Russian literary representations of the Caucasus didn’t begin with Pushkin. Gavrila Derzhavin’s “On the return of Count Zubov from Persia” (1797) and Vasilii Narezhnyi’s Black Year, or the Mountain Princes (1816-17) merit our attention as exemplary texts of the Russian Enlightenment. Offering the earliest Russian accounts of the natural and human diversity of the Caucasus, both texts also explore the nature and limits of political sovereignty in the context of eighteenth-century absolutism. My lecture will explore alpine landscape, alongside an emergent regulatory discourse of the self, as the allegorical means by which Derzhavin and Narezhnyi sought to modify the Russian monarch’s claim to unfettered power.
Harsha Ram is Associate Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. He is the author of The Imperial Sublime. A Russian Poetics of Empire (2003) and numerous articles on Russian-Italian, Russian-French and Russian-Georgian cultural encounters. He is currently writing a book entitled The Geopoetics of Sovereignty, an exploration of nineteenth-century literary representations found in multiple languages of Russia’s conquest of the Caucasus.