Bogoraz, Vladimir Germanovich

views updated


BOGORAZ, VLADIMIR GERMANOVICH (Mendelvich, Nathan; pseud. N.A. Tan, V.G. Tan ; 1865–1936), Russian ethnographer, revolutionary, and man of letters. Born in Ovruch, Volhynia, he was expelled from St. Petersburg University for revolutionary activities. He continued his political work under his assumed name of Vladimir Bogoraz, and at the age of 20 converted to Christianity. In 1886 he was arrested in Moscow, imprisoned for two years, and then exiled to Siberia. There he met Vladimir *Jochelson, who became his lifelong friend and collaborator. It was during his years of imprisonment and exile that Bogoraz began the studies that were to make him an ethnographic authority on the Chukchee and Yakutsk natives of Siberia and on the Paleo-Asiatic peoples generally.

Released in 1889, Bogoraz joined the Jesup North Pacific exploration organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and directed by Franz *Boas, who was to exert a significant influence on his life and achievements. On this expedition, Bogoraz was responsible for investigations of the Chukchee and the Siberian Eskimo. Jochelson was also a member of the expedition, as well as a third Jewish revolutionary, Lev Sternberg. All three men produced reports of precise and reliable scholarship. Bogoraz' included The Chukchee (vol. 7 of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition Publications) and Chukchee Mythology (vol. 8 pt. 1, of the same series).

Bogoraz went back to Siberia to continue his ethnological studies, and made several visits to the United States. He returned to Russia and again involved himself with subversive organizations. For his part in the 1905 revolution he served another term of imprisonment. After the revolution of 1917 he was appointed professor at Leningrad University and curator of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. He also founded and directed various official institutions, such as the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism – actually a museum of comparative religions – in the former Kazan Cathedral in Leningrad. As director of the Northern Peoples Institute in Leningrad he was able to do much to assist the cultural and political development of the peoples of Siberia. Despite their service to the revolutionary regime, Bogoraz and Sternberg were attacked for their views, which were regarded as going beyond the narrow Marxism of their period.

In addition to his academic publications, Bogoraz also produced some creative writing under the nom de plume N.A. Tan, some of it on Jewish themes. He published a pioneering Chukchee-Russian dictionary which appeared in 1937. His literary works include revolutionary poems (1900); Chukotskiya razskazy ("Chukchee Tales," 1899); and the novel Vosemplemyen ("Eight Tribes," 1902).


Krader, in: iess, 2 (1968), 116–9, incl. bibl.

[Ephraim Fischoff]

About this article

Bogoraz, Vladimir Germanovich

Updated About content Print Article