Главная Журнал «Россия и Запад: диалог культур» Главная Рубрики Язык и культура Andrey Zabrovsky "Typological Problems of the Foreigner Image in Russian Literature"

Andrey Zabrovsky "Typological Problems of the Foreigner Image in Russian Literature"

Andrey Zabrovskiy –

PhD in Philology, Associate Professor

Faculty of Foreign Languages and Area Studies

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Tel.: (499)783-02-64

Email: zabrov@gmail.com

Typological Problems of the Image of the Foreigner in Russian Literature.

Russian literature began with attempts of the nation’s intellectual elite to define Russia’s identity vis-à-vis Western civilization. The importance that was attached to the antithesis between Russia and the West may explain the specific functions that foreigner characters have since played in Russian literature. Satirical portrayal of foreigners is basically a literary device to highlight the differences between European and Russian outlook and overcome the flaws of the Russian national character. The article discusses the most typical traits ascribed to representatives of European cultures that have had the largest impact on Russia, and deliberates on what these mythologized features can tell of Russian national consciousness itself.

Key words: Russian literature, Russia’s identity through literature, the image of the foreigner.

 There is hardly any other national literature besides Russian that is so densely populated by foreigner characters. This is conditioned by the particular significance in Russian history of the question of Russian-European relations. The question arose in the context of Peter the Great’s reforms but is no less urgent nowadays. Todayit is probably senseless to argue whether it was necessary to “open a window on Europe”, as this event became a fact of world history three hundred years ago. By Peter’s will, Russia was linked up with the European cultural time and exposed to a massive influence of Western culture, which taught Russian people quite controversial lessons. Russian writers - Pushkin and Griboyedov, first and foremost - sensed this keenly. The problem was stated a long time ago butto this very day Russia is trying to come up with a solution. It would not be an exaggeration to say that classical Russian literature began withreflection on how Russian people were utilizing the fruits of Western civilization.

In Russian literature, foreigners are usually portrayed in a satirical way. The range of character types is very broad, from blatant villains to kind and amiable people a bit “spoilt” by Western civilization, but none of themcarry any positive values. Obviously, all Russian literature puts a heavy emphasis on criticism.However,when foreigners and Russians are contraposed, the latter seem to be more “worthy” of carrying positive traits, even if they are depicted satirically. The point is not that Russian writersare disposed to nationalist ideologies. In fact, Russian literature has always demonstrated a wide spectrum of philosophical positions - from the denial of the originality of Russian culture to its affirmation.The point is that foreigner images perform a specialfunction. A foreigner character is important not as such but as a literary device that helps to highlight the problems of the Russian people.

The role of Peter I in Russian history is rathercontroversial. By opening the gateway to Western culture and starting the process of cultural interaction between Russia and the West, Peter the Great created a whole range of problems that have since been discussed in Russian literature. ClassicalRussian literature began with the search for national identity:strictly speaking, what is Russia and who are the Russian people? Whatistheiridentity? Whatpathhad Russia been following before Peter the Great and which path has it been steering ever since? There are nosimple answers to these questions, and there hardly ever will be. Yet,each nation should have its own self-image.

Griboyedov formulated two problems relatedto our theme - national dignity and the character of enlightenment. Naturally, they were associated with the so-called "educated" classes as in the early 19th century the problemof foreign influence on commoners did not exist. It would grow in significance alongside the democratization and development of the Russian society. “A little Frenchman from Bordeaux”is an annoying figure for the European-educated rebel Chatsky. “A little Frenchman was getting ready for a journey // to Russia,a land of barbarians, all filled with apprehension and anxiety.// But when he arrived, he found that there was caressing all around him; //Not a single Russian word,not a single Russian face// did he find, as if he were in his own country, with his friends”[1]. In a different scene Chatsky exclaims with bitterness: “How accustomed we are from the tender age to believe that there is no salvation for us without Germans”.[2]

In Pushkin’s “The Captain’s Daughter” Frenchman Beaupré,Grinev's teacher,is an immoral, depraved, semi-literate man, unable to teach his pupil anything good. Onegin’s teacher is depicted by Pushkin as a “needy Gaul” who“with pleasant jesting taught him all,// nor would with moral strictures irk him ...”.[3]

In fact, Pushkin and Griboyedov satirized the undiscriminating Russian nobility rather than the French teachers themselves.

