Императорская археологическая комиссия (1859–1917): история первого государственного учреждения российской археологии от основания до реформы [Imperatorskaja Arxeologičeskaja Komissija (1859-1917) : istorija pervogo gosudarstvennogo učreždenija rossijskoj arxeologii ot osnovanija do reformy] tom 1 - Normandie Université Access content directly
Books Year : 2019

La Commission Archéologique Impériale en Russie 1859-1917 : l’histoire du premier établissement public national de l’archéologie russe de la fondation à la réforme volume 1

Императорская археологическая комиссия (1859–1917): история первого государственного учреждения российской археологии от основания до реформы [Imperatorskaja Arxeologičeskaja Komissija (1859-1917) : istorija pervogo gosudarstvennogo učreždenija rossijskoj arxeologii ot osnovanija do reformy] tom 1

Maria Medvedeva
  • Function : Scientific advisor


In the mid-19th century, Emperor Alexander II was carrying out large scale liberal reforms in Russia. In the course of these reforms, a problem was put forward about public preservation of historical monuments and archaeological sites as national cultural heritage. A step to this direction was undertaken in 1859 when the Imperial Archaeological Commission (IAC) was organized in Saint-Petersburg. Over the second half of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the Commission remained the single State body concerned with archaeology and protection of sites and monuments on the territory of Russian Empire. In its activities, this Institution combined scientific research, organizational, monitoring and controlling functions. In the present monograph mainly created by the collective of the Institute for the History of Material Culture, Russian Academy of Sciences, the history of the first archaeological institution in Russia is systematically presented and analysis of its activities proposed for the first time. The organization of IAC was preceded by a long process of formation of the interest of the Russian society to the archaeology. The immediate precursor of IAC was the “Office of Archaeological Researches” founded in 1841 by the Minister for Home Affairs Lev Perovsky (1796–1856). The activities of the Office were concerned with investigations of archaeological sites of Kerch and Bosporos, Chersonesos, kurgans in the surroundings of Vladimir and Suzdal and settlements of the Golden Horde on the Volga River. During this period, the main principles which afterwards lay in the foundation of IAC were established. After the death of Lev Perovsky, the investigations were entrusted to Count Sergey Stroganov (1794–1882). The result of this appointment was that the assistant of Lev Perovsky and his nephew Count Alexey Uvarov (1824–1884), who planned to stand himself at the head of Russian archaeology, left Saint-Petersburg and moved to Moscow where in 1864 he founded the Moscow Archaeological Society in opposition to the Imperial Archaeological Commission. The confrontation between two Institutions however became actually a stimulus for the progressive advancement of the science and protection of monuments of antiquity. In 1857, Sergey Stroganov proposed to organize the “Main Archaeological Commission”. That project became the basis of IAC, the statute of which was approved on February 2, 1859, by Emperor Alexander II. That statute secured for the Commission the right to conduct “earthen excavations”, monitoring of the discoveries of hoards and archaeological objects in Russia and supervision over building activity at archaeological sites. The principles underlying the foundation of IAC were partly oriented to France and its “Commission des Monuments Historiques” (1837). The experience of the activities of IAC was used in organizing archaeological institutions in some European countries (Austria, Italy). The activity of IAC may be subdivided through three periods connected with its chairmen: 1859–1882 when Sergey Stroganov was the chairmen of IAC, 1882–1886 when it was headed by the Director of the Imperial Hermitage Museum Alexander Vasil’chikov (1832–1890), and 1886–1918 when the Commission was directed by Count Alexey Bobrinskoy (1852–1927). Originally, the staff of the Commission consisted of eight persons. In the activity of the Commission, such famous historians and archaeologists took part as Ivan Zabelin (1859–1876), Vladimir Tiesenhausen (1825–1902) and Nikodim Kondakov (1876–1891). Initially, the Commission was housed in the palace of Stroganov in Nevsky Prospect in Saint-Petersburg. The activities of the Commission have established the system of regulation of archaeological researches in Russia, which with several alterations existed until the beginning of the 21st century. This system was based on the “Otkryty list” (laissez-passer) as individual authorizations for researchers to conduct excavations with the indispensable submission of a report to the archives of the Commission. This practice has initiated the creation of the unique corpus of sources for the archaeology, architectural monuments and sites of different nations and modern states of East-Central Europe and Asia. The main activity of the Commission in 1859–1886 included excavations of sites of the Scythian culture