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History of Mongolian Studies at the IOM Print E-mail
16/01/2006

Mongolian Studies at the IOM

The beginning of Mongolian studies in St Petersburg dates back to the period from late 18th to early 19th centuries. Initially the basis for these studies was the collection of manuscripts kept at the Asian Museum of Imperial Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Oriental Studies of St Petersburg University. The first Mongolian scholars were J.I.Schmidt (1779-1847), A.V.Popov (1808-1880) and K.F.Golstunsky (1831-1899). The period from late 19th to early 20th centuries became the “Golden Age” of Mongolian studies in Petersburg, with A.M.Pozdneev (1851-1920), V.L.Kotvich (1872-1944), A.D.Rudnev (1878-1958), B.Y.Vladimirtsov (1884-1931), N.N.Poppe (1897-1991) as the preeminent scholars.

In 1930, at the Institute of Oriental Studies the Mongolian Section was established where experts in the main fields of Mongolian studies worked till 1941. Their names are: N.N.Poppe, G.D.Sanzheev, V.A.Kazakevich, G.N.Rumyantsev, V.D.Yakimov, S.D.Dylykov, S.A.Kozin, Ts.Zh.Zhamtsarano, B.I.Pankratov, T.A.Burdukova, A.I.Vorobyova, E.P.Lebedeva, L.S.Puchkovsky.

The main tasks for the researchers were to edit and study sources on Mongolian history, to publish folk literature and to work on The Comprehensive Mongolian-Russian Dictionary. After World War 2 the compilation of the dictionary was continued under the leadership of S.A.Kozin. However, the dictionary was published only in March 2001.

In 1956, the Department of Turkic and Mongolian Studies was founded, with L.S.Puchkovsky, I.I.Iorish, T.P.Goreglyad and A.I.Vorobyova as the academic contingent. They continued the cataloguing of the Mongolian manuscripts and block-printed books, which had been started before WW2, and the research into archival documents on Mongolian studies. A small part of the manuscripts collection including texts on history, law and administrative system was described by L. S. Puchkovsky, his catalogue being published in 1957.

During the 1970s, more than 4000 Mongolian manuscripts were found during the processing of the Tibetan collection of the Institute. All of them needed cataloguing and describing. This work was started by a Hungarian scholar G.Kara who was working at the Institute in 1968-1969. In 1972, he published a monograph entitled Books of Mongolian Nomads [Книги монгольских кочевников] which was then defended by him as a PhD dissertation at the Faculty of Oriental Studies of Leningrad State University. The monograph, with some additions, was also published in English.

Dr A.G.Sazykin (1943-2005) took up the work on describing Mongolian manuscripts and block-prints. He joined the Department in 1971 and it is to him that we owe the completion of the description and cataloguing of the collection of Mongolian manuscripts and xylographs and the publication of its 3-volume catalogue. Dr A.Sazykin also described two collections else: that of the State Museum of Religions, in St Petersburg, and the one of the Tuvan Ethnological Museum “Sixty Heroes”, the city of Kyzyl. Moreover, Sazykin published some translations and studies on Mongolian manuscripts. His PhD dissertation was devoted to a Buddhist eschatological text entitled The Story of Choijid-dagini [Повесть о Чойджид-дагини], it was afterwards published as a monograph and can be seen as a masterpiece of textological study. This eschatological study was continued by the publishing of a number of other texts, such as The Story of Naranu-gerel [Повесть о Нарану-гэрэл], The Story of Gusyu Lama [Повесть о Гусю-ламе], On the Benefits of Vajracchedika [О пользе Ваджрачхедики]. Several other redactions of the same texts were then compiled in a book entitled Visions of the Buddhist Hell [Видения буддийского ада]. In addition to this, Sazykin published some more manuscripts, not so large, but of great interest, containing the instructions of Buddhist hierarchs to the community of believers: To Those Who Smoke Tobacco, Against Shamanism, Against the Expansion of Christianity. One more direction of his scholarly work was publishing texts belonging to the genre of itineraries. He collaborated a lot with Hungarian scholars and, with Dr A.Sárközi as his co-author, edited a volume of religious texts, including Manjushri-nama-samgiti and The Story of Choijid-dagini, supplied with translations from Old Mongolian and Oirat into Russian (the book was issued in 2005). He also completed the edition of the Oirat biography of Zaya Pandit, the founder of the so-called “clear script”, prepared by G.N.Rumyantsev. All in all, A.G.Sazykin edited more than thirty texs belonging to Mongol written heritage. Among his more than one hundred papers there are those on the history of Mongol literature, certain literary genres, Mongol manuscripts, and the history of Mongolian studies.