Enlightenment was one of the most importantissues in the times of Pushkin and Griboyedov.  It would be safe to say that it still has not lost its significance. In his article “On the Character of Enlightenment in Europe” Ivan Kireevsky wrote: “Evidently, there are few questions that are as important as the relationship between Russian and Western enlightenment”.[4]In terms of its content and depth of analysis, the article is conceptual and covers broader problems than just education and enlightenment. Itdiscusses the differences in spiritual foundations and mentality of the Russian and European peoples.

In Russian literature four nations seem to have stable images with pronounced national traits- Germans, the French, the English and, to alesser degree, Italians. It is easy to notice that these nationshave had the largest impact on Russian culture. Yet, we also notice that resentatives of these nationsare portrayed by Russian writers in a negative rather than positive light.

Germancharacters are especially numerous in Russian literature, and here Pushkin sets a pattern.In “The Queen of Spades” Pushkin portrays a russified German namedGermannwhose dominating feature is passion for wealth. He is also thrifty and calculating. In his own words, “he is not in a position to risk the necessary in the hope of acquiring the superfluous”.[5]Calculating mind is viewed by Pushkin as a national trait of Germans. Germann has a passionate nature but his passion is subdued to prudence. On the one hand, he is afraid of risk;on the other hand, he is eager for wealth. Germannwants to get rich risking nothing. He is unprincipled and immoral. “The story of the three cards had made a powerful impression upon his imagination and it haunted his mind all night.'Supposing', he thought to himself the following evening ashe wandered about Petersburg, 'supposing the old countess were to reveal her secret to me? Or tell me the threewinning cards! Why shouldn't I try my luck?... Get introduced to her, win her favour ­ become her lover, perhaps. But all that would take time, and she is eighty seven. She mightbe dead next week, or even the day after tomorrow!..And the storyitself? Is it likely? No, economy,moderation and hard work are my three winning cards. With them I can treble my capital – increase it sevenfold and obtain for myself leisure and independence!” [6]Germann's main principle of life is expressed in the final words. But he is still enticed by the possibility of rapidwealth. When the principle is broken, a catastrophe breaks out.

Features of national character represent the model of personality formed by a people’s history and spirit. Catastrophesusually occur when the national structure gets broken and the “capacity” of the nation’s soul is exceeded.

The German general in Pushkin's novel “The Captain's Daughter”can understandGrinev’s plight, but the duties of military service, regulations, laws and prudence prove to be more important than the drama of human feelings. To remind you of the plot, Grinev asks for a company of soldiers to clear the Belogorsky fortress of rebels and release his bride. Thesituation ispsychologically complicated. Grinev's brideis in Shvabrin's hands. He wants to marry her by force. This is a personal problem, while the general is responsible for the security of the whole town and its people. “No, young man,” he said shaking his head. “At such a great distance the enemy would have no difficulty in cutting you off from communicationwith the main strategic point, and gaining complete victory over you. When communications are cut off... Such an expedition would be most irrational. I cannot take the responsibility for it.”[7]

So, “prudence” and endless theorizing are typical characteristics of German military officers.

In his novel “War and Peace” Lev Tolstoy further develops Pushkin's image of the German general through the character of General Pful. Pful's passion for theory is described in a highly sarcastic way: “Pful was one of those theorists who love their theory so much that they forget the theory's aim – application to practice; in his love for theory, he hated all practice and did not want to know about its existence.”[8]

Tolstoy also offers curious reasoning on how self-confidence is manifested in people of different nationalities. He focuses on German self- confidence and contrasts it with the same trait in other nations.

