Collections of Islamic manuscripts in the former Soviet Union and their cataloguing

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Anas B. Khalidov

Vast regions of the former Soviet Union have had a long Islamic past, in which a rich, diverse literature has played its part thousands of texts have been repeatedly copied. The earliest inscriptions and documents in Arabic to appear in Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus date from the beginning of the second/eighth centuries, and it was not much later that the first books were written. From the 160s/760s, Samarkand became a centre for paper production and supplied it to the whole Islamic world for almost two hundred years. In the fourth—fifth/tenth—twelfth centuries there were libraries with many hundreds of manuscript volumes in Arabic in Bukhara, Merw and other towns, to which books in Persian and Turkic languages were added, and libraries came to be established in every place where Muslims lived. Unfortunately political history and natural degradation haste shown little mercy to the Islamic literary monuments of this vast area, and are among the factors which have contributed to their present poor condition: much of the manuscript heritage has been lost. Collections of Islamic manuscripts are preserved in many cities in the former Soviet Union, mainly in state institutions, libraries, and museums. Most of these collections were founded recently in the orientalist centres of Imperial Russia mainly during the nineteenth century, first of all in St Petersburg, then in Kazan, Kiev, Moscow, Tartu, and elsewhere. The largest collection of Islamic manuscripts is that of the Beruni Institute of Oriental Studies of the Uzbek Republic at the Academy of Sciences in Tashkent. Following it in size are the collections in St Petersburg, Baku, Kazan, Dushanbe, Makhachkala, and Samarkand. Quantitative data concerning many manuscript collections is usually neither precise nor complete, because manuscripts are counted both by volumes, which vary widely in size and the number of folios, and by works, which may occupy many volumes or just a single page; while short texts (often fragmentary and sometimes in two or three languages) which are written in margins, on loose leaves, or perhaps in a single volume are either counted in different ways or ignored. A large number of depositories of Islamic manuscripts have not yet published exact and detailed information concerning their holdings as they have no reliable inventories or card indexes.

The Temple of All Religions or Temple of the Universe in Kazan is a complex of buildings representing several main religions.

It is necessary to keep in mind that in the libraries of the former Soviet Union, alongside manuscripts and other documents from the older Islamic period works from the more recent period of transition from traditional to modern culture are well represented. These latter date from the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, a period of cultural revival and literary renaissance, and include records of oral tradition as well as autographs or copies of works by contemporary writers, journalists, scholars, and other writers who used modern languages or local dialects, which were then becoming literary mediums. During the period of cultural revolution in the 1920-30s, when everything written in the Arabic script and found in the possession of Muslims was supposed to have been destroyed or appropriated indiscriminately, these materials of great variety were placed in manuscript depositories and archives. The alphabet was changed twice, from Arabic to Latin (after 1926) and later (after 1938) to Cyrillic, and everything written in Arabic seemed to librarians and archivists of the new generation to be an indissoluble mass of the old Islamic legacy. Now it is often studied within the limits of the local cultural history of republics and peoples, but in isolation from the wider context of Islamic culture. An unknown quantity of manuscripts still remains in private collections, while the deposits of state institutions continue to grow.

Turning first to Central Asia, information about manuscript collections in this vast region can be found in travellers’ reports and articles from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, but since then the great majority of manuscripts and libraries have been moved or have disappeared. The largest numbers of Islamic manuscripts are to be found in the Uzbek Republic with its ancient centres of Islamic scholarship Such as Bukhara, Samarkand, Urgench, Khiva, Shakhrisabz, and Kokand. However, manuscripts are now concentrated chiefly in its present capital Tashkent. The first and most important collection is in the Beruni Institute of Oriental Studies, in which Arabic script manuscripts form, as almost everywhere, a common holding, increasing in stock continuously as a result of purchases and archaeographical discoveries. There are 18,594 volumes, half of which contain works in Arabic, some 10-15 per cent in Turkic languages and the rest in Tajik and other languages. In addition, it holds more than 3,000 documents, and more than 30,800 lithographs and early printed books.

