1881, Tiflis, 5th
The “father of Russian archeology,” Alexei Sergeevich was being educated by his father, the Minister of Education and President of the Academy of Sciences, for a diplomatic posting. Scions of the Razumovskii family, a favorite of Tsaritsa Elizabeth I, the Uvarovs had all the necessary social connections. All Alexei needed was one visit to Pompeii, and he switched careers immediately. An avid numismatist, he wanted to collect more artefacts than just the coins. A founding member of the Russian Archeological Association in St. Petersburg, following a break with Sergei Stroganov of the IAK, he moved to Moscow and formed a rival society. It was Uvarov’s Moscow-based Society that organized the 15 successful archeological congresses, the only sustained academic symposia in Imperial Russia.
One of the founding members of IMAO, Filimonov enjoyed the leisure of his noble background to educate himself in many aspects of archeology. In 1867 he was sent to Paris to manage the display of Russian antiquities at the International Exposition, and he also worked on the Ethnographic Exhibition in Moscow in 1879. A curator at both Moscow’s Armoury and the Rumiantsev Museum, the Imperial Society of Lovers of Natural Sciences, Anthropology,and Ethnography dispatched him to both Crimea and then the Caucasus to oversee excavations.
Coincidentally, the small town in which Antonovich was born, Makhnovka, had been the property of the Tyshkevich family (of Vilna archeological fame) in the 15th century. His parentage was unconventional: though he was registered as nobility, when in fact, he was the bastard son of a Hungarian emigrant revolutionary, but carried his mother’s married name; she had been the governess in the home of a wealthy Polish shlakht (nobleman), and married the male teacher, Bontifatie Antonovich. A Catholic who converted to Orthodoxy, he is considered today a founder of Ukrainian independence, but he’s more complicated than that because he appears to have supported Little Russia as a unique culture within the larger complex of the empire. His personal life was as nearly complicated as his mother’s; married, he nonetheless carried on an affair with a student, Katerina Melnik, from the 1880s until they married in 1902.