The English Missionaries in Siberia: Robert Yuille’s Correspondence with J. Kovalevskiy

Irina V. Kulganek
Institute of Oriental Studies, Saint-Petersburg Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences

The English Missionaries in Siberia: Robert Yuille’s Correspondence with J. Kovalevskiy

47th Meeting of the PIAC, Cambridge 2004

This paper is devoted to one of undoubtedly interesting themes for Russian and English Oriental studies — the relations of J. Kovalevskiy, the director of Kazan University and the founder of Russian school for Mongolian Studies, and Robert Yuille, the English Protestant missionary sent to Siberia by the London Missionary Society to christianize the native population and to translate the Holy Scripture into the Old Mongolian language.

The immediate stimulus for writing this paper was the author’s trip to Selenginsk Buryatia, where the missionaries had their seat during the 1820s.

In the paper the author reviews letters from the Archive, and a translation of one Christian praise-pray written by R.Yuille in Old Mongolian. The analysis of documents shows Yuille to be a major authority in the field of the study of the Mongolian medieval literary monuments. They speak of the friendly relations between Russian scholars and Buryat intellectuals, and about his pupil R. Vanchikov who subsequently became revered among Buryat people.

The materials allow us to suggest that the disagreement between the missionaries Yuille were not caused by Yuille himself. The praise-pray composed by Yuille in Old Mongolian provides the basis for reconsidering the London Missionary Society assessment of him and for placing of this outstanding person in the context of English missionary working history. The correspondence itself and the character of Yuille’s letters to J. Kovalevskiy are of great interest of for historians of Oriental studies The work is based on the materials from the Archive of the St.-Petersburg University.