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Russkiy v Konstantinopole/Le Russe à Constantinople

  • The guide-book was created for Russian-speaking refugees who had to leave their country and settle in Constantinople.
  • Kind of Object:
  • Name:
    Russkiy v Konstantinopole/Le Russe à Constantinople

    Word Count: 6

  • Alternative Names:
    Русский в Константинополе
  • Year Start:
  • Year End:
  • Material:

    Hardcover, dark-red. 44 pages.

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Tipografiya “PRESSA”, Asmalı Mescit 35 (now presumably 23), Pera/Beyoğlu, Istanbul.

  • Language:
  • City:
    Istanbul (TR)
  • Introduction:

    The guide-book was created for Russian-speaking refugees who had to leave their country and settle in Constantinople.

    Word Count: 17

  • Content:

    The guide-book Russkiy v Konstantinopole/Le Russe à Constantinople was published in 1921 by the "PRESSA" printing house, located near the Tünel Square where Vladimir Kadulin worked at the editorial office of the weekly periodic publication Zarnitsy. The guide is unusual in that it was not created for Russian-speaking tourists who came to relax, but for refugees who had to leave their country. Moreover, the authors of the guide-book were themselves refugees. Alas, their names are not indicated, but most likely they were representatives from the newspaper Presse du Soir which, among other topics, actively covered the events of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople. Since they arrived in the city earlier than many of their compatriots, they became pioneers in terms of discovering the new ‘space’: “It is during the first days of his stay in the city that a Russian refugee, having no information where and to whom he should go and turn, often in vain spends his last funds and last forces, so necessary for him in the upcoming severe struggle for existence [...] The purpose of our publication is to give a guiding initial thread – so that a Russian who arrives in Constantinople, traveling from the landing pier, or from the train station by tram to the city, could immediately get information about the most important things in 5-10 minutes [...].”
    Based on the stated goal, the guide contains the addresses of such critical places as the Russian embassy and consulate, Orthodox churches,  the information bureau, the post office, hospitals, refugee hostels, bath-houses, labour bureaus, educational institutions, and, banks among many others. In addition, the guide-book provides addresses of local Ottoman institutions as well as those of foreign embassies and consulates with a brief description of the conditions for issuing visas to a particular country. The guide-book also offers comprehensive information about hotels in the city. According to the authors, Pera Palace, Tokatlian (where Leon Trotsky stayed, but only for a very short period of time), Bristol and Continental were among the best hotels at the time. Hence, they were “completely inaccessible for Russian emigrants with a more or less limited budget.” Hotels with reasonable prices were those located near the train station (Sirkeci district) and in Galata; the fee was charged “per room, per person or bed.” As for inexpensive furnished rooms for rent, the authors suggested looking for them in Galata, the historical center, as well as in the Asian part of the city (Üsküdar, Kadıköy, Moda). The list of popular eateries included Mayak’s dining room (where the First Russian émigré artists in Istanbul exhibition took place), Russkiy Ochag, Union Française (which offered  special prices for refugees), Lady Lermontova’s dining room, America, Yar, Antonio and Dülber – all of which were situated in the Pera (today’s Beyoğlu) district. La Régence, which was considered a luxury restaurant at the time, most likely is not mentioned, as all of the aforementioned eateries were places with reasonable prices. Last but not least, the guide also provided its readers with information on trams, the tunnel, the bridge, boats, cars, porters, steamships and railways.
    Сuriously, one section is devoted to the history of the city and its attractions: “The Russian refugee, abandoned in November 1920 in Constantinople, has no time to explore the city from a tourist point of view, and delve into the artistic beauties and historical views of Constantinople. However, to everyone who can afford the luxury of at least one day of leisure, we insistently recommend that you make a moral effort on yourself and devote several hours for two to three or four days or one whole day to inspect at least a small part of the artistic and historical treasures in terms of which Constantinople is so rich. We are sure that this moral effort will earn its keep: the soul of a driven, tired Russian person will clear up even for a little while and will rest from the terrible and oppressive impressions of the present while looking at the views of the great past.” An overview of the city’s hotspots begins with the Galata Bridge, which was “convenient for observing the life of the Turkish crowd”, “especially interesting” were the Grand Bazaar, the Topkapı Palace, the “vast building of the imperial” Ottoman Museum, the plane tree of the Janissaries, and the Church of Hagia Irene “transformed into a Zeughaus after the Turkish conquest.” Further, the “treasures” of the city were conditionally divided by the authors into Byzantine monuments and monuments of Islamic art. Among the monuments of Byzantine art are listed; Hagia Sophia (“does not immediately produce the impression that everyone expects from it by hearsay”, “only gradually, and especially when you go inside, you are imbued with the grandeur and beauty of the monument”), the Obelisk of Theodosius, the Serpent Column, the Column of Constantine, Little Hagia Sophia, the Cistern of Philoxenos, the Aqueduct of Valens, Chora Church/the Kariye Mosque (where Lydia Nikanorova and many other Russian émigré artists actively worked on copying frescoes and mosaics), the walls of Constantinople, and, Yedikule Fortress. Among the monuments of Islamic art are the Hagia Sophia (again), “the most beautiful” and “a rival of Hagia Sophia” Süleymaniye Mosque, the New Mosque near the bridge, Sultan Ahmed Mosque with six minarets, Bayezid II Mosque with its doves, the Eyüp Sultan Mosque “located very far away”, as well as the Şehzade Mosque, the Fatih Mosque, the Sublime Porte (Bâb-ı Âli), Büyük Valide Han where “Persian merchants live” and other locations. It is worth noting that almost all of these locations attracted the attention of Russian émigré artists, especially Alexis Gritchenko and Dimitri Ismailovitch. Upon careful reading of the listed sights, it becomes clear that the authors were keenly interested in the historical part of the city, which they apparently linked to the “great past”, while the European Pera/Beyoğlu and its environs were not admired much; most likely because of the “terrible and oppressive impressions of the present”, since it is there that the hard life of the Russian-speaking refugees was mostly spinning. Calling Pera/Beyoğlu “completely new” and “the location of major hotels and shops”, the guide-book’s compilers stated that neither Galata (apart from the tower) nor Dolmabahçe Palace were “of historical interest”. They were clearly upset about the fact that this colorful eastern city with its motley local crowd had been increasingly taking on a Western European look.