At first this holding was based in the Turkestan Public Library (founded in 1870). In 1943 it was transferred to the Institute for the Study of Manuscripts, which was reorganized in 1950 into the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. According to the catalogue published in 1889, 87 manuscripts were kept in the Public Library, containing 126 titles. It was augmented in 1898 by the confiscation of the library of Muḥammad ʿAlī Khalfa Sabirov, an īshān of Mintubeh (194 manuscripts), and later on by manuscripts from the collections of General Jurabek, Qadī Mubyiddin and N. F. Petrovsky. In 1912 the recorded number of manuscripts was 318. After his visit in 1925, V. V. Bartol'd published an account of some of the manuscripts from this library. According to the inventory of the years 1930—31, there were already 1,025 manuscripts, and in 1932 the collection of V. L. Vyatkin (190 volumes) was added.

The manuscript holdings of the Public Library in Tashkent increased most markedly after 1933, when manuscripts from many other libraries of the Republic were added to it by order of the local authorities. Among these were the private collections of persons who suffered from the political persecutions of the 1930s, such as those of Rahmanov, A. Fitrat and H. Zarifov, acquired in 1934 (148, 150, and 40 volumes respectively), that of Sharifjan Makhdum Ziya in 1936 (about 300 volumes), and a great number of books and manuscripts transferred from Samarkand in 1938. They, in their turn, had previously been part of the Bukhara Central Library. In the same year the private collection of a physician from Samarkand, G. M. Semyonov, was added (some 130 units). Altogether in the years 1933—1938 about 3,300 manuscripts were added to the holdings of this library. Later, regular work on searching out and acquiring manuscripts from private citizens was arranged, and also the holdings of various institutions were centralized.

The cataloguing of manuscripts was begun by a group of specialists who had been working at first in the Public Library, then in the Institutes named above, under the guidance of A. A. Semyonov, and was appreciably advanced in 1944—1945 by the participation of orientalists from St Petersburg (V. Belyayev, N. Miklukho-Maklay, A. Kononov et al.) who enjoyed the hospitality of Tashkent to which they had been evacuated during the war. Subsequently the work was continued by research fellows of the Institute of Oriental Studies headed by the same scholar, and at last in 1952 the first volume of the catalogue was published. Since then ten more volumes have appeared and this catalogue has become one of the most fundamental in Soviet oriental studies. The compilers and editors of this catalogue, as well as the principles on which it was based, changed during ils many years of preparation and publishing, but from the first volume it was organized by subject-matter and included manuscripts in Arabic, Tajik, and Turkic languages. Within subject headings the descriptions were arranged in chronological order according to the dates of the works and manuscripts. Classification of the manuscripts (of both older and new acquisitions) was according to languages and subjects as well as the identification and dating of the manuscripts, Volume VII of the catalogue is dedicated to the Turkic language manuscripts exclusively and contains also indices to the Turkic manuscripts described in volumes I—VII; the structure of volume VIII, dedicated to Tajik manuscripts, is analogous. Volumes IX—X comprises only Tajik manuscripts, as does the larger part of volume XI; an Arabic volume is ready for publication.

Several surveys were dedicated to the collection of manuscripts in the Institute of Oriental Studies, Tashkent, and articles were devoted to its constituent parts or to important texts.

A separate collection of manuscripts is kept at the University of Tashkent (formerly: of Middle Asia), which includes, inter alia, collections of the former Turkestani Oriental Institute and part of the collection of Jurabek. The total number of manuscripts is about 900. In two fascicules of the catalogue by A. A. Semyonov 100 Arabic, 177 Persian, and 62 Turkic manuscripts are described.

Recently, a manuscript collection has been formed at the Alisher Navai State Literary Museum. At first it contained only copies of Navai’s works, but gradually an interest was shown in the works of all Uzbek or Turk authors and afterwards in any Islamic manuscript on every possible subject This Museum was reorganized in the seventies into the Institute of Manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences, Uzbek Republic, and named after its first director, Professor Hamid Suleymanov. The number of manuscripts in it exceeds 7,000. A catalogue of the manuscripts of Navai’s works was published and the appearance of the first two volumes of the catalogue of Turkish manuscripts was announced.

