Johann Christian Struve and Heinrich Christoph von Reimers: Two German-Speaking Observers in the Russian Diplomatic Mission to Istanbul (1793-94)

By Stephan Conermann
Submitted to Session P6509 (Transottoman Mobilities in the Second Half of the 18th Century: Ottoman, Russian, and Polish-Lithuanian Entanglements, 2021 Annual Meeting
Ottoman Empire;
13th-18th Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The Treaty of Jassy on 9 January 1792 between the Ottoman Empire and Russia ended the war of 1787-92 by recognizing Russian rule over the fortress of Očakov (annexed in 1788), the coastal strips between Dniester and Bug rivers on the Black Sea, and the Crimea (annexed in 1783). Article 10 of the treaty stipulated that both sides should send a legation to each other’s court.
Thus, Catherine II commissioned Field Marshal Michail Illarionovič Kutuzov (d. 1813) as envoy to Istanbul, while Selim III sent Mustafa Rasih Efendi, the beylerbeyi of Rumelia (d. 1804), to St Petersburg. In January 1793, Mustafa Rasih embarked on his journey to St Petersburg with a delegation. Catherine received them at her court; however, it was not possible to achieve concrete results, so the Ottomans left for Istanbul on 8 February 1794.
Both Kutuzov and Mustafa Rasih traveled in a large delegation. Two persons who participated in the Russian delegation are of immense interest, since both published eyewitness reports later on: Johann Christian Struve (1768-1812) was a member of a family that had fostered close contacts with Russia and that had held positions in the Russian administration. Struve himself served as a qualified assessor in the Russian Foreign Office in St Petersburg for many years. He traveled from Vienna to the Crimea in 1791; on the return passage, he journeyed to the Russian capital, where he joined the delegation to Istanbul. Struve published his memoires in 1801 under the title Reise eines jungen Russen von Wien über Jassy in die Crimm: und ausführliches Tagebuch der im Jahr 1793 von St. Petersburg nach Constantinopel geschickten russisch-kaiserlichen Gesandtschaft. Likewise, Heinrich Christoph von Reimers (1768-1812), who came from Reval (Tallinn), was working as a translator in the Russian Foreign Office when he joined the delegation. The letters he wrote to a friend during his trip to the Ottoman realm were published as Reise der Russisch-Kaiserlichen Ausserordentlichen Gesandtschaft an die Othomanische Pforte im Jahr 1793: drei Theile: vertrauter Briefe eines Ehstlanders an einen seiner Freunde in Reval: mit Kupfern und einer Karte.
This paper introduces both relatively unknown reports from the Transottoman context of Ottoman-Russian relations and discusses the mobility of knowledge in these accounts. This analysis allows us to further understand coeval imperial policy-making and the underlying narrative strategies of such reports.