§ Широкогоровы §
toggle menu

36. Accumulation Of The Facts

In the previous chapters we have seen that the Tungus accumulate the facts cognized into complexes of knowledge. The facts naturally must be first cognized and the Tungus succeed rather well because of their habit of observing animals and nature in general. Indeed, the cognition of facts depends on the one hand on the extension of their knowledge which facilitates the approach to the new unknown phenomena and on the other hand, on the practical need of the facts for carrying on their cultural routine.

Naturally among the people who have no writing, as among the Northern Tungus [235], the only way to accumulate the facts is to record and transmit them in oral form. Indeed, this form may be reliable only on the condition of accuracy of statement of facts and accuracy of their further transmission. It may be here noted that the Tungus as a rule are very strict when they relate hunting events, or facts concerning other animals and other ethnical groups, also in general any fact to be communicated to other people. The Tungus may make involuntary mistakes and may give an involuntary misinterpretation of the facts which depend on their familiarity with the subject and degree of clearness of the original statement, but they would not believe the people who are not able to relate clearly and without distorting the facts. Such a man would be known for ever as an unreliable person. In this respect, the Tungus possess a special intuition which helps them to define their attitude towards the speaker. The liars are considered as the worst possible people. This particular element of the Tungus complex is conditioned by the need of having exact information as to the animals and people met with, which is necessary for successful carrying on hunting and maintaining social relations. Indeed, the fact that the Tungus have to transmit their knowledge through the mechanism of oral transmission is greatly responsible for the fact of their strictness in the relation of the facts and inferences. Indeed, if the Tungus would be inclined toward distortion of the facts and conclusions, their technical knowledge could not be preserved at all. There is one more condition which greatly helps the Tungus in maintaining tradition and principle of truthfulness in their daily practice. We have seen that a Tungus preserves his connection with his clansmen throughout his life. The common interests of the clan in which the facts are accumulated and transmitted are very important, for a member of the clan cannot live beyond the clan. The latter interferes with his family life, it assists the clan member if he needs it, which may be in form of food supply, marriage etc. Owing to this a Tungus would not mislead clansmen, and he would not try to hide something from clansmen and use it in his personal interest. In fact, if he would do so his personal gain might become subject to the redistribution, direct or indirect, among the clansmen.

From the above remarks it is evident that the Tungus preference for truth is not that of a particular moral complex, but it is imposed by the conditions of life and practical consideration of the usefulness of truth from both personal and social point of view. This peculiarity of the Tungus behavior spreads over all Tungus attitudes, so that in general they are the people who are not inclined to the lie even in those cases when the lie might be useful for personal gain, as it is true of the relations originating beyond the clan, family and even beyond the ethnical unit, i.e. with the foreigners. This particular trait of the Tungus «character» has been very often noticed by travellers and neighbouring groups who greatly appreciated it together with the Tungus principle of keeping their word in the case of obligations taken on even by the previous generations (father and even grandfathers). These facts are so well known that I do not need to repeat them here.

Together with the destruction of the existing social organization and assimilation of the alien complexes by the Tungus the above indicated trait of the Tungus «character» is subject to changes. Such changes may be observed among the groups which are in direct contact with the alien groups in Transbaikalia, e.g. the Nomad Tungus, in Manchuria some groups of the Birarchen and Khingan Tungus who have already fallen under a strong alien influence.

In connection with this it may be noted that the facts and news immediately communicated to the members of the unit, -every one is conscious of the need of communicating to other members of the unit. Owing to this the news spread over the Tungus groups with a marvelous speed which greatly surprises travellers amongst other ethnical units as well.

