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3. Ukrainian Roots of the Theory of Etnos

Sergei S. Alymov

© 2019 Alymov, CC BY 4.0 https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0150.03

The aim of this chapter is to contextualize the first appearance of etnos as a principal object of ethnographic research. This Greek-derived term was first elevated to a central theoretical concept by Nikolaĭ Mikhaĭlovich Mogili͡anskiĭ in 1916 in an article titled “The Object and Tasks of Ethnography” (Mogili͡anskiĭ, 1916).1 At that time, Mogili͡anskiĭ was a comparatively young thirty-year-old scholar who had recently taken up the post of curator at the newly created Russian Museum. That fact alone makes one curious as to how the term etnos “suddenly” emerged. This chapter examines its appearance and the theoretical thinking behind it not as the creation of an individual mind, but rather as a product of the activity of a network of intellectuals that exchanged ideas and were influenced by contemporary trends in European science. Mogili͡anskiĭ, as well as the author of the first detailed book-length exposition of etnos, Sergei Shirokogoroff (1923), was certainly a part of this circle of turn-of-the-century scholars and his work reflected ideas that were “in the air”.

The intellectual tradition that produced etnos theory was formed around such institutions as the Department of Geography and Ethnography of St Petersburg University, the Russian Anthropological Society of St Petersburg University, the Russian Museum, and the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera, or MAĖ) of the Academy of Sciences. The main features that characterized their thinking were:

  1. a training in natural sciences and to an extent a shared positivistic idea of biosocial laws that govern society as a “natural” phenomenon;
  2. an interest or training in physical (biological) anthropology;
  3. a connection to the discipline of geography and sometimes geographical determinism;
  4. borrowings from contemporary French and German anthropology;
  5. a vision of anthropology as an umbrella natural science of “man” that stemmed mainly from the French tradition. Ethnography was seen as one of its sub-disciplines.

Apart from these common traits, there was one characteristic that Mogili͡anskiĭ shared with his older friend and teacher Fëdor Kondratievich Volkov [Khfider Vovk]: their Little Russian/Ukrainian origins and active involvement in the Ukrainian national movement and Ukrainian politics. This chapter will deal mainly with the influence of this movement on etnos theory. It will argue that Mogili͡anskiĭ and Volkov’s involvement in a movement with the main aim of formulating and defending its program in ethnic-national terms made these anthropologists particularly mindful of ethnic divisions while their scientific anthropological outlook contributed to the way they naturalized these differences. The appearance of “etnos thinking” should be considered not as an invention of pure scientists, but in the political context of the turbulent last years of the Russian Empire, “replete with national parties and movements” at the age of collapsing empires and rising nation-states (Semyonov and Smith 2017: 373).

Since the following text is an attempt to reconstruct the context and genealogy of Mogili͡anskiĭ’s thinking and the origins of etnos theory, a short outline of his biography is necessary. Nikolaĭ Mogili͡anskiĭ was born in 1871 in Chernigov in Malorossii͡a. His father was the son of a priest, but received a juridical university education, served as an investigator and a judge, and was granted personal nobility. In 1889 Nikolaĭ entered the natural sciences division of St Petersburg University, where he attended the lectures of the anthropologist and geographer Ėduard Petri (1854–1899) and the anatomist Pëtr Lesgaft (1837–1911) amongst others (TsGIA SPb 14-3-26932: 32–37, 41). He became interested in anthropology, but was not satisfied with Petri’s teaching, and in 1894 he went abroad to continue his education in Paris. During his stay there, Mogili͡anskiĭ studied anthropology at L’École d’anthropologie under Paul Broca’s disciple, Léonce Manouvrier (1850–1927). He also attended Gabriel de Mortillet’s (1821–1898) lectures on archaeology and comparative ethnography, as well as lectures by Charles Létourneau (1831–1902) and others. In Paris he became close friends with Volkov, a more experienced anthropologist and compatriot who would have an important influence on him:

For a start of my studies I needed no better guide [than Volkov]. During the days we listened to lectures together, in the evenings we discussed them, delved into the literature and made plans for the future […] F. K. Volkov taught me the basics of photography, and I tried to make photos for scientific purposes (GARF R-5787-1-17: 83).

Upon returning to St Petersburg, Mogili͡anskiĭ became a professional anthropologist and ethnographer (Fig. 3.1). He worked for a time at the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography and in the Russian Museum until 1918. He also lectured in anthropology and geography in several educational institutions. After the Bolshevik revolution, Mogili͡anskiĭ moved to Kiev, where he held high posts in the government of the recently independent Ukraine under Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskiĭ (1873–1945). In 1920, he immigrated to Paris and in 1923 he moved to Prague, where he resumed his teaching and research. Mogili͡anskiĭ died in Prague in 1933. As can be seen from this short biography, Mogili͡anskiĭ lived most of his life in St Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire and Russian intellectual life, at the same time retaining the sympathies and connections of his south Russian background. But, before turning to the Ukrainian roots of etnos per se, we need a short overview of the St Petersburg anthropological scene, of which Mogili͡anskiĭ and his friend and colleague Volkov were both a part.

Fig. 3.1 Nikolaĭ Mogili͡anskiĭ upon his return from Paris with the employees of the Mobile Museum of Teaching Aids, St Petersburg, 1898. Mogili͡anskiĭ is standing at the far right (no. 6). Sitting at the far left (no. 1) is Aleksandra Kollontaĭ, future People’s Commissar of Social Welfare in the first Soviet government. Commenting on this photo in his diary, Mogili͡anskiĭ wrote in 1920 “[…] A. M. Kollontaĭ was not yet a People’s Commissar, i.e. narkom, but a nice, charming lady, a wife of an officer of the Guards. I came back from Paris in the spring and in the autumn took part in the organization and work of the Mobile Museum of Teaching Aids” (GARF R-5787-1-6-83; GARF R-5787-1-6-84). © State Archive of the Russian Federation, Moscow

St Petersburg Anthropology before Volkov

A paradigm that saw ethnography as a sub-discipline of the natural science of man was predicated upon its institutional position in the university curriculum. The department of geography and ethnography was opened at St Petersburg University in 1887 as part of the division of natural sciences in the faculty of physics and mathematics. The department’s first professor was Ėduard Petri (Fig. 3.2), a Baltic German who received his degree in medicine from the University of Bern in 1883 (Tikhonov 2003: 109–12; Mogil’ner 2008: 112–20). He was an anthropologist and started his teaching at St Petersburg with a lecture titled “Human Races and their Significance in Science and Life” (TsGIA SPb 14-1-8843: 6). His two-volume coursebook, Anthropology, published in 1890 and 1895, is the main source of information about his teaching and views (Petri 1890, 1895).

Fig. 3.2 Portrait of Ėduard Petri. Photographer unknown. Ezhegodnik Russkogo antropologicheskogo obshchestva, vol. 4, 1913, insert 2

Petri saw anthropology as the study of the natural history of “man”, which was further subdivided into sciences that studied “man” as an individual organism (anatomy, physiology and psychology) and as a “social organism” (ethnography, ethnology, and sociology, each of them having a homological relation to the disciplines in the first set). Petri conceived of ethnography as the comparative anatomy of various peoples or description of their appearances, while ethnology studied their “life” and dealt with material and spiritual culture (Petri 1890: 42–43). Petri was sceptical about dividing the human race into neat categories based only on physical characteristics. The generalized “types” of European, African, and Mongol man he described in his textbook had both physical and psychological characteristics. Arguing against Friedrich Muller’s vision of nationalities as differing only in language and ways of life, he claimed that nations are basically smaller subdivisions of races that could be grouped together on the basis of all “anthropological data” about them (Petri 1890: 107).

In 1892, Petri published a short program, “Anthropological Collections and Observations”, which was intended to become a guideline for a truly scientific fieldworker. The program illustrated his idea of the “division of labour” between ethnography and ethnology; it also reflected his conceptualization of nationality. He divided the program into ethnographical and ethnological parts. The ethnographical section contained detailed instructions concerning the measurement and preservation of all body parts, skeletons, and skulls, i.e. manipulations that later were routinely seen as referring to the field of physical anthropology. Introducing his methodological recommendations, Petri noted that when encountering a new narodnost the researcher must first determine the characteristics that differentiate this group from others, observing somewhat melancholically that “to find at least one specimen of a certain variety of mankind alive or in a complete state is a rare happy occasion” (Petri 1892: 5). A few lines later, he added that the researcher can “diagnose” nationality based on one skull only in an extreme case and needs a collection of skulls to make a sure judgment. The ethnological half of the program contained entries covering material culture, social life, and spiritual culture. The final paragraph of the latter read: “Perceptivity to the higher culture. Attitudes to schooling. Future prospects” (Petri 1892: 20). Thus, the paradigm of seeing ethnic differences in biological terms while at the same time rejecting the epistemological validity of the idea of race was in place in Petri’s writings and was further elaborated by his followers.

Petri’s immediate successor, Dmitriĭ Andreevich Koropchevskiĭ (1842–1903) (Fig. 3.3), is quite remarkable in this regard. Born in Moscow and educated at Moscow University, he became interested in anthropology and prehistoric archaeology under the influence of his tutors: zoologist and anthropologist Anatoliĭ P. Bogdanov (1834–1896), and geologist and palaeontologist Grigoriĭ E. Shchurovskiĭ (1803–1884). In the 1860–1880s he worked as a journalist and authored many popular science books and articles, including reviews of Petri and Paul Topinard’s anthropology textbooks. He probably edited most of the translations of foreign anthropological literature, including the works of Edward B. Tylor, John Lubbock, Élisée Reclus, Karl W. Bücher, and many others, such as the English social Darwinist Walter Bagehot.

In 1899 he started teaching at St Petersburg University with a course on anthropogeography (TsGIA SPb 14-2-1390: 11–12). This was not a random topic. Fridrich Ratzel’s work had exercised a formative influence on Koropchevskiĭ’s thinking. In addition to editing Ratzel’s Russian translations, Koropchevskiĭ published An Introduction to Political Geography (Koropchevskiĭ 1901) which popularized Ratzel’s concept of anthropogeography and outlined “the newest geographical ideas about the significance of surrounding nature for the physical, mental and social development of humanity” (Ibid: vii). In this work he came quite close to evaluating the laws governing correlations between the density of population, territory, and “the level of culture” obtained by certain peoples or states. Their viability, in his opinion, heavily depended on their ability to expand, increase in population, and encourage the population’s activity. This led Koropchevskiĭ to portray colonialism as a natural phenomenon that demonstrated the internal weaknesses and “unhealthy basis” of the colonized (Ibid: 134–36).

Fig. 3.3 Portrait of Dmitriĭ Koropchevskiĭ. Photographer unknown. Ezhegodnik Russkogo antropologicheskogo obshchestva, vol. 4, 1913, insert 2

Koropchevskiĭ presented his most pronounced presentation of peoples as the important collective actors in his dissertation, The Significance of Geographical Provinces in Ethnogenetic Processes, published soon after his death in the first volume of The Annual Review of the Russian Anthropological Society. Koropchevskiĭ began his study with a critique of the concept of race, which he, following French anthropologists Topinard and Deniker, saw as an abstract and subjective collection of physical characteristics. Instead, he credited only peoples and ethnic groups with real existence. These, in his view, constituted the proper object for ethnology:

Theoretically, the main object of ethnologist’s research is the ethnogenetic (narodoobrazovatel’nyĭ) process […] Practically the task of the ethnologist boils down to defining to which stage of ethnogenetic process one or another ethnic group can be assigned (Koropchevskiĭ 1905: 27).

Ethnic groups or types, Koropchevskiĭ argued, should be studied in connection with the geographical milieu that gave birth to them. He saw the ethnogenetic processes in naturalistic terms as defined by Ratzel and the German naturalist Moritz Wagner, who discovered the main evolutionary mechanism in migration and isolation of species. Thus, Koropchevskiĭ followed Petri’s line of argument in preferring ethnic terms to racial ones and, at the same time, introduced Ratzel’s concept of geographic determinism and the term “ethnogenesis”, which would have a long career in twentieth-century Russian-Soviet science.

As one can see from this brief overview, the fledgling discipline of anthropology in St Petersburg can be described as the “science of race” only with an important qualification. Their main representatives were rather sceptical of this concept. Instead, they often spoke about human “types”, distinguished on the basis of various physical and non-physical characteristics, which they tended to equate with peoples or “nationalities”.

The Ukrainian National Movement and the Definition of Nationality

Defining nationality as a natural unit was not the only prerequisite for the birth of etnos. Ideological motivation and national fervour were also ingredients that contributed to this complex notion. As has been already noted, Mogili͡anskiĭ, who coined the term in its modern usage, and Volkov, an older friend and colleague who influenced Mogili͡anskiĭ’s thinking, both came from what was known at the time as southern or Little Russia (Malorossii͡a) — modern Ukraine. Although they both became cosmopolitan intellectuals who published and worked in several countries, they never lost touch with their motherland and promoted the Ukrainian cause in various ways.

Mikhaĭlo S. Hrushevs’kiĭ [Mikhaĭl S. Grushevskiĭ] (1866–1934) called Ukrainian ethnography “a martial science” that dominated Ukrainian studies throughout the nineteenth century. For the Ukrainian public, the richness of folklore constituted “one of the major signs attesting to the value of the Ukrainian element and its rights to development and national culture” (Grushevskiĭ 1914: 15). Nevertheless, until the middle of the century Ukrainian ethnography had a predominantly antiquarian character and consisted mainly in collecting and publishing folksongs. Idioms of “academic Ukrainianness”, as Serhiy Bilenkyi has put it, reflected Herderian ethnolinguistic understanding of nationality, and were based on ethnography, language, mentality and history (Bilenkyi 2012: 285). The historiographic and literary activity of Little Russian patriots was in no way incompatible with the appreciation of the Russian Empire or an “all-Russian identity”.

The cultural and historical particularity of Little Russia, as well as the special regional patriotism of the Little Russians, were quite acceptable to the advocates of the All-Russian nation concept. Moreover, in the first half of the nineteenth century Little Russian specificity evoked lively interest in St. Petersburg and Moscow as a more picturesque, romantic variation of Russianness (Miller 2003: 27).

Things began to change by the mid-1840s, the period which saw “the beginning of modern Ukrainian nationalism” (Ibid: 247). The first semi-organized nationalist movement with clear political aims — the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood (1845–1847) — appeared on the eve of the European Spring of Nations (1848) and was harshly put down by the Tsarist government. Mykola [Nikolaĭ] I. Kostomarov (1817–1885), the leader of the Brotherhood and author of its programmatic statements was arrested, removed from his position as a professor of history at Kiev University, and after a year in prison, was sent into exile. Returning to public activity in the 1860s, he became a prolific historian and ethnographer who, as the Encyclopedia of Ukraine puts it, “argued for the national distinctiveness of the Ukrainian people and the uniqueness of their historical development, which […] was manifested in the Ukrainian freedom-loving, democratic, and individualistic spirit” (Zukovsky 1988).

