Faddei Bulgarin ja baltisakslased: enese positsioneerimine äratuskella metafoori kaudu / Faddey Bulgar in and the Baltic Germans. Self-positioning Through the Metaphor of an Alarm Clock


  • Boris Veizenen University of Tartu




19th century, imagology, the other, the tactics of self-representation, international contacts, Russian writers in Estonia, Russians and Baltic Germans


The article focuses on the complicated relations between Russian writer and newspaper editor Faddey Bulgarin (1789–1859) and Baltic Germans, and on the self-positioning tactics he used in the town of Tartu, as expressed in his travel stories, articles and political messages. These texts were written for different reasons and for different readers, but despite their pragmatic characteristics, they give an adequate impression of the dynamics of the author’s ideas in differentiating between his self and the other. The theoretical basis of the article is laid on the imagological opposition between one’s own and the other (auto-image and hetero-image). Among the essential factors distinguishing the two are time and its flow. According to Bulgarin, who had acquired Karlova Manor near Tartu, the lives of Baltic Germans flow in an entirely different tempo – cyclical, insular, and orderly, but still somnolent. In his letters from the 1830s describing Tartu and the way of life of its inhabitants, published in the newspaper Северная пчела, Bulgarin creates a much-idealised and nature-centred romantic image in the spirit of Rousseau. He depicts Tartu as a paradise of virtue, an idealised utopia where the author’s spirit can find peace after St. Petersburg’s colourful life of intrigues.

However, the writer sees his role as being an alarm clock, a local awakener. This refers not only to his ambitions to play an important role in the town or enhance the dialogue between the Baltic Germans and Russians, but also to increase the cultural and political influence of the Russians. The latter ambition can clearly be seen in the correspondence written in his role as a secret agent and sent to the Third Department (Tsarist Russia’s secret police). The metaphor of an alarm clock, described in such a context, relates to Bulgarin’s role as a “message-bearing angel”, aimed at informing the local Baltic German nobility of the favourable policy of the tsarist government, breaking the self-encapsulation of Baltic German cultural circles, etc.

 Bulgarin depicts the local Baltic Germans as sincere, naive and emotional children of nature or cold, enlightened sceptics who are critical of Russia. We can see how the latter description becomes more and more dominant in his texts. Thus, following the metaphor of an alarm clock, we can observe the evolution of Bulgarin’s thoughts: after the 1830s the “awaking” is related to conflicts with the local elite, and the alarm clock does not awaken the Baltic Germans any more but, rather, informs the authorities about danger. Bulgarin’s view of the Baltic Germans changes from positive to negative (opposed to the authorities, distrustful, hostile to Russia). As a result, the previously idealised image of Baltic Germans as innocent and sincere is replaced by one describing the locals as lazy, rebellious and amoral people. It is important to notice that the author even points out that besides the Baltic Germans, local students of Russian nationality also oppose the authorities. In this context, the original opposition, Russians – Baltic Germans, is replaced by state supporting – state opposing. To illustrate this point further, the author also mentions how the activities of a Baltic German, a state official Craffström, are useful for the state and support the authorities. Bulgarin’s auto-image undergoes an important, dramatic transformation as well: the initially naive philosopher and poet, the message-bearing angel and political awakener finally becomes a guardian of public order and a fighter against German ways and customs.


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Author Biography

Boris Veizenen, University of Tartu

Boris Veizenen – doctoral student in world literature at the University of Tartu. His main interests in the field of literary studies include imagology and mental geography, travel literature, and Estonian and Russian literature.






Artiklid / Articles