Books from the time of pandemic: notes and comments

Daniel Waugh Discussion

Books from the time of pandemic: notes and comments

It is customary for reviewers and news editors to compile at the end of each year lists of the “significant” books that had appeared during the year now ending. The selection here of nearly three dozen titles is a personal one, which should in no way be taken to rank these books against others that are not mentioned which have also appeared in the past two years (2020-2021 imprints). They are books which I found of interest to obtain for my own library and/or were sent to me by authors or editors. The focus of the list is books pertaining to pre-modern Russia, though at the end are titles that I would hope are of interest to at least a few of my early Slavist colleagues who have a broader “Eurasian” perspective and in some cases also teach about the historic “Silk Roads”. My notations may be based on my actually reading (if hastily) the volumes; otherwise, the notes are the result of some skimming to be able to provide at least a brief description of contents and possible interest. These notes should not be construed as formal reviews and have not undergone peer review, although in several instances I bring to the task some expertise about the contents. A few of the entries were previously published (in The Silk Road or included in shorter such book notes sent in e-mailings.

Daniel Waugh

20 January 2022

Since the document is a long one, here in order is a compact list of authors/titles to facilitate scrolling down to the ones that might be of greatest interest to individual readers:

  • A.V. Beliakov, et al. Perevodchiki Posol’skogo prikaza v XVII v.: materialy k slovariu
  • A.V. Beliakov et al., eds., Perevodchiki i perevody v Rossii kontsa XVI-nachala XVIII stoletiia. Materialy mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii Moskva, 29-30 sentiabria 2021 g. Vyp. 2
  • S.M. Shamin. Inostrannye “pamflety” i “kur’ezy” v Rossii XVI-nachala XVIII stoletiia.
  • A.S. Rakitin. Severskii pokhod i osada Chernigova.
  • A.N. Lobin and N.V. Smirnov. Bor’ba za Iur’ev-Livonskii v gody russko-shvedskoi voiny 1656-1658.
  • I.B. Babulin. Voina za vozvrashchenie Ukrainy 1668-1669 gg.
  • S.P. Karpov. Istoriia Tany (Azova) v XIII-XV vv. T. 1. Tana v XIII-XIV vv.
  • Petr Velikij i evropeiskii intellektual’nyi mir. Tsirkuliatsiia znanii, vzaimovlianiia 1689-1727
  • Rossiia i Germaniia v epokhu Petra Velikogo. Istoricheskie i kul’turnye sviazi
  • A.S. Lavrov, A.V. Morokhin. Revniteli blagochestiia: ocherki tserkovnoi i literaturnoi deiatel’nosti.
  • V.V. Shishkin, I. Shvarts. Frantsuzskoe korolevstvo i russkoe gosudarstvo v XI-XVI vekakh
  • Sergii Shelonin i drevnerusskaia knizhnost’ XVI-XVII vv. Ed. by O. S. Sapozhnikova
  • Opis’ Troitse-Sergieva monastyria 1641/42 goda. Issledovanie i publikatsiia teksta. Izd. podgotovili L.A. Kirichenko, S.V. Nikolaeva
  • A.V. Bogatyrev. Dokumenty pervoi russkoi rezidentury v Rechi Pospolitoi V. M. Tiapkina kak istoricheskii istochnik
  • M.B. Bessudnova. Russko-ganzeiskaia torgovlia v pervoi polovine XVI veka
  • E.R. Skvairs, A.V. Mal’kov. Novgorodskaia skra. Izdanie, perevod, issledovaniia
  • S.A. Nikonov. “Kto v more ne khodil, tot Bogu ne malivalsia”. Promyslovaia kolonizatsiia Murmanskogo berega i Novoi Zemli krest’ianami i monastyriami Pomor’ia v XVI-XVIII vv.
  • A.G. Bakhtin. Rossiiskoe gosudarstvo i Kazanskoe khanstvo: mezhgosudarstvennye otnosheniia v XV-XVI vv.
  • A.A. Sevast’ianova. Istoriia i istoriki v provintsii i v stolitsakh. Sbornik trudov po istorii, istoriografii i regionovedeniiu Rossii XVIII-XX vekov
  • Zh.L. Levshina et al. Rukopisnye knigi Sobraniia M. P. Pogodina. Katalog. Vyp. 6. Vyp. 7
  • T.V. Anisimova. Katalog slaviano-russkikh rukopisnykh knig iz sobraniia E. E. Egorova. T. 1. No. 1-100; T. 2. No. 101-200; T. 3. No. 201-300
  • Katalog slaviano-russkikh rukopisnykh knig XVI veka, khraniashchikhsia v Rossiiskom gosudarstvennom archive drevnikh aktov. Vyp. 3
  • Spravochnye materialy k Slovariu russkogo iazyka XI-XVII vv. . Ukazatel’ istochnikov. Slovnik (priamoi).
  • Pravdivye zapisi o mongolakh Tsinskoi imperii. Tt. 1-3. Perevod s staropis’mennogo mongol’skogo E. V. Sunduevoi
  • William Craft Brumfield. Journeys through the Russian Empire: The Photographic Legacy of Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
  • Along the Silk Roads in Mongol Eurasia: Generals, Merchants, Intellectuals. Ed. by Michal Biran et al.
  • Susanne Reichert, A Layered History of Karakorum. Stratigraphy and Periodization in the City Center
  • Susanne Reichert, Craft Production in the Mongol Empire. Karakorum and its Artisans
  • For the Centennial of Berthold Laufer’s Classic Sino-Iranica (1919) [ ...] Between East and West, Exchanges of Material and Ideational Culture. Ed. by Ephraim Nissan
  • Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities (Östasiatiska Museet), Stockholm, No. 81: Asia and Scandinavia—New Perspectives on the Early Medieval Silk Roads
  • Hao Chunwen. Dunhuang Manuscripts: An Introduction to Texts from the Silk Road. Tr. by Stephen F. Teiser
  • The Silk Road: Interwoven History. Vol. 2 Buddhism. Ed. by Marko Namba Walter, James P. Ito-Adler
  • Vostochnyi Turkestan i Mongoliia. Istoriia izucheniia v kontse XIX-pervoi treti XX veka. Tt. 1-5. Ed. by M.D. Bukharin et al.
  • M.K. Baskhanov, E.A. Rezvan. Kashgar: Fotoletopis’ Bol’shoi Igry. Kollektsii N. F. Petrovskogo i Ia. Ia. Liutscha v sobranii MAE RAN
  • Kjeld von Folsach et al. Fighting, Hunting, Impressing. Arms and Armour from the Islamic World 1500-1800


A.V. Beliakov, A.G. Gus’kov, D.V. Liseitsev, S.M. Shamin. Perevodchiki Posol’skogo prikaza v XVII v.: materialy k slovariu. Moskva: Indrik, 2021. 304 p. ISBN 978-5-91764-618-1.

An excellent indication of the serious attention that is now being given to the staffing of the Ambassadorial Chancery and in particular to the translators and their work. The authors of this reference work are amongst the leading contributors to this research. The entries include sometimes short, sometimes longer essays, with lists of archival sources and references to other publications about the individuals. Appendices include some individuals who appear only in passing in the sources as having been involved in translation, and a section of entries for the translators who can be documented for the 15th and 16th centuries. There is still more to be done here, with analyses of translation texts (insofar as they might be attributed to particular individuals), identification of some of the foreigners or immigrants of foreign origin who were employed as translators, etc.  However, the book is a major step forward and provides a basis for further study.


A.V. Beliakov et al., eds., Perevodchiki i perevody v Rossii kontsa XVI-nachala XVIII stoletiia. Materialy mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii Moskva, 29-30 sentiabria 2021 g. Vyp. 2. Moskva: Institut rossiiskoi istorii RAN, 2021. 328 p. ISBN 978-5-8055-400-7.

The second such volume of conference papers on translators and translations in Muscovy (the first from a conference held in 2019), with a lot of new information on individuals and texts. Remarkably, these volumes have been prepared in advance of the conferences and contain the longer papers, not just the short “tezisy”. Yours truly contributed one of the papers (the participation was via Zoom).


S[tepan] M[ikhailovich] Shamin. Inostrannye “pamflety” i “kur’ezy” v Rossii XVI-nachala XVIII stoletiia. Moskva: "Ves’ Mir”, 2020. 392 pp. ISBN 978-5-7777-0765-9. 

Stepan Shamin is the leading Russian expert on the translations of foreign newspapers and pamphlets, the so-called kuranty. Over some two decades he has published numerous articles based usually on discoveries of previously un-studied texts. His first book, published in 2011 and based on his kandidat dissertation, is the authoritative treatment of the material primarily for the reign of Tsar Fedor Alekseevich (1676-1682). Shamin is now one of the primary contributors to the ongoing publication series of the Vesti-Kuranty; he has collaborated with several other colleagues in jointly authored articles and has been very generous in sharing his material (yours truly has benefited greatly from exchanges with him). He is one of the co-authors (with Claudia Jensen and Ingrid Maier) of Russia’s Theatrical Past (Indiana University Press, 2021), which revises fundamentally the history the first Russian theater. His focus has always been on the Russian texts; his collaborators generally are the ones who then provide the information and comparisons with their foreign sources.

His new monograph brings together and expands on a lot of what he has written on “pamphlet curiousities” that were translated in Russia between the 16th and beginning of the 18th centuries. These are the short texts that most commonly would have been printed in the ubiquitous separates in the West, publications often devoted to sensations. So we have here chapters on heavenly signs, prophecies, political pamphlets, public ceremonies, and much more. There is a big chapter on the tales about two mendicant prophets, which he wrote about in detail in 2008 and concerning which he has found new manuscript evidence. His chapter on the apocryphal correspondence of the Ottoman sultan cites appropriately Waugh’s basic study (1978), but focuses mainly on manuscript evidence which had not previously received adequate attention. His appendices include copies of several texts either previously unpublished or published from different copies.