The Library of Middle Asia and the Qazakhstani Dini Idaret contains Some 3,000 manuscripts, mostly Arabic, but only scanty information concerning them has been published. A copy of the Holy Qur’ān on parchment which may date from the second/eighth or third/ninth century, is kept here; popular tradition makes it older, asserting that it belonged to the Caliph ‘Uthman, and that it was in his hands when he was killed in Medina in 36/656. Formerly it had been kept in Samarkand; it was seized and taken away to the Imperial Public Library in St Petersburg, where it was thoroughly investigated by A. F. Shebunin and printed in facsimile. After the Revolution in October 1917 it was given back to the Muslims and was kept at various places until it entered this library.

In the Central State Archives of Uzbekistan thousands of documents in Turkish and Tajik from the offices of the former states of the Emirate of Bukhara, and the Khanates of Khiva and Kokand are kept. Most of these documents were kept in Leningrad till 1962 and were pardy described by orientalists. In the State Library of Uzbekistan named after Alisher Navai more than 90 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, and Turkic languages are held. The State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan has 2 codices, 4 scrolls, and 246 folios in Arabic and Persian. There are also private collections in Tashkent, one of which, containing over 100 manuscripts and about 200 documents, was recently described by its owner, H. N. Babakov, in a catalogue.

Despite the fact that Tashkent became a centre which attracted Islamic manuscripts from both inside and outside Uzbekistan (acquisitions were made even in the Volgaside regions), manuscript collections grew also in other towns of the republic. Samarkand University has more than 4,000 Islamic manuscripts, some of which have been described. In the Bukhara State Historico-Architectural Museum Reserve there are some 500 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish as well as 2,580 documents, and more than 500 lithographs. A small collection of Islamic manuscripts exists in the Ibn Sīnā Bukhara Regional Library and a survey of the part of the collection dealing with mathematics has been published.

There is information about the existence of 14 Islamic manuscripts in the Surkhandarya Regional Museum; and of 16 codexes, 8 writing-books, 64 scrolls, and 139 separate folios in Arabic and Turkish in the Khiva Museum, Reserve Ichon-kala; as well as of Turkish manuscripts (without precise figures) in the Bābūr Andijan Regional Library and in the Library of the Karakalpak filial branch of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan.

Approximately 2,500 manuscripts are kept in the Literary Museum in Fergana, 862 manuscripts and lithographs in the Museum of Literature and An in Andijan, and further manuscripts in the Andijan Pedagogical Institute.

The collection of Oriental Manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan in Dushanbe was founded in 1953 as part of the Institute of Languages and Literature, and manuscripts from other institutions were transferred to it. In 1957 it held 2,314 volumes and about 200 documents. From 1958 this collection has been attached to the Institute of Oriental Studies of the same Academy, and the number of manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Tajik, Pashto, and Turkish has now reached 5,300. The cataloguing of these manuscripts was begun by a group of researchers under the guidance of A. N. Boldirev of St Petersburg University and A. M. Mirzoyev, and during recent years it has been continued under the supervision of A. Alimardonov. Six volumes of the work have been published.

The compilers and editors of this catalogue have changed from volume to volume. It is planned according to subject-matter and covers manuscripts in Persian, Tajik, Uzbek, and other Turkic languages. Volumes VII—XI are ready for publication, as well as a concise catalogue of the Arabic manuscripts. The illuminated manuscripts were described in a separate catalogue. Photocopies and microfilms of more than 300 Ismaili manuscripts are also in this collection. The originals are kept by their owners in the Badakhshan Autonomous Region; an abridged (and incomplete) catalogue of these manuscripts was published in Moscow in 1967 by A. Bertels and M. Bakoyev. In the Firdawsī Republican Library, 2,207 manuscripts are kept, uncatalogued, and these have only been surveyed in an article. Small collections of manuscripts also exist in other state libraries.

In Ashkhabad, the capital of Turkmenistan, Islamic manuscripts are held in the Mahtumkuli Institute of Language and Literature in the Academy of Sciences of the Turkmen Republic. At first (from 1928) they were kept in the former Institute of Turkmenian Culture. To it have been added the collections of various Turkmen ‘ulamā’ and recently a catalogue of the Arabic part of this collection was published. Some 400 manuscripts are kept in the Karl Marx State Library of the Turkmen Republic and 34 in the Central State Archives of the Turkmen Republic.

