Novgorod Literary Journey As A Part Of The Russian Literature Local Text


In our study, we will consider a literary journey through Novgorod, paying special attention to the cultural, historical, and axiological features of the work. Their identification is an important element in the selection of the so-called local text. Novgorod, undoubtedly, is of great importance both in the culture of the Russian people and in literature. The genre of travel, travel notes in the 19th century was popular among both foreign authors and domestic writers. Most often, works of this genre were devoted to travels abroad or to cities in Russia such as Petersburg or Moscow, and the Russian province was not the object of attention of writers. The presented text about Novgorod, namely “Survey of places from St. Petersburg to Staraya Russa and on the way back” by N. Ya. Ozeretskovsky, shows the view of the Russian author not only on the historical center of Russia but also on the life of common people, their traditions, and customs. The highlighted features of the work in question allow including this journey in the corpus of the Novgorod local text of Russian literature. The study of regionally oriented local texts of Russian literature is a necessary basis for the disclosure of the complexly organized system of Russian culture and the processes taking place in it, and for the extraction of new measures of literaryism.

Keywords: Everyday life, local text, Novgorod text, travel genre


Travel texts are very popular in the digital age. Their functionality is expanding, their penetration into radio programs, travel shows, and social networks is taking place in the environment of media technologies. The image of a place, a locus is the object of attention of scientists of different directions (Eldieva et al., 2020; Schnitzer et al., 2020). However, there is a centuries-old literary tradition that allows talking about the development and formation of the travel genre. The development of travel literature originates in the Western European tradition (Borbala & Ilona, ​​2018; Poplavskaya & Novitskaya, 2019; Purgina, 2020). Russian writers, starting with ancient Russian literature, record the impressions of the places they saw in various forms, the content of which changes with the development of the literary process.

Many works in the travel genre appeared in Russian literature of the 19th century. However, now there is no clear definition of the boundaries of the considered literary category. Some researchers attribute the journey to journalism, some to fiction. The most classical definition of the term belongs to Guminskij (1987). Following him, travel literature, both in the context of literary theory and in its direct artistic meaning, was studied by such modern scholars as Konstantinova (2019), Efimovskij (2021). Particular attention within the framework of the topic under consideration is given to the study of the local text as a corpus of “texts about a place”, thanks to which the place itself is endowed with additional characteristics.

Literary travels in Novgorod form part of the Novgorod local text. The genre features of such works, cultural and historical codes broadcast by the authors of the travels help the modern reader to get a complete picture of the realities that once existed, not only based on factual and reliable information, but also based on the views and opinions of the authors who presented the life and way of life of their contemporary period stories.

Problem Statement

In the 19th century, the Novgorod province attracted the attention of many writers and publicists. The province acts as a special space, which stands out, firstly, on a geographical basis, and secondly, based on cultural, social, and everyday differences. Existing parallel to the capital cities (St. Petersburg, Moscow), the province attracts the attention of travelers, whose impressions are reflected in “travel sketches” - a capacious literary form reflecting different aspects of material and spiritual life. Interest in Novgorod is connected, first, with the historical significance of the city. In addition, it is important for the traveler to show the current position of the provincial town, which has lost its former power, its economic and cultural state.

The topos that unites travel texts is Novgorod and its environs, based on the analysis of which it will be possible to draw a conclusion about the formal and substantive features of the Novgorod travel as a genre of Russian literature, for which the 19th century becomes the peak of development.

Novgorod travels are part of the so-called “Novgorod text”, the formation of which dates to the second half of the 18th century. Later, in the era of the Decembrists, there will be the next stage in the evolution of the texts under consideration, and then, in the middle of the 19th century, a powerful development of the genre will follow. The Novgorod theme in the works of the writers of the so-called “first” row will be supplanted by the periphery of Russian literature, but in memoirs, memoirs, travels dedicated to the Novgorod region, one can find the most important material about the culture, history, and everyday life of the provincial population.

The history of the study of the so-called Novgorod text does not have a large research tradition, however, we can single out the work of Abramovskaya (2010), touching the period of development of literature that affects us, and the work of Pol’ and Samarova (2019), considering the works of the last third of the XX - early XXI centuries.