Taken as a whole, the material Shamin brings together in this book represents the most comprehensive updating and expansion yet of what Sobolevskii (1903) had rather sketchily included in his classic bibliography of Muscovite translated literature.  These are translated texts which are known in very few copies and have tended to be ignored by scholars focused on translations deemed to have greater literary value and wider dissemination. For the ephemera, as Shamin notes, how we might classify a lot of this material (is it “documentary” or “literary”?) can be disputed. Shamin’s penultimate chapter is devoted to his evolving views about how the proliferation of translated texts may have been transformative for the world view of readers in Muscovy. He devotes several pages to changes in lexicography, though then has to admit that absent discussion or explanations, borrowed terms or proper names (his examples relate to Classical Antiquity) may have been meaningless for those who encountered them. To a degree his discussion rests on the unstated premise (though one obviously shared by others who have written on Russia’s “Westernization”), that the Renaissance indeed included a revival of the Ancients and thereby laid the intellectual foundation for the erection of modernity.


A[nton] S[ergeevich] Rakitin. Severskii pokhod i osada Chernigova. Boevye deistviia na iugo-zapadnom porubezh’e Moskovskogo gosudarstva i Rechi Pospolitoi v period Smolenskoi voiny (1632-1634 gg.). Moskva: Drevlekhranilishche, 2021. 192 pp. ISBN 978-5-93646-402-7.

While the author modestly claims this book (enlivened by a number of illustrations) should be classified as “popularization” in the absence of a formal review of the literature and the primary sources, in fact it is thoroughly documented by his research in little-known files of RGADA (e. g., a significant number of citations are to documents in f. 210, Razriadnyi prikaz, esp. Op. 14. Stolbtsy Sevskogo stola).  The book is primarily a collection of a number of his previously published articles focusing on the military servitors and history of his home region (generally termed Severshchina, Sevéra) and a portion of his dissertation “Sluzhiloe soobshchestvo Seveska i Komaritskoi volosti v issteme oborony iuzhnogo pogranich’ia Moskovskogo gosudarstva v 20-40-kh gg. XVII v.” which can be downloaded at:

The subject is of interest for the fact that the sad outcome of the “Smolensk war” has tended to obscure the fact that the early campaigns discussed here were quite successful in the Russians’ re-occupying key border towns (among them Novgorod-Seversk, Trubchevsk, Pochep, Starodub and Roslavl’) which Poland-Lithuania had held since the end of the Time of Troubles. However, with the defeat at Smolensk, the Muscovite government handed them back. While the subject is not part of Rakitin’s book, in subsequent adjustments of the border in later years, Trubchevsk, for example, was turned over to Moscow and became part of the fortified defensive bulwark erected to deter Tatar raids from the south. Rakitin’s focus is largely on categorization and numbers of the military servitors involved in the campaign and in the defense of the towns. One important desideratum for broadening the study would be to look closely at Polish sources, which he has not done. For me, of particular interest is his comments on intelligence operations, where he highlights the activity of two Muscovites who were reporting from the Polish-Lithuanian side of the border.


A[leksei] N[ikolaevich] Lobin and N[ikolai] V[alentinovich] Smirnov. Bor’ba za Iur’ev-Livonskii v gody russko-shvedskoi voiny 1656-1658. [Ser.: Ratnoe delo]. Moskva: Russkie vitiazi, 2021. 128 pp., ill. ISBN 978-5-907245-50-1.

I[gor'] B[orisovich] Babulin. Voina za vozvrashchenie Ukrainy 1668-1669 gg. [Ser.: Ratnoe delo]. Moskva: Russkie vitiazi, 2021. 256 + 8 pp., ill.  ISBN 978-5-907245-37-2.

The now extensive publication list in the series “Ratnoe delo” includes a number of volumes devoted to important Russian military campaigns in the 17th century. The authors are credentialed, serious historians who acknowledge a wide range of existing scholarship and document their analyses with both the standard published primary sources and a lot of new archival material. The medium-format books generally include a great many illustrations (drawn, where possible, from contemporary or near contemporary sources but also including modern photos of the sites of battles, the remains of forts, etc.). One of the virtues of the series is elegantly produced color maps showing troop movements, battle locations, etc. 

The book by Lobin and Smirnov focuses on what they suggest is an insufficiently studied part of the military history of the 1650s, where the larger canvas of Polish-Swedish conflict has tended to obscure the significance of the events of the Russo-Swedish war in 1656-1658. This, despite the fact that a number of contemporary news pamphlets focused on key events in that war. As the authors acknowledge, the diplomacy of the period has been well studied, especially by Kobzareva and Floria, but not so the military history.  The focus here is on the campaigns for control of Iur’ev-Livonskii (Dorpat) in Swedish-held Livonia.

Babulin has contributed three earlier volumes to this series (Bor’ba za Ukrainu i bitva pod Konotopom 1658-1659 gg.; Kanevskaia bitva 16 iiulia 1662 goda. Zabytaia pobeda; Smolenskii pokhod i bitva pri Shepelevichakh 1654 goda). In his current volume, he acknowledges the differing interpretations that have been placed on the military events of 1668-1669, the catalyst for which was the “uprising” (miatezh, his preferred term) by Hetman Ivan Briukhovetskii that temporarily resulted in the loss of Muscovite control over Left Bank Ukraine. Of course Ukrainian historians, as Babulin recognizes, treat the events differently as a Russo-Ukrainian war. He emphasizes that it was the Crimean Tatars, and less so the various Cossack forces, which were the main military threat that the Muscovite armies faced in the period between February 1668 and the conclusion of an agreement at Glukhov with Hetman Dem’ian Mnogogreshnyi in March 1669.  The book includes extensive appendices with the composition of the various regiments and garrisons. One of its virtues is the clear summaries at the end of each chapter, which should appeal to those who are not interested in the otherwise detailed treatment of the various campaigns.  


S[ergei] P[avlovich] Karpov. Istoriia Tany (Azova) v XIII-XV vv. T. 1. Tana v XIII-XIV vv. [Ser.: Novaia vizantiiskaia biblioteka. Issledovaniia). Sankt-Peterburg: Aleteiia, 2021. 378 pp. + ill. ISBN 978-5-00165-314-1.

This volume and the promised second one covering the 15th century (the dividing line being the destruction of the city by Tamerlane’s forces in 1395) should be of great interest to a wide audience. Academician Karpov has been editing, researching and writing about the Black Sea region (and in particular Tana/Azov) for years (see the list of his key publications pp. 10-11). Even though the activity of the Venetians and Genoese in the Black Sea has been the subject of a great deal of previous research, Karpov’s study should be the most comprehensive and best documented treatment of Tana/Azov, given the fact that he has done extensive work in the Italian archives to supplement his use of a range of published primary sources. The coverage here begins with the pre-history of Tana and its rise, encompasses its importance on the crossroads of major trade routes, deals with its relations with the Golden Horde, treats the period of the Genoese-Venetian war of the mid-14th century, and examines the recovery of the city in the immediate aftermath of Tamerlane’s invasion. There are thematic chapters with a general description of the city and its inhabitants, a chapter on the church, another on trade and local industries. Appendices include lists of the Venetian and Genoese officials and the bishops of the city. There is a brief summary and table of contents in English.  I have only just received the book and can hardly wait to begin reading it closely.


Petr Velikij i evropeiskii intellektual’nyi mir. Tsirkuliatsiia znanii, vzaimovlianiia 1689-1727. Kollektivnaia monografiia po materialam dvukh kollokviumov v Parizhe 28-29 i 30 marta 2013 goda. Ed. by D.Iu. Guzevich and I.D. Guzevich. Parizh–Sankt-Peterburg: Evropeiskii dom, 2020. 760 pp. + color insert.

Rossiia i Germaniia v epokhu Petra Velikogo. Istoricheskie i kul’turnye sviazi. Materialy XIII Mezhdunarodnogo petrovskogo kongressa. Berlin, 24-25 oktiabria 2019 goda. Ed. by D.Iu. Guzevich et al. Sankt-Peterburg: Evropeiskii dom, 2020, 496 pp. ISBN 978-5-8015-0409-4.

These are two of the latest of the several dozen volumes produced in the program “Put’ Petra Velikogo” by the Institut Petra Velikogo, with the support of the D.S. Likhachev Endowment. Many of the volumes are now open access and can be downloaded from the Institute’s website at

The size and delay in publication of the first of the volumes can be explained in part by the fact that the 32 essays are presented both in Russian and in their original language (in most cases, French). It is impossible in a short notice to comment individually on them. The first two sections of the book pertain to Peter’s European tour in 1716-1717. Other sections deal more broadly with topical concentration on science, the arts, language, literature, etc. There is much here to deepen our understanding of the cultural transformations experienced by Russians in the Petrine period.

The essays in the second volume include Russian versions of previously published material and much new and specific about Peter’s various interactions with German polities primarily during his second long travels in Western Europe. The thematic groupings of the essays cover diplomacy, war, trade, scientific contacts, the arts, and museums.  The program for the conference is available on-line at While its listing of the papers may not correspond exactly to what is in the published volume, for the most part one can find there most of the authors and the titles of their presentations.


A[leksandr] S[ergeevich] Lavrov, A[leksei] V[ladimirovich] Morokhin. Revniteli blagochestiia: ocherki tserkovnoi i literaturnoi deiatel’nosti. [Ser.: Biblioteka vsemirnoi istorii]. SPb.: Nauka, 2021. 336 pp. ISBN 978-5-02-040510-3.

This series of books on world history, begun by “Nauka” in 2016, encompasses a wide range of interesting topics (see the listing at Aleksandr Lavrov (now at the Sorbonne) is well known for his monograph on Russian popular religion (Koldovstvo i religiia v Rossii, 1700-1740 gg. [2000]) and contributed to the Nauka series with a volume devoted to the regency of Sofiia Alekseevna. This new book, co-authored with Aleksei Morokhin, will be essential reading for anyone interested in Orthodox church history and the efforts at reform in Russia which led up to the Schism in the 17th century. The book is particularly impressive for the way in which it engages the previous, extensive scholarship on the so-called Zealots of Piety. When I was in graduate school, we read Pierre Pascal’s Avvakum et les débuts du raskol and Sergei Zenkovsky’s touted Russkoe staroobriadchestvo. Of these, Pascal’s work continues to occupy a place of honor for Lavrov and Morokhin, given the depth of its research and treatment of some of the important figures in the religious history of the 1630s to early 1650s. 

