Vermeulen H. F. Gerhard Friedrich Müller and the Genesis of Ethnography in Siberia

VERMEULEN Han F. — Doctor of Social Sciences, Leiden University (Netherlands, Leiden); Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Germany, Halle) 

E-mail: vermeulen@eth.mpg.de

 

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ABSTRACT. This article analyzes the genesis of ethnography as a description of peoples (Völker, or narody) during the Early Enlightenment in Russia. Although its rise and further development in later eighteenth-century Russia and other countries of Europe and the USA will also be discussed, the focus will be on developments in the first half of the eighteenth century. The path-breaking role of Gerhard Friedrich Müller (1705–1783), one of the founding fathers of systematic ethnography, is outlined. Central in the genesis of ethnography were large multidisciplinary research expeditions to Northern Asia, dispatched by the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and its museum, the Kunstkamera, where the results landed. This museum is one of the largest and certainly the oldest ethnographic museum in the world. The main argument of this article is that systematic ethnography emerged in Siberia as a result of the interplay between German-speaking historians and naturalists and Russian scholars and administrators. The limitations of this research are also indicated. Russian anthropologists could be more confident about their subject. Ethnography has been, and still is, a powerful research program for more than 280 years. In retrospect, Russian anthropologists were right to focus on etnografia as a subject. Ethnography is the essence of sociocultural anthropology, the key to understanding other people and ourselves. 

KEYWORDS: etnografia, research expeditions, Russian Empire, interplay of German and Russian scholars, Kunstkamera, ethnographic museums, history of anthropology 

УДК39(470) =111 

DOI 10.31250/2618-8600-2018-1-40-63 

 

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