Department of Siberia

Contact Information

Postal address: 3, Universitetskaya nab., St.-Petersburg, 199034.

Phone: +7 (812) 328-41-42

Department Staff

Vladimir DAVYDOV, Head of Department, Cand.Sc., PhD in Anthropology (University of Aberdeen)

Dmitrii ARZYUTOV, Researcher, Cand.Sc.

Igor GRACHEV, Junior Researcher

Vladimir DYACHENKO, Senior Researcher, Cand.Sc. (material culture and ethnic history of the natives of North-Central Siberia).

Larisa PAVLINSKAYA, Leading Researcher, Cand.Sc. (ethnic and cultural origins of southern and southeastern Siberian natives).

Olga STEPANOVA, Researcher, Cand.Sc. 

Elena FEDOROVA, Senior Researcher, Cand.Sc. (material culture, ideology, and ethnic history of the Ob Ugrians).

History of the Department

The Department of Siberia traces back to 1901, when L.J. Sternberg, a prominent specialist in traditional cultures and folklore of the Amur and Sakhalin, was appointed Senior Ethnographer at the Museum. His workfellow (then Junior Ethnographer) was D.A. Klementz, a specialist in Eastern Siberia and the future director of the Russian Museum Ethnographic Department (1903). Sternberg’s other colleagues were W.I. Jochelson and V.G. Bogorazspecialists in cultures of Northeastern Siberia, already internationally known due to their key role in Jesup Expedition to Chukotka and Kamchatka (1900–02). Other expeditions in which they had taken part were Sibiryakov’s trip to Yakutia (1894), and one to Kamchatka, which was the longest (1908–11). Apart from having founded the MAE Department of Siberia and from their role in Siberian field studies, this galaxy of first-rate scholars made a substantial contribution to the development of the Russian school of general ethnography.

The scope of their research is evidenced by the following highly important monographs based on their field work:

  • Sternberg L.J. Gilyaki, orochi, gol’dy, negidal’tsy, ainy [Gilyak, Oroches, Golds, Negidals, Ainu]. Khabarovsk: Dal’giz, 1933. 740 p.
  • Sternberg L.J. Materialy po izucheniyu gilyatskogo yazyka i fol’klora [Materials for the Study of Gilyak Language and Folklore]. SPb.: Tip. Akademii nauk, 1908. 232 p.
  • Jochelson W.I. Materialy po izucheniyu yukagirskogo yazyka i fol’klora [Materials for the Study of Yukaghir Language and Folklore]. SPb.: Akademiya nauk, 1900. 240 p.
  • Jochelson W.I. The Koryak. New York, G.F.Stechert, 1905–1908. 842 p.
  • Jochelson W.I. The Yakut. New York. American Museum of Natural History, 1933. 225 p.
  • Bogoraz V.G. The Chukchee. Leiden-New York, E.J. Brill, G.F. Stechert, 1904. 733 p.
  • Bogoraz V.G. Chukchee Mythology. Leiden-New York, American Museum of Natural History, 1910. 197 p.
  • Bogoraz V.G. Material’naya kul’tura chukchei [Chukchee’s Material Culture]. Moscow-Leningrad: Nauka, 1991. 223 p.

Also, they actively introduced new scientific principles of ethnographic expositions at MAE, based on the theory of cultural evolution and typology. One of the first exhibits was Peoples of the Extreme Northeast, with a special section Shamans and Shamanism designed in 1903. In 1925 a new exposition titled Gallery of Shamans was designed under Bogoraz’s supervision. It sought to link the forms of Siberian shamanism with stages in the evolution of Siberian societies. In 1934 another exposition was opened under the title Chukchee Society.

An important achievement of this great triad was the purposeful training of young specialists in Siberian ethnography. The “Instructive Courses in Ethnography” sponsored by Sternberg in the 1910s (after the 1917 Revolution, they turned into the Department of Postgraduate Studies) were the key factor in the origin of a brilliant group of scholars who, one by one, were joining the Department. The latter gained an official status in 1933. Among the first trainees were S.M. Shirokogorov, who later became a major specialist in Tunguso-Manchurians, and B.E. Petrie, who turned to ethnographical studies in the Baikal region.

In later years, the department staff included A.A. Popov, G.D. Verbov (Head of the Department in the late 1930s), V.N. Vasiliev, G.N. Prokof’ev, E.D. Prokof’eva, G.M. Vasilevich,  L.E. Karunovskaya, A.G. Danilin, S.V. Ivanov,  N.P. Dyrenkova, N.K. Karger, V.V. Antropova, N.A. Lipskaya, and L.P. Potapov. Some of these were leading figures and authored important studies in Siberian ethnography.

