The Role Of V.P. Margaritov In The Development Of Far Eastern Ethnography


Last year, 2019 marks the 165th anniversary of the birth of an outstanding researcher of the Russian Far East, an ethnographer and archaeologist, a prominent public figure, the mayor of Vladivostok, one of the founders of the Museum of the Study of the Amur Region, VasilyPetrovichMargaritov (1854-1916), which occupies a special niche in the scientific, cultural, military, political, social life of the Far Eastern outskirts of the Russian Empire in the second half of the XIX - early XX centuries. V.P. Margaritov, was born in a family of a priest in the village of Ostrovsky Don region. From 1873 to 1880 He studied at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of St. Petersburg University and upon graduation received a degree in natural sciences. Then, in 1880, he was appointed to an important post of special assignment official under the Amur Governor-General and he moved to the Far East. Together with other scientists and public figures Margaritov stood at the origins of the Society for the Study of the Amur Territory, heading this society from 1888 to 1895. The results of his archaeological excavations, ethnographic studies are the first valuable collections of archeology and ethnography. For services to the Fatherland in the name of V.P. Margaritov were named cape in Ajax Bay, a river in Primorye, as well as archaeological culture.

Keywords: Margaritov VP, formation and development of Far Eastern ethnography


The main aspects of biography, scientific and social activities of V.P. Margaritova were covered in publications of different years (City Chronicle..., 1897). Archaeological artifacts collected by Margaritov, are objects of cultures of the early Iron Age in the territory of Primorye. The composition of Margaritov’s ethnographic collections of the material and spiritual culture of the indigenous peoples of Primorye and Amur Region includes several hundreds of exhibits illustrating the features of Aboriginal culture: household items, household utensils, fishing tools for hunting and fishing, clothes, things of a religious purpose, clothes. For the Oroch culture collection Margaritov was awarded at the Paris World Exhibition. Margaritov’s monograph “On the Oroks of the Imperial Harbor” is the first scientific description of the physical type, material and spiritual culture of this people. The researcher noted the positive influence of the Russians on the life of the Orocs and the cruel exploitation of them by Chinese merchants, who at that time flooded the surroundings of the region. In order to collect ethnographic materials for the museum collections and for his first monograph “Orochi of the Imperial Harbor”, Margaritov organized an expedition to the Imperial Harbor in 1886, where he collected these valuable information and objects and subsequently transferred them to the museum of the Society for the Study of the Amur Region. In the 1890s Margaritovtraveled around Kamchatka, explored the life and reality of the indigenous peoples of the peninsula, and published his observations in the monograph Kamchatka and its inhabitants.

Problem Statement

Explore the scientific, military, social and political activities of V.P. Margaritova is necessary on the basis of the methodology of microhistory, the study of the history of the country through the biography of a person who played a significant role in her era. To show the contribution of V.P. Margaritova in the process of researching history, archaeology, ethnography, geography and cartography of the Russian Far East in the second half of the XIX century is also possible basing on a comprehensive study of the evolution of his personality as a subject of researching activity, as an object of influence of society on him during a certain historical period. The combination of the concepts of microhistory, the history of everyday life, the history of mentality, and historical anthropology will make it possible to trace the role of Margaritov as a person performing his work, which influenced the historical process of colonization of the Far Eastern region. The conditions of the sociocultural environment in which Margaritov acted are important, as well as the degree of development of society, the level of education (Gyrevich, 1988). Margaritov was decorated with orders and medals, awards for scientific achievements, for his role as one of the founders of the Society for the Study of the Amur Region and subsequently its leader for many years. The main research problem should be connected with the study of Margaritov’s biography and activities, which really influenced the creation of scientific and cultural institutions in the Far Eastern region of that time, the development of the Far Eastern ethnographic sciences.

Research Questions

It is advisable to summarize all research questions related to the Far Eastern period of V.P. Margaritov’s life and work in several blocks related to his military career and official activities, expeditions across the vast territory of the Far Eastern region, with reports at the SSAR and his published works.

Purpose of the Study

The goal is a comprehensive study of the scientific and social activities of V.P. Margaritov, one of the first founders of the Society for the Study of the Amur Region.

Research Methods

To solve this problem, methods and concepts of microhistory were used, methods of researching the role of the individual in history, a comparative historical method that allowed revealing the features of the creative heritage of V.P. Margaritov, which includes not only ethnographic expeditions, articles and monographs, but also a huge contribution to the creation a collection of museum collections illustrating the culture of the indigenous peoples of the region.


From under a talented talented pen of V.P. Margaritov came a number of fundamental works (Margaritov, 1885, 1888a, 1888b, 1908). A huge number of researchers representing history, archeology, ethnography, anthropology, and local history used the materials of scientific articles and monographs of V.P. Margaritov (Baran, 1993; Bereznitsky, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2019; Bereznitsky & Primak, 2008; Efremenko et al., 2018; Golikov, 2019; Kuropyatnik & Kuropyatnik, 2018; Shorkovitc, 2019; Sysoeva, 2008). Expedition V.P. Margaritova to the Imperial Harbor became the first major scientific event of the Society for the Study of the Amur Region in June - August 1886. As Vasily Petrovich wrote himself:

The narrow proximity of one of the Tungus tribes, the Orocs, to Vladivostok, and little knowledge of their way of life in science gave way to the idea among the members of Society for the Study of the Amur Region to make a feasible study of their way of life, entrusting to one of the members of the Society to collect ethnological information about them and acquire samples of their household items to supplement the collections of the Vladivostok Museum. It fell on my lot to fulfill this order of the Society. (Margaritov, 1888a, p. 67)