“Pful was one of those hopelessly, invariably self-confident people, almost martyrs of self-confidence, that you can only find among Germansbecause only Germans can be self-confident on the basis of an abstract idea – science, i.e. the imaginary knowledge of the perfect truth. A Frenchman is self-confident because he considers himself, physically and mentally, to be irresistibly charming both for women and men. AnEnglishman is self-confident on the grounds of being a citizen of the best organized state in the world, for which reason he, as an Englishman, always knows what he must do and is sure that everything he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly good. An Italian is self-confident because he is agitated and easily forgets both himself and the others. A Russian is self-confident exactly because he knows nothing and wants to know nothing, as he does not believe that it is ever possible to know anything fully. A German is self-confident worst of all, in the firmest and most disgusting way of all, because he imagines that he knows the truth, the science, which he invented himselfand which is nevertheless the absolute truth for him”.[9]

In works by Pushkin and Tolstoy the description of foreigners is dominated by satirical overtones with some dramatic elements. It is different in “Nevsky Prospect” by N. Gogol where Germans are portrayed in a comic light. The author makes play with surnames Schiller and Hoffmann, andnational character features are carried to the point ofgrotesque.

“Before him sat Schiller, not the Schillerwho wrote Wilhelm Tell and The History of the Thirty Years War, but the well-known Schiller, the metal-worker in the Meshchanskaya.Hoffmann stood by his side, not Hoffmann the writer, but a rather good cobbler from Officers' Street, and a great friend of Schiller's. 'I don't want it, I don't need a nose!' –he said, [Schiller –A.Z.] waving his arms about. 'I spend three pounds of tobacco a month on my nose alone. And I pay money into a rotten Russian shop (because a German shop doesn't keep Russian tobacco); I pay into a rotten Russian shop forty kopecks for each pound, that's one rouble twenty kopecks, twelve times one rouble twenty kopecks, that's fourteen roubles forty kopecks. D'you hear, friend  Hoffmann?  Fourteen  roubles forty kopecks on one nose alone! And on holidays I take rape, because I don't want to take bad Russian tobacco on holidays. I take two pounds of rape a year at two roubles a pound. Six and fourteen – twenty roubles forty kopecks on tobacco alone! It's robbery! I ask you, friend Hoffmann, isn't it, now?' Hoffmann who was drunk himself, answered affirmatively. 'Twenty roubles forty kopecks! I'm a Swabian German; I've a king in Germany. I don't want a nose! Cut off my nose! Here it is!”[10]

“I think it would not be irrelevant to acquaint the reader somewhat more closely with Schiller,” continues Gogol. “Schiller was absolutely German in the full sense of the word. From  the  time  when  he  was  only twenty years of age, from that happy time, which a Russian spends gadding about,  Schiller  had  made  plans  for  his  whole  life  and  never  in  any circumstances made any exceptions to his rules. He decided to get up at seven o'clock, to dine at two, be precise in everything and get drunk every Sunday. He set himself the task of making a capital of fifty thousand in ten years, and this was true and irrevocable as fate, because a clerk will sooner forget to glance into the entrance hall of his chief's apartments, than a German go back on his word. He never increased his expenditure in any circumstances, and if the price of potatoes went up exceptionally he never spent an extra penny, but merely decreased the quantity he bought, and though he sometimes remained rather hungry, he soon grew accustomed to that. His tidiness went to such lengths that he rationed himself to kissing his wife not more than twice a day, and to prevent himself kissing her an extra tim; he never put more than one tea spoonful of pepper in his soup; it's true that on Sundays this rule was not so strictly adhered to, because Schiller used to drink two bottles of beer and one bottle of caraway vodka which he always blamed. He did not drink like your Englishman who locks his door immediately after dinner and gets pickled alone. On the contrary, like a German, he always drank with spirit, either with the cobbler Hoffmann orwith Kurtz the carpenter, another German and a great drinker”.[11]

In his short story “Iron will” N. Leskov continues Gogol's satirical tradition in the depiction of Germans. The author shows the most defining feature of the German engineer HugoPectoralis, which the engineer himself takes as a principle of life andcarries it to the point of absurdity. What is important for Leskov is not the character quality itself but how this purely German trait fails in the Russian environment. Leskov uses the Russian proverb “Rust corrodes iron” as an epigraph to the story. This proverb serves to illustrate the Russian national principle opposed to that of Germans.

