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Structure of the IOM — The Department of Middle Eastern Studies Print E-mail

— The Department of Middle Eastern Studies —

The Department of Middle Eastern Studies was established in autumn 1956. Up until 1978, it was called the Iranian Department. It was headed by I.P. Petrushevsky (1956-1959), M.N. Bogolyubov (1960-1961), G.V. Shitov (1961-1963), Z.N. Vorozheikina (1963-1971) and O.F. Akimushkin (from 1971).

Scholars of the Department maintained the course of Iranian studies that was developed in the 1940s. It means they had to study a vast territory consisting of Iran, Northern Iraq, Eastern Anatolia, Southern and Northern Caucasus, some parts of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Northern India in both the ancient and mediaeval period – and in many different aspects connected with political, social and economic history, philology, textology, studies of literature, linguistics, archaeography, codicology, traditional literature, culture and religion, including Muslim mysticism. The research into the latter aspect was important due to the changes in the Muslim world occurring in the 1980s. They also studied, translated and edited texts of different peoples who inhabited the above countries. Generally speaking, the academic activities of the Department may be defined as complex historical and philological studies based on the examination of both Eastern manuscripts and printed books.

In the 1950—1980s, a major project was conducted into cataloguing the Persian, Afghan and Kurdish manuscript collections kept at the Institute. In addition to The Brief Alphabet Catalogue (published in 2 volumes in 1964; reissued by Norman Ross, N-Y., in 1998), which covered all the Persian manuscripts kept and was prepared by a group of scholars such as O.F. Akimushkin, V.V. Kushev, N.D. Miklukho-Maklai (editor), A.M. Muginov, M.A. Salakhetdinova, 12 separate descriptions of the manuscripts were published by N.D. Miklukho-Maklai (3 issues published in 1955, 1961, 1975), S.I. Baevsky (2 issues published in 1962, 1968), Kh.N. Niyazov (1979), Z.N. Vorozheikina (1980), N.N. Tumanovich (1981), V.V. Kushev (The Catalogue of Pashto Manuscripts published in 1976), M.B .Rudenko (The Catalogue of Kurdish Manuscripts published in 1961), A.N. Ragoza (The Catalogue of Sogdian Manuscript Fragments published in 1980) and O.F. Akimushkin (1993).

The processing of the Persian collection has been continued mostly by two scholars. S.R. Turkin studies scientific texts of the Mediaeval period connected with astronomy, astrology and mathematics. J.A. Ioannesyan examine Sufi texts of the previously unprocessed items of the collection.

Now a few words should be said on the most important aspects of the Department’s academic activity.

Textology (critical editions of texts, facsimile publications, translations)

1. O.I. Smirnova prepared a critical edition of the national Persian epic Shah-nameh in 3 volumes (published in 1961—1963), this project being initiated by the authorities of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

2. In 1960, J.E. Borshchevsky issued a facsimile edition of the geographic treatise Jahan Nameh by Bakran, using its manuscript kept at the Institute.

3. A group consisting of N.D. Miklukho-Maklai (editor), G.V. Shitov, O.P. Shcheglova and N.V. Eliseeva published a facsimile edition and an analytical paper of the unique treatise by Muhammad Kazim on the history of Nadir Shah (1736—1747) entitled ‘Alamara-yi Nadiri’. They used a manuscript in 3 volumes kept at the Institute, and three volumes by their own were published in 1960, 1965 and 1966.

4. In 1984, N.N. Tumanovich published a facsimile edition and her translation of Tazkirah, the fascinating memoirs by a noble man of the 19th century, Muhammad Barnabadi. A manuscript kept at the Institute was used.

5. In the 1980s, M.A. Salahetdinova prepared a facsimile edition and her translation (totaling 4 volumes) of the major source on the history of Central Asia of the Shibanid period (the 16th century) Sharaf-name-yi Shahi by Hafiz Tanish. Until now, only two volumes have been published, in 1983 and 1989.

6. In 1971, M.A. Salakhetdinova also published a facsimile edition and her translation of an extensive fragment from the historical text by Khoja Samandar Dastur al-muluk, which treated the end of the Ashtarhanid dynasty of Bukhara (the first half of the 18th century).

7. In 1974, S.I. Baevsky published a facsimile edition of the Persian-Persian dictionary from the first third of the 15th century, entitled Farhang-i Zafanguya va Jahanpuya.

