Traveler or a fugitive? A new reading of "Letters of a Russian traveler" of Nikolai Karamzin
This article discusses one of the most significant events in life of Nikolai 5 Karamzin, his so-called European travels of 1789–1790. It argues that the twenty-two-year-old Karamzin did not travel to Europe at his own will and desire. Instead, he was removed from Moscow by his friends in order to avoid a conflict between Nikolai Novikov’s Masonic circle and the authorities, who were preparing an offensive against the 10 Freemasons. This explains the length of Karamzin’s “travels” (fourteen months) and the complete absence of correspondence between him and his relatives and close friends who remained in Moscow. The author believes that Karamzin subsequently developed these fugitive records from his emigrant’s diary into a literary Letters of a Russian Traveler, 15 a “book of letters” whose title is bitterly ironic.