Dr Marisa Karyl Franz shares her research on the Russian Postcards
Postcards speak to how people have conceptualized a place. In late Imperial Russia, ethnographic postcards circulated across the Empire depicting the “types” of people living in a region, and the manner of their dress, housing, and industry. Ethnographic portraiture was commonly staged and helped illustrate and narrate the diversity of the Empire. As an expression of imperial power, images of colonized lands and people were framed as spectacles, labelled in Russian, approved and stamped by an Imperial institution. These postcards participated in the culture and politics of the Empire.
The postcard images also speak to the development of ethnography in Russia. Ethnographic research was occurring in the Russian Empire throughout the 1700s and 1800s. In 1836, Peter the Great’s Kunstkamera was divided up to form separate thematic museums and the Ethnographic Museum was established in St. Petersburg as the first museum explicitly dedicated to this field. Within the museum, people could see cultural materials from across the Empire and experience them through the explanatory texts and contextual materials displayed in the galleries. At this time, a network of local museums was spreading rapidly across Siberia and the Russian Far East. These museums asked local residents to participate in ethnographic research; lists of information and materials that the museums desired circulated through journals and networks of social acquaintances inviting people to see their home through the lens of ethnographic documentation.
Ethnographic postcards like the ones in this online exhibition were available across the Russian Empire. Through these postcards, we can see how the Imperial Arctic was presented, circulated, became increasingly familiar—and how iconic images of the Russian far north were formed. In the postcards in this exhibition, life in the Russian Arctic is presented through familiar motifs: sleds, seal hunts, and villages. These images evoke the space of the Arctic and give viewers a quick ethnographic glance into the lives lived in Novaya Zemlya or the village of Umba on the Kola Peninsula. These images also speak to patterns of ethnographic research that relied increasingly on photography as a means of documentation.
Ethnographic postcards are historical documents many times over. Through them we are invited to think about the lives pictured within them, the lives hidden behind the camera that took and produced the images we see, and the layered lives of consumers who bought them and saved them, allowing us to look at them today as part of the print culture of the Russian Empire.
Marisa Karyl Franz, PhD
Dr Marisa Karyl Franz is a scholar of intellectual history focusing on Siberia and the Russian North. Her work examines how things are collected and classified as part of religious, magical, ethnographic, and local material culture. She is a faculty fellow in museum studies at New York University, and holds a PhD in religious studies from the University of Toronto.
Dianina, Katia “Museum and Message: Writing Public Culture in Imperial Russia.” Slavic & East European Journal 56, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 173–95.
Franz, Marisa Karyl. “A Visitor’s Guide to Shamans and Shamanism: The Kunstkamera’s Russian and Asian Ethnographic Collections in the Late Imperial Era.” Sibirica 19, no. 1 (March 1, 2020): 41–56.
Hirsch, Francine. “Getting to Know ‘The Peoples of the USSR’: Ethnographic Exhibits as Soviet Virtual Tourism, 1923-1934.” Slavic Review 62, no. 4 (2003): 683–709.
Rowley, Alison. Open Letters: Russian Popular Culture and the Picture Postcard 1880-1922. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018.
Saburova, Tatiana. “Geographical Imagination, Anthropology, and Political Exiles: Photographers of Siberia in Late Imperial Russia.” Sibirica 19, no. 1 (March 1, 2020): 57– 84.
Vermeulen, Han F. Before Boas: The Genesis of Ethnography and Ethnology in the German Enlightenment. Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.
Dr Burcu Karahan discusses Jules Verne's novels in the Ottoman Empire
Novel as a literary form became part of the Ottoman literature in the second half of the 19th century through translations from European literatures, during the Tanzimat era, and Jules Verne’s works were introduced to the Ottoman public as part of these translations in an era of political and cultural reorganization and transformation, but also known as the era of modernization or westernization. I would like to clarify that translation, literary or otherwise, was not new for the Ottomans; they had been translating from Arabic and Persian for centuries.