Islamic manuscripts are scarce in the Kirghiz Republic, although the Historical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Kirghiz Republic in Bishkek (formerly Frunze) has a collection of a couple of dozen handwritten items.

In the capital of the Kazakh Republic, Alma-Ata, the Pushkin State Library holds 310 Islamic manuscripts (139 Arabic, 60 Persian, 111 Turkic languages), the Central Library of the Academy of Sciences about 50, and the Republican Museum of Books about 10. The Valikhanov Institute of History, Archaeology, and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan has a collection of several hundred documents dating from the sixteenth-twentieth centuries in Persian and Turkic languages (gathered mainly from the shrine of Ahmad Yasavī). There is much literary material (folklore records, writings of men of letters), mostly in Kazakh and other Turkic languages, in the Mukhtar Awezov Institute of Literature and Arts of the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan. About 6 manuscripts in Arabic script are kept in the Historical Museum of Local Lore in Pavlodar,

The Caucasian republic with the greatest number of Islamic manuscripts is, naturally, Azerbaydzhan, whose main center is the Institute of Manuscripts at the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaydzhan in Baku. From 1950-1987 it existed as the Republican Fund of Manuscripts, although the collection of these manuscripts was begun in 1928 by the State Historical Museum of Azerbaydzhan. The number of manuscripts in this Institute is estimated to be more than 7,000 in Arabic (12,000 is mentioned in one place), 5,000 in Persian, and about 3,000 in Turkish, as well as many documents, among which are autographs of nineteenth and twentieth-century Azerbaydzhani authors. Three volumes of the manuscript catalogue have been published as well as a guide to the documents of one of the letters. Held here are two volumes of Ibn Sīnā’s AI-Qānūn fi al-tibb, dating from the sixth/twelfth century, a chapter on surgical instruments from the work on medicine by Abū al-Qāsim al-Zahrāwī (d. 1036) of Andalusia, and two volumes of the sihāh of al-Jawharī copied and corrected in Baghdad in 510/1117. There are autographs of several Azerbaydzhani, Persian, and Turkish poets from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, such as Zayn al- Ābidīn ‘Abdī, e Alā’ al-Dīn Sābīt, Ahmad Nadīm, hayrān Khānum, Khurshīd Bānū Natawān, and others.

The present circumstances of a small collection of Islamic manuscripts in the Azerbaydzhan State University Library are unknown (tansferred to the Republican Fund of Manuscripts?). There are 126 Arabic and Persian (and, almost certainly, Turkish) manuscripts in the Nizami State Museum of Azerbaydzhan Literature, some 650, mostly Arabic, manuscripts at Zakataly, and 10 Arabic and Persian manuscripts in the Nakhichevan Literary Museum.

There are Islamic manuscripts in the Armenian Republic in Yerevan, but no detailed clear information concerning them has ever been published. In Georgia, all the Islamic material in the Institute of Manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Georgia in Tbilisi is divided into three collections is a published catalogue.

In the whole Caucasian region to the north of the main mountain range, the Islamization of which began with Derbent (Bāb al-Abwāb) as early as the seventh century, considerable collections of manuscripts can be found, but only in Dagestan. 27 Arabic manuscripts are held in the Chechen-lngush Republic Museum of Local Lore, while in the Chechen-lngush Research Institution of History, Language, Literature, and Economics there are 70 manuscripts, mostly Arabic.

Much work on the collecting, preservation, and study of manuscripts is being conducted by the Institute of History, Language, and Literature of the Dagestan Branch of the Academy of Sciences in Makhachkala. In its holdings there are 2,678 manuscripts: 2,637 Arabic, 16 Turkic, 3 Persian, and the rest in the languages of the Dagestani peoples; 6,374 documents of local origin, almost all in Arabic, and 1,241 lithographs, of which 274 are in the languages of the Dagestani people. Many of the early manuscripts in this Collection were from different parts of the Near East and Middle Asia; some manuscripts were copied in Baghdad. There are also manuscripts of works by local authors of the twelfth/eighteenth to fourteenth/twentieth centuries, which are not known outside Dagestan.

