To commemorate February as LGBT Month and the end of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi we thought we’d delve deep into our Special Collections to bring back something from Russia with love.
A French enlightenment writer, Voltaire’s 1763 ‘History of the Russian Empire under Peter the Great’ vol. 1 begins with the Preface:
“Who could have thought in the beginning of the present century, that a polite and magnificent court was to reside at the extremity of Solikam, Casan, and of the banks of the Wolga and the Saik, should equal our best disciplined troops; that after having defeated the Swedes and the Turks, they should obtain victories in Germany; that an empire of two thousand leagues in length, almost unknown till our time, should be civilised in fifty years; that its influence should extend to all the European courts; and that the most zealous protector of learning in 1759, should be a Muscovite? Whoever would have ventured to make such a prediction, would have passed for the most visionary man in the world. Peter the Great having alone formed the plan of this revolution, and even executed it in his own reign, is perhaps, of all princes, he whose affections are most worthy of being transmitted to posterity.”
Known as a great reformer who wished to bring a western approach to Russia, Peter the Great introduced rules banning same sex relations in the armed forces in the 18th century despite being bisexual himself, something Voltaire does not cover in this history.
The map shows the Empire in 1759 and the borders have been hand coloured.
Anyone wishing to read further can view the book in the Local and Family History Library of Leeds Central Library but prepare yourself for a text where the letter S looks like an F without the crossbar. This was a common practice in printing up until the 1800s and was known as the Long S.