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24 March 2023

The Charta of Greece

The Charta (Map) of Greece is considered to be one of the most important works of the Neohellenic Enlightenment and perhaps the most important sample of Greek cartography of the pre-revolutionary period (before 1821). It was created by the celebrated Greek author, thinker and revolutionary Rigas Velestinlis, who had been profoundly influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment and the principles of the French Revolution arriving from Western Europe.

Portrait of Rigas Velestinlis

Rigas Velestinlis. Portrait by Andreas Kriezis (Benaki Museum, Athens). Picture from Wikipedia

Engraved by the well-known engraver Franz Müller and published in Vienna in three rounds between 1796-1797, the Charta was one of three maps published by Rigas during the preparation of his revolutionary plan against the Sultan’s absolute power over the enslaved Greeks and other Balkan peoples. The other two were the New Map of Wallachia and the General Map of Moldovia. The maps complemented each other and projected the democratic state Rigas envisioned in the area after the successful outcome of his revolution.

The 12-folio Charta of Greece

The 12-folio Charta of Greece. Picture from Wikipedia

The Charta consists of twelve folios measuring approximately 50cmx70cm each, which combined together form a monumental 2mx2m map never seen before in the Balkans. Researchers believe that it was based on a map of ancient Greece by the famous cartographer Guillaume Delisle, something that could explain Rigas’s description of the Charta as a map of Greece with its islands and numerous colonies in Europe and Asia Minor.

The full title can be found in a cartouche on folio 4 of the Charta and provides important pieces of information, such as the place and date of publication and contributors, as well as a description of its contents. It depicts the geographical window of a state confined only by geophysical boundaries, which are recorded in both their old and modern names.

Folio 4. Above, Goddess Episteme on a throne; Below, Hercules on foot and with only a club, attacks an Amazon riding a horse and carrying a double axe

A cartouche containing the title: «Χάρτα της Ελλάδος εν η περιέχονται αι νήσοι αυτής και μέρος των εις την Ευρώπην και μικράν Ασίαν πολυαρίθμων αποικιών αυτής… εν σώμα εις 12 τμήματα. Νυν πρώτον εκδοθείσα παρά του Ρήγα Βελεστινλή Θετταλού χάριν των Ελλήνων και Φιλελλήνων. 1797. Εχαράχθη παρά του Φρανσουά Μήλλερ εν Βιέν(νη)». Above, Goddess Episteme on a throne; Below, Hercules on foot and with only a club, attacks an Amazon riding a horse and carrying a double axe. LF.31.b.1825

The Charta also includes plans of nine famous Greek cities and places, which according to Rigas help the understanding of the journey of his Neos Anacharsis, a translation of the Voyage de Jeune Anacharsis en Grèce by Jean-Jacques Barthélemy. The understanding of the journey is further assisted by a chronology of kings and important men and the depiction of 161 types of Greek coins scattered throughout the map. These elements are believed to have been recorded by Rigas to conceal his true revolutionary intentions, evade Austrian censorship and secure the authorities’ permission to publish his work.

Coins from folio 7

Coins from folio 7 of the Charta. LF.31.b.1825

The plan of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire and city-symbol for the Greeks since its fall to the Ottomans in 1453, appears on folio 1 of the Charta, which was published a few months earlier and independently from the rest of the map.

Folio 1 of the Charta showing the map and plan of Constantinople

Folio 1 of the Charta showing the map and plan of Constantinople. LF.31.b.1825

A close-up of the plan of Constantinople

A close-up of the plan of Constantinople. LF.31.b.1825

On the right hand side, a notable allegorical scene: a lion, believed to represent the dormant force of the enslaved peoples, is trapped under the supports of the Ottoman power, symbolised by the Sultan’s turban and the oriental weapons beneath it. Next to the lion is a club, a primeval and rather insignificant weapon by comparison. However, it is only a matter of time before the lion awakens to overthrow the foreign rule and reconfirm its authority using the means available to it.