A copy of the Maqāmāt al-Harīrī from 568/1173, and various parts of the Sihah by al-Jawharī from the sixth/twelfth century should be mentioned.

In the Scientific Library of the Dagestan University about 1,400 manuscripts and more than 3,000 documents are kept. In the Historical Museum of Dagestan and in the Makhachkala mosque there is a small number, and in the collection of G. M. Nurmagomedov there are about 500 manuscripts and documents. Outside Makhachkala there are 624 manuscripts in 13 private collections and 206 manuscripts in 7 mosques.

A small number of Arabic manuscripts and documents from Dagestan are represented in the collections of St Petersburg, Baku, Zakataly, Tbilisi, and Yerevan. A few of the literary productions of the Muslim population of the historical Dasht-i Kipchak and territories adjoining the Azov Sea and the Black Sea have survived, also outside these regions. Hardly any manuscripts are preserved in the Crimea. Until recently several dozen Arabic and Turkish manuscripts were kept in the Museum of Bakhchisaray, where they were almost entirely neglected. They were eventually transferred to St Petersburg, Kiev, and Lvov.

The regions of the Lower and Middle Volga (ancient Atil or Itil) were peacefully Islamicized over eleven centuries ago. Arab-lslamic education was maintained, it seems, after the incorporation of this region into the Russian Empire, mainly within the borders of the former Bulghar State/Kazan Khanate and in Astrakhan (Haji-Tarkhan) and its surroundings. Intensive literary activities are abundantly documented only for the period from the eighteenth century to the first quarter of the twentieth century. Earlier manuscripts and documents are rare. Manuscripts were collected at Kazan University, where a catalogue of Arabic manuscripts was prepared and published, but these manuscripts were transferred to the newly founded Oriental Department (or Faculty) of St Petersburg University in 1855, as were the oriental manuscripts of the Kazan Gymnasium Library. The author of this catalogue, I. Gottwald, collected manuscripts in Kazan and donated 135 oriental manuscripts to the University Library in 1895, and his work was continued by others. In the years 1920—1930 a collection of Islamic manuscripts was formed in the Central Oriental Museum Library of the Tatar Republic, the main bulk of which consisted of manuscripts gathered by G. Galeyev-Barudi and S. Wahidov. A survey of the Arabic section was published in the mid-twenties. In 1934 this collection was trasferred to the Library of Kazan University, which again became the main depository of oriental manuscripts in the town. In the thirties many manuscripts were acquired in the Middle Volga regions for the Institute of Oriental Studies in Leningrad, but a great part of these have been destroyed or have perished.

Active work on the collecting of manuscripts and documents has been conducted in recent decades and is still proceeding at the University and in the Institute of Language, Literature, and History of the Kazan Branch of the Academy of Sciences some 6,000 manuscripts are held at the Manuscript Department of the University Library, and about 4,000 at the Manuscript Department of the Institute. Though they are mainly of local origin and represent everyday Islamic practice and teaching, their arrangement (according to languages for instance) and preliminary card-cataloguing has been prepared, but no catalogue has been published.

In Ufa the collecting of manuscripts and documents started much later, and the scope of the material is less wide: in the Institute of Language, Literature, and History of the Bashkir Branch Department of the Academy of Sciences there are 2,000—3,000 Islamic manuscripts. A small number of manuscripts exist in the Archives of the Bashkir Branch (about 200 works) and in the Library of the Religious Administration of the Muslims of Russia. The cataloguing of the manuscripts has recently been started.

In the cities and towns of the Ukraine there are several manuscript collections which are not very large, but are interesting from the point of view of the contents. The University Library of Khar’kov holds 22 Islamic manuscripts: 11 Arabic, 1 Arabic-Turkish, 9 Turkish, 1 Persian. They were brought from Turkey in 1877. The oldest Ambic manuscript is that of Kitāb al-Ashbāh wa-al-naza’ir by Zayn al-.Ābidīn b. Ibrāhīm al- Misrī on Hanafi fiqh dated 1079/1669; the other writings go back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These are copies of the Qur’ān, commentaries on it, and works on Arabic grammar.

The State Scientific Library in Odessa has a collection of oriental manuscripts, of which 36 are in Arabic. This collection is not catalogued, but the Library has a list of Arabic manuscripts prepared in 1947 by an amateur.