and Classical Greek antiquities on the Taman Peninsula, in the Crimea (Kerch, Bosporos) and on some other territories, now in Ukraine. Nevertheless, the widespread opinion that the Commission studied exclusively the Classical and Scythian antiquities is incorrect: already then the first investigations in Siberia, Central Asia were conducted as well as studies of sites of the Bronze and Stone ages in Northern Russia. The finds came predominantly to the collections of the Imperial Hermitage Museum in Saint-Petersburg and Historical Museum in Moscow. Another important responsibility of the Commission was the acquisition of monetary hoards and treasures of historical objects found on the territory of Russian Empire. The first investigator of hoards was a curator of the Hermitage collections Julian Iversen (1859–1900). Simultaneously, the Commission consulted the restoration and conservation activities of the Ministry of Home Affairs, primarily for the monuments of the defensive architecture and church buildings. For that purpose, the staff of the Commission included a representative of the Academy of Arts Feodor Solntsev (1859–1892). Protection of the monuments of archaeology also was an important task of the Commission. In 1866, Sergey Stroganov achieved the prohibition of treasure-hunting in Russia. The Commission, as the central state institution, actively collaborated with provincial Statistic Committees and Archive Commissions in the field of studies and protection of local monuments and sites. During the chairmanship of Alexander Vasil’chikov, the reforms of the Commission’s activities were prepared. These reforms took place already under Count Alexey Bobrinskoy. In 1886–1887, an interdisciplinary program for studies of Slavic-Russian archaeology, the eastern Black-Sea region, Siberia etc. was developed. During that period, the Commission was moved to an office in the Winter Palace in Saint-Petersburg. On March 11, 1889, Emperor Alexander III approved by his decree the exclusive right of the Commission to conduct archaeological excavations and to license their execution on state and public lands. Simultaneously, the Commission, together with the Academy of Arts, was charged with supervision over restoration and protection of objects of art and architectural monuments. In 1890, the “Regulations for the Archaeological Commission and Academy of Arts on the order of consideration of petitions about restoration of historical monuments” were approved. Beginning with 1894, special sessions of IAC began to consider projects of restorations an conservations. The main specialists of IAC in the branch of restoration were Petr Pokryshkin (1870–1922), Konstantin Romanov (1882–1942) and Dmitry Mileev (1878–1914). The Commission got also Vladimir Suslov (1857–1921), Nikolay Sultanov (1850–1908), Ieronim Kitner (1839–1929) and Georgy Kotov (1859–1942) to take part in the architectural restorations. These activities resulted in establishment of standards of modern scientific restoration, using primarily the archaeological approach, which are efficacious even in the 21st century. Among the most successful restoration projects of IAC, noteworthy are the Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour on the Nereditsa hill near Novgorod, Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour at Berestovo in Kyiv, the Saint Boris and Gleb church at Kolozha in Grodno, the Saint George church in Yuryev-Polskoy, Cathedral of the Dormition of Mother of God in the Moscow Kremlin, Ipatyevsky Monastery in Kostroma, Ferapontov Monastery in Vologda region, Bakhchisarai Palace in Crimea, Smolensk and Pskov city walls etc. Among the most important problems of IAC in the restoration issues were its relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. As early as 1893, the Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod Konstantin Pobedonostsev (1827–1907) confirmed that restoration of churches must be conducted with permission of the Commission, however in practice many churches were disfigured by illiterately made repairs. Part of the difficulties proceeded from contradictions in Russian law. Notwithstanding the fact that the Commission had succeeded in developing an algorithm of its relations with the clergy, during the World War I, under the conditions of the general crisis of the Russian State and society, the Synod attempted to withdraw religious monuments from the public control. The new objectives and expansion of the geography of researches of IAC demanded a new staff of the Commission. That approval was received in 1888 and 1902. The membership of the Commission included Alexander Spitsyn (1858–1931), Nikolay Veselovsky (1848–1918), Vasily Latyshev (1855–1921), Boris Farmakovsky (1870–1928) and others. Alexey Bobrinskoy actively used his right of appointment of corresponding members and honorary members of the Commission. Among the corresponding members appointed in 1886–1917 were Vladimir Stasov (1824–1906), Vasily Radlov (1837–1918), Dmitry Samokvasov (1843–1911), Innokenty Lopatin (1839–1909), Alexander Bertier-Delagard (1842–1920), Alexander Lappo-Danilevsky (1863–1919), Yulian Kulakovsky (1855–1919), Nikolay Pantusov (1849–1909), Valentin Zhukovsky (1858–1919), Vladimir Malmberg (1860–1921), Sergey Zhebelev (1867–1941), Emil Roesler (?