Reguly, Antal

views updated


REGULY, ANTAL (18191858) was a Hungarian traveler, linguist, and ethnographer and one of the founding fathers of Finno-Ugric studies. A typical romantic hero of his time, he was an extremely talented, persuasive, melancholic, and uneven person. As a talented nobleman he started to study law in Hungary, then he left for a "grand tour" to the North, and in Stockholm he met the Finnish-Swedish poet and politician A. I. Arwidsson (then in exile from his homeland), who called Reguly's attention to the national awakening in Finland (then a grand duchy in the Russian Empire). Reguly, who knew about the affinities of Hungarian, Finnish, and other Finno-Ugric languages, went to Finland, where between 1839 and 1841 he learned the Finnish language and made his first ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork trips (also among the Lapps, then in Estonia and Ingermanland, and among the Votes).

In Finland, Reguly was one of the first to follow Elias Lönnrot's footsteps as a folklore collector in Finland, and he even started to translate the "old" Kalevala into Hungarian. He met all the important intellectuals (including the mythologist and initiator of the "awakening movement" of the Lapps, L. L. Laestadius), and from 1841 on he met the intellectuals in Saint Petersburg (including K. E. von Baer and Peter von Köppen) and Swedish Lapland. Beginning in 1843, to some extent supported by the Czarist Academy and by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Reguly traveled to West Siberia to describe the peoples, akin to the Hungarians. Reguly traveled alone and visited several groups of the Voguls and Ostiaks. In 1844 in Tobolsk he met the famous Finnish linguist Matthias Alexander Castrén (18131852), who was in Siberia collecting material for his comparative studies of Uralic languages and mythologies. Reguly, on his way from Siberia (during the winter of 18451846) in the central area by the River Volga, collected some material of language and lore of the Finno-Ugric Cheremis and Mordvins and also the Turkic people, the Chuvash. Exhausted by the hardship of the climate and having serious financial troubles, he nevertheless was able to collect important linguistic, anthropological, and folklore material, including epic songs and other genres. After his return to Saint Petersburg in 1846, he engaged in drawing the first detailed map of the Ural Mountains.

Due to his failing health and hidden intrigues among Finnish and Russian scholarly circles in Saint Petersburg, Reguly had to return to Hungary, where in 1848 he was appointed first librarian of the university. In that time of reforms and a war of liberation in Hungary, the whole society wanted to find "noble relatives" for the Hungarians with elaborate mythology and majestic heroic songs, like the Finnish Kalevala. Reguly's trips did not fulfill such expectations. He could not find the ancient homeland (Urheimat ) of the Hungarians, and the "mythology" in his Vogul and Ostiak texts seemed to be little and uninteresting. Moreover Reguly was unable to decipher and translate most of his fieldwork notes. Despite his nonsystematic training in linguistics, he could master foreign languages with ease. But he collected too much material in a hasty way. After suffering a nervous breakdown, he recovered slowly. In 1857 he conducted anthropological research among the palóc group in Hungary, but he died suddenly, without publishing the texts he collected.

Generations of Finno-Ugric linguists in Hungary (such as Pál Hunfalvy, Bernát Munkácsi, József Pápai, Miklós Zsirai, Dávid Fokos Fuchs, and Béla Kálmán) undertook the painstaking task of editing Reguly's manuscripts. From the end of the nineteenth century they organized several fieldwork trips to western Siberia, and with the help of native informants, they have tried to translate Reguly's texts. Of course they have collected new material as well. In the early twenty-first century practically a complete, bilingual edition of Reguly's Vogul and Ostiak texts exists, with scholarly notes. The notes describe several genres of folk literature of the Ob-Ugrians and give detailed summaries on bear ceremonialism and personal and epic songs.

Reguly was not specialized in collecting mythology or in grammar. In this respect his contemporary, the Finnish scholar Castrén surpassed him. But Reguly's folklore texts are of unparalleled importance. He registered perhaps at the last moment the traditional texts, and he had the anthropologist's view on the life of the people. Moreover the later Hungarian expeditions collected good comparative material, often from the same village, but from informants two or three generations later. The poetic genres and religious ceremonies among the Ob-Ugrians Reguly detected are in some cases alive even in the early twenty-first century. But their continuous variability Reguly's data inevitable as a starting point to any further investigation. It is a pity that Reguly did not leave a "complete" description of an Ob-Ugrian shaman's séance. His material still serves as the basis for the later summaries of Ob-Ugrian religion, such as those by Bernát Munkácsi, Géza Róheim, Béla Kálmán, Vilmos Diószegi, Edit Vértes, and Éva Schmidt. Reguly's collections from other Finno-Ugric peoples have a lesser importance for the study of mythology, but they are often the first scholarly collected folklore items of special regions or genres.

See Also

Castrén, Matthias Alexander; Finno-Ugric Religions; Khanty and Mansi Religion; Laestadius, Lars Levi.


Lázár, Katalin and Enikő Szíj. Reguly Antal "hangjegyre szedett" finnugor dallamai. Budapest, 2000. Finno-Ugric folk melodies, collected by Reguly, with musical notes.

Pápay, József. Reguly Antal emlékezete. Budapest, 1905. Papers in memoriam of Reguly.

Reguly, Antal. Sciences Research Diary. In the Archives of the Hungarian Academy of Budapest. Unpublished.

Reguly, Antal. Ethnographisch-geographische Karte des nördlichen Ural Gebietes: Entworfen auf einer Reise in den Jahren 1844 und 1845. Saint Petersburg, 1846.

Reguly, Antal, Bernát Munkácsi, and Béla Kálmán. Vogul népköltési gyűjtemény (Volgul folk poetry). 4 vols. with subvols. Budapest, 18921963. Texts, translations, and scholarly notes.

Reguly, Antal, József Pápay, Miklós Zsirai, and Dávid Fokos. Osztják népköltési gyűjtemény (Ostiak folk poetry). 3 vols. with subvols. Budapest, 19051965. Texts, translations, and scholarly notes.

Róheim, Géza. Hungarian and Vogul Mythology. Locust Valley, N.Y., 1954.

Stipa, Günter. Finnisch-ugrische Sprachforschung. Helsinki, 1990.

Vértes, Edit. Szibériai nyelvrokonaink hitvilága. Budapest, 1990.

Vértes, Edit. Die Mythologie der Uralier Sibiriens. Bonn, 2001.

Vilmos Voigt (2005)

About this article

Reguly, Antal

Updated About content Print Article Share Article