A temporarily dormant lion trapped under the supports of the Sultan’s turban and Ottoman weapons

A temporarily dormant lion trapped under the supports of the Sultan’s turban and Ottoman weapons. LF.31.b.1825

Other ancient city plans included in the Charta are Sparta, Thermopylae, Pherae -modern Velestino and birthplace of Rigas - Athens, Plateae, Salamis, Olympia and Delphi. On folio 7, there is even a plan of an ancient Greek theatre, as a reminder of its enduring pedagogical power and the potential source of inspiration for the enslaved Greeks.

An ancient Greek theatre with its various parts on folio 7 of the Charta

An ancient Greek theatre with its various parts on folio 7 of the Charta. LF.31.b.1825

In the top margins of folios 10 and 11, Rigas provides in alphabetical order the names of 114 great men of Greece and characters from Greek mythology, which he pairs with dates and accompanies with Hercules’s club on the side, to indicate the strength and continuity of the Greek civilisation. At the top of folio 12, he provides the names of 15 rulers, from Alexander the Great to Cleopatra and the first Roman Emperors after Christ.

The names of important men of Greece in alphabetical order at the top of folio 10

The names of important men of Greece in alphabetical order at the top of folio 10. LF.31.b.1825

The names of great kings in chronological order at the top of folio 12

The names of great kings in chronological order at the top of folio 12. LF.31.b.1825

The names of kings of Constantinople appear in the bottom margins of folios 2 and 3. This chronology starts with the Christian Emperors, from Theodosius the Great to Constantine Palaiologos, and finishes with the Sultans, from Mohammed II to Selim III. A contrast is made between the eleven centuries of Byzantine Empire and the three of Ottoman Empire, both of which had their seat in Constantinople.

Rigas and his seven companions were arrested in Trieste a few months after the publication of the Charta and other contemporary works that revealed their radical ideas for liberation from Ottoman rule, equality, respect for human rights and democracy. In February 1798, they were returned to Vienna for interrogation and were handed over to the Turks of Belgrade in May of the same year. After a short period of imprisonment and torture in Nebojša Tower, they were executed by strangling. Their bodies were thrown in Danube River.

Nebojša Tower

Nebojša Tower, where Rigas and his companions were imprisoned and executed. Picture from Wikipedia 

Of the 1220 original copies of the Charta, most were sent to collaborators of Rigas in Bucharest, Iasio and Smyrna, several were individually sold in Vienna, and a large number was confiscated during Rigas’s arrest by the Austrian police. Around 60 are estimated to survive today in various libraries, archives and private collections around Greece and the rest of the world.

Lydia Georgiadou, Curator Modern Greek Collections

References:

Rēgas Velestinlēs Thettalos, Charta tēs Hellados en hē periechontai hai nēsoi autēs kai meros tōn eis tēn Eurōpēn kai Mikran Asian polyarithmōn apoikiōn autēs… (Vienna, 1797). LF.31.b.1825

Dēmētrios Karamperopoulos, Hē Charta tou Rēga Velestinlē (Athens, 1998). LF.31.b.1825

Dēmētrios Karamperopoulos, Endeiktikē vivliographia gia ton Rēga Velestinlē (Athens-Velestino, 2007). YF.2012.b.210

Dēmētrios Karamperopoulos, Hē dēmokratikē enopoiēsē tou valkanikou chōrou sto epanastatiko schedio tou Rēga (Athens, 2010). YF.2012.a.908

Dēmētrios Karamperopoulos, To chartographiko ergo tou Rēga Velestinlē hypo to phōs tōn neōn ereunōn (Athens, 2010). YF.2014.a.13117

Maria Mantouvalou, Ho Rēgas sta vēmata tou Megalou Alexandrou (Athens, 1996). YA.2001.a.29026

Viktōr Th. Melas, Hē Charta tou Rēga : diakosia chronia apo tēn ekdosē tēs (Athens, 1997). YA.2002.a.8913

Giōrgēs Exarchos, Rēgas Velestinlēs: anekdota engrapha, nea stoicheia (Athens, 1998). YA.2001.a.15645

Polychronēs K. Enepekidēs, Rēgas-Hypsēlantēs-Kapodistrias : ereunai eis ta archeia tēs Austrias, Germanias, Italias, Gallias kai Hellados (Athens, 1965). X700/2748

Spyridōn P. Lampros, Apokalypseis peri tou martyriou tou Rēga: meta eikonōn kai panhomoiotypōn (Athens, 1892). 10606.b.54

 

21 March 2023

The Colonisation of Novaya Zemlya through the Photographs and Short Stories of Konstantin Nosilov

Content warning: This blog reproduces an image of a dead animal; the vocabulary drawn from the original texts is now considered racist.

