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Marianna Ivanovna

Doctor of Sciences (equiv. Habilitation) - Philology
(15.10.1930 — 29.10.1999)
Marianna I. Nikitina (Mara Kudryashova) was born in Leningrad (former name of Saint Petersburg). She had left Leningrad for an extended time just once, in her child-hood, when during the World War II she was taken to Volga region where her relatives had been living. Mara was the eldest child in the family, and she had a younger brother and a younger sister. Having returned to Leningrad after the war, the Kudryashov family settled in one of the two-storey wooden buildings which had been located close to the Finland Railway Station. In 1947 Marianna finished high-school for girls and entered the Korean Department of the Faculty for Oriental and African Studies, Leningrad University.

The Korean Department had been opened at the Faculty of Oriental and African Studies in 1947 when after some time Korean Studies was renewed at the University. Mara Kudryashova was one of the students of the first Korean Studies group. At the time there were no dictionaries, text-books or translations of Korean literature. Knowledge on Korea was limited, but the head of Korean Studies, professor Alexander A. Kholodovich, taught the students everything he knew himself. Every task of translation led the students to the dormitory where the students from the Korean People’s Democratic Republic who had been coming to Leningrad since the end of the 1940’s were living. This practice resulted in the dictionary which Mara prepared through consulting with Koreans. This fact illustrates how she had always passed the examination which professor Kholodovich had used to set for the students leaving them “to swim without assistance” and valuing those who “reach the coast by themelves”.

We knew nothing about the Korean literature, and there was no one to tell us about it. So professor Kholodovich gave us a task to translate a Korean literature text or Korean research paper on Korean literature history which he had found. Mara Kudryashova started learning the Korean literature from Lee Giyeong’s “Land” followed by the Korean traditional poetry genre sijo during the Ph.D. course (this research work was granted the Ph.D. academic degree in 1962).

Studying at the Ph.D. course Marianna Nikitina had already started teaching a new generation of students, as there was a need to prepare a course on the History of Korean Literature. By the time there were a few books from the KPDR for our use. So the two of us gathered all the scarce knowledge of ours and prepared the first History of Korean Literature course which still had much to be desired. I still preserve the first notes on the course which remind me of the long evenings we spent with the typing machine at Marianna’s house.

Three years of the Ph.D. course was the period of the first meeting with works of Korean Literature. This was also the time when Marianna Nikitina made her first steps as a literature translator. Thus, she translated the Hong Kildong-jeon for the Korean Traditional Prose Collection which was published in Russia for the first time in 1954. At the same time Marianna Nikitina continued her research on sijo as well as prepared literary translations of sijo for prominent Russian poet Anna A. Akhmatova whose name was put on the cover of the first Korean traditional poetry collection (1956).

In the 1950s Russia had been “discovering” Korea, so this was also the time of great interest to the Korean literature translations. Marianna Nikitina worked together with Leningrad poet Alexander Gitovich on translations of Korean Poetry of the 1920s which had been published in literature journals. In Vostochnyi Almamakh journal she published a paper on the rhyme in sijo (1958). This paper was an academic discovery as no one had examined this problem before.

In 1957 Marianna Nikitina became a researcher in the Institute for Oriental Studies. This helped her open the world of Korean block-prints, and manuscripts. She actually learned to read Korean and to tell apart different hand-writings. In three years she made the first presentation on the manuscript of the novel The Happy Reunion of Two Bracelets at the International Congress of Orientalists in Moscow. In 1962 the work on the manuscript was published: this is a faximilie of the text and a translation of the first book of the novel. M. Nikitina prepared a translation of another book also, but it has never been published.

Working at the Institute for Oriental Studies Marianna Nikitina continued reading lectures at Leningrad University and supervised students’ research works. In the process of studying Korean manuscripts and block-prints, and preparing the lectures a special methodology of studying Korean literature was worked out: a literature phenomenon is described beyond its relation with the world literature process or genre and periodization frame-work set in traditional literature studies. Thus, each work or genre is examined “from the inside” as a phenomenon of this given culture. This method was used in the book Sketches on History of Korean Literature Before the 14th Century (1969) containing chapters on Buddhist biographies and ancient poetry hyanga, as well as in the research paper “Periodization of Korean Medieval Literature” (1968). The traditional literature periodization principles offered in this paper later served the basis for the chapters on Korean Literature in History of World Literature Encyclopedia (volumes 2-5, 1984-1988).

Studying manuscripts and writing research papers on the literature history did not lead Marianna Nikitina away from her main academic interest, i.e. Korean vernacular poetry. Marianna Nikitina prepared a monograph on the sijo poetical genre in which she tried to answer the following question: why it is much more difficult for a Korean to compose a sijo rather than a poem in Chinese. Her research is on the problem of reconstruction of the picture of the world characteristic for classical sijo. This book had not left the publishing house for over ten years. When the book finally was published Marianna made a prophetic inscription on the book which she presented to me: “What is the most important in our activity is to be still alive (when the book is published)”. The last among major works by Marianna Nikitina which is on the Sun-Female Myth was published after her death.

