Russian Tourists “Discover” Postbellum America

Margarita Marinova, Christopher Newport University

More Russians should come to America—they’ll return home true patriots!
(Ogorodnikov 113)

Drawing on the early Bakhtin’s understanding of the crucial role of interaction in the aesthetic authoring of selves, my paper examines the diverse practices of crossing boundaries, tactics of translation, and experiences of multiple political and national attachments evident in texts resulting from Russo-American encounters during the 1860s and 1870s. Rather than attempting to present a unified picture of travel writing during the studied period, I plan a critical excursion around and among what Michael de Certeau has called “pedestrian utterings” by three talented and in their own time influential, yet today almost completely forgotten writers: Edward Tsimmerman (A Journey around America in 1869-70 [Puteshestvie po Amerike v 1869-70g.]), Grigorii Machtet (Travel Sketches [Putevye kartinki]) and Pavel Ogorodnikov (From New York to San Francisco and Back to Russia [Ot New Iorka do San Frantsisko i obratno v Rossiiu]).

As I will demonstrate, these (as well as many other contemporary) Russian authors’ travel narratives about America register both an appreciation of other forms of existence (understood as political, cultural, racial, or gender difference), and an insistence on national self-affirmation in the face of (but also at the expense of) alterity. Thus, they allow for an examination of the emerging stereotypes of “true” Russian-ness and American-ness, which were to regulate the Russo-American encounter in various forms of writing (such as, for example, the short story or the novel) for the rest of the pre-Cold War history of cultural exchange between the two countries.

Selected Bibliography:

Bakhtin, M. Art and Answerability. Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. Holquist, M. and V. Liapunov, Eds., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.
De Certeau, Michael. The Practice of Everyday Life. Tr. By Steven F. Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.
Machtet, G.A. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii G.A. Machteta. Vol. 1-4. Ed. D.P. Sil’chevskii. St. Petrsburg: Prosveshtenie, 1911.
Ogorodnikov, Pavel. Ot N’iu Iorka do San’ Frantsisko i obratno v Rossiiu. St. Petersburg: Kolesov and Mikhtin, 1872.
Tsimmerman, Edward R. Puteshestvie po Amerike v 1869-70g. Moscow: Grachev, 1871.