Alexander Samoylovich

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Alexander Samoylovich
File:A.N. Samoylovich, Russian ethnolinguist.jpg
Born 29 December 1880
Nizhny Novgorod
Died 13 February 1938, age 57
Nationality Russian
Occupation Ethnologist, linguist

Alexander Nikolaevich Samoylovich (Russian: Алекса́ндр Никола́евич Самойло́вич, 1880–1938) was a Russian Orientalist-Turkologist who served as a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1929), Rector of the Leningrad Oriental Institute (1922–1925), academic secretary of the Humanities Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1929–1933), and director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1934–1937).[1] He was arrested by the NKVD in October 1937, and was executed on February 13, 1938.


Samoylovich was born December 29th, 1880, in Nizhny Novgorod, to the family of the director of the Nizhny Novgorod grammar school. He was of Ukrainian ethnicity.[2] He studied at the Nizhny Novgorod Institute for Nobles, and then in the Oriental department of Saint Petersburg University, where he majored in Arabo-Persian-Türkic-Tatar languages. From 1907 he taught Türko-Tatar languages at St. Petersburg University, and in 1920 joined Vasily Bartold and Ivan Zarubin in providing Narkomnats with an ethnographic analysis of Turkestan and the Kirgiz steppe. In 1921 and 1922 he went to Turkestan ASSR, after which he became rector of a "Türkological seminar", which co-ordinated the work of Russian Turkologists. In 1924 he was elected a corresponding member, and in 1929 a full member (Academician), of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1927 he was part of an Academy of Sciences anthropological expedition to Kazakhstan which studied the lives and languages of ethnic Kazakhs in the Altai Mountains.[3]

Samoylovich's linguistic and ethnographic studies of the Kazakh people are credited with leading to the creation of a scientific definition of the ethnonym "Kazakh". He participated in the Soviet government's campaign to replace the Arabic-script-based writing systems used by Türkic peoples in the USSR with a uniform, Latin-based Turkic alphabet.

After his election as a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, the Presidium of the academy tasked him with organizational work in the sciences. His position also involved him in state relations with the USSR's non-Russian national regions, and he was named head of the Kirgiz, Kazakh, and Uzbek sections of a council studying the potential productive capacities of these regions. In 1932 the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences created a Kazakhstan base, and Samoylovich was appointed its chairman. He continued to live in Leningrad, from where he oversaw studies and planning for the development and expansion of mineral extraction in the Kazakhstan region.

In 1933, under Samoylovich's direction, the Kazakhstan base of the USSR Academy of Sciences held sessions devoted to the development of the Karaganda coal basin and state plans for the creation of the Uralo-Kuznetsk combinate. Further sessions were held for the study of deposits of nonferrous metals in Altai and Zhezkazgan, for the development of the polymetal industry, and for the search and study of minerals (including oil) in Western Kazakhstan. In these scientific forums Samoylovich involved leading scientists of the time, such as academicians Alexander Fersman, Ivan Gubkin, and Andrey Arkhangelsky, geologists V.Nehoroshev and N.Kassin, and engineers K.Satpaev and M.Gutman.[3]

Samoylovich was instrumental in the organization in Kazakhstan of a National Culture scientific research institute, with a view toward the development of the academic sciences in Kazakhstan. From his base in Leningrad, he believed that the creation of expanding branches and bases of the USSR Academies of Sciences would contribute to the scientific, economic, and cultural life of the USSR in general.

Arrest and execution

Samoylovich's designs were cut short by the emergence of the Great Purge, which targeted many members of the intelligentsia as supposed "enemies of the people". Samoylovich was arrested on October 8, 1937 in Kislovodsk,[4] imprisoned, and possibly tortured by the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs. In February 1938, he was sentenced to "10 years without right of correspondence". On 13 February 1938 he was sentenced to death and shot the same day.[5] He was formally expelled from the Academy of Sciences by a General meeting on April 13, 1938.

Documents from the archives of the Russian FSB show that Samoylovich's case was slated for "reprisal of the first category" (execution) on List No 123, called "Moscow-center", dated January 3, 1938, with the names of 163 persons, initiated by NKVD department head V.E.Tsesarsky, and approved by the signatures of Andrei Zhdanov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, and Kliment Voroshilov. Samoylovich was sentenced on accusation of espionage for Japan, and creation of a counter-revolutionary Pan-Türkic nationalist organization.[6] These charges were later proven entirely false.

In the post-Stalin era, the Soviet government officially recognized that Samoylovich had been unjustly persecuted and killed. He was declared rehabilitated on August 25, 1956; he was restored to the Academy of Sciences on December 14, 1956 (by decision of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences, № 7), and on March 5, 1957 (the decision of the General Meeting, № 9).

Scientific contribution

Samoylovich authored major works on the language, literature, folklore and ethnography of Türkic peoples in Crimea, Volga, North Caucasus, South Caucasus, Middle Asia, Kazakhstan, and Altai. Among dozens of various classifications of the Türkic languages, the classification developed by Samoylovich is most widely recognised (Samoilovich A.N. "Some additions to the classification of the Türkic languages", St. Petersburg, 1922); in 1917 Samoylovich was a first European scientist who gave description of the tamgas and appreciated their historical importance;[7] however, the Stalin-era handling of "repressed" people usually entailed obliteration of any memory of them, including removal of any works by or about them from the public. Samoylovich's scientific works underwent a nearly complete eradication, and were almost totally unknown to the following generation of Russian Orientalists and Turkologists. Single copies of some of his books have been preserved in special storage archives for prohibited material organized within the secret police authority, and several copies are held by libraries outside Russia. As of 2012, a few of his books and articles have been re-published.[8]

References and sources

  1. "Самойлович Александр Николаевич". 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2013-06-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Жертвы политического террора в СССР". Retrieved 2013-06-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "п║п╟п╪п╬п╧п╩п╬п╡п╦я┤". Retrieved 2013-06-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "САМОЙЛОВИЧ Александр Николаевич". Retrieved 2013-06-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Жертвы политического террора в СССР". Retrieved 2013-06-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Anshin F.D. in ''"Alexander Nikolaevich Samoilovich (1880-1938)"''" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Akchokrakly Osman, 1927, Tatar tamgas in Crimea, Simferopol, p. 16 (Акчокраклы Осман, 1927, Татарские тамги в Крыму, Симферополь, стр. 16), section Bibliography
  8. "Sheĭbani-namė = Shaybānīʹnāmah : gzhagataĭskīĭ tekst". Retrieved 2013-06-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>