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Block I Illinois Library Illinois Open Publishing Network


Vol. 11 (2023)

Making Sense of the Empire’s Others:Mikhail Chulkov’s Dictionary of Russian Superstitions and the European Enlightenment



This article is an analysis of Mikhail Chulkov’s Dictionary of Russian Superstitions, published in 1782. It places the dictionary in the historical and cultural context of Enlightenment Europe, from which the genre was drawn, and suggests that Chulkov’s use of the genre was part of his own efforts to fashion himself as a civilized, Enlightened man. The article considers the various practices and beliefs described in the dictionary and lays out the various categories of people those which “superstitious” practices and beliefs were ascribed. By comparing the various categories of people described in the dictionary, the article argues that Chulkov’s vision of the Others of the Russian Empire was characterized by a sympathy towards Orthodox Christians and a skepticism about the ability of non-Orthodox subjects of the empire to become civilized. It also considers how Chulkov’s treatment of women and Old Believers reveals his own anxieties about the persistence of superstition into an ostensibly Enlightened era of history.


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