Nationalizing Science in Mid-Nineteenth Century Russia: Ideological Origins of the Naval Ministry's “Literary Expedition”
This article discusses the issue of conflicting “languages” inside the literary ethnography of mid-nineteenth century imperial Russia. The case under investi- gation here is the Russian Naval Ministry’s “literary expedition”, launched by Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevič in 1855–1861 to study the fishing and shipping practices of different parts of the Russian Empire and to produce sketches about them. Exploring the preparatory stage of the expedition, the author identifies the European and Russian precedents of literary ethnography from Adelbert Chamisso’s Reise um die Welt to Ivan Gončarov’s Frigate Pallas, which may have provided a model for Konstantin. Extant unpublished documents of the expedition from Russian and Estonian archives allow us to reconstruct its ideological origins and to show that it was born from the spirit of the Russian Geographical Society’s projects and the so-called “nationalizing” paradigm of ethnographic knowledge that dominated the discursive field in the 1850s. The author demonstrates that the underlying idea of the expedition had much in common with Slavophile ethnography (the case of Ivan Aksakov) and its project of “Russian science”. The last part of the article shows how this “nationalizing” paradigm clashed with cosmopolitan and liberal ideas when Konstantin was launching the expedition.