- Key Concepts in 18th-Century Russia
This forum grew out of a project on translation and the genesis of the Russian political language, carried out in the German Historical Institute and led by Sergey Polskoy (Higher School of Economics, Moscow) and Vladislav Rjéoutski (German Historical Institute in Moscow).1 Earlier versions of the studies published here were presented at the 19th International Conference on Conceptual History: Key Concepts in Times of Crisis, held at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, in September 2016, and at the Conference on Translation of Sociopolitical Literature and Formation of "Civil Sciences" in Russia, held at the German Historical Institute in Moscow (DHI Moskau) in February 2017.
The project initiated by DHI Moskau continues the institute's previous engagement in the development of the history of concepts in Russia. Its predecessor, "A History of Concepts and Historical Semantics," led by Ingrid Schierle and Denis Sdvizhkov in 2008–14, included a series of conferences and resulted in several publications: in particular, two volumes devoted to the history of key concepts of the Russian imperial period.2 However, the main focus of the current project is on translation, considered as a laboratory of the Russian language of the "civil sciences."
In the 18th century, Russian did not have equivalents for many West European concepts. This comment applies not only to the field of political ideas: in many other spheres (philology, natural sciences, education, etc.), there were few equivalents to many terms used in West European languages. The discovery of the Western intellectual tradition was not only facilitated [End Page 319] by the translation of Western texts but to a great extent realized through it. Indeed it is through translation that Russian people adopted (and adapted) Western political concepts, thus boosting the creation of a Russian language for political science. More broadly, it is against the backdrop of translations from West European languages into Russian that one should analyze the creation of the Russian literary language.3
Therefore, the project's goal has been to consider the transfer of sociopolitical knowledge to Russia in the 18th century with the help of translated literature. The volume of "sociopolitical" manuscripts and printed translated literature is considerable in Russia. To continue studying the development of the language of the "civil sciences" during the Enlightenment, it has been necessary to describe and study this corpus. The research field of the project lies primarily in the area of intellectual and sociocultural history. More specifically, we see translation studies as a means of exploring ways of creating a new political terminology and studying the influence of various factors on this process. We aim to better understand the role of those who commissioned such translations, identify the translations that were in greatest demand, and grasp the reasons for their popularity.
The center of this project is a database of political texts translated into Russian in the 18th century.4 Each unit includes a bibliographic description of the manuscript and its copies, a reference to the author of the translation (and the person who commissioned it, when such information is available), and samples of the translated text that highlight political concepts in the broad sense of the word, because the political field cannot be strictly delimited for the 18th century. This database will be searchable, using various criteria such as title, author, translator, date, and language of the source text. A lexicon of Russian sociopolitical concepts is being compiled within the database and will allow the reader to find specific contexts for every concept.
In addition to the database, the results of the project include a collective study of translation practices in 18th-century Russia, the outgrowth of a conference organized by the DHI in Moscow in 2017, and the present cluster of articles.5 [End Page 320]
The forum's main focus is the transformation and circulation of certain key concepts in Russia in the 18th century. The authors consider the change in a range of political and social concepts during this period: state, monarchy, common good, society, and friendship.
Sergey Polskoy underlines the role of translation in the formation and/or transformation of political concepts in Russia. Indeed, most...