Between Russia and Western Europe: The Diplomatic Languages of Prince Ivan Scherbatov, a Russian Representative at the Spanish Court




language practices, diplomacy, Ivan Shcherbatov, Spain, education, reign of Peter I, communication sphere, 18th century


This article examines the process of language learning, the acquisition of the codes of polite correspondence, and language practices among Russian diplomats with reference to Prince Ivan Andreevich Shcherbatov (1696–1761), a prominent Russian diplomat at the Spanish, Ottoman, and British courts. Such developments, together with some other changes (such as the shift to appointing resident ambassadors) were significant features of Russian diplomacy during and just after the reign of Peter I and contributed to its integration into the European diplomatic space. The study refers to many previously unused archival sources, such as language-learning exercises, diplomatic and personal correspondence. During his extended stay in London, Shcherbatov learned French including a considerable variety of polite expressions. His mastery of French was to become one of the main tools that Shcherbatov used both in his diplomatic and personal correspondence. His personal network consisted of various foreigners, including many who were not French but for whom French was an important lingua franca. Even in his exchanges with Spanish officials, French was a useful medium; Shcherbatov often resorted to this language when replying to Spaniards who tended to use their own language in their letters addressed to foreign diplomats at the time. Despite his excellent command of French, Shcherbatov hardly ever used it in his correspondence with his fellow compatriots, even when dealing with addressees of non-Russian descent. This contrasts the linguistic practices of some of his colleagues of lower rank and social position who chose to use French in their diplomatic correspondence with their compatriots as a communicative strategy. Whether this early use of French should be interpreted as a sign of a new cultural or professional identity is a moot point.

Author Biography

Vladislav Rjéoutski

PhD (History), Postdoctoral Fellow, German Historical Institute.

8, rue du Parc-Royal, 75003, Paris, France.

ORCID 0000-0001-8434-6671


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How to Cite

Rjéoutski, V. (2023). Between Russia and Western Europe: The Diplomatic Languages of Prince Ivan Scherbatov, a Russian Representative at the Spanish Court. Quaestio Rossica, 11(4), 1215–1231.



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