The catalog presents the unique collections and documents brought by outstanding Russian poet Nikolai Stepanovich Gumilev from his travels to Ethiopia, then known as Abyssinia. In 1913, on an assignment by the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences and Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, went on a business trip to Abyssinia to gather and buy ethnographic collections, to collect photo materials, and to record folklore.
The collections and documents of Gumilev’s Abyssinian expedition kept in the MAE RAS clarify much in the management of the expedition, its chronicle of events, and Gumilev’s deep interest in Africa’s ethnography.
Before the Abyssinian expedition of 1913, Gumilev had been in that country twice. Therefore it is no wonder that V. V. Radlov, Director of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, and chief curator Professor L. Ya. Sternberg selected him for an expedition to replenish the Museum’s ethnographic collections. Having received all necessary instructions from the Museum’s experts, Nikolai Gumilev with his nephew N. L. Sverchkov boarded a steamship in Odessa in early April of 1913. They went to the port of Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden, from which they arrived by railroad in the city of Dire Dawa in the east of Ethiopia and started their journey across the south-eastern Ethiopia. In late September of 1913, Gumilev and Sverchkov handed their collections over to the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography.
Today, the Museum keeps 242 glass negatives, 107 ethnographic objects, and four pictures by Ethiopian painters collected by Gumilev’s expedition. Analysis of various sources prompts concluding that Gumilev himself also did the photographing during the expedition, along with Sverchkov. It is one of the earliest collections of ethnographic photos made in East Africa and capturing everyday scenes in the streets of towns and villages, the country’s inhabitants, clothing, dwelling places, household utensils, monuments of architecture, ancient manuscripts, and landscapes. Many pictures display the long-gone culture of local tribes captured before their intense contacts with Europeans. The descriptions of the collections made by the collectors also are of a great scientific value.Read more