Hugo Pectoralis is basically just a sensible engineer and not a bad person.This is emphasized by the author: “... this Pectoralis proved to be a very good,not ingenius of course, but experienced, versed and skillful engineer. Because of his firmness and persistence, the business for which he came here took off brilliantly despite many sudden obstacles”.[12] The hero calls forth the reader's sympathy, though some cues make readersthink and look for analogies in the world history.For example, Pectoralisneeds “iron will” in order “to subordinate everything to himself'”; this is his dream.His credo is: for the present I am in a subordinated position, but later I will place others under my subordination. He also dreams aboutmarrying a woman with an “iron will”, and hopes to have special children from this marriage: “Hugo suddenly put his arms round my shoulders and asked whether Icould imagine what could be descended from a very firm woman and a very firm man?

Ireplied to him:

–  Yes, Ican.

–  What do you think exactly?

–  Probably, nothing will be descended.

Pectoralis was very much surprised and asked:

–  How do you know this?

I felt sorry for him and answered that Ihad been joking.

– Oh, you were joking, but this business is of great importance and demands a completely iron will.”

Leskov’s story is built on comic situations ridiculing the absurd “iron will” of the German man, which is set againstthe lack of will of the Russian man Safronych, an opponent of Pectoralis. Safronych is also a comic figure. He is a drunkard, an idler and a bad manager. Both of them receive their fair share of satire from the author. Leskov does not admire the Russian man at all; he knows all his native flaws. But the German man with his narrow philosophy and one-sided adherence to principles is worse. “God always punishes for doing harm to Russians”, a priest says at the end of the story.

Pectoralis’ death is both symbolic and tragicomic. He chokes on a pancake while celebrating his imaginary victory at the funeral repast for Safronych. “Promises are made depending on one’s consideration,and fulfilled depending on the circumstances”–such is the author's position.

Of all German characters in Russian literature, AndreyShtolts, the hero of Goncharov's novel “Oblomov”, is perhaps the most positive one.The author’s intention was to endow him with "progressive" traits,which Russian barinOblomov, an inert but spiritual person, lacks. “Spirituality”and fussy, conceited“activity” lie on Goncharov's scales. The image of Shtolts revealsthe flaws of western practicality.

Oblomov is obviously not a “hero” for Goncharov either.This image has been interpreted differently in different times. However, spirituality is an absolutevalue. The main problem in the novel is the disbalance between the excess of spirituality and the lack ofactivity.

Of all European nations, the French probably had the largest influence on Russian culture, at least in the first half of the 19th century.The philosophy of Enlightenment, the great French literature, the French revolution and, finally, the personality of Napoleon left deep marks on the development of Russian literature. We have already discussed the image of theFrenchman created by Pushkin and Griboyedov. As for subsequent literature, we would like to concentrate on the image of captain Ramballe from the novel “War and Peace” by Lev Tolstoy,which seems to represent the most typical, mythologized traits of the French nation.

Ramballe does not look like an aggressor. And if he were told he was one,he would hardly admit it.For Ramballe, war is an adventure, a game which a Frenchmanhas all the right to play. Ramballeknows“the value”of himself and his compatriots: “Frenchmen are frightful in fight and amiable with beautiful women, sir Pierr”.

France is themost civilized country and Paris is the centre of Earth: “Paris!.. A person who doesn't know Paris is a savage.One can recognize a person from Paris at a two-mile distance. Paris is Telma, Dusheniar, Potier, Sorbonna, boulevards ... There is only one Paris in the world.”[13]

Ramballe’s monstrousoverconfidence takes its roots from the victories of Napoleon's Army, above all:  “We captured Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, Naples, Rome, Warsaw, all capitals of the world.”[14]

Captain Ramballe is generous and immoral like a child,and he is sincerely surprised at how it is possible not to love the French. He is also light-minded and boastful – the qualities usually ascribed to the French nation. Here is the description ofRamballe's attitude to love: “L'amour, which Ramballe was worshipping, consisted mainly of an unnatural attitude towards women and of a combination of deformities which lent charm to this feeling.