The main tasks before the new Department were collection of field ethnographic data on all Siberian peoples and detailed monographic studies of traditional Siberian cultures. The department staff members participated in expeditions by the Committee for the Study of Tribal Composition of the Population of USSR and by the Committee for the Study of Yakut ASSR. They worked in Western and Eastern Siberia, in the Altai, in the Far East, and in Yakutia. Their findings, based on field materials, most of which are now at the museum archives, demonstrate that, generally, the tasks mentioned above were accomplished. The materials collected are extremely valuable in terms of both level and scope, ranging from the descriptions of economy and household to a huge corpus of folk tales and shamans’ texts recorded in native languages – a testimony of high professionalism that included linguistic competence.

Most publications of that period are articles that concern various aspects of Siberian cultures and have retained their importance. The few monographs which were succeeded to be published in that hard time are the following:

  • Vasilevich G.M. Sbornik materialov po evenkiiskomu (tungusskomu) fol’kloru [A Collection of Materials on Evenki (Tungus) Folklore] Leningrad: Izdatel’stvo Instituta narodov Severa, 1936. 290 p.
  • Popov A.A. Tavgiitsy [The Nganasan] Moscow-Leningrad: Izd-vo Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1936. 110 p.
  • Potapov L.P. Ocherki po istorii Shorii [Essays in the History of Shoria]. Moscow-Leningrad: Izd-vo Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1936. 259 p.
  • Shirokogoroff S.M. Social Organization of Northern Tungus. Shanghai, The Commercial Press, 1929. 427 p.

After the war, research activities followed two directions. First, the study of separate peoples continued against a wide background of Siberian cultures. Second, large-scale comparative and typological studies were underway. The former route led to a number of monographs, the importance of which lies not only in the description of ethnic and cultural origins of separate Siberian native peoples, but in an attempt to make these data available to peoples themselves (most of them had no written history of their own) and, notably, to preserve their national traditions most of which was being lost. Works by A.A. Popov, L.P. Potapov (Head of Department in 1946–67), G.M. Vasilevich, I.S. Vdovin (Head of Department in 1972–77), N.F. Prytkova, E.D. Prokof’eva, V.V. Antropova, E.A. Alekseenko, V.P. D’yakonova, Ch.M. Taksami (Head of Department in 1977-2001) are highly important. One of the joint monographs was Peoples of Siberia in the series Peoples of the World [1].

Since the late 1960s, one of the research foci has been the analysis of indigenous religions. Results were integrated in three joint monographs:

  • Priroda i chelovek v religioznykh predstavleniyakh narodov Sibiri i Severa [Nature and Man in Religious Beliefs of Siberian and Northern Natives] / Ed. by I.S. Vdovin. Leningrad: Nauka, 1976. 333 p.
  • Problemy istorii obschestvennogo soznaniya aborigenov Sibiri [Issues in Ideological History of Siberian Aborigines] / Ed. by I.S. Vdovin. Leningrad: Nauka, 1981. 284 p.
  • Khristianstvo i lamaism u korennogo naseleniya Sibiri [Christianity and Lamaism in the Indigenous Population of Siberia] / Ed. by I.S. Vdovin. Leningrad: Nauka, 1979. 227 p.

The second research direction resulted in the Historical and Ethnographic Atlas of Siberia[2] which contains detailed description, typology, and analysis of clothing, transportation means, and shamans’ drums. It is richly illustrated, distribution maps of various categories of material culture are provided, and on the whole the atlas is unique in Russian ethnology. The joint monograph Siberian Clothing follows the same tradition[3].

A special place in scholarly activities of the Department is taken by those conducted by S.V. Ivanov, who headed the department in 1967–72. His monographs and articles are a true encyclopedia of native Siberian art[4].

At the same time, one more direction emerged: a complex archeological and ethnographic study of Tuva and the adjoining regions of Mongolia. The expedition directed by L.P. Potapov spent nine field seasons in Tuva. Their tremendous work resulted in a beautifully illustrated three-volume edition[5]. An important event was the triennial conference Siberian Lectures, which the department has been sponsoring since 1988.

