First published in 1955 in German, this journal, published here in English for the first time, describes the adventures of a young Swiss surgeon who sought his fortune in eighteenth-century Russia, where he eventually made his mark and rose to a high position. The journal covers his journey to Southern Russia and his service there during the campaigns of 1770-74, and gives a day-by-day account of his trip through Siberia to the Chinese borders as a surgeon assisting a recruiting officer.
Fries’ simple, straightforward and fresh narrative provides a vivid, human introduction to the little-known land and people of Siberia. In contrast to the more scientific specialist works of other eighteenth-century discoverers in Siberia, Fries’ account conveys the special lure of the country, with lively descriptions of the ordinary life of its inhabitants, of the town and countryside, of nature, people, customs and impressions.
Their travels took the two companions through all of Siberia to the very borders of China, and we gain a valuable glimpse of the relations between Russians and Chinese at the time. Along the way we also meet numerous westerners whom a strange fate had brought to this isolated, enigmatic land.
To Fries’ text is added a wide-ranging introduction by Professor Kirchner, which gives an account of the pioneering foreign scientists and tourists who travelled in Siberia during the century following the death of Peter the Great in 1725. Professor Kirchner traces the routes of their journeys, and describes the written works, some of them now classics, which ensued. The introduction thus provides an up-to-date bibliographical guide to the more elaborate and scholarly works which are supplemented by the new perspective on political and daily life in Siberia provided by the journal of Hans Jakob Fries.
Part I. Travel Accounts of Siberia, 1725-1825. 1. Bibliographies and Guides to Sources. 2. Travel Accounts before 1775. 3. Travel Accounts after 1775. 4. Hans Jakob Fries. Part II. Hans Jakob Fries’s Journey Through Siberia, 1774-1776.