8. L.P. Smirnova prepared a critical edition and translation of the Persian cosmographic text of the 13th century ‘Aja’ib al-Dunya’ by an unknown author. It was published posthumously in 1993.

9-10. O.F. Akimushkin published 2 historical treatises on the history of rulers of Eastern Turkestan of the 16th—17th centuries. These are Tarikh by Shah Mahmud Churas in Persian (published in 1976) and Tarikh-i Kashgar by an unknown author in Kashgar Turki (published in 2001). The former one was an edition of the critical text and translation, the latter one a facsimile edition of a manuscript kept at the Institute.

11-14. M.B. Rudenko published four Kurdish texts from the Late Mediaeval period such as Mam and Zin by Ahmad Khani (published in 1962), Habits and customs of Kurds by Mela Bayazidi (1963), The Story of Shaykh of San’an by Faqi-Tairan (1965) and Leyli and Majnun by Kharis Bitlisi (1965).

15. I.K. Pavlova edited a monograph by S.M. Bronevsky (from the Institute’s Archive of Orientalists) that treated the situation in the entire Caucasian region right before the first Russian-Persian war of 1804—1813. The monograph was published first in 1996, the second edition was made in 2004.

16. In 2001 A.A. Khismatulin published a facsimile edition of the beginning (4 unwans) of the classical Persian Sufi text Kimiya-yi sa’adat by Abu Khamid al-Gazali.

17. V.V. Kushev prepared a facsimile edition of Gulshan-i afghan by the Afghan poet of the 17th century Ali Akbar Orakzai. It was published posthumously in 2003.

Academic translations

Among numerous translations made by scholars of the Department, a few are worth mentioning here. First of all, two translations of texts on the history of Sistan province by L.P. Smirnova should be noted, those of Tarikh-i Sistan by an unknown author (the 11th century) and Tarikh-i ihya’ al-muluk by Malik Shah Sistani (the 17th century). The first of them was published in 1974, the second one posthumously in 2000. S.I. Baevsky and Z.N. Vorozheikina made a full translation of the famous text of the 12th century Chahar Maqala by Aruzi Samarkandi (published in 1963). In 2004 J.A. Ioannesyan published an academic translation of one of the principal books of the Baha’i religion Kitab-i Ikan by Mirza Husein-Ali Nuri Bahaullah.

Historical studies

A number of scholars at the Department have carried on the historical studies. Their most important projects are listed below.

I.P. Petrushevsky summarised his expertise on the history of agriculture, social and economic relationships, popular movements in Mediaeval Iran, in his brilliant book The Farming And Agricultural Relationships in Iran in the 13th—14th Centuries (Moscow 1960), which proved to be a table-top book for all those interested in the economics of the Near and Middle East in the Middle Ages.

V.A. Romodin studied the history of Mediaeval Central Asia and Afghanistan. In cooperation with V.M. Masson, he wrote an important monograph The History Of Afghanistan in 2 volumes (1964—1965) based upon numerous sources.

O.I. Smirnova, the expert on the history of Sogd, summarised her ideas in The Sketches On the History of Sogd (1974). She also founded a new branch in academic numismatics, i.e. Sogdian numismatics. Thus, she published The Catalogue of Coins From Pendjikent (1963) and The Synoptic Catalogue of Sogdian Coins (1981).

A.L. Troitskaya made a description of the archives of Kokand Khans kept at the Russian National Library in St Petersburg. Then, in 1969 she published a monograph on the so-called ancestral estates of khans and agricultural relationships in Central Asia in the 19th century.

N.N. Tumanovich studied both Iran and Afghanistan. Her research into the history of Persian Gulf that proved very actual was summarised in the monograph European States And the Persian Gulf. The book Gerat in the 16th—18th Centuries resumed her studies of the history of the Afghan city of Gerat.

A.I. Kolesnikov studies the history, ideology and economics (monetary management) of Late Sassanid Iran and Eastern Khalifat, and the period of transition of these territories from Zoroastrinism to Islam. He translated also the Books 4 and 5 of Denkart. His ideas were summarised in a few monographs such as that devoted to the conquest of Iran by Arabs (1982) and that devoted to the monetary politics of Iran in the 7th century (1998). His numismatic studies carry on the old academic tradition established already by the first head of the Asian Museum, acad. Ch.D. Frähn.

N.L. Luzhetskaya studies the history of Afghanistan, with a focus on the political and social history of Eastern Hindu Kush in the 19th century. Her work resulted in a monograph published in 1968. At the moment she is eager to edit and publish some archival papers on the struggle between Russia, England and Afghanistan for the predominance over Pamir.

