Guest Lecture: The Beginnings of Russian American Relations

Room 3.10

Prof. Marina Swoboda will discuss the establishment of the first Russian embassy in post-revolutionary America as well as early encounters of Russia with American revolutionaries. This will be complemented by early impressions of America as seen through the eyes of the first Russian diplomat, painter and writer, Pavel Svin’in, 1811-1813.


This lecture will address the beginning of Russian American relations and the establishment of the first diplomatic mission in the independent American Republic. The contact between the Russian and British Empires had a long and complicated history. The power of Britain and its rivalry with France often placed Russia in need of careful negotiations between the two major European powers. The American and French revolutions, which took place at the end of the 18th century, frightened the imperial power of Russia. Just prior to the French Revolution, Russia experienced its own extremely violent peasants’ uprising, and the actions of the populace in Europe against their monarchies added to the sense of insecurity. All these complex political events in Europe became a linchpin of the establishment of the first embassy.

Therefore, this lecture will deal with topics of early encounters in Russia with American revolutionaries, Russian relations with Britain, a balance between the need for economic contacts with the reach American colonies, and concerns of political repercussions from Britain. We will also review an early Russian impression of America as recorded by the Russian diplomat, painter, and writer Pavel Svin’in who was the secretary in the first Russian diplomatic mission in Philadelphia between 1811-1813.