A catchall, this category pulls in and cocatenates all topics relevant to the East, especially because this was where the Russian archeologists believed that they could evidence a superiority to westerners, whom they considered simply treausure hunters in Russia’s imperial territories. It also includes Semiticism, and Orientalism.
This is were it all began, with antiquarians collecting coins. P. S. Savelev pressed the archeology over the numismatics in organizing the Russian Archeological Society. Coins became much more than collectors’ items, though, transforming into indicators of economic contacts and the evolution of states. By 1902 archeologists were producing maps of where different types of coins had been found.
This theme addresses the issue of Russia being something unique to the rest of Europe; it overlaps, for example, with the relationship between Greece and Scythia. And as Central Asia becomes absorbed into the empire, Eurasia becomes more important as a cultural as well as political concept. It includes “perednaia Aziia,” a combination of the southern Caucasus, or “zakavkaze,” and northern Asia Minor. The polyglot Khazars also fit here, because they lay between the two civilizations.
Kurgan is a Turkish word for “castle” that translates as “mound,” “tumulus,” or “barrow,” a reference to the particular burial method of building mounds atop pit-graves. Kurgan culture evolved from the fifth millennia BC, from the Northern Pontic and spread across Central Europe, crossing the Dnepr and moving as far as Kazakhstan, home of the Issyk Kurgan. A practice rather than an ethnicity, kurgan culture united many of the peoples who occupied what became the Russian Empire. Scythians ae perhaps the best known who followed these burial practices because of the spectacular golden items found in many of their kurgans. The most culturally advanced kurgans are complex structures with reinforced walls and numerous internal chambers, and many still lie unexcavated across the steppes.
The Mongol Conquest, circa 1240-1480. During these years, the Russian principalities were absorbed into the Qipchak Khanate, but retained a high degree of cultural and religious independence. Novgorod, for example, remained its own entity; all paid tribute to the khan in Sarai.
The ongoing absorption of Central Asia into the Russian empire, especially from the 1860s, mandated that archeologists identify the Muslim antiquities, especially on the sites along the old Silk Road. Veselovskii played the primary role in this, and the wealth there made it quite vulnerable to both thieves and forgers. This mosque was one included in his album Mosques of Samarkand (1905). ordered built by Tamerlane in 1399, by 1897 it had fallen victim to natural forces, and the cupola had collapsed.
An Orientalist and one of the first Russian archeologists to excavate in Samarkand and other points in Central Asia, Nikolai Ivanovich was one of the most productive and among the most familiar. In addition to Central Asia, he excavated in the Kuban region between the Black Sea and the Caucasus, and excavated the Maikop culture, a major find. He lectured at the Petersburg Archeological Institute, served on the IAK, and published widely. His best-known work was “Mosques of Central Asia” (1905).
Baron V. G. Tizengauzen, a Baltic German (Ernst Woldemar von Tiesenhausen), became an important Orientalist after years of petty bureaucratic jobs, necessary to earn his living. When the IAK was formed in 1859, he attained a clerkship there, and ultimately elevated himself to Associate Director, through his scholarship. The Commission dispatched him to excavate in New Russia and Crimea; he was also a numismatist. Although a member of IMAO from 1865, he resigned from it in 1889 over a dispute between Uvarova’s Society and Bobrinskii’s Commission over which one enjoyed propriety over the official assignation of permissions to excavate.
His father a celebrated painter and his mother the niece of prominent Slavophile Ivan Aksakov, Vladimir Konstantinovich became a numismatist and Orientalist, studying eastern languages, specializing in Arabic, at the Lazaervskii Institute. He held numerous positions of importance, the most important being custodian of the Armoury. At the IMAO, he held the post of secretary from 1888 and chair of the East Commission from 1911. He was also secretary of numerous Congresses, and sat on the organizing committee of all, beginning with the 7th in Iaroslavl, through the 16th in Pskov, which never came to pass.
A gifted linguist, while still at the Alexandrovskii Lyceum V. V. learned Hebrew, Persian, and Arabic, and became one of the empire’s premier Orientalists. Posted to the Asiatic Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was sent to Orenburg, where he picked up Turkic dialects. Who could better study the Golden Horde? With this set of languages, he analyzed manuscripts and coins relevant to the Crimean, Kasimov, and Kokand Khanates and was appointed to the Academy of Sciences. In 1859 he was elected secretary of the Eastern Branch of the Russian Archaeological Society , then from 1861 to 1872 he served the society as secretary. Disaster struck when Uvarov appointed him to head the organizing committee for the 2nd Congress, in Petersburg to celebrate the society’s 25th anniversary in 1871. He suffered a nervous breakdown from the work load, and never published again. In 1888 Dmitrii Tolstoi got him back on the government payroll, as chairman of the Commission to study ancient documents in the Little Russian provinces.