“Spirit” was indeed at the centre of his thoughts about nationality, expressed in an essay, “Two Russian Nationalities” (Kostomarov 1861), that became a key text of Ukrainian nationalism. He wrote that while “external” differences between Great and Little Russians in appearance, customs and language are obvious, all these features arise from the depth of their souls, and one has to reveal their “spiritual essence” to understand the source of these differences. National character and attitudes are formed, according to Kostomarov, at the very beginning of the history of these nationalities, and the unfolding of history reveals rather than moulds them. In his account, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries southern and eastern-northern Slavs were already opposites in their attitudes to authority, spirituality, and social life. Great Russians, Kostomarov contends, tend to be authoritarian state-builders who have no poetic sensibility and are not able to penetrate beneath the ritualistic surface of religion. Little Russians, on the other hand, are sensitive, religious, and democratic people, incapable of real politics and state building. Thus, Kostomarov perceived nationality as a person, whose character could be best known by the study of their collective poetry, i.e. folklore (Bilenkyi 2012: 293). Other prominent members of the Brotherhood Panteleĭmon Kulish and Taras Shevchenko shared Kostomarov’s views:

Modern Ukrainian nationality as envisioned by the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood was based on ethnography, language, history, and egalitarian sociopolitical values that sharply contrasted it with the dominant visions of Russianness (Ibid: 300).

During the following decades the Ukrainophile movement experienced several ups and downs. During the liberal reforms of Alexander II, members of the Brotherhood were allowed to the imperial capital. In the early 1960s, Ukrainophile activists organised their circles (hromadi) in major cities of southern Russia. In St Petersburg they founded a journal Osnova which discussed the independent status of Ukrainian language, history and identity (including the abovementioned Kostomarov’s article) and championed the idea of the federation of southern and northern Rus’. This short period was followed by the closure of Osnova and the Valuev Circular (1863), forbidding to publish grammars and elementary reading books in the Little Russian language. A revival of the movement occurred during “the Kiev Period of Ukrainophilism” which Alekseĭ Miller dates 1872–1876 (Miller 2003: 155–77). The Kiev Hromada renewed its activity under the leadership of historians and ethnographers Volodimir Antonovich [Włodzimierz Antonowicz] (1834–1908), Pavlo P. Chubins’kiĭ [Pavel P. Chubinskiĭ] (1839–1884) and philologist and critic Mikhaĭlo [Mikhail] Dragomanov (1841–1895). They were connected to the short-lived south-western branch of the Russian Imperial Geographic Society. The branch collected and published historical and ethnographical material and was closed down in 1876 by the authorities. The crackdown was accompanied by another restriction on teaching in the Ukrainian language (“the Ems edict”)2 and the exile of the leaders of Hromada.

While Kostomarov’s thinking still conceived of nationality in romantic terms as “the spirit of the people” or people’s character, with the advent of positive science these arguments would be supported by more “solid” and “objective” evidence. This was evident in a synopsis of the lectures on Ukrainian anthropology and ethnography Volodimir Antonovich delivered in Kiev in the 1880s and early 1890s. Antonovich taught history at Kiev University from 1870 until his death. He influenced a whole generation of historians, the most well-known among them being the leader of Ukrainian historiography and its national movement, Hrushevs’kiĭ (Li͡askoronskiĭ 1908). But Antonovich was also well prepared to embrace the new spirit of positivism emerging at the turn of the century. His first education was in medicine and natural sciences. While in Paris he studied anthropology under Topinard (Korotkiĭ and Ul’i͡anovs’kiĭ 1997: 27). A polymath scholar, Antonovich also pioneered archaeological excavations in the Kiev area. So, his interests were quite close to anthropology, in the broad sense of the term, while his historical writings were also much more positivistic and based on extensive archival research, in contrast to Kostomarov’s literary romantic style.

Antonovich gave private lectures on anthropology, ethnography, and archaeology at his home, lectures that sometimes resulted in police intervention (Korotkiĭ and Ul’i͡anovs’kiĭ 1997: 431–32). He had good reasons to be wary of the police and their actions: he was deeply involved with the Khlopomany, the populist movement of the 1860s. He also severed his connections with his aristocratic Polish milieu and became one of the founders of Hromada, an organization of nationally minded Ukrainian intellectuals. The synopsis of his lectures on anthropology and ethnography was published in Lvov in 1888 under the title “Three National Types of Peoples” which referred to the “types” of the Little Russians, Great Russians, and the Poles. In these lectures he defined nationality as the sum of the characteristics that differentiate one group of people from another. These characteristics are of two kinds: some are given by nature and are primordial; others are “developed on the basis of the first ones” and are shaped by a nation’s history and culture.

The most important primordial characteristics, according to Antonovich, were to be found in the data of physical anthropology, particularly measurements of the skull. Craniological data he provided attested to significant differences in the shapes and other indicators of the skulls and faces of Great Russians, Ukrainians and Poles. The peoples’ characters, in Antonovich’s interpretation, not only exhibited differences similar to those described by Kostomarov; these differences had a natural basis in what he called the “functioning of the nervous system of a people” whereby the nervous system of a Muscovite was of a phlegmatic type, the Poles were sanguine, and the Ukrainians-Russians were melancholic (Antonovich 1995: 90–100). According to one memoirist, Volkov was not satisfied with this publication by Antonovich. Nevertheless, it was he who continued Antonovich’s positivistic approach to the “national question” in Ukrainian science (Ibid: 755).

Volkov and the Politics of Ukrainian Identity in the Russian Empire

As we have seen in Antonovich’s case, historians who embraced positivism tended to become interested in physical anthropology and were ready to see nationality not only as an incarnation of national spirit expressed through folklore and literature, but also as a natural phenomenon that has to do with the bodily characteristics of the population in question. One scholar who probably did most to elaborate on this approach was Khfider Vovk, known in Russian literature as Fëdor Kondrat’evich Volkov (Fig. 3.4). Volkov was an anthropologist, ethnographer, and archaeologist who, as a preface to a post-Soviet Ukrainian reissue of a collection of his works put it:

[…] refuted fabrications of Russian imperial historians that Ukraine is only “South Russia” and “a periphery” […]. In his archaeological, anthropological and ethnographical works […] the scholar convincingly proves that Ukrainians are a separate and distinct kind among neighbouring Slavic peoples, an anthropological type that possesses entirely original ethnographic characteristics (Ivanchenko 1995: 3).

Born into the family of a poor official in the Poltava region, Volkov studied at the natural sciences departments in the faculties of physics and mathematics at the universities of Odessa and Kiev. Although he studied mainly botany and chemistry, he also had a long-standing interest in folklore. Being an active member of Kiev’s Hromada, he also took part in the ethnographic research activities of the south-western branch of the Russian Geographical Society and in Antonovich’s archaeological excavations. He published a program for ethnographic research in Ukraine (1875) and a study of specific features of Ukrainian ornaments (1878) (Franko 2000a: 177).

In the early period of his life, Volkov was influenced by Antonovich, Chubins’kiĭ, and Kostomarov, as well as by contemporary socialist populist theories. As a result of the increasing persecution of members of the Ukrainian national movement, Volkov left the Russian Empire. In 1876, he moved to Geneva, where he worked on Hromada’s publications. In 1887, after a peripatetic period involving many cities and countries of residence, he finally settled in Paris, where he attended lectures of leading French anthropologists, including Léonce Manouvrier, Paul Topinard, and others, and was on the editorial board of the journal L’Anthropologie. Between 1901 and 1905 he lectured on anthropology and ethnography at the Russian High School of Social Sciences in Paris at the invitation of its organizers, Ivan I. Mechnikov and Maksim M. Kovalevskiĭ. In 1905 he received a master’s degree in natural sciences for his dissertation, Skeletal Variations of Feet among the Primates and Races of Man (Taran 2003; Volkov 1905).

Fig. 3.4 Fëdor Kondratievich Volkov (RĖM IM9-93). © Russian Ethnographic Museum, St Petersburg

Volkov’s biographer, Oksana Franko, came to the conclusion that “Volkov’s social-political activity is inseparably connected with his scientific work, and it is often difficult to see where the first one ends and the second one begins” (Franko 2000b: 26). Franko distinguishes two periods in Volkov’s ideological development. During the first, she argues, he can be characterized as a proponent of Mikhaĭlo Dragomanov’s ideas of federalist socialism. Dragomanov was an influential Ukrainian critic, historian, folklorist, and activist who struggled to combine socialist views with Ukrainian patriotism and folklorism, opposing both the centralist tendencies of Russian populists and extreme Ukrainian nationalists. Volkov’s views evolved in the state-building direction as a result of his collaboration with Galician colleagues who “formulated the idea of political independence as an ultimate goal of Ukrainian movement” (Franko 2000a: 302–03). Volkov supported Hrushevs’kiĭ in his efforts to establish the T. Shevchenko Scientific Society as a centre of Ukrainian studies and an ideological centre designed to unite Ukrainians from the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires. He was active in organizing the society’s ethnographical publications and saw it as a unit for consolidating Ukrainian ethnography.

After the Russian revolution of 1905, Volkov returned to Russia, and in 1907 was appointed a curator at the Russian Museum thanks to Mogili͡anskiĭ’s efforts. The same year he also started teaching at St Petersburg University. The very beginning of his teaching there was marked by an incident that involved a police investigation. On 4 February the police arrested several non-students at a “gathering” in a university lecture room. In his statement, one of them explained that he had been invited to Volkov’s lecture on “The Ethnography of Ukraine” by the Ukrainian scientific educational society. Volkov, in his turn, did not deny the fact of the lecture, but pointed out that this was a “private meeting aimed at introducing my listeners to the current state of Ukrainian ethnography”. The university’s rector stepped in to protect Volkov and pointed out that the Ukrainian scientific circle was in the process of formation, its charter would be considered by the university, and its meeting had taken place with the rector’s permission (TsGIA SPb 14-1-10085: 7–10).

This small incident was only the beginning of Volkov’s intense pro-Ukrainian activity. Franko notes that “The Petersburg period is characterized by a synthesis of his scientific and civic activity: the publishing of Kobzar and Drawing by Taras Shevchenko, and [the] organization of Shevchenko’s jubilees in 1911 and 1914, establishing of [the Ukrainian] Political club and publishing the first Ukrainian encyclopaedia and essays about Galicia, Bukovina and Transcarpathia in protest against the destruction of the region during the First World War” (Franko 2000a: 26). The Petersburg period, which lasted almost until Volkov’s death in 1918, was, in Franko’s assessment, the peak of his “state-building activity”, and his “scientifically-grounded concept of the individuality of the Ukrainian people that differs from all other peoples in its physical, material and spiritual features, laid a solid foundation for state-building” (Ibid: 28).

After the declaration of civil liberties and the convening of the first parliament (Duma), Ukrainian nationalists could finally engage in public politics. The Ukrainian group of the Duma’s deputies (which shared its name, Hromada, with the group of Ukrainian intellectuals) had several dozen members, including the famous sociologist and ethnologist Maksim M. Kovalevskiĭ (1851–1916). The intellectual leader of the group was the historian Hrushevs’kiĭ, who prepared the group’s programmatic documents that demanded territorial autonomy and self-government for all nationalities of the Russian Empire. The group’s mouthpiece was a weekly journal, Ukrainskiĭ vestnik (Ukrainian Herald), published “with the close participation” of south Russian academics Hrushevs’kiĭ, Dmitriĭ N. Ovsi͡aniko-Kulikovskiĭ (1853–1920), and Aleksandr A. Rusov (1847–1915). Apart from them, the journal also cooperated with Maksim Kovalevskiĭ, philologist and historian academician Alekseĭ A. Shakhmatov, Mikhaĭlo Mogili͡anskiĭ (Nikolaĭ Mogili͡anskiĭ’s brother), Volkov, and many others. The journal’s aim, in Hrushevs’kiĭ’s words, was “to clarify the Ukrainian national question from historical, cultural (bytovoĭ), social and economical sides; to point at the place and importance of Ukraine among other regions of the new democratic Russia, and to contribute to a solution of the national and regional question in general” (Hrushevs’kiĭ 1906: 6). The periodical published only fourteen issues and was closed later the same year after the dissolution of the First Duma in July 1906.

It is obvious that most of the contributions to this journal dealt either with Ukraine and its political and social situation, or with the theory of the “national question” and nationality. The most visible example of the latter was a long essay by the historian of literature, Khar’kov University professor Dmitriĭ Ovsi͡aniko-Kulikovskiĭ, “What is Nationality?”, published in parts across almost all issues of the Ukrainskiĭ vestnik. This essay was an attempt to define nationality as a complex of psychological characteristics, evident in the mental and volitional spheres of the most “developed” personalities (for example, talented writers) who, according to Ovsi͡aniko-Kulikovskiĭ, most explicitly revealed national traits; these traits, however, were almost absent among peasants and “savages”. This approach could not be more different from that offered by Volkov on the pages of the same journal.

Volkov’s contribution was titled “Ukrainians from the Anthropological Point of View” and was published in the journal’s seventh issue. This is in fact a short summary of what would later become his definitive work, published in the two-volume edition Ukrainian People in the Past and Present. Volkov began his text from a statement about the racially mixed character of all peoples, including Ukrainians. But he then proceeded to deny the language the role of an “ethnic indicator” and claimed that

[…] the successes of somatic anthropology revealed the complete worthlessness of this indicator and urged [scholars] to look for other, more lasting ones, which happen to be purely physical indicators like the colour of bones, hair and eyes, proportions and forms of various parts of the body and, predominantly, its skeleton (Volkov 1906: 418).

The major characteristics that he then considered were height, “head index” (cranial measurements) and the colour of hair and eyes, all of which he labelled “ethnic indicators”. Volkov argued that they all showed a similar pattern of geographic variation along a northeastern-southwestern axis from a comparatively short, blonde, long-headed type to the brachycephalic population of tall stature, dark hair and eyes and a straight and narrow nose that he believed to be “the main Ukrainian type”. This type was somewhat “softened” on its northeastern borders due to an increased admixture of Great Russians who, in their turn, had undergone very significant admixture with the Turks and the Finns. Volkov’s main conclusions were as follows:

  1. Ukrainians belonged to the anthropological type of western and southern Europe and are its eastern extension;
  2. the influence of the Turks and Mongols on Ukrainians was minimal;
  3. the ethnic affinity between Great Russians, Belorussians, and Ukrainians, although “preserved in the language, to a large extent is lost because of too-significant admixture of Finns and other eastern elements among Great Russians, Finnish and Lithuanian elements among Belorussians, and those and probably German ones among the Poles” (Ibid: 426).

