|N.Bichurin Collection of information...||Besenyos, Ogur and Oguz||
1777 - 1853
http://gov.cap.ru/hierarhy.asp?page=./5002/140082 Bichurin museum site
http://www.bitchurin12007.narod.ru/p5aa1.html Article of Chuvash academician V.D. Dmitriev
The outline of the N.Ya.Bichurin biography can be found in many encyclopedic, science-related, and religious sources, and is not a purpose of this posting; to see what's out there, click on the header above; it has other links. What these sources are at best glossing over is the real genius of N.Bichurin. N.Ya.Bichurin was a Türkic Chuvash village boy from an area that in poverty was barely above that normal for its Russian occupiers. The name of the village was Bichera, in Russified articulation Pichura, which in Türkic is a lucid "pauper, derelict". Two centuries earlier his motherland was overrun by invaders, legally the Chuvashes became aliens in their own land, but their life did not change much, instead of being Tatar serfs they became the Russian serfs, as rural and forsaken as ever. Aside from more ruthless exactions, the only real change was a forced conversion by a church that was a mercilessly mean attribute of the state. His father Yakov (Jacob) Danilov (Yakov son of Danil) was a village deacon of local extraction in second generation with a three years of missionary schooling, without a face or surname, as indicated by the boy receiving a surname when he already was graduating a Kazan seminary. The clergy working in Chuvash or Tatar were a precious commodity for the powers, but they needed a sizable parish to generate subsistence income; his father not only served a cluster of village hamlets and their cemeteries, but also had to farm an 11 hectare (27 acres) plot of land. The only way to break from the foreshadowing gloom of life in Bichera was to ride the religion. In a feudal state held together by force and subjugation, religious conversion was an only path to a measure of equality, at least it certified that you were a human being. So, the Bichurin boy went to a missionary note singing school as for a grammar school, then to a seminary in Kazan, in 1798 it was renamed to a theological academy. The seminary had 500 newly baptized Chuvash, Tatar, Mari, Mordvin, and Udmurt students, it was a revved up tool for religious conversion of the country. Prior to the Russian conquest, religion and mosques were peoples' affair; after the conquest Christianity became a state affair, and the mosques remained in traditional communal care. In the seminary Nikita Pichurinsky (Nikita from the village Pichura), as he was registered there, in addition to his native Chuvash and Tatar, received Russian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German and French, in 1799 obtained his graduation papers with accolades, and finally a last name. The mind, memory, and carrier of the young clergyman were meteoric, soon he was appointed a prior in a Kazan capital monastery, and in 1802 was given a rank of Archimandrite (that is, a Chuvash boy was not only running the Türkic, Mari, and Russian monks, but also running their Russian overseers).
And then his carrier crushed. N.Bichurin was shipped to Irkutsk in Siberia, as a prior in a missionary monastery and a rector of the monastery's Orthodox Christian seminary. Things were getting worse, in 1805 N.Bichurin was ousted, stripped of his Archimandrite title, and shipped to Tobolsk monastery as a teacher of rhetoric without a right for church services. The official line is vague: for violation of monastic rules and conflict with seminarists; what is hidden behind that formulation in the past 200 years was never disclosed, but can be fairly inferred. (нарушение монашеского устава: содержание в монастыре под видом послушника бывшей крепостной, приехавшей с ним из Казани) Still in the Kazan seminary, the adolescent Nikita was given a status of a deacon, and worked helping to pay for the schooling. When a village priest with an axe hacked off his father's fingers, Nikita substituted for him in the church and in the farm, and had a first-hand experience of misery and subjugation of his people, which formed his thought and determined his fate. In Siberia, the ruthless colonial policies, fractioning and pauperizing of native Siberian population, huntdown and shoot-down of tribute evaders and resisters was a century-old state policy. Not only for a man of Türkic extraction, but also for enlightened Russians who chanced to witness the scene, the treatment of aboriginal peoples was immoral and revolting. In the Tobolsk monastery the defrocked N.Bichurin was incarcerated for two years; and then an imperial prescript, following a chain of diplomatic events, resurrected N.Bichurin as an Archimandrite Iakinth (Jacinth), a head of a theological mission to Peking attached to a diplomatic mission, all that without rescinding the defrocking order or exile sentence. Technically, N.Bichurin remained defrocked and exiled. That assignment gave N.Bichurin a chance to first learn the spoken Mongolian, and then the spoken and written Chinese and Manchu, a Tungusic language, and also Tibetan and Korean. The assignment was supposed to last for 10 years, but extended for over 13. During that time, N.Bichurin collected Chinese and Manchu lexicon compatible with "Kansi tsydyan" encyclopedic dictionary that surpassed anything available outside of China, served as unofficial translator for Chinese foreign office for correspondence in western languages, translated multi-volume "Tuntsyan Ganmu" (pinyin Tongjian Gangmu, aka "Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government"), a capital work on the Chinese history compiled in the 12th c., various encyclopedias, official statistical descriptions of the Chinese empire, and other works.