The captain told a touching story of his love toward a dashingthirty-five-year-old marquise and at the same time toward her daughter, a nice innocent seventeen-year-old child. Although now just a reminiscence, the fight of generosity between the mother and the daughter,which led to the mother's sacrificial offer of her daughter as a wife to her lover,still agitated him. Then he spokeabout an episode in which the husband played the role of the lover and he (the lover) played the husband's role. He also told some comic stories from his recollections about Germany where husbands always eat cabbage soup and where young girls are too blonde”.[15]

The typicality of this kind of attitude toward love is confirmed by a similar situation in the novel “Bel Ami” by Guy de Maupassant.

Frenchman Beaupré, Grinev's teacher from Pushkin's “The Captain's Daughter”, is characterized by the same dissoluteness.

In Chekhov's short story “Foolish Frenchman”, the clown Henry Pourquoiobserves withawe as a Russian eats a huge pile of pancakes. The author showshow the Frenchman misunderstands theRussian tradition.  The clown has the same self-confidence asTolstoy's Ramballe, and misunderstanding occurs just becausethings are done differently in France. “Pourquoi looked around him and became terrified. Waiters, pushing and flying upon each other, were carrying heaps of pancakes... People were sitting at the tables eating heaps ofpancakes, salmon, caviar...  with the same appetite and boldness as the noble gentleman.’Oh, country of miracles!’ - thought Pourquoi, walking out of the restaurant. ‘Not only the climate, but also stomachs do wonders here! Oh,country, wonderful country’.”[16]

Overconfidence, denial of Russian culture and contempt for the Russian people are typical traits of all foreignercharacters. This voluntary detachment, haughtiness and unwillingness to understand a different culture puts foreigners into various comical situations. Naturally, a Russian writer looks at a foreigner from the Russianperspective. Hence the tone of the portrayal. But the writer sees more than an ordinary person. While depicting a character, he sees both the foreigner and the Russian man. In the short story “The Daughter of Albion”Chekhov comically depicts an English lady who had been living in Russia for ten years but had not managed to learn a single Russian word because of her contempt for the country. However, Russians are shown in no better light. In response to a disdainful glance fromUlkaCharlzovnaPfais, Griabov openly takes off his clothes and gets into water to unhook a fish-hook. “This, brother, is not an England for her!”[17] – says Griabov.

It has already been said that the depiction of foreigners in Russian literature serves several functions. It is not only an attempt to compare cultures and national mentalities but also an opportunity to look at Russia and its history from a different perspective. In this respect, of great interest is Platonov'sstory “The Locks of Epiphan”. It shows a foreigner who is sincerely interested in the success of the Petrine reforms. The hero of the story, an English engineer Bertrand Perry, is a romantic. He is a new figure in European history, a knight of the new time, in a way: “Iskander captured, Vespucci discovered, but now the age of construction has come – the clever engineer has replaced the wounded soldier and the tired traveller”.[18]

Platonov shows Russia as if from the outside, evaluating everything from the point of view of the foreigner who is both enraptured by the Russian nature and afraid of its mysteriousness and difference from Europe. “...Perry ... caught sight of the terrifying height of the sky above the continent, which cannot be found above the sea and above the narrow British island, and turned away.”[19] Bertrandlooks at the country where he is to live and die with attentive and "adoring" eyes: “After passing Moscow, her bell music and the silence of empty torture towers on the Kremlin's corners stood in the minds of the engineers for a long time. Perry was especially fascinated by St. Basil’s Cathedral – this frightful effort of a rude artist's soul to comprehend both subtlety and roundedsplendour of the world given to man for free.”[20]

For a European, Russia is a savage country; her people are ignorant and poor; spaces are huge and empty. Europe is described as “noisy” and “crowded”, with “a lot of seafarers and things to soothe an educated eye”. The image of the Russian people is completely different: “Russians are mild-tempered, obedient, and patient in their long and heavy toil, but wild and gloomy in their ignorance”.[21]In the eyes of the Englishman, people are likened to wild animals: “beastsare looking for means of subsistence alongside people”.[22]

So, what is the source of the tragedy of Bertrand Perry, a talented engineer, a fearless and modest man, who came to Russia not to gain wealth, not as an aloof traveler, but as a person anxious to“civilize” the country which he had come to love?

