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Department of Africa

Contact Information

3 Universitetskaya Quay, 199034, St. Petersburg, Russia

Phone: +7 (812) 328-41-52


Department Staff

Aleksandr ZHELTOV, Doctor of Sciences, Head of the Department (African linguistics, linguistic typology, methodology of African studies, Bantu languages, Swahili language, Mande languages, Adamawa languages, nominal classes in the Niger-Congo languages, personal pronouns in the world’s languages, role typology, kinship terminology systems, material and spiritual culture of Africa).

Anna MOSKVITINA, Candidate of Sciences, senior researcher (ethnic museology; ethnic politology; ethnography of African diasporas; material culture history and traditional art of peoples of Africa and African diasporas; anthropology of Creole communities; ethno-social history of Zanzibar).

Valeria SEMENOVA, Candidate of Sciences, researcher (scientific description of the MAE RAS African collections; folk art; study of the Ethiopian sacred painting collection kept in the MAE RAS; identification of features of Ethiopian art tradition).

History of the Department

The scientific department of Africa was established in the MAE on November 2, 1929. It was headed by Dmitry Alexeevich Olderogge (1903-1988) who later became one of the principal founders of the Russian scientific tradition in African studies.

The first acquisition of African items by the Kunstkamera dates back to 1819. After the establishment of the Museum of Ethnography on the basis of the Kunstkamera in 1836, and the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (MAE) later in 1879, the African collections were constantly supplemented, but a special department of the Museum was only established in 1911, with Ya. V. Chekanovsky as its first Head.

Essential topics of research

Olderogge aimed the principal efforts of his colleagues and students first at studying and publishing written sources on the history and ethnography of pre-colonial Africa south of the Sahara (Arabic, V. V. Matveyev, L. Ye. Kubbel, and M. A. Tolmacheva; Chinese, V. V. Velgus; Spanish and Portuguese, O. S. Tomanovskaya; Antique, Yu. K. Poplinsky; Ethiopian, S. B. Chernetsov), and secondly at learning live African languages (K. I. Pozdnyakov), in particular at compiling dictionaries as sources for studying the culture of peoples of Africa. In the 1960s, a Swahili-Russian and a Hausa-Russian dictionary were published, and in 1999, Volume I of a Manding-Russian and a Manding-English dictionary; the work on these continues today. In 2008, two vocabularies of the Dan language were published, for eastern Dan (V. F. Vydrine, Kessé Mognan) and western Dan (A. V. Ehrman, Loh Jaffe). This activity is also underway (V. F. Vydrine, A. Yu. Zheltov). In the 1970s, the Department started in-depth research into the problems of Africa’s ethnosocial history in the light of Olderogge’s theory of colonial society as a phase in the ethnic development of peoples of Tropical Africa (D. A. Olderogge, N. M. Girenko), and kinship phenomenon studies (N. M. Girenko, V. R. Arseniev, V. A. Popov). Of course, studying the Museum’s collections and the history of their acquisition is not disregarded either (Z. L. Pugach, A. V. Ehrman, V. N. Semenova, N. I. Steblin-Kamensky). Another tradition of the Department of Africa is attention to the issues of interethnic conflicts in urban environment and ways to prevent them (N. M. Girenko, V. G. Uzunova). Currently, under the Fundamental Research Program of the RAS Presidium “Historical memory and Russian identity,” the work on the project “Petersburg’s identity of today: Resources for preservation and modification,” is underway; its research supervisor is V. G. Uzunova, Candidate of Sciences.

A special note is deserved by publication of ancient Ethiopian chronicles and books by S. B. Chernetsov, Head of the Department of Africa in 2001-2005. Thus, a multidisciplinary approach is typical for research in the Department.

On the initiative of D. A. Olderogge, regular releases of the African Ethnographical Collection started in 1959, where articles of the Department’s researchers were published. This tradition was resumed after a 16-year break in 2008, when the African Collection 2007 appeared. The Collection is released once in two years. The generation of the issues is coordinated with the Readings in Memory of Dmitry Alexeevich Olderogge held in St. Petersburg once in two years, but it is not strictly connected to the conference program. This publication is a synchronous cross-section of current Russian research in various fields of African studies, and is open for all research and academic centers of Russia’s African studies. Contributions by foreign colleagues are also welcome. Five Collections have been released by 2017.