Ironically, he concluded the article with the note that, although this could not have any political consequences as long as “race and nation are not the same thing at all”, they should “once and for all” stop all reference to Ukrainians as “Polonized” Great Russians or “Moscovized” Poles. This peculiar combination of “ethnic indicators” predicated on characteristics drawn from physical anthropology and the denial of any equation between race and nation are characteristic features of Volkov’s thinking that would be passed on to his younger colleagues and students like Nikolaĭ Mogili͡anskiĭ.

The Ukrainian People in its Past and Present as a Joint Project of the Russian and Ukrainian Liberal Intelligentsia

Volkov’s views on the anthropology of Ukrainians can be traced back to his presentation at the Anthropological Society of Paris in 1897, where he spoke of Ukrainians as “a nation, whose ethnic character can be defined by anatomic, ethnographic and linguistic characteristics” (qtd. in Taran 2003: 53). From 1898 until 1909, the scholar headed the Ethnographic Commission of the T. Shevchenko Scientific Society, which functioned as a budding Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. In 1900, the head of the Society, Mikhaĭlo Hrushevs’kiĭ, suggested the idea of an anthropological expedition to Ukraine and asked Volkov to provide a set of instructions for collecting measurements. The expedition was partly sponsored by the Austrian government, which financed all the society’s activities, and Volkov spent four summers, from 1903–1906, measuring the populations of western Ukraine (Taran 2003: 54–55).

The final, classic version of Volkov’s studies of Ukraine were published in the second volume of a rich and well-illustrated edition, The Ukrainian People in its Past and Present, published in St Petersburg by Maksim A. Slavinskiĭ (1868–1945), the same journalist who edited Ukrainskiĭ vestnik. The first volume came out in 1914, the second one in 1916. The book’s editorial board was quite remarkable. It included anthropologist and ethnographer Volkov, historian Hrushevs’kiĭ, sociologist and ethnographer Kovalevskiĭ, philologists Fëdor E. Korsh (1843–1915) and Agafangel [Agatangel] E. Krymskiĭ (1871–1942), economist Mikhail I. Tugan-Baranovskiĭ (1865–1919), and philologist and historian Alekseĭ A. Shakhmatov (1864–1920). All of them were professors, two were academicians, and some of them (e.g. Kovalevskiĭ, a prominent Kadet and member of State Duma) were influential in politics. All of them, except Korsh and Shakhmatov, were born in the part of the empire that would later become Ukraine. Volkov, Hrushevs’kiĭ, and Krymskiĭ were actively involved in Hromada and the Ukrainian national movement as well as in Ukrainian state-building and culture during the Civil War (1918–1922) and later (except Volkov, who died in 1918). From 1917–1918 Tugan-Baranovskiĭ, a constitutional democrat, served as a minister of finance for the Ukrainian Republic, which had proclaimed its autonomy in 1917 and independence in January 1918.

Kovalevskiĭ, also a constitutional democrat and deputy of the First and Third Dumas and State Council, was directly involved in the Ukrainian movement. He was the head of the T. Shevchenko Society, Society, whose main purpose was to help Ukrainian students in St Petersburg. His deputy in this society was Volkov (Franko 2000a: 305). During his days as the head of the Russian School of Social Sciences in Paris, Kovalevskiĭ had invited Volkov and Hrushevs’kiĭ to give lectures on anthropology and Ukrainian history. In the First Duma he also sided with the Ukrainian group. It is not clear whether all of these abovementioned academics who were born in “South Russia” identified as “Little Russians” or as Ukrainians. Almost all of them, except Hrushevs’kiĭ, made their careers in the imperial capital or returned to St Petersburg after years living outside of Russia. Overall, they were very closely connected with the Russian life and envisioned Ukraine’s future as an autonomous region in the democratic Russia of the future.

Korsh and Shakhmatov, the two editors of The Ukrainian People who were not born on Ukrainian soil were far from accidental members of this “team”. Korsh was an expert on classic and Slavic languages who expressed sympathy with the Ukrainian movement and he became a chairman of the Society for Slavic Culture, founded in Moscow in 1908. The society’s aim was the study of all Slavic cultures, “valuing individual traits of every nationality”. In 1912, the first issue of a journal Ukrainskai͡a zhizn’ (Ukrainian Life) was published in Moscow, featuring a report from the first meetings of the Ukrainian section of the Society for Slavic Culture (the journal’s editorial board included, among others, Volkov, Hrushevs’kiĭ, Korsh, Krymskiĭ, M. Mogili͡anskiĭ, and Rusov). The section declared its intention to propagandize the Ukrainian national cause among the Russian public and to prove to it “that Ukrainians constitute a quite independent nation in the historical and ethnographic sense, that the Ukrainian language is not a dialect, but a language with the right to develop on par with Great Russian” (Al. S. 1912: 124).

Korsh was the only kat͡sap [Great Russian] present at this meeting of the Ukrainian section of the Society for Slavic Culture. He expressed his total sympathy with the movement and his belief that Ukrainians “like other nations will get what they have the full right to have, and this will tie them to Russia not with coercion but with voluntary bonds and reasons of their self-interest” (Al. S. 1912: 125). His speech, published under the title “Ukrainian People and Ukrainian Language”, was his most fully developed statement on this subject. As a linguist he devoted most of his attention to the history of language. Following the academicians Shakhmatov and Sobolevskiĭ, he dated the appearance of the first phonetic peculiarities of the south Russian language to as early as the twelfth century and the formation of “a totally specific, quite distinct Little Russian language” to the fourteenth century. He defined language as “a means of expression of thoughts and feelings of a people, which has a distinctive culture and history and constitutes a certain ethnographic entity”. He also pointed to psychological differences between Great and Little Russians, following an already familiar trope of juxtaposing passionate, sensitive, and romantic southerners with harsh northerners. At the same time, he preferred the term “Malorossii͡a” to “Ukraine” and was convinced that Great and Little Russians were “the closest” in all regards (Korsh 1913: 24–40).

Academician Alekseĭ Shakhmatov, a pupil of Korsh and a leading Russian linguist and historian, was probably the most influential expert on the history of the Russian language and early Slavic history. In 1899 he published a concise leaflet, “On the Question of [the] Formation of Russian Tongues and Russian Nationalities” based on Shakhmatov’s vast knowledge of East Slavic dialectology and medieval history. Juxtaposing the information about Slavic tribes and their migrations with differences in dialects, he distinguished four major groups of tribes and dialects (southern, northern, middle-western, and middle-eastern). This division, he argues, dated back to at least the beginning of the second millennium and the dialect groups coalesced into three major “Russian” tongues. Shakhmatov contends that the formation of the Great Russian and Belorussian nationalities dates back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when the centralized Muscovite and Lithuanian states stimulated the formation of comparatively unified languages. The language of the south Russian narodnost’, according to Shakhmatov, corresponds quite neatly to the group of dialects of the south Russian tribes that were already in place circa the tenth century (Shakhmatov 1899).

At the end of 1904, the minister of people’s education assigned the Academy of Sciences the task of validating its intention to cancel the prohibition on publishing and distributing any print material in the Malorussian language, imposed by the infamous Ems Edict (1876). The academy convened a special commission chaired by Korsh and consisting of six members, including Shakhmatov. The latter authored one of the commission’s concluding documents, titled “About the Abolition of Restraints of the Malorussian Printed Word”. He reviewed the history of this printed word, beginning in the sixteenth century, and reiterated his conclusions concerning the diverging development of the Great and Little Russian languages and nationalities since the early Middle Ages, especially after the Tatar invasion (1237–1240). He found no justification for suppressing the Malorussian language and no danger of separatism in its unimpeded development. The only consequence of the oppressive policy, according to Shakhmatov, was the reinforcement of the anti-Russian Galician political forces and their increased influence on Ukrainians in the Russian Empire (Shakhmatov 1905: 16–23).

Finally, one of the leading editors of this volume, Volkov was influenced by the historian Mikhaĭlo Hrushevs’kiĭ, who was by far the most important leader of the Ukrainian national movement and the creator of Ukraine’s national historical narrative. Hrushevs’kiĭ and Volkov were both pupils of Antonovich and were deeply involved in the activities of Ukrainian political and scientific organisations. The correspondence between these scholars, which started in 1895 and spans for almost twenty years, reveals their support for the T. Shevchenko Society and the development of Ukrainian studies in Europe and the Russian Empire (Vovk 1997). In his monumental ten-volume History of Ukraine-Rus which was published between 1898 and 1936, Hrushevs’kiĭ offered a definition of the Ukrainian people, which came close to that of Volkov. In 1913 he wrote:

The Ukrainian population differs from its closest neighbours both in anthropological characteristics — i.e., in body build — and in psychological features: in individual temperament, family and social relationships, way of life, and in material and spiritual culture. These psychophysical and cultural characteristics, some of which emerged earlier than others, are all the result of a lengthy process of evolution and quite clearly unify the individual groups of the Ukrainian people into a distinct national entity that differs from other such national entities and possesses an unmistakable and vital national personality — that is, comprises a separate people with a long history of development (qtd. in Plokhy 2005: 176).

Nevertheless, as Plokhy stresses, Hrushevs’kiĭ regarded the distinctiveness of the Ukrainian nation “not so much as the product of any racial distinctiveness (he believed that the Ukrainian nation was racially mixed) as of long historical evolution” (Plokhy 2005: 176). Indeed, in the same introduction to the first volume of his history, he stated that Ukrainians had a “mixed” physical type, and the modern population has different craniological characteristics from their archaeological predecessors (Hrushevs’kiĭ 1904: 3).

As noted above, the ultimate product of the pro-Ukrainian activity that united Great Russian liberal intellectuals and the Ukrainophiles, was the two volume edition The Ukrainian People in its Past and Present. The first volume was written exclusively by Hrushev’skiĭ and consisted of his “History of Ukrainian People”, along with a historiographical introduction. The second volume consisted of geographic surveys of Ukraine, of the Russian Empire, Galicia, Bukovina, and Carpathian Ruthenia, and an anthropological section that included Volkov’s “Anthropological features of the Ukrainian people” and “Ethnographic features of the Ukrainian people”, as well as “Custom law of the Ukrainian people” by Aleksandra I͡A. Efimenko, and “A brief outline of the history of the Malorussian (Ukrainian) language” by Alekseĭ Shakhmatov. In his first article Volkov reiterated his conclusion concerning “the anthropological type” of Ukrainians. He also found support in Shakhmatov’s thesis about the continuity of the southern Russian dialects’ development. “Translating this opinion from linguistic language into an anthropological one”, Volkov claimed a greater “purity” of Slavic type among the Ukrainians, unlike the “mixed” population of Great Russians and Belorussians (Volkov 1916a: 453–54).

The second article was an impressive compendium of Ukrainian ethnography, starting with hunting, agriculture, and other means of subsistence, and technology, and concluding with beliefs, customs, and folk knowledge. Volkov claimed that “under the influence of various factors — race, environment, culture, every people creates these items and these phenomena in its own way, the more so, the more integral it is as a racial and social group” (Volkov 1916b: 455). Concluding this 200-page encyclopaedia of Ukrainian ethnography were five clauses that sounded like a credo of Ukrainian nationalism, but that Mogili͡anskiĭ, however, referred to as “objective conclusion of impartial science” (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1917: 138; 2014: 583–86):

  1. The Ukrainian people on the entire territory it occupies is distinguished by a range of common ethnographic characteristics, which leaves no doubt that it constitutes an ethnic unity that definitely stands out among other Slavic peoples.
  2. The Ukrainian people preserved in its ethnographic way of life a considerable number of vestiges from the past, proving that it had not undergone very deep ethnic influences from outside, and, in spite of its eventful history, developed its ethnographic characteristics consistently and quite uniformly.
  3. As all other peoples, it was exposed to a certain extent to external ethnographic influences and assimilated some alien forms, but not to a degree that could alter its main ethnographic characteristics and remove it from a common Slavic type.
  4. In particulars of its ethnographic way of life the Ukrainian people manifests the closest similarity with its Western neighbours — Southern Slavs, such as Bulgarians and Serbs, as well as Romanians, who remain a quite Slavic people ethnographically. Poland was the main conduit of cultural diffusion from the European West.
  5. Ethnographic characteristics of Belarusians and Great Russians in their most ancient form are close if not identical to those of Ukrainians (Volkov 1916b: 647).

Etnos, the St Petersburg Paleoethnological School, and the Teaching of Ethnography

Volkov was a devoted researcher in all branches of the “umbrella” science of anthropology, but his role as a teacher was no less important. Under rather Spartan financial conditions, he managed to attract and nurture a group of talented students who would create what could be described as the “paleoethnological school”. His students Pëtr S. Efimenko (1835–1908), Aleksandr A. Miller (1875–1935), Sergeĭ I. Rudenko (1885–1969), and others were responsible for what the historian of archaeology Nadezhda I. Platonova considers to have been a breakthrough in Russian archaeological thought in the 1920s (Platonova 2010: 149). Volkov’s students were by no means exclusively archaeologists (Fig. 3.5). Rudenko and David A. Zolotarëv (1885–1935) were primarily physical anthropologists, although both also did ethnographic research. Mogili͡anskiĭ, who can be considered Volkov’s student, was mainly an ethnographer, but he also taught physical anthropology and geography. This was absolutely natural, since Volkov was very clear about his vision of anthropology as a single science that studies:

1) [the] position of man in the line of all mammals (zoological anthropology), 2) anatomical characteristics of different ages, races, sexes etc. (anatomical anthropology), 3) physiology of races, sexes etc. (physiological anthropology), 4) origins and development of human race before the historical record begins (prehistoric anthropology or paleoethnology), 5) study of peoples, their ethnic composition, origins, material and psychological byt (culture) (ethnological anthropology or ethnology), 6) study of forms of byt and their development (ethnographical anthropology or comparative ethnography), 7) history and laws of origins and development of social groups and relations (sociological anthropology) (Volkov 1915: 100).

Fig. 3.5 Fëdor Volkov during his lessons with students in the Cabinet of Geography and Ethnography, St Petersburg University (SPF ARAN 1004-1-467: 1). © St Petersburg Filial of the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Volkov offered to divide the department of geography and ethnography into two independent departments and establish an anthropological institute with departments of physical anthropology, prehistoric anthropology, and ethnography. The model for this institute was L’École d’anthropologie in Paris, the only place, where, according to Volkov, anthropological sciences were taught “in their entirety” (Volkov 1915: 102). French anthropology had, however, developed in a rather peculiar way. The term “anthropology” was used to denote “a natural science devoted to “positive” investigations into human anatomy, the variety of human physical types, and “man’s place in nature” (Williams 1985: 331).