N.S.Yakhontova (at the Department of Turkic and Mongolian Studies since 1982) is another scholar who edits texts kept at the Institute. She wrote a monograph The Oirat Version of “The Story of Molon-toyn“, St Petersburg 1999; and a short paper The “Oyun tülkigür“ or “Key to Wisdom“: Text and translation based on the MSS in the Institute for Oriental Studies at St.Petersburg, published in Mongolian Studies (Bloomington),Vol. 23, 2000.

T.Y.Yevdokimova (works at the Department from 1981) focusens on the didactic treatise representing popular Buddhism, The Shastra Entitled “The Bunch of White Lotuses” , which is kept at the IOM in various redactions in both Tibetan and Mongol.

V.L.Uspensky (worked at the Department from 1984 till 2007) ran the cataloguing work. In 1994-96 and 2002-05, he took part in the project of the compilation of computer data base of the IOM’s Tibetan library. He compiled and published in English a catalogue of the Mongolian manuscripts and xylographs kept at the academic library of St Petersburg University (Токио, 1999—2000 in 2 vols; 2001 as 1 vol). This is one of the best collections of Mongol old books worldwide and the best one in Russia. V.L.Uspensky wrote also a book about the Manchu Prince Yunli who was a leading expert in Tibetan Buddhism and himself wrote some Buddhist treatises in Mongol (published in Japan in 1997, in English).

In 1966, I.I.Iorish published the first volume of the description of archival documents relating to the history, law and economics of Mongol peoples, The Documents on the Mongols, Kalmucks, Buryats, Kept at the Leningrad Archives [Материалы о монголах, калмыках и бурятах в архивах Ленинграда]. I.Iorish also carried on the research into the history of Russian Mongol studies. Thus, he published an account of works by Leningrad Mongolists on the history of Mongolia, a short paper and an uncompleted monograph about A.M.Pozdneev, a preeminent scholar from the 19th century, and a chapter on the history of Mongol studies prepared for the special book dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the Asiatic Museum.

Among the major academic interests of I.V.Kulganek (at the Department since 1977) is the history of Mongol studies. She editedThe Diaries of Ts. Jamtsaran of 1903—1906, along with her Buryat colleagues such as Ts.P. Vanchikova and V.Ts. Lyksokova (published in Ulan-Ude 2001); The Diaries of A. Kondratiev, a Participant of the P.K. Kozlov Expedition of 1923—1926, ed. along with D.D. Vassiliev (punlished in Moscow 2000); Russia-Mongolia-China: The Diary of the Mongolist O.M.Kovalevsky. 1830-1831, ed. along with R.M.Valeev (published in Kazan 2006); The Life and Academic Activities of S.A.Kondratyev (1896-1970): in Mongolia and in Russia, ed. along with V.Zhukov (St Petersburg 2006); and wrote more than 20 papers on the personal archives of Mongolian scholars such as O.M.Kovalevsky, A.M.Pozdneev, A.V.Burdukov, T.A.Burdukova, G.D.Sanzheev, the Buryat scholar from the early 20th century Agvan Dorjiev, and on various archival documents concerning Buryats and Kalmucks. To the same area belongs also a paper by N.S.Yakhontova on the history of the study of Mongol Secret History in Russia and the USSR.

Folklore of Mongol peoples is another principal object of I.V.Kulganek’s studies. Her PhD dissertation Poetics of Mongol Folk Songs [Поэтика монгольских народных песен] and the monograph, based upon it, The World of Mongolian Folk Songs [Мир монгольских народных песен], treat traditional songs of Mongols. In 2000, The Catalogue of Folk Materials Kept at the Archives of the Orientalists at the St Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, the RAS [Каталог фольклорных материалов Архива востоковедов при СПбФ ИВ РАН] was published. She wrote a number of papers on Mongolian folk literature, manuscripts containing pieces of Mongolian folklore kept at the IOM’s manuscripts collection, and relating documents from the Archives of the Orientalists at the IOM. In these papers she considered some principal subjects such as genres of Mongol folk literature, poetics of folk songs, pieces of folk poetry composed by children, culture of folk humor, history of translation of religious literature, theory of translation of literary texts. Theoretical developments are realized also in practice as literary and poetical translations from Mongolian, some of which were published while the others are used for the special course, Mongolian Folklore, delivered at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, St Petersburg University.

Linguistic studies are represented with a monograph on the Oirat language and a number of papers on various subjects by N.S.Yakhontova.

