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Focus - Immagini d’Africa. La ricezione ceca e russa (XIX-inizio XX secolo) (a cura di Anita Frison)

V. 15 (2022): OBERIU / RI-OBERIU

Black Figurines. Peoples of the ‘Dark Continent’ in the Russian Journal “Vsemirnaia illiustratsiia”



In the second half of the 19th century, the rising interest in the partition of Africa translated into a growth in the number of essays, articles and travel diaries on the ‘dark continent’ published in Russia. This paper examines how black Africa was represented in the popular illustrated journal “Vsemirnaia illiustratsiia”, intended as educational material for a newly-formed middle-class readership. Through written texts and pictures, the journal constructed an image of black Africa quite dependent on Western colonial stereotypes, using colonial-consolidated rhetoric techniques and European sources. While the Tsarist Empire’s politics used to meddle in European colonial enterprises, the present analysis highlights how the literary and visual construction of black Africa as backward, savage, and ahistorical may have served to justify Russia’s long-debated belonging among Western nations.