Digital Oblomov

A digital companion to Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov

Gorohovy Street

Page 1: “Ilya Ilyitch Oblomov was lying in bed one morning in his flat in Gorohovy Street”

When imagining Oblomov’s appartment on Gorohovy Street (Гороховая Улица) in Saint Petersburg, Goncharov likely had this in mind.

In Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Myushin visits Rogozhin who lives “on Gorohovy Street, not far from Sadovy Street” (203)—a main street in the historical district of Saint Petersburg.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Idiot. Trans. Constance Garnett. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916. Google Books.


In Part I, Chapter II, Oblomov’s visitor, Penkin, says, “And above all, I am a champion of realism in literature.”

Literary Realism established itself in France in the 1950s. It opposed romanticism in arts and literature and preferred to focus on everyday events and empirical evidence. Madame Bovary, published in 1956, was one of the most important novels depicting the destructive power of rampant romanticism.The fact that Oblomov rejects realism suggests that in a way he rejects reality, choosing instead to live his own Oblomovan dream.


As in all 19th Century Russian homes, when guests come to the Oblomov residence, the servant heats the water for tear using a samovar.

Samovar (Russian, самовар) literally means “self-brew” from the Russian сам (meaning “self”) joined with варить (meaning “to brew”). Hot coals placed in the center of the samovar heat the water which is then poured out of a spigot into cups.


In Part I, Chapter VIII, Oblomov’s imagination gets carried away. In his dream he can hear laughter and the sound of a balalaika. This is a three-stringed Russian instrument with a triangular body.

Golden Fleece

In Part I, Chapter IX, Goncharov writes, “Listening to the nurse’s stories of our Golden Fleece, the Fire Bird, of the dangers and secret chambers of the enchanted castle, the child felt elated imagining himself to be the hero though shivers ran down his back, or grieved over the misfortunes of the brave.

The story of the golden fleece is a Greek myth. Here is a link  that explains the story.

Vesta’s Fire

In Part I, Chapter IX: “The way to live had been settled once and for all and taught to them by their parents, who had acccepted the teaching ready-made by their grand-parents, with the injunction of keeping it whole and undefiled like Vesta’s Fire.”

In Ancient Rome, the Vestal virgins maintained the fire at the temple of Vesta as a symbol of the hearth of the city. They represented family life, though they were selected from homes and banned from marrying.


In Part II, Chapter IV, Stolz says, “Where to? Why, if only to the Volga with your peasants: there is more to do there; anyway, you could find an interest in life, a purpose, some work!”

The Volga River has a mythical power in Russian folklore; the river itself runs through central Russia and is known as Mother Volga (Волга Матюшка).

Here is a Russian folk song after Cossack Revolutionary Stenka Razin.:

Prometheus’ Fire

In Part IV, Chapter VIII, a conversation between Olga and Stolz:

"My life is brimming over with happiness, I want so to live…and all of a sudden there is bitterness in it all…" (482)

"Ah, that is what one has to pay for Prometheus’s fire!"

In Greek mythology, Prometheus, the son of a Titan, steals a spark from Zeus’ lightening bolt to give fire to humans. Zeus punished him by chaining him to a mountain.



In Part III, at the beginning of Chapter X, a few drozhki (Russian, дрожки) sat on the street outside of Oblomov’s apartment.