Frequently asked questions

Does the search function on the website work the same way as in Google and in Yandex?

No, the search function on our website has a number of differences. The search for a combination of words entered by the user will only give results if these words are placed next to each other in the text. For example, the combination of the words "реформа монархия" will not give any results. In this case, use the advanced search. Enter the words on two lines and add the condition "And". 

Or try searching for each of the words separately. To search for all the words with the same root, one needs to search for the root of the word. For example, searching for the root "Staat" will give many results: "Staatsmann", "Staatsverfassung", "Staatsrat", etc.
If a single criterion is set in the advanced search, for example a language, the results will show all the pages related to this language (not only translations, but also originals). For example, if you select Latin as a criterion, you will get more than 200 results, some of which are translations and some originals (the breakdown into both categories is shown immediately below the search bar and allows direct access to a particular category). It is better not to use a combination of several criteria as it may produce no result. Searching by date, put the outside dates in the search bars; for a particular year, indicate this year in each of the bars. 

The search bar is also available on other pages: translations, originals, and a glossary of concepts. On the translation page, one can search by the author's name, by the title of the work (both original and translated), as well as by excerpts from texts. On the originals page, one can search by the author's name and the title of the work. In the glossary of concepts, one can search both in the alphabet and in the search bar. In the search bar, it is better to search by an individual word or even the root of a word, rather than by a combination of words. Thus a search for the word "bien" will give many other results, e.g.: "bien public", "bien de l’Etat", "bien général", etc. For a political term, one can also use the general search.

What are the criteria for selecting translations for the database?

The database consists of the works translated into Russian in the eighteenth century, belonging to the wide field of political or civil sciences, in the understanding peculiar to that era. First of all, these are political treatises and manuals, instructions for statesmen, historical works, which at that time were considered as the best "textbooks of politics", geographical and statistical descriptions of various states, notes of travelers, including essays on the history, political and social structure of countries, moral and political instructions for the noble, educational literature, political novels and collections of emblems as well as other theoretical works and practical guides useful for "politicians" (statesmen), and for citizens/subjects for "service to the Fatherland". The chronological framework of the translated works presented on the site covers the eighteenth century (1701–1800), but sometimes goes beyond these boundaries. In particular, this applies to descriptions of handwritten books, translations of which may have appeared in the 1680s–90s and spread in the first decades of the eighteenth century, as well as those publications that were first published in the 1780s–90s and often reprinted in the early 1800s.

What are the rules for publishing eighteenth-century texts on the site?

All texts are printed according to the rules for publishing documents of the eighteenth century [Rules for publishing historical documents in the USSR. M., 1990]. The spelling of the original is generally preserved. The text is transmitted by letters of the civil alphabet; the letters that have fallen out of use are replaced by modern ones (the use of «Ъ» at the end of words after hard consonants is not preserved). Long letters are inserted into the string, and abbreviations and omissions are marked with square brackets. In accordance with the modern norm, the spelling of «И»; «Й» is passed and «Ш»/ «Щ» are used. The use of uppercase and lowercase letters and punctuation marks, as well as the division of the text into sentences, is made in accordance with modern spelling rules for ease of reading and understanding of the text. Authors’ additions and inserts in the fields are included in the text and highlighted with curly brackets {}; authors’ brackets are passed in parentheses (); references to the document sheets, as well as to the publisher's remarks, are given in square brackets [ ]. The unreviewed text is marked in square brackets [], abbreviations in angle brackets <...>. The text of documents is transmitted with exact preservation of stylistic and grammatical features. Diacritics, including accents, are not reproduced. Spelling errors and obvious misspellings (double spelling of individual letters, syllables, words, rearranging letters or omitting them) are eliminated and are not subject to discussion. In the spelling of proper names, ethnonyms, and toponyms, lowercase letters are replaced with uppercase letters. Excerpts from texts of foreign works that became the basis for Russian translations in the eighteenth century are given with exact preservation of the spelling and punctuation in which they were printed. The only clarifications when publishing are related to the disclosure of abbreviations made when publishing, for clarity of reading the original text (reip. - reip[ublicae] , etc.).

What do the descriptions of the translations include?

