MERVART, Aleksandr Mihailovič

MERVART, Aleksandr Mihailovič (Gustav-German Hristianovič M., born Gustav Hermann Christian Meerwarth). Mannheim (or Bruchsal) 1884 — Uhtpečlag 23.5.1932. Russian (German-born) Indologist (Tamil Scholar) and Ethnograph. Born in Germany, in Bruchsal (English Wikipedia) or rather Mannheim (all other sources).Studied at Heidelberg, Ph.D. 1907 (diss. on German history).From 1911 teacher of German in a gymnasium in St.Petersburg. In 1912 took Russian citizenship and orthodox religion and married Ljudmila Levina (—> L. A. Mervart). From 1913 head of the Indian department of Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), St.Petersburg. In 1914 he went to India with his wife in order to do field-work and collect material for the Museum. They worked in Sri Lanka and South India, but visited also North India (even Kashmir and Assam) and South-East Asia (Malaya, Singapore and Indonesia) and lived for a while in Calcutta. The war kept them for a long time from returning. They finally left India in 1918 and went to the Far East (Vladivostok), but were able to come back to European Russia only in 1922. Their extensive collections included 6000 material objects, 800 books and thousands of photographs. He worked for a while in Vladivostok. Back in Leningrad in 1924-30 he worked as Keeper in Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography and taught at the university. He was the first to teach Tamil at a Russian university. In December 1929 or January 1930 he was arrested because of his foreign contacts and German background, accused of espionage and in 1931 sentenced for five years to concentration camp (Uhtinsko-Pečorskij lager’), where he then died.

Publications: “The Dramas of Bhāsa: A literary study”, JASB N.S. 13, 1917, 261-280.

– “Les Kathākalis du Malabar”, JA 209, 1926, 193-284.

– “Sjužem ‘Sakuntaly’ v Malabarskoj narodnoj drame”, Fs. S. Ol’denburg 1927, 117-130 (on Kathakali); “Èlement narodnogo tvorčestva v klassičeskoj drame drevnej Indii”, Sbornik MAÈ 7, 1928, 267-282; “Indijskij narodnyj teatr”, Vostočnyj teatr. Lg. 1929, 16-111.

– Otdel Indii: kratkij putevoditel’ po Muzeju antropologii i ètnografii. 96 p. Lg. 1927 (museum guide); “Muzejnoe delo v Indio”, Izv. GAIMK 5, 1927, 139-156.

– “The History of the Intervocalic Stops in the Dravidian Languages”, Doklady Akad. nauk SSSR B7, 1928, 142-149.

Grammatika tamil’skogo razgovornogo jazyka. 228 p. Leningrad 1929.

– Some further small articles, travel reports together with his wife.

Sources: Bongard-Levin & Vigasin 1984, 105f. (defective); N. Poppe, Reminiscences. Western Washington 1983; Vasil’kov et al. 1990, 97; Vasil’kov & Sorokin 2003; *Vigasin et al., Istorija otečestvennogo vostokovedenija s serediny XIX veka do 1917 goda. Moscow 1997, 431-433; *Vigasin 2008, 507-534, with photo; Wikipedia, more in French and Russian versions, the latter also with photo. Never mentioned by Miliband!

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