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08. Author's Approach To The Investigation

The Tungus and Manchu psychomental complexes in so far as their general character is concerned do not differ from what may be observed elsewhere. These are differences in the forms and systems. However, in so far as gathering of facts and analyzing are concerned perhaps they are still more difficult to comprehend for they are greatly influenced by the systems which are very distinct as compared with the European complex, e.g. the Chinese and Mongol complexes. Not very much has been done up to the present time in their description. The facts are rather scarce. Although the Manchus were known for centuries we have only some translations of «religious» texts by Ch. de Harlez, L. Langles and very few facts recorded by the travelers, e.g. R. Maack; who visited the Manchus on the banks of the Amur River. The greatest part of the Manchu literature consists in translations from Chinese and thus as such they do not belong to the original Manchu complex. There are some other publications on the Manchu «religious» system, but since these deal with the Manchus living in Peking who were for a long time under Chinese influence they cannot be considered as reliable material for giving a picture of the Manchu complex. As to other Tungus groups we are richer in the material related to the psychomental complex. These data were gathered by travellers and special investigators who made their important contributions during the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries. Here we may point out several names: S. Brailovskii published his observation on the Udehe; V. P. Margaritov and I. A. Lopatin on the Oroci; P. P. Simkevic and I. A. Lopatin on the Goldi; K. M. Ryckov on the Enissy Tungus; L. von Schrenck on different groups of the Amur River region; and at last W. Jochelson on Tungus groups of the Yakutsk Government, living in contact with the Yukagirs. A scattered number of facts are in the works of travelers and investigators as J. G. Georgi, P. S. Pallas, J. G. Gmelin, and especially M. A. Castren, A. Th. von Middendorrf, and R. Maack. However, the facts published do not form detailed descriptions of the psychomental complex, but they are brought by these investigators rather like illustrations of differences between the complexes of the observers and those of the groups observed. The facts are not systematized except in the works by P. P. Simkevic and I. A. Lopatin, and only partly by L. Sternberg who was not familiar with the Tungus language. In these works the Goldi system of spirits is treated, but the theoretical premises did not permit these author to have represented the system of spirits in the Goldi complex.

Generally one of the great difficulties of these investigations was the fact that the investigators did not know the native languages [60]. The works here mentioned were not all published at the moment when my own investigations began (1912). So, for instance, those by I. A. Lopatin, K. M. Ryckov, and W. Jochelson have been published much later. Owing to the character of the previous publications as well as those which have appeared since completion of the field-work, and owing to the scarcity of the facts, I shall not use these publications as a basis and shall refer only in the cases of evident reliability of records. I shall refer to these publications chiefly for the illustration of the reactions of observers [61].

In so far as familiarity with the Tungus complex was concerned my own position at the beginning of my investigations among the Tungus was nearly the same as that of any other investigator. However, after coming into close contact with the Tungus and especially after mastering Tungus language, when I could understand and speak Tungus, my position «was entirely changed for I could directly penetrate into the Tungus complex. Still, I had to overcome another difficulty, namely, to enter into the Tungus complex for looking at the facts from a Tungus point of view. It was not easy before the fundamental conceptions became familiar to me; the gathering of the facts was done in such a manner that the facts might be received by the observer without any conclusions at the spot and without approaching the Tungus mentality as «inferior» and «primitive». So the facts, the opinions and ideas, were recorded without commentaries, but the cases of possible misunderstanding were checked up several times and usually recorded in Tungus: all Tungus noting were understood in the Tungus system and mind, in the Tungus complex.

Here I feel that I need to pause on the problem of my own attitude towards the material investigated, and the way how I have come to the study of Tungus in general, which will be historic in its nature, and partly autobiographic in form.

