Figure: Archive of the BBAW (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities)
The Russian-Siberian Travel Journals
As is well known, the American journey was a private expedition financed by Humboldt himself. Instead, the Russian-Siberian journey took place on behalf, at the expense, and under the control of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, something Humboldt was constantly very aware of. The then almost sixty-year-old researcher and Prussian chamberlain was bound by contract to refrain from any kind of criticism regarding the Russian social and economic system, let alone open criticism regarding feudalistic structures and serfdom as well as other similar sensitive subjects. During the American journey, Humboldt travelled in a mobile duo of disciplines with Aimé Bonpland and wrote the travel journals by himself. Things were different on his rapid journey through the Russian Empire: besides his servant and factotum Johann Seifert, Humboldt was accompanied by the mineralogist Gustav Rose and the botanist and zoologist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg while enduring the constant company and tailing by Russian officers and adjutants. Rose and Ehrenberg also kept travel journals like Humboldt and subsequently presented publications about the journey, whereby the respective (disciplinary) »responsibilities« of the fellow travellers were clearly and explicitly tailored.
The »Russian-Siberian Travel Journal« therefore has a completely different structure, political and scientific-historical contextualization, intention, and subject matter in comparison to the »American Travel Journal«; the very exclusion of any social criticism as a form of censorship was already in stark contrast to the recordings during the American journey.
Volume 1: in preparation (editors: Tobias Kraft and Florian Schnee)
Dossier "Humboldt’s Journey to Russia" in HiN VI, 11 (2005): http://dx.doi.org/10.18443/hinvol6iss112005