Main Research Areas

In the last decade the department has published a number of monographs addressing various Siberian cultures – those of Evenki and Yakuts in the southern Far East, Khanty, Mansi, Kets, Negidals, and peoples of the eastern Sayan. Ongoing studies in ethnic history are based on archival sources, museum collections, and published data. Their results were summarized in two joint monographs:

  • Sibir’: drevnie etnosy i ikh kul’tury [Siberia: Prehistoric Peoples and their Cultures] / Ed. by L.R. Pavlinskaya. SPb.: MAE RAN, 1996. 198 p.
  • Narody Sibiri v sostave Gosudarstva Rossiiskogo [Peoples of Siberia within the Russian Empire] / Ed. by L.R. Pavlinskaya. SPb.: Evropeiskii Dom, 1999. 360 p.

A recent trend in the department’s activities is a focus on more general issues of culture such as placing Siberian materials in the Eurasian context, in fact in the context of the entire Old World. The work began with the sponsoring of large nation-wide conferences, the proceedings of which have been published: Priroda i tsivilizatsiya: reki i kul’tury [Nature and Civilization: Rivers and Cultures] (1997), Etnos, landshaft, kul’tura [People, Landscape, Culture] (2000), Lev Nikolaevich Gumilev. Teoriya etnogeneza i istoricheskie sud’by Evrazii [Lev Nikolaevich Gumilev. The Theory of Ethnic Origins and the Historical Destinies of Eurasia] (2002)[6]. One of the results was a collection of papers[7] written by members of several departments of MAE.

The department has three major ongoing projects: Siberia in the Light of Ethnic and Geopolitical Processes in Eurasia (16th – Early 20th century), Siberia on the Turn of the Millennium: Traditional Culture in the Context of Modern Economic, Social, and Ethnic Processes, and Mythology of Death: Semantics, Function, and Structure of Burial Rites in Traditional Cultures of Siberia. All these will result in monographs and articles.

Principal Publications

The most important works published by department staff members in the recent decade are the following:

  • Alekseenko E.A. Kety [Kets]. SPb.: Nauka. 1999. 111 p.
  • Alekseenko E.A. U istokov etnografii ketov: V.I. Anuchin [At the sources of Ket ethnography: V.I. Anuchin] // Problemy istorii, filologii, kul’tury. Moscow; Magnitogorsk, 2000. P. 396-400.
  • Alekseenko E.A. Landshaft i ku’ltura narodov Eniseiskogo Severa [Landscape and culture in the Northern Yenisei natives] // Evraziya. Etnos. Landshaft. Kul’tura. SPb., 2001. P. 101–149.
  • Alekseenko E.A. Mify, predaniya, skazki ketov [Myths, Legends, and Tales of the Kets]. M.: Vostochnaya literatura, 2001. 337 p.
  • Dyachenko V.I. Vkhozhdenie Yakutii v sostav Rossii [Yakutia: Entering the Russian State] // Sibir'. Drevnie etnosy i ikh kul’tury. SPb., 1996. P. 97–117.
  • Dyachenko V.I. Formirovanie dolgan v prozesse istoricheskikh svyazei tungusov, yakutov i russkikh [Origin of the Dolgans as an outcome of interactions between Tungus, Yakuts, and Russians] // Narody Sibiri v sostave Gosudarstva Rossiiskogo. SPb., 1999. P. 272–331.
  • Dyachenko V.I. Taimyr kak odin iz ochagov etnogeneza v severnoi Azii [Taimyr as one of the foci of ethnic processes in North Asia] // L.N. Gumilev. Teoriya etnogeneza i istoricheskie sud’by Evrazii: Materialy konferentsii. SPb., 2002. Vol. II. P. 106–110.
  • Ermolova N.V. Vozvraschayas’ k Tungusskoi probleme: poisk etnicheskikh istokov evenkov i novye predpolozheniya [The Tungus problem revisited. Tracing Evenki origins: new hypotheses] // Sibir’, Drevnie eposy i ikh kul’tury. SPb., 1996. P. 117–146.
  • Ermolova N.V. Evenki Tsentral’noi Sibiri: sotsial’naya organizatsiya i etnicheskaya struktura [The Evenki of Central Siberia: Social organization and ethnic structure] // Narody Sibiri v sostave Gosudarstva Rossiiskogo. SPb., 1999. P. 69–164.
  • Ermolova N.V. Prirodnoe i istoriko-kul’turnoe prostranstvo evenkiiskogo etnosa [Natural, historic, and cultural environment of the Evenki] // Evraziya: etnos, landshaft, kul’tura. SPb., 2001. P. 150–196.
  • Ermolova N.V. Taezhnoe olenevodstvo i sud’ba evenkiiskogo etnosa [Taiga reindeer breeding and the destiny of the Evenki] // Radlovskie chteniya-2002: Materialy godichnoi nauchnoi sessii MAE RAN. SPb., 2002. P. 29–32.
  • Ermolova N.V. Evenki Reindeer Herding: A History // Cultural Survival. Spring 2003. Vol. 27. Cambridge. 2003. C. 23–24.
  • Ermolova N.V. G.M. Vasilevich kak etnograf-tungusoved [G.M. Vasilevich as a specialist in Tungus ethnography] // Repressirovannye etnografy. Vol. 2. M., 2003. P. 10–46.
  • Fedorova E.G. Obskie Ugry: etnokul’turnaya situatsiya v period s XI po XVI vv. [The Ob Ugrians: Ethno-cultural situation 11th to 16th centuries] // Sibir’. Drevnie etnosy i ikh kul’tury. SPb., 1996. P. 6–39.
  • Fedorova E.G. Zhertvennoe zhivotnoe v kul’ture mansi [The sacrificial animal in Mansi culture] // Traditsionnoe mirovozzrenie narodov Sibiri. Moscow, 1996. P. 130–154.
  • Fedorova E.G. Obskie ugry: Vekhi etnicheskoi istorii [The Ob Ugrians: Milestones of ethnic history] // Narody Sibiri v sostave Gosudarstva Rossiiskogo. SPb., 1999. P. 5–68.
  • Fedorova E.G. Rybolovy i okhotniki basseina Obi: Problemy formirovaniya kul’tury khantov i mansi [Fishermen and Hunters of the Ob Basin: Problems of Khanty and Mansi Cultural Origins]. SPb.: Evropeiskii Dom. 2000. 368 p.
  • Fedorova E.G. Esche raz o netipichnykh elementakh kul’tury okhotnikov i rybolovov taigi (na materiale obskikh ugrov) [More on atypical elements in the culture of taiga hunters and fishermen: The case of the Ob Ugrians] // Evraziya: etnos, landshaft, kul’tura. Spb., 2001. P. 84–100.
  • Fedorova E.G. Problemy etnogeneza i etnicheskoi istorii obskikh ugrov v trudakh otechestvennykh arkheologov i etnografov vtoroi poloviny XX veka [Problems in origins and ethnic history of the Ob Ugrians in the works of Russian archeologists and ethnographers (second half of the 20th century)] // Rossiiskaya nauka o cheloveke: vchera, segodnya, zavtra. SPb., 2003. P. 109–116.
  • Khasanova M.M. Zhanrovyi sostav negidal’skogo fol’klora [Genre composition of the Negidal Folklore] // Kunstkamera. Etnograficheskie tetradi. SPb., 1998. Vol. 12. P. 25–30.
  • Khasanova M.M. Negidal’skaya kollektsiya L.J. Sternberga v sobraniyakh MAE [L.J. Sternberg’s Negidal collection at MAE] // 285 let Petrovskoi Kunstkamere: Materialy itogovoi nauchnoi konferentsii MAE RAN, posvayschennoi 285-letiyu Kusntkamery. SPb., 2000. P. 85–97. (Sbornik MAE, Vol. XLVIII).
  • Khasanova M.M. Problema kontaktov naseleniya Nizhnego Amura i Severo-Vostochnogo Kitaya [On contacts between populations of the Lower Amur and Northeast China] // Evraziya. Etnos. Lanshaft. Kul’tura. SPb., 2001, P. 280–325.
  • Khasanova M.M., Pevnov A.M. Negidal’skii yazyk [Negidal language] // Yazyki narodov Rossii. Krasnaya kniga. M., 2002. P. 128–132.
  • Khasanova M.M. The Lower Amur languages in contact with Russian // Languages in Contact. Rodopi, Amsterdam-Atlanta, GA. 2000. P. 179–185.
  • Khasanova M.M. , Pevnov A.M.Mify i skazki negidal’tsev [Myths and Tales of the Negidals]. Osaka, 2003. 297 c.
