Table of contents:
- "Doesn't know anything about history"
- Based on true events
- Concentrated Middle Ages
- Was there Taras?
The plot of "Taras Bulba" is dedicated to the events of the 17th century, according to school textbooks. But not everything is so simple in Gogol's chronology.
"Doesn't know anything about history"
Taras Bulba became a kind of fragment of a large historical project that Gogol conceived back in the early 1830s. “Now I have taken up the history of our only, poor Ukraine. Nothing soothes like history. It seems to me that I will write it, that I will say a lot of things that have not been said before me, "he shares his plans in 1833 in a letter to a friend. In 1834, the writer was even enrolled as an adjunct professor of general history at St. Petersburg University, but Gogol did not succeed in this field. Although failure in the pedagogical field did not deprive Nikolai Vasilyevich of the ambitions of a historian.
He studies a lot of notes, folk songs, asks to send him any descriptions "before the time of the hetman", manuscripts, books, punishes his mother to write down oral stories. From this fusion of chronicles, legends and legends, a number of not yet completed literary fragments are born, as well as "Taras Bulba". The work has come down to us in several editions: 1835, 1842, 1851, and each time the writer changed something, rewrote and added something.
Gogol turned out to be not a very tidy editor. Literary historian Jeremiah Aizenstock, who participated in the preparation of the writer's academic collected works, noted that in the draft version of Taras Bulba, the events were attributed to the 15th century. When preparing Mirgorod for publication, Gogol transferred the events to the 16th century, but he did not make corrections everywhere, which even then gave rise to bewilderment. The scribes, who sometimes did not understand the author's remarks, also made their contribution. So today we still find inconsistencies in the story, including chronological ones.
Based on true events
We can easily define the historical event underlying the plot of Taras Bulba: “The whole nation rose, for the patience of the people was overflowing - it rose to avenge the mockery of its rights, for the shameful humiliation of its morals, for insulting the faith of ancestors and holy custom. The young, but strong-minded hetman Ostranitsa led with all the innumerable Cossack strength. Nearby was seen an elderly, experienced comrade and advisor, Gunya."
The uprising of Ostryanin (Ostranytsa) and Guni is one of the major revolts against the Polish gentry in 1638. The relations of the Cossacks with the Commonwealth have always been difficult, and in the 17th century they completely went wrong. In 1625, after the suppression of the uprising of Mark Zhmailo, the Polish hetman Stanislav Konetspolsky and the Zaporozhye Cossacks signed the Kurukovsky Treaty. The document reduced the number of registered Cossacks who were in official service, limited their rights, and transferred the rest to serfs. Indignant freedom-loving Cossacks rushed to the Zaporozhye Sich and readily rose to fight for their rights.
In 1632, a new cause for conflict. After the death of the Polish king Sigismund III, the Cossacks demanded guarantees of their rights from the Diet, but received the following answer: “When there are few of them (Cossacks - E. M.), they can serve as the defense of the Commonwealth, and when they multiply, they become harmful Poland ". "Ordinations" of 1638 tightened the screws even more. Severe restrictions caused new uprisings, one of which was led by Yakov Ostryanin.
Ostryanin was the hetman of unregistered Zaporozhye Cossacks, that is, they were not in official service. They often settled in the so-called Niza, an area adjoining from the south to the Kiev land and Podolia. There, below the Dnieper rapids, Zaporozhye is located. The place is well-sheltered and abundant, it became the haven of the Sich, a military organization where the Cossacks usually arrived in the spring and spent the whole summer doing either farming or repelling raids. And even riots.
The uprising of Ostryanin and Guni began in the spring of 1638. The Cossacks, divided into three detachments, moved along the Dnieper. Ostryanin with the main forces acted with varying success, but in June he lost the battle of Zhovnin (now this village is located on the territory of the Cherkasy region of Ukraine) and retreated to the lands controlled by Russia. Here the Cossacks settled in Chuguev, where they lived until 1641.
After Ostryanin's retreat, the rebels made Dmitry Gunia hetman and continued the confrontation, but in August the uprising was finally suppressed. Only a small part of the Cossacks managed to escape to the Don lands.
Concentrated Middle Ages
However, the events of Gogol's story seem to be cramped in several years of the 17th century; they unfold in a kind of concentrated Middle Ages, where chronology is treated freely. So, the time of action of "Taras Bulba" stretches from the 15th century ("Bulba was terribly stubborn. It was one of those characters that could only have arisen in the rough 15th century") to the middle of the 17th century. It turns out that Bulba in the Gogol world could have been more than 200 years old, but this does not bother the author.
After all, he weighed 20 pounds, more than 300 kilograms (“Bulba jumped on his Devil, who recoiled madly, feeling a twenty-pound burden on himself”), a bit too much even taking into account the ammunition, so he was a real hero who couldn't care less for centuries.
The correlation of various events in the story also convinces us that Gogol was not at all embarrassed by the discrepancy in several years. For example, he mentions that Bulba's sons studied at the Kiev Academy, and she began to be called that only in 1658, that is, only twenty years after the uprising of Ostryanin and Guni. And, according to the text, Ostap and Andrii studied under Adam Kisel, who in reality headed the Kiev Voivodeship only in 1649.
A separate question is what kind of siege Gogol describes. It seems that the place is indicated - Dubno. Dubensky castle, built at the end of the 15th century, did withstand the offensive of the Cossacks, but again later, in 1648, during the Khmelnytsky uprising. Although in the series of discrepancies described, this should no longer be surprising.
Was there Taras?
So is it worth looking for a real prototype of Taras Bulba in Gogol's world full of chronological liberties? Why not, especially since there are a lot of candidates.
Ohrim Makukha is the "official" prototype. In the 1640s, he was one of the kuren atamans of the Cossacks. He had three sons: Nazar, Omelko and Khoma. Nazar fell in love with a Polish woman and went over to the side of the enemies. Ohrim committed his father's trial and shot him.
Ostap (Evstafy) Gogol, one of the possible ancestors of Nikolai Vasilievich, hetman of Right-Bank Ukraine at the end of the 17th century. Historians note that Ostap Gogol had two sons, and their characters were as contrasting as that of Ostap and Andriy. It is possible that it was them that Gogol took as a model.
Taras Fedorovich (Shaken) - hetman of the Zaporozhye unregistered Cossacks, a repeated participant in uprisings against the Commonwealth, including the uprising of 1630. He insisted on the transfer of a part of the Zaporozhye Cossacks to the service of Russia.
Semyon Paliy (Paley) - colonel who served in the Sich in the 1660s; in 1702-1704 he raised an uprising in the Right-Bank Ukraine against the Poles.
Daniel the Apostle - hetman of the Zaporizhzhya Army in the first half of the 18th century. He became a colonel at the age of 14, fought bravely, his unpretentiousness and simplicity were legendary. He had two sons who also became colonels.
And there are other contenders. Despite the obvious historical inconsistencies, the image of Bulba is so vivid, and the world of the story is so alive that you involuntarily believe it was. "Everything that is in history: peoples, events - must certainly be alive and, as it were, be before the eyes of listeners or readers, so that every people, every state preserves its own world, its colors," Gogol wrote. Well, the world of "Taras Bulba", rich and original, with feats and victories, with heroes like titans and heroes, fully embodies this idea.