Michael Strogoff: The Courier of the Czar (French: Michel Strogoff) is a novel written by Jules Verne in 1876. Critics, including Leonard S. Davidow, consider it one of Verne's best books. Davidow wrote, "Jules Verne has written no better book than this, in fact it is deservedly ranked as one of the most thrilling tales ever written." Unlike some of Verne's other novels, it is not science fiction, but a scientific phenomenon (Leidenfrost effect) is a plot device. The book was later adapted to a play, by Verne himself and Adolphe d'Ennery. Incidental music to the play was written by Alexandre Artus in 1880. The book has been adapted several times for films, television and cartoon series.
First edition, 1876
|Original title||Michel Strogoff|
|Translator||Agnes Kinloch Kingston (published under her husband's name: W. H. G. Kingston)|
|Series||The Extraordinary Voyages #14|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Preceded by||The Survivors of the Chancellor|
|Followed by||Off on a Comet|
Michael Strogoff, a 30-year-old native of Omsk, is a courier for Tsar Alexander II of Russia. The Tartar Khan (prince), Feofar Khan, incites a rebellion and separates the Russian Far East from the mainland, severing telegraph lines. Rebels encircle Irkutsk, where the local governor, a brother of the Tsar, is making a last stand. Strogoff is sent to Irkutsk to warn the governor about the traitor Ivan Ogareff, a former colonel, who was once demoted and exiled and now seeks revenge against the imperial family. He intends to gain the governor's trust and then betray him to the Tartar hordes.
On his way to Irkutsk, Strogoff meets Nadia Fedor, daughter of an exiled political prisoner, Basil Fedor, who has been granted permission to join her father at his exile in Irkutsk, the English war correspondent Harry Blount of the Daily Telegraph and Alcide Jolivet, a Frenchman reporting for his 'cousin Madeleine'. Blount and Jolivet tend to follow the same route as Michael, separating and meeting again all the way through Siberia. He is supposed to travel under a false identity, posing as the pacific merchant Nicolas Korpanoff but he is discovered by the Tartars when he meets his mother in their home city of Omsk.
Michael, his mother and Nadia are eventually captured by the Tartar forces, along with thousands of other Russians, during the storming of a city in the Ob basin. The tartars do not know Strogoff by sight, but Ogareff is aware of the courier's mission and when he is told that Strogoff's mother spotted her son in the crowd and called his name, but received no reply, he understands that Strogoff is among the captured and devises a scheme to force the mother to indicate him. Strogoff is indeed caught and handed over to the Tartars, and Ogareff alleges that Michael is a spy, hoping to have him put to death in some cruel way. After opening the Koran at random, Feofar decides that Michael will be blinded as punishment in the Tartar fashion, with a gleaming hot blade. For several chapters the reader is led to believe that Michael was indeed blinded, but it transpires in fact that he was saved from this fate (his tears at his mother evaporated and saved his corneas) and was only pretending.
Eventually, Michael and Nadia escape, and travel to Irkutsk with a friendly peasant, Nicolas Pigassof. They are recaptured by the Tartars and Nicolas witnesses Nadia being raped by a tartar soldier and murders Nadia's assaulter. The Tartars then abandon Nadia and Michael and carry Nicolas away, reserving him for a greater punishment. Nadia and Michael later discover him buried up to his neck in the ground. They continue onwards where they are delayed by fire and the frozen river. However, they eventually reach Irkutsk, and warn the Tsar's brother in time of Ivan Ogareff. Nadia's father, who has been appointed commander of a suicide battalion, and later pardoned, joins them and Michael and Nadia are married.
Exact sources of Verne's quite accurate knowledge of contemporary Eastern Siberia remain disputed. One popular version connects it to the novelist's meetings with anarchist Peter Kropotkin; however, Kropotkin arrived in France after Strogoff was published. Another, more likely source, could have been Siberian businessman Mikhail Sidorov. Sidorov presented his collection of natural resources, including samples of oil and oil shales from Ukhta area, together with photographs of Ukhta oil wells, at the 1873 World Exhibition in Vienna, where he could have met Verne. Real-world oil deposits in Lake Baikal region do exist, first discovered in 1902 in Barguzin Bay and Selenge River delta, but they are nowhere near the commercial size depicted by Verne.
Verne's publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel sent the manuscript of the novel to the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev in August 1875 asking him for his comments on the accuracy of the conditions described in the book.
While the physical description of Siberia is accurate, the Tartar rebellion described is entirely fictional and rather implausible. Wars with Tartars and Mongols were a major aspect of Medieval Russian history, but the Russians gained the upper hand long before the 19th Century, and no Tartar Khan at the time of writing was in a position to act as Feofar is described as doing; depicting late 19th Century Tartars as able to face Russians on anything resembling equal terms is a manifest anachronism.
|Michael Strogoff||1914||US||Lloyd B. Carleton||Jacob P. Adler||silent|
|Michel Strogoff||1926||France / Germany||Victor Tourjansky||Ivan Mosjoukine||silent|||
|Michel Strogoff||1935||France||Jacques de Baroncelli,
|Der Kurier des Zaren||1936||Germany||Richard Eichberg||Anton Walbrook|||
|The Soldier and the Lady||1937||US||George Nicholls, Jr.||Anton Walbrook||later released as Michael Strogoff|||
|Miguel Strogoff||1943||Mexico||Miguel M Delgado||Julián Soler|||
|Michel Strogoff||1956||France, Italy, Yugoslavia||Carmine Gallone||Curd Jürgens|||
|Le Triomphe de Michel Strogoff||1961||France, Italy||Victor Tourjansky||Curd Jürgens|||
|Strogoff||1970||Bulgaria, France, Italy||Eriprando Visconti||John Phillip Law||Released in Germany as Der Kurier des Zaren and in France as Michel Strogoff|||
|Michel Strogoff||1975||Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary||Jean-Pierre Decourt||Raimund Harmstorf||4-part TV drama|||
|Michele Strogoff, il corriere dello zar||1999||Germany, France, Italy||Fabrizio Costa||Paolo Seganti|||
|Les Aventures extraordinaires de Michel Strogoff||2004||France||Bruno-René Huchez,
|Michael Strogoff||2013||Italy||episode of TV series "JV: The Extraordinary Adventures of Jules Verne"; totally divergent plot|||
In 2017 a boardgame was published the publisher Devir. The boardgame is designed by Alberto Corral and artwork is by Pedro Soto. This is a co-operative game where players race to deliver a message to the brother of the Czar, while simultaneously racing both an assassin sent to the kill that man and Tartar forces moving on Moscow. Players must help one another hold off the latter threats, while still trying to be the first to deliver that message.