  • Pavlinskaya L.R. Esche raz ob etnicheskoi istorii Baikal’skogo regiona [More on Baikal ethnic history] // Sibir’. Drevnie etnosy i ikh kul’tury. SPb., 1996. P. 62–97.
  • Pavlinskaya L.R. Korennye narody Baikal’skogo regiona i russkie. Nachalo etnokul’turnogo vzaimodeistviya [Indigenous peoples of the Baikal region and the Russians. Early ethno-cultural interactions] // Narody Sibiri v sostave Gosudarstva Rossiiskogo. SPb., 1999. P. 165–271.
  • Pavlinskaya L.R. Traditsionnoe i sovremennoe zemlepol’zovanie v Okinskom aimake Buryatii: ekologiya, sotsiologiya, kul’tura [Traditional land tenure in Okinskii Aimak, Buryatiya: Ecology, sociology, culture] // Krai Gesera. Ulan-Ude, 1999. Vol. 4. P. 56–74.
  • Pavlinskaya L.R. Sibir’ v kontekste evraziiskoi teorii [Siberia in the context of the Eurasian Theory] // Evraziya: etnos, landshaft, kul’tura. SPb., 2001. P. 20–83.
  • Pavlinskaya L.R. Kochevniki golubykh gor (sud’ba traditsionnoi kul’tury narodov Vostochnykh Sayan v kontekste vzyaimodeistviya s sovremennost’yu) [Nomads of the Blue Mountains (the Impact of Modernity on the Traditional Culture of Eastern Sayan)]. SPb.: Evropeiskii Dom, 2002. 260 p.
  • Pavlinskaya L.R. L.N. Gumilev. Teoriya etnogeneza i istoricheskie sud’by Evrazii [L.N. Gumilev. The theory of ethnic origins and historical destinies of Eurasia] // Vestnik RGNF. 2002. No. 4. P. 284–288.
  • Pavlinskaya L.R. Reindeer Herding in Eastern Sayan. The Story of the Soyot // Cultural Survival. USA, Cambridge, 2003. P. 45–47.
  • Pavlinskaya L.R. Cultural Regions in Siberian Shamanism// Shamanhood Symbolism and Epic. Akademiai Kiado, Budapest. 2001. V. 9. C. 41-49.
  • Rykin P.O. Dual’naya sistema vlasti na Rusi pri Aleksandre Nevskom (antropologicheskii podkhod) [Dual power system in Russia under Alexander Nevskii: An anthropological approach] // Mikhailovskii zamok. 2002. No. 3. P. 141–157.
  • Rykin P.O. Sozdanie mongol’skoi identichnosti: termin “mongol” v epokhu Chingiskhana [Origin of Mongol Identity: The term “Mongol” in the age of Tengiz Khan] // Vestnik Evrazii. 2002. Vol. 1 (16). P. 48–84.
  • Rykin P.O. Mongol’skaya kontseptsiya rodstva kak factor otnoshenii s russkimi knyaz’yami: sotsial’nye praktiki i kul’turnyi kontekst [Mongol concept of kinship as a factor of relationships with the Russian princes: Social practices and cultural context] // Mongolica-VI: Collection of Essays. SPb., 2003. P. 28–38.
  • Rykin P.O. Mongol’skaya srednevekovaya kontseptsiya obschestva: nekotorye klyuchevye ponyatiya (po materialam “Tainoi istorii mongolov” i drugikh srednemongol’skikh tekstov) [Medieval Mongol view of society: Certain key notions (based on the Secret History of the Mongols and other Middle-Mongolian texts)]: Avtoref. dis. … kand. ist. nauk. SPb., 2004. 22 p.
  • Rykin P.O. Sotsial’naya gruppa i ee nazvanie v srednemongol’skom yazyke: ponyatiya irgen i oboq [Social group and its name in Middle-Mongolian: The terms “irgen” and “oboq”] // Antropologicheskii forum. 2004. No. 1. P. 179–209.
  • Taksami Ch.M. Problemy sokhraneniya dukhovnosti narodov Severa [Problems in preserving the spiritual culture of Northern natives] // Real’nost’ etnosa. SPb., 2002. P. 275–276.
  • Taksami Ch.M. Vvedenie v paleoaziatovedenie [Introduction to Paleo-Asiatic Studies]. SPb.: RGPU im. A.I. Herzena, 2002. 23 p.
  • Taksami Ch.M., Ivanova E.V., Shafranovskaya T.K. Obraz narodov mira v eksponatakh Museya antropologii i etnografii im. Petra Velikogo (Kunstkamera) RAN [Images of peoples of the world in the exhibits of Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera)] // Sokrovischa akademicheskikh sobranii Sankt-Peterburga. SPb., 2003. P. 99–146.
  • Taksami Ch.M. Goncharov S.A., Nabok I.L., Petrov A.A. Severovedenie v Herzenovskom universitete [Northern Studies at Herzen University]. SPb.: RGPU im. A.I. Herzena, 2003. 160 p.
  • Taksami Ch.M., Levchenko V.F., Chernikova S.A., Slavitsenko D.A. Problemy razvitiya korennykh narodov Severa: Etnoekologichsekii podkhod [Problems in the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of the North: An Ethno-Ecological Approach]. SPbGU, 2003. 109 p.
  • Torgoev A.I. K voprosu o kul’turnykh svyazyakh Semirech’ya v srednevekov’e [On cultural ties of the Dzhetysu during the Middle Ages] // Dialog Tsivilizatsii: Mat. Mezhd. Nauch. Konf. Bishkek, 2003. Vol. II. P. 132–133.
  • Torgoev A.I. K periodizatsii naremennykh ukrashenii Semirech’ya [On the relative chronology of Dzhetysu belt ornaments] // Dialog Tsivilizatsii: Mat. Mezhd. Nauch. Konf. Bishkek, 2003. Vol. II. P. 134–135.
  • Torgoev A.I. K interpretatsii mogil’nika Uch-At [On the interpretation of Uch-At burial-ground] // Arkheologicheskie vesti. SPb., 2003. Vol. 10. P. 104–107.
  • Torgoev A.I. O khronologii naremennykh ukrashenii Semirech’ya [On the chronology of Dzhetysu belt ornaments] // Stepi Evrazii v drevnosti i srednevekov’e: Materialy mezhdunarodnoi konferentsii posvyaschennoi 100-letiyu M.P. Gryaznova. SPb., 2003. Vol. II. P. 285–289.
  • Torgoev A.I., Kisel’ V.A. Traditsii i sovremennost’ v pogrebal’nom obryade yuzhnykh tuvintsev [Traditions and modernity in southern Tuvinian burial rite] // Radlovskie chteniya-2004. SPb., 2004. P. 17–20.


