Understanding Lucy Atkinson from a Russian perspective

Lucy Atkinson’s writings, contained in her book Recollections of Tartar Steppes and Their Inhabitants, (John Murray, London, 1863) are increasingly of interest in Russia. Her sharp observations and witty comments, added to the fact that her travels were so extraordinary for a woman at that time – provide an interesting insight into mid-nineteenth century Siberia. Three years ago, Natalya Volkova published a translation of some of Lucy’s writings in Barnaul in southern Siberia and these have now caught the eye of two academics at nearby Gorno-Altaisk State University, in the capital of the Altai Republic.

Dr Maria Ostanina and Dr Tatyana Shastina have written ‘An English Lady in the “Wild Space” of Siberia (based on Mrs. L. Atkinson’s Recollections of Tartar Steppes and Their Inhabitants)’, Studia Litterarum, 2018, vol. 3, no 3, pp. 64–81. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2018-3-3-64-81. You can find a copy here.

I cannot give a full critique of the paper, as I don’t read Russian well enough, but with the aid of Google Translate I have been able to make some sense of the argument, which is about the way outsiders perceive the ‘wildness’ of Siberia. An interesting topic, which would perhaps be even more so were the authors to compare the attitudes of foreigners about Siberia to those of Russians themselves.

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