BEREZIN, IL’YA NIKOLAEVICH (1818-96), Russian orientalist known for his works on Iranian, Arabic, and Turkish philology and dialectology and on Mongol history (mainly on Rašīd-al-Dīn) and for his travel accounts of Transcaucasia and northern Persia. He was born to a government official, at Yugokamsk, in the region of Perm, on 19 (31, Julian calendar) July 1818 (or 1819; see Entsiklopedicheskiĭ slovar’, p. 511; Kuznetsova and Dantsig, p. 92 n. 1) and studied at the district school of Ekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk), at the gymnasium of Perm, and at the Oriental Faculty of the University of Kazan (1834) with the Arabist F. Erdmann and the Turcologist and Iranist A. K. Kazem-Beg. He graduated (1837), obtained a master’s degree in Oriental literature (1841), and was sent by his university (together with Wilhelm Dittel, another postgraduate) on a scholarly voyage (1842-45) to Transcaucasia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, Constantinople (where he stayed one year), and the Crimea. From 1846, he was professor extraordinary of Turkish at the University of Kazan (Dugat, pp. 15f.; Vengerov, pp. 66f.; Kononova, pp. 123f.; Barthold, pp. 737ff.). He was appointed to the professorship of Turkish at Kazan (1854) and then at St. Petersburg, where the Oriental Faculty was moved in 1855. His other official appointments included curator of coins and medals and censor of Oriental books printed at Kazan (1849-55), editor of the Kazan provincial bulletin (1852-54), member of a commission (at St. Petersburg) to foster learned publications (1860-63; treasurer, 1861-62), editor of the Oriental section of the Great Russian Encyclopaedia (1861-63), member of a commission to reform Russian universities (1863), from 1865 head keeper of Oriental coins (Vengerov, pp. 67f.), and state counselor. In 1858, he started traveling in Europe (Paris, London, Germany) and became a member of the Société Asiatique in Paris and Leipzig (Barthold, p. 754).
His doctoral thesis, “An outline of the internal structure of the olūs of Jowšī” (1863), was an amended study of “The internal structure of the Golden Horde” (1850), both viewed rather negatively by Barthold (pp. 748, 751ff.). From the mid-1870s, he was increasingly involved in official functions (Dugat, p. 19) and less active in learned circles; however, he took part in the fourth Congress of Orientalists at Florence in 1878 (Barthold, p. 754). The jubilee or fiftieth anniversary of his activity was celebrated in 1890 (Barthold, p. 755; in 1889 according to Vengerov, p. 68). He died at St. Petersburg on 22 March (3 April, Julian calendar) 1896.
Appreciations of his works and career vary considerably, the most critical authors writing in the post-revolutionary period (e.g., S. I. Vavilov, Bol’shaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya III, 1950, p. 638). His French contemporary Dugat praises his scholarly and official achievements and cites his being named “chevalier” of the Order of the Lion and Sun (Dugat, p. 20). More neutral appreciations are given in the Entsiklopedicheskiĭ slovar’ (p. 515), by Vengerov (p. 68), and in recent Soviet Russian writings (e.g., Kononova, p. 124). Former authors were more critical. For Barthold (p. 737), he belonged to a generation of orientalists who could not limit themselves to philological and linguistic tasks. Important changes that occurred in Russian orientalism had little influence on his works, his most fruitful period being completed when he was sixty (i.e., by 1878-79). While noting his negative views on the Islamic world, Barthold commended Berezin’s regret for his contemporaries’ lack of interest in Persian Muslim architecture and praised the value of his well-written (and popular) travel accounts (pp. 740ff.). He also noted the shortcomings in his philological training, some of his errors being repeated by others in important reference works (pp. 750ff.). Data on his courses are very scarce. In lectures that he attended, Barthold notes that Berezin used some of Radloff’s works without mentioning him (pp. 754ff.).
The value of Berezin’s travel accounts has been recognized by many authors. Although he was hampered by illness and local political conditions, he studied Turkish, Persian, and Arabic languages and dialects, and during his Middle Eastern tour (June, 1842-August, 1845) reported on customs, religions, laws, culture, architecture, inscriptions, etc. (Kuznetsova and Dantsig, p. 93). The two volumes published represent partly the results of his travels in his early twenties. The major part of his drawings (nearly 300 landscapes and inhabited places, 40 maps of cities and fortresses) and various accounts and personal impressions were published separately (ibid., pp. 94ff., 99). The most valuable information on economics, politics, religions, customs, folklore, etc., is given in his second travelogue (1852), limited to northern Persia, although he proceeded to the Persian Gulf via Qom, Kāšān, Isfahan, and Shiraz. From his lengthy account about Tabrīz and Tehran, a section concerning “Foreign firms in Tabriz, 1830s” (pp. 58-66) has been translated into English (see Ch. Issawi, ed., The Economic History of Iran 1800-1914, Chicago, 1971, pp. 105-08). The section on Tehran, Moḥarram ceremonies, the takīa of Ḥājī Mīrzā Āqāsī, etc. (pp. 292-347) has been partly translated (see J. Calmard, “Le mécénat des représentations de taʿziye I: Les précurseurs de Nâseroddin Châh,” Le monde iranien et l’Islam 2, 1974, pp. 73-126, esp. pp. 94-126, which includes Berezin’s map of Tehran with commentary). Descriptions of Bushire (Būšehr), the Island of Ḵārg, Baṣra, Baghdad, etc., as well as an account on the ʿAtabāt, particularly the pilgrimage to Karbalāʾ (and related socioeconomic activities) shortly after a rising of Persian and Arab Shiʿites had been quelled by the pasha of Baghdad, were published in various Russian periodicals (see the bibliography and ibid., pp. 96ff.). He also studied Muslim, Christian, Yezīdī, and various nomad communities under Ottoman rule (ibid., pp. 98ff.).
