Russia in the Crimea: Civilizer or Oppressor? Images of the Imperial Power in th...

Russia in the Crimea: Civilizer or Oppressor? Images of the Imperial Power in the Dispute of the Late 18th and the First Half of the 19th Century’s Travelogues

Nikita I. Khrapunov
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The unification of the Crimea with Russia in 1783 was an important event in the world politics and attracted the attention of the whole Europe. The apparent evidence of that interest was
the inclusion of the Crimea in the itinerary of the great educational journey, or the Grand Tour, of the European elite. In their travelogues, published later on, the representatives of the European elite discussed the “legality” and effectiveness of the actions of the Russian authorities in the region. Given the specific image of the Crimea, a region with a predominantly Muslim population, located at the imaginary border between Europe and Asia, the travellers used traditional in the European mind ideas of the historical roles of East and West, the historical mission of the European powers, and the essence of the Russian state. As the source base for the study, several of the most popular travelogues of the period under research were chosen, in particular the works of François de Tott and Edward Clarke, William Eton and Matthew Guthrie, Mary Holderness and Paul Guibal, Xavier and Adèle Hommaire de Hell, and Olimpiada Shishkina. The article shows the genesis of popular, and the same time opposite interpretations of the historical role and fate of the Crimean Khanate,
from the “golden age” in the history of the region to the disaster that threw it far back. Depending on the author’s aim, the unification with Russia was interpreted as a “barbarian invasion,” or, alternatively, as a new possibility for fast progress. Moreover, the article uncovers the main criteria used by the travellers when evaluating the activities of the Russian government, their attitude towards the local residents, the ability to establish effective administration, develop trade, protect Christianity, keep archaeological and architectural monuments and sites, and so on. The work analyses established stereotypes developed by the travellers, such as “huge economic potential” of the Crimea, the perception of its residents as “noble savages / lazy idlers,” “Russian barbarism” concerning cultural heritage, and “military impotence” of the Black Sea Navy. It is indicated that many such assessments depended on the travellers’ background and already existing opinion, which had been formed before the journey. The article demonstrates the continuity in the
stereotypes and explanatory models, especially in the period of aggravation of relations between Russia and Europe on the eve and in the course of the Crimean War, when anti-Russian ideological patterns and discourses became in demand again.
Nikita I. Khrapunov
Candidate of Historical Sciences, Leading Researcher at theByzantine Crimea Laboratory
at the History and Archaeology of the Crimea Research Center
V.I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University, Simferopol, Russia
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Crimea, travelogues, imagology, Golden Age myth, Crimean Khanate, Russian Empire, integration, Enlightenment ideas
For citation:
Khrapunov, N.I. “Russia in the Crimea: Civilizer or Oppressor? Images of the Imperial Power in the Dispute of the Late 18th and the First Half of the 19th Century’s Travelogues.” Historia provinciae – The Journal of Regional History, vol. 7, no. 1 (2023): 190–237.

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