When Ivan Goncharov was finishing Oblomov in the late 1850s, he was officially employed at the St. Petersburg Censorship Committee. Goncharov’s career as a censor lasted for almost 10 years and earned him high ranks in the bureaucratic system of the Russian Empire and solid wages, but had a negative effect on his literary reputation. Several of Goncharov’s contemporaries considered it immoral or inappropriate for a writer to become a censor. Still, Goncharov accepted his dubious position, and not only because of possible career advancement. He seemed to consider himself not as part of a repressive system of the government, but rather as an intermediary between the state and society, the latter of which was represented by literature. The case of Goncharov’s service as censor and his ultimate failure to mediate between writers and state officials reveals the complexity of relations between the public sphere and the state in Imperial Russia.
Kirill Zubkov is an Associate Professor at Higher School of Economics (Moscow) and research fellow at the Institute of Russian Literature (St. Petersburg). He graduated from St. Petersburg State University. His research interests include the institution of Russian literary criticism, the history of censorship in the Russian Empire, and Russian drama of the 19th century. Zubkov is the author of several articles and publications, including a critical edition of Russian 19th century literary criticism “Sovremennik protiv Moskvityanina”. He is also one of the editors of the Complete Works and Letters by Goncharov.