A glimpse into N.Bichurin beliefs is given by his objections to western and religious views that ridiculed Chinese customs and traditions, depicted China as a barbarous and ignorant state, and justified predatory plundering policies toward China. Among most impressive Chinese achievements, N.Bichurin wrote about smallpox vaccination, a technique discovered in the West a century later. For his transgressions, N.Bichurin became an object of a favorite Russian sport of fingering, tattling, and snitching on to all offices from Irkutsk to St.Petersburg, accused in sins from inattention to the office duties to forsaking the church services. When the distractions of the Napoleonic wars were over, the state became functional again, and in 1921 N.Bichurin was replaced. In addition to his notes and materials, N.Bichurin brought back 6.4 tons of Chinese literature for libraries and Oriental schools. N.Bichurin bacame irreplaceable in his knowledge and and linguistic capabilities.
And still his carrier crushed. A church court sentenced the former Head of the Mission Archimandrite Iakinth to stripping his title (again!), and an incarceration for life in the Valaam monastery as a lowly monk. The Valaam monastery was a northern fortress on an island in the Ladoga lake, that was one of the worst punishments in the imperial Russia short of execution. When Bolsheviks in Russia came to power, before they invented Gulag, they send their former friends and allies to die in the Valaam monastery. It was non-industrial scale, but still worked fine. In the Russian Orthodox Christian encyclopedias and dictionaries, N.Bichurin is invariably called "Archimandrite Iakinth", and the little occasions of stripping the Archimandrite title and for life incarcerations are joyously skipped altogether. The patriotic scientific literature and encyclopedias drum up his "Russianness", mention his defrocking, but still use the moniker "Archimandrite Iakinth" instead of the moniker "Nikita Bichurin". Even his village deacon father was posthumously given a fake Russian name Yakov Danilovich Bichurin and promoted to a priest (he did substitute for a priest most of the time, but was never consecrated). For now, only the post-baptismal names of his father and grandfather are known; his real name, like the name of his forefathers, remain hidden in the foggy depictions of the Potemkin-type portrayals.
N.Bichurin's personal library was left at his friend in Petersburg. Many N.Bichurin's works published after his return to Petersburg were created in Valaam, due to his phenomenal memory and daily work. Another turn of luck, caused by N.Bichurin's unique knowledge, compelled another imperial edict, with a proscription of relocating him to the Alexandr-Nevsky cloister in St.Petersburg. N.Bichurin's life sentence was never commuted, and it was served to his last day. That is the place where he is resting now, in a cemetery restricted to "who-is-who" in the imperial, Soviet, and post-Soviet Russia.
The apotheosis of N.Bichurin work started with his return from the Valaam incarceration. Never again he obtained any religious hierarchical titles, dying as a lowly monk, and shamelessly resurrected in the church annals only when it needed to find unblemished religious heroes. His energy was limitless, contents pioneering, comments biting, and publications uncounted. After a few fruitful years, N.Bichurin chanced to return to Siberia, attached to a scientific expedition, and at that time he met revolutionaries exiled to Siberia, got closely acquainted with them, including Bestujev, and established especially close relations with Bestujev. Apparently, during his stay in Kyakhta, influenced by his revolutionary soulmates, N.Bichurin decided to finally break with monasticism. You can't find that little nub in the published biographies. In the October of 1831, N.Bichurin applied to the Synod (Russian equivalent of Curia, an arm of the state apparatus) to revoke his monk status. The Czar, and not the Synod, had to make an abysmal decision. To strip a monk status meant to exile and incarcerate him. The answer was niet, keep the lousy but needed monk incarcerated in the Alexander-Nevsky cloister in St.Petersburg, not allowing him to leave the monasticism. He was born a serf, and the state held him a serf for all his life. With that curse, N.Bichurin could not marry his old widowed love, and in the Foreign Ministry as a translator had to work clandestinely.
