Cathi Szulinski did a lot of research and wrote up her findings:

This extraordinary story was brought to my attention by an intriguing footnote. It told me only that four young Russian men had been sent to England by Tsar Boris to learn English, but that the Time of Troubles had prevented their return.
What initially intrigued me about this remarkable early foreign-exchange project were the individual stories. If the young men had not returned to Russia, then what had become of them? I decided to try to find out. The quest has led to some surprising places. …

It’s long, but if you have any interest in 17th-century England, well worth your attention. (I found it in an annotation at Pepys’ Diary.)


  1. How very interesting. I’ve never heard anything like it. I wonder how she researched it; she doesn’t go into the details of that or show any footnotes. It sounded as if someone had traced the history of the Lübeck students too.
    The poor Man thus Ejected out of his House, built an Hutt, or Booth, over against the Parsonage-House, in the Street, under the trees growing in the Verge of the Church yard, and there liv’d for a Week with his Family.
    Poor old Alpherys. But is that how hut was pronounced in the 17th century?

  2. dearieme says:

    Perhaps people should write up – in the sense of write down – their experiences of the Red Chinese scholars allowed out of China in (wasn’t it?) the 70s, and their reactions to their new surroundings. Else it will all be forgotten. Ditto for scholars from behind the Iron Curtain.

  3. Charles Perry says:

    I like the fact that the expedition to China luckily carried a letter of introduction in Greek. Never again let anybody tell you Classical studies are worthless.
    That would be a letter from Elizabeth I, not Mary I, of course.

  4. dearieme says:

    “That would be a letter from Elizabeth I, not Mary I, of course.” What, in 1553?

  5. Charles Perry says:

    Sorry, I always block her out. Protestant upbringing.

  6. What a fascinating story, from a fascinating time. When we got to Pulo Run, I knew I had been there before, on the Dutch side of the story, and I couldn’t recall what the English had traded Pulo Run for. Surprise! What if they had decided that nutmeg was more important!
    Not that I would have survived long in that age of disease.

  7. But what annotation in Pepys are you referring to?

  8. I have several things by the first Chinese to come to America to study. Some are in Mirsky’s “The Great Chinese Travelers”.
    The thing I remember is one of them saying something to the effect that Americans are pure of heart, like Chinese in the early pre-civilization stages. The Song ambassadors said the same about the Mongols.

  9. It wasn’t till I ran the Russian writeup pointed to at the bottom of Szulinski’s writeup through Google Translate that I learned that Mekepher/Mikifor is Russian for Nikephoros.

  10. I was slightly surprised at that Mekepher, having thought that the initial N>M shift belonged in Czech and Ukrainian while Russian and Bulgarian had kept true to the Greek source in keeping the N. At least at the surname level, Nikiforov is far more common than Mikiforov.
    The story of the two Russians (one of them a Khazarin though, whatever that meant) in Indonesia sounds completely new to me. Not so the story of Mekepher, which I think has been known for a while.

  11. Thanks, Hat. The Pepys annotation led me to the Atlas of Mutual Heritage. Good stuff!
    I am reminded that the Dutch-English Wars are a blank spot in my knowledge worth pursuing.
    Also reminded of the pleasures of Pepys.
    Could Cassarian have had Khazar heritage?

  12. For the eighteenth-century version of this (which is a more boring story, I’m afraid), see A. G. Cross, Russians on the Banks of the Thames.

  13. what a fascinating story! thanks for picking it up, LH. I missed the footnote, concentrating on the argument with my wife on whether Pepys bookshelves were indeed the first case of custom built library…

  14. marie-lucie says:

    whether Pepys bookshelves were indeed the first case of custom built library…
    It is most unlikely. In the old days, most pieces of furniture were designed and built to order for (and sometimes in) the room they would be in, even if they could be dismantled in case the owners needed to move them somewhere else.

  15. Michelangelo did a nice line in immovable .

  16. … immovable library steps

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