That understanding was associated with anatomist and anthropologist Paul Broca (1824–1880) who played a key role in establishing the Société d’anthropologie (1859) and the École d’anthropologie (1876). Although Broca and his school ascribed to the most encompassing definition of anthropology, in practice they saw anthropometry, physical anthropology, and “racial science” as their main vocation. Broca was a world-acclaimed leader and innovator in the sphere of anthropometry, but these innovations were put in the service of “racial science”, which, in Alice L. Conklin’s words, “tried to sort humans neatly into racial categories in which intelligence correlated with skin color, on the basis of increasingly precise measurements of body parts, usually skulls” (Conklin 2013: 5). After Broca’s death in 1880, his pupils were generally loyal to the mentor’s project, although some of them — for example, Broca’s last student Léonce Manouvrier — distanced themselves from biological and racial reductionism.

French fin de siècle ethnography was primarily the science of classification of museum objects. The key figure in its development was the first curator of the Musée d’Ethnographie, the museum’s chair in anthropology, and the supervisor of Volkov’s dissertation, Ernest-Théodore Hamy (1842–1908). With his mentor Armand de Quatrefages he authored a compendium on skull shapes tellingly entitled “Crania ethnica”. Although Hamy did not challenge the biological definition of anthropology, his activity as museum curator, according to Conklin, tentatively moved in the direction of the study of cultures in historical rather than evolutionary terms (Conklin 2013: 46). Nevertheless, the aims of ethnology were defined by Broca’s students as late as in 1907 in the following way:

The scientific objective of ethnology is to draw a profile of each race, and then order all the human races in an ascending series, that is to say from the simian point of departure to the most intellectually and socially endowed (qtd. in Ibid: 53).

Volkov’s abovementioned suggestion was his contribution to an ongoing discussion about the establishment of the proper teaching of ethnography in Russian universities. In 1911 Mogili͡anskiĭ was already complaining that, unlike in France, where an entire school of anthropology existed and “ethnography is taught along with its nearest and inseparable disciplines like prehistoric archaeology and anthropology, linguistics and sociology”, none of the abovementioned disciplines found their way into Russian high schools (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1911: 474).

In his famous 1916 article, “The Object and Tasks of Ethnography”, which introduced the neologism of etnos as a theoretical concept to the Russian literature and also laid out his views on the establishment of a department of ethnography, Mogili͡anskiĭ closely followed Volkov’s understanding of the relationship between anthropology and ethnography. Understanding ethnography as a part of the natural science of anthropology, he presented etnos as its main object:

The ἔθνος [etnos] concept — is a complex idea. It is a group of individuals united together as a single whole [odno tseloe] by several general characteristics. [These are:] common physical (anthropological) characteristics; a common historical fate, and finally a common language — which is the foundation upon which, in turn, [an etnos] can build a common worldview [and] folk-psychology — in short, an entire spiritual culture (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1916: 11).

Mogili͡anskiĭ was emphatic about the distinction between the history of culture, which has as its object human culture in general, and ethnography, which deals with etnos and its specific features. He suggested establishing two departments — anthropology and ethnography — in the faculty of natural sciences, and a separate department of history of culture in the faculty of history and philology.

The discussion that followed revealed serious disagreement among Russian anthropologists. Two famous experts on the peoples of the north, Lev [Leo] I͡A. Shternberg (1861–1927) and Vladimir I. Iokhel’son [Waldemar Jochelson] (1855–1937), argued that there was no sense in this kind of division and that individual features in any nationality do not exist on their own, but are part of a general evolution of culture (Zhurnal zasedanii͡a 1916: 5–9). They both advocated that ethnography be affiliated with the humanities and saw culture as its main object of study, but they both failed to recognize that Mogili͡anskiĭ’s insistence on the discipline’s natural science affiliation revealed a different approach to the question of the nature of ethnic differentiation. Ten days after reading his paper, Mogili͡anskiĭ wrote a letter to Shakhmatov in which he expressed the wish to “speed up the business with the commission on the issue of new departments of ethnography and cultural history that I brought up”. He also voiced his dissatisfaction with the fact that this commission happened to consist of only those who participated in the debates (Iokhel’son, Semënov-Ti͡an’-Shanskiĭ and Shternberg) and suggested that its membership should be expanded to include his university colleagues Fëdor A. Braun (1862–1942) and Fёdor K. Volkov (SPF ARAN 134-3-998: 7). He also reiterated his principal idea that,

ethnography, as a science that has to do with analysing phenomena related to ethnogenesis, cannot be separated from anthropology as a natural discipline and should be taught at the faculty of natural science, because naturalists will not tear off this study from its root, from its ethnic substrate. For historians, philologists and linguists there remains a vast field in ethnography, and they will approach it with their methods and instruments. Anthropologists will always owe them for their analysis, which builds on studying language, mythology, folklore and history. They must elucidate and deepen the very idea of culture in its high philosophical sense and its objectified process of development. They are exactly historians of culture; they will posit the data of ethnography in another scheme, according to another plan and will process them with their methods. That is why I insist on the department of cultural history and not ethnography for historic-philological faculty (Ibid: 8).

Mogili͡anskiĭ’s ideas of structuring the material of ethnography according to the principles of the natural sciences and humanities found their best expression in his own lectures. Mogili͡anskiĭ taught courses of geography and anthropology in several institutions. At first, he earned his living as a lecturer in geography at the Teachers’ Institute and at the Kadet’s Corpus. In 1907, he was elected to the department of geography and ethnography of the private Vysshie Zhenskie Estestvennonauchnye Kursy M. A. Lokhvit͡skoĭ-Skalon (High Natural Sciences Courses for Women by M. A. Lokhvitskai͡a-Skalon) where he was teaching “with satisfaction and passion”. The courses prepared students for work in primary and secondary schools. He was also employed at the College for Teachers in Military Schools where he taught the basics of anthropology and ethnography. In his memoirs, he refers to his students as “an outstanding audience” consisting of university and military academy graduates or pedagogues who aspired to teaching positions in military education.

The Bolsheviks, according to Mogili͡anskiĭ, ruined this institution by appointing as its director “the only person during its entire history to be expelled from the courses for unspeakable insolence”. Instead of reading his paper about Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s pedagogy, this person declared that Rousseau was “a fool and idiot” whose theories need not be considered (GARF R-5787-1-23: 140). Mogili͡anskiĭ continued his teaching in exile, where he wrote down or published his lectures. As a result, we can have a clear idea of his concept of a full course of anthropological science.

The manuscript of his course “The Basics of Anthropology” is dated “Paris, 1921” and is dedicated to his students at all three of the abovementioned institutions. In the introduction he defined the tasks of the complex discipline of anthropology:

the science that studies “types, races, tribes and peoples of the Earth” is called “racial anthropology or ethnology”; ethnography studies byt (everyday life), material and spiritual culture of these peoples; and the “relations” inside groups such as families, clans or states is the subject of the last anthropological sub-discipline — sociology (GARF R-5787-1-23: 5).

Following this understanding of the discipline, the first part of the course discussed the classification of races (based on physical traits) and peoples (based on language). The second and third sections discussed cultural and social life in a manner quite consistent with evolutionism and that ignored the ethnic divisions laid out in the first part of the course.

Mogili͡anskiĭ’s course presented the material in the following order. The first chapters were devoted to ontogenesis and phylogeny of humans, anthropoid forms, and racial classification. Mogili͡anskiĭ presented evidence in support of Darwinism and “transformism” of human types and races under the influence of their environment. His understanding of sexual selection and survival of the fittest might be identified as Social Darwinism as he referred to interracial selection: “a constant progressive elimination of the weak by representatives of higher races” as a well-known “general tendency” (Ibid: 59). In the debate between monogenists and polygenists, Mogili͡anskiĭ was on the side of the first, although he admitted that the final proof of this theory belonged to the future.

The chapter on racial classification introduced a student into the entangled relationships between such terms as “race”, “type”, “species”, and “tribe”. Mogili͡anskiĭ acknowledged the lack of agreement among scholars about the nature and quantity of “races”. Still, in this part of the course he was rather straightforward in equating “race” with ethnicity or language groups: “one however insignificant but hereditary and durable feature is sometimes enough to distinguish between ‘races’. For example, all ethnologists, historians, whether polygenists or monogenists, claim that the Irish belong to a different race than the English. Germans, Slavs, Jews, Celts, Arabs — all these are ‘races’, more or less different and more or less easily characterized” (GARF R-5787-1-23: 82). At the same time, taking into account “the most important characteristics”, these races can be classified into several groups that Mogili͡anskiĭ also calls races (Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, etc.), reserving the term “type” to denote “a sum of common characteristics of this group”.

The “types” are mere abstractions or “ideal descriptions” that do not exist empirically. Thus, Mogili͡anskiĭ continued, the two distinct meanings of “race” should not be conflated. The first one denotes “a set of individuals similar enough to theorize about their descent from common parents” (like Celts, Germans, Tasmanians, Papuans, etc.). The second signifies ‘a set of individuals with a certain number of common characteristics, although belonging to different proper “races” and having more morphological similarities than other humans’ (GARF R-5787-1-23: 87). The terminological mess is complicated in Russia, commented Mogili͡anskiĭ, by the tendency to use the word “tribe” to refer to the same realities that are denoted by “race” and “type”.

In the second part of the course, entitled “Ethnological anthropology”, the professor discussed the methods of physical anthropology and prehistoric archaeology and then proceeded to classify the peoples of the world. Starting with the Old World, he relied on J. Deniker’s six races of Europe and classified European peoples strictly according to linguistic principles. He made it very clear that linguistic and physical anthropological characteristics systematically contradict each other, and all linguistic groups are very diverse in their culture and appearance (Ibid: 156–60). The last two sections of the course were titled “Ethnography” and “Sociology” and, as was already mentioned, had their material arranged in a traditional evolutionary manner. “Ethnography” included chapters on such diverse topics as food and cooking, husbandry, agriculture, anthropophagy, pottery, dwellings, dressing and finery, beliefs (animism, fetishism, ancestors’ cults, etc.), science, medicine, art, and geographical ideas. This second section’s keyword — culture — was defined as “an accumulated mental power of previous generations” and a “result of [the] collective thought of humankind” without much reference to ethnic cultures or etnos (Ibid: 201–4). This was also the case with the sociological part, which discussed family, law, taboos, and international relations.

Mogili͡anskiĭ stated that modern science had given up attempts to classify peoples according to the stage of development they achieved, and no single factor was found to account for any of these “stages” (Ibid: 205). Nevertheless, the general ideological attitude of his course can be described as progressive and optimistic. In the conclusion he agreed with “a young Russian scholar”, Nikolaĭ S. Trubet͡skoĭ’s critique of the idea of “pan-human civilization” as merely disguising “a certain ethnographic notion” of the Romano-Germanic culture, but he disagreed that “Europeanization” is an absolute evil. European culture, in his view, was exceptional because it had developed modern science: “In any case, there is no sign of regress in humankind, which in general moves steadily forward, and one cannot set limits to this progressive movement […]” (Ibid: 304–05).

In 1928 Mogili͡anskiĭ wrote another manuscript, entitled “The System of Anthropology”, that summarized his vision of this science and its sub-disciplines in the following scheme (Table 3.1):

Table 3.1: “The System of Anthropology”, 1927 (GARF R-5787-1-93: 10).

Mogili͡anskiĭ subscribed to Paul Broca’s definition of anthropology as a “science that studies the human group in its entirety, its details, and its relations to nature” (GARF R-5787-1-93: 2). The most interesting aspect of this scheme is, of course, Mogili͡anskiĭ’s concept of a relationship between racial anthropology (ethnology) and ethnography that reflected his vision of the nature of ethnic differences. Just as in his general course, tribes and peoples were defined as “lesser units” within a few large racial groups that “differ from each other by secondary characteristics”. As an example, he cited the visible physical differences between a tall, blonde, and blue-eyed Norwegian and a brown, dark-eyed, and dark-haired Portuguese, both of whom would be classified within a single “white race” (GARF R-5787-1-93: 4).

Ethnography, for Mogili͡anskiĭ, is a “science that has as its object of study the evolution of human thought (culture) within the limits of ethnic groups, ascertained by ethnology” (Ibid: 8). Reiterating his early twentieth-century critique of evolutionism, he took Kharuzin and Shternberg to task for “tearing off ethnographical facts from ethnological substrate” and considering them as parts of the cultural evolution of undifferentiated humanity. This, according to Mogili͡anskiĭ, would abolish ethnography and turn it into the history of culture. In several of his manuscripts he provided the reason why this should not be done, which must have seemed obvious to his audience, who had recently gone through the Great War:

Ethnographers cannot ignore the fact that with the disappearance of a certain ethnic group, its culture also disappears, and its remnants become no more than museum material. But no matter how much they destroy objects of culture (during the World War whole villages, cities and regions were wiped off), nevertheless, until the people is alive, it will reconstruct everything according to its knowledge, habits, its unique aesthetics of everyday life (GARF R-5787-1-93: 9).

Museum, Fieldwork, and Etnos: The Role of Ethnographic Exhibits

Teaching anthropology and creating university departments were not the only important practices that led to the emergence of etnos. Mogili͡anskiĭ was an experienced and devoted museum worker. He started his museum career soon after his 1896 return to St Petersburg when he was employed by the MAĖ to sort out its collections. In 1902, he took up a post as a curator in the Russian Museum’s ethnographic department. He became the department’s head in 1910 and stayed in office until his move to Kiev and his subsequent emigration in 1918.

The Russian Museum of Alexander III was founded in 1895. According to its founding statute, the museum aimed not only to commemorate the deceased emperor, but also “to give a clear idea of Russia’s artistic and cultural situation” (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1911: 475). The organization of the ethnographic department’s exhibition was the subject of a series of meetings that involved the elite of St Petersburg anthropology and related disciplines, including the head of the MAĖ, Vasiliĭ V. Radlov [Friedrich Wilhelm Radloff] (1837–1918); the head of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society (IRGO) ethnographic department, Vladimir I. Lamanskiĭ; academicians Aleksandr N. Pypin (1833–1904) and Vladimir V. Stasov, (1824–1906); anthropologist Dmitriĭ A. Koropchevskiĭ; and others. Two main questions were debated: the geographical area the exhibition would cover and whether the exhibition should be divided along ethnic or geographical lines. While the majority agreed that the planned exhibition should encompass the Russian Empire, Slavic territories, and neighbouring countries, the second question provoked disagreement. A special commission — consisting of Dmitriĭ A. Klement͡s (1848–1914), Dmitriĭ A. Koropchevskiĭ (1842–1903), Vladimir I. Lamanskiĭ (1833–1914), and Pëtr P. Semënov-Ti͡an’-Shanskiĭ (1827–1914) — proposed a draft list of 21 provinces (the territory of modern Ukraine was evidently cut into Malorossii͡a and Novorossii͡a). This division appeared too minute and unfit for museum purposes.

