On September 25, 2007 the well-known Russian Tibetanist Dr Lev Serafimovich Savitsky died.
L.Savitsky was admitted to the Department of Asian and African Studies of Leningrad State University in 1955 after his service in the navy. It was a year when the Department’s authorities decided to enroll a group of Tibetan philologists so as to determine the crisis of the discipline due to the Stalinist repressions and the Second World War. Dr V.Vorobyov-Desyatovsky was to teach them Tibetan. Unfortunately, he died abruptly in the summer of 1957. So the group was taught by Dr M.Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya (the widow of Dr V.Vorobyov-Desyatovsky) and Dr B.Kuznetsov who had studied Tibetan under Dr V.Vorobyov-Desyatovsky as his second Eastern language at the Department of Chinese Philology.
In 1960 L.Savisky came to work at the Leningrad Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies where he spent his whole working life. For more than 40 years he tried to put in order, to number, catalogue and partially, describe the huge library of Tibetan manuscripts and xylographs kept at the Institute. Moreover, Dr L.Savitsky always helped colleagues and students from both the USSR (especially from Buryatia and Kalmykia) and foreign countries in search of the texts they needed.
Dr L.Savitsky is the author of many papers and reports about the Tibetan collection of which he was in charge. Thus, in cooperation with Dr M.Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya he wrote a paper The Tibetan Fund Kept at the Leningrad Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, the Academy of Sciences of the USSR («Тибетский фонд ЛО ИВ АН СССР» // «Письменные памятники Востока». 1974. М., 1981). He studied also the history of Tibetan literature and it resulted in a number of papers such as On Some Features of Tibetan Literature from the 14th — 16th Centuries («О некоторых особенностях тибетской литературы XIV— ХVI вв.» // «Жанры и стили литератур Китая и Кореи». М., 1969), "Bka’ gdams legs bam" As a Written Monument of Tibetan Apocryphal Literature of the 15th Century («Памятник тибетской апокрифической литературы «Кадам -Легбам» (XV в.)» // «Письменные памятники Востока». 1969. М., 1972), «Tibetan Literature of the Eighteen Century» («The Tibet Journal». New Delhi, 1975. Vol. 1. N 2) and a chapter Tibetan Literature in The History of World Literature («Тибетская литература» // «История всемирной литературы», т. 7. М., 1991).
Processing the Tibetan collection of the Institute, L.Savitsky found a xylograph and a manuscript of the collections of songs by the Sixth Dalai Lama. He dedicated his PhD thesis to the study of this work (defended in 1980). In 1983 he published a monograph based on his thesis. It included an academic introduction, the first entire Russian translation, critical and facsimile edition of the whole text. (Цаньян Джамцо. «Песни, приятные для слуха». М., 1983). Moreover, Dr L.Savitsky published a catalogue of Tibetan scrolls from Dunhuang kept at the Institute («Описание тибетских свитков из Дуньхуана в собрании Института востоковедения». М., 1991). In 1975 he published a semi-popular book People and Gods of the Land of Snows. A Sketch of the history of Tibet and Her Culture (co-authored with Dr E.Kychanov). In 2006 the book was re-published.
In 1978 L.Savitsky made a long research trip to Mongolia. He also took part in some International Conferences such as those to the memory of Csoma Körösi (Hungary) and in the Center for Eurasian Cultural Studies (Japan).
For ten years L.Savitsky ran the project to compile the Tibetan collection database (in cooperation with the Asian Classics Input Project).
Dr L.Savitsky made his contribution to the development of Tibetan Studies in Russia. As a Tibetan fellow of the Institute Ngawang Khetsun put it at a funeral banquet – “he did not leave us with empty hands”.
Dr E. Kychanov
(Translated by A. Zorin; proofread by S. Wickham-Smith)
Last Updated ( 16/05/2008 )