–?), Alexey Markov (1858–1920), Nikolay Marr (1864–1934), Mstislav Farmakovsky (1873–1946), Alexander Malein (1869–1938) and others. There was yet another category of assistants of the Commission — supernumerary members. They included Nikolay Pokrovsky (1848–1917) — an expert on Christian archaeology and Orthodox art, Vladimir Antonovich (1834–1908), Bohdan Khanenko (1849–1917), Ernst von Stern (1859–1924), Mikhail Rostovtsev (1870–1952), Alexey Shirinsky-Shikhmatov (1862–1930), Feodor Braun (1862–1942), Nikolay Bulychev (1852–1919) et al. In 1909, the 50th anniversary of the Commission and 25th anniversary of the activities of its chairman Alexey Bobrinskoy became something like summing up of the results of the works of IAC. The special role of the Commission is noteworthy regarding the studies of Scythian and Greek and Roman antiquities. The commission excavated about fifty ‘Royal’ kurgans containing rich Scythian burials from which the artistic gold objects are housed now in the Special Treasury of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint-Petersburg. Studies of Bosporan sites were continued: the Commission was in charge of the Kerch Museum of Antiquities which directed the archaeological excavations in this region. The museum was headed by Alexander Lyutsenko (1807–1884), Stepan Verebryusov (1819–1884), Fedor Gross (1822–1897), Karl Dumberg (1862–1931) and Vladislav Shkorpil (1853–1918). Funerary catacombs, important Classical, Jewish and Christian antiquities were here discovered. Since 1888, according to an order of Emperor Alexander III, IAC was entrusted with the direction of researches in the area of the Tauric Chersonesos and its surroundings. Karol Kościuszko-Waluszyński (1847–1907) was appointed the head of the excavations in Chersonesos. During the later years, the excavations were directed by Robert Loeper (1865–1918) and Leonid Moiseev (1882–1946). Under the direction of the Archaeological Commission, living blocks, buildings and necropolis dated to the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods had been discovered and investigated, as well as several dozens of Christian churches and basilicas. In 1902, the systematic excavations of Olbia began under the direction of Boris Farmakovsky, and in 1904 – the archaeological researches of Berezan Island began under the direction of Ernst von Stern. An expansive project came to be that of excavations in 1908–1914 of one of the first medieval stone church of Eastern Europe — the Church of the Tithe in Kyiv conducted under the direction of Dmitry Mileev. During the period of 1890–1914, the Commission was financing altogether up to twenty expeditions annually throughout more than fifteen provinces and regions of Russian Empire. It must be noted however that the level of understanding of archaeological evidence gained remained behind its accumulation. In the field of the archaeology of the Stone Age, the studies of the Commission revealed several important Neolithic sites of Eastern Europe. In 1905, Alexander Spitsyn discovered a Paleolithic site at Borshevo, Voronezh region. The same researcher also wrote in 1915 a synthetic and generalizing work on the Russian Paleolithic where he had summarized the results of archaeology of the Early Stone Age in Eastern Europe and comprehensively characterized the sites of Caucasus and Siberia. Nevertheless, it must be noted here that the major researches on the Stone Age were carried out the sphere of activities of the Commission. During investigations of archaeological sites of Siberia separated by thousands kilometers from the scientific centers of European Russia, the Commission maintained close relations with local archaeologists and ethnologists directing their efforts and licensing their excavations. At the funds and on the instructions of the Commission, the archaeological sites of Siberia were studied since the 1860s by Vasily Radlov (1837–1918), Dmitry Klements (1848–1914), Alexander Adrianov (1854–1920) and other scholars. Members of the Commission participated personally in investigations of antiquities of the Caucasus and Ciscaucasia. In 1887, Dmitriy Bakradze (1826–1890) proposed a program of archaeological exploration of the area of Sukhumi, and in 1889 IAC carried out description and photographing of objects of Georgian Christian art from sacristies of churches and monasteries in Georgia. Since 1892, Nikolay Marr conducted longstanding investigations of the ancient Armenian capital Ani, medieval towns, fortresses and churches (Dvin, Akhtamar). Simultaneously, the explorations of sites of the Bronze and Middle Ages (dolmens, the Maikop kurgan and the Koban culture) were carried out through the efforts of Nikolay Veselovsky and Emil Roesler. The initiative of studies of architectural and archaeological monuments in Central Asia also mainly belongs to IAC. In 1900s–1915, IAC just kept under control the works in this region, gathered and distributed local collections and stray finds through museums. Photographing of architectural, ethnographic and historical monuments was conducted. The first archaeological excavations are connected with the names of