Libmonster ID: U.S.-878
Author(s) of the publication: Olga BAZANOVA

At the close of 2005 the Russian State Archives of Early Acts organized an exposition in Moscow's Exhibition Hall of Federal State Archives ("From the Rhine to Kamchatka") devoted to Gerard Frederick Miller (1705 - 1783) on the occasion of the birth tricentennial of this eminent Russian historian and archeographer. Taking part in arranging this memorial exhibition were the Moscow-based state museums, such as the History Museum, the A.S. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Peoples of the East, the Tretyakov Art Gallery as well as other scientific and cultural centers.

Pages. 78

Leipzig, Germany. An etching by F. de Vitte. Late 18th century.

Gerard Frederick (Friedrich) Miller was born in Hcrford (Westphalia, Germany) into the family of a grammar school rector. He completed a course at the universities of Rinteln and Leipzig. In 1725, at the age of 20. he came to St. Petersburg, Russia, where he took part in establishing the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and became its professor. The opening exhibits feature this early period of G. Miller's life and activity. They include 17th-18th centuries lithographs with views of the places where the historian spent his youth, the catalog of the library of his father (Miller, Senior) which Miller, Jr., drew up in 1723 - 1724; and a map of the district of Low Saxony (a late 17th-century engraving by Frederick de Vitte of Miller's native town).

And so this bright young man came to St. Petersburg at the invitation of Professor Johann Kohl. "... May I assure you that I feel just as fine in St. Petersburg as in Germany... The library here is superb." For two years Miller taught Latin, rhetoric and composition, history and geography in a classical grammar school (gymnasium) that has just been set up. Then on the instructions of Lauren tins Blumentrost, the first President of the Academy of Sciences (1725 - 1733), he began editing The St. Petersburg Vedomosti published in German as of 1727 (Die Nachrichten von St. Petersburg), a newspaper compiled from reports and communications published by periodic editions abroad.* From 1728 on Miller started publishing explanatory Notes to this newspaper, in Russian, where he interpreted the concepts and notions used - in fact, it came to be Russia's first literary and popular science journal.**

The Miller exhibition displays a good many documents of those years: engravings, maps, the first publications of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, proof-sheets with corrections made by the young editor, letters...

In 1729 Miller, Senior, died and his son had to leave Russia for a while to take care of the family affairs. This journey was registered officially as a business trip undertaken "for urgent academic needs". Having visited Germany, the Low Countries and Britain. G. Miller resumed old contacts and struck up new ones with book merchants, engravers and savants above all. The memorial exposition displays his "Testimony" on the journey supplied with illustrations of the cities he visited and of St. Petersburg, namely the buildings of the Academy of Sciences, Kunstkammer (Chamber of Curiosities), H.M. Library and other edifices.

Meanwhile Vitus Bering, the captain-commodore of the Russian Navy, was back from his first voyage to Kamchatka (he was of Dutch origin). In fact, that was a reconnaissance expedition which showed it clearly that yet another one was necessary - a comprehensive research expedition. And so on the 12th of June 1732 the Senate passed an unprecedented decision on dispatching a research party for the exploration of the vast territories of this country's east (''first and foremost, the hitherto unknown places, and for a true description of indigenous peoples, their customs and of fruits of the earth"). The expedition included representatives of the Science Academy-Professor

* See: L. Mankova. "Due lo Your Grace is Ihe Science Academy Risen", Science in Russia. No. 5, 2001. - Ed.

** See: V. Vasilyev, "275th Anniversary of Publications of the Russian Academy of Sciences". Science in Russia, No. 2, 2003. - Ed.

Pages. 79

The Makariev Monastery as viewed from the meridian side. An engraving by A. Ukhtomsky. 1816.

Louis de l'lsle de la Сгоуere (astronomer) and Professor Johann Georg Gmelin (natural scientist, elected to the Academy of Sciences in 1727). But all of a sudden Prof. Gmelin tell ill, and Gerard Miller (full professor as of 1730) volunteered to take part in the voyage in his stead. Upon his recovery, however, Johann Gmelin also wished to go. Thus both savants joined the expedition. They hit it off and spent together all those ten years of journeyings through Siberia.