The museum’s Siberian materials deservedly rank among world’s best ethnographical collections representing traditional cultures of North Asia. The total number of collections is 747, totaling over 29 thousand specimens which reflect various aspects of life and generate images of each of the 42 indigenous Siberian cultures.

The Siberian collection began to form at the earliest stage of St.-Petersburg Kunstkamera. From its first years on, separate Siberian artifacts were exhibited. By 1747, Siberian collections had already contained more than 200 items, mostly costumes, utensils, and articles of the shaman cult. Many of them were apparently received from the participants of the “Great Northern Expedition” (1732–42), primarily from Professor Gerhard Friedrich Miller, Stepan Petrovich Krashenninikov and Jacob Lindenau. Unfortunately, this earliest Siberian collection perished during the 1747 fire, but the appearance of separate specimens has been preserved in drawings, which at that time were made from nearly every artifact received by the museum (these drawings are housed at St.-Petersburg Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Archives and have recently been published[9]).

The destroyed Siberian specimens began to be replaced by new ones as early as 1748 when G.F. Miller returned from his expedition. Especially important among the things brought by him are archaeological finds (in situ and surface) from South Siberia, as well as Kalmyk and Mongolian household and ritual objects. By 1768 the Siberian collection of Kunstkamera was considerably replenished due to the requirement of the Academic Chancellery. This followed the Senate’s Order to Siberia Governor Count Samoilov dated September 3rd, 1761, concerning the acquisition of collections for the Museum. Most of these items were lost for some reason, likely because they were fur clothes, which rapidly perished under the storage conditions of that time. Other reasons, too, must have been involved. One was the poor documentation of museum exhibits in the 18th century. Possibly part of these collections (over 100 items) had been preserved and was later included among the so-called “collections of unknown provenance” or “old collections of the Kunstkamera”.

A new stage of rapid growth of Siberian materials is related to Russian circumnavigations of the early 1800s, marking an epoch in Russian ethnography. Cultures of the Pacific coast of Siberia were poorly represented in 18th century collections. In the early 1830s the Kunstkamera acquired items related to the indigenous cultures of Chukotka and Kamchatka and were collected by members of the 1826–29 expedition on a military sloop “Senyavin” commanded of F.P. L50108tke – one of those expeditions whose primary task was to explore the entire Bering Sea coast and to study indigenous economy and culture.

