authors identify and analyze an important and overlooked level of allusions of the tale—that of the literary everyday life of the Russian capital in 1820s–early 1830s, eagerly observed and “digested” by the young Gogol. The article demonstrates how and why the phenomenon of a long-term friendship between Nikolai Gnedich and Ivan Krylov, two prominent figures of literary St. Petersburg who were poets, librarians, and neighbors, was created by the neo-classical milieu of Alexey Olenin, the director of the Imperial Public Library. It also points out that the harmony of this cultural myth contrasted with the reality of the Gnedich-Krylov relationship (which faded away soon after Gnedich’s retirement and his move to another apartment), a development that was certainly known to Gogol. The main idea of The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich—the sudden break in a great friendship followed by the destruction of the universe in which it flourished—seems to have been influenced by the tension created by the contrast between the men’s real relationship and the myth of their great friendship. The numerous features linking Ivan Ivanovich and Ivan Nikiforovich to Gnedich and Krylov, respectively, are not to be interpreted as a case of a direct prototypicality, however; Gogol’s paired friends-enemies also appear to reflect a development of themes from the Russian folklore bestiary.


Nikolai Gogol; The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich; Mirgorod collection; Ivan Krylov; Nikolai Gnedich; friendship as cultural concept; literary everyday life; folklore bestiary


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