In 2007, V. N. Semenova took part in the MAE expedition to Ethiopia named "On Gumilev's trail" and dedicated to the 1913 Ethiopian expedition of N. S. Gumilev.

In 2012–2014, A. Yu. Zheltov led the Russian Linguistic Expedition to Nigeria, studying the languages and cultures of Adamawa, a hypothetic family of insufficiently studied languages belonging to the Niger-Congo macrofamily. During this effort, material on the languages and culture of several ethnic groups of Adamawa State was collected, and interesting objects were acquired to be added to the MAE African collection. The expedition was funded with the St. Petersburg University grant “Languages if African peoples south of the Sahara: From structural morpho-syntactic analysis to functional synthesis of paradigmatic components of the world language picture” (2.38.524.2013).

The Department will work under the research effort “Ethnocultural text in the traditional and modern universe in their synchronous and diachronic aspect" on the topic “Social environment and culture in Africa south of the Sahara: Lingual and ethnic processes in synchrony and diachrony.” The following sections are intended for the work under the project:

  • Continuation and development of expedition activities, collection and analysis of linguistic and ethnographic materials. Research into African art (V. N. Semenova, students of the Africa Chair)
  • Continued work on thesis research (for instance, “Labor migration from Wollo Province, Ethiopia)” (N. I. Steblin-Kamensky)
  • Description of typological features of the Niger-Congo languages and cultures (Bantu, Mande, Adamawa)
  • Work on the database of African kinship terminology systems
  • Holding the conference “Readings in Memory of D. A. Olderogge” in 2017 and 2019, and publishing a collection of articles based on the conference materials (African Collection 2017, African Collection 2019)
  • Providing practice for Africa students in the Department, Museum, and reserve collections
  • Promotion of African studies in the mass media
  • Expert services on demand from governmental agencies
  • Continued cataloguing, photo recording, and digitization of African collections of the MAE RAS, and entering the data into the Kamis system
  • Studying the prospects for compiling and publishing subject catalogues for sections of the African collection
  • Continued consultations for the Excursions Department personnel; development of proposals on lectures that may be read to senior pupils
  • Preparing the Africa volume of the MAE RAS Proceedings.

Essential Publications

  • Erman A., Loh J. K. Dictionnaire dan-français (dan de l'ouest). St. Petersbourg: «Nestor-Istoria», 2008. 271 p.
  • Giesing C., Vydrine V. Ta:rikh Mandinka de Bijini (Guinée-Bissau) : La mémoire des Mandinka et Sooninkee du Kaabu. Leiden-Boston : Brill, 2007, XXIV + 398 p.
  • Vydrine V. F. Manding-English Dictionary (Maninka, Bamana). St. Petersburg: Dimitry Bulanin Publishing House, 1999. Vol. 1. 315 p.
  • Vydrine V. Esquisse contrastive du kagoro (Manding). Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 2001. 281 p.
  • Vydrine V. Kességbeu M.A. Dictionnaire dan-français (dan de l'est) avec une esquisse de grammaire du dan de l'Est et un index françaisdan. St. Petersbourg: «Nestor-Istoria», 2008. 368 p.