In the mid-1800s, the Siberian Pacific materials were augmented thanks to those assembled in Chukotka and Kamchatka by Lieutenant L.A. Zagoskin of the Russian-American company. At the same time the Museum received artifacts made by paleo-Asiatic natives, acquired by one of the best-known researchers of Russian America and the Far East I.G. Voznesenskii on his decade-long expeditions to these remote outskirts of the Russian Empire (1839–49). Specimens collected by these researchers, 256 in number, are distributed among four collections.

At that time (1845–49), the Finnish linguist and ethnographer Matthias Alexander Castr50089n worked among Ugrian and Samoyed peoples of Western Siberia. While doing linguistic research, he purposefully acquired ethnographic collections related to Khants, Mansi, and Sel’kups. The Yakut collections were replenished by the naturalist Alexander Fedorovich Middendorf during his lengthy botanical expedition to Eastern Siberia (1843–44).

The second half of the 19th century and the early 1900s were marked by an upsurge of Siberian ethnography. Goal-oriented collecting activities resulted in more than 20,000 new exhibits, turning the Siberian collection of MAE into world’s largest.

Among the collectors was a brilliant constellation of Russian ethnographers whose research was largely based on field studies: Academician L.I. Schrenk, N.L. Gondatti, L.J. Sternberg, V.G. Bogoraz, D.A. Klementz, A.V. Adrianov, V.I. Anuchin, A.V. Anokhin, K.M. Rychkov, W.I. Jochelson, V.K. Arsen’ev, B.O. Pilsudskii, V.L. Sieroszewsky, E.K. Pekarskii, V.N. Vasiliev, S.M. Shirokogorov, B.E. Petrie and many others. Apart from having formed the bulk of the museum’s Siberian collections, they elaborated the methodology of collecting and registering ethnographic specimens. Materials assembled by them reflect various aspects of traditional culture and reveal the diversity of its forms. They often include whole series of artifacts of the same category belonging to different local subdivisions within the single ethnic group, which makes them a unique source for a comparative study of cultural phenomena and for the analysis of ethnic and cultural processes in Siberia. Besides, these exhibits are provided with documents which contain detailed data on their purpose and function in culture, and their attribution with regard to ethnic group, local group, and clan. During that period, the department’s first photographic collections were formed.

The 1920s and 1930s were no less fruitful. In line with the tradition laid down by their teachers, ethnographers of the new generation began to acquire Siberian ethnographic collections, filling up numerous remaining gaps. Especially valuable are materials acquired by A.A. Popov, L.E. Karunovskaya and A.G. Danilin, N.P. Dyrenkova, E.D. and G.N. Prokof’ev, N.K. Karger and I.I. Koz’minskii, V.N. Chernetsov, G.M. Vasilevich, Yu.A. Kreinovich, and N.F. Prytkova, all of whom were associated with the Department of Siberia in various years. In the 1950s – 1980s new materials were received from department staff members such as L.P. Potapov, I.S. Vdovin, E.A. Alekseenko, V.P. D’yakonova, L.V. Khomich, G.N. Gracheva, Ch.M. Taksami, E.G. Fedorova, V.A. Kisel’, and L.R. Pavlinskaya.

In the last decade, the growth rate of Siberian collections has slowed down dramatically, due, firstly, to the gradual disappearance of items of traditional culture, and secondly, to the emergence of local museums actively engaged in collecting activities. Consequently, the task before the present generation of staff members is to study the rich cultural heritage of Siberian natives using whatever has been collected by travelers and scholars in the past two centuries.

The following catalogues of the department’s collections have been published:

  • Klyueva N.I., Mikhailova E.A. Katalog s’emnykh ukrashenii narodov Sibiri [Catalogue of Siberian portable ornaments] // Material’naya i dukhovnaya kul’tura narodov Sibiri. Leningrad, 1988. P. 195–208. (Sbornik MAE, Vol. XLII).
  • Malygina A.A. Katalog kukol-igrushek narodov Sibiri (po kollektsiyam MAE) [Catalogue of Siberian toy dolls in the collections of MAE)] // Material’naya i dukhovnaya kul’tura narodov Sibiri. Leningrad, 1988. P. 188–194. (Sbornik MAE, Vol. XLII).
  • Taksami Ch.M., Ogikhara Sh. Ainskie kollektsii Museya antropologii i etnografii im. Petra Velikogo (Kunstkamera) Rossiiskoi Akademii nauk: Katalog [Ainu Collections of Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera): A Catalogue. Tokyo, 1998. 204 p. (in Japanese, Russian and English).
  • Fedorova E.G. Mansi v fondakh MAE: Katalog kollektsii [A Catalogue of Mansi collections of MAE] // Kurier Petrovskoi Kunstkamery. SPb, 1995, Vol. 2–3. P. 252-264.


