OL’DENBURG, Sergeij Fedorovič

OL’DENBURG, Sergej Fedorovič (Serge d’Oldenbourg). Bjankino, Zabajkal’skoj obl. (now Tšita obl., Nerčinsk. raion) 14.(26.)9.1863 — Leningrad 28.2.1934. Russian Indologist and Art Historian. Professor and Academician in St.Petersburg/Leningrad. Son of Fedor Fedorovič O., an officer, of Livonian nobility, and Nadežda Fëdorovna Berg. Matriculated in 1881, was already interested in India and started studies at St.Petersburg: Sanskrit (Minaev), Persian and Arabic (Rosen & Salemann), Tibetan and Chinese (Vasil’ev). Kand. 1885 St.Petersburg in Sanskrit and Persian. In 1887-89 further studies and manuscript research in Paris, London and Cambridge. From 1889 PD at St.Petersburg University, taught there until his death. Mag. 1895 St.Petersburg with a diss. on Buddhist legends. In 1897-99 eo. Professor of Sanskrit at St.Petersburg, then Professor. From 1900 Adjunkt, from 1903 eo. and from 1908 ord. member of the Academy of Sciences, in 1904-29 also its Permanent Secretary, in St.Petersburg/Leningrad. He organized the Russian Turkestan expeditions and himself led those of 1909-10 and 1914-15. In 1916-30 Director of Asiatic Museum and Oriental Institute in Petrograd/Leningrad. In 1917 Minister of Education (Kadet Party) in the provisional cabinet, after the October Revolution collaborated with the bol’ševiks. Married Aleksandra Pavlovna Timofeeva (d. 1891), one son, and Elena Grigor’evna Klemenc.

Ol’denburg was a leading figure of Oriental studies in the early Soviet period, then concentrated on his Asiatic Museum. He was politically acceptable to the leaders having early shown progressive opinions. He personally knew as early as 1891 Lenin, whose elder brother had been a fellow student of him. He was a skilled organizator who reformed the Academy and museums, created a net of local museums and emphasized the importance of local research. In response to ideals of the Communist rule he started directing Oriental studies more to economical and social questions and modern period. In 1930 he founded the Oriental Institute of the AN SSSR and was its director until 1934. He was also the founder and first director (1932-33) of the Tadžikistanskaja baza (base) AN SSSR (future Tadžikistan AN). In last years often ill.

Ol’denburg was mainly Buddhist scholar, folklorist, ethnologist and art historian, a specialist of Central Asia and Iranian scholar. His early work was mainly devoted to folklore and narrative literature, especially Buddhist, combining minute manuscript study with historical perspective. He emphasized the importance of narrative literature in social history and thus became a pioneer of Indian social history. From the 1890s on he concentrated on Buddhist art history and soon became a well known authority. Here, too, he emphasized historical perspective and philological connections, seeing art works as sources of social history. He was early interested in Gandhāra art and its influence. Criticizing Grünwedel et al. he drew the origins of Indian art from the Vedic period. He organized Russian Central Asian expeditions and studied manuscript fragments and works of art found by them. As early as 1897 he identified the St. Petersburg manuscript of the Prākrit Dharmapada. Founder (1897) and editor of the Bibliotheca Buddhica.

In the beginning of his career Ol’denburg was also pursuing Iranian studies (Avesta and Persian literature) and again in the 1930s when organising the Tadžikistan base of Academy and its great dictionary project. He also write a lot about the history of Oriental studies.

Publications: At least 300 items.

Obščij obzor istorii Persii co vtorženija arabov. 117+58 p. lith. 1884.

– “Materialy dlja issledovanija indijskogo skazočnogo sbornika ‘Bṛhatkathā’”, ZVORAO 3, 1888, 41-50; “Persidskij izvod povesti o Varlaame i Ioasafe”, ZVORAO 4, 1889, 229-265; “Buddijskie sbornik “Girljanda džatak” i zametki o džatakah”, ZVORAO 7, 1892, 205-263, “On the Buddhist Jātakas, tr. from Russian by H. Wenzel”, JRAS 1893, 301-356; “Buddijskie legendy i buddizm”, ZVORAO 9, 1896, 157-165; “Otkryvki Kašgarskih sanskritskih rukopisej”, ZVORAO 8, 1894, 47-67 & 11, 1899, 207-264.