Klement͡s himself wrote against this plan in his “Separate opinion”. In place of the 21 provinces, Klement͡s suggested only five zones, determined by the relations between “nature and man”: “From times immemorial, even beyond the limits of history, nature determined man’s way of life”. Culture, continued Klement͡s, can be basically defined as an “elementary adaptation to natural conditions” (AIVR 28-1-197: 6–8). Klement͡s’ “cultural-geographical regions” — such as the tundra and the regions of settled life and agriculture, nomadism, etc. — were defined both by the environment and the ways of life conditioned by it. In his “Separate opinion” he cited the example of the nomadic Kirgiz and Kalmyks, who had similar ways of life, although separated by religion and ethnic origin.

Mogili͡anskiĭ believed that Klement͡s’ opinion was based on an “anthropogeographical principle”, a comment that brings us back to Ratzel’s influence on the circle of St Petersburg anthropologists. Klement͡s was in personal contact with Ratzel through the latter’s student, Bruno Adler (1874–1942), who was employed by the museum in 1910 as a result of Klement͡s’s influence. In his letters to Klement͡s, Adler mentions Ratzel several times. He made arrangements to meet at Ratzel’s villa to create a plan of the museum (AIVR 28-2-1: 11–12). In another letter he informed Klement͡s that “I will talk with Ratzel about nomad byt (way of life) and will do everything to prepare him for a talk with you” (Ibid: 21).

While Ratzel’s influence on Koropchevskiĭ and, to a lesser extent, Klement͡s, is quite obvious, Mogili͡anskiĭ’s attitude to anthropogeography is ambiguous. During the debates about the ethnographic exhibition, Lamanskiĭ offered his own vision. His version had only thirteen regions and they were defined by a combination of geographic and ethnic-historical characteristics. The regions were named in a purely geographic manner (north, north-west, central Russia, Caucasus, etc.), each one was meant to illustrate the relations between Great Russians (and in the case of the “West” and “South-West”, Belorussians and Little Russians) with the non-Slavic nationalities of the region in question (Semënov-Ti͡an-Shanskiĭ 1915: 16–17). Lamanskiĭ’s purpose was to emphasize the role of the Russians as an empire-building nation and Russia as a “living historical entity”.

When Lamanskiĭ died in 1915, Semënov-Ti͡an’-Shanskiĭ published an article titled “V. I. Lamanskiĭ as an anthropogeographer and political geographer” where he claimed that this scheme was a “purely anthropogeographical partition of Russia” (Ibid). Mogili͡anskiĭ did not agree with that assessment. In a letter to Shakhmatov, who apparently wanted to see Lamanskiĭ’s original maps, Mogili͡anskiĭ reported that he was unable to find them. He also wrote:

Having attentively looked at Lamanskiĭ’s memo one more time, I did not find, by any stretch of imagination, the grounds for Semënov-Ti͡an’-Shanskiĭ’s definitive statements that Lamanskiĭ drew on the idea of modern anthropogeography. Although not myself a follower of Ratzel’s, from whom the word “anthropogeography” originated, I think, the late Lamanskiĭ had little relation to the main ideas of this school (SPF ARAN 134-3-998: 5–6).

As will be discussed later, in spite of his declaration that he was not a follower of Ratzel, Mogili͡anskiĭ mentioned Ratzel with respect and used the term anthropogeography to organize the material in his lectures on the geography of Russia. It also should be borne in mind that he formulated his views on etnos for the first time during these debates at the museum, which he witnessed as a newly appointed member of this nascent institution.

The museum had another important impact on Mogili͡anskiĭ’s career: he became a true fieldworker. The responsibility for different geographic zones of the Russian Empire and neighbouring countries was divided between the department’s ethnographers. Mogili͡anskiĭ’s share was a vast space of central and eastern European Russia, Malorossii͡a, Novorossii͡a, and Bessarabii͡a (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1910: v). Between 1902 and 1909 he devoted three to four months a year in the spring and summer to expeditions across this territory. Their main purpose was to collect items of material culture for the museum. Mogili͡anskiĭ’s fieldwork was a classical example of salvage ethnography. In a published report about his travels in Tula and Orel oblasts in 1902 he tried to refute a “commonplace opinion that factory and seasonal work wiped out all ‘ethnography’”, and that old characteristics of everyday life (byt), dresses, and ornaments were not to be found (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1910: 1–2). He used the same salvage rationale while convincing peasant women to sell him their old garments: “Things, ‘customs’ vanish, and our grandchildren will not know how their grandparents lived and dressed. I will buy these things and they will be kept forever in St Petersburg as a keepsake for our descendants” (Ibid: 6). Aleksandr M. Reshetov estimated that the ethnographer contributed sixteen collections containing 572 items to the museum (Reshetov 2002: 149). Regarding interpretations, Mogili͡anskiĭ mentioned in his report that it would be fruitful to analyse the geographical diffusion and terms for women’s headwear, soroki, spread among Russians and Finns, as well as the “eastern influence” in Russian ornaments.

The beginning of Mogili͡anskiĭ’s fieldwork trips coincided with the rise of peasant unrest, which developed into open mass revolts during the revolution of 1905. This obviously affected both his relations with local authorities and peasants. Sometimes he felt he was under close police surveillance, the house that he stayed in a village was monitored, and peasants were afraid to talk to him (GARF R-5787-1-17: 100). Visiting Russian villages also made the ethnographer reflect upon his hybrid identity, the differences between Russians and Ukrainians, and their relations: “Educated in a Russian school, in Russian literature and history, in a society that considered itself Russian, I never felt myself more of a Little Russian or Ukrainian than here, in this unfamiliar ethnographic environment” (Ibid: 99).

This important statement in Mogili͡anskiĭ’s memoirs should be read in the context of his earliest childhood memories. While the Russian language was for Mogili͡anskiĭ the language of education and, apparently, his mother tongue, beginning at the age of four he had a nanny who most likely spoke Ukrainian. At the age of six she passed him on to a German “bonne”, who in a few years taught him fluent German. Aside from the Ukrainian “ethnographic environment” that stretched out in the country outside Chernigov, young Nikolaĭ saw portraits of Kostomarov and Shevchenko and forbidden books written by Ukrainian activists in his father’s study — “the traces of influence” that Hromada and “the 1860s in the Kiev University” had had upon him (GARF R-5787-1-17-100: 2).

Moreover, since his early childhood, the future ethnographer had travelled throughout central Ukraine, at first with his parents and, since the age of thirteen, with school and university friends. He loved Ukrainian nature and country life and had known them intimately, so when he became a museum worker he often returned to his native places (GARF R-5787-1-38). The fieldwork obviously played an important part in Mogili͡anskiĭ’s conviction that

[…] those who speak about khokhly and Ukrainomania with contempt, who do not accept the existence of non-Great Russians, and think that Little Russians and Belorussians are equally Russian and consider the Ukrainian movement an intrigue of Russia’s enemies, are foolishly wrong. The Ukrainian element (stikhii͡a) exists and it attracts, captures in its nets and holds firmly the souls of people of even non-Little-Russian origin. The example of professor V. B. Antonovich, a Pole by origin is not the only one, and there are a lot of Great Russians who, having lived in Ukraine, unwittingly fell under the spell of this element (GARF 5787-1-17: 99).

Things were quite different in the Great Russian regions that were equally important parts of the ethnographer’s zone of responsibility. The Great Russian countryside that Mogili͡anskiĭ encountered looked extremely poor and backward compared to the Ukrainian regions (Fig. 3.6). The contrast between them obviously made a very important impression on Mogili͡anskiĭ, and he returned to this issue several times in his unpublished works and memoirs. He could remember his astonishment at his first visit as an ethnographer to the Great Russian village in Tul’skai͡a gubernii͡a where he could see neither fences nor trees or yards in their familiar form (Fig. 3.7).

Fig. 3.6 A village. Russians, Kaluga gubernii͡a. Photo by Nikolaĭ M. Mogili͡anskiĭ, 1903 (RĖM 758-12). © Russian Ethnographic Museum, St Petersburg

Fig. 3.7 A view of the sloboda (a quarter of a village) “Bugor”. Russians, Tula gubernii͡a. Photo by Nikolaĭ M. Mogili͡anskiĭ, 1902 (RĖM 757-2). © Russian Ethnographic Museum, St Petersburg

The feeling of discomfort turned into disgust when he stepped inside houses that were dirty and heated by an open fire without a chimney (po-chernomu). They were so full of insects that the ethnographer would meet children whose ear edges were bitten off by cockroaches.

The contrast between two cultural types is striking. The difference between cultural habits is evident. […] This impression permeates everything from top to bottom. […] In dress, manner of eating and cooking, in trappings and ornaments, in family and social relations, a Ukrainian substantially differs from his Great Russian brother (GARF 5787-1-34: 31).

A published fieldwork report contains the ethnographer’s musings about the correlation between the planning of Great and Little Russian villages and the psychology of their dwellers. The southern Great Russian villages consisted of chaotically positioned houses without fences between them, while in Mogili͡anskiĭ’s native Chernigov province “each farm is a self-contained whole, fenced off from all sides and accessible for the eyes of only [its] closest neighbours” (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1910: 3) (Fig. 3.8). Thus, he muses, the public nature of life in the Great Russian village naturally accustoms dwellers to collectivism, while the planning of Ukrainian villages itself conveys the idea of individualism (Fig. 3.9, 3.10).

Fig. 3.8 An izba, covered with reeds. Ukrainians. Bessarabskai͡a gubernii͡a. Photo by Nikolaĭ M. Mogili͡anskiĭ, 1906 (RĖM 851-3). © Russian Ethnographic Museum, St Petersburg

Fig. 3.9 “A khata”. Ukrainians of the Volynskai͡a gubernii͡a. Photo by Fëdor K. Volkov, 1907 (RĖM 3747-43). © Russian Ethnographic Museum, St Petersburg

Fig. 3.10 “A street”. Ukrainians of the Volynskai͡a gubernii͡a. Photo by Fëdor K. Volkov, 1907. RĖM 3747-64. © Russian Ethnographic Museum, St Petersburg

In his unpublished writings Mogili͡anskiĭ was much more explicit about the realities he witnessed during fieldwork and with which side of this contrast he sympathized. For example, he noted important differences between the groups’ family relations. According to his “Ukraine and Ukrainians, ethnological and historical-cultural essay” (1921), Ukrainians are “gentle and deeply humane” in their family life, and women hold a very high position in society. Great Russians, on the contrary, despise, oppress, and regularly beat their wives. The nature of religious dissidence is also different: while Great Russians usually “cling to the letter” of religious dogma or choose fanatical “unhealthy” sects, Ukrainians prefer rational doctrines of baptism and its like (GARF 5787-1-34: 33).

This dualistic scheme, apparently, was an intellectual tool quite characteristic of Mogili͡anskiĭ’s thinking. A few years later he applied it to the situation of Russian emigrants in France. In 1922 he published a short newspaper article titled “Liquids that do not mix (An essay in social psychology)” in which he argued that there was no “diffusion” or adaptation of Russian emigrants in Paris. Instead, the French and the Russians stayed “liquids that do not mix, two elements, two races and two psychologies — products of different ethnic origins, different climates and different cultures”. Interestingly, he blamed the émigré’s lack of curiosity about the achievements of French culture and society as well as their psychological characteristics for this situation, but did not discuss their social circumstances. He claimed that “alongside the challenging, active, and scheduled-by-the-minute life of a European we managed to preserve our disorderly way of life”. In the ethnographer’s account, “we” despise the French for their thrift, coldness, and standoffishness, but at the same time make no efforts to enter the “depth of life” of Paris to understand the “language of the spirit of the people, its highest psychological origin” (GARF R-5787-1-13: 136). Thus, in a manner somewhat anticipating of Shirokogoroff’s “psychomental complex”, Mogili͡anskiĭ often appealed to psychological and “spiritual” differences, even while borrowing the “hard” data of physical anthropology from Volkov. The latter argument, nevertheless, did not go unchallenged in the Russian scholarship.

Physical Anthropology and Etnos: Dmitriĭ Anuchin Challenges Volkov’s Ukrainian “Anthropological Type”

Upon his move to St Petersburg, Volkov taught anthropology and archaeology at St Petersburg University, chaired the Russian Anthropological Society, and worked for the Russian Museum and the Russian Geographical Society. His unique position in the centre of imperial science enabled him to train a host of students who formed the “Volkov school” in archaeology and anthropology (Tikhonov 2012). Volkov and his students (some of whom, like Pëtr Efimenko and Sergeĭ Rudenko, were Ukrainians) organized anthropological research in many regions, but the Ukraine was a priority. During the pre-war period they managed to organize anthropological research covering all corners of the Ukrainian territory.

Physical anthropology, as we have already noticed, played a crucial role in the multidisciplinary project of St Petersburg anthropologists. Ukrainian anthropological material, collected and analysed by Volkov, became a crucial case study for debating important theoretical questions, such as the relations between physical type and culture, and the homogeneity and variety of anthropological type within ethnic groups. Volkov started collecting physical anthropological data on Ukrainians in his 1903–1906 expeditions to Galicia, Bukovina, and Trans-Carpathian Ukraine, conducted under the aegis of the Ethnographic Commission of the T. Shevchenko Scientific Society. It was in the publication of the results of these expeditions that he first described the Ukrainians as a tall, brachycephalic, dark-haired and dark-eyed anthropological type (Taran 2003).

Debates about the methods of defining anthropological groups were among the central issues in early twentieth-century Russian anthropology. Two main centres of anthropological research, St Petersburg and Moscow, were in complex relationships of partnership and competition. This can be illustrated by the correspondence between their long-time leaders, Volkov and Dmitriĭ N. Anuchin (1843–1923).

Anuchin’s first letter to Volkov is dated March 1895 and contains an offer to become a translator of Liudstvo v době předhistorické ze vláštním zřetelem na země slovanské (Humanity in Prehistoric Times with a Special Attention to Slavic Lands) by the Czech archaeologist and historian Lubor Niederle [Niderle] (1865–1944), the first archaeological compendium that paid attention to the question of Slavic antiquities and the origins of the Slavs. The edition was published in Russian in 1898 using Volkov’s translation and with a preface by Anuchin (Niderle 1898). Discussing the edition’s preface in 1897, Volkov shared with Anuchin his concerns about the declining interest in the natural sciences in Russia and his view of archaeology as a natural science, and asked Anuchin to send him copies of his entries in the Brokgauz and Efron encyclopaedia about the anthropology of the Great Russians and Little Russians (OR RGB 10-20-135: 14).

