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Structure of the IOM — The Department of South and South Eastern Asian Studies Print E-mail
28/10/2005

— The Department of South and South Eastern Asian Studies —

In February 1956, when the Leningrad/St. Petersburg’s branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR/Russian Academy of Sciences was organised, a ‘Team of Indologists’ was formed, which was later reorganised as the ‘Indian Cabinet’, in October of the same year. The Team and the Cabinet were headed by the eminent Indologist and linguist V.M.Beskrovny. After he moved to Moscow (in 1961), the Cabinet was headed by Sanskrit scholar V.I.Kalianov (1908–2001), and after 1968, by the renowned researcher of New Indian languages G.A. Zograf (1928-1993). In 1978, the ‘Indian Cabinet’ was merged with the ‘Group of South Eastern Asian Studies’ headed by E.A.Zapadova (1938-1991). This resulted in the ‘Department of South and South Eastern Asian Studies’, with G.A. Zograf as its head. After his death in 1993, Y.V.Vassilkov was appointed head of the Department, a post he occupied until 2005. The Department has been run by M.I.Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya since 2005.

In the 1950s – 1960s, the main stream of the research of the Department was focused on New Indian languages. The team of the scholars included V.M.Beskrovny, G.A.Zograf, I.A.Svetovidova, L.A.Savelieva, B.I.Kuznetsov, K.L.Chizhikova, I.N.Smirnova, P.A.Barannikov. The sphere of linguistic research at that time was extended by the work with such unstudied languages as Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, Bengali etc., and also by the transition of research efforts from the synchronical descriptions of languages to their diachronical description. Along with purely linguistic research, work was also carried out on translating the different texts and folklore sources written in New Indian languages. Problems of literary criticism were also touched upon by this group of researchers.

The study of ancient Indian (Sanskrit) literature also continued in that period. V.I. Kalianov continued to translate Mahabharata – the work he had started before the World War II. From 1959 until 2006, S.L. Neveleva was involved in studying this ancient Indian epos. From 1967, Y.V.Vassilkov also took part in the project. Between 1957 and 1960, E.N.Temkin and V.G.Erman prepared a series of literary expositions of ancient Indian epic stories and myths. They were translated and published in several European and Asian languages. V.G.Erman also studied the history and theory of classical Sanskrit drama from 1957 to 1960. During this time, V.I.Kalianov organised the publishing of several works of Russian Sanskrit scholars from the 1930s that had remained yet unpublished.

In 1970s – 1980s, the ratios shifted between new-Indian and ancient-Indian studies at the Department. The strong team of linguists working there on the material of New Indian languages broke apart for a number of reasons. Basic linguistic work was undertaken by G.A.Zograf, who had now begun writing his main theoretical works. The main trace of his scholarly approach was the transition from the traditional comparative-historical method to a structural and typological method. His aim was to construct a general historical and typological grammar of Indo-Arian languages. Starting from 1980, and at the beginning of 1990, G.A.Zograf worked on different aspects of areal linguistics of South Asia. His contribution to the notion of a ‘linguistic area’ itself, and his elaboration of methods of its analysis, are particularly profound.

B.I.Kuznetsov worked on different aspects of new-Indian philology. The themes of his thesis and monograph were the verbal names in the Marathi language. For many years, he worked on translating the famous medieval poem Jnaneshvari by Jnandev.

N.B. Gafurova worked at the Department during the period 1969-1981 and then in 1985-1986. She studied different aspects of Kabir’s poetry.

Supported and inspired by the head of the Department, G.A.Zograf, research in the field of ancient Indian Philology (classical Indology) continued to flourish and diversify in the period of 1960-1980. So S.L.Neveleva and Y.V.Vassilkov continued to work on the project of the complete Russian translation of a grand Sanskrit epos Mahabharata. At the same time, they studied various aspects of ancient Indian epic tradition as a whole. S.L.Neveleva’s research was focused on the issues of mythology of epos, its poetics and composition (her books were published in 1975, 1979 and 1991). The works of Y.V.Vassilkov in this period were mainly focused on the issue of the genesis of Mahabharata and the correlation between its text and the oral epic tradition, connection of its motifs with ancient Indian myth, ritual and principles of archaic social organisation. At the same time, he studied the particularities of epic historicism and ways of transforming the heroic epos into the religious-didactic epopee.

