Department of East and Southeast Asia

Contact Information

Universitetskaya nab., 3. St.Petersburg, 199034

Phone: +7 (812) 328-41-22

Department Staff

Igor ALIMOV, Head of Department, D.Sc. (traditional spiritual culture of the peoples of China, Chinese common believes, Chinese written monuments of the 1st-13th centuries).

Elena IVANOVA, Leading Researcher, D.Sc. (material culture and ideology of Southeast Asia, mainly Thailand; Buddhist sculpture; history of ethnography; history of the collections).

Vladimir KISLYAKOV, Senior Researcher, Cand.Sc. (history of the Museum’s collections, mostly Chinese, Mongolian, and Korean; history of the Museum; history of Russian ethnography).

Polina RUD', Assistant (export and folk Chinese paintings, everyday life of the Chinese within Qing period, history of the Museum’s Chinese collections).  

Arkadii SVIRIDOV, Assistant (traditional material culture and ideology of Southeast China and Japan, history of the Museum’s collections)

Alexander SINITSYN, Senior Researcher, Cand.Sc. (Japanese traditional weapons and armor; traditional Japanese arts (painting, the Ukiyo-e engravings; lacquer, ceramics) in the Museum’s collections; history of the Museum’s Japanese collections; traditional culture of the samurai; traditional culture of Burma).

Andrei SOKOLOV, Researcher, Cand.Sc. (traditional culture of the Japanese, Ainu, history of the Museum's Ainu collections).

History of the Department

The history of the Department of East and Southeast Asia as a structural unit within the MAE falls into several stages. Its first predecessor was the Department of Asian Civilizations founded in the early 1900s and directed by A.I. Ivanov until 1925. Later it was transformed into the Department of the Far East headed by G.O. Mohnseeler and A.E. Gluskina. After the transformation of MAE into the Institute of Ethnography and Anthropology in 1933, the department was headed by N.V. K50108hner. In the course of the new reorganization (1937), the Department of India, Indonesia and the Far East was formed (headed by N.V. K50108hner, who at the same time directed the Cabinet of East and South Asia).

In 1948 the Department of the Orient was estsblished in the Institute of Ethnography in Moscow and, in Leningrad the Group of East and Southeast Asia, headed by N.V. K50108hner until his death in 1955 and then by K.V. Vyatkina and R.F. Its.

In 1970, when the Department of Australia and Oceania was merged in this group, the former was renamed the Sector of East and Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania. In 1972 it split into two sectors: that of Foreign Asia (directed by D.I. Tikhonov, and from 1975 on, by A.M. Reshetov) and that of Australia, Oceania and Indonesia (directed by N.A. Butinov).

In the 1990s, after MAE had been established, several more reshuffles took place. Since 2002, the department has existed in its present status.

In the past, several leading figures were associated with the department (their domains are indicated in parentheses): G.A. Glovatskii (China), A.E. Gluskina, A.I. Ivanov (China), Yu.V. Ionova (Korea), R.F. Its (China), R.A. Ksenofontova (Japan), N.V. K50108hner (China), A.I. Mukhlinov (Vietnam), V.S. Starikov (China), G.G. Stratanovich (China), and D.I. Tikhonov (China), L.L. Viktorova (Mongolia), and K.V. Vyatkina (Mongolia),.

Main Research Areas

These include ethnic history of the region, modern ethnic composition and ethnic processes, social organization, traditional material culture and ideology, study and publication of the department’s collections, and history of Russian and foreign ethnology.

Principal Publications

For the full list of publications see the page in Russian.

  • Alimov I. The work by Zhou Cheng: «Research on the Eastern Song capital»: information on temples and joss-houses // Manuscripta Orientalia. SPb., 2006. N 3.
  • Alimov I. «Tai-ping guang ji»: Motives Related to the Dead Souls // Manuscripta Orientalia. 2009. N 1.
  • Alimov I. Scientific and technical thought of old China in «Meng xi bi tan» // Manuscripta Orientalia. 2010. N 3.
  • Alimov I. The XIII century Southern China in «Ping zhou ke tan» // Manuscripta Orientalia. 2010. N 4.
  • Alimov I. Cood Reviews: Three early collections of Buddhist stories // Manuscripta Orientalia. 2013. N 1.


The department’s collections originated at the time when the Kunstkamera was founded (18th century). At that time, the museum received artifacts from various regions of foreign Asia, primarily Mongolia and China, as well as from adjoining territories of Siberia.

One of the first independent academic museums to have descended from the Kunstkamera in the early 1800s was the Asian Museum (its successor is St.-Petersburg Branch of the Institute for Oriental Studies). Nearly all collections of Oriental provenance (artifacts, manuscripts, books, etc.) were transferred there.

After the Ethnographic Museum had been established (1836–37), Oriental artifacts were gradually returned to it. The acquisition of East Asian collections continued. Since the transformation of the Ethnographical and Anatomical Museums into the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (1879), Asian (primarily Chinese, Japanese and Mongolian) collections have played a key role there and are being constantly replenished.

The influx of Far Eastern materials was the most intense in late 1800s and early 1900s, when MAE was headed by Academician V.V. Radlov. Another fruitful period was that of the 1920s and 1930s. During these periods, most East Asian collections bearing on traditional cultures of that region were acquired.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, thanks to strengthened ties with China, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan, large Far Eastern collections from these countries were brought to MAE by visiting specialists. In later years, the materials were mostly replenished through separate purchases and donations.

The first collections from mainland Southeast Asia were received in the late 1800s. In the last decades of the 20th century and in the early 2000s further increase occurred thanks to manifold relationships with countries of that region (especially Vietnam and Thailand).

At present, East and Southeast Asian ethnographic collections of MAE are among the richest and the most diverse in world museums. A highly important source of information concerning that region is the huge collection of photographs.

Over nearly three centuries, many dozens of collectors, some of whom were prominent representatives of Russian and Western science and culture, have contributed to the growth of the department’s collections. Among them were Orientalists such as Academicians V.V. Bartold, B.Ya. Vladimirtsov, S.F. Oldenburg, as well as A.E. Gluskina, S.E. Malov, G.O. Mohnseeler, A.D. Rudnev, etc., ethnographers such as B.O. Pilsudskii, V.L. Sieroszewsky, S.M. Shirokogorov, diplomats such as K.I. Weber, N.N. Krotkov, L. Lang, V.F. Lub, J.P. Shishmarev, travelers such as F.L. Jelachich, P.K. Kozlov, amateur ethnographers and collectors such as N.V. Kirillov, G.M. Osokin, E.E. Ukhtomskii, Russian officers and sailors such as M.V. Ladyzhenskii, K.N. Pos'et, P.P. Molas, V.V. Lindestrom, etc. Also, the museum received collections from other Russian and foreign museums and other institutions.

At present the Department of East and Southeast Asia owns several dozens of thousands of specimens, nearly 40,000 of which are Chinese, about 9,000 are Japanese, more than 2,000 are Korean, and about as many are Mongolian. Most were collected in the 1800s and early 1900s, and this alone makes them unique or at least valuable in terms of historic and cultural information.

The most precious specimens include the costume of an 18th-century Chinese general, 15th – 18th-century Chinese porcelain, artwork, early medieval Korean celadon dishes excavated in late 1800s, Japanese painting and weapons, Mongolian articles related to the tsam ceremony, Buddhist bronze sculptures from Tibet, China, Mongolia, and Thailand, masks and other attributes of Thai, Chinese, and Japanese traditional dramas, etc.