Wojciech Sajkowski

“French Enlightenment reactions on Russian aspirations to the protectorate over Montenegro and on the story of Stephen Mali”.

In the second half of XVIIIth century Western Europe experienced an increasing interest in the customs and culture of Eastern Slavic nations. French Enlightenment, apart of  the so-called fashion for Morlacs, introduced by Alberto Fortis, also showed an interest in Montenegro, especially in the context of the war between Russia and Turkey 1668-1774. In 1770 Voltaire wrote to tsarina Catherine the Great, that he approves of an idea of using Montenegrin  soldiers against Turkish tyranny. The relations between Montenegro and Russia were interpreted in France of the second half of XVIII century as an element of crusade of enlightened tsarina against oriental despotism.

But at this time Montenegro is present in French press and correspondence also in the context of the reigns of Stiepan Mali, who was an imposter of the tsar Peter the Third. The evidence for this interest was a  brochure published in 1784, entitled Stiepan-Mali c’est à dire Etienne-Petit ou Stefano-Piccolo le Pseudo Pierre III. Empereur de Russie, qui parut dans le grand-Duché de Montenegro, situé entre la mer Egée, l’Albanie Turque & le golfe Adriatique, en 1767, 1768 & 1769. The anonymous text, possibly written by Stjepan Zanovic, was published in French.

The aim of this paper is to analyze the issue of the French Enlightenment reactions on Russian aspirations to the protectorate over Montenegro in the perspective of popularity of the story of Stiepan Mali. The analysis of above mentioned brochure, and  numerous accounts which we can find in French literature seems to show, that the extraordinary episode of Stiepan’s Mali’s reign was interpreted  as the failure of Catherines politics of protectorate over the Slavic nations.  The paper also underlines that  question of Russian politics of expansion in “European Turkey”  discovered Montenegro for  the French enlightened readers. What image of Montenegrins was represented on the marge of the press informations about pseudo Peter, and intervention of prince Prince Yuri Dolgoruki?