    Word Count: 1081

  • Signature Image:
    Russkiy v Konstantinopole / Le Russe à Constantinople, 1921, cover (Slavonic Library/Slovanská knihovna, Prague).
  • Media:
    Announcement concerning the publication of the guide-book in the Russian newspaper Presse du Soir, 1921, n.p. (Slavonic Library/Slovanská knihovna, Prague).
    Russkiy v Konstantinopole / Le Russe à Constantinople, 1921, cover (Slavonic Library/Slovanská knihovna, Prague).
    Layout of the Grand Rue de Péra (Istiklal Street) from the guide-book, 1921 (Slavonic Library/Slovanská knihovna, Prague).
    Schematic plan of Constantinople for ‘Russian’ refugees in the guide-book Russkiy v Konstantinopole/Le Russe à Constantinople, 1921 (Slavonic Library/Slovanská knihovna, Prague).
    Most common words in Turkish for ‘Russian’ refugees from the guide-book, 1921 (Slavonic Library/Slovanská knihovna, Prague).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Anonymous. Russkiy v Konstantinopole. Le Russe à Constantinople. Konstantinopl’: Tipografiya “Pressa”, 1921.

    Word Count: 10

  • Archives and Sources:

    Slavonic Library (Slovanská knihovna) in Prague.

    Word Count: 6

  • Acknowledgements:

    I would like to thank the representatives of the Slavonic Library (Slovanská knihovna) in Prague for helping me tremendously during my work at the library.

    Word Count: 25

  • Author:
    Ekaterina Aygün
  • Depicted organisations:
    Pera Palace Hotel
  • Metropolis:
  • Entry in process:
  • Ekaterina Aygün. "Russkiy v Konstantinopole/Le Russe à Constantinople." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • Leon Trotsky

    Banished by Stalin, the revolutionary politician Leon Trotsky and his entourage arrived in Istanbul in 1929. He settled on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara.

    Word Count: 31

    Alexis Gritchenko
    PainterArt Historian

    During the two years of his life that he spent in Istanbul, Alexis Gritchenko produced more paintings dedicated to the city than many artists produce in an entire lifetime.

    Word Count: 29

    Dimitri Ismailovitch
    PainterArt Historian

    In Istanbul, Ismailovitch became one of the leaders of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, organised three solo exhibitions, and made contribution to the study of Byzantine art.

    Word Count: 29

    Vladimir Kadulin

    When it comes to Russian émigré caricaturists in Istanbul, Vladimir Kadulin who worked under the pseudonym Nayadin for the almanac Zarnitsy is the first to come to mind.

    Word Count: 28

    Lydia Nikanorova

    In Istanbul, Nikanorova worked at copying the mosaics and frescoes of the Kariye Mosque, and met her future husband, Georges Artemoff, also an émigré artist from the former Russian Empire.

    Word Count: 30

    First Russian émigré artists in Istanbul exhibition

    The first Russian-speaking émigré artists in Istanbul exhibition was a one-day event but its success led to the formation of the Union and paved the way for other exhibitions.

    Word Count: 29

    Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople

    The Union existed for less than two years but in that short space of time a tremendous amount of work was done by its members, refugees from the Russian Empire.

    Word Count: 30

    Pera Palace Hotel

    The Pera Palace was the gem of Pera district where people gathered to wine and dine and be entertained, as well as to discuss the issues of the day.

    Word Count: 29

    Café / Restaurant

    Rejans (now 1924 Istanbul) restaurant, at the end of the Olivya Passageway is one of Beyoğlu’s landmarks. A relic of 1920s “Russian Istanbul”, where the original atmosphere has been preserved.

    Word Count: 31