The Cental Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine in Kiev possesses a collection of Islamic manuscripts and documents (64 Arabic, 5 Persian, 35 Turkic). The Arabic manuscripts have been catalogued by A. Savchenko. In this collection a group of manuscripts from the former collection of the Polish historian of the eighteenth century, Prince Y. Yablonovsky, (acquired in 1926) should be indicated, as well as 5 Christian-Arabic manuscripts presented in 1868, and the holdings of the ‘Kabinet’ of Arabic and Persian Philology (in 1934-1936), which contained in its turn the collection of A. Krimsky (acquired in Lebanon 1896-1898 and Trabzon 1917), and the collection of A. Goryachkin and others. The contents are various and the catalogue gives fifteen thematical headings.

The oldest manuscripts are the Kanz al-wusūl by Alī b Muhammad al- Pazdawī of Samarkand (d. 482/1089) copied in Nakhicheven in 732/1331 by Muhammad b. Kafī b. Muhammad al-Khurāsānī, Talkhīs al-Miftāh by al- Qazwīnī copied in 742/1341—748/1347, copies of a Qur’an of the eighth/fourteenth century, Durar al-hukkārn fi sharh ghurar al-ahkām by Muhammad b. Farāmurz b. ‘Alī Mullā Khusraw in his autograph of 877/1473—883/1478. A collection of about ten Arabic illuminated manuscripts exists also in Kiev in the museum of Western and Eastern Art.

In Lvov, Islamic manuscripts are deposited in the Library of Lvov University (24 Arabic and 9 Persian), the V. Stefanik Lvov Scientific Library (7 Arabic), the Central State Historical Archives (1 Arabic), the Historical Museum of Lvov (1 Arabic), the Lvov Museum of History of Religion and Atheism (several Arabic and Turkish manuscripts from Bakhchisaray).

There is a collection of Islamic manuscripts, of which 27 are Arabic (a catalogue is in the process of being compiled) in the Department of Manuscripts and Documents of the University of Tartu in the Estonian Republic. The oldest among these is Fatāwā Qādīkhān dated 970/1562-63. The number of Turkish manuscripts is 12, and of Persian 10.

According to information published some time ago, six institutions in Moscow possess collections of Islamic manuscripts, though this has not since been checked. The Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages had some 70 Islamic manuscripts (14 Arabic, 44 Persian, 12 Turkish) in the year 1888 and acquired 3 or 4 more later, but the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, which inherited its possessions, has not published any information of the holdings. The existence of 11 Islamic manuscripts (3 Arabic, 5 Persian, 3 Turkic) at Moscow University was confirmed in a publication dated 1837; some time ago the number was 24 (6 Arabic, 10 Persian, 8 Turkish). The collection of the orientalist V. Velyaminov- Zemov, which later became part of the holdings of the Museum of Eastem Peoples’ Art, consists of 40 Islamic manuscripts (1 Arabic, 25 Persian, 14 Turkic).

The State Historical Museum has in its holdings the collection of General Skobelev, which includes 197 Islamic manuscripts originating from Turkestan. It was briefly surveyed by M. Hartmann, who noted that it mostly consists of scholastic literature on fiqh, grammar, and logic in Arabic. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts has in its holdings a collection of Arabic papyri (190 units), the largest in the Russian Federation, which was gathered by the Egyptologist V. Golenishchev.

The most considerable collection of Islamic manuscripts in Moscow is that of the Lenin State Library, but only an approximate number is known for the Arabic about 250. Some of these were already in the holdings of the former Rumyantsev Museum and were mentioned in the first half of the nineteenth century by C. D. Fraehn and later by B. Dorn. Lists of the Arabic manuscripts of this library were compiled before 1960.

The main depositories of oriental manuscripts in Russia and the former Soviet Union were and remain the institutions of St Petersburg. To them came the majority of rnanuscripts in the possession of Russian orientalists, travellers, amateur collectors, and officials of the military or civil service. These institutions increased their holdings by haphazardly acquiring manuscripts in book markets of the East and West, at auctions, etc. The amassed materials, as well as new additions, were regularly reviewed or described in articles, annotations, handlists, or catalogues. These Islamic manuscripts served as a source and base for much of the research by Russian Islamologists, Arabists, Iranologists, Turcologists, and were also used by foreign scholars.

