NIKITIN, Afanasij

NIKITIN, Afanasij. Tver 1433 (?) — Smolensk 1472 or 1475 (?). Russian Traveller in India. A merchant from Tver, he visited Persia and India, and wrote a good account of these countries. The chronology of his travel is uncertain. He left Tver in 1466, 1469, or 1471 and travelled via Astrakhan–Baku–Bukhara–Sari (Mazanderan)–Ormuz, spending one year in Persia. Then by ship to Masqat and Cambay. He spent three or four years in the Bahmani capital Bidar and wrote a good description of it. He also described Vijayanagar without visiting the country himself. He returned via Konkan–Ormuz–Shiraz–Esfahan–Tabriz and arrived at Kaffa (Feodosija) in Crimea in 1472 or 1474. Died later in or near Smolensk on way back to Tver.

Nikitin was not unlearned (although no scholar) and a good observer. He was familiar with Iran and Iranian trade, but apparently the first Russian to visit India. He was keenly observing local products and possibilities of trade. His Russian manuscript, brought in 1475 from Smolensk to Moscow, was nearly forgotten in a monastery library and published only in the early 19th century. In his description he is brief about Persia and concentrates on India.

Publications: Hoženie za tri morja. Extracts published by N. M. Karamzin in Istorii gosudarstva Rossijskogo 6, 1818, the whole by P. M. Stroev in the journal Sofijskoj vremennik 2, 1821, 145-164, English by M. M. Wielhorsky in India in the Fifteenth Century. Hakluyt Society Ser. 1:22. L. 1857.

Sources: Bongard-Levin & Vigasin 25-29; *I. P. Minaev, Staraja Indija. Zametki na H za tri m. Afanasija Nikitina. St.P. 1881; Oaten 1909, 32f.; *A. M. Osipov, A. N. i ego vremja. Moscow 1956; A.V. Postnikov, Literature of Travel and Explor. 2, 2003, 859-861; *L. S. Semenov, Putešestvie Afanasija Nikitina. Moscow 1980; *Dm. Shlapentokh, “Afanasiy Nikitin’s journey Beyond the Three Seas: An Orthodox Russian in Medieval India”, AO 73, 2012, 173-192; English (not quite reliable) and Russian Wikipedias both about the man and his work, and with further references.

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