Der lange Schatten imperialer Historiografie. Karamzins „Geschichte des russischen Reiches“ in Übersetzungen

Philipp Hofender


Nikolai Karamzin (1766-1826) is regarded as a key Russian writer and editor in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His sentimentalist writings and his work as editor of two influential journals are well known, and have played an important role in the cultural transfer from Western Europe to Russia.
His activity as an imperial historiographer is equally significant. His twelve-volume Istorija rossijskogo gosudarstva (1818-1829) is one of the first comprehensive, and also extremely influential, manifestations of an imperial view of Russian history. In terms of methodology and general orientation, Karamzin’s work relies heavily on existing models. Yet the ‘Istorija’ proves particularly innovative from another perspective. Unlike his pre¬decessors, Karamzin sought to create a work whose basic ideas were easy to transmit. This included suitable language, images of their own history that were easy to grasp, and a prestige which enabled dissemination beyond their own linguistic and cultural region. Thus, from the first, the ‘Istorija’ was disseminated through numerous channels in the Russian Empire and beyond.
This article presents a detailed investigation into the communicative dimension of translations of the ‘Istorija’ which have received little attention to date; including French, German and Polish versions. Besides contributing to the history of the 19th century Rus¬sian translation, this reveals the complex interplay between the communication within the Russian-speaking world and beyond.