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Bogoraz, Vladimir G.; Sternberg, Lev Y.; and Jochelson, Vladimir

Bogoraz, Vladimir G.; Sternberg, Lev Y.; and Jochelson, Vladimir





Vladimir Germanovich Bogoraz (1865–1936), Lev Yakovlevich Sternberg (1861–1927), and Vladimir Jochelson (1855–1937) were Russian revolutionaries and ethnographers who studied the peoples of Siberia. Together with such other Russian ethnographers as Moisei A. Krol’ and Dmitrii A. Klements, they formed a group whose members were at once political comrades and scientific colleagues. When their political activities resulted in exile, they turned exile to advantage, focusing their creative energy on Siberian ethnography; “beyond the pale of culture,” they set out scientifically to acquire knowledge of the indigenous peoples, and in what they considered to be an intellectual consequence of their studies, they sided with the people generally against tsarism. Ethnography was for them an intellectual path to populism: they belonged to Narodnaya Volya (Peoples’ Will), a radical, populist, and terrorist political party that was connected in a general way to narodnichestvo, the identification of the intellectuals with the simple folk, from whom, according to their doctrine, national strength arose. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, when changing social conditions and increased international contact overcame populist nationalism, Bogoraz, Sternberg, and their colleagues shared the new internationalism of the revolutionary movement. Bogoraz was born in Volhynia into a Jewish family, but for practical reasons he joined the Russian Orthodox church. While a student at St. Petersburg he participated in revolutionary activities; indeed, from the age of 17 on, he frequently suffered penalties for such activities. Exiled to Yakutia, he encountered Jochelson, and they began their long partnership in ethnographic and linguistic studies of Russian Sibiriaks and other indigenous peoples. Sternberg’s ethnographic studies-in-exile were done on the island of Sakhalin. Bogoraz also wrote poems and stories while in exile. He was permitted to engage in ethnographic research through the intervention of such influential members of the Russian Academy of Sciences as Vasilii Radlov (or Radloff) and Pëtr Petrovich Semënov-Tianshanskii. Even while he was still in exile, Bogoraz was appointed to the 1895–1897 Sibiriakov expedition to northeast Siberia sponsored by the Russian Geographic Society; in 1900–1901 he participated in the Jesup North Pacific Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History, serving as head of the Anadyr (Siberia) section.

He returned to St. Petersburg in 1901 to pursue both scientific and revolutionary activities, and again Radlov and others came to his aid when he had to flee from police action. He settled in New York for three years, and with the support of Franz Boas obtained a position at the American Museum; his friendship with Boas continued for three decades. On returning to Russia he lived until 1917 by scientific and belletristic work. Although he kept aloof from all parties, he remained generally sympathetic to the Narodniki (Populists) and to the Social Democrats. In 1904 he helped organize the First Peasant Congress and the Labor group in the Duma.

In 1918 he was appointed professor at the University of Leningrad and curator of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, where he had served prior to the revolution. With Sternberg he organized the ethnographic faculty of the university. He became director of the Institute of the Peoples of the North, Leningrad, an agency concerned with the development of Siberian peoples. Here Bogoraz and his colleagues produced grammars, readers, dictionaries, textbooks, as well as historical and ethnographic sketches, and established schools, folklore collections, and cultural centers in Siberia for the Soviet regime. He was active in these capacities until his death.

In the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, Bogoraz was responsible for the Chukchee and the Eskimo of Siberia, Sternberg for the Gilyak (Nivkh) of the lower Amur River and Sakhalin, and Jochelson for the Yukagir and Koryak. The expedition was directed by Boas and had as its geographic locus the Pacific rim, from Puget Sound to the Amur River. Established with funds from the American philanthropist Morris Jesup, it was designed to explore art and archeology, folklore, languages, material culture, and physical anthropology. It emphasized factual description and systematic coverage based on long-term residence, an approach that was congenial to Bogoraz, Sternberg, and Jochelson, at least insofar as this expedition was concerned; Boas was a strong advocate of precise data collection as an end in itself. Evaluation of the data was left to the future, when the crisis of recording rapidly disappearing cultures was past. Then the study of cultures of the North Pacific would surely shed light on the problems of the peopling of America and subsequent cultural processes, including the possible relation of high cultures of Asia and America. The expedition resulted in a great series of monographic studies by individual members, but no systematic comparison of intrinsic culture content was made.