Thanks to the typo of British cartographers, Stephen and William Borough – who in the 16th century created several maps of Russia – a northern archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, Novaya Zemlya, became in the Western imagination a remote and romanticised land, Nova Zembla.

Nova Zembla is mentioned in Jonathan Swift’s The Battle of the Books as the residence of ‘a malignant deity called Criticism,’ who ‘dwelt on the top of a snowy mountain in Nova Zembla’. We find a reference to Nova Zembla in Tristram Shandy, where ‘North Lapland’ is described as ‘those cold and dreary tracks of the globe […] where the whole province of a man’s concernments lies for near nine months together within the narrow compass of his cave […]— there the least quantity of judgment imaginable does the business — and of wit — there is a total and an absolute saving — for as not one spark is wanted — so not one spark is given’. The ‘[d]istant northern land’ of Zembla becomes the abandoned kingdom of the deposed King Charles (Kinbote), the character of Nabokov’s metafictional novel, Pale Fire.

William Borough's Map of Coasts of Norway and Russia, 1557

William Borough's Map of Coasts of Norway and Russia, 1557. Nova Zembla is in the top right corner. Royal MS. 18. D.III f.124

Although inspired by the long history of Nova Zembla’s presence in world literature, this post explores the image of Novaya Zemlya, rather than of its literary double. It focuses on an episode from the history of its colonisation: the legacy of a Russian ethnographer, photographer, and writer, Konstantin Nosilov (1858¬–1923). The British Library holds a substantial collection of digitized glass plate negatives from Nosilov’s collection (EAP016/1 and EAP016/3) including his photographs of Novaya Zemlya as well as other parts of Northern and Southern Siberia, his family life, and European travels.

Nosilov besides a fireplace

Nosilov besides a fireplace (All captions are my own translations of the original annotations made by the Russian photographers)

Nosilov’s father

Nosilov’s father

Photograph of two women walking in Paris with umbrellas

Paris

The BL also holds several collections of Nosilov’s short stories in which he shared reminiscences of his ethnographic expeditions, and which are illustrated with his photographs.

Edition of Nosilov's short stories with reindeer on the cover

Edition of Nosilov's short stories

Edition of Nosilov's short stories

Various editions of Nosilov's short stories available at the BL

Nosilov was born to the family of a priest who lived near Shadrinsk in the Urals region. Nosilov did not finish his own theological studies and instead from 1879 he started to work as a geologist exploring the basins of the rivers Sosʹva, Lialia, and Lozʹva – prospecting them for gold. Having become a member of Imperial Russian Geographical Society, Nosilov undertook numerous ethnographic expeditions to Siberia, exploring the traditions and lifestyles of the Mansi (also known as Voguls), Khanty (Ostyaks), and Nenets (Samoyed). The collection includes numerous photographs taken by Nosilov during these expeditions.

The Mansi’s summer camp

The Mansi’s summer camp

The Nenets’ place of sacrifice

The Nenets’ place of sacrifice

Novaya Zemlya occupies a very special place in Nosilov’s life and work. Being on the outskirts of the vast Russian Empire, the archipelago had been hardly explored by Russian ethnographers. Norwegian hunters and fishermen, on the other hand, frequently visited the waters around Novaya Zemlya and its shores. To reinforce the Russian Empire’s control of its territorial possession, it was regarded as crucial to establish permanent settlements on the island – Novaya Zemlya had been uninhabited due to its severe environment. Nosilov volunteered to organise a permanent settlement on the archipelago.

