Itineraries among the Turkic peoples of Western Siberia: The formative years of young V. V. Radlov (1837–1918)
(64th Meeting Budapest, 2022)
Friedrich Wilhelm Radloff (b. 1837 Berlin – d. 1918 Petrograd), in Russian V. V. Radlov, often designated as the founder of modern Turkology, is famous for his wide range of interests and research in the fields of linguistics, Turkology, ethnography, and, in general, Oriental languages, as well as his extraordinary output of scholarly works, mainly in German and Russian. His professional life can be divided into three periods: 1859–1871: Language Teacher in Barnaul/Western Siberia, during which he made 10 expeditions in the Altai mountains and neighboring regions including Western Mongolia, Chinese borderlands, the Fergana Valley and the Kazak steppe. 1872–1883: Government inspector of Muslim schools in the Kazan district (Tatarstan). 1884–1918: Member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, director of the Academy’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, leader of expeditions to Mongolia and East Turkestan. Radloffs principal works appeared between 1866 and 1917 and made him one of the most influential orientalists of his time. His Proben der Volkslitteratur der türkischen Stämme (Süd-Sibiriens) (10 + 8 vols. 1864–1907) and the Versuch eines Wörterbuches der Türk-Dialecte (4 vols, 1893–1911) are authoritative works to this day.
Before this background of an impressive life-achievement, this paper proposes to study young Radloff during the first formative phase of his professional life. What steps did he take to accomplish his fieldwork, what were his goals and priorities when he set out to face constant extraordinary hardships in uncharted regions, how did he consider the local population, how did he note down languages and dialects unknown to him before? What kind of personal development did he envisage for himself? His work Aus Sibirien (2 vols, 1884) permits a wealth of information on his methodology, comprehensive interests and personal worldview. During the 12 years he was stationed in Siberia, the high degree of talent, ambition and determination allowed Radloff to lay the foundation of his later more than 100 published works and to reach the highest echelons of an academic career.