Studying traditional poetry genres lead Marianna Nikitina to the necessity of finding the sources of Korean culture. Examining ancient poetical texts of hyanga Marianna Nikitina reconstructed the basic myths and related rituals. This resulted in the unique research on the basis of Korean culture – a monograph Ancient Korean poetry in relation with ritual and myth and the Habilitation dissertation on this problem (1982). No one in Korean studies in the world has ever made any research like this.

Marianna Nikitina continued her research, and analyzed Korean mythological texts using materials from Japan and China. This allowed her get close to examining the sources of the whole Far Eastern region. Marianna Nikitina could not finish her work. The book was designed and published by her husband Valentin P.Nikitin in 2001 (Myths about Sun-Female and its Satellites in Ritual Tradition of Old Korea and Neighboring Countries).

Research works by Marianna Nikitina were highly evaluated by her foreign colleagues. She regularly presented the results of her research at various conferences on Oriental Literature Studies that were organized in Eastern Europe in the 1970s. Since 1984 we had opportunities to take a part in the conferences of Association of Korean Studies in Europe (AKSE). At these conferences the colleagues from the Western Europe highly estimated her works in the field of Korean mythology right away. Marianna Nikitina gave lectures at the Berlin University, her research works were published in various publications abroad. At the end of her life Marianna Nikitina could visit the “two Koreas” - North and South Korea, where she made presentations at Conferences and Seminars, worked in university libraries, and was getting to know the country.

Along with large research activity Marianna Nikitina worked on literature translations, wrote papers on Korean literature for a wide readers’ audience, and also paid a lot of time to bringing up a younger generation. She brought up three Ph.D. students – specialists in modern Korean poetry (Lyudmila V. Galkina), traditional poetry in Chinese (Larisa V. Zhdanova), and Korean Sources of the 15-15 cc. (Sonja Haussler) who have been teaching and making research in Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Berlin. Under her guidance the work of the student seminar at the Center for Korean Language and Culture in Saint Petersburg University was organized. Owing to her personal academic relations with colleagues abroad and foreign foundations supporting Korean studies scholars, the library of the institute for Oriental Studies was enriched by many works by Korean and western scholars in the field of literature, language, history and ethnography of Korea.

We may talk over and over on the role of Marianna Nikitina in studying Korea as she stood at the very beginning of it and was the founder of it in the full meaning of the word. Marianna Nikitina was a student of the group that became the first graduates of Leningrad Koreanists. A systematic studying of Korean literature and culture in Russia relates to these particular graduates. We were the “childhood” and the “youth” of Korean Studies in Russia, and Mara, who was also a witty and wise person had always been with us. This is what Marianna’s colleague and friend from Sweden said about her: “Indeed, it is part of both an epoch and a fine school that passes along with her”.

Dr Adelaida F. Trotsevich

Tr. by A.Guryeva; proofread by S.Wickham-Smith

Publications ( the entire list as a *.pdf file)


Никитина М.И. Миф о Женщине-Солнце и ее родителях и его «спутники» в ритуальной традиции древней Кореи и соседних стран / Составитель и редактор В. П. Никитин. СПб.: «Петербургское Востоковедение», 2001. 560 с. («Мифы, эпос, религии Востока. Bibliotheca Universalia»).


Nikitina M. The St. Petersburg Collection of Drawings by Korean Artist Kim Jungyn (Kisan) // Manuscripta Orientalia. International Journal for Oriental Manuscript Research. Vol. 2, No 3, September 1996. P. 54-68.


Nikitina M.I. The sijo genre in Korean poetry from the 16th to the 19th century [Корейская поэзия XVI-XIX вв. в жанре сиджо]. St Petersburg, Peterburgskoe Vostokovedenie Publishers, 1994. 308 pp.


Nikitina M.I. Ancient Korean poetry in connection with ritual and myth [Древняя корейская поэзия в связи с ритуалом и мифом]. Moscow: Nauka Publishers 1982. 328 pp.


Азиатский музей - Ленинградское отделение Института востоковедения АН СССР / Редакционная коллегия: А.П.Базиянц, Д.Е.Бертельс (отв. секретарь), Б.Г.Гафуров, А.Н.Кононов (председатель), Е.И.Кычанов, И.М.Оранский, Ю.А.Петросян, Э.Н.Тёмкин, О.Л.Фишман, А.Б.Халидов, И.Ш.Шифман. М.: «Наука», 1972.


Троцевич А.Ф., Никитина М.И. Корейский роман «Удивительное соединение двух браслетов» // Труды Двадцать пятого Международного Конгресса востоковедов. Москва: 9-16 августа 1960 г. Том V. Заседания секций XVI-XX. М.: ИВЛ, 1963.

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