The site provides both short and detailed descriptions of printed and handwritten translations. Detailed descriptions are those that provide samples of the original text and translation, highlighting key political concepts. They include the following items: the author; the title of the original; the language of the original from which the translation was made; the title in Russian translation; the name of the translator; the place of publication and printing house/publisher (only for printed translations);  the year of publication (or dating for the manuscript);  the book content; the volume;  the binding,  paper / filigree and handwriting (only for manuscripts); the number on the Consolidated catalogue of books of civil press of the eighteenth century (only printed transfers); places of storage; letters (only for manuscripts); a bibliography; history (only for manuscripts); notes; the name of an author of the  descriptions. Some of these items may not be available if there is no information about them.

Does the database include all translations of eighteenth-century political writings?

No, although we hope that it includes most of them. For the database, the "Consolidated catalog of books of the civil press of the eighteenth century (1725–1800 [Vol. 1-5. M., 1962-1975] ") was viewed and the translations of the texts that can be called political in the broad sense of the word, reflecting its understanding in that era, were selected. Please note that we did not identify translations published in periodicals. This may become a separate task for the future researchers. However, we have studied the collections of archives and libraries (primarily in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev) to identify lists of handwritten translations whose descriptions – brief or detailed (with sample texts) can also be found on the site. For a complete list of archives and manuscript departments that we worked with during the project, see the section "Libraries and archives".

How were the samples of text from translated works selected?

The authors of the descriptions tried to select passages containing political terminology characteristic of the era and, when possible, definitions of the most important political concepts that give us an idea of the development of the semantics of socio-political vocabulary in Russia in the eighteenth century. As a rule, we selected quite extensive passages in order to show the context of the use of the term or concept. The number and length of the passages, of course, depends on the nature of the works: in some cases, the concentration of political terminology is very high, in others it is much less.

What is a "political concept" and with the help of what lexical units can it be expressed?

The political term (concept) is an expression of certain political ideas and meanings; it reveals a special worldview of a person in his social relations and relations with other subjects of the political system. Any concept is on the one hand the result of a conceptual understanding of reality, and on the other hand its normalization, which involves certain ways of changing and reforming the existing reality. At the same time, no concept can exist outside of its lexical expression; that is, only words can be the basis for the translation and perception of certain ideas and meanings. Therefore, concepts are given to us only in the form of lexical units, that is, words or phraseological units (stable combinations of words), and for this reason the study of concepts begins with the study of those lexical units that express them. In this case it is necessary to remember that words and concepts are not identical. As Reinhart Kozelleck wrote: "the concept is tied to the word, but at the same time it is more than a word [...] the meanings of the word can be precisely defined by definitions, and concepts can only be interpreted." Indeed, the concept can be expressed using different words and combinations of words; since the meaning of an abstract concept can not be defined, it is directly related to the signifier. Thus, the term " freedom "in English can be expressed using the words "freedom" and " liberty". In the Russian language of the eighteenth century, the concept of "freedom" could be represented by the words "will"," liberty"," freedom".  All these words expressed different shades and meanings of the concept of freedom and sometimes a differentiation of these meanings is possible only in the context of word usage that arises in a particular text. Therefore, the study of translations gives us the opportunity to see the nuances and shades of meanings of concepts that are embedded in Russian words of the eighteenth century expressing them. For example, the Russian word "liberty" is often used to translate the French word "privilège", which fully reflects the understanding of freedom in the class society of the "Old order" (sans avoir part à ses privilèges / not having a share in its liberties).

What criteria were used to select certain political concepts for the glossary?

Before starting to work with the texts, we compiled a list of the main political concepts that would be important for understanding the history of political thought in Russian translations of European works in the eighteenth century. These concept words ("state"," society"," politics", etc.) were peculiar centers of conceptual fields. The glossary is based on concepts that describe and characterize the relations of power and citizenship ("people", "sovereign", "power", "subject"), state structure ("Monarchy", "Republic", "Democracy"), systems of governance and representation ("Council", "Senate", "magistrate", "Parliament"), social hierarchy ("noble", "nobleman", "slave") and class structure ("rank", "estate", "merchant class"), theoretical abstractions ("natural law", "social contract", "common good") and moral and political ideas ("duty", "advantage", "freedom"). We have expanded these lexical units that express key political concepts to include related words. Not limited to nouns, we have included in our political lexicon adjectives and verbs that relate to nouns ("possessor" – "possessing" – "possess"), as well as phrases ("common good", "natural law", "indispensable laws"), which no less fully reveal the meaning of the key concepts to which they were related.