In 1887 a lifeboat station, Malye Karmakuly, was founded on the island of Iuzhnyi, and several Nenets families were relocated to the area. An ambitious colonialist, Nosilov was the first Russian explorer who, together with the Nenets, spent three winters on Novaya Zemlya 1887–1889 and 1890–1891. By his own example, Nosilov wanted to prove that the archipelago was suitable for year-round living.

Nosilov's house on Novaya Zemlya

Nosilov's house on Novaya Zemlya

Novaya Zemlya, Malye Karmakuly

Novaya Zemlya, Malye Karmakuly

Novaya Zemlya: view from the sea

Novaya Zemlya: view from the sea

Novaya Zemlya: cliffs and the sea

Novaya Zemlya: cliffs and the sea

On Novaya Zemlya, Nosilov installed a meteorological station, that was essential to help the inhabitants prepare for severe weather conditions and regular storms, one of which is described in Nosilov’s story ‘Poliarnaia buria’ (‘Polar Storm’). Together with the Orthodox priest Father Iona, Nosilov revived an abandoned Orthodox chapel on the island, and they also started a school for the Nenets, – described in his story ‘Samoedskaia shkola’ (‘The Samoyed School’). Nosilov was especially proud of this, the most northern school in the world. In the story, he describes how both children and adults were keen on learning not only language but basic maths and other general subjects. Full of gentle humour, the story also tells how Father Iona was terrified by the ‘school inspectors’ – polar bears – who frequently visited.

Describing the Nenets settlement on Novaya Zemlya, Nosilov used many tropes that are now considered as typical for colonialist literature depicting colonisers’ interactions with indigenous peoples. The narrator in Nosilov’s stories shows a patronizing attitude toward the Siberians, who are treated like children, or, as he constantly calls them, ‘the children of nature’. Although Nosilov also frequently refers to the indigenous peoples in a way that now would be considered as racist, calling them ‘barbarians’ (‘dikari’), his attitude towards them is not derogatory, but rather sympathetic, especially when it comes to their studies of the Russian language and religion.

Some indigenous traditions which Nosilov witnessed, nevertheless terrified him. For instance, in one of his stories about the Mansi, ‘Iz zhizni vogulov’ (‘From the Life of the Voguls’), Nosilov describes the ceremonial slaughter and eating of a reindeer as bloodthirsty and barbaric: ‘looking at their passionate faces lit by the light of the fire, I saw the real barbarians, whom I had not yet suspected under the always modest and quiet figures of the Voguls’. However, most of his stories, especially those dedicated to the life of his colony on Novaya Zemlya, are full of admiration for the indigenous peoples, their skills and instincts.

In his story ‘Tainstvennoe iz zhizni samoedov’ (‘Mysterious in the Life of the Samoyeds’), for example, Nosilov describes an elderly Nenets woman with a gift of clairvoyance who not only predicted the fortune of hunters, but also once foretold the arrival of a Norwegian ship from Tromsø. Despite being a devout Christian – fulfilling, among other things, the duty of missionary work – Nosilov was keenly interested in indigenous spirituality and the native peoples’ special skills of forefeeling.

Novaya Zemlya, Matochkin Shar

Novaya Zemlya, Matochkin Shar

Many of Nosilov’s stories are addressed to younger readers in central Russia. Nosilov tried to enlighten them about the life in the remote parts of the Russian Empire. Among such stories is the story of a Nenets girl, Tania Logai. The plot might be interesting for a Gender Studies analysis: Nosilov describes various episodes from Tania’s life showing how, instead of learning female domestic duties, she was much more interested in hunting. Tania even becomes a local celebrity for killing a polar bear that attacked her family hut whilst all the male hunters were away. Even when she reaches womanhood, Tania refuses to change. She does not want to get married and chooses to stay with her family and help her father hunt.