Publications in Russian

  • Antropologiya i lingvistika: materialy peterburgskikh ekspeditsiy v Afriku [Anthropology and linguistics: Materials of Petersburg travels to Africa]. MAE RAN, St. Petersburg, 2014, 234 pp. (Publication editor: A. Yu. Zheltov)
  • Arabskiye istochniki X-XII vekov [Arabic sources of the 10th-12th centuries]. Publication editors: V. I. Belyaev, D. A. Olderogge; texts prepared and translated by V. V. Matveyev, L. Ye. Kubbel. USSR Academy of Sciences. N. N. Miklouho-Maclay Institute of Ethnography. Moscow; Leningrad: Nauka, 1965, 455 pp. 
  • Arabskiye istochniki XII-XIII vekov [Arabic sources of the 12th-13th centuries]. Publication editors: V. I. Belyaev, D. A. Olderogge; texts prepared and translated by V. V. Matveyev, L. Ye. Kubbel. Leningrad: Nauka, Leningr. otd-nie, 1985, 288 pp.  
  • Africana: Afrikanskiy etnograficheskiy sbornik [Africana: African Ethnographical Collection]. Publication editor: D. A. Olderogge; USSR Academy of Sciences. N. N. Miklouho-Maclay Institute of Ethnography.  Leningrad: Nauka, Leningr. otd-nie, 1975, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1991. Issues 10-15. 
  • Afrikanskiy sbornik – 2007 [African Collection 2007]. St. Petersburg, MAE RAN, 2008, 528 pp. (Publication editor: V. F. Vydrine)
  • Afrikanskiy sbornik – 2009 [African Collection 2009]. St. Petersburg, MAE RAN, 2009. 564 pp. (Publication editor: V. F. Vydrine)
  • Afrikanskiy sbornik – 2011 [African Collection 2011]. St. Petersburg, MAE RAN, 2012. 422 pp. (Publication editor: A. Yu. Zheltov)
  • Afrikanskiy sbornik – 2013 [African Collection 2013]. St. Petersburg: MAE RAN, 2013. 468 pp. (Publication editor: A. Yu. Zheltov)
  • Afrikanskiy sbornik – 2015 [African Collection 2015]. St. Petersburg: MAE RAN, 2015. 630 pp. (Publication editor: A. Yu. Zheltov)
  • Arseniev V. R. Bambara: kulturnaya sreda i oveschestlyonnyi mir zapadnosudanskogo etnosa v kollektsiyakh MAE RAN [Bambara: Cultural environment and materialized world of the West Sudanese ethnos in the MAE RAS collections]. St. Petersburg: MAE RAN, 2011, 469 pp.
  • Velgus V. A. Izvestiya o stranakh i narodakh Afriki i morskiye svyazi v basseinakh Tikhogo i Indiyskogo okeanov (Kitaiskiye istochniki ranee XI v.) [Information about countries and peoples of Africa and maritime communications in the basins of the Pacific and Indian Ocean (Chinese sources before the 11th century]. Publication editors: D. A. Olderogge, R. F. Its; USSR Academy of Sciences.  N. N. Miklouho-Maclay Institute of Ethnography. Moscow: Nauka, 1978, 302 pp.
  • Vydrine V. F. Manden-russkiy slovar [Manding-Russian dictionary]. St. Petersburg: Dmitriy Bulanin, 1999. Vol. 1. 342 pp. (co-authored by S. I. Tomchina). 
  • Vydrine V. F. Yazyk bamana: Uchebnoye posobiye [The Bamana language: A learning aid]. St. Petersburg University, 2008, 202 pp.
  • Girenko N. M. Sotsiologiya plemeni. Stanovleniye sotsiologicheskoi teorii i osnovnye komponenty sotsialnoi dinamiki [Sociology of a tribe. The making of the sociological theory and basic components of social dynamics]. Leningrad: Nauka, 1991, 303 pp. 
  • Girenko N. M. Sotsiologiya plemeni [Sociology of a tribe] / Ed. by Yu. K. Chistov, V/ F. Vydrine. St. Petersburg: Corilion, 2004.
  • Girenko N. M. Etnos. Kultura. Zakon [Ethnos. Culture. Law] / Ed. by V. G. Uzunova, V. S. Sukhachev. St. Petersburg: Corilion, 2004, 512 pp. 