From 1994, the Mongolists of the Department edits their own periodical, Mongolica (editorial board includes S.G. Klyashtornyj, I.V.Kulganek, N.S.Yakhontova). By now, eight issues have been published. Each of them was dedicated to a common theme or memorable date. К настоящему времени вышел шестой его выпуск. Каждый из них посвящен какой-либо сквозной теме, или памятной дате. Thus, the third one was entitled The Archives of Russian Mongolists from the 19th and 20th Centuries, the fourth was dedicated to the 90th birthday of Tc.Damdinsuren, the fifth was in memory of Dr K. Golstunskiy (on the occasion of the centenary of his death), the sixth was devoted to the 150th birthday of Dr A.Pozdneyev, the seventh to the 100th anniversary of D.Natsagdorj, the eighth to the 190th anniversary of the Asiatic Museum. It has several heads such as From the Manuscripts Heritage, From the Archives of the Orientalists, Our Translations, and Reviews.

In 2000, the Department organized the conference Documents on the Mongolian and Turkic Peoples Kept at the Russian Archives [Материалы о монгольских и тюркских народах в архивах России], and its proceedings were subsequently published as a book.

An essential part of the academic activities of all the Institute’s Mongolists is their involvement in various conferences held at the Institute, in Russia, or abroad. Every year, a ten papers are delivered in Russian, English, or Mongolian. The Department keeps academic contacts with both Russian regional Mongolist centers such as those from Kalmykia, Buryatia, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan), and foreign ones such as those from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, China, Hungary, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Finland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the USA, Australia, and Japan.

Activities aimed at the widening of academic contacts between Russian and Mongolian colleagues, participation in joint conferences, expeditions and other academic events remain among priorities for the Department’s scholars. They carried out a number of trainings and long academic trips to Mongolia for the accumulation of data for their monographs, practicing Spoken language, learning achievements of Mongolian colleagues and presenting them those of Russian scholars.

Every year the Institute’s Mongolists supervise students of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, St Petersburg State Universities, who have to write their qualification papers and MA theses.

The IOM’s Mongolists keep constant academic contacts with foreign colleagues. It was mentioned that in early 1970s G.Kara, a well-known Hungarian scholars, worked at the Institute for 3 years. The academician of Mongolian Academy of Sciences Ts. Damdinsüren was also a fellow of the Department and prepared here his monograph Ramayana in Mongolia [Рамаяна в Монголии]. It is worth mentioning that in the 1950s the Institute of Oriental Studies published another book by Ts.Damdinsüren, The Historical Roots of Gesar Epic [Исторические корни Гесериады]. Ts.Damdinsüren was followed by his younger Mongolian colleague, D. Yondon, later the head of the Institute of Language and Literature, the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. While working at the Institute in 1981-84, he wrote and defended his Habilitation dissertation published as a monograph Fairy Tale Motifs in Tibetan and Mongolian Literatures [Сказочные сюжеты в памятниках тибетской и монгольской литератур] (Moscow 1987). At the Department there worked some other researchers from Mongolia such as B.Rinchen, L.Bold, Kh.Sampildendev, J.Enebish, Sh.Bira, Ch.Biligsaikhan, Olziibayar, R.Otgonbaatar, Ch.Dashdava, D.Bayar, D.Nansalma, Ts.Saraltsatsral, D.Erdenbaatar, N.Khishigt; and from China such as Ardajav, Zhao Zikui, Bulag (Bao Ligao), T.Jamtso, B.Davagva, U.Setsenmunkh, Jalfunga, Damrinzhav, Ayurjav, etc., and Mongolists from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Germany.

All the current or recent Mongolists of the Institute such as N.S.Yakhontova, T.Y.Yedvokimova, I.V.Kulganek, V.L.Uspensky and A.G.Sazykin were once doctoral students at the Institute. A dozen scholars from various Russian academic centers wrote or discussed their PhD and Habilitation dissertations at the Department of Turkic and Mongolian Studies of the IOM. Among them there are some respected academics such as N.O.Sharakshinova, D.A.Alekseev, Ts.D.Nominkhanov, E.R.Rygdylon, T.A.Bertagaev. Among recent doctoral students we should mention the names of K.V.Orlova, senior researcher at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies (supervised by A.G.Sazykin), I.V.Manevskaya, researcher at the University of Manchester (supervised by I.V.Kulganek), D.N.Murzaeva, head of the Manuscripts Department at the Kalmykian Institute for Humanities, Elista (supervised by V.L.Uspensky), B.S.Zadvaev, researcher at the Kalmykian Institute for Humanities, Elista (supervised by S.G.Klyashtornij).

Dr N.S.Yakhontova, Dr I.V.Kulganek

Translated by A.Zorin, M.Rogacheva; proofread by S.Wickham-Smith

Last Updated ( 16/03/2009 )

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