In this respect the Manchu complex is quite different, at least at the present time. First of all, the Manchus who already for several centuries had their written system are not compelled to be very careful with the transmission of their knowledge through the oral method, so their memory and accuracy of statements need not be very strict. Second, the Manchus for a long time have already been in touch with several ethnical groups who ruled them (the Mongols) and whom they ruled (e.g. the Mongols, the Chinese, the Northern Tungus and palaeasiatic groups), which does not help to maintain frankness and truthfulness. Third, the field of Manchu activity — agriculture — does not require so many new facts as with the hunters who depend upon the migrating animals. Fourth, the long living in a state of organized large political units greatly reduced the need of practising the principle of maintaining and seeking truth. The government naturally took on itself the task of defending the common and private interests, so that the moral obligations in the consciousness of the Tungus were replaced by the legal regulations and administrative initiative. At the present time the Manchus cannot be characterized as a people particularly «honest» and seeking for truth. The individual adjustment within the clan and especially in the midst of the foreigners, pushed the Manchus to the adoption of a perfectly elaborated system of individual adaptation in which the lie is admitted as a legal method of self-defense and self-determination. This condition was greatly responsible for general weakening of the Manchus who gradually lost their faith in the loyalty of their own clansmen. It is impossible to say what the Manchus were before being involved in the complex political relations which brought them to the position of conquerors and rulers. However, it may be supposed that they were not like the Tungus were even in recent time. In fact, the Manchus, — agriculturists and people surrounded by their strong neighbours, — have been since long ago, in an entirely different position.

* * *

One has naturally to ask oneself the question as to how the Tungus transmit their knowledge without any written records. The methods of transmission are chiefly oral and only in small part based on the imitation of the products of the culture represented in physical objects and sequence of actions. In the description of the social organization, I have given some facts regarding the education amongst the Tungus. The knowledge of the facts and different methods of industrial and social technology is gradually transmitted to the coming generation by the experienced women and men of the clan. If such ones are not found in the family the young people may be transferred to another family or they may temporarily join the neighbours or hunting companies. It is thus evident that the need of and process of education are understood by the Tungus and they designate it by the starter far used in majority of present dialects and in Manchu (tad) which may be rendered as «to teach», «to learn» etc [236].

In the preceding chapters we have seen that the amount of Tungus knowledge to be transmitted is not small. Moreover, the approximate knowledge which may be received in the regular schools (among the so-called civilized groups) is not absolutely indispensable for the pupils and it may be acquired in a small part, while the knowledge of facts regarding the geographical conditions, animals, and methods of nomadising and hunting are absolutely indispensable and must be correct and very good, for otherwise the men will not be able to carry on their profession and gradually the knowledge acquired by the previous generations will be forgotten altogether. Naturally, the teachers are the experienced old men whose opinions and knowledge are appreciated. Such an experienced man would teach his young men by telling them what they have to accept as a «truth» and what they may accept as «doubtful», at last what they do not need to know. In the last group are included fairy-stories, jokes etc. which are regarded as a mere pastime. One may hear the Tungus ask: «Is it true or it is just a story.» If it is a simple story it would be accepted as such. As a matter of fact, there are Tungus who are interested in true stories (history and experience) and in the account of facts, but they would not listen to a storyteller. Yet, there are old men who perfectly well know the facts, but who are rather indifferent to stories of all types. Sometimes the men of middle age would become authorities as to the facts to be acquired, and sometimes very young men, even young boys may become famous story-tellers. It is not very frequent that both inclinations are found in the same person [237].

Such a distinction of two types of «educators», perhaps even of two distinct psychomental complexes, may be ob-served among all ethnical groups of Tungus. It is thus natural that these types cannot be regarded as one type and their complexes fused. Yet, still less can one regard the Tungus folklore, in a narrow sense, as reflecting the system of their positive knowledge, — the Tungus themselves make a sharp distinction between the two. Indeed, some of the Tungus «true stories», as they are transmitted by tradition may be an erroneous approach to the facts, and some of their theories («hypotheses») which are believed to be «truth» may be erroneous. However, the Tungus themselves would sharply distinguish two groups of which the folklore in a narrow sense cannot be criticized for it is not «true» but consists of «stories», while the second group covering facts and hypotheses can be criticized, and increased with new facts or their interpretation. Sometimes amongst the Tungus the question may be raised as to how the story must be regarded as a «true» one or a «fairy-story». They would sometimes disagree. Such is the fate of many epic stories which are very often differently accepted by the listeners [238]. When we proceed in the second part of this work to the discussion of various hypotheses we shall better see the difference that exists in the Tungus psychomental complex between the facts accumulated, the hypotheses and folklore in the narrow sense.

