Taras Bulba

Ethnic depictions

Depiction of Jews

Felix Dreizin and David Guaspari in their The Russian Soul and the Jew: Essays in Literary Ethnocentrism discuss anti-semitism, pointing out Gogol's attachment to "anti-Jewish prejudices prevalent in Russian and Ukrainian culture".[5] In Léon Poliakov's The History of Antisemitism, the author states that "The 'Yankel' from Taras Bulba indeed became the archetypal Jew in Russian literature. Gogol painted him as supremely exploitative, cowardly, and repulsive, albeit capable of gratitude. But it seems perfectly natural in the story that he and his cohorts be drowned in the Dnieper by the Cossack lords. Above all, Yankel is ridiculous, and the image of the plucked chicken that Gogol used has made the rounds of great Russian authors."[6] However, the famous brutality of the Cossack Khmelnytsky Uprising preceded Gogol's lifetime by about 200 years and in Taras Bulba, as in Gogol's work generally, his treatment of the Jews is realistic and sometimes sympathetic, as in the closing lines of "The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich". In Yiddish, that character in "The Two Ivans" is referred to as a "balagoola: a well known character in Yiddish literature". There is a scene in Taras Bulba where Jews are thrown into a river, a scene where Taras Bulba visits the Jews and seeks their aid, and reference by the narrator of the story that Jews are treated inhumanely.[7]

Depiction of Poles

Following the 1830–1831 November Uprising against the Russian imperial rule in the heartland of Poland – partitioned since 1795 – the Polish people became the subject of an official campaign of discrimination by the Tsarist authorities. "Practically all of the Russian government, bureaucracy, and society were united in one outburst against the Poles. The phobia that gripped society gave a new powerful push to the Russian national solidarity movement" – wrote historian Liudmila Gatagova.[8] It was in this particular context that many of Russia's literary works and popular media of the time became hostile toward the Poles in accordance with the state policy,[8][9] especially after the emergence of the Panslavist ideology, accusing them of betraying the "Slavic family".[10] According to sociologist and historian Prof. Vilho Harle, Taras Bulba, published only four years after the rebellion, was a part of this anti-Polish propaganda effort.[11] Inadvertently, Gogol's accomplishment became "an anti-Polish novel of high literary merit, to say nothing about lesser writers."[11]

Depiction of Turks

As in other Russian novels of the era, Turks are treated as barbaric and uncivilized compared to Europeans because of their nomadic nature.

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