Another short post today, courtesy of my French friends, who translated my earlier short post about a French traveler watching a Russian wedding.
Much of my second novel, The Garden in the Heart of the World, is inspired by Central Asian tribes of nomads, so I was thrilled when I received this bit of interesting information about the region.
After Russia took control of Turkestan in Central Asia in the 1860’s, General Konstantin Petrovich von Kaufman, the first governor-general of Russian Turkestan, commissioned a huge ethnographic study of the region, including over 1,200 photographs. It was published in six volumes: “Archaeology” (two volumes); “Ethnography” (two volumes); “Trade” (one volume); and “History” (one volume). The principal compiler was the Russian Orientalist Aleksandr L. Kun. The album contains some 1,200 photographs, along with architectural plans, watercolor drawings, and maps.
In 1875, a great International Geographic Exhibition took place in Paris. According to a report by the English Lord Houghton,
Although the project did not emanate from the French Government, it had a certain public character, and they had allotted a spacious building, part of the Palais de l’Industrie, for the exhibition of the various articles proposed to be sent. It was hoped that the Congress would be attended by all the eminent geographers and travellers from the different counties of Europe, and that considerable good would result from the meeting together of men who had gone through different adventures, and were able to communicate to each other the result of their travels.
Russia contributed portions of Kun’s ethnographic study of the Asian tribes of the Turkestan region. Here’s an example of a watercolor from the collection.
(Descriptions of costumes from left to right)
1) A Hinkite or Koloche
He is wearing an outfit traditional to the Indians from Alaska (sold to the US in 1867 by Russia) which was known as “Amerique Russe”. These outfits were made of leather. The shirt is waterproof and made of the skin of sea animals (i.e. the tongue of a whale). The hat is made of braided reeds.
3) A local Ostiak of Obdorsk
He represents the tribes from Tobolsk, Berezov. Their clothing is made of animal skins and leather. When cold, they also wear an oversize coat with a cap made of wool covering the neck and the head. The little bag on their wrist is a set of gloves.
4) A Toungouse of the town of Nertchinsk
He represents the people of Nertchinsk from the province of Irkutsk near China. This is a region rich in iron and silver, and it shows in their extravagant clothing. The hat is made of cloth and fur embroidered with gold threads.
5) A Nomadic Toungouse
The Toungouse are a different race from the Tartars and the Mongols originating from Manchuria in China and in Russia. All their clothing is made of leather.
Here are some more photos from this fascinating ethnographic study. The full Library of Congress collection can be seen at this site.
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