The Russian military stands out for the tremendous amount of experts in Eastern affairs that it produced over the nineteenth century. This book is a bio-bibliographical lexicon of Russian military Orientalists in a very broad sense. On the one hand, it includes officers who enjoyed some kind of training in Oriental languages (at the Asian Department of the Foreign Ministry, the Tashkent Officer School for Oriental Languages, at the Officer Section of the Oriental Institute in Vladivostok, but also at the Lazarev Institute in Moscow and other institutions). On the other hand, it also comprises officers who had no formal training in Oriental studies but acquired respective skills while on duty in the East. These men served as administrators in places like Orenburg, Tashkent, or Tiflis; as military agents in the Ottoman Empire, Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Manchuria, China, Korea, or Japan; or as soldiers in the Caucasian and other wars. They carried out diplomatic missions, or secret military reconnaissance behind the enemy lines; or they took part in geographical, ethnographical, archaeological or other expeditions to explore Russia’s East and the adjacent countries. Taken together, they produced an impressing amount of specialised as well as popular literature on the regions they got acquainted with.
Of special delight are of course biographies of military undercover agents, like Borzhimskii, who spied in Mongolia in the disguise of a merchant, or Davletshin, who visited Arabia as a Mecca pilgrim. More fundamental literature was produced by military Orientalists with philological interests. Still quoted in our days are Dubrovin and Potto, two popular historians of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus (the latter headed the military historical section in Tiflis); major general Lykoshin, who, during his tenure in Tashkent, translated into Russian the Persian-language History of Bukhara by Narshakhi as well as a Sufi treatise and Turkic poems ascribed to Ahmad Yasawi; Nalivkin, another high-ranking officer in the military administration of Turkistan, whose 800 publications include various language manuals as well as a history of Kokand that was later translated into French; Grodekov, who, as governor general of Turkistan, translated an English edition of the Hanafi manual al-Hidaya into Russian; as well as general lieutenant Boguslavskii, who embarked upon a Russian translation of the Qur’an that found huge respect among the Russian academics. General Major Tumanskii, known as a specialist on the Babis, translated not only the Kitab-i aqdas but also Abu’l-Ghazi’s History of the Turks and other Oriental works, and he discovered the manuscript of Hudud al-‘alam (which was later translated by Minorskii). Similarly, major general Kallaur discovered Turkic Runic inscriptions in the Talas Valley, and made them known to the Russian academics. Another major general, Kastal’skii, is worth mentioning for his efforts in the reconstruction of Ulugh Beg’s astronomical observatory in Samarqand (in 1932), and colonel Sitniakovskii for his genealogical tables of the Qungrad dynasty and his description of the mausoleum of Baha’ al-Din Naqshband. Besides an enormous quantity of works on geography and natural sciences (two glaciers were named after the explorer Colonel N.L. Korzhenevskii, while Major General Przheval’skii is still famous for his horse), Russian militaries also produced valuable ethnographical surveys (like general lieutenant F. F. Tornau on the Circassians, and shtabs-rotmistr Chokan Valikhanov on the Kazakhs and Uighurs). Three officers, Boguslavskii, Runovskii, and Przheslavskii, worked as military attendants (pristavs) to Imam Shamil during his captivity in Russia, producing valuable accounts of their conversations with the famous prisoner; Colonel Przheslavskii also translated Muhammad-Tahir al-Qarakhi’s Arabic chronicle of the North Caucasian Imamate into Russian.
While serving in Central Asia and elsewhere, many officers built up significant collections of artwork (esp. carpets), coins, and manuscripts, most of which later went into Russian museums and libraries. In addition, several officers excelled in painting the Orient (e.g. Zatsepin and Karazin) or in photography (Barshchevskii). Some were themselves involved in the establishment of local museums and in “bringing Orientalism home” through exhibitions. While many officers taught Oriental languages at army and non-military schools, Lomakin even founded a private language school in Tashkent.
