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“The Orient in Europe”: the Crimea after Accession to Russian Empire as Viewed by Foreigners

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Abstract. Accession of the Crimea to Russian Empire in 1783 attracted the attention of all Europe. From a place that Montesquieu considered synonymous with the unknown, Crimea quickly turned into a popular subject of historical and literary descriptions. The most important role in this process was played by Western European travellers. For a quarter century the Crimea was visited by several dozen of foreigners who left descriptions of their trips, related to different genres and having different scientific and artistic value. Thanks to this, the image of the Crimea as a unique region was formed in the public consciousness. This image was, of course, multi-dimensional – Crimea was considered a natural paradise, a museum of the ancient heritage or a place where it was possible to assess the historical mission of Russia. An important component of ideas about the Crimea were characteristics of the “East” (or “Asia”), by which we understood something completely opposite to the “West” (or “Europe”), both strange and attractive, and in any case allowed to emphasize the “winning” culture. The results of full-scale observations complemented the living imagination of travellers, as well as stereotypes, the product of the cultural baggage brought with it. The article highlights some aspects of the “oriental” appearance of the Crimea, shows their parallels with descriptions of other historical and cultural regions, analyses the political conclusions and forecasts made by travellers.

Keywords: Crimea, Orient, travelogues, historical imagology, modern history, Charles de Ligne, Edward Clarke, Jean Reuilly.

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