Alexey Vysheslavtsev

For the first time in its 97-year history, the oldest and highly respected historical publications organisation in South Africa, the Van Riebeeck Society, has published a collection of Russian travellers' accounts. The 2015 volume is called:

                                                                     ‘An Entirely Different World’: Russian Visitors to the Cape 1797‒1870

This exclusive hard-cover edition, complete with high-quality black-and-white and full colour illustrations, is being released primarily for the society's members. Only a very limited number of copies has been made available to history lovers outside of the organisation.


'[Gorelik] picks out a magnificent collection of unexpected perspectives - on the Dutch versus the English, for instance; the Russians had no horse in that race and are sublimely caustic about both - and blends them with vigour that’s a knockout in its own right.'

Denis Beckett, The Star

'Gorelik's volume [is] an important additional building block in our still incomplete puzzle of the Old Cape. Hooray for the Van Riebeeck Society; it's a great achievement!'
François Verster, Bolander

Unique view
'It was primarily the different view of the 19th century western Cape which such perspectives afforded that persuaded the Van Riebeeck Society to accept this volume for publication', notes Chairman Professor Howard Phillips (University of Cape Town).

Professor Phillips believes that this volume provides a series of colourful Russian snapshots and close-ups of the region over a period of just over 70 years.

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Distinguished authors
Yuri Lisyansky
Together with Ivan Krusenstern, he led the first Russian ships that circumnavigated the Earth. Lisyansky lived in the Cape in 1797-8.

Yuri Lisyansky
Vasily Golovnin
He commanded the sloop Diana that was detained by the British at Simon’s bay in 1808-9. Later, Golovnin was appointed admiral of the Russian Navy.
Vasily Golovnin
Alexey Butakov
Explorer of the Aral Sea. In 1841, as a lieutenant in the Russian Navy, he visited the Cape Colony with the crew of the Abo, a military transport ship.
Alexey Butakov
Ivan Goncharov
The great Russian novelist spent over a month at the Cape. In 1853, he arrived aboard the frigate Pallada. he visited not only Cape Town and Simon’s Town, but also Stellenbosch, Paarl, Worcester and other more remote places of the colony. His memoir ’At the Cape of Good Hope’ was published in Russia as a book before his famous travelogue The Frigate Pallada.
Ivan Goncharov
Konstantin Posyet
Goncharov’s travelling companion. Later, as an admiral, he was appointed Minister of Roads and Transport and member of the State Council of Russia.

Konstantin Posyet
Alexey Vysheslavtsev
A veteran of the Crimean War, medical doctor and amateur artist, he came to the Cape in 1858, travelling in the footsteps of Goncharov. His memoir of the circumnavigation won great acclaim in the nineteenth-century Russia. His sketches of places and people of the Cape are reproduced in our volume for the first time ever.
Alexey Vysheslavtsev
Baron Alexander Wrangel
A friend of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He visited the colony in 1858, at the beginning of his successful diplomatic career.
Alexander Wrangel
Vilgelm Linden
He spent several days in the Cape in 1870. Later, he became Lieutenant-General in the Russian Navy.
Vilgelm Linden


Unusual parallels

To South African readers it will be a surprise to read of the Cape Flats being described as the ‘Cape Steppes’ or the peddler-filled Parade in Cape Town as similar to Moscow’s bustling Zaryadye market or to have the way of life of well-off Boland farmers compared to that of Russian pometshiks (landlords).


Highly respected publisher
The Van Riebeeck Society for the Publication of Southern African Historical Documents was founded in 1918. It has made primary sources available in a readable and enjoyable form to anyone interested in the subcontinent's history.

Since then, they have published, with very rare exceptions, one volume per year only.

The society has made the translation and publication of important foreign-language documents on southern Africa’s past one of its priorities. To date, it has published translations into English or Afrikaans from six different European languages – Dutch, German, Latin, Swedish, French and Norwegian – and also from two indigenous African languages, SeTswana and isiXhosa.

With this volume, the Van Riebeeck Society adds to the list a seventh European language, Russian.

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Sound investment
Society publications have achieved a high academic standard, and out-of-print volumes have become valuable Africana.

For out-of-print Van Riebeeck Society editions, the prices can reach 200-500 US dollars, according to ViaLibri, the world's largest marketplace for old and rare books.

In this context, the current price of R250 (for South Afrian orders), or R350 for overseas orders, plus postage and packing, for the new volume is very attractive.

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The book in brief
Title: ‘An Entirely Different World’: Russian Visitors to the Cape 1797‒1870
Editor: Boris Gorelik
Publisher: Van Riebeeck Society, Cape Town, 2015
ISBN: 978–0–9814264-6-4
Pages: 177
Format: hard cover, dust jacket
Illustrations: 12 black-and-white and full-colour reproductions

Valuable contribution to Africana
The Russian view of the Cape as represented in this volume may be unique.

During the period in question, Russia had no cultural, political or economic ties with South Africa. Russians saw the Cape only as a convenient stopover en route to the Far East, to their country’s distant domains that could not be reached by sea otherwise.

The Cape was one of the ‘exotic’ lands they would visit on such journeys, their first and only introduction to the African continent.
Although amazed and perplexed by the ‘entirely different world’ they found here, Russian travellers would often draw unexpected parallels between life in their motherland and the realities of the Cape Colony.

The selections include memoirs of such important Russian personalities as Yuri Lisyansky, Vasily Golovnin, Ivan Goncharov and Konstantin Posyet. Most of the texts appear in English for the first time.


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Russian editor
Most of the selections included in the volume were translated directly from the Russian originals by the editor, Boris Gorelik.

He is a Russian writer and researcher based in Moscow and Johannesburg. Born in Sverdlovsk (USSR), he received his MA in linguistics from the Moscow State University.

In 2004, Gorelik was awarded with the Candidate of Sciences degree in history from the Institute for African Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, for his research into the history of Russian immigration to South Africa.

Gorelik authored a comprehensive study of the Russian community in this country (Moscow, 2006) and a complete biography of artist Vladimir Tretchikoff (Cape Town; London, 2013).

He also prepared and edited the new authorised version of David Grinker’s memoir of Soweto in the 1960s-80s (Johannesburg, 2014).

His articles have appeared in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, The Journal of the Tolkien Society, The Journal of the Society of Jewellery Historians, and the Journal of African Cinemas.

In 2010, the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research, University of Cape Town, brought out an overview of Gorelik’s survey of the Russian-Speaking Jews in South Africa as part of their Occasional Paper Series.

Gorelik is a regular contributor of features on history and culturology to Rapport Weekliks, a supplement to a leading South African weekly.


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Interactive preview
Please, read several pages from the book and admire the reproductions to appreciate the quality of this volume, almost as if you were holding it in your hands