Lavrov and Morokhin have carefully re-examined all the previously published evidence and supplemented it with some new manuscript material to show how the religious reform movement that began in the provinces gradually developed and began to have an impact on the policies of the central Church authorities. The histories of individuals who in the traditional treatments of the subject have generally been associated with the Zealots in fact appear to be more complex, where some, but not all of what they advocated, was accepted by their peers. To a degree “membership” in the group has been read back in from later, Old Believer sources. So we gain new insights into the relations of the reformers with local officials and Orthodox institutions in the provinces. There are reassessments of the possible connection of the reformers with the editing of church books in the Moscow Printing House. The authors have approached their subject with questions inspired in part by comparisons that have been made between the Russian church reformers and church reform in the West (the Dominicans and Savonarola get particular attention), but in their conclusion they caution about making too much of superficial comparisons. A long appendix publishes from its unique copy in the so-called “Miscellany of Agafonik” (RGB, f. 218, No. 180) the text “Spornye rechi o edinoglasnom penii”, a subject of central concern to some of the reformers.

The book is distinguished for its clarity of exposition and the care which it engages along the way the previous scholarship and at the same time selectively quotes from the primary sources to allow the dramatis personae to speak for themselves. Hypotheses are offered as such, and where there is no hard evidence to prove them, the authors admit as much. There are 60 pages of notes, a bibliography and indexes of personal and geographic names.


V[ladimir] V[ladimirovich] Shishkin, Iskra Shvarts. Frantsuzskoe korolevstvo i russkoe gosudarstvo v XI-XVI vekakh. [Ser.: Biblioteka vsemirnoi istorii]. Sankt-Peterburg: Nauka, 2021. 310 pp. ISBN 978-5-02-040501-1.

Another of the volumes in this Nauka series promises to be a very interesting read, since, as the authors point out, conventional wisdom is wrong to suggest that prior to the 17th century, there is hardly a topic here worthy of analysis. As previous articles by the authors have indicated (here they have been brought together and expanded), there certainly is material about dynastic relations (Anna Iaroslavna, married off to King Henri I is the subject of the first chapter), and there is sporadic evidence about political contacts or at least the efforts to establish them. The main focus of the book is on the 16th century, for which there is substantially more material about diplomatic initiatives in the time of Grand Prince Vasilii III and Tsar Ivan IV. Several valuable appendices include editions and translations of correspondence: Vasilii III’s letters to King Francis I; Henri II’s letters of 1555, including one to Ivan IV; a contemporary report on letters of Henri II to the Augsburg Reichstag of 1582, and the letter of Henri III to Fedor Ivanovich in 1588. There are 40 pages of notes and a bibliography that includes a good many manuscript sources.



Sergii Shelonin i drevnerusskaia knizhnost’ XVI-XVII vv. Ed. by O. S. Sapozhnikova. Moskva–Sankt-Peterburg: Al’ians-Arkheo, 2020. 248 pp. + ill. ISBN 978-5-98874-190-9.

While there is some other academic study of the Sergii Shelonin, to a considerable degree his now accepted status as one of the most important 17th-century Muscovite bookmen is thanks to the editor of this volume, Ol’ga Sergeevna Sapozhnikova.  Her kandidat dissertation (1999) was the culmination of some years’ study and publication about him. She continued to discover works of his that previously had not been identified; her monograph of 2010 on his editorial activity strengthened the argument that he was one of the most erudite members of what we might call the Muscovite intellectual elite. For those interested in documenting “readership” in Muscovy, a task fraught with difficulties, Shelonin is an exceptionally bright light on the landscape, given that we now know so much about what he read and what he did with that reading.

The volume here contains essays based on presentations at a conference about Shelonin organized by Sapozhnikova at the Library of the Academy of Sciences in 2018.  Of particular interest is the articles on an “Azbukovnik” of his (the largest such Muscovite lexicon of the time) which contains in part definitions based on the materials of a large herbal which he translated for the Stroganovs in the 1620s. A separate essay examines the illustrations in a manuscript of his translation and compares them with those in the original, Liber de arte disstillandi, by the Strassburg doctor Hieronymus Brunschweig, The well-known Muscovite translator and Postmaster, Andrei Vinius, presumably in connection with his position as head of the Apothecary Chancery in the later 17th century, owned a copy of the printed book.

Another of the sections of this collection of articles concerns Shelonin’s involvement in the editing of the Moscow printed edition (1647) of the “Ladder [Lestvitsa] of St. John of Sinai”. Shelonin’s association with Solovki is highlighted in Sapozhnikovas edition and analysis of the text of a Canon he wrote for the transfer of the relics of Metropolitan Filipp from Solovki to Moscow in 1646. Another of the essays explores how the study of Shelonin’s Nachlass has led to new discoveries of manuscripts, including ones in the libraries of the Stroganovs. Sapozhnikova concludes the book with an essay projecting possible future work on Shelonin’s manuscript legacy. There is also a brief bibliography of the publications to date about him. As we have come to expect from Al’ians-Arkheo, the book includes a good many excellent illustrations, including a color insert of several plates.


Opis’ Troitse-Sergieva monastyria 1641/42 goda. Issledovanie i publikatsiia teksta. Izd. podgotovili L.A. Kirichenko, S.V. Nikolaeva. Moskva: Indrik, 2020. 1072 pp. + ill. ISBN 978-5-91674-602-0.

This massive volume has to be considered one of the most significant primary source publications of recent years for the study of pre-modern Russia. The inventory has been published here from the original copy in the monastery museum, though a second copy is also housed in the Russian State Library collection of the manuscript books. Scholars have known of the inventory and consulted it ever since the first half of the 19th century, but only now have the resources been found to publish it. The editors previously published another of the important records of the monastery, the Kormovaia kniga of 1674. It is sad that Kirichenko died just recently, on the eve of the appearance of this monument to her scholarship. 

The editors have supplemented their publication of the original text with one of the most extensive codicological and palaeographic descriptions I have seen for any such publication (pp. 33-132) and written a series of essays (pp. 135-236) analyzing the significance of the content for historical study. There are several detailed indexes keyed to the original text.

 While there clearly had been previous inventories of the monastery, this is the first one that has been preserved, the result of an initiative by the government of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich on the occasion of a change in the administration of the monastery where there had been a denunciation of the activity of its previous cellarer Aleksandr Bulatnikov. The cellarer Simon Azar’in, one of the important mid-17th-century Muscovite bookmen, undoubtedly had some role in the events at the time the government officials were sent to do the work. The inventory is confined not just to the monastery itself, its churches, library, treasures, etc. but includes as well adjacent possessions and sites that were under its administration.  There is a huge amount of material here for learning about the composition of the monastery brotherhood, the donors, etc. Very likely compilation of the inventory was accompanied by a close examination of all the monastery charters and their copying, about which we know from other manuscripts.


A[rsenii] V[ladimirovich] Bogatyrev. Dokumenty pervoi russkoi rezidentury v Rechi Pospolitoi V. M. Tiapkina kak istoricheskii istochnik. Sankt-Peterburg: Nestor-Istoriia, 2021. 116 pp. ISBN 978-5-4469-1741-9.

In a sense this little book (inflated by the use of large type) is a teaser, summarizing (promoting?) the work of the author on the reports sent from Poland-Lithuania by the first permanent Russian resident abroad in the 1670s, Vasilii Tiapkin. Some excerpts from Tiapkin’s ambassadorial reports were published, if badly, by P. Ivanov in 1850. Tiapkin’s mission was the subject of a pioneering monograph by A. N. Popov published in 1854 and still of considerable value for its detail. Off and on since, the material has attracted some attention. S.I. Nikolaev has written on Tiapkin’s contribution to the acquisition of Polish publications in Moscow. In the continuation of his detailed examination of Russian foreign policy in the 17th century, B. N. Floria has been using the unpublished Tiapkin material in RGADA and contextualizing its importance on the broader canvas of the information which decision-makers in Moscow were obtaining. 

Bogtyrev wrote his 2013 Samara dissertation on Tiapkin, apparently relying on microfilms from RGADA rather than de visu examination of the manuscripts, and since then has published some dozens of articles mining the Tiapkin materials. The current book summarizes and cites much of that material (the articles, fortunately, are available via Bogatyrev’s pages on, though often in cryptic fashion which prevents the reader from gaining a coherent sense of how really interesting the history of Tiapkin’s mission is. This little book could serve as part of a proper introduction to a full publication of the Tiapkin files, though much more would be needed. And at least so far there is no indication that such a publication project is underway.

Of course one virtue of the book is to bring to the reader’s attention how much Bogatyrev has in fact already published, generally in places that would not normally attract our attention or be readily accessible. Following the leads in the book, I have looked at a fair number of those articles to get a better sense of the substance of Bogatyrev’s work. They include excurses on lexicography, where he argues that Tiapkin’s writings often provide the first documented instance of the use of certain words in Russian (generally, calques from Polish or Latin). Some of the articles include summaries, illustrated by short quotations from the reports, about how key events (e.g., battles) were reported to Moscow on the basis of what Tiapkin was able to learn from his contacts (most frequently Lithuanian magnates) at the Polish court. Tiapkin described a lot of court ceremonial and other festivities in detail, in part based on personal observation. Since Bogatyrev has mined extensively Polish scholarship on the times of King Jan Sobieski, a number of the articles expand on aspects of his history and biography. A few articles explore facets of court culture against a broad canvas: for example, the importance of wigs and the ways in which Muscovites first commented on them. There are a also studies that include extensive quotation from Tiapkin’s translations of Polish texts (e.g., political pamphlets) juxtaposed to the originals.

One might criticize Bogatyrev for at times making too much of too little. His assertions of the importance of Tiapkin as a source of information for the Kremlin officials never adequately explore the kind of evidence (which we find, e.g., in Floria’s work) that would demonstrate exactly how Tiapkin’s news was received, whether it was timely, and thus whether it really had an impact. One of Bogatyrev’s essays focuses on Tiapkin ‘s use of the international post, established via Vilna precisely in order to facilitate communication between the Russian resident and Moscow. The essay is of some interest for its comments on perlustration—there was a continuing issue of mail being intercepted, opened, etc. However, there is nothing here to document properly the speed (or lack thereof) of the posts with a careful examination of when reports were actually received in Moscow and how long it took for them to arrive.

Readers should not be deterred by my critical comments from looking at Bogatyrev’s little book and, as I did, exploring his articles.  His subject is indeed important, and he has found a lot of interest in the material. If the publication of this book serves as a stimulus to the publication of all the Tiapkin files, we will be much in Arsenii Vladimirovich’s debt.