Novaya Zemlya. The female bear killed by Nosilov

Novaya Zemlya. The female bear killed by Nosilov

Alongside being entertaining and enlightening, Nosilov’s stories also featured the acute social and economic problems experienced by the indigenous population of the north. These problems were primarily provoked by the invasion of European Russians who disturbed the traditional ways of living. Discussing the State’s response to the problems of the indigenous peoples, Yuri Slezkine notes:

[…] more and more travelers and more and more readers assumed that the administrators – local or otherwise – were generally incapable of enlightening anyone and that helping savages advance was the special mission of special people who were the sole legitimate representatives of the highest stage of intellectual development (the “intelligentsia”) (Slezkine, 1994, p. 112)

This sense of personal mission is notable in Nosilov’s stories. The final story in his collection Na Novoi Zemle, titled ‘Nashi liudoedy’ (‘Our Cannibals’) discusses the problems of the Nenets population living on the Taz Estuary. The story tells how the indigenous people, facing terrible poverty despite living in one of the richest fishing areas of Russia, hungered so badly that they had to resort to cannibalism. Nosilov regards this as the fault of the European Russians and urged measures to help indigenous populations. Nosilov also published numerous articles describing the problems of the North, including the increasing alcoholism among native peoples after vodka was introduced by Russians.

Nosilov’s texts sometimes reveal his personal doubt as to whether intrusion into the worlds of indigenous peoples was a truly good thing. This instance of the coloniser’s self-reflexivity is an interesting topic to consider: Nosilov’s rich cultural heritage requires a new critical reading framed with post-colonial theory. The story of Nosilov’s final years brings an additional dramatic element to it. Due to his deteriorating relationship with the State after the installation of Bolshevik rule in 1917, his family had to leave their estate, Nakhodka near Shadrinks (EAP016 includes numerous pictures of the estate) and moved to Georgia where Nosilov died in 1923.

Nosilov's estate 'Nakhodka'

Nosilov's estate 'Nakhodka'

Anna Maslenova, British Library PhD placement student working on the project ‘Contextualising a digital photographic archive of Siberian Indigenous peoples’

References and further reading:

K. D. Nosilov, Tania Logaĭ: razskaz i zhizni sievernykh inorodtsev (Moscow, 1907). RB.23.a.32078.

K. D. Nosilov, U vogulov: ocherki i nabroski (St Peterburg: 1904). 10292.k.21

K. D. Nosilov, Na Novoi Zemle: Ocherki i nabroski (St Peterburg: 1903) (10292.k.20),

Konstantin Nosilov, Severnye rasskazy (Sverdlovsk, 1938). X.808/9359.

Johanna Nichols, ‘Stereotyping Interethnic Communication: The Siberian Native in Soviet Literature’ in Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture, ed. by Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine (New York, 1993), pp. 185–214. YC.1993.a.3771

Yuri Slezkine, Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (Ithaca, 1994). YC.1994.b.5452

A. K. Omelʹchuk, K. Nosilov (Sverdlovsk, 1989).

N. B. Gramatchikova, ‘Tvorcheskii putʹ K. D. Nosilova: zhiznennyi putʹ i publitsistika’ in Deviatye Chupinskie kraevedcheskie chteniia: materialy konferentsii, ed. by E. N. Efremova (Ekaterinburg, 2018)

13 March 2023

The revolutionary career of a student drinking song

The outbreak of revolution in Vienna in March 1848 was inevitably accompanied by a wave of revolutionary poems and songs. The lifting of press censorship made the publishing and circulation of such material easy, and some pieces enjoyed great success.

One of the first to appear in print was Ludwig August Frankl’s ‘Die Universität’, which was composed while the author was on sentry duty on the night of 14-15 March and caught the popular mood when read aloud to an audience of students the following day. Its subsequent great success was no doubt helped by the fact that many of the 8,000 copies from the first print run were handed out free. The poem was quickly reprinted in various formats both in Vienna and further afield. There was even a French translation and there were at least 19 musical settings.

Ludwig Frankl's poem 'Die Universität'

Ludwig August Frankl, ‘Die Universität’ (Vienna, 1848). 1899.m.19.(205).

