Tobolsk in August von Kotzebue’s Sketches: on the Perception of Siberia by Germans


  • Klaus Steinke



The article considers a unique historical document – notes on the town of Tobolsk of the famous German writer and dramatist August von Kotzebue. Written in the early 19th century, the notes reflect the peculiar character of Tobolsk; the author describes its nature, society, local elite that he became acquainted with during his two-week stay in the Siberian town. The author points out that the book enjoyed success with the public which was unusual for this modest work, and was published repeatedly in the 19th and 20th centuries. Kotzebue’s work is compared with some later works of the literature of captives and travelers. The author of the article extensively quotes the source and analyzes its artistic and informational value. Additionally, he reveals the interest of the German society towards the remote region of Siberia conditioned by its fanciful nature, climatic anomalies, exoticism of its everyday life, on the one hand, and a desire to improve the cultural, and, potentially, economic contacts between the two countries on the other. According to the author, Kotzebue was the first to discover the image of Tobolsk and Siberia. His objective account of Russian hospitality and the goodwill of the population contrasted sharply with his description of the arbitrary rule of the Russian authorities and had a significant potential for the German cultural and economic circles. The article makes a professional review of the life of Kotzebue in German and Russian historiography; it also describes the position of the writer as to his condition of an exile and makes a description of his relationships with the locals, which adds to the already known biography of the playwright.


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How to Cite

Steinke, K. (2015). Tobolsk in August von Kotzebue’s Sketches: on the Perception of Siberia by Germans. Quaestio Rossica, (1), 71–82.



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