Nikolay Pantusov who investigated in 1860s–1890s Christian Nestorian cemeteries near the Syr-Darya River, and Nikolay Veselovsky who continued archaeological and architectural researches since 1884 until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1890 and 1896, Valentin Zhukovsky observed several archaeological sites. In the 1880s, Alexey Bobrinskoy and Vladimir Antonovich developed a program of interdisciplinary research in the field Slavic and medieval archaeology on the territory of Ukraine. Excavations of kurgans were started in the Dnieper River region, Bielorus’ and Novgorod region. At Gnezdovo near Smolensk, the Commission organized in 1890s-1900s excavations of kurgans and the settlement which initiated researches in the Viking Age in Eastern Europe. The systematization of mediaeval Slavic archaeology was proposed by Alexander Spitsyn. Of note is the IAC’s contribution to studies of mediaeval archaeological sites of Eastern Europe. These included the Malaya Pereshchepina hoard found in 1912 — the supposed funerary complex of Khan Kubrat, excavations of the settlement of Mayatskoe conducted by Nikolay Makarenko (1877–1938) in 1908–1909, sites of Ugro-Finnish and Baltic tribes — Lyadinsky and Lyutsinsky necropolis investigated in 1889–1891 by Evdokim Romanov (1855–1922), Vladimir Sizov (1840–1904), Vladimir Yastrebov (1855–1899) et al. The archaeology of the region of Perm of the 8th-9th centuries and sites of the Vyatka region also were included in the sphere of interests of IAC, inter alia due to the fact that a very rich collection of local archaeological materials belonged to Sergey Stroganov. Alexander Spitsyn proposed the first archaeological periodization of the Perm and Kama regions local history and distinguished a number of local archaeological cultures. By 1917, the Commission was a serious academic institution both in the branch of architectural and archaeological researches. It became the organizing centre of Russian archaeology actively collaborating with public structures and planning new directions of researches. It is exactly inside the academic community rather than at the communistic authority after the October 1917 that the idea sprang up to transform the Commission into the “Academy of Archaeological Sciences” in order to focus efforts of its members exclusively onto the scientific sphere. In October of 1918, Anatoly Lunacharsky (1875–1933) approves the new regulations of the Russian State Archaeological Commission. Nikolay Marr became its chairman whereas Alexey Bobrinskoy had to emigrate. On April 19, 1919, the decree on the foundation of the Russian Academy for the History of Material Culture was signed by the chairman of the Bolsheviks government Vladimir Ulyanov. In the early August, elections to the new Academy took place. The Academy was housed in the Marble Palace in Petrograd. We should regard August 7, 1919, as the first day of the Academy for the History of Material Culture and the last day of the history of the Archaeological Commission. On the basis of the Imperial Archaeological Commission and Academy for the History of Material Culture the modern archaeological institutions of Russia have emerged. The practices established by the Commission were put into the foundation of the present-day regulation of archaeological researches and the system of protection of archaeological sites. The experience of the Commission undoubtedly indicates that the protection of the cultural heritage may be effective only in the case where it is carried out within an academic system. The protection and restoration of historical monuments must be subdued to scientific goals and architectural researches. The role of IAC manifested in the establishing national archaeological and site protection systems of the European and Asiatic countries which once constituted the Russian Empire. The editorial activities of IAC have been reflected in 65 titles of periodicals and nonperiodicals: Reports of IAC, Proceedings of IAC, and Materials on the Archaeology of Russia etc. Nikodim Kondakov’s publication “Russian Hoards” (1896) and Yakov Smirnov’s “Oriental Silver” (1909) are special contributions to the Art history. The materials of IAC kept in the Manuscript and Photographic departments of Scientific archives of the Institute for the History of Material Culture, Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint-Petersburg (9,030 files and over 100,000 photographic imprints and negatives) conceal unique possibilities for future scientific discoveries and constitute an invaluable contribution of the Commission to studies and preservation of archaeological and cultural heritage of the World.
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hal-03140880 , version 1 (04-03-2021)



Aleksandr Musin, Maria Medvedeva (Dir.). Императорская археологическая комиссия (1859–1917): история первого государственного учреждения российской археологии от основания до реформы [Imperatorskaja Arxeologičeskaja Komissija (1859-1917) : istorija pervogo gosudarstvennogo učreždenija rossijskoj arxeologii ot osnovanija do reformy] tom 1. 2019, 978-5-9072-9807-1. ⟨10.31600/978-5-9072-9807-1⟩. ⟨hal-03140880⟩


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