Ilya Samuilovich Gurvich

The exhibition is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ilya Gurvich - one of the largest experts on the ethnography of the Far North.

I.S. Gurvich riding a horse (1939) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Ilya Samuilovich Gurvich was born in 1919 in Minsk to a Jewish family of Samuel Konstantinovich Gurvich, who at that time worked as a railway engineer, and his mother, Yevgeny Ilyinichna, who graduated from Sorbonne Medical University, worked as a doctor. In the family of Gurvichi there were 4 children: sisters Anna Bastelman - a musician, Polina Kaplan - a translator of Western-European literature and a younger brother Konstantin.

Photo portrait (1970/1980) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Ilya grew up in a spiritually rich, cultural environment. From an early age, his parents taught labor, culture, and self-education. Often in the bosom of the family held creative conversations, discussions on various topics. This influenced the character and life principles of the future scientist.

I.S. Gurvich with a guide by the fire, before leaving the village (1952) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

After graduation, Ilya entered the Moscow University (now Moscow State University) in the Faculty of History. From the first course he willingly attended the ethnographic circle and in the last courses he was even the chairman of the circle.

I.S. Gurvich in the boat (1959) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In 1938, Ilya Samuilovich met Sergey Alexandrovich Tokarev, who from 1927 worked as a research assistant at the Central Anti-Religious Museum. And thanks to this acquaintance, he decided with the choice of his further research - ethnography. Later, I. S. Gurvich wrote: “From now on for many years, S. A. Tokarev entered my life as a teacher.”

Expeditionary sledges pulled by deer (1954) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

I. S. Gurvich studied the works of V. I. Yokhelson, L. Ya. Sternberg, V. G. Bogoraz. And inspired by the "North", northern ethnography and anthropology, determined its further path in scientific activity - Siberian studies.

I.S. Gurvich in winter fur clothes (1954) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

After graduating from the university in 1941, Ilya Samuilovich, according to the distribution of graduates, was appointed a teacher in the Olenek district of the Yakut ASSR. As an energetic young worker, he took the initiative, worked hard, taught several subjects at once: history, geography, Russian language. Lectured to the public, made presentations. Soon he was appointed director of the school, and later, was elected chairman of the regional committee of the union of teachers.

I.S. Gurvich at a dog sled (1954) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

For all his time in the Olenek district, he collected materials on the culture and life of local Yakuts, Evens, Evenks, Yukagirs, Russian old-timers. Residents themselves willingly helped the young scientist in collecting materials, stories, historical data, interesting ethnographic facts, etc. The local people still remember the young scientist, who studied local ethnography with great love, interest and enthusiasm, and still Historical and Ethnographic Museum is an exhibition dedicated to I. S. Gurvich.

Expedition dog sled (1954) by Ilya Samuilovich GurvitchNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

After working in the north, Gurvich returned to Moscow in 1946 in order to continue his studies. Enrolled in the graduate school of the Institute of Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. At that time, he successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis “Olenek and Anabar Yakuts (Historical and Ethnographic Essay)”, the head of the dissertation research and works was S. A. Tokarev. 5 years of hard, hard field work were not in vain. The dissertational work of Gurvich was unique, since no one had studied the Yakuts of those regions before. The basis of his work was the materials collected by Gurvich himself, as well as archival data, extracts. Gurvich did not confine himself to a description, but also analyzed the mutual influences of the Yakuts and the local aboriginal population of the Lena Territory, studied the ways of origin of individual elements of the culture of the people, and made extremely interesting conclusions and assumptions on Yakut ethnography. The most accurate, reliable data and materials have made this work an excellent source on various issues of the Yakut ethnography and the history of this people. This candidate dissertation later became the basis for the monograph of Ilya Samuilovich “The culture of northern Yakut-reindeer herders. To the question of the later stages of the formation of the Yakut people ", which was published in Moscow in 1977 and was one of the best works on Soviet ethnography of the postwar period.

Outwear types (1954) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In 1951, Gurvich made a six-month trip to the Nizhnekolymskiy and Srednekolymskiy districts of the Yakut ASSR. There he studies the ethnic composition of the local people, the culture and life of the Kolyma peoples: Chukchi, Evens, Yakuts, Russian old-timers.

Expedition members at the car (1956) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Under his leadership, curatoring leaves large ethnographic and historical publications, such as "The Peoples of Siberia" (1956), "The History of the Yakut ASSR" (1957), "The History of Siberia" (1965), and many others. With the move to Moscow, the thirst for travel, the search for new knowledge and the love of the North has not died away.