Perry's mistake, according to Platonov, lies in his one-sided judgement and excessive hopesplaced on human reason and “arithmetical” consciousness, which have subdued all other capabilities of man, who has gone far in his alienation from nature and now puts himself in opposition to nature. According to Platonov, “the stingy practical sense of his forefathers' faith, which understood the vanity of everything unearthly”[23] underlies the personality of Perry as a representative of European culture.

Platonov shows that bare schemes and exact calculations do not work in Russia; different measures and approaches are required here. First of all, one needs to understand the country and the spirit of the Russian people. It is impossible to make any transformations without taking into account thenative people's experience. According to the author, it applies not only to foreign engineers but to rulers as well, Peter the Great in particular. Obsession with Western civilization, contempt for your own people, denial of their experience (a tsar's voivode hammered "the mind into men's buttocks") – all this, in the long run, created contradictions which have not yet been resolved by history. Here is what Ivan Kireevsky wrote in this regard in the above mentioned article: “...the triumph of the European wit revealed the one-trackness of its fundamental aspirations, because for all that wealth, for all, we may say, immenceness of specific discoveries and success in science, the general conclusion from all this combined knowledge produced only negative meaning for the human inner consciousness; because for all the magnificence, for all the comfort of external improvements of life, life itself was deprived of its essential meaning;not being imbued with a general strong belief, lifecan neither be enrichedby high hope, nor warmed by deep sympathy. Centuries of cold analysis destroyed all the foundations on which the European Enlightenment had stood since its origin. Thus, the fundamental principles from which it had grown became alien to it andincompatible with its latest results; and what became its property was this very analysis which had destroyed its roots, this self-propelled knife of intellect, this abstract syllogism recognizing nothing but itself and its personal experience, this autocratic power of reason – or what else can we call this logical activity alienated from all other human cognitive forces but the crudest, the most immediate sensual data, on which it now bases its airy dialectic constructions.”[24]

Bertrand Perry fails not only in his professional but also in his personal life. His fiancee, Mary Carbound, marries another man. Bertrand's soul, which “was not afraid of any horror”,appears to be broken down. “Perry became wild-hearted and his thought lapsed into silence”. Shortly before his execution, “an old guard suddenly told Perry during his last night:

– Where are we escorting you to? Perhaps, capital punishment! The present tsar is good at any ferocity ... I would have run away! But you are walking like a chicken! I wouldn't let them whip me, the more so to execute me!..”[25]

The inflexibility and rigidness of Platonov’s hero may remind one of a similarly tragic figure, Harold Campbell from the short story “Islanders” by YevgenyZamyatin.

Campbell is depicted as a representative of “the immovable people”laden with thick layers of conventions of “square” logic and self-rightousness. He is a type of “a cultured man” deprived of any individuality.

Zamyatin shows a half-dead, mechanized world governed by “iron” order. Its symbol and ideologist is vicar Dewley. Here is his portrait: “VicarDewley was of course that Dewley, Jesmond's pride and the author of a book called “Testament of Compulsory Salvation”. Schedules worked out according to the “Testament” were hanging on the walls of Mr. Dewley's library. There was a schedule for meals, a schedule forpenance (two times a week), a schedule for using fresh air, a schedulefor charity work,and, finally, among other schedules there was one untitled for reasons of modesty, which concerned Mrs. Dewley and whichcontained dates of every third Saturday”.[26]

Campbell is part of the world created by the vicar. The idea of order set forth in the “Testament of Compulsory Salvation”instils “square confidence” into Campbell's nature:  “everything was immutable and firmfor him: a naturally determined God lives in heaven; the British are the greatest nation on Earth; drinking tea with a tea-spoon in the cup is the worst crime in the world”.[27]

But a sudden love destroys Campbell's “square” logic for a while. He becomes capable of reckless deeds. For the sake of his sweet-heart he goes into the ring and gets knocked out. Unconscious, he is carried to “that” house where Didi lives, a house that has an unsavory reputation in the eyes of Jesmond’s inhabitants. Campbell goes even further in his imprudence. He proposes to Didi, disregarding opinions of the vicar, Mrs. Campbell and McIntosh, the secretary of the Corporation of the Honorable Bell-Ringers of the St. Inokh Parish and an expert in morals.