Particular attention in this study will be paid to the work “Survey of places from St. Petersburg to Staraya Russa and on the way back” by Ozereckovskij (1808). Structural features, the author's point of view, his position in the reflection of the described reality allow drawing a conclusion about the features of travel literature, which is part of the local text.

Research Questions

It is necessary to identify the following research questions to consider the text related to the travel genre and include it in the corpus of the Novgorod local text:

1) Features and specifics of the genre of travel in Russian literature of the XIX century.

2) Local text as a literary category.

3) Novgorod as a local text of Russian literature.

Purpose of the Study

“The study of representations of the urban environment in literary works has its own historically deep and methodologically soundly based tradition” (Abashev, 2019, p. 149). Speaking about the literary travels of the 19th century in Novgorod, it is necessary to consider the peculiarities of the formation of the genre in the Russian literary tradition, as well as its influence on the formation of a local text showing the peculiarities of culture, history, and everyday life of a particular area.

“The holistic characteristic of the sociocultural space presupposes the analysis of cultural units” (Starygina, 2019, p. 210), in this case, cultural units will be understood as the components of the local text. The analysis of these components is seen as fundamental in identifying the specifics of the Novgorod local text on the example of N. Ya. Ozeretskovskij’s travel, which is the purpose of the study.

Research Methods

The text describing the journey through the Novgorod land became the main sources for writing this study. The author of this work is not a writer of the first magnitude, however, his role is important, first, as a traveler who becomes a direct participant in the events described, an observer, a bearer of a certain worldview.

The methodology of this work is based on the use of elements of historical, literary, and structural analysis. The considered text is analyzed as artistic, and the realities of everyday life shown in the work are analyzed from the point of view of the historical context. The possibility of using the structural analysis of travels in the Novgorod land is explained by the fact that they represent a structured experience of the author’s impressions of what he saw.


The study of the travel genre as a literary category has a long research tradition. However, there is no single genre definition now. First, this is due to the large number of texts belonging to the genre in question. In addition, the existing research was carried out from different methodological positions. The most complete definition is the characteristics of the travel genre indicated by Shachkova (2013). Exploring the texts devoted to the Novgorod land, we will define literary travel as a genre of fiction, united by the following formal and substantive features: route, author and author’s position, journalism, reliability, the possible presence of fiction, synthetic genre nature.

Travel became an independent genre of Russian literature by the 18th century having transformed from the old Russian walking. Closely intertwined with romanticism at the beginning of the 19th century, aimed at unusual and unexplored phenomena, travel notes, essays, diaries helped the self-expression of authors who supported the ideas of equality and freedom. In addition, the travel genre of this period helps to voice many socially significant issues. The author expresses not only his personal point of view, but also the position of a certain social group, orienting travel to a specific addressee.

“The problem of interaction between culture and space has been of interest to scientists, both humanities and naturalists, for more than a century” (Lavrenova, 2021, p. 179). The development of the travel genre is directly related not only to literary processes, but also to changes in the political, social, and cultural life of the state. Identifying and studying of local texts, part of which may be works written in the genre of travel helps to form the most complete picture of the changes taking place in the life of a particular state, region, city.

“One of the basic features of a local text is the cross-genre nature of its structure” (Vlasova & Vedernikov, 2019, p. 143). Historical and cultural contexts have an impact on genre preference. One of the stable characteristics of the Novgorod text of the 19th century can be called the synthesis of documentary and artistic principles, which found the most vivid reflection in travel literature. Consideration of the semantics of such literary categories as “local text”, “provincial text”, “history of everyday life” allows talking about their close relationship with texts written in the travel genre, which makes it possible to formulate the structural and content components of a regional local text: a single locus, around which the narrative route is built; the choice of the locus is justified by the reader’s need; creating an image of the place; detection of constant details in the structure of the narrative; highlighting cultural and historical aspects as the central content elements of the text. Thus, “in the study of local texts, the uniqueness of this or that cultural space in a number of similar ones is emphasized through the description of its specificity as a textually formed whole” (Yuhnovich, 2018, p. 175).