The lexicon also includes some famous military administrators who acted as patrons of Orientalists, like the military governor of Turkistan, von Kaufman (whose cultural efforts in the field of “gathering” and “enlightening” the Orient were however discontinued by his successor, Cherniaev) and Perovskii, the military governor of Orenburg who fostered Russian colonisation in the Steppe. General Ermolov is just included for his diplomatic embassy to the Persian court as well as for his Caucasian diaries, whereas Kuropatkin, later minister of war, is of note because he produced military manuals on “Alzhiriia” (he once accompanied a French expedition into the Sahara), “Kashgariia” (where he fulfilled a diplomatic mission to Ya‘qub Bek) and “Turkmeniia” (where he headed the Transcaspian region); later he was instrumental in the establishment of the Tashkent Officers’ School for Oriental Languages. Another military administrator directly involved in the production of Orientalist knowledge was A. V. Komarov, head of the “Military-Popular Administration” in the Caucasus and later of the Transcaspian region: he wrote some interesting ethnographic work on Dagestani customary law, and chaired an archaeological congress in Tiflis. Also worth mentioning is General Lieutenant K.-G.-E. Mannerheim, who, while gathering military information in China and Tibet, also conducted craniometrical studies for the Finno-Ugric Scientific Society. He later became regent and then (1944-1946) President of Finland, and his huge ethnographical, archaeological and numismatic collections are still preserved in Helsinki.
While the work confines itself to Orientalists educated in Imperial Russia, it also gives some valuable information on the revolutionary period and the early Soviet era. Not surprisingly, a huge number of Orientalist officers opposed the Socialists and Bolsheviks, and joined the White forces during the Civil War in Russia. The foremost case to note is that of General L. G. Kornilov, the famous commander of the Russian Imperial army who failed in his attempt to dispose Kerenskii in 1917; in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries he repeatedly travelled on secret military missions to the East, and produced books and articles on Eastern Turkistan, Afghanistan, India, and China. After fleeing from Russia, many “White” Orientalists continued their military careers abroad: Major General Burov, who investigated Northern Afghanistan, became head of a Russian Military school in Gallipoli (Turkey) in 1920; Major General Grudzinskii served in a Russian Cadets’ school in Yugoslavia; General Lieutenant Grombchevskii taught geography in the Polish army; and Gregori, author of military manuals, later became instructor of artillery in Manchuria. Some “Orientalists” became involved in émigré officers’ societies in Prague and elsewhere, and the Don-Ataman Krasnov, author of a number of novels with Oriental motives, even tried to build up a Cossack regiment for the German Wehrmacht. Less warlike, former General Lieutenant Maslovskii found work as a technician in a French automobile factory and later headed an Orthodox library in Nice, while Polovtsov, who, in 1907, had gathered military intelligence in India, was eventually employed in a casino in Monte Carlo.
On the other side of the Civil War frontline, some Imperial military Orientalists went over to the Bolsheviks, who were in need of military and Orientalist specialists. Here the first to note is A. E. Snesarev, who was given command of an entire Soviet army and also served as head of the General Staff’s Academy before becoming director of the Institute for Oriental Studies in Moscow (1921-1930); he was briefly sent to the Gulag camps in 1934 and died soon after. Less conspicuously, former Major General Kozlov continued his archaeological work under the Soviets, while colonel Iagello, still remembered today for his Persian-Arabic-Russian dictionary, taught Oriental studies to Soviet agents. More information on the tragic fates of Soviet Orientalists can be found in a recent bio-bibliographical dictionary of Soviet Orientalists who were victims of Stalinist repression (Liudi i sud’by: Biobibliograficheskii slovar’ vostokovedov-zhertv politicheskogo terrora v sovetskii period (1917-1991), eds. Ia. V. Vasil’kov & M. Iu. Sorokina, St Petersburg: “Peterburgskoe vostokovedenie”, 2003; not used by Baskhanov—see my review in infra 53).
Like Liudi i sud’by, Baskhanov’s lexicon does not clearly delineate the boundaries of “Oriental studies” (vostokovedenie),” and it may be asked whether some personalities deserved to be included. Also, Baskhanov is certainly correct in drawing our attention to the fact that the importance of Russian military Orientalism has long been neglected, but he might have been a little less generous in attributing the epithet “vydaiushchiisia vostokoved (prominent Orientalist)” to persons whose merits, on first glance, do not always seem to justify this qualification. Although still a work in progress (in many entries even the life times are not established yet), the lexicon offers an enormous wealth of detailed information on the lives and works of Orientalists in the Imperial army, and it provides useful references where to look for more. Basic questions like the connection between military Orientalists and intelligence gathering in the Empire, the relationship to civil and academic institutions, and the transition to Soviet military Oriental studies, can of course hardly be clarified in a lexicon; in addition, a comparison with military Orientalism in other empires, including the British, might also be a most promising interesting endeavour. In this respect it is welcome that M. K. Baskhanov announces, in his introduction, that he will soon present a monograph on the development of Russian military Oriental studies (review in infra 55).