Moscow, Moscovia, Muscovite: The Moscow Canon of English Literature




Moscow canon, Moscovia, English literature, image of Russia, travelogues, functions of motifs in fiction


This paper focuses on the formation and modifications of the “Moscow canon” in English literature. The author refers to some 16th-century travelogues and English literary texts from different epochs. The work aims to provide a systematic description of how motifs and images that constitute the “Moscow canon” of English literature was formed and modified. The author reveals the main connotations present in the notes of English travellers which they took while travelling around Russia in the sixteenth century. The name “Moscovia” was used as a synonym for “Russia” and had peculiar connotations in travelogues connected with the historical context of its appearance in English culture. The connotations used by English travellers in their notes for the words “Moscow”, “Moscovia”, and “Muscovite” had a considerable influence on the image of Russia in English literature both in the seventeenth century and until the present day. It is argued that the “Moscow canon” (as a literary phenomenon, apart from inter-genre travel books) started in Elizabethan literature with a fragmentary use of images borrowed from travels around Moscovia as striking phenomena of a different, non-English part of the world. It is demonstrated how in the English literature of the Enlightenment, the motifs connected with the image of Moscovia are perfected in their form and function and, at the same time, re-evaluated. Starting with the early nineteenth century, the “Moscow canon” was more and more often used in plots focusing on the opposition between British and Russian characters, or a British character plunging into the Russian world. The corresponding images and motifs acquire a deeper and more complicated interpretation in literary works: through them, English writers and poets search for the keys to understanding both Russia and the fundamental problems of modernity. In different historical periods and in the framework of different aesthetic systems, authors chose different “Moscow” motifs and interpreted them in diverse ways. Each time, entering a new created world, these motifs were adapted to certain functions and ideas.

Author Biography

Svetlana Koroleva

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, Linguistic University of Nizhny Novgorod.

31a, Minin Str., 603155, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-7587-9027


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How to Cite

Koroleva, S. (2020). Moscow, Moscovia, Muscovite: The Moscow Canon of English Literature. Quaestio Rossica, 8(5), 1549–1564.



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