However, in the end the “old” Campbell proves to be stronger than the “new” Campbell. “Campbell, thanks to God, again has the helm in his hands and is firmly steering towards the small house with an electric iron /.../ what is there to think about now? Everything ahead is square and firm: the small house, and the threshold shining with whiteness, and the vase for Sunday carnations - green or blue one.”[28]

So far we have been discussing foreigner characters in the everyday life context. But the problem of foreigner images in Russian literature also has an ontological dimension – the problem of Good and Evil. There is a whole gallery of“demonic” foreigners in Russian literature. These are Pushkin’s heroes in “The Small Tragedies”, Silvio in “The Belkin Tales”, the Improvisator in “Egyptian Nights”, Germann in“The Queen of Spades”. Similar characters can be easily found in the works by other Russian writers. However, it does not mean that the problem of Good and Evil, this maxi-problem of all peoples and epochs, is connected in Russian literature solely with foreigner images. Far from it. But it would be hardly wrong to say that this problem in Russian literature is connected with foreigners in the first place. We believe that the cause lies in the whole complex of attitudes of Russians to westerners. They were perceived as people who came from an alien world and who could be easily identified even by their appearance:

“In the fist place: the person was not lame in either leg;he was neither short nor huge, just tall. As for his teeth, he had platinum crowns on the left side and gold crowns on the right side. He wore an expensive gray suit, and foreign shoes, which matched the colour of his suit. His gray beret was cocked on his ear, a cane with a black knob in the shape of a poodle's head was under his arm. He looked more than forty years old. His mouth was wry. He was clean-shaven, dark-haired. His right eye was black, and his left eye for some reason was green. Eyebrows were black but one was higher than the other. In short, a foreigner.”[29]

What immediately attracts our attention in this extract is the unusual, even exotic appearance of the character, which gives the author the right to define him as a foreigner. This is an important typological characteristic arising from the depth of the traditional Russian perception of “guests from overseas”. The character’s appearance is strange, if not frightful. No one knows what to expect of him. At the same time, within the Russian literary tradition such images have a romantic aura. As is well-known, Romanticism originated in Western Europe.  There are not many purely Russian romantic characters in our literature. One always expects some kind of evil from a romanticized foreigner. Such charactersare usually endowed not only with exotic appearance but alsosome outstanding abilities. The improvisator from “Egyptian Nights” has a big poetic talent;Silvio in “The Shot” fires the pistol devilishly.

There is another importanttypological feature of the foreigner image in Russian literature: the foreigner carries evil inside. That is why portraying a foreigner also means overcoming evil. Evil in this context should be interpreted in a broader sense. Not justas the world evil but also evil on the everyday-life level, as well as the“regulatory and evaluative category of moral consciousness”.[30] In the eyes of Russian writers, the demonism of a westerner is aimed at the destruction of all existing spiritual and material values. Since a westernercarries features of an alien culture, alien outlook and mentality, his influence on Russian culture is negative and even ruinous.

Historically, Russia had to face evil coming from the West,and over the last four hundred years Russia has opposed itself to the West, not the East. Despite the very complicated relationships during the first ages of the formation of Russian statehood, Russia has always identified itself with the East. After the overthrow of the Tataryoke, “nightingale the robbers” and “tugarins” abandoned Russian culture. With the advent of Christianity their place was taken by Satan. We will not dwell onthe Schism in the Russian Orthodox Church and its impacton Russian national consciousness. However, it is evident that it did leave a trace. The role of the Orthodox Church in the creation of negative stereotypes of the West is not a minor one.