The correspondence became active again in the early 1910s. In 1911, Volkov reported that, amidst the students’ strike, he had a consolation: results of the recent anthropological investigations allowed the publication of an anthropological survey and maps of both Galician and Malorussian Ukraine (OR RGB 10-20-138: 20). In March 1915, he announced to Anuchin that The Ukrainian People was moving forward after the delay caused by the war and “the Judaic fear in expectation of the persecution of mazepinstvo”.3 He promised that Anuchin would be the first to receive proofs, but warned that he had to conform to the popular character of the whole edition.

In fact, this article was just an extract of a much more elaborate zapiska (note) on the anthropological map of Ukraine that was to be published by the IRGO. An ethnographic map of Ukraine was also almost complete: it was compiled on the basis of answers to a questionnaire that had been sent to all regions of Ukraine. The plan was to publish six maps, including those of variations in Ukrainian dwellings, household constructions, male and female clothing, etc. The answers to a similar Belorussian questionnaire had been also received, while a Great Russian one had only been sent, and a Siberian questionnaire was in the process of development (OR RGB 10-20-139: 25–26).

While sending the newly published articles to Anuchin, Volkov asked Anuchin to give his opinion about the proofs of Volkov’s manuscript, “Ethnographical Features of the Ukrainians”, considering it “the first attempt at scientific analysis of Malorussian ethnography” based on French and, partly, American anthropological ideas and written in opposition to Ratzel, Schurz, and Kharuzin. As to the anthropological part of his work (“The Anthropological Features of the Ukrainians”), Volkov referred to it as having only a popular and descriptive character (OR RGB 10-20-142: 30–31).

Anuchin’s reaction was quite the reverse. He replied:

I studied this article [“The anthropological features of the Ukrainians”] in the first place and I must state it very clearly that I strongly disagree both with its conclusions, and its whole composition. The fact that it has a “popular and descriptive character” urges me to pay it special attention, as it is desirable to popularize what is well known and certain, but not something that is doubtful and can provoke rightful objections (NAIA NANU 1/B-156: 1–2).

In the next letter he expounded his critique: Anuchin was upset with Volkov’s denial of the correctness of Russian anthropologists’ measurements, he protested against Volkov’s tendency to lump together the “Adriatic” anthropological type with the Slavic linguistic group. He stressed that the author of this concept, Joseph Deniker, extended it to the territories populated not only by southern Slavs, but to Switzerland, Italy, France and even Great Russia. He also countered Volkov’s claims about the homogeneity of Ukrainians and their essential difference from neighbouring Great Russians, Belorussians, and Poles (NAIA NANU 1-B-158: 1–2).

Fig. 3.11 “Types of the Ukrainian population: a) Psarovka, Chernigovskai͡a gubernii͡a (slightly mongolised), b) Kroveletskiĭ uezd, Chernigovskai͡a gubernii͡a, c) Obruchskiĭ uezd, Volynskai͡a gubernii͡a, d) Pavlogradskiĭ” (Volkov et al. 1914–1916: 400)

Anuchin’s 1918 review of “The anthropological features of the Ukrainian people” was rather devastating. He stated that, even using Volkov’s own figures, one can see the tendentiousness of his characteristics. Ukrainians were no more dark-haired, straight-nosed and brachycephalic than their neighbours. Using only averages, Anuchin pointed out, Volkov ignored any geographical variation and explained all features that did not fit his ideal type as ethnic admixtures on the borders of Ukrainian territory with Great Russians, Poles, Germans or even Mongols (Fig. 3.11). In this context, Anuchin formulated his own understanding of etnos:

Mr Volkov constantly speaks about “ethnic” influences, “ethnic” admixtures etc., but the Greek word etnos — the people (narod) has to do with a spiritual essence of the people, and not with its bodily features. Ethnic influence can be felt in language, way of life (byt), folklore, customs, costume, ornaments etc., but not in the height, the length of legs or the shape of noses’ (Anuchin 1918: 54).

Thus, Anuchin strongly objected to Volkov’s claims about the homogeneity of Ukrainians, their essential difference from neighbouring peoples, and claims to some “pure” Slavic type that other linguistically Slavic peoples had lost due to mixing with non-Slavs. It is worth mentioning, nevertheless, that this devastating review was published in the same issue that contained birthday congratulations to Volkov from his Moscow colleagues. It is not clear if Volkov was able to read this journal as he died in 1918, on his way from St Petersburg to Kiev.

Correspondence between Anuchin and Volkov shows that, although they both were quite explicit about their disagreement, they never severed personal relations. Moreover, in view of the probable establishment of a separate department of ethnography at St Petersburg University, Volkov was planning to obtain a doctoral degree from a Russian university, which he needed in order to take up the chair of anthropology. Volkov enjoyed teaching and wanted to become a full professor, but he doubted that he could defend his French dissertation in Russia or present his recent articles on “The Ukrainian People in its Past and Present” as a new dissertation (OR RGB 10-20-142: 29–30). In spite of their disagreement, Anuchin wrote a letter to St Petersburg University in support of granting Volkov the degree, honoris causa. In his last letter to Volkov, written half a year before Volkov’s death, Anuchin expressed his satisfaction with the university’s decision and his respect, while at the same time promising to counter Volkov’s anthropological conclusions in print:

[…] I have always regarded you with esteem, respect and readiness to be of service, and if I disagreed with you, it was only in scientific opinions and arguments. But you know the saying: Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas (NAIA NANU 1/B-159: 1).

Anuchin’s critique of Volkov’s anthropological methods and conclusions appeared in the context of a long-running critical campaign that was waged against Volkov’s students, Sergeĭ Rudenko and David Zolotarëv, by another Moscow-based physical anthropologist, Efim Chepurkovskiĭ [Ethyme Tschepourkowsky] (1871–1950). He denied the reality of anthropological types that they ascertained, basing his critique on the statistical inadequacy of their methods. As Maksim G. Levin summarized his critique: “E. M. Chepurkovskiĭ showed with a maximum persuasiveness that the types, thus ascertained, as a rule, are not real; that in any however homogeneous group, due to variability of features one can distinguish a certain per cent of more or less pigmented, more or less tall or possessing certain cephalic index individuals, and one can also create different combinations using different traits” (Levin 1960: 132). Chepurovskiĭ’s and Anuchin’s critique of Volkov’s and his students’ methods of ethnic anthropology were accepted as generally correct by Soviet anthropologists (Alekseeva 1973: 8–10). Nevertheless, Volkov’s conclusions became a dogma for Mogili͡anskiĭ, who often referred to them in his post-1917 writing as purely objective scientific results, obtained by the most recent and accurate methods (Mogili͡anskiĭ 2014: 584–85).

Mogili͡anskiĭ in Exile: Political Activism and Teaching

Mogili͡anskiĭ was a liberal who could not accept the Bolshevik revolution and, soon after it took place, the Russian Museum sent him to Kiev. In the summer of 1918 he informed the museum of his resignation and his decision to remain in Kiev (Dmitriev 2002: 152). Meanwhile, Ukraine was going through an extremely turbulent period. In November 1917, the Central Rada proclaimed the autonomous Ukrainian People’s Republic in a federation with Russia. After a failed Bolshevik coup in Kiev in January 1918, the Central Rada proclaimed full independence and invited the German army to protect the country from the Bolshevik invasion. Within only months, the Germans occupied the country, disbanded the Rada and, on 29 April, Pavlo Skoropadskiĭ was elected the hetman (highest military officer, leader) of the National State of Ukraine, or “The Hetmanat”, which survived until December 1918.

Ten days later, Mogili͡anskiĭ was appointed deputy state secretary. From May until November he was present at the meetings of the cabinet and assisted Pavlo Skoropadskiĭ. Both Skoropadskiĭ and Mogili͡anskiĭ advocated for a “Russian orientation” in Ukrainian politics. Skoropadskiĭ saw himself as both Russian and Ukrainian: he was a descendant of the Ukrainian hetman of the eighteenth century, but spent all of his life serving in the imperial army. In addition, he and his family spoke Russian. While in office in Kiev, he supported the counter-revolutionary Volunteer Army, but opposed its commander Anton Denikin’s unitarian Russian nationalism. As he explained in a letter to Mogili͡anskiĭ: “I believe that my Ukraine is stronger and more certain for [i.e. to contribute to] Russia’s glory than the Malorossii͡a that Denikin will create” (Ivant͡sova et al. 2014: 573). Mogili͡anskiĭ characterized Skoropadskiĭ as “a devoted nationalist Ukrainian who considers national feeling to be healthy, believes in the future of the national idea without being a separatist at all” — a characterisation that could be perfectly applied to Mogili͡anskiĭ’s own political views (Ibid: 574).

It should be added, though, that this government was also emphatically anti-socialist and very sceptical in relation to so called “Ukrainization”. Mogili͡anskiĭ claimed that the main supporters of this policy were well-to-do Ukrainian peasants — those who “elected” Skoropadskiĭ and whose well-being was threatened by the pending “socialization” of the land (Ibid: 614). By the end of the hetman’s rule there was a sharp opposition in the government between the Ukrainian nationalists and Russians. The hetman’s failure to include the former into the government let to their open rebellion.

Skoropadskiĭ and Mogili͡anskiĭ’s political programme failed with the defeat of Germany and the uprising of Ukrainian separatists and leftists led by Simon Petli͡ura. They seized power in Kiev on 14 December 1918. Skoropadskiĭ had to flee to Germany. A month before, he had sent Mogili͡anskiĭ to Paris as his representative and a potential representative of Ukraine at the Paris Peace Conference. While in the city, Mogili͡anskiĭ did not hide his “anti-separatist” position and saw his role as providing information about the situation in the country (Ibid: 635). Mogili͡anskiĭ recalled their last meeting in Kiev:

I came into the study with a report: among the laws was one establishing the Kiev academy of sciences — I wanted this law to be signed in my presence. […] I wanted to calm P. P. down: “There is not and cannot be any other way for Ukraine except in unity with Russia”, I said. “Tell them that I am not a traitor”, — were the last words P. P. Skoropadskiĭ told me. They were addressed to the French and to the Russian mission in Paris (Ibid: 569).

The years following Mogili͡anskiĭ’s departure from Kiev were turbulent and full of political and literary activity. He organized a Ukrainian national committee in Paris, went to the Crimea to have talks with the general Pëtr N. Vrangel’, edited the journal La Jeune Ukraine and, most importantly for our subject, wrote several long essays that summarized his ideas about Ukraine and its ethnography, history, political life, and future prospects. These writings pursued both political and educational purposes.

One of them, “The Memo about Ukrainian Question and the Perspectives Concerning Ukraine” (GARF R-5787-1-35) was a manifesto of the Parisian Ukrainian National Committee and contained a program for liberating Russia from the Bolsheviks. Mogili͡anskiĭ was highly disappointed by the Entente’s failure to suppress the Bolsheviks,4 as well as by the White Army’s military fiasco and its nationalist ideology of a “united indivisible Russia”. In response, he offered his recipe: restoring the order and solving the “Russian question” should start with Ukraine. The ethnographer used his understanding of Ukrainian psychological characteristics to argue that the “Ukrainian peasantry […] have not accepted the socialization of land, proclaimed by the Central Rada, and by its deeply congenial individualism it will never accept socialism in any form” (GARF R-5787-1-35: 12). He also took aim at the left wing of the Ukrainian nationalist movement, considering the politics of Hrushevs’kiĭ, Petli͡ura, and others as unfortunate consequences of imperial ultra-centralization and not unlike the Russian revolutionary socialists. The main features of their politics, according to Mogili͡anskiĭ, were intransigence to Russia, Germanomania, “unrestrained demagogy”, and the will to power by any means (Ibid: 15–16).

The results of Petli͡ura’s rule were so devastating that Mogili͡anskiĭ strongly warned against any support for his government in exile. Instead, he called for a broad coalition of socialists and liberals under the aegis of his committee that would control the insurgent movement on the spot and would be supported by the Entente’s armed forces. Mogili͡anskiĭ formulated the movement’s political program in the following points:

  1. The acceptance of the fact of the political revolution of February 1917;
  2. The acceptance of the fact of the agrarian revolution and the transfer of land into the hands of peasants. In ideal, they [the National Committee and its allies] see Russia as a democratic federal republic where nations would be granted the right of cultural self-determination and free development of national life (Ibid: 19).

Mogili͡anskiĭ’s other writings of the period elaborated on history rather than future. “Ukraine and Ukrainians” was the most ambitious work ever written by Mogili͡anskiĭ about the topic. The 45-page handwritten manuscript, written in Paris in 1921, presents an attempt to integrate ethnography, history, physical anthropology, and current politics into an inclusive characterisation of an “ethnic type”:

This word and concept [the Ukrainians] is a subject of hatred for Russian centralists who did not and do not want to accept the existence of this particular ethnic type which is characterized by exact and definite features; on the other hand, this notion is a symbol and credo of Ukrainian separatists who, against all evidence in support of close resemblance between Great Russians and Ukrainians, appeal to differences in anthropological features and try to create almost impassable gaps between them, both from anthropological and cultural points of view (GARF R-5787-1-34: 1).

As has been already shown, Mogili͡anskiĭ disagreed with both extreme positions. He proceeded to give an overview of the history of the Russian plain to give an account of the making of two “types” — Great and Little Russians — as the result of their mixing with the Finns and the Turks, respectively. Mogili͡anskiĭ referred to Volkov’s conclusions as decisive evidence taken from the “modern science of anthropology with its exact methods of research” that proved the difference between Great and Little Russians and the existence of distinct homogeneous Ukrainian type (Ibid: 9–11). After an outline of the history of Ukraine from the earliest archaeological findings to the eighteenth century, Mogili͡anskiĭ turned to language and literature as “the strongest characteristic of a people, aside from the anthropological type” (Ibid: 22). There he relied on Shakhmatov’s and Korsh’s conclusions about the independence of the Ukrainian language. As to the literature, he admitted that Ukrainian literature did not yet have works of “world significance”, but attributed this to its young age.

Having considered the differences between Great and Little Russians that we discussed in the section dealing with his fieldwork, Mogili͡anskiĭ returned to Volkov’s conclusions:

The Ukrainian people, on the whole its ethnic territory is characterized by a range of ethnographic features common to all its members, which do not leave any doubt about the fact that it constitutes one ethnographic whole that definitely stands out among other Slavic peoples (Ibid: 34–35).