Participating in the second Kamchatka expedition together with the three professors were five students, among them Stepan Krasheninnikov (later, in 1750, elected to the Academy of Sciences), as well as land surveyors, interpreters and artists. Their detailed drawings acquainted the enlightened Russia and Western Europe, too, with the images of the aboriginal peoples of the Far North, its places of interest, arche-ological findings, towns, forts and the like. Among other things, the exposition features the Plan of the Yamyshevsky Salt Lake and its Environs, the Smoking Mount Kazif on r. Abashevka, Tributary ofr. Tom, at Kuznetsk, and the Mode of Iron Smelting by the Tatars of Kuznetsk; all these sketches were drawn by Johann Luersenius. Another artist, Johann Berkhahn, sketched the Cave at Kungar (1733), and the Drawing of the Inscribed Stone on r. Tom (1734). These two and many other drawings are exhibited, too.

As a matter of fact, a large-scale expedition like that was an out-of-the-way venture for those times. Most different savants, scholars and scientists were involved-astronomers, geologists, biologists, historians, linguists, ethnographers... They made systematic observations and sent their reports, collections and other findings to St. Petersburg. All these works were funded from the state coffers, and a H.M. ukase obliged local authorities to assist the explorers in every way.

The second Kamchatka expedition revealed in full Miller's multidimensional talents and erudition. Years later, in 1775, he had this to recall in his autobiography: "All the roads on which I have traveled... I described in much detail; I would collect essential tidings about towns and their districts, and on what concerned civil government, history and geography; I reviewed and put in order the archives in all Siberian towns... of which the lists make up more than 40 big books; I described the relics of antiquities and had them imaged in persons; I likewise described the mores and laws of local peoples; some of the new landmaps I made myself, and I had the land-surveyors who happened to be around do the rest..." Miller was the only member of the party to visit all districts in Ural and Siberia and, according to his own estimates, logged over 33 thousand versts (kilometers).

As historian Miller attached major significance to folk legends, and he became one of the first folklore collectors (even though he warned his colleagues and pupils: be careful about the source materials). He asked local chiefs to send old and "wise" folks to him, those who remembered events of the bygone days; he put down many legends about the famous Yermak Timofeevich, a Cossack ataman (chieftain) who, about 1581, pioneered in the exploration of Siberia.

Miller amassed a vast body of materials on the life, customs and faiths of the aborigines. He made friendly contacts with them, and thus was welcome to local festivals, marriages, rituals and religious sessions, the kamlaniye, performed by shamans, an elect caste of soothsayers who could mediate between man and the spirits. He acquired various articles of clothing, household utensils and what pertained to local cults. In 1740 Miller wrote instructions for his aides, and most of the points of this memoire were based on a well-conceptualized

Pages. 80

Smoking Mount Kazir on r, Abashevka, Tributary of r. Tom, at Kuznetsk. Adrawing by I. Luersenius. 1734

system of ethnography. Miller specified such things as anthropological data, decorations, clothes, footwear, types of homes and household structures as well as the "intrinsic characteristics"-people's alphabets, wisdom, ideas about the ambient world, temper and personality... He added up diseases and methods of their treatment, calendars, arts, traditions, rituals, occupations, modes of transportation... child rearing, religion. The savant entered circumstantial data in his field logbooks which gave birth to the Russian school of ethnography and which are still relevant today as a wellspring of information on the population of this country's outlying districts.

Miller's talents were truly versatile. For one, he is the father of archeology in our country. While his predecessors took an interest only in precious and curious artifacts dug up, Miller attached much significance to "run-of-the-mill", routine finds like tools and implements, relics of wood, ceramics and that kind of thing. He would sort out and classify all that according to a set of general characteristics, and give a detailed description of the location of such finds, their depth of occurrence and other data. His notes on the "antiquities" discovered during the second Kamchatka expedition come in handy to ethnographers and archeologists of today.