I.S. Gurvich stands by the sacred tree (1944) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In 1956-1957 organizes a long major expedition to the Koryak National District; in 1959 he was a member of the Integrated Yukagir Expedition, conducting field research in Chukotka and Kamchatka. The result of these major ethnographic studies are a number of publications on the ethnography of the Evens, the Northern Yakuts, Russian old-timers, the Koryaks, etc. Gurvich covers the widest field of knowledge: history, anthropology, ethnogenesis, religious beliefs, life and culture of peoples, their folklore.

On the way to the fur farm from the village Kotenko (1959) by Maria ZhornitskayaNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

After 25 years of tremendous, monumental research, the monograph of I. S. Gurvich “Ethnic History of the North-East of Siberia” is published, which was also defended as a thesis for the degree of Doctor of Historical Sciences. He traced the 300-year path of history, the development of ethnically complex Northeastern Siberia, where dozens of peoples have been formed over many centuries. He studied in detail, researched every nation, traced their fates, and compared ethnographic maps of nations. In his work, Gurvich touched upon the problems of ethno-demography, ethnic and historical sociology, developed a methodology for studying ethnic processes in a multinational region using cartographic schemes. Many ethnographers wrote that the monograph “The Ethnic History of the North-East of Siberia” is one of the highest achievements of Russian northern studies of the 1950s and 1970s

A trip from the village of Kotenko to the area of Kerkecheh (1959) by Maria ZhornitskayaNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Ilya Samuilovich Gurvich has been heading the Sector of the Far North and Siberia at the Institute of Ethnography for more than 20 years. He was a talented organizer, leader. Thanks to him, new directions for the study of the north were developed, with his participation and guidance several monographs and collections were published.

The Yukagir expedition (1959) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

The great merit of Gurvich is the continuation of the works and studies of B.O. Dolgikh (founder of the Sector of the North and Siberia and Gurvich’s predecessor as head). For several years he headed the Northern Expedition of the Institute of Ethnography, studied the socio-economic conditions of life of northern peoples. Gurvich defended the rights of northern peoples, was one of the first to oppose the thoughtless hasty conversion of reindeer herders to settled, participated in the development of government programs to maintain the traditional economy and culture, to resume teaching in schools the native languages ​​of the peoples of the North.

The Yukagir expedition (1959) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In 1970-1980 Ilya Samuilovich takes an active part in the development of the problems of modern ethnography. Among the main authors of the collective monograph "Modern ethnic processes in the USSR" (M., 1977) I.S. Gurvich in 1981 He was awarded the title of laureate of the State Prize of the USSR.

Family correspondent A.Yayletkan (1956) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

I. S. Gurvich conducted research on the history of ethnographic science. He devoted a number of articles and publications to the activities of well-known scientists E.K. Pekarsky, V.I. Iokhelson, S.Palsi, A.V. Efimov, M.G. Levin, S.A. Tokarev.

Conversation with an informant (1970/1980) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

He worked a lot on the development of the relationship of domestic northern studies with foreign ethnography. He was one of the organizers of the Soviet-French symposia on the traditional spiritual culture of the peoples of Siberia. Ilya Samuilovich also loved teaching. He taught a lot, was engaged in supervising future ethnographers, was the head of 12 young scientists in defending his Ph.D. and doctoral dissertations and “raised” a number of such scholars as M. Y. Zhornitskaya, N. A. Tomilov, E. A. Gaer etc.

I.S. Gurvich and the Chukchi on the river bank (1970/1980) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In the last years of his life, I. S. Gurvich developed the theoretical problems of the ethnocultural development of small peoples, and under his leadership a collection entitled “Ethnocultural Processes in a Nationally Mixed Environment” (Moscow, 1989) was published. He was actively engaged in social activities, was a member of the Scientific Council on National Problems under the Section of Social Sciences of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences, consultants to the Council of Nationalities of the USSR Supreme Soviet, etc.

Expedition members at the helicopter (1970/1980) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Contribution made by I.S. Gurvich on the study of the ethnography of the northern peoples, truly unique. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that he consistently, scrupulously conducted scientific expeditions and covered the "white spots" in the study of the North and the peoples inhabiting it. It is impossible to reveal all aspects just by studying the topic of research, you must also love it.

Man-stone (woman) (1954) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Love and desire for research received a response among the local population, he was actively helped, people who inhabited the north of the country were open and friendly. The scope of his work served as the basis for further and more in-depth study, research on all aspects of ethnography, the history of northern peoples.

Credits: Story

Maksimova Sargylana,
Candidate of Historical Sciences, Associate Professor, Director of the National Library of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

Alexey Ivanov,
author and curator of the project «Culture of Yakutia in the world space» (inclusion of regional cultural of institutions of Yakutia into the project Google Cultural Institute), initiator of support for the Yakut language and languages of indigenous peoples in machine translators, research fellow of the National Library of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

Neustroeva Valentina, Librarian of Science and Research Center of Book Memorials, National library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Exhibition of 2019

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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