Another interesting line, not ever mentioned in the biographies, is the N.Bichurin's personal life. From the biographical descriptions one would conclude that there was absolutely none, like with his social beliefs. And that would be expected, given N.Bichurin's lifetime status of the monk. The monks are not supposed to be social lions, or discuss the merits of the social revolutions. If they do, nowadays they get expelled and defrocked, in the 19th century they may have been exiled and defrocked, or executed and defrocked. In the N.Bichurin's case he was defrocked twice, and twice incarcerated. Something must be grossly amiss both in the monking (as in "to monk", a lifelong occupation of a monk) and in the biography departments. Biographical investigations found that N.Bichurin had an extensive extended family; a granddaughter of A.B. and T.L. Karsunsky, N.S. Moller, possibly born around the 1830's, called him grandfather, there was some kind of a special arrangement of a foster father type between him and her mother; he was actively involved in the life of his family and provided material assistance to his siblings and relatives; he attended salon life that flourished in the capital, meeting with Pushkin, Nekrasov, Krylov among the brightest of his time. These tidbits tell about rich and active personal life and lifelong attachments unbecoming to a lowly monk of cooked biographies.
By 1847 N.Bichurin became so prominent that he became a personage of a vaudeville. The Chuvash clergy (like any other "alien" clergy) in those days stated their ethnicity as "Great Russians", even though his appearance was unmistakably Chuvash. But the Petersburg society knew that he was a Chuvash. In 1847 came out an anonymous vaudeville "Natural School", where among other personages was ridiculed a former seminarist Chuvashin, who was convinced that true enlightenment should come from the East, and not from the West. A transparent target of that personage was N.Bichurin. That he became an eminent scientist, with love and respect to the history, culture, life, and languages of the Oriental peoples not in a small measure was driven by his Chuvash heritage. N.Bichurin publicized proofs that the Oriental culture of China and other countries is not inferior to the Western culture, that Russia should also be enriched by the Oriental cultures, which Peter I denounced and chagrined. Around N.Bichurin gathered his soulmates, outstanding literati and artists, and some state officials.
N.Bichurin publications kept coming out under the "father Iakinth" name. There were hundreds of them between 1831 and 1853. N.Bichurin's crown work was a 1851 publication of the "Collection of information on peoples in Central Asia in ancient times". In 1831 N.Bichurin was elected a member of Paris Asian Society. That started his triumphal membership in the Western "who-is-who" academies and societies. Most of this poor Chuvash boy's works were translated into European languages, and studied by the European Sinologists. Klapport remarked that N.Bichurin alone did as much as could be done by a school of a whole Sinologist Scientific Society. More then that, nobody dared to correct or finesse his translations. As the appreciation of N.Bichurin's work grew, in the minds of his international colleagues he became to represent the Russian science, and most likely that was how he was taking it, a Chuvash smart boy was a Russian science. Like in the evolutionary process, the hidden genes of a most ancient Türkic tribe rose to the top of the modern scientific knowledge. No Turkologist can create a work that does not use N.Bichurin's work at its foundation. The life of N.Bichurin is an achievement of the science that can't be forgotten. Still during his lifetime, N.Bichurin received highest recognition and accolades, but it is his intellectual inheritance that preserved his name for future generations. When we see the name "father Iakinth", we should remember that N.Bichurin had shed that skin as far back as 1831, and from that time on, only the audacity of the regime kept that name alive.
Many works that followed in the N.Bichurin's tracks diverged from his beliefs. The most important of them was the discovery of the Türkic inscriptions from the Second Türkic, Türgesh and Uigur Kaganates. They disproved a concept held by N.Bichurin, and confirmed a concept of Deguignes, in respect to the Türkic vs. Mongolic origin of the Huns and other Türkic tribes. Ironically, N.Bichurin encountered and translated dozens of the original Türkic words cited in the Chinese annals, he knew them as the words of his native language, and clearly stated that they were Türkic, but still held to the idea that these people were Mongols. N.Bichurin can't be held to the modern knowledge of the all historical problems, but his achievements were that he made ample Chinese sources accessible, introduced his followers to China, and in his works did much to dissipate the ignorant views on the Oriental countries and people, and dismantle the racist superiority complex used as a justification of the colonialism. None of the N.Bichurin's historical misinterpretations tinge the legacy of his inheritance, which stands as proudly today as it did in the 19th century.
Motherland Notes, 1839, vol. 7, page 33
China, its inhabitants, customs, traditions, education. Composition of monk Iakinth. SPb., 1840. Foreword. Pp. III-IV;
Iakinth Bichurin. Statistical description of the Chinese empire. SPb., 1842. P. 220
Son of fatherland, 1843, Vol. 5, Book 1. Div. 4, ed. comment
Iakinth (N.Ya. Bichurin). Commentss on Nevelin's article // Moskvityanin. 1844. No 9. P. 149-153.
