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Being European: Russian travel writing and the Balkans, 1804-1877

McArthur, S.G.; (2010) Being European: Russian travel writing and the Balkans, 1804-1877. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis examines the ways in which Russian identity was articulated in the early to mid-nineteenth century through the medium of travel writing. Russian identity has traditionally been examined by analysing the country’s relationship with Western Europe, whilst travel writing has typically focused on the paradigm of the Self/Other opposition. This work demonstrates that these conventional patterns of analysis are too simplistic. Rather than addressing the topic as a set of binarisms (Self/Other, Russia/The West), this thesis presents a triangular pattern of analysis. Many of the travellers examined here did seek to define themselves in opposition to West European culture, and they did so by seeking to portray themselves as the leading representatives of a separate “Slavic” culture sphere. Yet the values of this sphere were only identified and understood as Russians travelled through the South Slav lands and interacted with the local population. It was the Balkans, not the salons of London or Paris, which provided the forum for debating many elements of Russian identity. Through their travelogues, journal articles and letters written from the Balkans, it is possible to identify a set of values with which the travellers were increasingly associated. Yet, while identifying with supposedly “traditional Slavic values” the travellers claimed they found amongst the South Slavs, the Russians actually revealed how integrated their own identity was with the larger European cultural sphere. Even in their attempts to define themselves separately from Europe, they effectively demonstrated their inherent Europeanness. They did this by appropriating the travelogue, a genre that had long enjoyed popularity among Western audiences, and their approach to travel writing closely mirrored the way in which the genre was evolving in Western Europe. Furthermore, their writings express a set of cultural values that were far closer to “Europe” than they acknowledge.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Being European: Russian travel writing and the Balkans, 1804-1877
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/20181
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