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6 July 2011

Celebrating 106 years since the birth of ethnographer Leonid Potapov

Translated by Heda Jindrak

Celebrating 106 years since the birth of ethnographer Leonid PotapovToday marks 106 years from the birth of Leonid Potapov - Soviet ethnographer, doctor of history, professor, aureate of State(Stalin's) prize of USSR, Merited Scholar of RF, Merited scholar of Tuvinian ASSR. L. P. Potapov was a strong researcher of the history and culture of Altai, Shors, Khakass people, of Tuvans and some other people of South Siberia religious beliefs of non-Russian populations of South Siberia receive special attention in all his works.

He formulated the question about the relatively late origin of shamanism among people of South Siberia, evolving on the substrate of  ancient local nature cults and folk understanding of humans.

In the sphere of spiritual culture, Potapov turned a special attention to pre-Islamic beliefs of people of Central Asia.

Ethnogenesis as a complex problem in the sphere of social sciences was a life-long interest of Professor Potapov. He took the position of a complex approach to the multifaceted ethnographic material in combination with data from archival, literary and archeological sources.

In 1948, the scholar's monumental work "Ocherki po istorii altaitsev"(Notes on the history of Altai people) (Novosibirsk,1948), which received the State Award. He is one of authors of multi-volume "Ocherki istorii SSSR" as well as "Istoriya SSSR", he participated in writing and editing the five-volume "Istoriya Sibiri"(History of Siberia). Beside that Leonid Pavlovich published "Kratkiy ocherk kulturi I byta altaitsev'(Short notes on the culture and subsistence of Altai people) (Gorno-Altaisk 1948), "Kratkie ocherki istorii, etnografii khakasov" (XVII-XIX veka) (Abakan, 1952), "Origins and formation of Khakass ethnicity (Abakan 1957), "Ethnic composition and origin of Altai people" (L. 1969, and "Ocherki narodnogo byta Tuvintsev" (M. 1969).

From 1949, Potapov was the head of large-scale complex Sayan-Altai expedition, which encompassed the mountainous Altai, Shoria, Khakassia and Tuva in its scope.

From 1957 this expedition was reorganized into the Tuvan complex archeological-ethnographic expedition, which had as its task to explore and study archeologic-ethnographic materials as to the problems of ethnogenesis and history of Tuvans. The expedition was active from 1957 to 1966, inclusive.

The archeological investigations of archeology teams of A. D. Grach, S. I. Vainshtein and V. P. Diakonova.  assumed a large scope. As a result of the work of this expedition, three volumes of "Trudy Tuvinskoy kompleksnoy arkheologo-etnograficheskoy ekspeditsii", published under the leadership and editing of L.P. Potapov were published, as well as many monographs by L. P. Potapov, A. D. Grach, S. I. Vainshtein and V. P. Diakonova. Members of the expedition took immediate part in the creation of collective monograph "Istoriya Tuvy" (vol. 1). The "Works" of the expedition received high appreciation at home and abroad.

In 1956 the collective of Siberia research workers of the Institute of Ethnography of AN USSR published a monumental collected work "Narody Sibiri" (People of Siberia, from the series "People of the World"). The voluminous collection includes chapters "Altai people", "Khakass", Tuvans" and "Shors", written by Leonid Potapov. With participation of other writers, he wrote the chapter "Istoriko-ethnograficheskiy ocherk russkogo naseleniya Sibiri v dorevoluchnyi period". This book was translated into English and published by University of Chicago (USA).

Leonid Pavlovich was one of the editors and authors of a collective work "Istoriko-etnograficheskiy atlas Sibiri" (AN SSSR. M. L. 1961)

The collective of authors  turned special attention in this work to the material culture of Siberian people. Under Potapov's editing, such fundamental works as  "Materialy po izobrazitelnomu iskusstvu narodov Sibiri XIX - nachala XX vv." By S. V. Ivanov (1934), and his "ornament narodov Sibiri kak istoricheskiy istochnik"(1963) and others.

L. P. Potapov was one of the leading specialists of museum work in USSR and Russia. As the head of Siberian section and deputy director in the science part of GME of peoples of USSR, he performed the logistics of large-scale expositions. In 1941, his name was listed in the republic Book of Honor of Narkompros of RSFSR for successful work as museum curator science.

Together with other scientists of our country, he represented soviet ethnography at international congresses and conventions. He took active part in the work of the XXIII and XXV international congresses of Orientalists, which took place in London (1954) and in Moscow (1960), as well as  the VI International congress of anthropologists and ethnographers (Paris 1960). At the VII International congress of anthropological and ethnographic studies, in Moscow, August 1964, he led the section of museum curatorship.  On assignment by AN SSSR, he often traveled to various countries: Czechoslovakia, England and Mexico.

L. P. Potapov was the founder of  school of studies of the people of Siberia, most of all, of course, the Sayan-Altai region. He prepared 34 candidates and 14 Doctors of sciences.

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