In the first half of the nineteenth century the following were founded in St Petersburg:

  1. The Imperial Public Library in 1814; a year before its official opening it already had several dozen Islamic manuscripts chiefly from the former collection of P. Dubrovsky who had been buying manuscripts in Paris, Madrid and Rome during his career as a diplomat.
  2.  The Asiatic Museum of the Imperial (later: Russian) Academy of Sciences of St Petersburg (later. of the former Soviet Union) in 1818; in it were deposited at that time about 100 Islamic manuscripts which had previously been kept in various departments of the Academy.
  3. The Library of the Education Department, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1823. A manuscript depository was founded in it seemingly a little later, along With the incorporation of collections from the diplomat A. Y. Italinsky (d.1827) and General P. K. Sukhtelen (d. 1836).
  4. The manuscript depository of the University (1855), see below.

The most important and largest among the collections added to the Public

Library in the first half of the nineteenth century were those which came from the Safi mosque in Ardabīl in 1828 (166 manuscripts: 1 Arabic, 161 Persian, 4 Turkic), the Ahmadiyya mosque in Ahaltsikhe in 1829 (148 manuscripts), and a collection from Edirne in 1830 (166 manuscripts: Arabic and Turkish). However, the majority of Islamic manuscripts were directed to the Asiatic Museum, substantial augmentation of which came with the acquisition (in 2 stages: 1819 and 1825) of the collection of J. L. Rousseau, who had been French consul in the Levant. It consisted of 700 Islamic manuscripts, which can be divided from a linguistic point of view into 400 Arabic, 150 Persian, and 150 Turkish. Collections donated by C. D. Fraehn and his son Rudolph, A. D. Jaba (11 manuscripts acquired in Izmir and Tabriz), A. Clot-Bey (1839, Druz books) may also be mentioned.

Information about the addition of Islamic manuscripts to the St Petersburg’s institutions was regularly reported in Russian or German by the first director of the Asiatic Museum, C. D. Fraehn. Almost all his published reports were gathered by his successor B. Dorn in a volume on the history and archives of this museum; he himself continued the same practice, with more attention to Persian manuscripts, and prepared a catalogue of oriental manuscripts in the Public Library. About this time, several most interesting Turkic language manuscripts kept in the city were described in detail by Professor I. N. Berezin of Kazan University.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, along With the foundation of an Oriental Department (1855) in the Library of St Petersburg University (in which there was already an old holding of oriental manuscripts comprising 35 volumes), the collections of Kazan University (380 volumes), the Richelier Lyceum in Odessa (61 volumes), and others were transferred. Up till the end of the nineteenth century, the manuscripts collected by the University’s Professors A. K. Kazembek (179 volumes), M. A. Tantawi (156 volumes), A. O. Mukhlinskiy (36 volumes), V. F. Girgas (5 volumes), and N. I. Veselovskiy (22 volumes) were added to this depository. An alphabetical list of all Islamic manuscripts, introduced with details of the years of acquisition and donors, was compiled and published.

The holdings of Islamic manuscripts of the Public Library were considerably increased by the acquisition of the collections of J. J. Marcel (Qur’ānic fragments on parchment written in Kūfi script, mostly of Egyptian origin, from the mosque of ‘Amr ibn al-’Ās), I. Symonich (purchased in Iran), N. B. Khanikov (purchased in Turkestan and Khorasan), A. D. Jaba (1868, 56 works many of which are in Kurdish), the first Russian governor of Turkestan, K. P. Kauffmann (1876), the Karaimian traveller A. S. Firkovich (1876, his second collection), and V. D. Smimov (visited Istanbul and Bursa several times). In 1854 the archives from the Military Ministry of Turkish Troops captured during the Crimean campaign were transferred to this library and among the material, sent by K. P. Kauffmann in 1871—1877, were archives of the Khanates of Khiva and Kokand (returned in 1962 to Uzbekistan, see above p. 35).

