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Department of Central Asia

Contact Information

Phone: (812) 328-07-12; (812) 328-08-12;

Head of Department

Rakhmat RAKHIMOV, D.Sc.

History of the Department

Central Asian studies became the focus of one of the museum’s departments, founded in 1918. The Department of the Muslim Peoples of Central Asia, headed by I.I. Zarubin, largely followed the lines of the Russian Committee for Central and East Asian Studies established in 1903. Until 1962 it was called The Department of the Near East and Central Asia, and then the Department of Central Asia. In 1977–89 the unit was named the Group of Central Asia, Kazakhstan and the Caucasus, and then again the Department of Central Asia.

The department’s history is directly or indirectly linked with outstanding Russian explorers of Central Asia such as V.V. Bartold, S.E. Malov, S.M. Dudin, A.N. Samoilovich, I.I. Zarubin, E.M. Peschereva, A.L. Troitskaya, E.G. Gafferberg, N.A. Kislyakov, S.M. Abramzon and many others. It was successively directed by I.I. Zarubin, N.A. Kislyakov, S.M. Abramzon, L.I. Lavrov, and V.P. Kurylyov; its present head is R.R. Rakhimov.

In summer 1914, I.I. Zarubin together with a French Iranist Robert Gautier took a journey to the Pamirs, where they conducted linguistic and ethnographic research. This laid the foundation for a systematic ethnographic study of Central Asia. I.I. Zarubin continued his linguistic, folkloric and ethnographic studies in the Pamirs and Central Asia in the following years. His most impressive project was the 1926–30 Central Asian ethnological expedition from the Academy of Sciences. Its results are undoubtedly among the top achievements of Russian scholars focusing on this region. Ultimately, they defined the theoretical framework for the department’s future studies. Areas addressed include ethnic history, ethnic culture, marriage and family, etc. The most important monographs published by the department in the past are the following:

  • Zarubin I.I. Beludzhskie skazki, sobrannye I.I. Zarubinym [Baluchi Folk Tales Collected by I.I. Zarubin. Leningrad: Izd-vo AN SSSR, 1932. 220 p.
  • Kislyakov N.A. Sem’ya i brak u Tajikov. Po materialam kontsa XIX – nachala XX veka [Tajik Family and Marriage: Late 19th – Early 20th Centuries]. Moscow-Leningrad: Izd-vo AN SSSR, 1959. 268 p.
  • Peschereva E.M. Goncharnoe proizvodstvo Srednei Azii [Pottery Production in Central Asia]. Moscow-Leningrad: Izd-vo AN SSSR, 1959. 396 p. (Trudy Instituta Etnografii, nov. ser., Vol. 42).
  • Gafferberg E.G. Beludji Turkmenskoi SSR [The Baluchi of Turkmenia]. Leningrad: Nauka, 1969. 270 p.
  • Abramzon S.M. Kirgizy i ikh etnogeneticheskie i istoriko-kul’turnye svyazi [The Kirghiz: Ethnic Affinities and Historic Ties]. Leningrad: Nauka, 1971. 403 p.

MAE was the place where the brilliant Russian school of Central Asian studies originated, its leading figures being V.V. Bartold, I.I. Zarubin, and N.A. Kislyakov.

Main Research Areas

Research directions taken by the department’s staff members follow those pioneered by their great predecessors. It is currently attempted to merge various themes in a single direction on a unified theoretical basis related to the analysis of the traditional of Central Asian ideology. The project, tentatively titled Ideological Systems and their Impact on Social Reality, will result in a series of joint monographs titled Central Asia in the Mirror of Mentality. Its key element will be the database containing information on all the relevant collections (its development is underway).

Department Staff

Rakhimov Rakhmat, Head of Department, D.Sc. (ethnography of Central Asia, fire in Tajik traditional ideology).

Kryukova Victoria – Senior Researcher, Cand. Sc. (interaction between Zoroastrian and Islamic ideological models).

Prischepova Valeirya – Senior Researcher, Cand. Sc. (material and photographic collections of the department with regard to traditional Central Asian ideology).

Solov’eva Oksana – Researcher, Cand. Sc. (traditional and modern aspects of power and government in the Central Asian Interfluve).

Rezvan Maria – Research Assistant, Cand. Sc. (Islamic manuscript tradition in the ethnographic context, magic practices in Islamic peoples).

Stasevich Inga – Research Assistant (status of women in the traditional culture of Turkic nomads of Central Asia).

Terletskii Nikolai – Research Assistant (Persian sources on the ethnography of Central Asia).

Vasil’tsov Konstantin – Senior Assistant (Islam in the context of traditional Central Asian ideology).

Principal Publications

In the last years, the department staff members have published these monographs:

  • Detstvo v traditsionnoi kul’ture narodov Srednei Azii, Kazakhstana i Kavkaza [Childhood in the Traditional Culture of Central Asia, Kazakhstan, and the Caucasus] / Ed. by R.R. Rakhimov. SPb: MAE RAN, 1998. 232 p.
  • Kurylev V.P. Skot, zemlya, obschina u kochevykh i polukochevykh kazakhov (vtoraya polovina XIX – nachalo XX veka) [Livestock, Land, and Local Community in Nomadic and Seminomadic Kazakhs (Late 19th – Early 20th Centuries)]. SPb: MAE RAN, 1998. 296 p.
  • Prischepova V.A. Kollektsii zagovorili: Istoriya formirovaniya kollektsii MAE po Srednei Azii i Kazakhstanu (1870–1940) [Collections Speak: Origin of Central Asian and Kazakh Collections at MAE (1870–1940)]. SPb: MAE RAN, 2000. 272 p.
  • Rakhimov R.R. Traditsionnoe mirovozzrenie tadjikov: Problemy obrazov i simvolov v kul’ture [Traditional Tajik Ideology: Images and Symbols in Culture]: Abstract of Doctoral Dissertation, 1999.
  • Solov’eva O.A. Liki vlasti Blagorodnoi Bukhary [Faces of Power in Bokhara the Noble]. SPb: MAE RAN, 2002. 190 p.


Due to recent difficulties, fieldwork in the last years has been irregular. Chances are that the tradition of large-scale field research, a distinctive feature of the department, will be revived. One of the ongoing projects, Tradition under Historic Changes, is largely based on fieldwork, which has already been conducted in Tajikistan in 2003–04. Results obtained so far are rather promising.


For nearly thirty years the department of Central Asia together with that of Caucasus has been holding annual Central Asian and Caucasian conferences known as Lavrov Lectures. In the near future, annual Central Asian conferences (Zarubin Lectures) will be sponsored by the Department of Central Asia alone.

Prizes and Awards

One of the department’s achievements is the Russian Academy of Sciences award for young researchers won by O.A. Solov’eva within the 14th Contest in 2002 for her monograph Liki Vlasti Blagorodnoi Bukhary [Faces of Power of Bokhara the Noble].


The department’s collections