  • Dmitriy Alekseevich Olderogge v pismakh i vospomimamiyakh [Dmitry Alexeevich Olderogge in letters and memoirs]. Publication editor: S. B. Chernetsov. St. Petersburg: MAE RAN, 2003, 196 pp.
  • Zheltov A. Yu. Yazyki niger-kongo: strukturno-dinamicheskaya topologiya [Nogier-Congo languages: Structural and dynamic topology]. St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg University Press, 2008, 252 pp.
  • Zheltov A. Yu. O poslednikh popolneniyakh afrikanskoi kollektsii MAE RAN, sobrannykh v khode ekspeditsiy v Nigeriyu (2012 g.) i Tanzaniyu (2013 g.) [On recent additions to the MAE RAS African collection acquired during the expeditions to Nigeria (2012) and Tanzania (2013)] // Sbornik Muzeya antrolopogii i etnografii, tom LXII “Kunstkamera: kollektsii i khraniteli. Pamyati Zoi Leonidovny Pugach”. St. Petersburg, 2016, pp. 23-33.
  • Kunstkamera: kollektsii i khraniteli. Pamyati Zoi Leonidovny Pugach. Sbornik MAE. T. 62 [The Kunstkamera: Collections and collectors. In memory of Zoya Leonidovna Pugach MAE Collection, vol. 62]. Publication editor: V. N. Semenova. St. Petersburg: MAE RAN, 2016, 214 pp.
  • Mezhdu Nigerom i Kongo: Zametki na polyakh. K 60-letiyu Konstantina Igorevicha Pozdnyakova [Between the Niger and the Congo: Marginalia. For the 60th anniversary of Konstantin Igorevich Pozdnyakov]. St. Petersburg, Nestor-Istoriya, 2012, 254 pp. (Publication editors: A. Yu. Zheltov, V. F. Vydrine) 
  • Misyugin V. M. Tri brata [Three brothers] / Publication editors: V. F. Vydrine, V. R. Arseniev. St. Petersburg: MAE RAN, 2009. 380 pp.
  • Olderogge D. A. Yazyk hausa: Kratkiy ocherk grammatiki, khrestomatiya i slovar [The Hausa language: Brief outline of its grammar, a reading book, and a dictionary]. Leningrad: Leningrad University Press, 1954, 170 pp. 
  • Olderogge D. A. Zapadnyi Sudan v XV-XIX vv. [Tekst]: Ocherki po istorii I istorii kultury [West Sudan in the 15th-19th centuries. [Text]: Essays on the history and history of culture] / Attaching the text and translation of Hausa manuscripts by I. N. Bykova [et al.]. Moscow; Leningrad: USSR Academy of Sciences Press [Leningrad Branch], 1960, 267 pp.
  • Olderogge D. A. Epigamiya [Epigamy]. Moscow: Nauka, 1983, 280 pp. 
  • Olderogge D. A. Istoriya izucheniya afrikanskikh yazykov [History of study of African languages]. Publication editor: K. I. Pozdnyakov. Moscow: Nauka, 1990, 158 pp.
  • Olderogge D. A. Drevnosti Benina, I-III [The antiquities of Benin, I-III] // Sbornik Muzeya antropologii i etnografii, t. 15-17, Moscow-Leningrad, 1953-55.
  • Pozdnyakov K. I. Sravnitelnaya grammatika atlanticheskikh yazykov [Comparative grammar of Atlantic languages]. Moscow: Nauka, 1993, 375 pp.
  • Poplinsky Yu. K. Iz istorii etnokulturnykh kontaktov Afriki i Egeiskogo mira. Garamantnaya problema [From the history of ethnocultural contacts of Africa and the Aegean world. The Garamantes problem]. Moscow: Nauka, 1978, 204 pp.
  • Poplinsky Yu. K. Antichnye istochniki po istorii i etnogrfii Afriki: mongraficheskoye issledovaniye greloyazychnykh istochnikov [Antique sources on African history and ethnography: A monography study of Greek-language sources / Publication editors: S. B. Chernetsov, V. A. Sychinsky. St. Petersburg, 2009. 
