This monumental work is the second edition of a bio-bibliographical dictionary of Soviet specialists of Oriental studies already published twice by the same author on the basis of materials from the Soviet period (S. D. Miliband, Biobibliograficheskii slovar’ sovetskikh vostokodevod, Moscow: Glavnaia redaktsiia vostochnoi literatury, 1975, 1 vol.; ibid., Biobibliograficheskii slovar’ otechestvennykh vostokovedov s 1917 g., Moscow, 1995, 2 vols.). Whence the second edition of this work comprised information about 1,500 specialists of Oriental studies in the USSR, the present one includes some 3,000 articles in all ― including many biographies of emigrant researchers, a major taboo in the Soviet Union until Perestroika. The two volumes are completed by a third one with a short complement and an index of names by regions of specialisation. Materials of the former editions about scholars of the former federated republics of the Soviet Union have been preserved by Sofiia Miliband in this edition, and inserted into a separated appendix with information on them until the year 1990 (vol. 2, 735-1004). The author’s sources for the completion of this reference work have been the most diverse, from personal contacts and conversations to data research in the catalogues of a number of public libraries (in particular those of the Institute of Oriental Studies and of the INION in Moscow), as well as in a lot of specialised academic journals and jubilee publications of academies and universities.
The articles are disposed by alphabetical order, and they include: a) a short biographical article (with mention of education, research and teaching activity, amount of publications, terms in the Army or in the Navy when appropriate, awards and distinctions of varied origins); b) a list of each person’s main works in chronological order (excluding, contrary to the previous editions of the dictionary, reviews and publications peer-reviewed by the figurehead tackled in the article); c) literature on the life and works of this figurehead. In this third edition of her dictionary, Sofiia Miliband has made a particular effort for reinforcing the representation of regional academic centres of the Federation of Russia, notably those situated in several republics (Elista for Kalmukia, Kazan for Tatarstan, Ufa for Bashkortostan, Vladikavkaz for Northern Ossetia, and still Vladivostok and other Far-Eastern centres). Already welcome in 1975, and even more in 1995 for its impartiality, Sofiia Miliband’s dictionary includes the most varied figures of Oriental studies in the USSR, independently from their position in the academic and political apparatus, and from their political destinies in periods of stronger repressions. A whole generation of young scholars of the 1990s-2000s has also made its appearance and neighbours now with more titled or renowned figures.
All these merits notwithstanding, it remains that the lack of a precise definition by the author of what she understands by ‘Orientalism’ (Rus. vostokovedenie) continues to cast a shade on the whole undertaking. One can only be stuck by the amount of well-established scholars of varied generations, geographical origins and profiles whose mention is still lacking in the dictionary. Such is in particular the case of innumerable researchers endowed with local or regional backgrounds, deprived or personal affiliations to Moscow’s academic centres and of a regular access to Russia’s central scientific journals, writing alternatively in Russian and in a national language of the former Soviet Union, and even more important affiliated to institutions and centres that do not necessarily bear on their pediments the name of Institute of Oriental Studies. This is even more so that Russia’s regions and nations are sometimes more poorly represented than newly independent countries of the Caucasus or of Central Asia. For example, whatever we may think of them today, studies on nineteenth-century Islamic reform that tended to develop in parallel in the whole Soviet Union from the early 1970s onwards are represented, for instance, by Tajik scholar Rasul Hodi-Zoda (or Khadi-Zada, 1928-2010, in 2: 963), whence Yahya Abdullin, who played a key role in the development of this theme during the same years in Kazan, remains totally ignored. From this viewpoint, the consultation of the national and regional encyclopaedias that have been flourishing since the mid-1990s throughout Russia would have provided the author with research locations on which a real enlargement of the dictionary could have been implemented ― softening the lasting impression that Moscow and many major intellectual centres of Russia are located in different countries without much mutual connections.