Moskvityanin. 1844. No 3. P. 170.
Finnic bulletin. 1847. No 5. Section 4. P. 3
Reading Library . Vol. 91.1848. p. 1.
Modern Russian writers. Father Iakinth. Moskvityanin, 1849, No 7, Book 1, item 4. Criticism and bibliography, page 88 on, Listed thirteen titles
Schukin N. Father Iakinth Bichurin, SPb News, No 130, June 14 1853, page 535-536
Father Iakinth Bichurin, Autobiographical notes, Saveliev P., ed. // Academy of Sciences Scientific Notes for 1st and to 3rd branches, 1855, vol.3
Pogodin M.P. Biography of father Iakinth Bichurin // Conversations of Lovers of Russian literature Society at Moscow University, 1871. Issue 3;
Panaev I.I. Literary memoirs and memoirs about V.G.Belinsky, SPb., 1876, page 117-118
Hieromonk Nikolay (Adoratsky). Father Iakinth Bichurin (Historical etude) // Orthodox Converser, 1886, May;
Mirotvortsev V. Bichurin biography, Orthodox Converser, 1888, № 8, page 410-426
Moller N.S. Iakinth Bichurin in remote memoirs of his grand daughter // Russian olden time. 1888. No 8, 9;
Correspondence about Bichurin between A. N. Golitsyn and K.V.Nesselrode, Russian olden time, August 1888, page 301-304
Barsukov N. Life and works of M.P.Pogodin. Book 4. SPb., 1890;
Nikitenko A.V.. Note and a diary (1826-1877), SPb., 1893, page 36-38
Veselovsky N.I. Iakinth, Russian biographic dictionary, vol. I - K, SPb., 1897, page 153 on
Orthodox Theological Encyclopedia, vol. 6, SPb., 1905, page 11.
Brief history of Russian Orthodox Mission in China. Peking, 1916;
Belinsky V.G. Coll. of works. Vol. 11. Petrograd, 1917. P. 155-157.
Bartold W.W. History of studies of the Orient in Europe and Russia. 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1925;
Panteleev D.P., To 150-anniversary of Iakinth Bichurin birthday (bibliographic materials), Manchurian Bulletin, 1927, No 5, page 101-104
Bibliographic bulletin KVJD, No 1-6,1927, page 59-62
Simonovskaya L.V. Bichurin as a historian of China // Reports and messages of the Moscow State University Historical Faculty, 1948. Issue 7;
Bernshtam A.N. N.Ya. Bichurin (Iakinth) and his work "Collection of information on peoples in Central Asia during ancient times" // Bichurin (Iakinth) N.Ya. Collection of information on peoples in Central Asia during ancient times. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950;
Duman L.I. Oustanding Russian scientist - Orientalist. Session in memory of N.Ya. Bichurin // Bulletin of Academy of Sciences, 1953. N 7;
Tihonov D.I. Russian Sinologist of the first half of 19th century Iakinth Bichurin // Scientific Notes LGU. Series of Oriental Sciences. 1954. Issue 4. No 179;
Gorbacheva Z.I. Hand-written heritage of Iakinth Bichurin // Ibid.;
Skahkov P.E. Letters from Vallaam monastic prison // NAA 1962. No 1;
Skachkov P.E. Sketches of history of Russian Sinology. Moscow, 1977;
Belkin D.I. A.S.Pushkin and Sinologist father Iakinth (N.Ya. Bichurin) // NAA. 1974. N 6;
Krivtsov V. Road to the Great Wall (novel). Leningrad, 1972;
New and newest history, 1977, No 5
N.Ya. Bichurin and his contribution to Russian Oriental studies: To the 200-anniversary of his birthday. Materials of conference. Moscow, 1977. Part 1-2;
Krivtsov V. Father Iakinth (novel). Leningrad, 1978;
Orient and the world history, 1978
Myasnikov V.S. Valaam exile of N.Ya. Bichurin // PDV. 1986. No 1, No 2;
Skachkov P.E. Hand-written heritage of Russian Sinologists and its value in the history of Russian Sinology. // And ties of times did not crumble...: To the 100-anniversary of P.E.Skachkov birthday. Moscow, 1993.
N.Bichurin journal articles are very poorly inventoried
AVPRI, f. SPb. Main Archive, 4-6, list 124, 1830, file 1, l. 156