Indeed not all Tungus may succeed in mastering the existing complex of knowledge. Some of them would not be able to learn everything and they would become specialists of a certain limited group of knowledge. Such is, for instance, the case of the hunters specialized in hunting of squirrels, or specialized in hunting sable. These people would not know very much about the hunting and characters of other animals, such as the bears, and tigers. On the other hand, the men do not always know details of woman's work, especially, the making of the chamois. However, there are some men, and also women who do not confine their interest to a limited field of knowledge and who may accumulate and may transmit to the other generations all of the existing knowledge. Yet, the Tungus have their own measure of intelligence and general equipment of individuals and they establish different attitudes depending upon the individual.

The loss of acquired knowledge may interest us in not a lesser degree that the acquisition Of the knowledge and its transmission. The loss of knowledge amongst the Tungus is easier than among the groups which are numerous and which have written records. In fact, since the tradition is based chiefly on its oral form and since the stimuli for acquisition of certain groups of knowledge may disappear there is very little chance that some of the knowledge wil 1 be preserved. Indeed, the acquisition of knowledge of the behaviour of the sable and working out of the methods of catching this animal's skin unbroken has required the effort of many generations. At last, the Tungus knew how this animal might be taken with the minimum effort. When this animal became extinct the stimulus of transmitting the complex «sable-hunting» ceased, to be effective. Three or four generations would suffice for a complete oblivion of the complex. True, it may be preserved for a longer time as historic record, but it will not be restored, if no sable re-appears In such a condition I have observed the Khingan Tungus who do not remember how they used to hunt the sable, a fact historically known. The Birarchen begin to forget it, as well. However, the methods of sable-hunting are still well preserved amongst the Reindeer Tungus of Manchuria in whose region the sable is not yet entirely extinct. Such instances are common among the Tungus groups. Together with the change of primary milieu (e.g. extinction of animals, deforestation etc.) the corresponding complex may disappear. Yet, still in a greater degree it is true of the cultural complexes which may be partially lost and together with their loss (e.g. the hunting complex) the corresponding elements of the psychomental complex may be lost too. I have already quoted the case of loss of the hunting complex and, together with it, of the complex of knowledge of the animals, e.g. amongst the agriculturists-Tungus, amongst the Nomad Tungus and amongst the Manchus. In this way the whole psychomental complex may be substituted and former profound knowledge of certain branches forgotten altogether, so that the same (physically) ethnical unit if continued, under the pressure of new needs may again rebuild the knowledge of a certain branch of facts formerly known and afterwards forgotten. In this condition there were found some Manchu groups which after the downfall of their political rule in China returned home and restarted their relations with the Tungus from whom they relearned the hunting and the complex connected with it.

As to the Manchus in respect to education, they were in an entirely different position. In fact, their complex of agricultural knowledge was transmitted in the usual oral way, while the existence of the books permitted them to transfer a part of this function to the shoulders of professional teachers. Together with the teaching of Manchu there was also introduced Chinese language owing to which the Manchu complex began to give way to the Chinese complex. The process was especially activized because of the lack of the original Manchu books, — most of Manchu books are translations from Chinese. The oral tradition, which might be a genuine Manchu tradition, in the conditions of the Manchus as a ruling group of China could not be carried on for the younger generations were depending on their success in the assimilation of the Chinese complex. Thus, what originally was the Manchu method of teaching and transmission of the Manchu cultural complex in general we may only suppose with more or less great probability. The only exception should be the transmission of the tradition regarding the clans and shamanism. The Manchus after introduction of written records of the clans created a different condition for the preservation of the clan tradition and, as we have pointed out, a new need of re-adaptation of the term for the exogamic unit (vide supra Section 31). Owing to the existence only of the oral tradition among the Northern Tungus the latter did not meet with this peculiar need of new terms for «clan». On the other hand, the keeping of very voluminous clan records has become a great burden for the social function of clan, which is also a curious aspect of the maladjustment of the method of tradition in social organization. Something similar occurred to shamanism where the written records deprived shamanism of its plasticity in adjustment and formalized it. To this question I shall return later.