T.K.Posova (1944-1997) worked at the Department from 1970. She conducted preliminary work on the preparation for publishing the Concise Catalogue of Indian Manuscripts in the Collection of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She also worked on translating the different Puranic texts and studied Hindu doctrine.

In 1968, when the Department decided to include the work of Sanskrit scholar V.I.Rudoi, who had taken his post-graduate studies at the Department of Philosophy of St. Petersburg (former Leningrad) State University, the interrupted tradition of Buddhist studies in the Institute was resumed. This tradition had been interrupted for a long time by the violent destruction of Indo-Tibetan Cabinet’s studies in the Institute during the political repressions of 1937-38. The work of V.I.Rudoi was focused on the translation and analysis of the voluminous and very important source of Indian philosophical thought - Abhidharmakosha by Vasubandhu. The sphere of his historical and philosophical studies was broadened in 1980 by the research activities of E.P.Ostrovskaja. She successfully implied the same methodology as V.I.Rudoi to the material of non-Buddhist, i.e. Hindu religious and philosophical systems. V.I.Rudoi and E.P.Ostrovskaja published a number of team works.

In 1986, an inter-departmental Group of Buddhologists was organised (headed by V.I.Rudoi) and became an independent structural division within the Institute. In 2003, it was again included in the structure of the Department.

The work of Sanskrit and Pali scholar A.V.Paribok in the period of 1979-2000 focused on the texts of southern Buddhism. In 1989, he published his translation (with exhaustive commentaries) of the important text of Pali Buddhist philosophical tradition - Questions of Milinda (Milindapanha). A.V.Paribok also worked on the translation of Jatakas and sutras of the Buddhist canon. In 2004, on the basis of the materials he had worked on during the 1980s, he successfully defended a thesis entitled Categories of Pali Verb at the Institute of Linguistics of the RAS.

T.P.Selivanova worked at the Department from 1976 to 2005. She was the only specialist in the field of Indian history in Saint Petersburg. For many years, the object of her research work was the Indian tradition of historical chronicles that had survived in Kashmir and were represented by the significant text – Rajatarangini by Kalhana and its different traditional concise sequels. In 1985, T.P.Selivanova had successfully defended her thesis Social and Economic Structure of the Medieval Kashmir (based on the materials of ”Rajatarangini”). From 2003, she started working on the two sequels of Rajatarangini - chronicles by Jonaraja and Shrivara.

M.I.Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya worked at the Department from 1979 to 1982. She is a specialist in the field of Sanskrit, Iranian and Tibetan studies, epigraphy and paleography. During this period, she worked on the preparation of the edition of the book Indian literature in Central Asia, which was recently published (together with acad. G.M. Bongard-Levin) in a series Written Monuments of the East (Pamjatniki pismennosti vostoka). This edition turned out to be the 33rd issue of the famous series Bibliotheca Buddhica, publishing of which was thus resumed after a long time. Many works of M.I.Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya, devoted to the study of various Indian texts from Middle and Central Asia, were undertaken by her while she was working at other divisions of the Institute. M.I.Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya has only been head of the Department since the beginning of 2005, when she commenced work at the Department.

As outlined above, the Department was formed in 1978 from the merger of the former Indian Cabinet and the Group of South Eastern Asian Studies. The leader of this Group, E.A.Zapadova (1938-1991) specialised mainly in the field of the modern Burmese literature (poetry and prose), studying works of such authors as P Moe Nin and others. In the last years of her life, she prepared for publication the summary work entitled The Burmese prose of the 20th century, which was published posthumously in 1992.

After that, the Group of South Eastern Asian Studies was headed by A.D.Burman for several years. Burman mainly studied the traditional culture of Burma, especially Burmese theatre and dramatic art in their relation with ritual, mythological and religious conceptions of the Burmese people. The main theme of A.D.Burman’s work in its content and methods correlated with the works of the majority of Indologists of the Department who studied classical Indian culture. Unfortunately, A.D.Burman left the Department to live abroad in 1990.

After this time, V.I.Gokhman (1948-2004) was the only representative of the Group of South Eastern Asian Studies at the Department for a long time. Gokhman combined the skills of the linguist and ethnographer. Having started as an ethnographer (his Ph.D. thesis Shans in Burma: historical and ethnographic study was defended in 1977), he undertook a series of linguistic research works, which were marked by the fundamental monograph (D.A. degree) Historical phonetics of Thai languages (1992). V.I.Gokhman’s untimely death interrupted his academic activities when he was working on the large project Historical and Etymological Dictionary of the Thai languages.