My original scientific interests were directed to the general problem which at that time might be called «philosophy of history », i. e. what much later came out in my formulation as mechanisms of ethnical and ethnographic variations. Beginning from the study of sociology, economics, and history, in a narrow sense, I have gradually shifted to the problems of population, ethnography, «prehistory», and at last anthropology («physical») which also involved on my part a special preparation in biological sciences. After extending the scope of my interest, I came to the idea of working as a trial on two problems, namely, (1) the problem of parallelism of Magdalenian art and culture in general with that of Palaeasiatic groups of Siberia; (2) the problem of forms and material of arrows in correlation with the material used and technical purpose of this weapon. Those problems brought me into the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg, the director of which, W. W. Radloff, after some four to five month of my work in this museum proposed to me to begin some field work and to study some languages according to my choice, namely, Samoyed, or Dravidian, or Tungus. Although I did not think of myself as a field worker, especially in a new branch of languages, in principle I accepted W. W. Radloffs proposition trusting him that I could try myself in a field work and particularly in the little known languages. Yet, by that time this idea responded to my desire of coming into direct contact with some living material in order to receive new facts and especially a concrete idea of non-European groups. I did not hesitate as to the choice between three groups, the most interesting being in my eyes Tungus, according to my knowledge at that time, less influenced by other ethnical groups of the so called «civilized mankind», and less known than Samoyeds and Dravidians who had been already studied by a great number of investigators [62].

The first contact with the ethnographical realities greatly supported my earlier critical attitude as to the methods of investigation and primarily as to the methods of observation and recording what was seen and heard. I very soon found by practically ascertaining myself that various theories, with which I was familiar, went to pieces in touch with realities; that the pictures of «primitive people» were quite artificial, that the only way to investigate Tungus was to gather material without selection of facts, to try to understand the people investigated, and to adapt myself to the Tungus milieu by becoming friendly, i. e. to look at the things from their point of view and not from the point of view of protective behaviour, of feeling of immeasurable superiority. The practical consequences were enormous in the sense of remodelling my own attitude and my own behaviour, -I soon discovered that these Tungus in some respects were much superior to myself in so far as local adaptation was concerned. Yet, my lack of knowledge of their language was not in my favour as a representative of a «superior» culture. I had to learn; and this could be done only with the help of the Tungus themselves. The best way was thus to explain the real purpose of my living among them, to show them the practical importance of studying their life, and conditions, as well as language, as a way to show to the Russians that the Tungus must not be disturbed, — to make them understood by the Russians [63]. In this sense I was successful, — I was never lacking various kinds of information and the good will of the Tungus to teach me. For them it was evident that I had no bad intentions as to them and I was not treating them as «savages», so that I could understand them. Indeed, such an attitude towards myself implied a change in my behaviour and also that of my wife, -we should observe their customs and avoid any personal or group offence, e. g. with taking notes in the society meeting, to investigate» them, and especially to torture them with «questions» [64]. When such relations were established, the rumour about our travelling among the Tungus spread far away and the Tungus groups were waiting for our arrival. Owing to this we did not need to repeat every time from the very beginning our behaviour for establishing good relations. The same was repeated in Manchuria but in more difficult conditions. In fact, at our first meeting with the Tungus of Manchuria I had to find out new ways of explaining to them the purpose of our visit. In spite of the fact that we were foreigners on Chinese territory, I succeeded in explaining to them, as I would do with any «civilized» people, and I was understood. Since it was so, the work went on quite smoothly. More than this, the Tungus carefully reported to me all gossip about ourselves picked up from the Chinese and Mongol petty authorities, and even local petty officials among the Russian settlers [65]. In this way we could avoid a great number of difficult situations and gather a great number of facts as to interethnical relations. In fact, one of the interesting items of Tungus confessions were their relations and attitudes towards other ethnical groups, naturally including Russians.

I do not need to add that owing to the character of the Tungus (vide SONT Ch. VIII) it was not difficult to create not only socially good relations, but also in some cases very friendly personal relations which permitted, in some cases, quite intimate and very personal inquiries, without producing any harm to the friendship.

Indeed, these conditions of work made it difficult from another side, namely, I could not regulate the flow of facts for keeping immediate record of them, and naturally I could not refuse to accept the facts since they were coming to me from friendly behaving people. However, this difficulty for a field-worker was a pleasant one.

The conditions of work among the Manchus were different in the sense that with their experience in «politics» the Manchus had many more difficulties in understanding my attitude towards themselves. So for establishing perfectly convenient relations there was needed a much greater number of people and with the Manchu complex natural attitude of distrust and cautiousness, it was still mere difficult to extend necessary relations over all Manchus met [66]. Even under these much less favourable conditions, after a certain readaptation, it was possible to gather the material needed.