I.K. Pavlova studied first a chronicle written at the time of reign of Shah Safi (1629-1642) from the Safavid dynasty, then she focused on the time before the first Russian-Persian war of 1804-1813. At the moment she is exploring archival documents on Russian business activities in Iran at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.


Linguistic studies were focused on various languages. Kurdish and its dialects were examined by K.K. Kurdoev (monographs The Kurdish Language and Kurdish Grammar) and I.O. Zukerman (Sketches on Kurdish Grammar). V.V. Kushev prepared a monograph The Development of Literary Afghan In the 16th—19th Centuries. J.A. Ioannesyan summarised his studies of the Gerat dialect of Dari in his paper of 1999. L.P. Smirnova wrote a monograph on the language of the text of Tarikh-i Sistan (1959) and that on the Isfahan dialect of Modern Persian (1978). The book by S.I. Baevsky The Early Persian Lexicography of the 9th—15th Centuries (1989) treats the early stages of the development of the explanatory dictionaries as a genre of Persian literature.

Studies of Persian Literature

The most important papers on both Classical and Modern Persian literature belong to Z.N. Vorozheikina. Her monograph of 1961 was dedicated to the Persian poet of the 20th century Iraj Mirza; that on 1984 to the Isfahan poetic school аnd literary life of Iran in the 12th-13th centuries.

Cultural studies and studies of Middle Eastern literature

There were two major projects at the Institute in which the Department took an active part, i.e. Cultures of the East and Manuscript Books in the Cultural History of the East. Both projects resulted in monographs (published in 1984 and 1987, respectively). Chapters by O.F. Akimushkin, Z.N. Vorozheikina and N.D. Miklukho-Maklai were contributed to the first of them. For the second, O.F. Akimushkin wrote the chapter entitled Persian Manuscript Book.

In 1980, V.V.Kushev published the first ever monograph on Afghan Manuscripts based on the examination of the Pashto collection of the Institute. Three years later, in 1983, V.A. Romodin published his own account of the cultural history of Afghanistan from the middle of the 19th century to the first third of the 20th century.

Studies of lithograph books of Iran and Persian speaking countries are also important for a better understanding of their culture. O.P. Shcheglova was the first Russian scholar to examine the phenomenon. Her studies resulted in three catalogues of 1975, 1989 and 2002 and two monographs on lithograph books made in Iran and India. At the moment, she is preparing a catalogue of the lithographs produced in Central Asia at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century (kept at different Petersburg collections).

Religious studies

Scholars of the Department studied different religions of the Persian speaking world such as Islam, including Sufism, the Baha’i religion and Zoroastrinism.

In 1980, the authorities of the Institute organizsed the Group for Islamic Studies. Scholars of the Department such as O.F. Akimushkin, A.I. Kolesnikov and V.V. Kushev joined a project entitled Islam. Encyclopedic Dictionary. The dictionary was published in 1991. Then O.F. Akimushkin and A.A. Khismatulin (from 1997) joined another project entitled Islam In the Territories Of the Former Russian Empire.

Sufi studies are carried out by J.A. Ioannesyan who published his translation of Risale-i Kudsiye by Muhammad Parsa (died 1418) and studies now the doctrine of a group of Iranian extreme Shiah (shaihiya) of the 19th century, and A.S. Khismatulin who published three monographs (1996, 1997, 1999) on various aspects of tasavuffa. In 2007, he published the second part of his translations of the classical Persian Sufi text Kimiya-yi sa’adat by Abu Khamid al-Gazali (1058-1111), the first part was published in 2001.

J.A. Ioannesyan dedicated his two other monographs to the doctrine, history, evolution and current situation of the Baha’i religion (2003). A.I. Kolesnikov treats theoretical aspects of Zoroastrinism in an academic introduction to his translation of the Books 4 and 5 of Denkart.

In 2002, The Annotated Bibliography of Russian Papers on Arabic, Iranian and Turkic Studies Issued in 1818—1917 (Academic Periodicals) by L.N.Karskaya was published. This huge edition, which consists of 571 pages and includes 7,474 titles, was a result of the enormous work devoted by L.N.Karskaya from 1964 to 1979. Its importance is hard to be exaggerate. However, it was issued just in 500 copies, hence the book became a rarity right after the publication.

O.F. Akimushkin

26 July 2005

(Translated by A.Zorin; proofread by J.Young)

Last Updated ( 22/12/2008 )

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