Karl Waeber's Archive Published — Facts vs Myth-making

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: Ph.D. (History)
Affiliation: Independent researcher
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Occupation: Dr.Sc. (History), Expert of the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Analysis of Society, Culture and History
Affiliation: National Research University "Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology"
Address: 141701, Moscow region, Dolgoprudny, Institutsky lane, 9
Journal nameProblemy Dalnego Vostoka
EditionIssue 5

The article is written on the occasion of the first publication in Germany in summer 2021 of a unique historical source — the family archive of the prominent Russian diplomat and orientalist Karl Ivanovich Waeber (1841-1910). The significance of this event for science can hardly be overestimated. The history of the establishment and development of official Russian-Korean relations at the end of the 19th century, as well as a number of important events in the history of Korea in the pre-colonial period, are inextricably linked with Waeber’s name. However, although historians have been writing about his professional activities for decades, very little personal information about him was known until now, and there were no his photographs at all. With the release of the book by S. Bräsel, who is privileged to find this archive, researchers for the first time got access to the Waeber family documents and a rich collection of his photographs, which were completely unknown before. The article presents an overview of these materials by Bräsel’s book, considers their authenticity, provides general information about Waeber's activities in Korea and examines some misconceptions that have developed about him in modern historiography due to the lack of reliable information and a sharp increase in interest in him in recent years. According to the authors, the objective historical evidence published by Bräsel put a barrier to the process of mythologizing Waeber's personality that began in the 2010s and is expressed, in particular, in the appearance of his imaginary “descendants” and invented images.

KeywordsRussian-Korean relations in the 19th century, Karl Waeber, family archive, historical photos, genealogy, Kojong, Russian diplomatic mission in Seoul, forgeries in science
Publication date18.10.2021
Number of characters36041
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