Frankl’s chosen topic of the role of students in the March revolution was, like press freedom itself, a popular theme for poets, but there was one older student song that also enjoyed huge popularity and was described by the Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick as “a kind of harmless student Marseillaise”.

The song in question, the ‘Fuchslied’ (‘Song of the Fox’), was originally intended to be sung at student fraternity initiation ceremonies, ‘Fuchs’ being a nickname for a student in his first semester. (A typical ceremony, complete with singing of the ‘Fuchslied’, was described by Hugo Hagendorff in an article for the magazine Der erzählende Hausfreund in 1838.) Various versions exist, but all involve the student initiate being plied with tobacco and/or alcohol until he vomits, after which he is accepted as a ‘Bursch’, a full fraternity member.

First page of a printed version of the 'Fuchslied'

Second page of a printed version of the 'Fuchslied'

‘Das Fuchslied, oder das allgemein beliebte Studenten-Lied “Was macht der Herr Papa”’ ([Vienna, 1848.]). C.175.cc.6.(20.)

The song has no obvious political content. At a stretch, a section found in some versions about a father reading Cicero while his wife and daughter carry out various tasks for him could perhaps be read as a mild satire of bourgeois life, but since the song predates the revolution it is unlikely that there was any intended political slant to it. Some Viennese writers during the revolution added new verses and variations with a definite edge of political satire, but it was the continuing success and ubiquity of the apolitical original that gave rise to these additions.

Another odd twist is that the song’s popularity in Vienna had nothing to do with its use in the city’s own student traditions but arose from its appearance in a play by the German writer Roderich Benedix, Das bemooste Haupt (literally ‘The Mossy Head’, but the term can also refer to a ‘Perpetual Student’). The play was written in 1840 but only received its Viennese premiere in April 1848, when it swiftly achieved huge success among revolutionary students. The same work also popularised the practice of the charivari or ‘Katzenmusik’, where singing of the ‘Fuchslied’ became a regular feature.

Illustration of a charivari with men shouting, playing instruments and banging posts and pans

A Viennese revolutionary charivari, from Maximilian Bach, Geschichte der Wiener Revolution im Jahre 1848 (Vienna, 1898) 9315.d.40.

Perhaps the secret of the song’s revolutionary success was that it was easy to learn, remember and adapt, and that its background lent it an aura of mischief – ideal for young men keen to cock a snook at traditional authority. Hanslick recalled hearing an escalating musical battle between students singing the ‘Fuchslied’ and a civil servant who tried to drown them out with the imperial anthem, ‘Gott erhalte unsern Kaiser’ (‘God Preserve our Emperor’). Joseph Helfert, in a survey of the literature of the Viennese revolution, describes how the ‘Fuchslied’ came to be perceived as the antithesis to the anthem, the latter supposedly representing “regression, slavery and narrow-mindedness” and the former “progress, freedom and high-mindedness”.

The song’s simple and catchy tune (similar to the English ‘A-hunting we will go’) also took on a life of its own. It was incorporated by Johann Strauss the Elder into a ‘March of the Student Legion’, first performed in April 1848, and Franz von Suppé composed a series of ‘Humorous Variations’ on it in the same year. Today it is probably best known for its appearance in Brahms’s ‘Academic Festival Overture’, written over three decades after the song’s brief but intense revolutionary career.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections

References/further reading:

Eduard Hanslick, Aus meinem Leben (Berlin, 1894) 12249.ccc.7.

Roderich Benedix, Das bemooste Haupt, oder, Der Lange Israel (Wesel, 1840)

Joseph Alexander Helfert, Der Wiener Parnass im Jahre 1848 (Vienna, 1882) 11528.k.10.

Wolfgang Häusler, ‘Marseillaise, Katzenmusik und Fuchslied als Mittel sozialen und politischen Protests in der Wiener Revolution 1848’ in Barbara Boisits (ed.) Musik und Revolution: die Produktion von Identität und Raum durch Musik in Zentraleuropa 1848-49 ( Vienna, 2013) YF.2014.a.20622

A collection of digitised poems, songs, broadsides and periodicals from the 1848 Revolution can be found on the website of the Austrian National Library