  • Pugach Z. L. Kultura narodov verkhovyev Nila (Po materialam puteshestviy V. V. Yunkera) [Culture of Upper Nile peoples (Based on the materials of V. V. Yunker’s travels]. Publication editor: D. A. Olderogge. USSR Academy of Sciences. N. N. Miklouho-Maclay Institute of Ethnography.  Moscow: Nauka, 1985. 175 pp.
  • Siim (Moskvitina) A. Yu. Afrikanskoye iskusstvo kontsa XIX – nachala XX veka. Katalog predmetov, peredannykh v dar Gosudarstvennomu Ermitazhu S. A. Girdinym v 2015-2016 godakh. Gosudarstvennyi Ermitazh [African art of the late 19th-early 20th century. Catalogue of items donated to the State Hermitage by S. A. Girdin in 2015-2016]. St. Petersburg: The State Hermitage Press, 2016, pp. 10-44, with illustrations.
  • Siim (Moskvitina) A. Yu. Proizvedeniya afrikanskogo iskusstva kontsa XIX – nachala XX veka, peredannye v dar Gosudarstvennomu Ermitazhu S. A. Girdinym. Gosudarstvennyi Ermitazh [Works of African art of the late 19th-early 20th century donated to the State Hermitage by S. A. Girdin. The State Hermitage]. St. Petersburg: The State Hermitage Press, 2016, 26 pp., with illustrations.
  • Siim (Moskvitina) A. Yu., Dobronravin N. A. Pismennaya kultura khausa v ekspozitsii i fondakh MAE RAN [Written culture of the Hausa in the MAE RAS exhibition and reserve collections] // Sbornik Muzeya antropologii i etnografii, tom LXII “Kunstkamera: kollektsii i khraniteli. Pamyati Zoi Leonidovny Pugach”. St. Petersburg, 2016, pp. 62–68.
  • Skazki narodov Afriki (pod nauch. red. V. F. Vydrina, A. Yu. Zheltova) [African fairy tales (science editors: V. F. Vydrine and A. Yu. Zheltov)] St. Petersburg, Faculty of Philology, St. Petersburg University, 2010, 516 pp. 
  • Folklor i literatura narodov Afriki: Sb. statei [Folklore and literature of African peoples: Collected articles]. Ed. board: F. M. Breskina, A. A. Dolinina, Ye. M. Meletinsky, D. A. Olderogge (publication editor); USSR Academy of Sciences. Institute of Africa. [N. N. Miklouho-Maclay] Institute of Ethnography.  Moscow: Nauka, 1970, 399 pp.
  • Hausa-russkiy slovar. Okolo 18000 slov [Hausa-Russian dictionary. About 18,000 words] Publication editor: D. A. Olderogge. Moscow, 1963, 459 pp.
  • Chernetsov S. B. Efiopskaya feodalnaya monarkhiya v XIII-XVI vv. [Ethiopian feudal monarchy in the 13th-16th centuries]. Moscow: Nauka, 1982. 309 pp. 
  • Chernetsov S. B. Efiopskiye khroniki XVI-XVII vekov [Ethiopian chronicles of the 16th-17th centuries]. Moscow: Nauka, 1984. 389 pp.
  • Chernetsov S. B. Efiopskiye khroniki XVII-XVIII vekov [Ethiopian chronicles of the 17th-18th centuries]. Moscow: Nauka, 1989. 384 pp.
  • Chernetsov S. B. Efiopskaya feodalnaya monarkhiya v XVII veke [Ethiopian feudal monarchy in the 17th century]. Moscow: Nauka, 1990. 325 pp.
  • Chernetsov S. B. Efiopiya v pervye shestnadtsat vekov nashei ery (Kunstkamera Petropolitana) [Ethiopia in the first sixteen centuries AD (Kunstkamera Petropolitana)]. St. Petersburg, 2004, 216 pp.
  • Etnografy i sotsiologi o molodezhnom ekstremizme. Rekomendatsii dlya prinyatiya prakticheskikh mer po snizheniyu rekrutirovaniya molodezhi v neformalnye molodezhnye obyedineniya extremistskoi napravlennosti [Ethnographers and sociologists on youth extremism. Recommendations for taking practical measures]. Publication editor: V. G. Uzunova. St. Petersburg: NP TSSP Doveriye, 2014, 130 pp.