Vostok

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.

Ethnography

This category largely belongs to Dmitri Anuchin and those who worked with him. Primarily an anthropologist avant la lettre, Anuchin was prominet on several faculties and societies because he understood archeology to be an assimilation of the social sciences, derived from material culture. And it also refers to Alexei Uvarov’s work with tribes, especially the Meriane and Finno-Ugric. Craniology was important, too, in first congresses. Scythia and Kurgans belong as subthemes because these also prompted questions of ethnography. Folklore also belongs here, because they understood it as ethnographic.

Kurgans

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.

Mongols

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.

Scythia

This is central to Russian identity; it provides the connection to Antiquity by its interactions with Greek traders, as it also gives Russians an historical foothold on the Black Sea littoral as they began to claim Scythian ancestory.

Saltovo Settlement

Discovered in 1900 by local school teacher-amateur archeologist V. A. Babenko, this turned out to be a fabulously rich site of Khazar culture. Khazaria, located on the Eurasian steppes circa 650-950 AD, was archeologically important to the Russian empire because, in an age when theory argued that the transition from nomads to settlements was a sign of advancing civilization, the Khazars appeared to have done just that. Babenko presented a history of Saltovo at the 12th Archeological Congress in Kharkov, but focused on its later history as an important city in Sloboda Ukraine, only to lose its status under Catherine the Great. Although Babenko had made the discovery, initially more seasoned archeologists, A. M. Pokrovskii and Praskovia Uvarova excavated the first graves, 45 in all.

Sarai

The capital of Golden Horde, founded by Batu-khan in the 1250s, near present-day Astrakhan. Moslem traveler Ibn Battuta wrote about its wide streets and beautiful bazaars in 1334. Khan Uzbek moved the capital to New Sarai in the Volgograd region circa 1350, but this city was destroyed by Timur the Great in 1395, in his war with Toktamysh.

Tsymlianskoe Settlement

Known today as two sites, distinguished by “right-bank” and “left-bank” of the Don River, near the Tsimlyanskoe settlement excavated in the 1880s was a right-bank Khazar fortress, built in the 840s, a line of defense along the Silk Road by the Khazar Khaganate. The left-bank fortification is referred to as Sarkel, also the name of a nearby village. Inside the walls were found Khazar dwellings, rich and poor alike. The dry sandy soil permitted the preservation of numerous iron objects as well as ceramics formed on a potter’s wheel, including amphoras. The fortress was attacked in the 9th century, attested to by the skeletal remains of women and children; where were the men? Religious identity is also problematic, as Khazaria had adopted Judaism. The fortress was built with technical assistance from the Byzantines, who had left behind sufficient remnants that V. B. Antonovich characterized it as “Christian” in 1884. Grand Prince of Rus’ Sviatoslav Igorevich conquered it in 965, and the white stones inspired the renaming it “White Vezha.” Prince Vladimir Monomakh used it as a garrison, but the Polovtsy ravaged it in 1117. The white-stone blocks of the fortress stood until 1744, after which the walls were dismantled and used in the construction of the Starocherkasskaya fortress.

Stone Babas

These stone statues date from the end of the 6th century until Islam conquered the Steppes in the 13th century.

Maikop Kurgan

The Maikop culture, ca. 3700 BC—3000 BC, was a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the Kuban region of Southern Russia, extending from the Taman Peninsula at the Kerch Strait to near the modern border of Dagestan.