The Russian ethnographers, together with Berthold Laufer, specialized on the Asian side of the Pacific; Boas and his collaborators—Livingston Farrand, Gerard Fowke, George Hunt, John R. Swanton, and James A. Teit—on the American side. The contributions of Bogoraz and Jochelson are masterly ethnographies of the Chukchee, Koryak, and Yukagir, and careful folkloric and linguistic collections of the Siberian Eskimo. Sternberg’s Gilyak materials remain in the American Museum (it has not been practical to publish them). Theory and interpretation were not, to be sure, entirely lacking in these works: thus Bogoraz outlined a five-stage development of Chukchee religion. However, despite adversions to Tylor and others, this brief religiotheoretical excursus is not so much a stage-theory of religion per se as a view of how Chukchee religion specifically was structured and how it developed. (Nor is this a theory of religious survivals, although it has been criticized as such.) Doctrinal, ceremonial, sociofunctional, and psychological approaches to shamanism were systematically explored in various of these works, with a sophisticated interpretation by Bogoraz of the inner humanity of shamans and their devouts.

Independently of his ethnographic work, in the years 1926–1927 Bogoraz developed a theory of culture; it remained unpublished. He sought a new science of culture in which the motive forces of man were to be derived not from within culture but externally. He proposed a dual emphasis—on the natural environment and on human biology— that would be applied to man’s past (archeology and history) and present (ethnography).

After the revolution, Sternberg taught ethnography at the University of Leningrad. He adhered explicitly to Marxist theory, seeking through his ethnography to demonstrate the theories of Engels —e.g., group marriage in relation to primitive communism as a stage of cultural evolution—and of L. H. Morgan—e.g., the Turano–Ganowanian system of consanguinity in northeast Asia. An avid polemicist, he attacked the theories of Freud, Lévy-Bruhl, and Wilhelm Schmidt.

In an unpublished work, however, Sternberg propounded a psychological and social theory of cultural change that was not directly related to historical materialism. Unlike Bogoraz, he did not derive culture from biology and milieu but regarded it as a purely social heritage; culture is a creation of the human psyche, and its creator is one—mankind as a whole. Differences in culture are external to human nature; they are geographic and historical accidents.

Jochelson left Russia permanently during the Soviet period and spent his later years in the United States, attached to the American Museum of Natural History. Bogoraz and Sternberg remained in Russia, and they were sharply criticized by Soviet writers for views which stood outside Marxism in general (in Bogoraz’ case) and outside Leninist Marxism (in Sternberg’s). Bogoraz was attacked for a biomechanical approach to culture, Sternberg for eclecticism and idealism. Nevertheless, both were able to study and teach.

Bogoraz and Jochelson stood close to the positivist–naturalist movement in the cultural anthropology of their time; their aim was an objective science of mankind, free of values. They were convinced that this was attainable. Bogoraz, in the absence of direct historical evidence, sought to introduce time depth by understanding the inner systematics and dynamics of culture. His ethnography was in this limited sense evolutionary. But neither he nor Jochelson made projections into the past or the future, nor did they seek for inferential cultural constructions. Sternberg at first shared many of these views but later adopted the evolutionary system of Morgan and Engels.

Despite the divergent theoretical and political tendencies of their later lives, these three Russian ethnographers constitute a school of thought in anthropology. They shared a common background of revolutionary activity, exile, and ethnographic study. While they may have responded differently to this background, there nevertheless remained their common geographic area of specialization, common techniques and methods of ethnography, and common broad social aims. They achieved the highest level of exactness and reliability in field techniques: Bogoraz on Chukchee and Sternberg on Gilyak are ethnographic classics. And they were a vital force in the profound political changes in Russia, contributing knowledge and direction to the transition of the indigenous peoples and to the development of anthropology among their colleagues and students.

Lawrence Krader

[For the historical context of Bogoraz, Sternberg, and Jochelson’s work, see the biographies ofBoas; Engels; Morgan, LewisHenry. For discussion of related work, seeEthnography; History, article onethnohistory.]