Do we always know from which publication the translation was made?

No, not always. It is often difficult to determine with great accuracy from which edition of the book the translation was made. If we do not know, we indicate the first edition of the book.

How were the texts for translation chosen by the translators of the eighteenth century?

The translation could be performed either on the personal initiative of the translator or at the will of the customer. A high-ranking nobleman could act as a customer. A famous customer of translators from the beginning of the eighteenth century was Grand Duke Dmitry Mikhailovich Golitsyn. Turning to him, one of the translators wrote in Old Church Slavonic: "You try to understand everything, how many are the countless sages and authors in the world who wrote in ancient and modern times. Not only do I tell you about this, but also many books that have been translated into the language of your Fatherland with your help". Individual translations were ordered by the monarchs themselves. For example, Catherine II not only worked as a translator herself, having prepared a translation of Marmontel's political novel «Belisarius» with her courtiers, but also initiated a whole program of translating the most important classical texts into Russian. Established by her in 1768, the "Collection trying to translate foreign books" translated more than 150 books in 20 years. To monarchs and high-ranking courtiers, translators often "presented" translations made on their own initiative, in the hope of a reward or promotion.

If the aristocrats were able to read Western European languages, why did they order the translations?

The translation of a political text is always rooted in social interaction and power relations. In the eighteenth century, it became a power resource that allowed "managing with words", that is, influencing compatriots and changing their views and ideas. Therefore, courtiers who knew foreign languages, such as D. M. Golitsyn, N. I. Panin or M. I. Vorontsov, actively ordered translations, and M. Shcherbatov himself worked on the translation of political texts by Fenelon, Montesquieu, and Holbach. These aristocrats were interested in creating Russian equivalents of concepts that were familiar to them in Western European languages, but were difficult to define in Russian. Having equivalents of Western political terms, it was possible to talk to compatriots about new ideas and meanings, as well as to use new words-concepts in political discussions to appeal to supporters and opponents who did not read foreign languages. Thanks to the translations, new concepts entered the political lexicon, but in order to take root in it, they had to become a familiar part of the culture, to stop being "foreign".

Was there political censorship at this time and did it affect the activities of translators?

The books in foreign languages and their translations in the eighteenth century were often singled out and banned; they could be considered "harmful" and dangerous for a variety of reasons. First of all, the reason could be an assault on the dogmas of the Church, so the main censoring body in this era was the Synod. Thus, the "Social contract" and "Emile" by J. J. Rousseau, containing the preaching of civil and natural religion, were banned. The generally bad reputation of European political thinkers -"realists" like N. Machiavelli, Boccalini - led to the fact that translations of their books could not be officially printed in Russia and were distributed in handwritten lists. During the reign of Anna Ioannovna, the discovery of these lists in the libraries of dignitaries who were under investigation could be included in the indictment and aggravate their "guilt", as happened with A. P. Volynsky. Under the rule of Elizabeth and Catherine II, censorship was in many ways relaxed, but increased again after the French Revolution.

Who was engaged in translations in Russia during the eighteenth century?

In eighteenth-century Russia there were professional translators, not by virtue of their education, but by position, according to the Table of Ranks: we find translators, for example, in the Academy of Sciences or in the College of Foreign Affairs. However, the authors of translations of political texts were a variety of other people, both of noble and non-noble origin, who were not officially translators, but who knew foreign languages and wanted to try their hand at translation. Their goals could be very different: fulfilling an order, trying to understand how to express a political concept in Russian, self-education, publishing and commercial activities, etc.

How can such a database help researchers?

The database can answer a variety of questions about the history of culture, literature, language and socio-political thought in the eighteenth century, posed in their works by historians, literary critics, linguists, cultural scientists and philosophers. The translations allow us to understand how the repertoire of printed and handwritten translations developed, how words for political concepts changed,  which languages Russian translators most often translated from, how translation practices differed at the same time and how they changed over time, how Russian readers and translators understood (or did not understand) foreign political and cultural phenomena and abstract concepts, what meanings they put into foreign-language texts, and, finally, how secular political language itself developed in Russia.

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