Mag.diss. Buddijskie legendy. 1. Bhadrakalpāvadāna. Jātakamālā. 12+140 p. St.P. 1894.

– “Zametki o buddijskom iskusstve. O nekotoryh skul’pturnyh i živopisnyh izobraženijah buddijskih džatak”, Vostočnye zametki 1895, 337-365, “Notes on Buddhist Art, tr. by Leo Wiener”, JAOS 18, 1897, 183-201; “Buddijskoe iskusstvo v Indii”, Izv. AN 5:14, 1901:2, 215-225 = Mél. As. 11, 669-679.

Materialy po buddijskoj ikonografii. 2+10 & 2+15 p. ill. Sb. Muz. Antrop. i Ètnogr. 1:3 & 1:4, 1901; Sbornik izobraženij 300 burhanov. Po al’bomu Aziatskogo Muzeja. 1. 2+100+8 p. Bibl.Buddh. 5. St.P. 1903 (Lamaist pantheon by lChaṅ-skya Hutuktu Lalitavajra); “Materialy po buddijskoj ikonografii Hara-hoto”, Materialy po ètnogr. 2, 1914, 79-157.

– “Fablo vostočnogo proishoždenija”, Ž. Min. Nar. Pr. 346, 1903:4:2, 217-238; 4, 1906:10:2, 221-239; 9, 1907:5:2, 46-82.

– “Issledovanija pamjatnikov starinnyh kul’tur Kitajskogo Turkestana 1.”, Ž. Min. Nar. Pr. 353, 1904, 366-397 (on Stein); “Anglo-indijskij pohod v Tibet 1904g”, ibid. 360, 1905:7:2, 197-227 & 9, 134-150.

– “Novejšaja literatura o Tibete”, Ž. Min. Nar. Pr. 356, 1904:11:2, 129-168; “Novye knigi o Tibete”, ibid. 4, 1906:8:2, 318-327; 9, 1907:9:2, 244-262; 13, 1908:1:2, 219-233; 21, 1909:5:2, 167-178.

Russkaja Turkestanskaja èkspedicija 1909-10g8+88 p. 53 pl. St.P. 1914.

Pervaja buddijskaja vystavka v Peterburge. 41 p. 1919.

Žizn Buddy, indijskogo učitelja žizni. 52 p. 1919.

Transl. Indijskie skazki. 189 p. B. & Petrograd 1921; Indijskie narodnye skazki. 159 p. M. 1956.

Evropa v sumerkah. Na požarišče voiny: Vpečatlenija ot poezdki 114 p. Peterburg 1924.

– “Položenie našej nauki sredi nauki Mirovoj”, Nauki i Tehnika SSSR 1, 1927, 37-51

Kul’turnaja revoljucija i zadači kul’turnyh rabotnikov. 1929.

– “Gandharskie skul’pturnye pamjatniki Gosud. Èrmitaža”, Zap. Koll. Vost. pri Aziatskom Muzee 5, 1930, 145-186.

Sources: S.F.O. Sbornik statej, Bibliogr. 159 p. M. 1986 (with photo, another in Bongard-Levin & Vigasin 1984); Miliband, Biobibliogr. slovar’ sovetskih vostokovedov. 1977; *E. M. Primakov, NAA 1984:5, 65–69; Stache-Weiske 2017, 548; *Vigasin et al., Istorija otečestvennogo vostokovedenija s serediny XIX veka do 1917 godaMoscow 1997, 406-415; *Vigasin 2008, 205-236 with two photos and 273-443 correspondence with Ščerbatskoj; *Zap. Inst. Vostokov. 4, 1935, 3-35; *autobiography and bibliography in Materialy dlja biogr. slovarja dejstv. čl. AN. 2, Petrograd 1917, 54-62; Wikipedia with photo (much more in *Russian version, also further references to Russian sources); photo in *Bazijanc, Kuznecova & Kulagina 1969, 57; photo in Vigasin 2008, 218 (in Central Asia) and 236 (passport).

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