As has already been mentioned, the characters of Pushkin's “The Small Tragedies” are all foreigners. Similar stories could be easily found in Russian life but the “authority” of westernersin evil matters adds depth to the interpretation of the problem. On the one hand, it’s not us and not about us. On the other hand, the age and seniority of Western European culture lends the authority of “archaetype”to these images; the problem is deepened andexpanded to the world scale. It should be noted that almost all archetypes are European by origin. Russian characters,from the “superfluous people” to Platonov's“knight”Kopenkin,were somehow or other derived from the archetypical images of European literature.

The formation of classical Russian culture involved the overcoming of Western culture. The formula is well-known and simple: in the 18thcentury Russia was borrowingdifferent aspects of European culture, from clothes and manners to education and art; in the 19th centuryit was overcoming European culture and forming a national culture, which, having reached the highest point,became part of world culture.

To conclude, we have discussed several types of foreigner images inhabiting the pages of Russian literature. It seemed interesting to us to look at the interaction of Russian and European cultures not through speculative philosophical articles but through concreteliterary characters.

Russian writers usually depict foreigners in a comical or satirical light. They ridicule specific features of different national characters.

Literature, as is generally known, reflects the nation's self-consciousnessexpressed in literary works. With the help of foreigner characters, Russian culture tries to overcome the flaws of the Russian people and,at the same time,retain itsown identity in the age of global cultural interactions.

There is nothing offensive for Germans or the English about the way therepresentatives of these nations are portrayed in Russian literature. All nations are constantly developing. In the process of interaction some national traits are give more attention than others, and perhaps these very features should be overcome. This is how the supranational world culture is being formed.


  1. Bulgakov M.A. Selected works in 2 vol. Kiev, 1989
  2. Chekhov A.P. Collected works in 12 vol. М., 1961
  3. Gogol N.V. Collected works in 7 vol.М., 1984
  4. Griboedov A.S. The Mischief of Being Clever. М., 1968.
  5. Kireevskiy I. On the Character of Europe’s enlightment. М., 1979
  6. Leskov N. Collected works in 11 vol. М., 1957
  7. Philosophic encyclopedia. М., 1983
  8. Platonov A.P. Collected works in 3 vol.М., 1984
  9. Pushkin A.S. Complete edition in 10 vol. М.-L., 1949.
  10. Tolstoy L.N. War and Peace. Kharkov, 1977
  11. Zamyatin E.I. Selected works. М., 1989

[1] Грибоедов А.С. Горе от ума. М., 1968. С.105

[2]Ibid, p. 26.

[3]PushkinA.S. Полн. собр.соч. в 10 тт. М.-Л., 1949. т.5. С. 10.

[4] Киреевский И. О характере просвещения Европы./ Он же. Критика и эстетика. М., 1979. С. 49.

[5]PushkinA.S. указ.соч.v.6.P.320.

[6]Ibid p.331.


[8] Толстой Л.Н. Война и мир. Харьков, 1977. С. 51.

[9]Ibid, p. 50.

[10] Гоголь Н.В. Собр.соч. в 7 тт. М., 1984 г. Т.3. стр. 30.

[11]Ibid, p.34-35.

[12] Лесков Н. Собр.соч. в 11 тт. М., 1957 г. Т.6. С. 18.

[13]Ibid, p. 21.

[14] Толстой Л.Н. op.cit. p.377.


[16] Чехов А.П. Собр. соч. в 12-ти тт. М., 1961. Т.6. С. 476.

[17] Чехов А.П. Собр. соч. в 12-ти тт. Т. 2. С. 49.

[18] Платонов А.П. Собр. соч. в 3-х тт. М., 1984. С. 226.

[19]Ibid, p. 231.




[23]Ibid, p. 230.

[24] Киреевский И.В. Указ.соч. С. 250-251.

[25] Платонов А.П. Указ.соч. С. 249-250.

[26] Замятин Е.И. Избранное. М., 1989. С. 95-96.

[27]Ibid, p. 101.

[28]Ibid, p. 128.

[29] Булгаков М.А. Избр. произв. в 2-х тт. Киев, 1989. т. 2. С. 337.

[30] Философский энциклопедический словарь. М., 1983, С.171.

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