Between Empire and Tsardom: The Trip of Clerks from Arkhangelsk Province to the Theatre of the Great Northern War, 1716–1718
Keywords:travelogue; Petrine epoch; 18th century St Petersburg; Great Northern War; Nikita Telitsyn
This article considers a new source that has not previously attracted the attention of researchers: an account of a journey undertaken by clerks from Arkhangelsk province to Pomerania. In 1716, the clerks, who served in the local administration in Kevrola and Mezen, were sent to take the money collected from Arkhangelsk province to the regiments of Peter the Great’s army. The clerks travelled through Moscow, Novgorod, St Petersburg, Narva, Dorpat, Riga, Mitau, and, on their way home, through Smolensk and Moscow. The most important feature of this account is that it is not an official report (it is hoped that the official report will also be found in archives), but that it was written for a private purpose. Thus, it can be considered the first Russian travelogue to describe a trip between the two Russian capitals, and also one of the first Russian descriptions of St Petersburg (many modern foreign descriptions of St Petersburg are well known, but the text in question is one of the oldest Russian descriptions). As far as their narrative manner is concerned, the clerks were conservatives rather than innovators in their approach to writing. Describing every town in their own manner, they were primarily interested in the relics of Orthodox saints and miracle-working icons. Their description of St Petersburg is very laconic: furthermore, it is hardly surprising that the clerks lacked a means of expression colourful enough to describe Protestant Courland and the Catholic Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The combination of the official purpose of the trip and its route, connecting the most important ‘lieux de mémoire’ of Russia, makes this account unique.