1900 Materialy po izucheniiu chukotskogo iazyka fol’klora, sobrannye v kolymskom okruge (Materials for the Study of the Chukchee Language and Folklore, Collected in the Kolyma Region). St. Petersburg (Russia): Akademiia Nauk.

1900 Bogoraz, Vladimir G.; and Jochelson, Vladimir I. O sibirskom poliarnom otdele severo-tikhookeanskoi ekspeditsii (On the Siberian Arctic Section of the North Pacific Expedition). Zhivaia starina 10, no. 1/2:295–296. → Outline of an anthropological and linguistic investigation of the Chukchee, the Koryak, and the Yukaghir.

1902 The Folklore of Northeastern Asia, as Compared With That of Northwestern America. American Anthropologist New Series 4:577–683. → A comparison of 32 Chukchee and Eskimo tales and of 59 Chukchee, Koryak, and Kamchadal tales with American Indian plots.

1904–1909 The Chukchee. Jesup North Pacific Expedition Publications, Vol. 7, and American Museum of Natural History, New York, Memoir, Vol. 11, Parts 1–3. Leiden: Brill; New York: Stechert.

1910a Chukchee Mythology. Jesup North Pacific Expedition Publications, Vol. 8, Part 1, and American Museum of Natural History, New York, Memoir, Vol. 12, Part 1. Leiden: Brill; New York: Stechert.

1910b K psikhologii shamanstva u narodov severovostochnoi Azii (On the Psychology of Shamanism Among the Peoples of Northeastern Asia). Etnograficheskoe obozrenie [1910], no. 1/2:1–36.

1922 Chukchee. U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin, no. 40, part 2:631–903.

1925 Ideas of Space and Time in the Conception of Primitive Religion. American Anthropologist New Series 27:205–266. → An analysis of Chukchee, Koryak, and Yukaghir beliefs.

1927 Drevnie pereseleniia narodov v severnoi Evrazii i v Amerike (Ancient Ethnic Migrations in Northern Eurasia and America). Akademiia Nauk SSSR, Muzei Antropologii i Etnografii, Sbornik 6:38–62.

1928a Chukchee Tales. Journal of American Folk-lore 41:297–452.

1928b Ethnographic Problems of the Eurasian Arctic. Volume 6, pages 189–207 in Problems of Polar Research. New York: American Geographical Society.

(1928c) 1929 Neue Daten über die Ethnographie der kleinen Völkerschaften des Nordens. Anthropos 24: 517–521. → First published in Russian.

1928d Paleoasiatic Tribes of South Siberia. Volume 1, pages 249–272 in International Congress of Americanists, Twenty-second, Rome, 1926, Atti. Rome: Garroni.

1929a Elements of the Culture of the Circumpolar Zone. American Anthropologist New Series 31, no. 4:579–601.

1929b Siberian Cousins of the Eskimo. Asia 29, no. 1: 316–322.

1936 Osnovnye tipy fol’klora severnoi Evrazii i severnoi Ameriki (The Basic Folklore Types of Northern Eurasia and Northern America). Sovetskii fol’klor [1936], no. 4/5:29–50. → The oral tradition of the Chukchee, the Koryak, the Kamchadal, the Yukaghir, and the Chuvantsy.

1937 Luoravetlansko–russkii (chukotsko–russkii) slovar’ (Chukchee–Russian Dictionary). Institut Narodov Severa, Nauchno-Issledovatel’skaia Assotsiatsiia, Trudy po lingvistike, Vol. 6. Leningrad: The Institute.

Autobiography. Unpublished manuscript, Archives of the Leningrad Ethnographic Institute.


1893 Sakhalinskie giliaki (The Sakhalin Gilyaks). Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 17:1–46.

1908 Materialy po izucheniiu giliatskogo iazyka i fol’klora (Materials for the Study of the Gilyak Language and Folklore). St. Petersburg (Russia): Akademiia Nauk. → Only Part 1 of Volume 1 was published.

1925a Divine Election in Primitive Religion (Including Material on Different Tribes on N.E. Asia and America). Part 2, pages 472–512 in International Congress of Americanists, Twenty-first, Göteborg, 1924, Compterendu. Göteborg (Sweden) Museum.