M[arina] B[orisovna] Bessudnova. Russko-ganzeiskaia torgovlia v pervoi polovine XVI veka. Sankt-Peterburg: Evraziia, 2021. 480 pp. ISBN 978-5-8071-0524-0.

 Having but dipped into this substantial and arguably very important book, I can say but few words about it. The author has long been publishing on the Russo-Hanseatic trade. This new volume focuses on what she explains is an understudied aspect of Hanse history, where much of the existing and very extensive academic literature has concentrated on what is considered to be the apogee of the Hanseatic league in the 14th and 15th centuries. Traditional treatments consider what follows to be a period of decline, in the Russian case marked by Grand Prince Ivan III’s abrupt closure of the Hanse office in Novgorod in 1494. In fact, as Bessudnova emphasizes, at least to the middle of the 16th century, one can document a revival of the Hanseatic cities, even if not along the traditional lines of the trading bloc. There was a significant re-structuring of the relations among the Hanseatic cities, with several groupings of them playing key roles.

Her focus throughout the book is not so much to write economic history from the standpoint of Russian trade, but rather to emphasize the changes within the Hanse, and the legal and structural arrangements which affected that trade. The chronological frame for her book covers from the re-opening of the Hanse factory in Novgorod in 1514 to the beginning of the Livonian War in mid-century. The primary source base for the study is the published and unpublished materials of the Hanse, which she has supplemented with a substantial appendix (pp. 361-447) making available for the first time the unpublished parts of the Ruthenica collection from 1534-1558 in the Hanse archive of Lübeck. The documents are presented in the original German with her modern Russian translation.


E[katerina] R[ichardovna] Skvairs, A[nton] V[aler’evich] Mal’kov. Novgorodskaia skra. Izdanie, perevod, issledovaniia. Moskva: Izdatel’skii dom IaSK, 2020. 216 pp. + color insert with 38 illustrations. ISBN 978-5-907290-44-0.

The product of a collaboration between a specialist on Germanic philology and an expert on legal history, this volume makes available three versions of the legal codex that regulated the internal affairs of the Hanseatic factory in Novgorod. The texts have long been available; the choice here of the first, fourth and final seventh (dated 1603) versions has been made on the basis of the fact that they mark particularly important moments in the history of the Hanseatic presence in Novgorod. The translation here of the seventh version is its first rendering into Russian. The text publication includes on facing pages the German originals (checked against the archival manuscripts) and the modern Russian translation. Mal’kov, the juridical specialist provides the legal commentary; Skvairs translated the first two of the texts; and E. E. Richalovskii translated the third of them. The book will be of value for historians wanting an introduction to and easy access to the laws that regulated the activity of the Hanse at its court in Novgorod. The commentary explains why the different versions were produced; for linguists, there are explanations about specific terminology, and, especially in the case of the final version of the code, the way in which Russian terminology now came to be incorporated into it.


S[ergei] A[leksandrovich] Nikonov. “Kto v more ne khodil, tot Bogu ne malivalsia”. Promyslovaia kolonizatsiia Murmanskogo berega i Novoi Zemli krest’ianami i monastyriami Pomor’ia v XVI-XVIII vv. Sankt-Peterburg: Nestor-Istoriia, 2020. 496 pp. + 9 color plates.

Nikonov’s impressive book addresses a topic that, surprisingly, has never been explored in detail, even if there is a substantial literature on various aspects of the history of the Russian North. His subject is the trading communities and their activity in what he specifies as the Sub-Arctic region of the Kola Peninsula and the Murmansk littoral, and in the Arctic region of Novaia Zemlia to the east. His concept of “trading colonization” is clearly explained as referring to the exploitation of resources in some regular pattern but short of the permanent settlement of people, who in the given instance would have found much of the region uninhabitable on account of the lack of resources to sustain daily life. The main groups/institutions involved in the economic activity in the region (which in the first instance involved fishing and hunting for sea mammals) were the independent “peasants” and monastic institutions, the latter developing their activities after the former did and then, by the 18th century, ceasing to play a significant role in most of the area. This pattern is in a sense the reverse of what was found to the south, e.g., in some of the central provinces and along the Volga, where monastic economic activity was much stronger. The source base for the study is thus uneven—relatively little documentation for the activity of the peasants, but a lot more for the monasteries, which tended to keep careful financial records.

The book is clearly written, with an extensive review of the literature and sources, an accessible survey of the geography, natural and human, and then detailed examination of the institutional and social structures within which the economic activity took place. Communal “artels” were particularly important in the economic life of the region, and within them there was noteworthy specialization of functions. Where possible, the author provides statistical tables of population in settlements, size or value of the catches, etc.; there is a very useful glossary of what may be unfamiliar terms, the usual indexes, and a nice insert of color plates in a book noteworthy for its production values.


A[leksandr] G[ennad’evich] Bakhtin. Rossiiskoe gosudarstvo i Kazanskoe khanstvo: mezhgosudarstvennye otnosheniia v XV-XVI vv. Sankt-Peterburg: Izd-vo. Olega Abyshko, 2022. 528 pp. ISBN 978-5-6045573-5-8.

This substantial book, printed with smallish type on pages with very narrow margins and with a bibliography of 854 entries, invites careful attention by specialists. Here I can but provide a few preliminary observations based on a yet incomplete reading. The author, a native of Ioshkar-Ola (capital of the Mari El Republic), a graduate of its university, and after defense of his kandidat and doctoral dissertations in Moscow, a professor at his home university, has already published several books on the subject to which he brings a kind of “insider’s perspective”. This is evident in his extensive review (pp. 7-75) of the literature and sources, in which he criticizes both “great Russian” interpretations and their mirror image in nationalistic studies by non-Russian academics. A book published by S. K. Svechnikov in Kazan’ in 2002 on the incorporation (prisoedinenie) of the Mari region into the Russian state, a subject which Bakhtin himself has examined closely, gets several pages, whereas much of Western scholarship is dismissed peremptorily in a page and a half (with the numerous typos in the titles suggesting Bakhtin may have read little of it). He is quick to criticize Keenan (though I would have to think Keenan’s observations on steppe politics are very relevant here), but praises Kappeler (available in Russian translation).

The book then proceeds with a detailed discussion of the formation of the Kazan khanate, in which Bakhtin attempts to resolve the disputed question of the degree to which it was the heir to Volga Bulgaria or, rather (as he concludes), a successor state of the Golden Horde. He refers readers to his monograph Obrazovanie Kazanskogo i Kasimovskogo khanstv (Ioshkar-Ola, 2008) for details. He emphasizes that the non-Tatar peoples (especially the Cheremis/Mari) played a significant role in its history. His treatment of the written sources raises some questions as to whether he has sufficiently engaged in “source criticism”. Naturally a lot of the information comes from the Russian chronicles, which are treated as apparently independent sources whose evidence may or may not hold up under scrutiny. Footnotes often merely list as many as ten volumes of Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisei, plus Tatishchev’s History. However, as students of the chronicles know, the texts of many chronicles are interconnected, it may be possible to establish which version of the “same” information is the most reliable, and not all unique “evidence” is to be trusted, especially where it may be found in the Kazanskaia istoriia, Nikonian Chronicle or in Tatishchev’s 18th century citations ostensibly from manuscripts that are no longer extant.

In the subsequent discussion that turns to a detailed analysis of Muscovite relations with Kazan’, readers may also raise an eyebrow over the somewhat glib use of modernizing phraseology about the “patriotic” feelings of the Kazanites and the development of “national consciousness”. While Bakhtin more than once emphasizes that one consideration in the development of those relations was the desire of Moscow to deal with the threat of the Great Horde, curiously (but perhaps laudably), except for a passing mention of the cliché about the “casting off” of the Mongol “yoke” in 1480 (p. 175), we find nothing of substance here about the events of that year which have so become embedded in historiographic myth.

Beginning on p. 338, following his extensive treatment of political relations between Moscow and Kazan over the decades beginning in the second half of the 16th century, Bakhtin takes up specifically the still disputed question of what exactly were the reasons for the Muscovite state to incorporate the Middle Volga and Urals region. He critiques the various explanations ranging from Orthodox conversion to political and economic considerations. Interestingly, in a long excursus on the proposals alleged to have been presented to Ivan IV by a certain Ivan Peresvetov, Bakhtin argues against the idea that Peresvetov advocated the conquest in order to provide lands for the military service class. And in fact Bakhtin questions with good reason whether Ivan ever even saw what Peresvetov is generally credited with having written. Bakhtin also questions whether one of the consequences of the conquest was the deliberate displacement of the indigenous peoples from their lands in favor of Russian colonists, and more generally he concludes that the government did not set any particular economic goals in conquering the khanate (p. 375). The main rationale for the conquest was that expressed in some of the primary sources, to put an end to depredations against Orthodox Russia initiated (or threatened) by a possible coalition of Muslim states (p. 381). A logical extension of this emphasis then is the author’s discussion of the events leading up to and including the disastrous Ottoman campaign of 1569. It seems somewhat odd that there is no citation here of the important monograph by A. V. Vinogradov on Russo-Crimean relations in the 1550s-1570s (published in 2007). Bakhtin prefers to cite the Crimean affairs books from the archival originals, indicating that at least in one instance (p. 445 n. 5) the recent publication of those books inaccurately reproduces the text of a letter. However, that seems to be no reason otherwise to totally ignore the published edition in his notes. It is unfortunate that he seems to have known the account by Adrzej Taranowski, a Pole who accompanied the 1569 expedition, only from the published version of a late 17th century Russian translation. Apparently Bakhtin is unaware of the Polish source in the 1611 edition of Alessandro Guangnini’s chronicle.

Undoubtedly there is much in Bakhtin’s book that merits careful attention. Certainly, as he himself recognizes, some of his conclusions will be disputed, given how the history he covers still provokes controversy.  However, it is clear he offers a fresh look at some of the major issues, and at least in certain instances, his judgments about the sources seem very sensible, even if at odds with most of what has been written about them to date.


A[lla] A[leksandrovna] Sevast’ianova. Istoriia i istoriki v provintsii i v stolitsakh. Sbornik trudov po istorii, istoriografii i regionovedeniiu Rossii XVIII-XX vekov. Moskva: Kvadriga, 2020. 368 pp. + 16 p. color insert.  ISBN 978-5-91791-353-7.

