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19 December 2011

Khakass original

Argumenty nedeli. Translated by Heda Jindrak

Khakass originalJudging by everything, Nikolai Fedorovich Katanov was a really exceptional personality. To this day, he is remembered by Khakass, Bashkir and Tatar people. For the first, he was the first Khakass scholar in history, for the second - he created the "Alphabet of Bashkir language", an as far as the third are concerned, his fundamental pedagogic work took place at Kazan University. There, in Kazan, he also participated for many years in the activities of Sobriety Association.


Nikolai Fedorovich Katanov (childhood name - Pora) was born on 6 May 1862 in a steppe place Izyum (Uzyum), 17 km northeast of Askiz of Turakhov ulus (now Askiz district of Republic Khakassia)) on the left bank of Abakan river. His parents belonged to two main tribal subdivisions of  Khakass people: his father was a Sagai, and mother was Kachin. Fedor Semyonovich Katanov ( his Khakass name - Khyzyl Katanov), was a scribe for the ulus. No information was preserved about the mother.


Gymnasium Student


In 1869 - 1876, Katanov studied at Askiz school, where his paternal uncle was a lecturer. After finishing school, Pora went to Krasnoyarsk gubernia gymnasium.  It was not without help from Ivan Kuznetsov-Krasnoyarskiy, the son of a famous Russian gold trader Petr Kuznetsov - the same one who in his time did not spare any money for education of the great painter Vasiliy Surikov.


Remarkably, this young Khakass' eagerness to learn was so great that he finished the gymnasium with a gold medal! Many documents are extant about the unusual successes of this extraordinary gymnasium student. In particular, the attestation of maturity reads:  "His general behavior was excellent, assiduousness in attending lectures and preparing assignments, as well as written reports was exemplary,

diligence was exemplary, and curiosity and eagerness to learn was equally excellent in all the subjects of the gymnasium curriculum."


It was at the gymnasium that Katanov wrote his first scientific work "Description of shamanic drum and costume of Sagai tribe".   Immediately  after finishing the gymnasium, years of hard study at the Faculty of  oriental languages of imperial Sankt-Peterburg university began for him.


University Student


As a student, Katanov worked up and published his notes on the Sagai dialect, which he made during his gymnasium years. At the same time, he met Peterburg Orientalists, among whom was also Nikolai Yadrintsev - a publicist, public activist, the discoverer of ancient Turkic monuments on river Orkhon, of Genghis Khan's capital Karakorum and Ordu-Balyk, the capital of Uighur Khanate in Mongolia.


In 1888 Nikolai Fedorovich finished the university with the degree of Candidate. And immediately, the Academy of Sciences and Russian geographic Society sent him on a four-year expedition: Eastern and Western Siberia, Northern Mongolia, Dzungaria, Chinese Turkestan - to study the way of life and languages of Turkic peoples.  During this entire assignment Nikolai Fedorovich was on staff as a scholarship professor of the department of oriental languages.


After the return from this expedition, Katanov became a Master of Turkic-Tatar languages and received an assignment at Kazan University: as professor extraordinaire in the department  of Turkic-Tatar dialects. Secretly he hoped to re-establish the former glory of this educational institution as one of  centers of oriental studies. His dream gradually became reality.




Almost immediately after his arrival to Kazan, Katanov became an active member of  Archeology, History and Ethnography  Association of Kazan University (OAIEK) which he remained to the end of his days. From 1896  to 1898, Nicolai Fedorovich was the secretary of this association. During that time he was also the editor of "Newsletter of the Association". And from 1898 to 1914 he was the head of OAIEK.


Thanks to dozens of publications in the "Newsletter of the Association" and multiple lectures, Katanov's name received renown  abroad. People wrote to him, sent packages…


One day, coming to pick up another package, Nikolai Fedorovich heard a postal official, who saw a "foreigner":  "You probably can't even sign your name. Ask somebody to sign for you. And let them write who you are." In response, he asked for a page of paper, and, in his calligraphic handwriting, he started to list all his ranks and degrees:


"Nikolai Fedorovich Katanov, corresponding member of Finno-Ugric Association in Helsingfors, Ethnographic Association in Budapest, Russian Committee for Study of Central and Eastern Asia in Peterburg, acting member of Archeological, historical and ethnographic Association, and Association of  friends of Russian Writing in Memory of Pushkin in Kazan, Kazan Translation Commission of Missionary Association and International Association of Science and Literature in Leven…"


Sense of humor never left the scholar in any situation. After all, Nikolai Fedorovich Katanov could express himself in a hundred languages, dialects and regional sub-dialects. He knew Latin, Ancient and modern Greek, Arabian, Turkish, Farsi… he spoke French, German, Tatar (Kazan) Kazakh, Bashkir, Chuvash, and others.


Khakass original



On the break of 19th and 20th centuries, Katanov created "Alphabet of Bashkir language". The exact date is not known, however, it is known that Bashkir translation of the Evangelium, published in 1902 in Kazan, used the alphabet proposed by Katanov. This alphabet was based on Russian print system. The reasons for specifically this choice are thought to have been similar to arguments used by Ibray Altynsarin, who created Kazakh alphabet, which was recently described in "NA" (see No.128-129 from 10 November).


"Books of general educational content are practically nonexistent in any of the Asiatic languages, we have to search for similar information in in the nearest Russian language. As a result, we decided that it is most convenient to print  true chrestomatics in Russian letters, so that it would directly correspond to its purpose,  to serve as an immediate guide to more scholarly and generally useful books, without contradicting these in either the content or in alphabet."


In 1903, Katanov defended his doctoral dissertation "Experience of study of Uriangkhai language" - a work which entered the golden foundation of world Turkic studies. In it, Nikolai Fedorovich not only introduced the Uriangkhai (Tuvan) dialect of Turkic language to the world, he presented an entire anthology of Turkic languages.


We already mentioned that Katanov is honored by Khakass, and Tatars, and Bashkirs. Thanks to the "Experience of study of Uriangkhai language", he is honored in Tuva as well. It is a pity that his memory is of "local character" in our time.  On the "federal level", the majority will most likely learn about Nikolai Fedorovich only from this publication. At the same time, Katanov, and Yakovlev, as well as Altynsarin, who were recently written about in "NA" have done a lot for creation of a single cultural space of Russian State.


In December of 1907, Katanov received a second doctoral degree because of the combined totality of his publications (Doctor of comparative philology), this was Katanov's "swan song". In November 1911, he, because of a combination of factors of complicated circumstances, went to work as a lecturer at Kazan Spiritual Academy, where he remained until the revolution. After events of October 1917,, he returned to Kazan University, where he lectured until his death. Nikolai Katanov died of a serious illness on 9 March 1922.

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