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Russia and Ukraine renew rivalry over Nikolai Gogol

By 31.03.09 No Comments

Tom Parfitt writes about Russia-Ukraine relations. First, it was politics, then it was gas. Now the protracted antagonism between Russia and Ukraine is taking on a literary tinge, as the bickering neighbors vie for the legacy of Nikolai Gogol on the 200th anniversary of his birth. The writer was born and spent his youth in rural Ukraine — then part of the tsarist Russian empire — in the early 19th century, but wrote in Russian, lived some of his life in St. Petersburg and was buried in Moscow. His nationality is the subject of intense public debate as the bicentenary approaches, with both states funding events to mark the occasion. The squabbling over Gogol’s roots comes as Russia and Ukraine hover on the brink of yet another dispute over transport of gas to European consumers. Relations between the two post-Soviet states have deteriorated in recent years as Ukraine pushes for membership of Nato and the European Union. Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yuschenko, is expected to attend the bicentenary Gogol celebrations in Poltava.