Female Individuality and Social Conventions of the Enlightenment in the Correspondence between Valentin Jamеrai-Duval and Anastasia Sokolova





epistolary legacy, Russia, Valentin Jamerai-Duval, Anastasia Sokolova, woman, family, violence, upbringing


This article examines the interpretation of the theme of the manifestation of female individuality in mid-eighteenth-century Russia on the basis of the correspondence (1762–1774) between Valentin Jamerai-Duval, a French philosopher and autodidact in the Austrian service, and Anastasia Sokolova, a lady-in-waiting to Empress Catherine II, married to De Ribas. At the beginning of the correspondence, Jamerai-Duval’s interest in Russia, like that of many Europeans, is based on inaccurate book sources and common stereotypes. Their conceptual motifs are “barbarism”, ignorance and violence, both in the family and in society. The dialogue between the two correspondents gradually overcomes these stereotypes. They discuss a wide range of issues related to the expression of the female personality: choice of spouse and celibacy, love and sensual pleasure in marriage; criteria of attractiveness (physical and mental beauty), following fashion and individual style, etc. Special attention is paid in the correspondence to the questions of women’s education and intellectual development, in which reading plays an important role. The Russian-Turkish war of 1768–1774 reactivated the issue of violence against women, this time as a need to protect them from the despotism of the infidels in the Ottoman Empire. Ignorance and religious prejudice in the environment of the Old Believers are also seen by the correspondents as a manifestation of tyranny over women’s personality.

Author Biography

Angelina Vacheva

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, Head of the Department of Russian Literature of the Faculty of Slavonic Studies, Sofia University “St Kliment Ohridski”.

15, Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd., 1504, Sofia, Bulgaria.

ORCID 0000-0002-3253-4192



Akimova, T. I. (2015). Literaturnoe tvorchestvo Ekateriny II: “galantnyi dialog” v sisteme avtorskikh strategii (istoki, funktsii, zhanry) [Literary Work of Catherine II: “Gallant Dialogue” in the System of Author‘s Strategies (Origins, Functions, Genres)]. Dis. … dokt. filol. nauk. Moscow, S. n. 465 p.

Bil’basov, V. A. (1900). Istoriya Ykateriny II [History of Catherine II]. Berlin, Izdanie Fr. Groitnera. Vol. 1–2. 659 + 830 p.

Corberon, M.-D. (1901). Un diplomate français à la cour de Catherine II (1775–1780). Journal intime du chevalier de Corberon, Chargé d’affaires de France en Russie in 2 t. / publié d’après le manuscrit original, avec une introduction et des notes par L. – H. Labande. Paris, Librairie Plon. T. 1. 366 p.

Duval, V. J. (1784). OEuvres de Valentin Jamerai Duval, précédées des mémoires sur sa vie en 2 t. St Pétersbourg, Strasbourg, Chez J. G. Treuttel. 320 + 336 р.

Jamerey-Duval V. (2019) Correspondance de Valentin Jamerey-Duval, bibliothécaire des Ducs de Lorraine in 3 t. / éd. critique établie par A. Courbet. Paris, Honore Champion, 2019. T. 3. 1182 p.

Jamerey-Duval, V. (1981). Mémoires. Enfance et éducation d’un paysan au XVIII siècle / avant-propos, introduction, notes et annexes par J.-M. Goulemot. Paris, Le Sycomore. 423 p.

Kaznakov, S. N. (1916). Doch’ Betskogo i “filosof” Dyaval’ [Betskoy’s Daughter and the Philosopher Duval]. In Starye gody. No. 10–12, pp. 3–73.

Maikov, P. M. (1904). Ivan Ivanovich Betskoi: opyt ego biografii [Ivan Ivanovich Betskoy: An Attempt at His Biography.]. St Petersburg, Tipografiya Tovarishchestva “Obshchestvennaya pol‘za”. 772 p.

Molière, J.-B. (1937). Sobranie sochinenii v 4 t. [Collected Works. 4 Vols.]. Leningrad, Academia. Vol. 2. 749 p.

Montesquieu, Ch.-L. (1956). Persidskie pis’ma [Persian Letters]. Leningrad, Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury. 398 p.

Pis’ma imperatritsy Ekateriny II k gospozhe Geoffrin [Letters of Empress Catherine II to Mme Geoffrin]. (1867). In SIRIO. Vol. 1, pp. 253–291.

RGADA [Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts]. Stock 181. List 16. Frants. No. 11. Dos. 1435.

Vacheva, A. (2020a). Knigite s”bitiya v korespondentsiyata na Valentin Zhamre-Dyuval i Anastasiya Sokolova (1762–1774) [The Books-Events in the Correspondence of Valentin Jamerai-Duval and Anastasia Sokolova (1762–1774)]. In D”lgiyat XVIII vek 3. Khartieni revolyutsii. R”kopisnite i pechatni izdaniya kato ideologicheski instrumenti, pp. 7–18.

Vacheva, A. (2020b). Izdanie perepiski V. Zhamre-Dyuvalya s A. Sokolovoi kak primer propagandistskoi politiki Ekateriny II [The Publication of the Correspondence of V. Jamerai-Duval and A. Sokolova as an Example of Catherine the Great’s Propaganda Policy]. In Dialog so vremenem. Vol. 73, pp. 155–167. DOI 10.21267/AQUILO.2020.73.73.006.

Vacheva, А. (2018). Russkie i Rossiya v perepiske Valentina Zhamre-Dyuvalya i Anastasii Sokolovoi (1762–1774) [The Russians and Russia in the Correspondеnce between Valentin Jamerai-Duval and Anastasia Sokolova (1762–1774)]. In Quaestio Rossica. Vol. 6. No. 4, pp. 1110–1128. DOI 10.15826/qr.2018.4.349.



How to Cite

Vacheva, A. (2024). Female Individuality and Social Conventions of the Enlightenment in the Correspondence between Valentin Jamеrai-Duval and Anastasia Sokolova. Quaestio Rossica, 12(2), 523–538. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2024.2.893



Problema voluminis