D.V. Olenev worked at the Department from 2000 to 2002. The focus of his research was the Indian system of logic and methodology Nyaya. He worked on the translation of the text Nyaya-bhashya by Vatsyayana.

M.A. Voroshilov (worked at the Department in 2002-2005) studied the texts of Kashmir Shaiva’s tradition and at the same time worked on different aspects of the traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda). Starting from 2002, he was conducting his research mainly in India and Thailand.

M.I. Petrova worked at the Department until 2007. She studied the Indian epic tradition (mainly on the basis of Ramayana epos) and at the same time worked on the theme of Russian-Siamese relations at the end of the 19th - the beginning of the 20th centuries. In 2004, she published her translation of the book: E.Hunter, N.Chakrabon: Katya and the Prince of Siam. She also started to work on her own book Russian Trace in the History of Siam (to be published in English). She is currently working on her Ph.D. thesis Religious movements of Indian Origin in Contemporary Russia at the University of Manchester (UK).

At present, the main theme of academic activity at the Department is research into the field of history and culture of India and its adjacent countries, based on the study, edition and academic translation of important texts from the region. The following themes are currently being carried on by the research fellows of the Department:

the description of manuscripts from the collection of M.M.Berezovsky (in the collection of manuscripts in the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the RAS). This is the theme of the work of M.I.Vorobyovа-Desyatovskaya. In 2004, she prepared the description of 50 fragments of Sanskrit texts from this collection. At the same time M.I.Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya continues to work together with the Japanese scholars from the International Institute of Buddhist Studies, preparing the publication of several texts from Central Asia from the Collection of the Institute;

studying philosophical and scientific texts of Hindu tradition. V.P.Ivanov (works at the Department since 1999) studies Indian philosophy and linguo-philosophy. He participated in several international conferences and seminars and published a number of articles devoted to the theme. In 2004, he successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis Theory of Sentence in Indian Linguistic Philosophy. Now he is working on the monograph Sentence Theory in Bhartrihari’s Vakyapadiya and is preparing for publishing his translation of the II book of Vakyapadiya. He has also started work on the texts of Kashmir Shaiva’s tradition;

Sufism in Indonesia (based on research of Malayan manuscripts from the Collection of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the RAS). Now it is the only theme at the Department pertaining to the studies in the region of South Eastern Asia. It is carried out by I.R.Katkova (working at the Department since 2001). In 2004, she completed her thesis Malayan Sufi manuscripts of the 18th century from the Collection of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences, devoted to the analysis of the text by sheikh ‘Abd as-Samad al-Palembani’, A Gift Addressed to those Desires of an Exposition of the Essence of the Muslim Faith. The work on the monograph was continued during her visit to Leiden University, where new materials pertaining to the theme were found. In 2004, the second stage of work on the theme Sufism in Indonesia was started. It is the translation of the Malayan manuscript Hikayat about Batara Guru from the Collection of the Institute;

cultural models of Buddhist daily life in written sources of early-medieval India. This piece of team research is being carried out by the group of Buddhist scholars (headed by V.I.Rudoi). The participants of the group are E.P.Ostrovskaya, T.V.Ermakova, S.H.Shomakhmadov. Within the framework of this project in 2004, V.I.Rudoi compiled the sources, set up the theoretical approach of the team-work, determined the set of cultural models of Buddhist daily life depicted in written sources of early medieval India and developed the technique of reconstructing the model of monastic practices. E.P.Ostrovskaia translated the eighth book of Encyclopedia of Abhidharma by Vasubandhu entitled Teaching on Samadhi. T.V.Ermakova analysed the sources and developed a technique of reconstructing models of a layman’s daily life. S.H.Shomakhmadov prepared the review of biographies of Buddhist teachers and developed the approach for studying them. Three monographs of this group are now in print (E.P.Ostrovskaya, V.I.Rudoi. Classical Buddhist practices II; E.P.Ostrovskaya, V.I.Rudoi Vasubandhu. “Encyclopedia of Abhidharma”. Book V. – ”Teaching on Affects”. Book VII. – ”Teaching on the Ways of a Noble Person”. Translation from Sanskrit, comments, introduction, study of the text; S.H.Shomakhmadov. The Concept of King’s Rule in Buddhism).

Dr J.V.Vassilkov,
Dr M.I.Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya


Translated by Dr V.P.Ivanov
Proofread by J.Young

Last Updated ( 22/04/2008 )

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