Eestlaste kuvand 18. ja 19. sajandi Euroopa reisikirjades (kuni 1850. aastateni)
THE IMAGE OF ESTONIANS IN THE 18TH AND 19TH CENTURY TRAVEL WRITING (UP TO THE 1850S)
Languages of publication
Travel accounts were a popular kind of literature among European readers. They had an entertaining, educating and practical function. Travelogues created images for the described countries and nations and, by circulating and translating them, ensured geographically wide spread and persistence in time. The article is aimed at analysing Estonians’ image in the travelogues published in Europe in the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries. The majority of European travelogues including descriptions of the Baltic provinces of that period were published as a result of expeditions to Russia, mainly St. Petersburg. The Baltic provinces were hardly ever the autonomous destination of travels. Fourty-two travelogues by European authors including descriptions of Estonian territories were considered. Twenty of these issues completely missed descriptions of indigenous Estonian people; so only twenty-two travelogues were taken under investigation. Imagological method was used to analyse Estonians’ image in these literary works. The descriptions of Estonians dating from the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries bear the imprint of the Enlightenment era. The image of Estonians introduces them as people with limited mental abilities, living in poor conditions due to long-lasting oppression, and prone to vices such as laziness and excessive drinking. By their appearance, Estonians were described as ugly or even savage. Often, they were depicted as slaves who were treated like animals, with no personal willpower. As positive traits, the nation’s poetic mind, beautiful language and noble character originating from the ancient ‘golden’ era have been mentioned. The abolishing of serfdom in Estonia in 1816 and in Livonia in 1819 brought about an essential positive change in Estonians’ image. Similar to earlier times, the travelogues of the second quarter of the 19th century maintained descriptions of indigenous people’s wretched living conditions and sympathetic attitude towards peasants; yet, these were accompanied by discussions about how sensible it was to abolish serfdom, as well as its results and perspectives. Formally, Estonians had been set free; yet, in reality they were not able, willing or capable of realising their freedom. The change was clearly noticeable as compared to the image of a slave prevailing in the 18th century: instead of former hopelessness, positive development became possible.
Publication order reference