Reviews

This short paper is devoted to a relatively ignored part of the scholarly work of Vasilii Nikitich Tatishchev (1686-1750), who was also a major figure in the political arena of Russia in the first half of the eighteenth century.  While a large part of his scientific writings (which testify to his interest in history, linguistics, and geography) has been published and commented on, those concerning specifically Siberian peoples have rarely been taken into account.  Now, Tatishchev scrutinised the relations written by foreign travellers, in particular that by Strahlenberg (published in 1730 in Stockholm) and wrote comments on it from 1732 to 1737 (manuscript preserved in the National Library of Russia).  He sent queries to local authorities in Irkutsk and Iakutsk to verify Strahlenberg’s data on Tungus and Yakuts.  According to the excerpts of these comments that have been published by N. A. Popov in Moscow in 1861, Tatishchev pointed out Strahlenberg’s deficiencies due to his ignorance of the languages but did not deny the value of his work.  The main contribution of this paper is the information on the survey questionnaires designed by Tatishchev for the exploration of the native cultures of Siberia, and published by Popov.  These questionnaires (two versions, 1734 and 1737 with respectively 92 and 198 questions) portend the programmes for the systematic collection of field material that played an important role in the study of the peoples of Russia.  Tatishchev sent them to all the provincial centres, and received replies for many years.  He gave all of them to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in 1749. Replies continued to be sent long after his death, as shown by some of those preserved at the N. L. of Russia.  Only a part of them has been described and published, in particular a part of those coming from the areas of Krasnoiarsk and Verkholensk found in G. F. Miller’s folder at the State Archives in Moscow (A. I. Andreev, 1936).  The replies made use of local censuses and taxes records and included also oral information from local people.  According to Titova, their inner informative value is uneven, the most interesting from an ethnographical point of view being those on the Buriats and the Tungus recorded in the areas of Verkholensk and Ilimsk (N. L., Moscow).  The reader is grateful to her for pointing out the contents of some paragraphs of these two files, as well as for providing the result of her long search for listing and locating all materials related to Tatishchev’s queries.  She received negative answers from 26 Central and Local Archives in Russia and could not find out the documents presumed to be preserved at the University of Göttingen, including lexicons of Siberian languages.  This makes her survey very useful—though short and not enough systematic.

Roberte Hamayon, EPHE, Paris
CER: I-1.2.B-75