Reviews

The quotation in the title was the main argument used by the specialist of Arabic studies Viktor Romanovich Rozen (1849-1908) when he tried in 1881 to convince N. I. Il’minskii to accept the seat that was available at the Russian Academy of Sciences after the death of linguist Boris Andreevich Dorn. According to Rozen, Il’minskii could “easily create a school of specialists of Tatar language” and participate in the development of “Russian Orientalism (p. 68).” Around this event, the four letters published here for the first time explore private and professional relationships between famous Russian scholars of Oriental studies during the second half of the nineteenth century. After a negative answer received from Il’minskii, Rozen wrote a second and disappointed letter. The third letter published here was written by economist K. S. Veselovskii, then the Secretary of the Academy of Sciences. It is question in it of high salary and residency possibilities in Petersburg, the author asking Il’minskii to reconsider his decision. But he failed and the last letter of the four letters published in this article dated was sent in 1884 by archaeologist V. G. Tizengauzen to V. V. Radlov, the Inspector of Tatar, Bashkir and Kazakh schools in the district of Kazan, who was warmly recommended by Il’minskii. In a paternalistic style, Tizengauzen asks Radlov to accept the proposition to be recruited. Radlov agreed and therefore reinforced the position of Kazan as one of the major centres of Oriental studies in Russia. During all the century a group of brilliant scholars composed the Kazan school of Oriental studies at the Academy of Sciences in Petersburg: H. D. Fren, A. O. Iartsov, A. K. Kazem-Bek, O. M. Kovalevskii and V. P. Vasil’ev. As we can notice in these letters, one specificity of “Russian Orientalism” was the transmission of both theoretical (linguistic and historical) and practical knowledge about the southern neighbours of the Tsarist Empire. The teachers of non-Russian languages were considered by the academic élite in St. Petersburg as the best specialists. The published letters reveals a second specificity of Oriental studies in Russia, viz. the prominent place devoted to Turkology.

Xavier Le Torrivellec, French-Russian Centre for Human & Social Sciences, Moscow
CER: II-1.2.A-33