Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol was born in Poltava, Russia. He went to Petersburg where he wrote 'Evenings at a Farmhouse' which was an immediate success.
Other stories followed like 'The Government Inspector' and 'The Greatcoat', but his masterpiece was 'Dead Souls' published in 1842.
Gogol was abroad for twelve years. He visited Germany, Switzerland, and France and settled then in Rome. In his later years he came under the influence of a fanatical priest, and burned sequels for 'Dead Souls', before he died on the verge of madness.
The bitter poverty of his childood and adolescence is described in
his masterpiece 'Childhood' and
Involved in strikes and imprisoned in 1905, he went to Italy. Persuaded to return to the Soviet Union in 1928, he became first president of the Writers' Union. He died in mysterious circumstances during the time of terror in the Soviet Union.
Mayakovsky started to write poetry in solitary confinement. He tried to 'depoetize' poetry, adopting the crude language of the man in the street and using technical innovations, such as unexpected rhythms and twists. His plays include 'Misteriya-Buff', and the satirical 'Klop' (The Bedbug) and Banya (The Bath-House).
Mayakovsky became the leading Russian poet of the Russian Revolution and of the early Soviet period but later he was severely criticized by more orthodox Soviet writers for his outspoken criticism of bureaucracy and his unconven-tional opinions on art.