Nadejda P. Alexandrova

A “European” Gaze to the Turkish Province or What Do Ladies See



This paper tries to explore the modes of reversibility of the notion of Europeanness, which do not depend on some clear-cut opposition between Eastern-Western Europe but on dynamic relations, such as those between metropolis and province, culture and nature, male and female. The text does not imply a singular notion of Europeanness; it rather traces its presence in a travelogue, written in the late 19th century by a Russian woman. In 1870 M. F. Karlova published her piece “The Turkish Province, Its Urban and Rural Life. A Journey to Macedonia and Albania in 1868” in the Russian liberal newspaper “Вестник Европы”.

In a self-reflexive manner, the author-in-the-text accounts her unique position of “the first European woman-traveler in these Turkish provinces”. Feeling confident in her European identity F. M. Karlova applies what we might call “an orientalist” perspective to the region and its people. The author comments on the backwardness she had encountered and shares her visions of social emancipation, especially when the position of women is concerned.

As it often happens in the history of women’s writing, the author’s name and presence fall in oblivion. Despite her complex identification strategy, which tries to provoke attention and provide visibility for social inequality, M. F. Karlova, remains unknown as a personality. Her account is a rare example of the perspective which Russian women-travelers might have had about these Turkish territories. This paper does not unveil the author’s true identity and her-story. It is rather a wish for discovery of new feminine perspectives to the Balkan region in the 19th century.


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