Prof. Miller was also a highly motivated linguist who collected a wealth of material during the ten years of his odysscy about Siberia. He sought to compile so many dictionaries of languages spoken in those parts, well aware of the ongoing trends there-already in the 18th century some of the local tribes either died out or else became naturalized and thus lost the command of their native tongues. The savant came to the following conclusion: "The characteristic difference among peoples is not in their mores and ways, not in their food and industries, and not in their religion, for all this can be identical with different races and tribes but quite unlike with members of the same tribe. Language is the only infallible characteristic: wherever languages are similar, there are no differences among peoples, and wherever languages are different, it is futile to search for fellow tribesmen there."

Prof. Miller also surveyed the condition of the districts and towns he visited, and amassed a large body of statistical materials. Wbrking with his aides, he made a geographical description of the lands he inspected, which became a map-making source material. Now and then he took up disciplines far away from his scholarly pursuits in history: he helped a good deal his friend Johann Gmelin, the naturalist, in the collection of herbaria and rare animals, in the description of soils and minerals. Both scientists also learned the knack of measuring geographical latitudes and longitudes by astronomical observation data.

All aspects of this titanic labor in studying Russia's Far North during the second Kamchatka expedition are featured is a special section of the exposition, perhaps the largest one. These are letters, office papers and documents, including

Pages. 81

Bock drawings near r. Irbit. A drawing by I. Luersenius. 1741.

reports filed by Vitus Bering who headed the expedition... These are the naval logbooks, maps of rivers and their tributaries, town plans. The guests could see the works prepared on the basis of research findings: The Lexicon of the Vogul-Ostyak Language Based on Sundry Siberian Dialects (1735 - 1740); A Description of Pagan Peoples Living in Kazan Gubernia (1741) authored by G. Miller; A Description of the Land of Kamchatka (1786) by Stcpan Krasheninnikov...

Guests to the exhibition lingered at stands displaying an array of household items, attire and decorations of the northern peoples, in particular, an Even к caftan (coat) of deer fur, chamois leather and cloth (decorated with beads, color galloons and ribbons); Yakut engraved belts of white metal as well as carved caskets, boxes and chests of wood and birch-bark, along with cups and dishes; models of astronomical and navigation instruments of the 18th century; Koryak idols, too.

The turning point of G. Miller's activity in the Academy of Sciences was his dissertation presented in 1749: On the Origin of the Russian People and Name. Like Gottlieb Bayer (a German historian elected to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1725) before him, Miller was out to prove the Scandinavian roots of the first Russian princes, and of the very name Rus, and, consequently, the consolidating role of the Varangians (Norsemen) in instituting Russian statehood. But Mikhail Lomonosov, the great Russian savant opposed this line of thought. As Acad. Mikhail Tikhomirov noted two centuries later, Lomonosov "was outraged by Miller's works not because Miller spoke about the significance of the Varangians but because he, by echoing Bayer, virtually denied the existence of any culture among ancient Slavs."

But Friedrich Miller (or Fyodor Ivanovich, as the Russians called him) held no prejudice against the people of his second homeland and, as testified by those who knew him well, "was an ardent patriot with regard to Russia's dignity". None the less, truth came uppermost to a man of science - a scientist should be above suspicion, he "should appear as if he had no fatherland, faith or sovereign; what a historian says should be strictly truthful, and he should give no pretext for any suspicion of flattery". Knowing the sources better than his opponents, Miller had no doubts about the validity of the "Norse theory" he championed. Even in those days the "Varangian issue" became tinged politically, something that prefigured the outcome of the discussion: "the vile dissertation" was committed to the flames.

The exhibits include documents on this period of Miller's life, for one, the letters and copies of the downright negative verdict of Lomonosov, and Krasheninnikov's remarks on the subject.

Meanwhile Miller kept working on his fundamental study, History of Siberia, his lifework-its first volume came out in 1750. Miller published the bulk of the second volume in the periodical that he edited beginning in 1755, the Monthly Compositions for Use and Entertainment one of the issues of this magazine was on display. In 1761 Miller published his Essay on Russia's Recent History, the first study on the reign of

Pages. 82

A plan of Mangasee and environs. G. F. Miller. 1739.

A Kamchatka shaman. A Koryak in the ethnic dress. A Kurile-islander. K. Rot's illustrations to J. Georgi's book DESCRIPTION OF ALL PEOPLES INHABITING THE RUSSIAN STATE... 1776 - 1777.