[1] Narody Sibiri [Peoples of Siberia] / Ed. by M.G. Levin, L.P. Potatpov. Moscow-Leningrad. Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1956. 1083 p.

[2] Istoriko-etnograpficheskii atlas Sibiri [Historical and Ethnographical Atlas of Siberia] / Ed. by M.G. Levin and L.P. Potapov. Moscow-Leningrad: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1961. 498 p.

[3] Odezhda narodov Sibiri: Sbornik statei [Siberian Clothing: Collected Essays]. Leningrad: Nauka. 1970. 223 p.

[4] See: Spisok osnovnykh rabot doktora istoricheskikh nauk S.V. Ivanova (K 60-letiyu nauchnoi deyatel’nosti) [Bibliography of S.V. Ivanov, D.Sc. (on the occassion of the 60th anniversary of his scholarly activity] // Sovetskaya etnografiya. 1985. No. 2. P. 141–143.

[5] Trudy Tuvinskoi kompleksnoi arkheologo-etnograficheskoi ekspeditsii. 1957–1958: Vol. 1. Materialy po arkheologii i etnografii Zapadnoi Tuvi. [Works of the Complex Tuvinian Archaeological and Ethnographical Expedition. 1957–1958: Vol. 1.Archaeological and ethnographical materials from the Western Tuva]. / Ed. by L.P. Potapov. Moscow-Leningrad: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1960. 317 p.; Vol. 2 Materialy po etnografii i arkheologii raionov basseina r. Khemchika [Archaeological and ethnographical materials fromKhemchik river basin] / L.P. Potapov. Moscow-Leningrad: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1966. 357 p.; Vol. 3. Materialy po arkheologii i antropologii mogil’nika Kokel’ [Archaeology and physical anthropology of the Kokel’ burial ground] / L.P. Potapov. Moscow-Leningrad: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1970. 299 p.

[6] Priroda i tsivilizatsiya: Reki i kul’tury: Materialy konf., posv. 100-letoyu vykhoda v svet 1-go rus. izd. knigi vydayuschegosya uchenogo L.I. Mechnikova “Tsivilizatsiya i velikie istoricheskie reki” [Nature and Civilization: Rivers and Cultures. Proceedings of the Conference Marking the Centenary of Leo Mechnikov’s Book “Civilization and the Great Rivers]. SPb.: Evropeiskii Dom, 1997. 271 p.; Etnos, landshaft, kul’tura: Materialy konf. [Ethnic Group, Landscape, Culture: Proceedings of the Conference] / L.R. Pavlinskaya. SPb.: Evropeiskii Dom, 1999. 308 p.; Lev Nikolaevich Gumilev. Teoriya etnogeneza i istoricheskie sud’by Evrazii: Materialy konf., posv. 90-letiyu so dnya rozhdeniya vydayuschegosya evraziitsa XX v. – L.N. Gumileva [Lev Nikolaevich Gumilev. Theory of Ethnic Origins and Historical Destinies of Eurasia: Proceedings of the Conference Dedicated to the 90th Anniversary of L.N. Gumilev, the Great Eurasian of the 20th Century] / Ed. by Yu.Yu. Shevchenko. SPb.: Evropeiskii Dom, 2002. Vol. 1. 271 p.; Vol. 2. 225 p.

[7] Evraziya: Etnos, landshaft, kul’tura [Eurasia: People, Landscape, Culture] / Ed. by L.R. Pavlinskaya. SPb.: Evropeiskii Dom, 2001, 409 p.

[8] This theme is part of the sub-program “Historical-cultural evolution, modern situation and development prospects of the indigenous minor peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East” of the Program of the Presidium of RAS “Ethno-cultural interaction in Eurasia”.

[9] Kistemaker R.E., Kopaneva N.P., Meyers D.I., Vilinbakhov G.V. “Narisovannyi musei” Peterburgskoi Akademii Nauk. 1725–1760 [Painted Museum” of St.-Petersburg Academy of Sciences. 1725–1760]. Vol. 1–2. SPb.: Evropeiskii Dom. 2003–2004.