Learning of the publication of this book brought back fond memories of when I met Alla Aleksandrovna in person. I believe we were first introduced by Ruslan Grigor’evich Skrynnikov in Leningrad, who was supervising her study when she was working on Jerome Horsey’s account about Russia. In 1990 she was employed in Iaroslavl’ (from which she later moved on to Riazan’). I had mentioned to her that I would be lecturing for an alumni group on a cruise up the Volga River. Alla Aleksandrovna managed to learn when the boat was to arrive in Iaroslavl’, and to my great surprise and pleasure was waiting at the dock with flowers. She had planned a little reception at the archaeographic laboratory she had helped create at the university for the collection and study of the manuscript legacy of the Iaroslavl’ region. As my own subsequent research recognized, she was amongst the pioneers in modern Russian historical scholarship who would study seriously “provincial historiography” and appreciate its importance in the larger canvas of the development of modern Russian historiography. Her bibliography of academic publications now numbers more than 250 items.

This book then is valuable for bringing together her publications on the subject, many of which would otherwise not be readily accessible.  Of particular interest to me is Ch. 3: “Gorodovye letopisi. Staryi sposob istoriopisaniia”, a subject related to my own work on historical writing in Viatka. The book includes a valuable bibliography of historical works composed in the Russian provinces in the second half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century (pp. 191-203). Her essays range widely. The short one on the fate of the library of Gennadii Vasil’evich Iudin, who who sold his Krasnoiarsk collection of some 80,000 volumes to the U.S. Library of Congress, reminded me that at one point I actually had acquired (as a Harvard library duplicate) one of those volumes with Iudin’s bookplate. Alla Aleksandrovna studied the material thanks to a fellowship to the Kennan Institute, when she discovered that it was no longer possible to speak of a “Iudin collection,” as the books had been scattered to any number of American university libraries. The final essays here are grouped under a heading “S. A. Esenin i A. I. Solzhenitsyn,” the work on Esenin also facilitated by her Kennan Institute visit.


Zh.L. Levshina, N.N. Nevzorova, E.A. Filonov, E.E. Shevchenko. Rukopisnye knigi sobraniia M.P. Pogodina. Katalog. Vyp. 6. Vyp. 7. Sankt-Peterburg: Rossiiskaia natsional’naia biblioteka, 2020. 456, 364 pp.

T[at’iana] V[ladimirovna] Anisimova. Katalog slaviano-russkikh rukopisnykh knig iz sobraniia E.E. Egorova. T. 1. No. 1-100; T. 2. No. 101-200; T. 3. No. 201-300. Pod red. Iu.S. Beliankina. Moskva: Pashkov dom, 2017-2021. 374, 335, 490 pp. + color inserts. ISBN 978-5-7510-0728-7, 978-5-7510-0740-9, 978-5-7510-0825-3.

The publication of scholarly descriptions of important early Slavic manuscript collections in Russia has a rather mixed and torturous history. Some of the volumes produced over a century ago are noteworthy for their detail about texts, but in an era when modern methods of codicological study still had not developed, fall short in regard to what now are considered to be essential details that might shed light on individual books’ history and dating. 

Some projects to describe important collections – for example, that of M. P. Pogodin in the Russian National Library (GPB/RNB) – have taken a very long time to get off the ground and are still a long way from conclusion. The first of the to-date seven volumes cataloging the Pogodin collection appeared in 1988, the most recent two having both been published in 2020. Vyp. 6 is devoted to only 20 manuscripts (Nos. 943-962). At that rate, it might be several decades before the last of the 2105 manuscripts has been described. (Note, however, the extensive description of the South Slavic manuscripts, produced by the Bulgarian scholar Klimentina Ivanova.) Over half a century ago, D.S. Likhachev was unsparing in his criticism of the false starts and delays in progress on the project. Happily, the latest volumes are exemplary for their thoroughness, with indexing that even includes a listing of watermarks (no illustrations of them, however) and a substantial section of color plates illustrating the various scribal hands.

The publication of the volumes on the Egorov collection (two of which I have seen; the third is in transit) is welcome. The collection of the Old Believer merchant Egor Egorovich Egorov, numbering over 2000 books, was one of the most remarkable such libraries in its day. Egorov was murdered in his private chapel in 1917; the books thus came into the collection of the Rumiantsev Museum (now the Russian State Library [GBL/RGB]). Various initiatives to describe the collection, including one undertaken in 1964 involving a noteworthy group of early manuscript specialists, never went very far. Of some interest is the fact that in 2004, there was a project to produce a computerized description that could have been available on-line; however, it was abandoned. In order to bring what had been accomplished up to the current standard for manuscript descriptions, T. V. Anisimova took in hand all the previous work and prepared the three volumes noted here, for the first 300 numbers of the collection. As she indicates in her brief introduction, there are a number of innovations in her approach, among them careful attention to all the watermarks on all the pages, something essential for codicological study (though, alas, at least the first two volumes of the catalog do not include tracings of them). We have here, inter alia, careful if cryptic descriptions of contents, supplemented by a lengthy index of incipits, owners’ inscriptions, and color photographs of many striking examples of book art and scribal hands. It would be nice to know whether more volumes can be expected any time soon, as a full description of Egorov’s books certainly is needed.


Katalog slaviano-russkikh rukopisnykh knig XVI veka, khraniashchikhsia v Rossiiskom gosudarstvennom archive drevnikh aktov. Vyp. 3. Sbornik asketicheskii – “Sviashchennye paralleli” Ioanna Damaskina. Moskva: Indrik, 2020, 656 pp. ISBN 978-5-91674-557-3.  

The first two volumes of this ambitious catalog of the 16th-century manuscript books in RGADA appeared in 2005 and 2014, containing respectively “Apostol-Kormchaia” and “Lestvitsa-Pchela”. We are indebted to the compilers, Irina L’vovna Zhuchkova, Boris Nikolaevich Morozov and Liudmila Vladimirovna Moshkova (the last of these also the editor), for the detailed codicological evidence and text-by-text description of contents for the nearly 70 manuscript books and fragments in this new volume, the books scattered in several fondy of the archive. My eye was caught here by the evidence about No. 229 (pp. 336-338), a fragment from one of the many manuscript books which suffered from the ministrations by the famous pioneering archaeographer P.M. Stroev in the 19th century. In this case, the copy here of the Sudebnik of 1497 was in a manuscript he had removed from the Volokolamsk Monastery in 1817, dis-assembled, and its other parts sold by Stroev to Count F. A. Tolstoi (it is now in his collection in RNB, Q.XVII.64). While the current catalog is provided with appropriate indexes (including incipits and names of individuals in inscriptions on the books), unfortunately there are no photographs of manuscript hands or reproductions of the watermarks. One may hope that eventually a volume will be provided with such illustrations for all these 16th-century books in the important RGADA collection.


Spravochnye materialy k Slovariu russkogo iazyka XI-XVII vv. . Ukazatel’ istochnikov. Slovnik (priamoi). Moskva: OOO “Leksus”, 2020. 764 pp. ISBN 978-5-905532-59-7.

It is somewhat hard to believe that 2020 marked 45 years since the inauguration of the publication of this dictionary. My set now numbers 31 volumes (through Ubivanie-Ulok, a total of some 82,000 words), with a few more to come. The original index of sources has now expanded to more than 4000, indexed here. And, long planned, the bulk of this volume is a list of all the words for which there is an entry in the dictionary, which will make searches substantially easier.


Pravdivye zapisi o mongolakh Tsinskoi imperii. T. 1. Pravlenie Taitszu, Taitszuna i Shitszu; T. 2. Pravlenie Shentszu (1661-1695 gg.); T. 3. Pravlenie Shentszu (1696-1722). Perevod s staropis’mennogo mongol’skogo E. V. Sunduevoi. Irkutsk: Ottisk, 2019-2021. 648, 471, 476 pp. ISBN 978-5-6043521-5-1. 978-5-6045121-8-0, 978-5-6045840-8-8.

These volumes will be of great value for anyone who cannot read the Old Mongolian original of “True Records of the Mongols of the Qing Empire”, a compendium based on the more extensive official Chinese annals, the Qing Shih Lu. The three volumes cover the period from the first Manchu emperor of the new dynasty, Nurhaci, through to the end of the long reign of the Kangxi emperor. The period covered in these volumes encompasses important events in early Russian relations with the Qing (the first treaty between the two empires was signed at Nerchinsk in 1689) and with the Mongols who occupied the border territories between the two empires. The Qing incorporation of the Khalkha Mongols was confirmed in an agreement at at Dolonnor in 1691. The substantial introductions to the texts review the historiography of the emergence and consolidation of the Manchu dynasty under its first rulers. The translation is accompanied by extensive commentaries and the books have been provided with appropriate indexes. The Institut of Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies in Ulan-Ude is to be commended for undertaking this project.


William Craft Brumfield. Journeys through the Russian Empire: The Photographic Legacy of Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2020. xii + 518 pp. 409 illustrations, incl. 398 in color. ISBN 9781478006022; also available as an e-book.

I normally avoid writing book notes about publications in English, figuring that most who are subscribed to the Early Slavic list will already have come across them. And certainly the work of Bill Brumfield is widely known and appreciated. He has done more than anyone I know of to document photographically the Russian architectural heritage and write its history, a project that is so critical where the subjects of his work may decay, disappear, or be transformed by “restorations” that obscure their earlier life. A major collection of his work is in the National Gallery of Art; the dozens of nicely crafted essays he has produced under the rubric “Discovering Russia” may be accessed via the “Russian Beyond” website at

Part of the research for writing about that architecture has involved studying collections of old photographs. One of the most remarkable of them contains the work by one of the great pioneers of photography for his early use of color, Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky.  Prokudin-Gorsky’s photos have for a good many years been available in good scans on the Library of Congress website. The library houses the remarkable color negatives, which, carefully restored, were used to re-create the full color images. In the years up into World War I, he traveled widely in the Russian empire, documenting whatever he saw, many photos showing people at work, non-Russian ethnic groups, scenes of ordinary provincial life. As Brumfield indicates, Prokudin-Gorsky’s work has attracted much attention in recent years in Russian discourse about the country’s culture and history.

As Brumfield explains here, his own task has not been to offer a full study of Prokudin-Gorsky’s oeuvre, but selectively to focus on itineraries mainly in European Russia and Russian Turkestan (Central Asia) and concentrate mainly on the photos of architecture. A good many recent on-line essays from this project have provided a preview of the approach, which is to juxtapose the early record with Brumfield’s own photos, often taken from the same vantage points. This “interaction” between the two collections of photos includes ample discussion of the history of the sites as well as consideration of the broader issues of photography and memory.

