Lieutenant Kijé or Kizhe (Russian: Пору́чик Киже́, translit. Poruchik Kizhe), originally Kizh (Киж), is the protagonist of an anecdote going back to the time of Emperor Paul I of Russia; the story was used as the basis of a novella by Yury Tynyanov published in 1927 and filmed in 1934 with music by Sergei Prokofiev. The plot is a satire on bureaucracy.
The first appearance of the anecdote is in Vladimir Dahl's "Rasskazy o vremenakh Pavla I" ("Stories of the time of Paul I"), a short piece published in the journal Russkaya Starina in 1870; he reported it as told by his father, Jochan Christian von Dahl (1764-1821). In this original version, a clerk miswrites an order promoting several ensigns (praporshchiki) to second lieutenants (podporuchiki): instead of "praporshchiki zh ... - v podporuchiki" ("as to Ensigns (names), [they are promoted to] Second Lieutenants", he writes "praporshchik Kizh, ... - v podporuchiki" ("Ensigns Kizh, (other names) [are promoted to ] Second Lieutenants". The Emperor Paul decides to promote the nonexistent Kizh to first lieutenant (poruchik); he quickly rises through the ranks to staff captain and full captain, and when he is promoted to colonel the emperor commands that Kizh appear before him. Of course no Kizh can be found; the military bureaucrats go through the paper trail and discover the original mistake, but they decide to tell the emperor that Kizh has died. "What a pity," the emperor says, "he was a good officer."
Yury Tynyanov, who had been researching the period for his historical novels Kyukhlya (1925) and Smert Vazir-mukhtara (The death of the ambassador plenipotentiary, 1928), wrote a novella based on Dahl's story that was published in 1927. He considerably expanded it, adding several characters (including the historical statesman Aleksey Arakcheyev), and changed the imaginary officer's name from Kizh to Kizhe (using an alternate form of the particle, zhe). In his version, along with the imaginary Kizhe there is another mistake: a Lieutenant Sinyukhaev is wrongly marked as dead. Several sections of the novella are devoted to Sinyukhaev's fruitless attempts to get himself restored (he ends up wandering the roads of Russia, living on the charity of strangers).
Tynyanov further complicates the story by adding a lady-in-waiting who has had a brief affair with an officer who shouts "Guard!" in the courtyard, disturbing the emperor; when the offender cannot be found, the emperor Paul is told that it was Kizhe, who is accordingly flogged and sent to Siberia (the fact that no actual person is there does not seem to bother anyone). This upsets the lady-in-waiting, but when the emperor changes his mind and has Kizhe returned to the capital and promoted, the lady-in-waiting is able to marry him (there is no groom at the ceremony but it proceeds as scheduled, and she has a child from her brief encounter), and she quite happily lives in his quarters, carrying on affairs, while he is supposedly in the field with his regiment. In the end the emperor, increasingly paranoid and lonely, feels the need to have someone as dependable as Kizhe (who has had a spotless career) near him, promotes him to general, and orders him brought to his palace in Saint Petersburg. Since this is impossible, he is told that Kizhe has died, and the general has a state funeral as the grieving emperor says "Sic transit gloria mundi." The last line of the story reads "And Pavel Petrovich [the emperor Paul] died in March of the same year as General Kizhe — according to official reports, from apoplexy." (In fact, Paul was murdered by a group of dismissed officers.)
The conventional romanization of the title is Kizhé. The usual spelling Kijé corresponds to correct pronunciation (IPA: ⟨ʑ⟩) in French, but in many other languages, such as English, German and Spanish, this French spelling often leads to mispronunciation.
The story of Kijé — the conveniently invented fictitious war hero, who ultimately must die as a victim of his own success — is frequently referenced and parodied in popular culture.[clarification needed]
- George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four contains a brief passage in which the protagonist, Winston Smith, a worker at the propaganda-producing Ministry of Truth, creates a fictitious hero "Comrade Ogilvy", a man dedicated to Oceania (the novel's totalitarian régime) who "dies" in the line of duty.
- Poul Anderson's 1953 novelette Sam Hall features a disgruntled bureaucrat who creates fake records about a rebel named Sam Hall (after the song) who fights against the totalitarian government.
- Lieutenant Kijé is parodied in the first season episode of M*A*S*H "Tuttle". A similar character appears as the war hero "Schumann" from Wag the Dog (1997), and obliquely in the Brazil (1985) opening sequence.
- In her novel Eclipse of the Century (1999), Jan Mark presents a deserter from the Russian Army who renames himself Lieutenant Kijé, as a sign that he no longer exists.
- In the eighth season episode of Seinfeld "The Susie" (episode #149), Elaine Benes inadvertently creates an alter ego named "Susie", whom co-workers believe is real. To avoid conflict, Elaine and the fictional Susie attend a conflict resolution meeting with the company president. Ultimately, Elaine rids herself of the non-existent Susie by saying she has committed suicide; a large number of guests attend Susie's funeral.
- The plot line of a full length musical comedy, Kije!, subtitled a Magical Musical Fairy Tale, revolves around an imaginary hero of that name in the mythical kingdom of Wuz. The play was selected as Carnegie Mellon University's annual Spring Musical and premièred in April 1980 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The storyline was written by Scott L. McGregor, with lyrics by Arthur T. Benjamin, and music, composed by Arthur Darrell Turner, added in time for the play to win the 1980 contest.
- In an episode of the TV sitcom McKeever and the Colonel, set in a military academy, the commandant asks about the exemplary actions of a cadet he sees, and the cadets, not knowing who it is, tell him it's Miller (there is no Cadet Miller). The rest of the episode describes how the cadets build on the legend of the fictional Miller, and finally get rid of him by having him miserably fail an exam and depart the school, leaving an apologetic letter of resignation on his bunk.
- The parallel story of Lieutenant Sinyukhaev, who is mistakenly listed as dead, is somewhat similar to Doc Daneeka's "death".
- Gelbart, Larry (July 28, 2008). "Re: Tuttle = Kije?". alt.tv.mash. Google Groups. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Original musical comedy Kije! by Scott L. McGregor, Lyrics by Arthur T. Benjamin, Music by Arthur Darrell Turner