About the Project

In the history of Russia, the eighteenth century was a turning point in the formation of secular culture. At the time, a new political vocabulary was being formed, reflecting the rational perception of society and personality. It is in the eighteenth century that Russian political language was born.

The transfer of political ideas 

The project of the German Historical Institute in Moscow explores the process of the transfer, adaptation and reception of the main European political ideas and concepts in Russia during the eighteenth century. The project continues the research of the GHIM in the field of the history of concepts (see the project «History of concepts and historical semantics»), especially in regard to methodology, but using new data.

Translation as a laboratory of political ideas

The starting point of the project is the assumption that Russian political terminology was invented in the process of translation, when political concepts acquired their precise meaning in specific social and political contexts.

The protagonists of this process are translators, commissioners of translations and readers who used and interpreted the new political vocabulary that transformed the semantic field of the Russian language.

We are interested not only in the translation of European political terminology into Russian, but also in the spread and use of printed and manuscript translations in Russia during the eighteenth century. One of the most important research challenges of the project is to describe a wide range of handwritten and printed translations made in Russia over the period.

What is meant by «political» in the eighteenth century?

The database contains translations of essays which can be attributed to a wide range of knowledge in the humanities often called “civil science” (scientia civilis) in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It served to speak with a member of society (“citizen”, “son of the fatherland”, “statesman”) about the purpose, history, structure and control mechanisms of “civil society” (societas civilis) and the position of the citizen (civis). The boundaries of the political sphere of the eighteenth century are difficult to determine using modern concepts such as “sociology”, “political science”, “economy” or “law”. The European “political” literature of the time is characterised by the intersection of disciplinary discourses, while significantly maintaining a close relationship between the “scientific” and the literary text. Therefore, during this period, a political treatise could be a collection of practical instructions (Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Ceriol), an emblem book containing a metaphorical description of the “positions” held by the sovereign and his subjects (Saavedra Fajardo), a political novel (Fénelon) and a pamphlet (Boccalini), or a collection of historical examples of specific political “cases” (Lipsius, Bessel, Fredro).

In other words, at the time the political book could include texts which are now classified as modern social philosophy, political theory, history and economics, literary works of a political nature (political novel, pamphlet, opinion journalism, etc.), as well as guidebooks, handbooks, dictionaries and tutorials that we would now attribute to these disciplines.

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