Not content with squabbling over gas pipelines, Russia and Ukraine are now bickering over who has the right to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Gogol's birth.
He was born in 1809 in a Cossack village near Poltava, Ukraine, which was then part of Tsarist Russia. He lived there until he was 19, and wrote about Ukrainian customs in works such as "Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka". However, he wrote in Russian, lived later in St Petersburg and is buried in Moscow.
Some quotes from an article in today's "Guardian" -
"... A part of the political elite in Kiev wants to claim Gogol as their own so they can enter civilised Europe with at least one great Ukrainian writer," said Igor Zolotussky, a Russian authority on Gogol.
"But there can be no such discussion because there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian national identity. Gogol wrote and thought in Russian. He was a great Russian writer, full stop."
"... Vladimir Yavorivsky, a Ukrainian novelist and MP, said that if Gogol was a tree, "the crown was in Russia but the roots were in Ukraine .."
"... Meanwhile, Russian experts on Gogol have been incensed by reports that bookshops in Kiev are selling Ukrainian language versions of his novels in which nationalist-minded translators have replaced the phrase "The great Russian land" with "The great Ukrainian land".
It's interesting to compare this with the question of non-English writers in the British Isles. Sir Walter Scott and R.L. Stevenson are unquestionably Scottish writers - born there, lived there (for part of his life in RLS's case), used Scottish settings and some Scots dialogue in their books - but I couldn't argue with calling them British writers too. If anyone called them "English", I suppose I would bridle at that. Arthur Conan Doyle was every bit as Scottish as those two, born to an Irish immigrant family in Edinburgh, but he seems to be perceived as English because of the terribly English persona of Sherlock Holmes and the London settings of the stories. A recent book about modern Scottish writing called JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame a "Scottish" writer, tho' strictly speaking she is an Englishwoman domiciled in Edinburgh. As in Gogol's case, there's a lot of kudos in being able to lay claim to Joanne.
Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw and WB Yeats are indisputably part of Irish literature - despite being ascendancy Protestants and of ultimate English origin (I think?) - but I suppose for that part of their lives spent in pre-independence Ireland, they were British as well. And of course all of these people are part of "English literature".