Pages. 83

A female breast ornament SIULGAM. Mordva-Erzia. 19th century.

A CAFTAN coat worn by Evens. 19th century.

Siberian idols. A drawing by I. Luersenius. 1736.

Pages. 84

Boris Godunov (1598 - 1605) and dramatic, tragic developments of those days.

The second Kamchatka expedition tapped another talent of the great erudite-collection of archives. He would keep even what looked like useless documents which filled the famous "Miller's portfolios", a copious collection on Russia of the Middle Ages. In 1766 the savant got down to work on the documents of the archives of the Collegium (Office) of Foreign Affairs-he sorted out, described and systematized them, and saw about their safe upkeep. He suggested uniting all repositories of documents of the ages past, with the most significant ones to be published.

His fertile mind produced ever new works, as we can see it in the draft copies of his works, such as Thoughts on (he Institution of Moscow University (1765), On Peoples Inhabiting Russia from the Earliest Times (written before 1773), letters and correspondence with Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great)*; all that is illustrated with portraits of contemporaries, among them of Nikolai Bantysh-Kamensky, a pupil of Miller's and one of the first in the cohort of Russian archivists.

In 1776, acting on Her Majesty's commission, Miller wrote a book on the Russian nobility, a work that ushered in a new line of research related to high-born dynasties. Miller also penned an inquiry into the revolt of Yemelyan Pugachev and the peasant war in Russia (1773 - 1775), published in Germany in 1784 (Reliable Tidings on the Rebel Yemelyan Pugachev and the Rebellion He Instigated) - the first work on the Pugachev-led uprising. Miller gathered a large collection of materials on that epic peasant war which, in 1833, Alexander Pushkin used in writing his long story The Captain's Daughter and his historical study The History of Pugachev.**

G. Millerstood at the cradle ofthe studies oflocal lore, history and economy in this country. In 1761 he published a study on the origins of Novgorod the Great, and in 1778 - 1779 came up with a number of essays on towns and monasteries near Moscow (Kolomna, Mozhaisk, Ruza. the St. Trinity-Sergius Monastery), the product of a trip of the scholar no longer in his salad days.

Prof. Miller also distinguished himself both in archeogra-phy and publishing. Many important source materials on Russian history could see the light of day thanks to him, such as The Code of Laws of Ivan the Terrible with commentaries by \assily Tatishchev, the historian; The Book of Steps***; the correspondence of Peter I (Peter the Great) with Field-Marshal Boris Sheremetev, an active figure in the Northern Wiir of Russia and Sweden in 1700 - 1721.

A copperplate in the series


The organizers ofthe exhibition sponsored by the Russian State Archives of Early Acts succeeded in showing G. Miller's multifarious talents as historian, archeographer, ethnographer, map-maker, publisher, archivist and collector. Unfortunately, many of his works, e.g., on the reign of Czar Fyodor Alexeevich (1661 -1682) and the first years of Peter I "s rule (1682 - 1725) as well as his extensive correspondence have not been published yet. A large portion of materials brought from the second Kamchatka expedition (a true thesaurus of knowledge!) is yet to be read. The point is that Miller's manuscripts were done in German, with many abbreviations, and are hard to read. But work is in progress on their translation and subsequent publications.

We might as well say that the Exhibition Hall of State Archives likewise marked its jubilee, though on a far more modest scale. It was established in 2000 with the aim of acquainting the public with the most-rich documentary heritage of Russia, part and parcel of our national heritage. In these five years it has been much in touch with the major state museums of Moscow and St. Petersburg, such as the Moscow Kremlin. Tsarskoye Selo, Pavlovsk. It has taken a worthy place among the nation's foremost exhibition halls.

Illustrations supplied by the author

* See: L. Mankova. "Golden Age of Sciences". Science in Russia. No. 2, 2004. - Ed.

** See: A. Gurevich, "Russian Critics on Pushkin: At Cross-Purposes", Science in Russia, No. 6, 1999. - Ed.

*** Book of Steps - exposition of Russian history undertaken in 1560 - 1563 proceeding from old chronicles, annals and dynastic hooks. Russian history was visualized as steps in the ladder ofthe then ruling Riurik dynasty. - Ed.


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