During the second half of the nineteenth century the Asiatic Museum acquired about 920 volumes of Islamic manuscripts from various sources; the most substantial contributions came along with the collections of N. V. Khanikov, B. Dorn, V. Velyaminow-Zernov, K. P. Kauffmann, A. L. Kuhn, V. V. Radlov, K. G. Salemann. Cataloguing of the Islamic manuscripts was begun by V. R. Rosen, but he completed only the first fascicule of the Arabic part. In the twentieth century the University’s collection was supplemented chiefly by the manuscripts given to it by Professors V. A. Zhukovskiy (12 volumes), I. Y. Krachkovskiy (9 volumes), and A. A. Romaskevich (212 volumes). The latest entry of oriental manuscripts was in 1929, comprising 230 volumes, among which Islamic manuscripts formed the major part. The total of these is estimated at 1,451 volumes: about 880 Arabic works, 780 Persian, 281 Turkish.

Two sequels of the aforementioned alphabetical list were published. A systematic catalogue of Persian manuscripts was compiled by Professor A. T. Tagirjanov, but only the first volume was finished.

The holdings of Islamic manuscripts and documents in the Saltikov- Shchedrin Public Library in St Petersburg increased in the twentieth century as follows. The total in this Public Library is: 1,312 manuscripts, 866 fragments and 241 documents in Arabic; more than 546 manuscripts in Persian and Tajik; 56 manuscripts in Kurdish; 405 manuscripts and 337 documents in Turkic languages.

In the twentieth century, too, the majority of Islamic manuscripts coming to St Petersburg continued to enter the Asiatic Museum. One of the main sources remained Middle Asia, and the Russians who settled there in official service or business contributed much to the acquisition of manuscripts. Collections were brought by such orientalists as V. V. Bartol’d, S. F. Oldenburg, A. N. Samoylovich, but especially successful was V. A. Ivanov’s trip to Bukhara in 1915, when he collected 1,057 volumes. In 1916-1917 another lot of manuscripts (1,279 volumes) arrived from Eastern Turkey which was at that time a theatre of war.

After the two revolutions of 1917 the repositories of the Asiatic Museum continued to increase in number due to collections from other institutions being transferred to it (the Library of the Educational Department of the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Library of the Winter Palace), as well as donations from, and acquisitions of, private collections. In 1929 the Islamic holdings of the Asiatic Museum were rearranged on shelves and the press-mark system changed; this circumstance at once made it difficult to use all the previous publications concerning the Islamic manuscripts of the Asiatic Museum, and the compilation of new catalogues became urgent. In 1930 the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR was founded, and it inherited all the manuscripts kept in the Asiatic Museum and continued to gather more. By 1941 the Islamic holding had increased by approximately 2,000 volumes, which were collected mainly in the Volgaside regions due to the efforts of S. G. Wahidov (Kazan), S. A. Alimov (Astrakhan) and V. A. Zabirov (St Petersburg). The total of Islamic manuscripts is 9,821 volumes, but by enumerating copies of the works according to the languages different figures are arrived at: 10,822 in the catalogue of Arabic manuscripts, of which some 2,800 are fragments; 36 Pashto manuscripts including 8 fragments; 15 Kurdish manuscripts; 2,897 Persian and Tajik manuscripts; 3,500 Turkic manuscripts. This institute also keeps a small collection of Arabic documents and papyri. Another papyrus collection in St Petersburg is in the Heritage Museum (former collection of V. Bock, 75 units).

Thus, the total number of Islamic manuscripts in the former Soviet Union may be estimated to be somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000. The vagueness is due to the difficulty of assessing what the unit might be (prayer, poem, fatwa, dictionary, history: from a single folio to many-volume works), and to the inadequate cataloguing (although the overall number of works dealing with manuscripts is relatively large). Arabists, Iranologists, Turcologists, and other orientalists do not, as a rule, work in manuscript institutions, or even study traditional literature. A programme of cataloguing is urgently needed.

Source note:
This article was published in the following book:
The Significance of Islamic Manuscripts: Proceedings of the inaugural conference of Al_Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, 30th November_ 1st December 1991_ English version, 1992, Al_Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, UK, pp. 31-44.

Please note that some of the images used in this online version of this article might not be part of the published version of this article within the respective book
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