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Vasily Barthold
Born15 November [O.S. 3 November] 1869
Died19 August 1930(1930-08-19) (aged 60)

Vasily Vladimirovich Bartold (Russian: Васи́лий Влади́мирович Барто́льд;[note 1] 15 November [O.S. 3 November] 1869 – 19 August 1930), who published in the West under his German baptism name, Wilhelm Barthold,[1] was a Russian orientalist who specialized in the history of Islam and the Turkic peoples (Turkology).


Barthold was born in St. Petersburg to a Russianized German family.[1] His career spanned the last decades of the Russian Empire and the first years of the Soviet Union.

In 1899, Stanley Lane-Poole's book "Muslim Dynasties" was published in Barthold's translation with numerous corrections of the translator.[2]

In 1900, after defending his thesis "Turkestan in the Age of the Mongol Invasion" (Parts 1 and 2, St. Petersburg, 1898-1900), Bartold received the degree of Doctor of Oriental History.

In 1901 V. Bartold was appointed Extraordinary and in 1906 Ordinary Professor of St. Petersburg University.

He was the secretary of the Russian Committee for the Exploration of Central and East Asia, founded in 1903.

In 1904 he made archaeological excavations in the vicinity of Samarkand; in 1910 he was elected corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences, in 1913 - Ordinary Academician in the category "Literature and History of Asian peoples".[3]

In 1912 in the work "The Khaliph and the Sultan" Bartold made a scientific discovery: he proved that the idea of the transfer of spiritual power of the last Abbasid Khaliph Al-Mutawakkil III to the Ottoman Sultan Selim Yavuz in the XVI century is a legend that appeared not earlier than the XVIII century.

In May 1913 Bartold undertook a scientific trip to the Southern Ural, Siberia and Central Asia, visited Orenburg, Ufa and the village of Sterlibashevo, Sterlitamak district, Ufa province. In February 1917 Bartold joined the academic Commission for the Exploration of the Tribal Composition of the Population of Russia and Neighbouring Countries (chaired by Academician Sergey Oldenburg).

After the October Socialist Revolution, Bartold headed the College of Orientalists, established in 1921 at the Asian Museum. One of the important tasks he was involved in during the first years of Soviet power was the creation of a written language for the non-written peoples of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the USSR and the replacement of the Arabic alphabet with the Cyrillic alphabet.

Bartold was one of the participants and organizers of the First All-Union Turkological Congress in Baku (1926).

In 1924-1926 he visited Baku, where he took an active part in the organization of the Oriental Faculty at the Baku State University by the professors of the Leningrad and Kazan Universities. Especially for the students at this university he delivered cycles of lectures "History of Azerbaijan", "On the place of the Caspian regions in the history of the Muslim world", where he analyzed the historical significance of some cities of Azerbaijan, in particular Baku.

In Baku he met with scientists, teachers, local administration, visited museums, mosques, the Shah's palace, fortress and cemeteries. In addition to his work in Baku, he was engaged in preserving the mausoleums of Nizami Ganjavi, Ferdowsi and Korkut and translated the Oghuz epic " The Book of Korkut Ata".

He got acquainted with and translated some manuscripts from the collection of Azerbaijan University Library and Sabir Library. He read reports at the meetings of the historical and ethnographic section of the Society for the Survey and Exploration of Azerbaijan at the Baku House of Education and at the First All-Union Turkological Congress in Baku (1926). The information he collected about the city of Baku is included in the article "Baku" in his "Encyclopedia of Islam".[4]

He visited many libraries in the world (England, Germany, France, Turkey and others), the USSR (Leningrad, Moscow, Tashkent, Baku and others). The main purpose of his trips abroad and throughout the Soviet Union was the exploration of eastern manuscript collections. His good knowledge of the work of libraries allowed him not only to give lectures on the history of archival work for the students of the Archival Courses at the Petrograd Archaeological Institute (1918), but also to make articles and reviews on the state of libraries and their manuscript departments, to make suggestions on the collection of materials, their disclosure through catalogues etc.

In January 1927 he was invited by Nikolai Marr to the Leningrad Public Library as a consultant on the works of the Eastern Department with payment from scientific credits, and from 1 February 1928 he was enrolled as a non-staff employee.

Barthold's lectures at the University of Saint Petersburg were annually interrupted by extended field trips to Muslim countries. In the two volumes of his dissertation (Turkestan down to the Mongol Invasion, 1898-1900), he pointed out the many benefits the Muslim world derived from Mongol rule after the initial conquests. Barthold was the first to publish obscure information from the early Arab historians on the Kievan Rus'. He also edited several scholarly journals of Muslim studies, and contributed extensively to the first edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam. In 1913, he was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences. In February 1917 he was appointed to the Commission for the Study of the Tribal Composition of the Population of the Borderlands of Russia.

After the Russian Revolution, Barthold was appointed director of the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, a post he held from 1918 to 1921. He wrote three authoritative monographs on the history of Islam, namely Islam (1918), Muslim Culture (1918) and The Muslim World (1922). He also contributed to the development of Cyrillic writing for the Muslim countries of Soviet Central Asia.

Most of his writings were translated to English, Arabic, and Persian. Barthold's collected works were reprinted in 9 volumes between 1963 and 1977, and while Soviet editors added footnotes deploring his 'bourgeois' attitudes, his prestige was such that the text was left uncensored, despite not conforming to a Marxist interpretation of history. Some of his works have been reprinted more recently in Moscow.



  1. ^ The following spellings can be found: Vasilij V. Bartolʹd, Vasilij Vladimirovič Bartolʹd, Vasilij Bartolʹd, Vasilij Vladimirovič Bartolʹdu, Wilhelm Barthold, W. Berthold, Wīlhilm Bārtuld, Vasilij Vladimirovič Barthold, V. V. Barthold, Polish: Wasilij Władimirowicz Bartołd.


  1. ^ a b Bregel, Yuri. "Wilhelm Barthold". Encyclopaedia Iranica, online edition. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  2. ^ Н. Акрамов, Б. А. Литвинский. Выдающийся русский востоковед В. В. Бартольд: научно-биографический очерк. — АНТ ССР, 1963. — 110 с.
  3. ^ Густерин П. В. Коран как объект изучения. — Саарбрюккен: LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing. — 2014. — С. 47. — ISBN 978-3-659-51259-9.
  4. ^ "WebCite query result". webcitation.org. Retrieved 2023-11-30. ((cite web)): Cite uses generic title (help)
Preceded byVasily Radlov Director of the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography 1918–1921 Succeeded byYefim Karskiy