At the asking price, this large-format book is a bargain, not just for “content” but for the excellence of production values and design, enhanced by clearly drawn maps for each of the regions covered. Anyone interested in Russian or Central Asian history and culture would find pleasure in having this volume to savor.


Along the Silk Roads in Mongol Eurasia: Generals, Merchants, Intellectuals. Ed. by Michal Biran, Jonathan Brack, and Francesca Fiaschetti. Oakland, Calif.: University of California Press, 2020. xiv + 335 pp. ISBN 978-0-520-29874-0 (PB); also in hard cover.

Dedicated appropriately to the late Thomas Allsen, whose studies of the Mongol Empire based on a close reading of primary sources have contributed so much to our understanding of its socio-economic and political history, this book, containing 15 biographies of individuals loosely grouped in the categories indicated by the sub-tittle, brings to life aspects of Mongol rule which previously have not been fully appreciated. In a sense, it is analogous to an earlier book published by University of California Press, in which Susan Whitfield presented “life along the Silk Road” through a series of composite (but semi-fictionalized) biographies. However, the volume here deals explicitly with real evidence of real individuals, over and over impressing us with how much detail about them can be extracted from the full range of the written sources.  This does mean than in some cases the amount of specific detail with dates and names may be somewhat overwhelming for a general audience. However, the careful editorial attention to providing good introductions and conclusions to each chapter is extremely helpful for highlighting what is important. The editors’ introduction also does an excellent job of setting the stage and summarizing what can be expected in the chapters which follow.

As the book makes clear, one of the reasons for Mongol success in creating an empire that encompassed a huge swatch of Eurasia was the ability of the khans to enlist individuals with special abilities from a wide spectrum of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. They played a key role in successful military campaigns, the administration of conquered territories, economic policy, and various cultural endeavors. The book is impressive in part for the attention devoted to women and can serve as something of an antidote to the glib popularization about them published some years ago by the anthropologist Jack Weatherford. At the same time, in certain of the essays, reasonable hypothesis has to substitute for proof based on hard evidence. I found the sections on merchants and intellectuals to be of particular interest for what they reveal about the shift in “silk road” trade patterns to emphasize routes along the “northern tier” via the Black Sea and territories of the “Golden Horde” and the sea routes around Southeast Asia. In intellectual life, it turns out that some centers in Central Asia recovered quite rapidly following the Mongol conquest and continued to be destinations for pilgrimage and learning.

Anyone interested in the history of the Mongol Empire will learn a lot from this volume. The names of most of the individuals whose stories are told may be unfamiliar to those who have read even quite a bit about the empire, but the conclusions one can venture from examining these histories are of real consequence.


Susanne Reichert, A Layered History of Karakorum. Stratigraphy and Periodization in the City Center. Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, Vol. 8. Mongolian-German Karakorum Expedition, Vol. 2. Bonn: Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, 2019. 347 pp., 39 figures, 2 tables, 12 supplements. ISBN 978-3-936490-33-6.

 Susanne Reichert, Craft Production in the Mongol Empire. Karakorum and its Artisans. Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, Vol. 9. Mongolian-German Karakorum Expedition, Vol. 3. Bonn: Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, 2020. 345 pp., 77 figures, 26 tables, 76 plates. ISBN 978-3-936490-34-3.

These new large-format volumes in the series, Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, are an impressive achievement. As the author explains in her introduction to the first of them (p. 13), “Karakorum is the only site in Mongolia with such a deep stratigraphy… The documented layers form thus a formidable basis for a relative sequence of occupation through time — a layered history of Karakorum — and at the same time, they contain material remains of various workshops feeding into a study of economic entanglements of Karakorum with the wider political history.” The evidence analyzed here is from the excavations by Bonn University in 2000-2005 under the framework of the Mongolian-German Karakorum Expedition. Analysis of parts of that material have previously been published, for example, in Vols. 1 and 2 of the Bonn series.

Reichert’s first volume is a highly technical presentation of the stratigraphy, employing sophisticated computerized analysis to map the sequence of archaeological levels. Her study “establishes a new chronological system” based on “absolute data from radiocarbon analysis, dendrochronology, coins and a seal” (p. 74). The largest part of the book catalogs in detail a) the 130 spatial units established during the excavations in what is considered to have been the central area of the “Craftsmen-Quarter”, and b) 2136 features recorded and located on the accompanying site maps. This is the kind of precise archaeological presentation of evidence which, in her words (p. 74) “will be the authoritative foundation for future works”, both at Karakoram and other sites.

The fruits of such analysis then are in her second volume, which is the most precise treatment of craft production and the changes in it over time in Karakorum. Non-specialist readers will find a lot here of interest in her introductory overview of archaeology at Karakorum and earlier work on handicraft production in the Mongol empire and in her notes about the written sources. She then discusses her methodology and contextualizes the city in its natural environment. Analysis of the evidence treats in detail (illustrated with many graphics and tables) a range of materials and then focuses on the development over time of the various workshops. This leads to a broader synthesis regarding the organization of production, economic policies, and the place of Karakorum in its region and within the larger empire. Her material demonstrates how “the wider Mongol economy … functioned on a highly commercialized level” (p. 206). The book includes a short technical analysis of crucible fragments by Roland Schwab and a substantial catalog of finds and samples, illustrated with high-quality plates.

As Reichert emphasizes, much else can yet be learned from the evidence accumulated during the Bonn excavations. Coins and weights await full analysis. A full treatment of architectures is a desideratum. Her material needs further corroboration and comparison with other sites of fixed habitation (Layered History, pp. 74–75). We can anticipate that the estimable Bonn series will continue to expand our knowledge of the early history of Mongolia, where so much cutting-edge archaeological research is underway.


For the Centennial of Berthold Laufer’s Classic Sino-Iranica (1919). A cent’anni da Sino Iranica: tra Oriente ed Occidente, scambi di cultura materiale ed ideale. Sino-Iranica’s Centennial. Between East and West, Exchanges of Material and Ideational Culture. Quaderni di Studi Indo-Mediterranei XII (2019-20). Ed. by Ephraim Nissan. Milano; Udine:  Mimesis, 2020. 573 pp. ISBN 978-88-5758-300-6; ISSN 2532-8492.

The subject of this substantial volume may for some readers seem so obscure as to question why it belongs in the current list. However, one cannot overemphasize the importance both of the book by Laufer which it celebrates, and the range and interest of the very substantial essays here. Laufer’s volume (recently reprinted) is still one of the most important contributions tracing cultural connections between the Iranian world and China and broader issues of the trade in various goods. The essays here (15 in English, 4 in Italian, and a section of book reviews) take up a good many of the subjects on which he shed light. Several of them deal with religious interactions, notably the spread of Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism. The editor, Ephriam Nissan, contributes a lengthy introduction to the volume and three separate essays, one on Manichaeism. There are chapters on the transmission of agricultural products and on astrological beliefs. The well-known historian of the Silk Roads, Valerie Hansen writes about the trade involving walrus tusks around 1000 CE (part of a larger project in which she focuses on that millennial year). The noted Mongolist Christopher Atwood also explores the routes in the north along which arctic ivory moved. Susan Whitfield reviews the literature on horses and their pastures in China.


Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities (Östasiatiska Museet), Stockholm, No. 81: Asia and Scandinavia—New Perspectives on the Early Medieval Silk Roads. Stockholm, 2020. 224 pp. ISSN 0081-5691.

The new volume of this venerable series (whose first 40 volumes from 1929–1968 are now freely available in electronic form at contains papers from a symposium held in Stockholm on the occasion of an exhibition of archaeological materials from Luoyang in 2015. (Since I had been asked to read some of the essays in advance of publication and am now a member of the editorial advisory board, I must recuse myself from critiquing the contents.) There is a great deal here which in the first instance should help to expand traditional views of the silk roads to include Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. The volume is nicely illustrated with drawings, maps and photographs (many in color). Each article has a substantial bibliography. A 15–minute video available on the Bulletin’s website, introduces the volume through short talks by most of the contributors (


Editor’s Preface (Eva Myrdal): “Asia and Scandinavia: New perspectives on the Early Medieval Silk Roads” (5–21)

Susan Whitfield, “The Expanding Silk Road: UNESCO and BRI” (23–42). Discusses how the concept and study of the silk roads have evolved in recent decades, but with many lacunae in scholarship for key areas, especially in Central Asia.

Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, “With Asia as neighbour: Archaeological evidence of contacts between Scandinavia and Central Asia in the Viking Age and the Tang Dynasty” (43–64).  Stresses that in the Viking era, the archaeological evidence suggests that silk road regions of Asia were familiar at least in some parts of the European north.

Evan Andersson Strand, “Travelling with textiles – production, consumption, and trade in the Viking Age” (65–88). The emphasis on the range and uses of textiles is a good reminder that any study of textiles along the silk roads cannot just focus on elite silks.

Tong Tao, “Ancient Silks from Western Tibet” (89–106). Little-known examples of the earliest (Han–Jin era) silks yet found on the Tibetan plateau, from the Gurugyam and Quta Cemeteries; comparative analysis with well-known examples from other areas.

Annika Larsson, “Asian Silk in Scandinavian Viking Age Graves: Based on the boat- and chamber graves in the Eastern Mälar Valley” (107–147). Documents how there was quite a bit more silk in those graves than some of us may have thought; brings to her task extensive expertise in technical analysis of the textile finds, illustrated here in part with microphotography.

Guo Wu, “An overview of ancient amber artefacts excavated in China” (149–178). A very useful catalog of finds, many familiar from publications on the Liao.

Janken Myrdal, “Transmission of technology along the Silk Road – theoretical reflections and three examples” (179–222). Stimulating for testing through three examples (the wheelbarrow, the butter churn, and a mousetrap) whether the evidence in each case documents borrowings or rather independent invention. Only the mousetrap (a fascinating object) can be shown to illustrate transmission of technology.


Hao Chunwen. Dunhuang Manuscripts: An Introduction to Texts from the Silk Road. Tr. by Stephen F. Teiser. Diamond Bar, Calif.: Portico Publishing Company, 2020. xiv + 332 pp. ISBN 978-1-60633-585-7.