He also subscribed to all of Volkov’s other ethnographic conclusions about the comparative resilience, purity, and antiquity of Ukrainian culture, but emphatically stressed the point of Ukrainians’ affinity with other eastern Slavs, the point that, in his opinion, should preclude them from appealing to Turkey or Germany for support and protection (Ibid: 36). Mogili͡anskiĭ described the activity of Ukrainian “separatists” without any sympathy, portraying them as traitors who “presented themselves at the German headquarters right at the beginning of warfare, much earlier than Lenin and co., with the aim to contribute to the quickest and complete defeat of Russia and freeing Ukraine from the yoke of Moscow” (GARF R-5787-1-34: 37). In this text, written after the defeat of the Whites, Skoropadskiĭ, and Petli͡ura, Mogili͡anskiĭ had to admit that “the Ukrainian people were interested only in land. And this land — the ages old dream of popular masses in Russia — they could effectively and immediately get only from the Bolsheviks” (Ibid: 39). This, of course, did not make him reconciled with the latter, which he still considered as a totally destructive power. After the fall of the Bolsheviks that he still envisioned, he hoped for a “free and decentralized Russia” and denied the chances of Ukrainian separatism which, in his view, was “totally alien to the masses of the Ukrainian population” (Ibid: 45).

Ukrainian history was also discussed in Mogili͡anskiĭ’s lectures on the geography of Russia. One can see that there he followed a rather standard narrative of early Russian history, dwelling on differences between the south and north that gradually evolved into the divergence between Great and Little Russia. The discrepancies between them lay on the level of the environment (forest versus steppe), historical encounters (subjugation of peaceful hunters versus defeat from the warlike nomads), and ethnic admixtures (Finns versus Turks). These variations created the distinct physical, social, and psychological types of Great and Little Russians (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1924: 93–108). However, Mogili͡anskiĭ’s analysis did not conform to the Ukrainian nationalist narrative that saw the roots of the Ukrainian identity in Kievan Rus’ or even earlier. What is more, in his account of the origins of eastern Slavic nationalities he seemed to follow Pogodin’s theory of the desolation of Kiev’s region after the Mongol invasion and the later colonization of this land from Galicia, which was notorious among Ukrainian nationalists:

The centre of the formation of the Little Russian language and Little Russian narodnost’ was Galicia and Volyn’. During the Tatar invasion a considerable share of the Slavic population of Southern Russia, as we know it, was exterminated and fled, partly to Chernigov’s Poles’e and partly to the west to Volyn’ and Galicia. There, in the west, appears a name for Southern-Western Russia — Little Russia. Beginning in the fifteenth century, a developed Little Russian narodnost’ begins to pour itself into the zone of the Turk and Mongolian massacres of the southern steppe. The word “Ukraine” has been known already since the twelfth century and meant nothing else but the fringe, the borderlands of the Russian settlement (GARF R-5787-1-34: 108–09).

Mogili͡anskiĭ’s hopes for the formation of a democratic federalist Russian state after the fall of Bolsheviks were to remain unfulfilled, although the latter effectively used the idea of cultural self-determination for their purposes. The project of “freeing” Russia from the Bolsheviks, starting with Ukraine, which was the main object of the Ukrainian National Committee, did not come to fruition and Mogili͡anskiĭ’s relations with the committee ended dramatically. On 4 June 1922, the Russian-language Parisian newspaper, Poslednie novosti (The Latest News), published a set of correspondence between the committee’s chairman, Sergeĭ Markotun, and the head of the government (Sovnarkom) and foreign minister of the Soviet Ukraine, Khristian Rakovskiĭ [Christian Rakovsky]. The letters indicated Markotun’s willingness to cooperate with the Soviet authorities, which was confirmed by the agreement he signed with Rakovskiĭ during the Genoa Conference in May 1922. This correspondence was followed by a “Statement” by Mogili͡anskiĭ, who accused Markotun of acquiescing to Soviet power, “a morally disreputable act aimed to harm the Russian and Ukrainian peoples”, and resigned his membership of the committee. Mogili͡anskiĭ pasted this publication in his diary with a comment: “National Ukrainian Committee is dead for me. Let it die for all” (GARF R-5787-1-12: 108–10).

There is no extended analysis of Mogili͡anskiĭ’s journalism and political activity in the 1920s. In this essay, we can only stress that this activity was guided by his ambivalent position as both a Ukrainian “patriot” and a supporter of the Russian-Ukrainian federation. He attacked Petli͡ura and Ukrainian nationalists, such as the first foreign minister of an independent Ukraine, Aleksandr Shul’gin, who, in Mogili͡anskiĭ’s words, “was with Petli͡ura against Skoropadskiĭ, and with an ambassador at the Paris Conference, Mr Sidorenko, hoaxed the political people of Europe. In a rather bookish pamphlet he tried to prove an anthropological basis of the impossibility of peaceful coexistence of the ‘Moskals’ and ‘Ukrainians’” (GARF R-5787-1-11: 18).

From the opposite side Mogili͡anskiĭ was confronted by Russian nationalists, as is evident from a letter written to him by another Shul’gin, Vasiliĭ Vital’evich, a monarchist and nationalist ideologist of the counterrevolutionary White movement. Shul’gin opposed the German occupation of Kiev and had to flee from the city when Skoropadskiĭ took control of it. After the final defeat of the white Volunteer Army he lived in a number of European countries and was active in journalism and émigré organizations. In a long letter, written in 1927, he reprimanded Mogili͡anskiĭ for using “Ukrainian terminology”, which he considered the “main weapon” of the samostiĭniki (separatists), since an independent state was an inevitable consequence of the recognition of Ukrainians as a separate people or nation. Shul’gin, himself born in Kiev, wrote:

We, the people of the South of Russia, identifying ourselves as not only Russian, but, so to say, double Russian, will not allow our Russian name to be taken away. We are Russian, and those in the North are Russian too, hence we are a united people not of 35 million, but of 100 million (GARF R-5787-1-160: 48).

Shul’gin called for strengthening and organizing people with Little Russian (Malorussian) identity: “Great Russians will never win a moral victory over Ukrainians, a moral victory over them can be only won by Little Russians. And to win physically, one must win a moral victory” (Ibid: 51).

In the middle of these ideological battles Mogili͡anskiĭ had to adapt to the life of an émigré. In 1923 he moved to Prague, the city that became one of the centres of Russian emigration (Figs. 3.12 and 3.13). Here he taught at the John Amos Comenius Pedagogical Institute, which trained teachers for a new post-Bolshevik Russia. Mogili͡anskiĭ was also active in other academic institutions in Prague: the Russian Free University, Russian Academic Group, the Pedagogical Bureau of the Russian School Abroad, and the Union of Russian Writers and Journalists of the Czech Republic. He lectured on geography, ethnography, anthropology, and other popular topics, took part in congresses, and published in newspapers and academic journals (Dmitriev 2002). While he was definitely part of the Russian émigré community, nothing is known about his contacts with Ukrainian circles, except for his vehement critique of S. Petli͡ura and Ukrainian nationalists. Prague was also an important centre of the Eurasian movement with which Mogili͡anskiĭ’s thinking was critically engaged in the 1920s.

Fig. 3.12 Nikolaĭ M. Mogili͡anskiĭ near the hotel Graf in Prague, 1926 (GARF R-5787-1-16a-9v). © State Archive of the Russian Federation, Moscow

Fig. 3.13 Nikolaĭ M. Mogili͡anskiĭ. Prague, 1926 (GARF R-5787-1-16a-11). © State Archive of the Russian Federation, Moscow

Mogili͡anskiĭ’s “Lectures on the Geography of Russia” (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1924), transcribed by a student of the Russian Pedagogical Institute and published in Prague, offer an important source for Mogili͡anskiĭ’s teaching and thinking in exile. There can be little doubt that, although delivered during his Prague period, these lectures also relied on his previous teaching in St Petersburg. The course was a continuation of his “Basics of Physical Geography” lectures at the institute (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1923), and it offered not only a survey of the region’s physical geography, but a great deal of historical, anthropological, ethnographical, and economic information. Ratzel was mentioned on its first page as a thinker who developed the idea of the influence of a country’s Weltstellung (position in the world) on its entire human geography (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1924: 1). The introduction also illustrated Mogili͡anskiĭ’s awareness of Eurasianism, already evident in his citing of Nikolaĭ Trubet͡skoĭ in the anthropological lectures. He wrote:

Regarding the development of culture, Russia, due to its geographical position, is an intermediate link between the Sino-Japanese cultural centre of eastern Asia and the Romano-German one of western Europe. Thus, fate itself posits for Russia the task of synthesizing cultural elements of the East and West (Ibid: 2).

In good Ratzelian fashion, similar to Koropchevskiĭ’s Political Geography, Mogili͡anskiĭ described the political development of the Russian Empire as being heavily preconditioned by the geography of the vast Russian plain. Still, unlike the Eurasianists, Mogili͡anskiĭ pro-European sympathies are evident in the way he saw the Tatar conquest and the subsequent geographical and cultural isolation from western Europe as the major factors in Russia’s backwardness and the superficiality of western civilization in her territory (Ibid: 4–5). Climate also contributed to unfavourable conditions: the cold in the north and droughts in the south made cultural activity precarious and made people rely on luck rather than “personal precaution”. Long and idle winters were another cause of “physical and spiritual immobility” (Ibid: 30). Western culture was imposed on a small minority, the Russian elite, while the poor and ignorant masses were and continued to be separated from this elite by a “deep precipice”.

Nevertheless, Mogili͡anskiĭ was unequivocal in his evaluation of Russia’s prospects:

In the musty air of contemporaneity no progress is imaginable. The path is still the only one, the path of knowledge and culture, the European and not Asian, or Eurasian one (Ibid: 118–19).

Mogili͡anskiĭ’s critical engagement with Eurasianism had both personal and intellectual reasons. Many leading intellectuals of the Eurasian movement came from Ukraine, were interested in Ukrainian culture and identified themselves as Russians, Ukrainians, or “Ukrainians with Russian culture” depending on the context. Nevertheless, their project encountered what Sergeĭ Glebov has called “Eurasia’s Ukrainian challenge”:

Drawing on identities and strategies of the so-called Ukrainians of Russian culture, the Eurasianist leaders also encountered the sustained and organized response of Ukrainian intellectuals, who challenged Eurasianist aspirations to construct a supranational identity for the postimperial space (Glebov 2017: 126).

While Mogili͡anskiĭ shared Eurasianists’ “Ukrainian challenge” and the aspiration to preserve the unity of the Russian post-imperial space, he envisioned it in liberal terms. Eurasian thinkers, by contrast, represented the generation of intellectuals, who discarded rationalism and liberalism in favour of “national mystique”, based on “Russian nationalism and aristocratic conservatism, anti-Westernism and Orthodox religiosity, modernist debates and Christian theology” (Ibid: 41).

Mogili͡anskiĭ’s reaction to Eurasianism is also evident in his review of Pëtr Savit͡skiĭ’s Geographical Characteristics of Russia, published in Prague (Savit͡skiĭ 1927). Mogili͡anskiĭ and Savit͡skiĭ knew each other personally. Both were born in Chernigov. Savit͡skiĭ’s father worked for a short period as the deputy minister of the interior in Skoropadskiĭ’s government (Beisswenger 2009: 78). Savit͡skiĭ’s work was a study in physical geography that aimed to prove the distinctiveness of Eurasia-Russia from Europe and Asia in purely physical geographical terms (the structure of climate zones, soils, flora, fauna etc.). Mogili͡anskiĭ considered Savit͡skiĭ’s work a serious scientific exercise and subscribed to some of his conclusions concerning geographical zoning and establishing a physical geographical border between Europe and Eurasia. Nevertheless, he did not agree with the idea of Eurasia as a purely geographical entity and argued that eastern Siberia did not conform to the Eurasian geographical pattern. More importantly, Mogili͡anskiĭ came from an intellectual milieu that valued universal scientific laws, exemplified in the idea of evolution. He could not accept the Eurasianist worldview on a fundamental philosophical level:

We must state from the start that we do not share Eurasianist’s arguments, neither in their general form, nor in their particular attempts to prove the “peculiarities” of Russia in her cultural evolution. There are no identical individuals in the organic world […] We will find even more individual “peculiarities” in elaborate social and anthropological complexes with their individual evolutions. Still, the laws of ontogenetic and phylogenetic development as discovered by modern biology remain common laws, and the laws of social, economical, and historical development for our motherland, which are not yet fully discovered by modern science, will also be common [laws] (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1928: 243–44).

A comparison of this statement with those made by Mogili͡anskiĭ in his “The Object and Tasks of Ethnography” reveals significant changes in his position. The tasks of this science, as he defined them in 1916, were “to study the development of intellectual and spiritual abilities of humankind, which proceeds in its own way in various groups or peoples of the Earth, depending on their racial characteristics, environment, and historical circumstances” (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1916: 17). Apparently, the experiences of the Russian Civil War, emigration, and the critique of Eurasianism left their mark on Mogili͡anskiĭ: he started to put more value on “European civilization” and became more sceptical about a Sonderweg (special path) for individual etnoses.

The Legacy of Volkov in the USSR and Ukraine

Mogili͡anskiĭ died in exile, and his post-1917 writings remained for the most part unpublished and inaccessible to readers in the USSR. The legacies of Volkov’s ideas were more lasting and more controversial. Volkov died on 29 June 1918 in Zhlobin, a small town in Belorussia, while he was on his way from St Petersburg to Kiev and to a realization of some of his life-long plans and aspirations. In 1916–1917 he had pressed for the opening of the department of anthropology at Kiev University. In March 1918, several months before his death, Volkov was elected the head of the department of geography and ethnography at the same university (Franko 2000a: 124–28). Volkov also hoped to take part in the creation of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, which was one of the aims of his move to Kiev. Three years before, in 1915, he bequeathed all his papers to an anthropological laboratory or “Ukrainian Anthropological Institute” to be created in Kiev (Kolesnіkova, Chernovol, and I͡anenko 2012: 9).

In March 1921, The F. K. Vovk Museum of Ethnology and Anthropology was established at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (soon the museum was renamed a “cabinet”). According to the plan drafted by its first director, Volkov’s student Oleksandr Alesho, the museum consisted of three departments: anthropological, paleoanthropological, and ethnological. The first one was further divided into departments of general and racial anthropology, the latter devoted to “anthropological materials of individual races and peoples, especially peoples which live on the territory of Ukraine”. The ethnological department consisted of three divisions: comparative ethnography, studying the evolution of human byt (culture, or everyday life); general ethnography, studying byt of Slavic peoples and peoples of the Black Sea region; and the ethnography of Ukraine, focusing on Ukrainians and other peoples of the country (Kolesnіkova, Chernovol, and I͡anenko 2012: 20). Thus, the structure of the museum closely resembled the structure of an anthropological institute envisioned by Volkov and his idea of anthropology as science. The museum (cabinet) existed as an independent institution until 1933. After numerous restructurings during the Cultural Revolution period, it was finally incorporated into the newly established Institute of the History of Material Culture (since 1938, the Institute of Archaeology). All or most of the members of staff of the cabinet were repressed during the Stalinist purges and crackdown on the Ukrainian national intelligentsia in the mid-1930s.