The work of N. Ya. Ozeretskovskij “Survey of places from St. Petersburg to Staraya Russa and on the way back” was written in 1808. The author’s literary career began with his first trip to Russia. Ozeretskovskij went to Novgorod on May 25, 1805; the reader finds an indication of the departure date at the very beginning of the narrative, which gives a reference to the diary nature of the traveler’s entries. Fixing the date and place along the route is preserved throughout the narrative and is easily tracked a visit to Novgorod falls on the period from May 31 to June 13, 1805. Speaking about the structure of the work as a whole, it should also be noted that, according to formal criteria, Ozeretskovskij’s text is divided into an introduction, in which we find a dedication to the Imperial Majesty and an indication of the goal of creating a “brief overview of places close to the capital” that “are not offended by nature or animals, neither by vegetation, nor by fossils”, and the main part, which is not divided into chapters, but has inserted elements. The narration is conducted in the first person, which enhances the effect of real travel, and “the explanation of the route requires the speaker to reflect in space, i.e. activation to further verbalize one’s own ideas about a fragment of space, the boundaries of which are the starting point and the destination” (Pupynina, 2018, p. 118).

Analysis of the text dedicated to Novgorod allows talking about the everyday life of individuals, such as Bishop Eugene or teachers at the public school. In addition, the author shows a significant layer of social life of the provincial population of the 19th century, indicating the socio-political characteristics of Novgorod, cultural and socially significant aspects of provincial life. For example, special attention is paid to the construction of a sailing factory and a public school; the function of the latter is determined by the author of the trip in the following value judgment as “more useful than all other institutions”.

The visual series in Ozeretskovskij’s text is primarily associated with the religious heritage and spiritual significance of Novgorod - it is represented by image objects typical for a Novgorod travel, such as the St. Sophia Cathedral, Yuryev and Varalaamo-Khutynsky monasteries. These city attractions “are surrounded by a wide unique layer of ancient cultural monuments, man-made and verbal, and eternal natural values” (Ajzikova, 2020, p. 186).

Speaking about the modern reality of the city, the author constantly points to its glorious and great past, which confirms the inextricable link between the “cradle of Russian statehood” and the present. We find similar motives in the descriptions of such ancient sacred loci (Constantinople, Greece, Egypt, Palestine, Judea), which “are not only the cradle of human history, but also famous religious centers that first spread their beliefs all over the world, and then plunged into desolation and decline for the traveler” (Anisimov, 2020, p. 7). Novgorod at the beginning of the 19th century in the cultural and religious aspect is the successor of the ancient veche republic, and the everyday life recorded by Ozeretskovskij puts it among the provincial cities of Russia.


Thus, speaking about travels, the object of which is Novgorod, the following features should be noted:

• the motive of the historical memory of the bygone days of ancient Novgorod, which is in contrast to the current state of the provincial territory;

• perception of the history of Novgorod through documentary sources, reflection of modernity - through the fixation of the seen realities;

• perception of Novgorod in travel texts as a pilgrimage center, as indicated by a large number of descriptions of medieval temples and religious traditions and customs of Novgorodians;

• mythologizing ideas about Novgorod and its history.

Sorochan (2010) suggests revealing “not the history of the place, but the history of the image of the place” in such studies (p. 6). The identification of stable motives representing the image of a place allows the journey under consideration to be included in the corpus of the Novgorod local text. The visual range presented in the work becomes the subject of semantization, which leads to the emergence of a dictionary of local cultural and historical tradition and, as a result, ways to unify its description.


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28 December 2021

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Knyazeva, T. S. (2021). Novgorod Literary Journey As A Part Of The Russian Literature Local Text. In D. Y. Krapchunov, S. A. Malenko, V. O. Shipulin, E. F. Zhukova, A. G. Nekita, & O. A. Fikhtner (Eds.), Perishable And Eternal: Mythologies and Social Technologies of Digital Civilization, vol 120. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 396-402). European Publisher.