235. Although some Northern Tungus groups have begun to learn foreign languages and writing, practically no serious attempt has been made for using the Mongol and Manchu alphabet for recording their own language. However, some Tungus words and especially the clan names have been transcribed in Manchu for the practical needs of administration. During my stay among the Tungus, I attempted to show them the method of phonetic transcription, formerly used by the linguists of the Russian Academy of Science. In several instances, I succeeded to the extent that some individuals themselves recorded some stories. In due time, these records will be published, I hope. The Soviet authorities have also at-tempted to adapt phonetic transcription to the Tungus language in form of «latinization». There is a large group of specialists who, it may be supposed, even against their will, have to compose a new alphabet for Asiatic groups including the Chinese and in the future for all languages which do not use the Latin alphabet. Since the fact is interesting from the ethnological point of view I shall digress to mention some details. The stimulus of this reform is the simplification of the methods of disseminating communistic propaganda in view of spreading the languages into areas open to the political influence of the Soviets. It is hoped that after the standardization of the alphabet, there will be a fusion of all languages into a single language of mankind which, it is supposed, will be communistic. This linguistical pseudo-scientific justification was adapted by N. Marr. It may be thus noted that this attempt at the creation of Tungus writing is only a step toward the destruction of the Tungus language which by these steps would soon be led to absorption (fusion with other languages). In this footnote we cannot go into the interesting details of this ethnological process. Indeed, since there are many Tungus dialects which differ one from the other the creation of a single system of writing will result in the creation of a new written language, for the basis of which there will be selected perhaps one of dialects better known to the invention of this language. Furthermore, since the Tungus themselves are not numerous at all and there is a very small probability that they would produce broad minded linguists, it is to be expected that this will be taken by some of those ignorant and audacious persons who do not find any other way of earning their living and become specialists of the assimilation and economic exploitation of ethnical groups of Siberia. In these hands the Tungus written language will be modified according to their taste and ideas as to the language in general and particularly the Tungus language. Such a language if it ever becomes of general use (personally I do not think it will for the Tungus soon know other languages) may create in the future great confusion in the mind of the linguists who will not know the origin of this language. There is already a practical step made by J. P. Alkor (Koskin) who in 1930 published (in Russian) Projet d'alphabet pour la langue des evenkis (toungouses). The attempt is rationalized and justified by the theoretical considerations. Also vide Materials of the First All-Russian conference for development of the languages and writing of the peoples of North, edited by J. P. Alkor (Koskin) and J. D. Davydov (1932, Moskow-Leningrad), which is a document of a great ethnographic interest for it greatly reflects an ethnocentric complex, yet quite unconsciously.

236. In Bir. by side of this stem there is used another one — tan — which is «to stretch», «to pull», etc.

237. Unfortunately most of the travellers among the so-called primitive peoples are looking for exotic facts which would appear interesting to simple-minded readers. The facts which are similar to those existing in the European complex are very often omitted altogether. In case the observed «primitive man» does not know the «folklore» of his people he receives no attention on the part of the investigator for he cannot supply any «striking» fact well suited to the idea of what the primitive men should be. In witness of my statement I may take numerous lists of questions prepared for inexperienced travellers, from which it may be seen what the traveller is expected to bring. It is not surprising that there was gradually created the conception of primitive man based chiefly on his folklore. It would be equivalent if the «primitive» man would form his idea of the psychomental complex of «civilized» man by studying fiction and the theatre and accepting, for instance. Le Chantecler of Rostand as a biological conception of Europeans.

238. As a matter of fact I could see no difference in this respect between the Tungus and the so called civilized groups. Amongst the latter pure imagination may sometimes be accepted as a scientifically established fact although later on it will be given up as an erroneous conception. The history of different sciences abound in such examples, so without leaving the ground of ethnography (and linguistics) we may quote, for instance, the evolution of cultural phenomena; minute description of the history of Indo-European languages and peoples with their hypothetic migrations, divisions, origin etc.; the ural-altaic hypothesis, and many others which a few decades later will be understood by the most backward professionals as the latter now understand the futility of calculations how many devils may be placed on the point of a needle. However, scholastics who worked on these important hypotheses were considered great thinkers and scientists of their time. In their time there existed special literary creations and folklore which were never regarded by them as «true», while their calculation of the devils were regarded as a scientific truth.

 
Электропочта shirokogorov@gmail.com
© 2009 - 2018