However, translation from European languages started during the reorganization era, in the second half of 19th century. The European translations were themselves possible thanks to a couple of crucial developments at the time such as the establishment of the Translation Bureau in 1833, where young Ottoman men were trained to translate from European languages, mainly French and English, scientific or textbooks for the newly established Western style schools. Most of these young men became the early translators of European novels.
The second important development was the regulations that enabled private publishing houses and newspapers. Almost all translated literature was either serialized in newly founded private newspapers or published first in small installments by the private publishing houses. Most of these translations were either left incomplete or remained as serialized, only one fourth of all translations were published in book format. From 1859, when the first translated novel Fénelon’s Les aventures de Télémaque was published by Yusuf Kamil Pasha, to the end of the century 200 hundred translated European novels had been serialized in newspapers and approximately one fourth of this number, 50 translations were published in book format. A small number of translations were circulated among literary circles and political salons of the time as manuscripts and, unfortunately, they were neither serialized, nor published in book form, and as a result did not survive. However, today we know of their existence through memoirs and correspondences.
First Jules Verne translation in the Ottoman Empire was The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, (“Kaptan Hatras’in Serguzesti” in Ottoman Turkish) in 1877. It was translated by Ohannes Gokasyan and published in installments in Bursa. However, the translation was not completed.
The same novel, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, was later translated by Karabet Y. Panosyan in 1885 and published in book form in Turkish with Armenian script. (When I say Ottoman translations or translated literature in Ottoman Empire, we should keep in mind that Ottoman Turkish was not the only language spoken or printed at the time in Istanbul. There were translations from European languages into Armenian, modern and Ottoman Greek, and although not as common as the first two, into Ladino.) The Adventures of Captain Hatteras was translated once more in 1891, this time in Turkish by Ahmet Ihsan.
Although numerous Jules Verne’s novels some of which are Cinq Semaines en ballon (“Beş Hafta Balon ile Seyahat,” 1893), De la Terre à la Lune (“Arzdan Kamere Seyahat,” 1892), Le Phare du bout du monde (“Deniz Feneri,” 1905), Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (“Kaptan Grand’ın Çocukları,” 1890), Un Capitaine de quinze ans (“Onbeş Yaşında Bir Kaptan,” 1909), Un drame dans les airs (“Balonda Facia,” 1893), Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (“Deniz Altında 20.000 Fersah Seyahat,” 1890), and Voyage au centre de la Terre (“Merkez-i Arza Seyahat,” 1886) were translated by various prominent Ottoman intellectuals such as Ahmed Rasim, Ali Reşat, Ismail Hakkı, and Darugazade Mehmet Emin, Abdulhamid II’s first chamberlain, the most well-known and committed translator of Verne was Ahmed Ihsan Tokgöz. Ahmet Ihsan who single-handedly translated almost twenty of Jules Verne’s novels into Ottoman Turkish was a bureaucrat, politician, translator, writer and the owner of the most influential journal of the late 19th century, Servet-i Fünun (The Wealth of Sciences), the journal that gathered and published the translations and works of the members of the New Literature group.
Jules Verne was one of the few European novelists whose multiple works, over thirty novels to be specific, were translated, and as mentioned above some of these works were translated multiple times in the Ottoman Empire. If the pronounced interest in Verne translations stemmed partly by the genius of Verne, it also stemmed from the interest in the developing science and technology of the West and the hard work and love Ahmet Ihsan put into his translations.
Some of Jules Verne translations were put on stage by Ottoman and foreign theatre companies in Istanbul. Many influential writers of the time such as Halit Ziya Uşaklıgil, Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın mention their love for Jules Verne and how his novels influenced them as young men in their memoirs.
Jules Verne’s novels never stopped captivating the Turkish reading public. His novels are still being re-translated into Turkish and enjoyed by children and adults alike. However, after the Turkish Language reform in 1928 during the Republican era, Faruk Namık Hansoy became the most important Jules Verne translator and translated the entirety of Jules Verne bibliography into modern Turkish. I grew up on Hansoy’s translations.
Dr Burcu Karahan
Dr Burcu Karahan is a Lecturer in Turkish Language and Literature and specializes in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Ottoman Turkish literature. Her research focuses on the novel, issues of translation, sexuality, formation of masculine identities, and Westernization.