The collection presents publications of foreigners dedicated to Russia during 10th – 19th cc. The collection is mainly built up of memoirs, diaries, reports, accounts of foreigners, who traveled to Russia. The purpose of the visit (diplomatic, military, trading, information gathering) defines the emphasis of the work. Nevertheless, prior to the middle of 17th century they represent the most important sources of social history and give an insight into the general state of the society of that time. Despite various inaccuracies and limited perception of Austrian, British, French, and Polish travelers (they did not speak Russian language and had not much freedom to travel), they easily noticed the distinctive features of the country's way of life, its major differences from the Western civilization.
The most significant works of this period are the publications of diplomats: “Notes on Muscovite Affairs” by Austrian diplomat Sigismund von Herberstein (1486–1566) and “The Journey to Muscovy of Baron Augustin Mayerberg” by Augustin Meyerberg (1612–1688); “About the Russian State” by the British diplomat Giles Fletcher (1548–1611)); “A Detailed Account of the Journey of Holstein Ambassadors to Muscovy and Persia” by Adam Olearius (1603-1671), as well as “The Russian State and the Grand Duchy of Moscow” by the French mercenary Jacques Margeret (c. 1550s - not earlier than 1618). The collection features books, studies and archival materials, which cast light on the history of translation and publication of their works.
A great number of foreign works spotlight the Time of Troubles, when there were a lot of invaders from Poland and Sweden in Russia. They are available for study as part of the multivolume collected works “The Accounts of Contemporaries of False Dmitry”, and as individual publications.
The collection also features little-known names. The book of the Swedish military engineer and member of the embassy to Russia in 1673 “Notes on Russia” by Erich Palmquist (first Swedish edition and translated Russian edition) is available, too. A few works, which deal with this important and detailed account of the visit to Russia, are presented, too.
In the 18th – 19th cc. it was easier for travelers to go to Russia; many foreigners were invited to work in the Russian Empire, where they wrote down their records. Most works are dedicated to the time of Peter I. Of particular interest are the works, which describe Siberia and Kamchatka. The most famous is the publication of the French traveler Astolphe de Custine, who was critical of Russia during the reign of Nicholas I. Along with the book, you can study some of its extracts, as well as the reaction to the publication of the cavalry general, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers and the State Council I. V. Vasilchikov (1776–1847).
The collection includes publications of foreigners, pre-revolutionary, Soviet and modern studies, materials of scientific collections, maps and plans, which were part of foreign publications, reprinted on individual sheets.
The collection is based on the materials from holdings of the Russian State Historical Archive, the Swedish National Archives, the Russian State Library, the State Public Historical Library, the St. Petersburg State University Library, the Ural Federal University Library and the Russian State Pedagogical University Library; the Yugra State Library; the Moscow Regional State Research Library, the Vladimir Regional Research Library, the Tver Regional Research Library, the Tula Regional Research Library, the State Russian Museum Manuscript Department, the Russian Geographical Society, “Lomonosov” Publishing House, “Nashe Radio” radio station.