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Opinions

As was common during the period, all three travel writers included personal opinions about Russia and its people throughout their travel accounts.

Upon departing St. Petersburg at the end of his journey through Russia, Jesse had little doubt about whether Russia could be deemed "civilized."

"Russia can indeed lay but little claim to civilization thus defined, which must be evident to any foreigner after he has drawn aside the brilliant but flimsy veil in which, on his arrival at the capital, he found every thing connected with the subject enveloped," Jesse wrote. "He will look in vain for just grounds upon which he can award to Russia a place amonst the civilized nations of Europe." (page 306)

Jesse adds that "Their civilization is of the head, not the heart." He argues that Russians wish to be civilized and that they make a grand showing of these aspects, but a barbaric past remains in the large country, something he is comfortable saying after spending nearly a year going through it. He claims the poor do not have the self-esteem or free intercourse necessary for modernity. (page 303)

Oliphant was similarly frustrated by a percieved hiding of the truth by the Russian people.

"There is a singular difficulty in getting at the truth," Oliphant wrote. (page 51). He added that this led to a series of dissapoinments as landmarks and cities were hyped by natives and other travelers but continually dissapointed him upon arrival, starting with Kazan. (page 57)

The only thing that allowed Oliphant to move towards the truth was to move away from the country's loci of St. Petersburg and Moscow.

"As [a traveler] penetrates farther into the country, he will penetrate also, in some degree, farther into the true origin of those moral and physical evils which beset his path," Oliphant wrote. (page 256)

Stoddard, meanwhile, came away with a more optimistic viewpoint.

"This great Russian nation is awaking from its sleep," he wrote. "It is a giant ignorant of its enormous strength, like a blind Samson." (page 86)

Certainly the nearly 40 years between Oliphant's voyage and Stoddard's trip could account for the difference. Russia undoubtedly changed in innumerable ways over that period. Yet, Oliphant's assertion that he only came to see the true Russia after venturing away from Moscow indicates that the two travelers' different samples might also have contributed to their divergent views.

Conclusion