The 20-ies of XX century were the period of formation of ethnology in Turkmenistan [1, 10–12 pg]. In 1925, Turkmen Scientific Research Institute was opened, where an ethnographic bureau was established. There worked G. I. Karpov, I. N. Yomudskaya-Burunova, A. A. Karelin, N. V. Bryullova-Shaskolskaya and other ethnographers. The work plan developed by the Bureau for 1926 provided the first ethnographic expedition to the settlements of Turkmenistan. The tasks of the expedition included study of everyday life, customs and rituals, folk art of Turkmen people. Ethnographic study covered the following areas, displayed in the plan “1) costume; 2) jewellery; 3) utensils; 4) implements; 5) weapons; 6) forms of yards, houses, doors, stoves; 7) land cultivation techniques; 8) housework: yarn, weaving, braiding, cooking; photography and sketching. Differences in ornamentation: door decorations, carpets, blankets, etc. Children’s dolls and other toys (collection). Games of children and adults (recording and photography). Folk medicine, omens, cult of ancestors, rituals with fire, etc. Ceremonies of weddings, childbirth, funeral, agricultural holidays. Records of sayings, riddles, historical legends, local and ethnological legends and fairy tales” [CSAT. Fund 67. Inventory 1. File 70].
As can be seen from the list, the scientific expedition was intended to cover almost all aspects of life of Turkmen people. In the days of preparation for it, the leadership of the institute sent a letter to a famous orientalist, academician V. V. Bartold with the request to take the overall leadership of ethnological research. The scientist was at that time on a scientific mission in Constantinople, from where he wrote a response letter, in which he said: “Unable to go to Turkmenistan for personal participation in the planned ethnographic works, I am ready to be useful to the participants of these works how I can... For the study of everyday life it would be important to trace the change in living conditions in all seasons. This question is not clearly included in the program of work... Of course, all this is meant” [CSAT. Fund 67. Inventory 1. File 52. From the letter of V. V. Barthold dated July 7, 1926].
In the spring-summer of 1926, from April 19 to June 19, the first Turkmen scientific ethnological-anthropological expedition that studied life of population of East Turkmenistan was held. Later it was called Amudarya, as its routes ran, in particular, in the coastal areas of the Amudarya River, in the districts Kerki and Gyzylayak. The expeditionary group included ethnographers, students-anthropologists, an artist and an interpreter. The ethnographer, professor N. V. Bryullova-Shaskolskaya led the research of Amudarya expedition. The expedition teamed up with Sanitary Inspection Unit of People’s Health Commissariat of Turkmenistan and Red Crescent Society of the Republic, which turned out to be extremely useful: survey of everyday life of population, its homes, food and sanitary conditions, marital style, folk medicine was carried out by joint efforts, and medical work greatly helped to establish contacts with the population [CSAT. Fund 67. Inventory 1. File 166].
The Amudarya expedition visited thirteen villages of Kerki and Gyzylayak districts, in each of which stayed for 3–4 days. In the field diary of N. V. Bryullova-Shaskolskaya there are descriptions of dwelling houses of those years, clothes and jewellery of the population:
“Buildings are 2-storeyed, surrounded by high fence, inside is the nomad tent... Homespun fabrics –mata — is used only for men's robes, women are dressed in robes of variegated factory printed cotton and only high headdresses –hatabs, often brightly and beautifully embroidered by hand. Turkmen woman wears much jewellery made of beads and silver” [CSAT. Fund 67. Inventory 1. File 70].
The results of the expedition were very successful. The research recorded genealogies — shejere, folk tales and songs, described customs and rituals, made many drawings of living houses, household utensils, clothes and jewellery, wooden carved doors, pillars, chests. Several silver chest jewellery –tumars, as well as handmade children’s toys were handed over upon arrival at the institute fund.
Thus, the first Turkmen ethnographic expedition favored the formation in Turkmenistan the science of nations, accumulation of scientific material, application of method of data collection in the field conditions and their systematization.
On March 14, 1927, the Turkmen Scientific Research Institute was transformed into the Turkmen State Institute of Culture (Turkmencult). In front of the building of the institute in Ashgabat, sculptures of “Turkmen” and “Turkmen woman” were built, the work of Ye.R.Tripolskaya, symbolizing the directions of Turkmencult studies [2, pg.39]. By the way, Ye.R.Tripolskaya made the statement about the originality of Turkmen national embroidery, dating back to 1928, but still is actual today: “I am delighted with the display of such a bold independent approach to the machine (sewing –B.D.), indicating the relentless creative principle in the people, who managed to use the convenience of machine and not distort its style. There is interesting the ability to adjust hand thread (silk) for the machine. All this speaks of the great artistic talents of the people and of its great love for its national decorative art. The things made by the machine are partly machine-made, supplemented with manual embroidery. And the knitting is so good that it does not irritate the eyes at all and is noticeable only after careful study” [CSAT. Fund 67. Inventory 1. File 190. From the manuscript of Ye.R.Tripolskaya].
There were eight sections formed in the Turkmencult, including section of ethnography and art. The employees conducted research in the field of cultural heritage of the Turkmen people, collected ethnographic items for the local history museum, and organized local history courses for teachers. From 1927 to 1931 the Institute published the popular scientific magazine “Turkmenology” in Turkmen and Russian languages, where ethnographic articles were regularly published.
In the winter of 1927–28 an ethnological and linguistic expedition took place, in which scientists of the Institute took part. Studies were carried out among the population of South-Western Turkmenistan — in Kara-Kala and Kyzyl-Arvat (now Serdar town), extensive material on the spiritual heritage of Turkmen was collected. The scientific results of this expedition were printed at that time in several issues of the magazine “Turkmenology”.
Researchers of the ethnography section also developed the methodology of field research. In particular, the working note of 1929, which reflects the tasks of collecting ethnographic material, says:
- «To carry out the recording of generic names.
- To find out which generic divisions are considered as senior.
- To record the remaining assignments.
- All collected material should have information about how it was reported». [CSAT. Fund 67. Inventory 1. File 210].
In September-October 1930, the ethnographic section took part in ethnological and linguistic expedition of Turkmencult to Merv and Iolotan. There was collected data on the material culture of the population, main types of dwellings, economic structures, vehicles, production tools in agriculture, homecraft and handicrafts were studied. Photographing of homes, agricultural tools such as kunde, soap and leather workshops, Turkmen national shoes — kovush, vehicles — hovut, etc. was carried out. There were collected up to 1500 words-terms, names of objects of material culture, as well as folk songs and children’s poetry rhymes making 24 sheets of typewritten text [in the same place]. The results of ethnological and linguistic expedition of Turkmencult in 1930 facilitated the collection of extensive field data on material and spiritual culture of Turkmen people. The scientific experience acquired in the ethnographic expeditions of those years was very valuable and important in the further work of Turkmen ethnographers.
In conclusion, it should be noted that in all sciences, without exception, there is the notion of continuity of generations, which is expressed in studying, creative comprehension, application of heritage of the older generation of researchers. For ethnology, which studies material and spiritual culture of peoples, this is especially important. After all, ethnology as a science collects, accumulates, systematizes, explores, and preserves immense information about the peoples of the Earth. And the progressive contribution of each ethnologist in this treasury of knowledge is significant for science.
List of abbreviations
CSAT — Central State Archive of Turkmenistan
- Vasilyeva G. P. Istoriya etnograficheskogo izucheniya turkmenskogo naroda v otechestvennoy nauke. M., 2003.
- Saurova G. Monumentalnoye iskusstvo Ashkhabada // Pamyatniki Turkmenistana. Ashkhabad, 1981. № 2.