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Vasilyeva E.N. Persian Letters for Children: On the History of Montesquieuʼs Translations in Russia. Studia Litterarum, 2019, vol. 4, no 2, pp. 128–143. (In Russ.)

DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2019-4-2-128-143

Author: Ekaterina N. Vasilyeva
Information about the author:

Ekaterina N. Vasilyeva, PhD in Philology, Assistant Professor, Saint-Petersburg State University, 11 Universitetskaya Emb., 199034 St. Petersburg, Russia. ORCID ID: 0000-0002-4859-1060

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Received: January 23, 2019
Published: June 25, 2019
Issue: 2019 Vol. 4, №2
Department: World Literature
Pages: 128-143

UDK: 821.133.1
BBK: 83.3(4Фра)+83
Keywords: Montesquieu, Persian Letters, translation, literature for children, Berquin, Bocharnikov, Chashnikov.


The article examines the earliest translations of Montesquieuʼs Persian Letters in the Russian language. The first Russian versions of the novel are fragmentary amateur translations included in such anthologies as Reading for Children (1779) and Selected Reading (1786) addressed to young readers. While realized independently of each other by Kapiton Bocharnikov and Ivan Chashnikov, these translations are based on the same fragment — the fable of the Troglodytes fable which is crucial in Montesquieuʼs political theory because it explains the advantages of Republic government. Comparing the original text and its translations has allowed me to reveal that Bocharnikovʼs translation relies on Lectures pour les enfants by a French childrenʼs author Arnaud Berquin as a mediator text. Another conclusion to be drawn is that while both translations relatively adequately correspond to the original text, they are different in terms of their literary value. At the same time, both translators fulfil their principal aim: withdrawn from the philosophical literature for adults, the Troglodytes fable is adopted for children as a didactic tale by both Bocharnikov and Chashnikov. This allows us to relate both translations to the tradition of translating childrenʼs literature in the second half of the 18 th century.


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