Long before India-Russia diplomatic ties, a Russian tsar once visited India
To commemorate the seventieth anniversary of India-Russia diplomatic relations, the IIC has put together a stunning exhibition showcasing the evolution of ties between the two countries. Curated by Dr Hari Vasudevan, the exhibits on display chronicle Russia's links with India from as early as the fourteenth century.
With Russian radiograms concerning India, pictures of Indian participation at 1920's Baku Congress, and even diplomatic communications between the two countries on display, the exhibition offers a fascinating glimpse into the India-Russia relationship. In fact, a series of innocuous looking letters mounted on one of the walls captures the almost comical urgency with which India set up its first embassy in Russia.
However, the most spectacular part of the display, is a series of sketches done by Russian orientalist and book illustrator NN Karazin, who travelled to India with Nicholas II in 1890-1891. As part of the tour, the first and only visit to India by a Tsar, Karazin traveled through various Indian cities, all the way from Jodhpur in the north to Madras in the south. In the course of his travels, he sketched many Indian sites and scenes in stunningly vivid detail.
His work, which would eventually be published in a book that aimed to depict the late imperial period to the Russian public, was instrumental in shaping the idea of India in the minds of the Russian people until at least World War 1.
As Dr. Vasudevan is quick to point out, “When we think of Russian depictions of India, we always think of (Alexey) Saltykov and (Vasily) Vereschagin, Karazin's work has rarely ever been seen. In fact, this set of sketches is never normally seen.”
Here, we've curated some of the best sketches from Karazin to give you a peek into what nineteenth century India looked like. If you'd like to see the actual display, the exhibition at IIC is on until 21 October!