This description of the history of investigation on the one hand explains the large (for a relatively short period of field work) body of facts recorded, and on the other hand it shows how owing to the creation of close contact with the populations investigated, I have come to the idea of a different approach to these populations needed for the investigation itself.


60. In so far as I know. K. M. Ryckov was familiar with the Tungus dialect of the group investigated by him. However, his theoretical background was not solid enough to enable him to carry out an extensive and scientific investigation. I. A. Lopatin possessed some knowledge of the Goldi language but it was not sufficient for a thorough investigation into the psychomental complex of the Goldi. M. A. Castren, whose knowledge of the language could be easily extended did not remain a long time amongst the Tungus.

61. There are some recent publications indirectly concerning Tungus psychomental complex. Some of them have reached me, but most of them I know only from the reviews. In spite of the fact that they are receipt and from the theoretical point of view they might be up to date, they are carried out with a practical view, — to turn the Tungus from their «superstitions» to the credo of «scientific „dialectic socialism“, „dialectic materialism“ and other elements of the non-Tungus complex and thus to denationalise them as few decades ago the Orthodox missionaries did by converting the Tungus to Christianity. Another, aim of these investigations is to find new support for the theory of evolution of human society which according to the theoreticians of socialism must fatally come to the economic and social system which is preferred by these theoreticians. Owing to these scientific conditions the recent publications, which are as a rule carefully revised by the governmental agents, can be used only with great caution.

62. I shall not here repeat what has been already written by me, in the Foreword to my SONT, as to the order of investigations, persons and in institutions with which I was connected at that time. The «field work» began in 1912 and continued with interruptions up to 1918.

63. As a matter of fact, such was the attitude of the local superior administrators — who wanted to have more accurate knowledge of these groups in order to preserve them, as a useful economic factor of the little-peopled regions. This humanistic approach to the non-Russian population was not something new, but the local high administration could not easily find the investigators at the spot, while a great number of «scientific investigators» were chiefly interested in two things, namely, criticism of administration and scaffolding of hypotheses with the facts picked up here and there. I had heard such complaints on the part of high administrators, the full meaning of which became clear to me only when my own work was completed. Some of these administrators told me that they were asking for practical advice as to what should be done to these populations; but most of the investigators could formulate nothing except meaningless impractical general statement. Here it may be noted that many of these administrators greatly encouraged local research societies. Such were e. g. several governor-generals of Eastern Siberia (in Irkutsk) beginning from Count Muraviev-Amurskij, governor-general of the Far East (in Khabarowsk) ending with N. L. Gondatti, who himself was known by his ethnographical and anthropological works; a great number of governors and vice-governors, whom I personally knew, were greatly interested in these problems, e. g. in Transbaikalia, Amur and Maritime governments.

64. Some travellers with great pride say how many hours they spent pressing their victim with stupid questions learnt from «questionnaires» and book. Cf. e. g. L Sternberg Divine Election. He naturally had a great number of imitators of his «school».

65. As a matter of fact, the most amusing stories were told to the Tungus, so they had to explain what I was actually doing; sometimes they wondered how these petty officials could not understand. When we were living in a Tungus Birarchen village on the Amur River, the local authorities told the Tungus that our aim was to gather Tungus together, to form from them a Tungus regiment under my command for Russia needed (1916) many troops for fighting Germans. As an example of Tungus attitude another fact is curious: in 1917 when the revolution broke out we were arrested, in a train of the Amur Railway on our way to Transbaikalia, as «helpers of old regime»; the Tungus who travelled with us (a Birarchen) refused to leave us alone with the new authorities and as final conclusion as to their activity he told us: «In fact, these new authorities are more stupid than the pettiest officials of the new Chinese Government» (that of Chang Tso-lin). Indeed, I could not defend new authorities and I did agree with the Tungus.

66. The work among them may be better compared with that carried out among the groups of European complex. Here, by the way, I may point out that the methods of approach of European groups naturally must be different. Generally, the method of approach, in my eyes, is not something absolutely fixed; there are different methods. I admit that in some cases the only way of investigation is the method of negative reactions. So that the above description is not a kind of an ethnographic panacea. The ethnographer must adapt himself to the individual characters of the units under investigation.

 
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