Institute of Oriental Manuscripts
191186, 18 Dvortsovaya nabereznaya, St. Petersburg, the Russian Federation.
Director: Popova Irina Fedorovna
Doctor of historical science
Tel: +7-(812) 315-87-28,
Fax: +7-(812) 312-14-65
Foundation of the Asiatic Museum in November 1818 as part of the Academy marked the beginning of the Institute of Oriental Studies. The Academy of Sciences planned to buy a collection of Moslem manuscripts from a French consul of Aleppo and Tripoli J.L. Russo, relative of famous J.J. Russo. The purchase was made in two steps - in 1819 and 1825. 700 (seven hundred) manuscripts were bought for 51 000 (fifty one thousand) francs. President of the Academy of Sciences count Sergey Uvarov, who had worked out a "Project of the Oriental Academy", which had not been implemented, before the purchase on November 15 (27) 1818 addressed the Academy board of directors with a letter regarding foundation of the Oriental cabinet as part of the Academy: "Hitherto there have been lots of books and oriental manuscripts in the museum of the Imperial Academy of Science. And now with the purchase of collected works in Marseilles with the highest consent of Mr. Russo the number of books and manuscripts will considerably increase…In this connection I gave Minister of Spiritual Affairs and Public Education a letter regarding the necessity to found a special department for medals, manuscripts and oriental books as part of the Academy Cabinet of curiosities". For special storage of oriental manuscripts and books a room on the premises of the Cabinet of curiosities was repaired. New department of the Academy became known as the Asiatic Museum which "was open without any formalities for everyone who wanted to study science".
In 1849 the Asiatic Museum became the only state centre for storage and study of oriental manuscripts and guaranteed their safety and usage for scientific and practical purposes. Together with the Kazan University it became the second centre of oriental studies in Russia. This lasted till opening in 1855 of the Faculty of Oriental Languages in St. Petersburg University. The Asiatic Museum served a special organization for the Russian and foreign science. Manuscripts were read not only by scientists and expert orientalists of St. Petersburg but in accordance with the order of that time manuscripts were sent to scientists of provinces of Russia and abroad for scientific work. Thus the Museum fulfilled an ancient Eurasian task, i.e. to be the bridge between Orient and West. After international congresses came into practice (the first one was held in Paris in 1873, the second-in London in 1874) the third congress was held in St. Petersburg with participation of the Asiatic Museum.
In the twenties after the October Revolution "the Asiatic Museum had been in fact and remains in practice the only centre of oriental science of the Academy" as said in the report of College of August 1929 that checked the Academy machinery. The necessity of academic and university oriental studies was proved by the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union and Comintern in the Eastern countries. Fundamental research, grammars and dictionaries were needed.
In 1949 a decision was taken to move the Institute of Oriental Studies from the building of the Academy of Science library to the building of Novo-Mikhailovskiy Palace on 18 Dvortsovaya nabereznaya.
In 1951 after the move of the Institute of Oriental Studies to Moscow the Department of Oriental Manuscripts of the Institute of Oriental Studies remained in St. Petersburg. In summer 1951 a special commission considered position of the Department and decided: "Manuscript collection of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Soviet Union represents a national wealth of the Soviet Union and is one of the biggest collections of the written monuments in the Eastern languages, and in accordance with some funds is the only one in the world".
In February 1956 the Department of Oriental manuscripts was reorganized into Leningrad Department of the Institute of Oriental Studies which was headed by academician Orbeli I.A.
Nowadays the scientific profile of the St. Petersburg Department of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences is various fundamental research of ancient and medieval Orient, study of its history, philology, religion, philosophy, law (in contrast to the Moscow leading Institute of Oriental Studies which specializes in contemporaneity of countries and peoples of Asia, North Africa and Pacific region), study of unique manuscript funds and old printed books in Eastern languages, and putting into scientific circulation written monuments from the funds.
The Institute of Oriental Studies Department executed and executes the most important representative functions concerning relations of Leningrad-Petersburg with Eastern countries.
Manuscript fund of the St. Petersburg Department of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy keeps more than 100 000 (one hundred thousand) items of manuscripts and old printed books. There is also an Achieves of orientalists with priceless documents on the history of the Russian science.
Manuscript collection of the St. Petersburg Department of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences is the largest in Russia and one of 2-3 largest and priceless collections of oriental manuscripts in the world. It includes funds in 65 live and dead languages, the largest of them are: Abyssinian (Ethiopian), Abaric manuscripts, Armenian manuscripts, Georgian manuscripts, Jewish manuscripts, Indian manuscripts, Chinese manuscripts and wood-carvers, Korean manuscripts and wood-carvers, Kurd manuscripts, Manchurian manuscripts and wood-carvers, Mongolian manuscripts and wood-carvers, Persian and Tajik manuscripts, Sanskrit and Sogdian manuscripts, manuscripts in the Saxon and Tocharian languages, Turkic manuscripts, Thongho manuscripts and wood-carvers, Tibetan manuscripts and wood-carvers, Uigurian manuscripts, Japanese manuscripts and wood-carvers, printed in ancient way lithographs of books from India, Iran and countries of Near East.
Besides manuscript fund the St. Petersburg Department of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences includes special library on oriental studies which counts more than 800 000 (eight hundred thousand) volumes. Books in languages of the Soviet Union nations, especially of the thirties, are of great value.
Special place is taken by the Near East Department and Fund of oriental manuscripts and documents. The main direction of their work is study of history, culture, literature and religions of Near East. Within the framework of this direction the following subjects are being elaborated: textual study, coding, translation and description of the monuments of the Arabic literature, history of the Arab countries in Middle Ages (history of Caliphate and ancient Arabia), epigraphy, study of Islam, and history of science. One more important aspect of the work is description, cataloguing and study of one of the most considerable collections of oriental manuscripts and old printed books in the world. The fund stuff makes scientific catalogues and manuscript alphabet lists, description of orientalists' Archives materials, publishing and translation of sources.