A.R.R.N. Reading Group: Dr Anna Vaninskaya: Russian Foreign Correspondents in Edwardian Britain​

The Anglo-Russian Research Network will be reading and discussing how a group of Russian press correspondents shaped Russian conceptions of Britain in the early twentieth century. The discussion will be led by Dr Anna Vaninskaya of the University of Edinburgh. The readings can be downloaded from the link below.

Few casual or professional observers of Russian media coverage of Britain today stop to reflect on its centuries-old history.  But long before the internet, television and radio, the Russian periodical press supplied a running commentary on contemporary British developments and offered different versions of Britain for the consumption of general audiences.  In the early twentieth century, London was home to a community of Russian foreign correspondents who fed the curiosity of the public back home, reinforced national prejudices and stereotypes, but also composed accounts that are interesting in their own right as social documents of Edwardian Britain.  Among their number one finds immediately recognisable figures such as Korney Chukovsky and Samuil Marshak, as well as people now entirely forgotten but at the time acknowledged to be the leading architects of the Russian perception of Britain.  The session will focus on selections from the voluminous correspondences of Dioneo (Isaak Shklovsky) and Semyon Rapoport, newly translated into English as part of a project to bring these rare but fascinating historical sources to Anglophone readers.  In line with the current media focus on the SNP and the effects of austerity, the chosen excerpts will deal with Scotland and the London working class – from a 1900s Russian point of view.  Background material will also be provided. 

Anna Vaninskaya is a lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Edinburgh specialising in the British fin de siècle and Edwardian period.   She is the author of William Morris and the Idea of Community, and is now working on a monograph on the making of modern fantasy and a translated anthology of Russian journalism about Britain circa 1900.   She is the convenor of the 'Scotland and Russia: Cultural Encounters Since 1900' research network.  Anna's current research focuses on Anglo-Russian literary and cultural relations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, especially the writing of Russian foreign correspondents and revolutionary emigrés in Britain, and British constructions of Russia.  She has also published on British socialist propaganda, working and lower-middle class reading and writing, utopia and dystopia, Englishness and patriotism, Victorian academic and popular views of the past, the genre of romance, the history of elementary education and the rise of English as a university discipline.   

The Anglo-Russian Research Network organises termly reading groups for those interested in the interactions between British and Russian culture and politics in the period 1880-1950. These are informal events with plenty of discussion and wine, and are open to all. You can read more about the reading group and listen to podcasts https://anglorussiannetwork.wordpress.com/reading-groups/]. If you plan to attend, it would be helpful if you could let Rebecca Beasley (rebecca.beasley@ell.ox.ac.uk) and/ or Matthew Taunton (M.Taunton@uea.ac.uk) know. The discussion will finish at 7, and anyone available is very welcome to join us for dinner nearby.

Readings for 19 June

Please download from the Anglo-Russian Research Network site, using the password ‘ARRN062015’, at https://anglorussiannetwork.wordpress.com/news-2/

  • Dioneo (Isaak Shklovsky), ‘The Working Quarter’, in Sketches of Contemporary England (St. Petersburg: Publication of the Editorial Board of Russian Wealth, 1903), pp. 483-507
  • S.I. Rapoport, ‘My Trip to Scotland: Notes and Reminiscences’, Herald of Europe (July 1902), 79-139
  • Anna Vaninskaya, ‘Under Russian Eyes: Foreign Correspondents in Edwardian Britain’, TLS, 28 November 2014, 17-19
  • ---,        ‘At the Crossroads: Britain Through the Eyes of a Russian Foreign Correspondent’ (conference paper)