The importance of Patrick Gordon’s diary for our understanding of late seventeenth-century Russia has long been recognised. N. G. Ustrialov wrote in 1858 that it ‘yields to no decree in its reliability’, while M. N. Tikhomirov made the comment in 1940 that for the reign of Peter the Great it is ‘a particularly outstanding source’. Yet there has never been a full edition in the original English. A nearly complete but unsatisfactory version was published in German in three volumes from 1849 to 1852. Passages from the diary mainly concerned with its author’s British connections and either transcribed from the original or translated back from Posselt’s translation were published by the Spalding Club in Aberdeen in 1859.
More recently, I. G. Tishin, director of the Military Historical Archive in which the manuscript is kept, declared in 1969 that ‘a full translation of the diary into Russian would help historians to use it more fully in the interests of learning’, while Professor S. Konovalov of Oxford University, who located and published some of Gordon’s other papers, expressed the hope in 1967 that ‘a co-ordinated effort, if necessary on an international scale’ would produce ‘a complete and reliable edition’ of the diary. Tishin’s wish is being realised by Dr. D. G. Fedosov of the Institute of General History, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Three volumes of a projected six have already been published, and a fourth is ready for publication. This translation is of high quality and accompanied by introduction and notes. The time is now ripe for the fulfilment of the hopes of Konovalov regarding the original English-language text.
The diary is in six volumes:
- Volume 1, 1635-59. From early years in North-East Scotland to first military experience in Polish and Swedish service.
- Volume 2, 1659-67. Entry into Russian service, and visit to London.
- Volume 3, 1677-78. Service in Moscow, Defence of Chigirin
- Volume 4, 1684-90. Visit to London, assistance to Peter in overthrow of Regent Sophia
- Volume 5, 1690-95. Naval manoeuvres in White Sea, first siege of Azov
- Volume 6, 1695-98. Second siege of Azov, suppression of revolt against Peter.
Two or more volumes, on the years 1667-76 and 1678-83, are missing.
Volume 1 is scheduled for publication in English in 2009.