1925b Kul’t orla u sibirskikh narodov (Eagle Worship Among the Siberian Peoples). Akademiia Nauk SSSR, Muzei Antropologii i Etnografii, Sbornik 5:717–740.

1927 Izbrannichestvo v religii (Divine Election in Religion). Etnografiia 3, no. 1:3–56.

1929 The Ainu Problem. Anthropos 24:755–799.

1933a Giliaki, orochi, gol’dy, negidal’tsy, ainy (The Gilyak, Oroch, Goldi, Negidal, and Ainu Peoples). Khabarovsk (Russia): Dal’giz.

1933b Sem’ia i rod u narodov severo-vostochnoi Azii (The Family and the Clan Among the Peoples of Northeastern Asia). Leningrad: Institut Narodov Severa, Nauchno-Issledovatel’skaia Assotsiatsiia.

1936 Pervobytnaia religiia v svete etnografi: Issledovaniia, stat’i i lektsii (Primitive Religion in the Light of Ethnography: Studies, Articles, and Lectures). Leningrad: Institut Narodov Severa, Nauchno-Issledovatel’skaia Assotsiatsiia.


1897 K voprosu ob izcheznuvshikh narodnostiakh kolymskogo okruga (On the Question of the Extinct Peoples of the Kolymskii Region). I. Russkoe Geograficheskoe Obshchestvo, Vostochno-Sibirskii Otdel, Izvestiia 28, no. 2:160–165.

1898 Predvaritel’nyi otchet ob issledovaniiakh inorodtsev kolymskogo i verkhoianskogo okrugov (A Preliminary Report on the Investigation of the Natives of the Kolymskii and Verkhoianskii Regions). I. Russkoe Geograficheskoe Obshchestvo, Vostochno-Sibirskii Otdel, Izvestiia 29:9–52.

1898/1899 Die Jukagiren im äussersten Nordosten Asiens (The Yukaghir in Extreme Northeastern Asia). Geographische Gesellschaft in Bern, Jahresbericht 17: 1–48.

1900 Materialy po izucheniiu iukagirskogo iazyka i fol’klora (Materials for the Study of the Yukaghir Language and Folklore). Trudy lakutskoi Ekspeditsii, snariazhennoi na sredstva I. M. Sibiriakova, Section 3, Vol. 9, Part 3. St. Petersburg (Russia): Akademiia Nauk.

1905–1908a Ethnological Problems of the Bering Sea. American Museum of Natural History, Memoir 10.

1905–1908b The Koryak. Jesup North Pacific Expedition Publications, Vol. 6, and American Museum of Natural History, New York, Memoir, Vol. 10, Parts 1–2. Leiden: Brill; New York: Stechert.

1907 Etnologicheskie problemy na severnykh beregakh Tikhogo Okeana (Ethnological Problems on the Northern Shores of the Pacific). I. Russkoe Geograficheskoe Obshchestvo, Izvestiia 43:63–92.

1926 The Yukaghir and the Yukaghirized Tungus. Jesup North Pacific Expedition Publications, Vol. 9, and American Museum of Natural History, New York, Memoir, Vol. 13. Leiden: Brill; New York: Stechert.

1928 Peoples of Asiatic Russia. New York: American Museum of Natural History.

1930 Leo Sternberg. American Anthropologist New Series 30:180–181.


Jakobson, Roman; HÜttl-Worth, Gerta; and Beebe, John F. 1957 Paleosiberian Peoples and Languages: A Bibliographical Guide. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files Press.

Kagaroff, Eugen 1929 Leo Sternberg. American Anthropologist New Series 31:568–571.

[Koshkin], Ia. P. 1935 V. G. Bogoraz-Tan, by la. P. Al’kor [pseud.]. Sovetskaia etnografiia [1935], no. 4/5:5–29. → A French résumé appears on pages 29–31.

Vinnikov, I. N. 1935 Bibliografiia etnograficheskikh i lingvisticheskikh rabot V. G. Bogoraza. Sovetskaia etnografiia [1935]: 225–241.

Zelenin, D. K. 1937 V. G. Bogoraz: Etnograf i fol’klorist. Pages v–xviii in Pamiati V. G. Bogoraza (1865–1936): Sbornik statei. Moscow: Akademiia Nauk SSSR.

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