The interpretation of Volkov’s legacy and anthropological study of Ukrainians in the Soviet and post-Soviet Ukraine closely followed the ideological and political climate of the day. In 1954, the Institute of Ethnography (IE) in Moscow invited their colleagues from the Institute of History of Art, Folklore, and Ethnography in Kiev to write a chapter on Ukrainians for the volume Eastern Slavs in the series “The Peoples of the World”. This idea eventually evolved into a plan for a two-volume edition, The Ukrainians, to be published in Kiev in Ukrainian (Guslistiĭ 1959). The institute launched the Ukrainian anthropological expedition, which between 1956 and 1959 measured 6,000 individuals on the “main territory of formation of the Ukrainian people”. The head of this expedition, physical anthropologist Vasil’ D. Di͡achenko (1924–1996), wrote the physical anthropological chapter of this book in which he criticized Volkov for “nationalistic tendencies” and deficient methodology (Guslistiĭ 1959: 50).

This deficiency, according to Di͡achenko, was manifested in Volkov’s definition of colour, which led to the exaggeration of the “darkness” of Ukrainians’ eyes and hair. Brachycephaly also could not be interpreted as a feature of an “ancient Slavic type”. Diachenko identified four anthropological types of the current Ukrainian population that shared their physical characteristics with neighbouring peoples, especially Russians and Belorussians. Features of the “Dinaric type”, evident in part of the population of the Carpathian zone, to a certain extent connected Ukrainians to southern Slavs, but were not relevant for the whole nation (Ibid: 64–66).

The draft of the volume was presented at a meeting at the IE in Moscow in April 1959 and provoked quite an intense discussion that evoked the debates of the nineteenth century about the formation of the Ukrainian nation. Prominent Soviet ethnographer Sergeĭ A. Tokarev (1899–1985) critiqued the “bourgeois-nationalist” theory of Hrushevs’kiĭ concerning the existence of the Ukrainian people since the period preceding Kievan Rus’. The authors cited philologists who traced the origins of the Ukrainian language to this period, but did not consider the fact that, even in the nineteenth century, the population called themselves Russians (although, in Tokarev’s view, they were already Ukrainians) (ARAN 142-1-1093: 47–49). Tokarev also complained that the analogues of Hrushevs’kiĭs point of view that “the people exist from times immemorial” featured in numerous contemporary books on the history of the peoples of the Caucasus and central Asia (Ibid: 50).

Belorussian ethnographer Adam I. Zalesskiĭ [Zaleskі] (1912–2002) and the director of the IE, Sergeĭ P. Tolstov, defended the correctness of the book’s interpretation. Tolstov supported Guslistiĭ and Zalesskiĭ in their dating the roots of the formation of the Ukrainian nation to the fourteenth century. The ancient elements in the Ukrainian culture, in his view, united rather than divided three eastern Slavic nations, the successors of the single ancient Russian nationality (drevnerusskai͡a narodnost’) (Ibid: 105). Physical anthropologists Maksim G. Levin and Georgiĭ F. Debet͡s lauded Di͡achenko’s efforts to counter Volkov’s nationalistic writings, but expressed hopes that he would substantiate his theory with maps and tables of measurements, which he did in his later monograph Anthropological Composition of the Ukrainian People (Ibid: 26–27, 55; Di͡achenko 1965). This discussion suggests that although the debates about primordialism and constructivism in the study of nationalism did not appear in press during the Soviet period, these issues were raised in internal discussions among scholars.

There is no need to review the whole literature on the ethnogenesis of Ukrainians here to note a tendency to look for deeper roots. In 1992, Di͡achenko published a short article, “Not Only Brown Eyes, Black Brows: Anthropological Types on the Ethnic Territory of the Ukrainian People” in an unlikely forum for a scholarly article: the Journal of the Supreme Council [Rada] of Ukraine (Di͡achenko 1992). In it, he apologized for the “superficial and tendentious” critique of “racist concepts of Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism” and acknowledged the outstanding role of Volkov in the development of Ukrainian anthropology.

Nevertheless, Di͡achenko insisted on his disagreement with Volkov on the point of the colour of eyes among the majority of Ukrainians and their belonging to the “Dinaric (anthropological) complex”. His statement was topped off with a scheme of periodization of Ukrainian ethnic history which started with the Indo-European proto-Slavic period at the end of the sixth through fourth millennia BC, thus proving one of the first statements of Di͡achenko’s text: “Centuries and millennia ‘laboured’ on our etnos” (Ibid).

The most authoritative assessment of Volkov’s anthropology in contemporary Ukrainian scholarship comes from the distinguished physical anthropologist and ethnologist Sergeĭ Segeda. He concludes his afterword to the republication of Volkov’s works:

[…] it would be an exaggeration to claim that all points of the anthropological conception of Khv. Vovk stood the test of time. Thus, he simplified the causes of the appearance of mixed anthropological types on the Ukrainian territory, reducing them to admixtures of neighbouring peoples. The scientist was mistaken, crediting the ancestors of contemporary Slavic peoples with such features as brachycephaly. Khv. Vovk sometimes called anthropological features “ethnic”, although there is no internal causal connection between such categories as “anthropological type” and “etnos”. Nevertheless, the main ideas of Khv. Vovk’s theory to a great extent stood the test of time (Segeda 2010: 134).

Conclusion

The idea of etnos as an “object of ethnography” arose at the intersection of several intellectual and political agendas. During his studies in St Petersburg and Paris, Mogili͡anskiĭ acquired the notion of peoples as subgroups within races, which was widespread in the European science of the second half of the nineteenth through the first third of the twentieth century. As Bruce Baum has shown, “racialized nationalism” was quite common during this period, as well as the idea of several European “races”, as exemplified by Joseph Deniker’s typology (Baum 2006: 118–61). Volkov, who had a formative influence on Mogili͡anskiĭ, created a model of anthropological and ethnographic description of an etnos, which the latter uncritically accepted.

The concept appeared at the moment of ethnography’s institutionalization as a university discipline and legitimized its establishment. The debate between Volkov and Mogili͡anskiĭ, on the one side, and the evolutionists Shternberg and Iokhel’son, on the other, reflected divergent perspectives that divided nationally oriented scholars from the Russian Museum and cosmopolitan evolutionists from the MAĖ. The latter’s rejection of the concept of etnos significantly affected its fate in the early Soviet academia.

Volkov and Mogili͡anskiĭ’s ideas about etnos and ethnography were, of course, connected to their involvement in the Ukrainian nationalist project. The late nineteenth through the early twentieth century was a period of “nationalizing empires”, when both peripheral and central nationalisms were ripening inside imperial states (Miller and Berger 2015). It is worth noting that this version of the Ukrainian project developed in the imperial capital within central scientific institutions, which must have affected its politics.

There is a controversy concerning Volkov’s views on the future of Ukraine. Marina Mogilner considers him as a proponent of the “imperial anthropology of multi-nationality” and the federalization of the Russian Empire (Mogilner 2008: 294–95). The author of Volkov’s Ukrainian-language biography, Oksana Franko, claims that as early as his Parisian period, Volkov had evolved from a moderate federalist and socialist into a staunch supporter of Ukrainian independence (Franko 2000a: 320–21). This uncertainty might be a result of the fact that the scholar died in 1918, when all the national projects of the former empire entered the stage of their real self-determination.

Mogili͡anskiĭ, who outlived this period, remained a convinced federalist who held Mikhaĭlo Dragomanov’s views as an example of the most tenable approach to the problem (GARF R-5787-1-34: 26–28). The distinctiveness of the Ukrainian “ethnic type” in his thinking was in harmony with the “tripartite” concept of the Russian people and did not require the status of a nation. Nevertheless, he also argued with Russian centralists, and his fieldwork conclusions by and large fit into clichés about the national characters of Great Russians and Ukrainians which had long existed in the “Ukrainophilic” circles (Leskinen 2012).

The variety of political positions is paralleled by the variety of applications the concept of etnos could have in Mogili͡anskiĭ’s writing. Thus, speaking about the period when cultural characteristics of peoples would diminish under the pressure of “European civilization”, he listed the Chinese, the Negros, the American Yankees, the Malorussians, and the Georgians as the “peoples” who would preserve their “ethnic wholeness” (Mogili͡anskiĭ 1916: 11). Apparently, these different identities did not conform to the strict definition of narod-etnos. Nevertheless, among Volkov’s followers, etnos acquired an air of an objective conclusion of unbiased science, and Ukrainians were the people whose description became a model for future students of etnos to emulate.

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Archival References

AIVR — Archive of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Saint-Petersburg

AIVR 28-1-197. Otdel’noe mnenie D. A. Klement͡sa o vyrabotke proekta razdelenii͡a ėtnograficheskogo muzei͡a Imperatora Aleksandra III. 31 folios.

AIVR 28-2-1. Pis’ma B. Adlera D. A. Klement͡su, 31 folios.

ARAN — Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences

ARAN 142-1-1093. Stenogramma zasedanii͡a Uchenogo soveta Instituta ėtnografii po obsuzhdenii͡u toma “Ukraint͡sy,” 13.04.1959. 121 folios.

GARF — State Archive of the Russian Federation, Moscow

GARF R-5787-1-11. Dnevnik M. N. Mogili͡anskogo. 1921. 153 folios.

GARF R-5787-1-12.Dnevnik M. N. Mogili͡anskogo, 1922. 182 folios.

GARF R-5787-1-13. Dnevnik M. N. Mogili͡anskogo, 1922., prodolzhenie. 141 folios.

GARF R-5787-1-17. “Za polveka”, avtobiograficheskai͡a povest’. N. Mogili͡anskiĭ. 1921. 207 folios.

GARF R-5787-1-23. Osnovy antropologii, rukopis’. N. Mogili͡anskiĭ. 1921. 305 folios.

GARF R-5787-1-34. Ukraina i ukraint͡sy, ėtnologicheskiĭ i istoriko-kul’turnyĭ ocherk, rukopis’. N. Mogili͡anskiĭ. 1921. 45 folios.

GARF R-5787-1-35. Zapiska po ukrainskomu voprosu i o blizhaĭshikh perspektivakh, svi͡azannykh s Ukrainoĭ, rukopis’. N. Mogili͡anskiĭ. 1921. 22 folios.

GARF R-5787-1-38. Ukraina quasi una fantasia, rukopis’. N. Mogili͡anskiĭ. No date. 4 folios.

GARF R-5787-1-93. Sistema antropologii, stat’i͡a-rukopis’. N. Mogili͡anskiĭ. 1928. 11 folios.

GARF R-5787-1-160. Pis’ma rodstvennikov, raznykh uchrezhdeniĭ i chastnykh lit͡s. 1921–1932. 256 folios.

NAIA NANU — Scientific Archive of the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

NAIA NANU 1/B-156. Pis’mo D. N. Anuchina F. K. Vovku, 11.11.1915. 2 folios.

NAIA NANU 1/B-158. Pis’mo D. N. Anuchina F. K. Vovku, 26.11.1915. 2 folios.

NAIA NANU 1/B-159. Pis’mo D. N. Anuchina F. K. Vovku, 27.10.1917. 2 folios.

OR RGB — Department of Manuscripts of the Russian State Library

OR RGB 10-20-135: 13-14. Pis’mo F. K. Volkova D. N. Anuchinu. 27.10.1897.2 folios.

OR RGB 10-20-136: 15-16. Pis’mo F. K. Volkova D. N. Anuchinu, 26.09.1898.2 folios.

OR RGB 10-20-138: 20. Pis’mo F. K. Volkova D. N. Anuchinu, 15.03.1911 2 folios.

OR RGB 10-20-139: 25–26. Pis’mo F. K. Volkova D. N. Anuchinu, 15.09.1912.2 folios.

OR RGB 10-20-142: 1–2, 29–31. Pis’mo F. K. Volkova D. N. Anuchinu, 30.10.1915. 2 folios.

REM — Photolibrary, Russian Ethnographic Museum, Saint Petersburg

REM 757-2. A view of the sloboda (a quarter of a village) “Bugor”. Russians, Tula gubernii͡a. Photo by N. M. Mogili͡anskiĭ 1902.

REM 758-12. A village. Russians, Kaluga gubernii͡a. Photo by N. M. Mogili͡anskiĭ, 1903.

REM 851-3. An izba, covered with reed. Ukrainians. Bessarabskai͡a gubernii͡a. Photo by N. M. Mogili͡anskiĭ, 1906.

REM 3747-43. “A khata”. Ukrainians of Volynskai͡a gubernii͡a. Photo by F. K. Volkov, 1907.

REM 3747-64. “A street”. Ukrainians of Volynskai͡a gubernii͡a. Photo by F. K. Volkov, 1907.

SPF ARAN — Saint Petersburg Branch of the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences

SPF ARAN 134-3-998. Pis’ma N. M. Mogili͡anskogo A. A. Shakhmatovu, 1910–1915. 8 folios.

SPF ARAN 1004-1-467:1. A photograph of Fëdor Volkov during his lessons with students in the Cabinet of Geography and Ethnography, Saint Petersburg University.

TsGIA SPb Central State Historical Archive of Saint Petersburg

TsGIA SPb 14-2-1390. Delo Universitetskogo soveta o dopushchenii magistra D. Koropchevskogo k chtenii͡u lekt͡siĭ kak privat-dot͡senta, 20.10.1899. 15 folios.

TsGIA SPb 14-1-8843. Delo o sluzhbe professora Petri. 159 folios.

TsGIA SPb 14-1-10085. Delo o dopushchenii k chtenii͡u lekt͡siĭ F. K. Volkova, 1907. 42 folios.

TsGIA SPb 14-3-26932. Universitetskoe delo studenta N. M. Mogili͡anskogo, nachatoe v 1889 g. 41 folios.


1 As outlined in Chapter 2, the term first appeared in 1908 in Mogili͡anskiĭ’s review of the first volume of N. Kharuzin’s (1901) Ethnography (Mogili͡anskiĭ, 1908) but that text did not contain a detailed definition of etnos as a theoretical concept. According to this published text, Mogili͡anskiĭ first presented his review of Kharuzin in 1902 at a meeting of the St Petersburg University’s Russian Anthropological Society.

2 This decree, signed by Alexander II in Bad Ems (Germany), forbade the publication of books in Ukrainian and the use of the language in education in the Russian Empire.

3 This comment is based on a saying that refers to one of Jesus’s disciples, who hid his beliefs because he was afraid of persecution. The saying refers to the fear of being oppressed by any authorities. “Mazepinstvo” comes from the Ukrainian hetman Ivan Mazepa, who betrayed Peter the Great. It refers to the fear of betrayal that the Russians have towards Ukrainians.

4 The Triple Entente was a military block that united Britain, France, and the Russian Empire in World War I. During the Civil War (1918–1922), Britain, France, and their allies occupied territories of the former Russian Empire and provided help to the counter-revolutionary White Movement.