In the words of the translator’s preface, this book, first published in Chinese, “is an introduction to medieval China and the Silk Road focusing on the content, form, and significance of the manuscripts discovered at Dunhuang. It is intended for general readers, students, and teachers who many not know Chinese or who lack direct access to the primary sources and the considerable body of scholarship written in Chinese and Japanese...” (p. vii). Students of the Silk Roads will be familiar with the tales about how the thousands of manuscripts and painted banners, concealed for centuries in a one of the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang were discovered and came to be dispersed in collections around the world. Some of the “pioneers of Silk Road studies”, among them Aurel Stein, Paul Pelliot and others, removed most of the material, which at the time was not of particular interest to the local authorities. However, the actions of these “foreign devils” came to be excoriated by Chinese nationalists as theft of national treasures. While Prof. Hao shares such views, they are but a small part of this book. Its value is in the careful contextualization, description and categorization of the various groups of the manuscripts, accompanied by a good many color illustrations of them. The topical groupings include religious texts, historical and geographical texts, documents for social history, popular literature, and scientific and technical writings. The large final chapter discusses the four classes of ancient texts: classics, histories, philosophers, and literary collections. The book includes a bibliography of secondary literature, a general index and an index of manuscripts and early printed editions. The translation of the volume and its publication by a non-academic press obviously were a labor of love for Prof. Teiser, a noted scholar of Chinese religions (and especially Buddhism). The book deserves wide circulation and should be of interest to any student of the Silk Roads who wishes to learn about some of the most important sources for their study.


The Silk Road: Interwoven History. Vol. 2 Buddhism. Edited by Marko Namba Walter, James P. Ito-Adler. Cambridge Institutes Press; CANSRS: Association for Central Asian Civilizations and Silk Road Studies, 2021. ISBN 978-0-9910428-3-8. x + 365 pp.

The series of which this book is the second volume was inaugurated in 2014 with a volume of essays devoted to long-distance trade, culture and society. Future volumes are to include one on the Lotus Sutra in Central Asia, Islam in Central Asia, and Central Asian Languages. For information on obtaining the book one may contact CANSRS via its website at: The book includes numerous illustrations and a general index. Its contents include the following chapters, the abstracts copied (with slight editing) from Mariko Namba Walter’s introduction (esp. pp. 9-13):

1. Greek Buddhism? Early religious contacts in Greco- Bactrian and Indo-Greek Kingdoms, by Mariko Namba Walter

Abstract: Chapter One deals with Bactria (centered in present-day Afghanistan), Gandhāra (present-day northwest Pakistan), and India to discuss the conversion of some of the resident Greeks to Buddhism. The author focuses on selected Greek-related donor inscriptions in Kharoṣṭhī and Brāhmī scripts found in cave temples and elsewhere in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. They provide a great deal of evidence for the presence of Greek and other non-Indian Buddhists in Hellenistic Central Asia for several centuries starting around the second century BCE.

Greek conversion to Buddhism reveals important aspects of the process of cultural assimilation of the Greeks who settled in Central and South Asia, as well as of the Hellenization of some Indians and Bactrians, who accepted and adopted Greek identity and culture. These Greeks were the early precursors of the movement of people, goods, and culture throughout Eurasia, along the many routes that later came to be called the Silk Road. The study of Greek Buddhists helps reveal this important phase of the history of Buddhism and the Silk Road.

2. Silk Road Transmission of Astrological Lore to China - Indian, Chinese and Central Asian elements in Mahāsaṃnipātasūtra (T397), by Bill M. Mak

Abstract: Chapter Two focuses on the astrological materials preserved in the Buddhist text of the Mahāsaṃnipātasūtra (MSN). The author documents how they reflect the dissemination of astrological science, which originated in Mesopotamia, Greece, and India, was modified in Central Asia, and then was subsequently transmitted to China and Japan. Buddhists were among the first to introduce Indian astral science to the Chinese; knowledge that was transmitted along the Silk Road. The ancient Vedic lunar astrology was gradually overshadowed by a new form of astrology, imported into India. The zodiac, which originated in Greco-Babylonian astronomy, became one of the fundamental components of horoscopy, and eventually became the dominant form of astrology in India. By the sixth century, the MSN was compiled into Chinese and gradually incorporated into a body of Tantric Buddhist astrological works that was translated into Chinese during the Tang Period.

3. Demons on the Silk Route: Māra's Monsters and the Faces of Fear, by Patricia Eichenbaum Karetzky

Abstract: From an art-historical perspective, Chapter Three, examines the development of Māra’s character during the Kushan era. Māra is a demonic deity, well-known in Buddha’s legend, as the demon who distracted the meditating ascetic (the Buddha) while he was sitting under the Bodhi tree seeking to achieve enlightenment. The depiction of “Māra in Heaven” of Barhut, in central India (second century BCE) gives us an early Indian depiction of the scene. But the image underwent a dramatic transformation during the Kushan occupation of Gandhāra. In Gandhāra, the Mara’s threat of distractions changed into a military confrontation led by an armed and militant god of death. The author has sought the artistic formats for the battle scene and Mara’s army in classical and Roman art under the Kushan Empire in Hellenistic and Roman art in the multi-cultural environment. She believes the Gandhāran artistic motif was brought east to Central Asian locales such as Kizil, Kumtura, and Dunhuang, as this representation of the scene of Māra’s assault spread throughout the Buddhist world.

4. Central Asian Influence on Northern Liang Calligraphy (397-439 CE.), by Chunghui Tsui

Abstract: Chapter Four, provides an extensive analysis of the unique Buddhist calligraphic style developed during Northern Liang period in the fifth century. The author demonstrates how these styles were influenced by complicated historical and political factors. Thousands of manuscripts found in Dunhaung caves provided valuable resources for the study of Chinese calligraphy, including its historical origins and development. Interestingly, the founder of Northern Liang dynasty, Juqu Mengxun (386-433 CE), was from the nomadic Turco-Mongolian people called Xiongnu by the Chinese; one of many different tribal groups that existed within and surrounded the Northern Liang state.

5. Dunhuang Cave 272 and the Ruixiang ‘One Buddha and Fifty-two Bodhisattvas’, by Tianshu Zhu

Abstract: Chapter Six, examines the iconography of the main Buddha in Dunhuang Mogao Cave 272, dated to the Northern Liang period of the fifth century. The most significant phase of early Chinese Buddhism occurred under the Northern Liang and set the stage for the subsequent flourishing of Chinese Buddhism during the Sui (581–618 CE) and Tang dynasty periods (618-907 CE).

The author questions the conventional identification of the main Buddha in Cave 272 as Maitreya and suggests Amitābha with fifty-two Bodhisattvas as the correct identification. She extends her discussion to the history and origin of ruixiang 瑞像, a popular Chinese Buddhist iconographic motif of “One Buddha and Fifty-two  Bodhisattvas.” She believes the transmission of the Buddhist iconographical motifs was not necessarily a lineal one from India/Gandhāra to Central Asia to China: it is possible that Gandhāran influence could have been transmitted directly to the capital of China, skipping Central Asia, and in the case of ruixiang only spreading out to more distant areas at a later time.

6. Mes Aynak: Afghan Buddhist Art in Context, by Anna Filigenzi

Abstract: In western Central Asia, Afghanistan remained a stronghold of Buddhism through the fifth century until Islamization overtook the area. Chapter Seven examines recent findings at the Mes Aynak excavation in Afghanistan, a large Buddhist site about 40 km southeast of Kabul. This site covers an area of several square kilometers and sits on top of a large copper reserve. Mes Aynak is currently under excavation with the support of the UNESCO Office since 2016. Due to local and international pressure, the Chinese mining operation there, which would have potentially destroyed this historically significant archeological site, has been stopped.

Preliminary studies indicate that Mes Aynak had been a vibrant Buddhist center in the region with various Buddhist places of worship with statues, stūpas, and monasteries, roughly dated from the fourth to the eighth centuries CE. This article explores its relationship with other sites in Afghanistan and other Central Asian locales such as Uzbekistan and Xinjiang.

7. Sudhana’s Journey to the Otherworld: A Buddhist tale from Khotan, by Almuth Degener

Abstract: Khotan was a major center of Buddhism from around the first century CE. Situated on the southern Silk Road, it was an important trade post on the way between India and China. Chapter Eight explores the Sudhanāvadāna, accounts of Prince Sudhana in Khotanese Buddhist literature, dated around the tenth century. The Sudhana tales have been widely disseminated into Buddhist cultures of Northern India, Southeast Asia, China, and throughout Central Asia including Khotan. The author examines how this Buddhist avadāna “love story” of Prince Sudhana circulated among Khotanese people around the time when Buddhist literature in indigenous Central Asian languages such as Khotanese, a Middle Iranian language, was flourishing.

8. Mahāmāyūrī from Khara Khoto, Inner Mongolia, by Sampa Biswas

Abstract: Chapter Eight, examines the Buddhist artifacts discovered in Khara Khoto, located in the middle of present-day Inner Mongolia in China. The site reveals interesting interactions between Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism in the Tangut frontier town of Xi Xia in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Khara Koto was explored by Russian archaeologist P.K. Kozlov in 1908-09 CE and by Sir Aurel Stein in 1914. Abandoned by 1380 CE, it is a desert ruin inside the buried fortified town. Under the sand, there are numerous ruins of Buddhist temples, which are indicative of the late stage of Central Asian Buddhism in Khara Khoto in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The author focuses on an iconographic study of one woodcut of a Buddhist goddess, Mahāmāyūrī, discovered in Khara Khoto and currently located in the National Museum, New Delhi. She finds that both Chinese and Tibetan traditions are represented in the art of Khara Khoto.

9. Noble Ancestors Becoming Buddhas - Paintings of Mongol Khans and Khatuns, by Isabelle Charleux

Abstract: Chapter Nine discusses the centrality of lay devotees that is explicit in Mongolian Buddhist art. The author focuses on the meanings of portraits of Mongol rulers, khans, and their wives, khatuns, in relation to Buddhist merit-making for themselves and their ancestors. She points out that Mongol nobles tend to be depicted as Buddhist devotees, while at the same the nobles themselves are being worshipped by their people. She attributes this to the cult of Chinggisid rulers that continued to legitimate the power of their descendants. She also associates depictions of Mongolian rulers on Buddhist scrolls and paintings with the funeral and commemorative rituals that served the traditional ancestor cults, albeit with a Buddhist coloring.