Sponsors of the expedition, according to various sources were Baron A.N. Korf, merchants M.G. Shevelev, A.K. Walden. As a result, Margaritov wrote down the legends of the Orocs, collected a collection of household items included in the exposition and funds of the SSAR, 17 skulls from burial sites, which became the basis of anthropological research. V.P. Margaritov made anthropometric measurements of these skulls and emphasized some features of their structure. V.P. Margaritov not only managed to notice the heterogeneity of the anthropological type of Orocs, but also expressed the correct idea that they represent a substrate of Aboriginal people with alien ethnic groups. This point of view was confirmed by the studies of the famous domestic anthropologist, a specialist in the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of the north and the Far East M.G. Levin, who emphasized that the original anthropological type of orcs, as well as the relatives of the inhabitants of the Amur Region and Primorye, is Amur-Sakhalin; the second, later type - Baikal, brought here by newcomers from the Baikal region, who gave the local peoples the Tungus language and the peculiarities of the taiga Evenki culture. In general, Margaritov’s collections amounted to 296 numbers of various cultural objects. Folklore materials formed the basis of the vocabulary of the Orochi language in the amount of 400 words. Margaritov summarized his observations and made an important conclusion that the Orochi are divided into territorial groups that differ in their clan composition, cultural characteristics and dialects. Gathered by V.P. Margaritov collection during the expedition in 1892, was presented at the exhibition of the Archaeological, Anthropological and Zoological Congress in Moscow. Subsequently, the craniological material was transferred to the Anthropological Museum of Moscow. Margaritov summarized the results of field studies in the form of the first scientific monograph, which became a very significant contribution to the formation and development of Far Eastern ethnography.

Margaritov’s scientific works also became the basis for philosophical, transcendental works by VelimirKhlebnikov, the true essence of which remains to be revealed by future researchers (Baran, 1993; Gontmakher, 2006). In these and other publications, attempts have been made to analyze the work of VelimirKhlebnikov, “The Eye. Orochonskayanovel”, based on a recording by V.P. Margaritov and other researchers (Arseniev, 1907, 1914-1925) in the Oroch myth of the incestuous marriage of a sister and brother. P.Ya. Gontmakher wrote that his contemporaries: D. Merezhkovsky, Z. Gippius, S. Yesenin, V. Mayakovsky, were interested by the symbolic poetry of Khlebnikov, one of the most talented poets of the 1920s. VelimirKhlebnikov developed a number of numerical laws filled with poetic, philosophical content and at the same time built strictly mathematically. He managed to compose the equations of life and death, the equations of stars and human thought, the laws of foreseeing of the future and the law of generations. These are peculiar neologisms and at the same time the numeric pictures of the Universe. Behind the numbers Khlebnikov saw the history of the people and the fate of a particular person. However, his poetry and his philosophy of numbers today remains encoded for the average reader. To understand his train of thought, one needs to know not only the poetry of that time, but also the culture of the indigenous peoples of the Far East, to the analysis of which Khlebnikov got by reading Margaritov’s books: “The tales of the Orocs, an ancient Amur tribe, which struck me (Khlebnikov), and I decided to build a Common Eurasian consciousness in the songs.” Oroch myths about the fiery state of the earth entered Khlebnikov’s dramatic theme as one of the most important motives. Thus, the historicism of the poet Khlebnikov is associated with folklore and the mythology of the natives of the Far East, myths of the Orocs, their bear festival, Oroch shamanism. In addition to the works of Margaritov, Khlebnikov used some archival materials related to the mythology of the Amur peoples. Certainly, the theme “VelimirKhlebnikov and Orochi” has not been exhausted; its deeper research can shed light on the poet’s creative search (Gontmakher, 2006). The work of Khlebnikov is based on the myth of incest of a brother and sister. Deprived of any other society, the girl cannot overcome the attraction and confesses love to her brother. He is outraged by such speeches, as he is convinced that the sin of incest will lead them both to death. Then the sister secretly leaves her home and builds a hut in the distance, where she dresses in clothes of another tribe so that her brother does not recognize her. According to the memoirs of one of his contemporaries V. Khlebnikov, the poet began to interest in Tungus folklore as a child: some of his tales were told by his father, who lived in Siberia. H. Baran convincingly proved that Khlebnikov had read V. Margaritov’s book “On the Oroks of the Imperial Harbor” and used the information gathered from it to create his works (Baran, 1993).


Thus, despite the number of published historical and biographical essays on the life and scientific work of V.P. Margaritov, much remains to be explored. It is necessary to show more clearly his role in the creation and management of the Society for the Study of the Amur Region. This special scientific and cultural institution, which exists and is actively functioning till our days, at the beginning of the XXth century was the center of the cultural life of the vast Far Eastern region. It is necessary to at least try to understand how researchers of the late XIX - early XX centuries could synthesize encyclopedic knowledge from a number of humanitarians, social, natural and other sciences. How did they manage not only to observe the life of indigenous peoples, but also to study their language, ancient history and features of their physical appearance? And among this cohort of outstanding scientists (F.F. Busse, V.K. Arsenyev, P.P. Shimkevich, K.D. Loginovsky, S.N. Brailovskaya and others) V.P. Margaritov takes an honorable place.


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Galechko, I. I., Primak, P. V., Kashtanyk, V. A., & Titova, E. V. (2021). The Role Of V.P. Margaritov In The Development Of Far Eastern Ethnography. In & N. G. Bogachenko (Ed.), Amurcon 2020: International Scientific Conference, vol 111. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1022-1027). European Publisher.