Vostochnyi Turkestan i Mongoliia. Istoriia izucheniia v kontse XIX-pervoi treti XX veka. T. 1. Epistoliarnye dokumenty iz arkhivov Rossiiskoi akademii nauk i Turfanskogo sobraniia; T. 2. Geograficheskie, arkheologicheskie i istoricheskie issledovaniia (Arkhivy Rossiiskoi akademii nauk i Natsional’noi akademii nauk Kyrgyzskoi Respubliki); T. 3. Pervaia Russkaia Turkestanskaia ekspeditsiia 19091910 gg. akademika S. F. Ol’denburga. Fotoarkhiv iz sobraniia Instituta vostochnykh rukopisei Rossiiskoi akademii nauk; T. 4. Materialy russkikh turkestanskikh ekspeditsii 1909-1910 i 1914-1915 gg. akademika S. F. Ol’denburga; T. 5. Vtoraia Russkaia Turkestanskaia ekspeditsiia 1914-1915 gg.: S. F. Ol’denburg. Opisanie peshcher Chan-fo-duna bliz Dun’-khuana.  Ed. by M. D. Bukharin et al. Moskva:  Pamiatniki istoricheskoi mysli, 2018. 703, 707, 530 pp. ISBN 978-5-88451-363-1; -364-8; -365-5; Vols. 4, 5: Moskva: Indrik, 2020. 656, 856 pp. ISBN 978-5-91674-587-0; -588-7.

These magnificent volumes belong in any library with a serious focus on the history of exploration and the historic Silk Roads. Increasingly in recent years, the archives and collections in Russia have been unveiling some of the sources which too often have escaped the notice of scholars who either could not obtain access and/or do not read Russian. The chief editor and contributor, Mikhail Dmitrievich Bukharin, who has already been recognized with prestigious awards from several international academic societies, has made available here a true cornucopia overflowing with riches.

Volume 1 contains:

  • An introductory essay by M. D. Bukharin on the history of the study of Eastern Turkestan and Mongolia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Correspondence of N. F. Petrovskii, V. R. Rozen and S. F. Ol’denburg with others, most of whom are familiar names in the history of discoveries in Central Asia. The publication a few years ago of letters written by Petrovskii, the long-time first Russian consul in Kashgar, omitted ones pertaining to the acquisition of antiquities; so we find them now here. The few letters in this collection written by George Macartney (the British consul), Albert Grünwedel and Aurel Stein are given both in their original French and in Russian translation. Johan-Georg Bühler’s letters to Ol’denburg and F. I. Shcherbatskii are in the original German and in Russian translation.
  • Correspondence and other documents relating to the First and Third Imperial Prussian Turfan Expeditions (1902–1903; 1905–1907), including a lot written by Grünwedel, published here in the German original and in Russian translation.
  • Correspondence relating to expedition of M. M. Berezovskii (1905–1907).
  • Letters of P. K. Kozlov to S. F. Ol’denburg from the former’s expeditions of 1907–1909 and 1923–1926. Recent years have seen the publication of Kozlov’s diaries from these expeditions, the second of which included the excavations at Noyon uul for which we now have Iuliia Elikhina’s catalog of the finds.
  • Correspondence with Ol’denburg relating to his Turkestan expeditions of 1909–1910 and 1914-1915.
  • Letters from S. E. Malov to Ol’denburg, from the former’s expeditions of 1909–1911 and 1913–1915.
  • A section of additional letters, including ones of Albert von Le Coq and Aurel Stein (his originals in English).

Volume 2 contains:

  • An essay by Bukharin, I. F. Popova and I. V. Tunkina on the Russian Turkestan expeditions of 1909–1910 and 1914–1915.
  • A report on the geography of Kashgaria written by the secretary of the Russian consulate in Kashgar, Mikhail Ivanovich Lavrov (1902–1906). Detailed segments from modern maps have been inserted here in several places to illustrate what he describes.
  • The diary and photo archive of D. A. Klements from his 1898 Turfan expedition. There is a rich collection of 106 photos, generally well produced, though one wonders whether a bit more work might have brought up details in shadow. Of course it is hard to know with old photos whether that can help. Here and in the publication of the other expedition diaries, there are photos of the sketches by the authors which dot their pages.
  • M. M. Berezovskii’s expedition diary from 1907.
  • From the 1909–1910 Turkestan expedition, Ol’denburg’s notebook and diary and excerpts from a diary kept by S. M. Dudin.
  • Essays by Ol’denburg, “The scientific expedition,” and V. V. Bartol’d, “Historical significance of ancient Türk inscriptions”.

Volume 3 contains 510 photographs in the archive of Ol’denburg’s Turkestan expedition of 1909–1910. A remarkable collection including some images of modern temples and towns, landscapes, and of course a huge number of historic ruins, including images of Buddhist murals then still in situ.

Volumes 4 and 5 contain the materials of Ol’denburg’s 1909-1910 and 1914-1915 Turkestan expeditions, including (in Vol. 5), his description of the Mogao grottoes near Dunhuang, and archival materials relating to the plans for publishing his material.

The volumes include bibliographies and indexes.


M[ikhail] K[azbekovich] Baskhanov, E[fim] A[natol’evich] Rezvan. Kashgar: Fotoletopis’ Bol’shoi Igry. Kollektsii N. F. Petrovskogo i Ia. Ia. Liutscha v sobranii MAE RAN / Kashgar: Images from the Great Game. Photographic Collections of Nikolai Petrovskii and Iakov Lutsch from the Kunstkamera, St Petersburg. Sankt-Peterburg: Nestor-Istoriia, 2021. 624 pp. ISBN 978-5-4469-1906-2.

The publication of some of the hugely important Russian collections of materials for the study of Central Asia and the historic Silk Roads includes recent initiatives to mine the riches of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera) in St. Petersburg.  This book, beautifully published (but for a distressingly weak attachment of the binding) includes two very valuable collections: the photographs taken by the first Russian consul in Kashgar, Nikolai Petrovskii, and those of his consular secretary Iakov Liutsch. The photos generally are of superb quality, nicely printed here on glossy paper. While a great many are from Kashgar and its immediate environs, some were taken on the routes connecting it with Russian Central Asia. And a significant part of Liutsch’s oeuvre is photos of Samarkand.  The photos are valuable for documenting historic buildings, many of which have either deteriorated or disappeared, in some cases under the ostensible if misguided goal of politically-inspired “restoration” in recent years.  The photographs document various aspects of local life.  A good many are the kind of formal portraits of “ethnic types” that were popular a century or more ago. There are some photos of particular historic interest for the history of the so-called “Great Game”, in which Petrovskii was a key player. Facing each photo in the book is a quotation from one or another of the early Russian descriptive accounts relating to what the photo depicts.

Baskhanov has provided an extensive and very informative introduction (in part based on materials in the National Archives in London). His essay covers the careers of Petrovskii and Liutsch, the mission which brought Francis Younghusband to Kashgar, the first British consul there, George Macartney, and, interestingly, the British officer Hamilton Bower, whose acquisition of a very early Buddhist manuscript (now known by his name as the “Bower Manuscript”) helped to fuel the interest in acquiring Central Asian antiquities. Petrovskii would play a key role in acquiring such material for Russian collection and also was well known for hosting some of the important early European explorers of Central Asia, among them Sven Hedin. E. A. Rezvan’s contribution to this volume includes a long essay on early photography in Central Asia and the important collections of it in the Kunstkamera. 

One of the great virtues of this fascinating book is the publication of its text in both Russian and English, which means it is fully accessible to a good many readers who may not know Russian but for whom this material is of huge interest. The Kunstkamera has been digitizing a lot of its photo collection, including thousands of images from Central Asia (though still little of what is in the book under review here). One can access the material from well-designed web pages at


Kjeld von Folsach, Joachim Meyer, Peter Wandel. Fighting, Hunting, Impressing.  Arms and Armour from the Islamic World 1500-1800. Copenhagen: The David Collection, 2021. 296 pp. ISBN 978-87-92596-10-9.

Readers of the Early Slavic list may well wonder why this book merits inclusion in my collection of noteworthy publications of the last couple of years. The simple answer is its beauty, in large format, illustrated with superb color photos almost entirely of objects found in one of the really important collections of Islamic world art, The David Collection in Copenhagen. The head of the museum and the two lead curators have written most of and edited the several well-informed essays here on some of the most striking examples of artistic crafts produced in Islamic states.  In addition to the weaponry, there are numerous miniature paintings showing armies and warriors actually garbed in the armor and bearing the weapons, using them in battle or on the hunt. Apart from the analytical and comparative essays, for each of the objects there is a generous caption essay. And an appendix provides the texts and translations of all the inscriptions on the weapons.

Of course for military elites in medieval and early modern times, exquisitely crafted weaponry and related accoutrements were a public mark of status (hence the “Impressing”, the subject of one of Meyer’s essays). One finds this, inter alia, among the Muscovite boyars and service nobles, the szlachta in Poland-Lithuania, the armies of Sweden. And, of course, when the Muscovite forces fought the Tatars and Ottomans, they were up against some of those who created and used objects such as those illustrated in this wonderful exhibition catalog. While the content here draws on the Copenhagen collection, it would be easy to expand the selection with analogous objects from the Armory collection in the Moscow Kremlin, the Military History Museum in Vienna, or the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków. Contemporary sources tell us how Muscovite cavalry in part was influenced by weapons and tactics learned from the Mongols or their Tatar successors. Some of the weaponry employed by Muscovite military elites surely in fact had had been made in the Islamic world; Muscovite craftsmen must have been inspired in part by what they saw in the booty that was obtained from successful military campaigns.

So there is much to enjoy here for its aesthetics, and much that can be learned from the essays that contextualize the objects. You may then be inspired to take a second look at the arms and armor in Russian and Central/East European collections. And certainly, on your next visit to Copenhagen, The David Collection should be high on your list of attractions to visit (admission is free!), even though this special exhibit closed right after the New Year. The permanent collection is still there, mounted in intimate spaces and readily supplemented by the audio guides that are available at the entrance. The Museum’s website ( includes superb photographs of all that it holds.

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Thank you very much Daniel for this wonderful overview of the recent titles! We surely missed your thorough book discussions, which you used to post here on H-EarlySlavic. We appreciate your work! I always find it practical to have such lists of current titles at hand when f.ex. faced with the task of ordering new books for our university library.