His studies on Iranian dialects and languages include Gīlānī, Tāti, Ṭālešī, Lahījānī, Māzandarānī, Kurdish and “Gabr.” Although the materials he gathered were limited, his contributions, together with Chodzko’s, were pioneering efforts in Iranian dialect studies. However, his Persian Grammar (1853) contains nothing new or original (Ol’denburg, pp. 175f.).
A little-known aspect of Berezin’s activities is his early interest in poetry and novel writing which he pursued during his travels. Out of linguistic curiosity he also studied Romance literature (Petrarch, Ariosto) and was among the first Russian scholars interested in Provençal literature (Krachkovskiĭ, pp. 177ff.).
Works (there is no comprehensive bibliography of Berezin’s works [Barthold, p. 737]; his publications in Russian and French range from highly specialized studies to more popular travel accounts, editions, and contributions to encyclopedias, newspapers, and various Russian series never gathered in specialized publications): “Opisanie turetsko-tatarskikh rukopiseĭ v bibliotekakh S. Petersburga” (Description of Turco-Tatar mss. in the libraries of St. Petersburg), Journal of the Ministry of Public Instruction 47-49, 1846.
Biblioteka vostochnykh istorikov (Library of Oriental historians), 3 vols., Kazan, 1849-54 (Chaghatay texts and translations).
Khanskie yarliki (Yarliqs of the khans) I, II, IV Kazan, 1850-52, III, St. Petersburg, 1865.
Puteshestvie po Dagestanu i Zakavkaz’yu (Travel in Dagestan and Transcaucasia), 2nd ed., Kazan, 1850.
Recherches sur les dialectes musulmans I: Système des dialectes turcs, Kazan, 1848; II: Recherches sur les dialectes persans, Kazan, 1853.
Puteshestvie po severnoĭ Persii (Travel in northern Persia), Kazan, 1852.
Bulgar na Volge (Bulgar on the Volga), Kazan, 1853.
Catalogue des monnaies et des médailles du cabinet numismatique de l’Université de Casan, Kazan, 1855.
Sbornik letopiseĭ. Istoriya Mongolov, sochinenie Rashid-edina (Collection of annals. History of the Mongols, narrative of Rašīd-al-Dīn), 7 vols., St. Petersburg, 1858-88 (Pers. text, Russ. transl. with notes; index by V. A. Zhukovskiĭ).
Chrestomathie turque (French and Russian) I, Kazan, 1857; II, fasc. 1, Kazan, 1862, fasc. 2, St. Petersburg, 1890.
Guide du voyageur en Orient. Dialogues arabes d’après trois principaux dialectes: de Mésopotamie, de Syrie et d’Egypte, 3 vols., 1857, 1862, 1888.
Berezin contributed numerous articles to the Russkiĭ èntsiklopedicheskiĭ slovar’, 16 vols., St. Petersburg, 1873-82, and Novyĭ èntsiklopedicheskiĭ slovar’, 8 vols., St. Petersburg, 1882-85 (not completed), as well as to Russian periodicals and newspapers (sometimes under the pseudonym Nevzorov; see Vengerov, p. 69), among which are articles on the Persian Gulf, Būšehr, and the pilgrimage to Karbalāʾ.
For further references, also to his works on Turkish studies, see Barthold; Kononova, pp. 124ff.; Vengerov, pp. 68f; Samoĭlovitch).
Studies on Berezin. V. V. Bartol’d, “I. N. Berezin kak istorik,” in Akademik V. V. Bartol’d IX, Raboty po istorii vostokovedeniya, Moscow, 1977, pp. 737-56, originally published in Zapiski Kollegii vostokovedov (ZKV) 2/1, 1926, pp. 51-72.
Biograficheskiĭ slovar’ professorov i prepodavateleĭ imperatorskago S. Peterburgskago universiteta I, 1896, pp. 47-48.
Bol’shaya sovetskaya èntsiklopediya, Moscow. G. Dugat, Histoire des orientalistes de l’Europe, 2 vols., Paris, 1868-70, II, pp. 15-20.
B. M. Dantsig, Russkie puteshestvenniki na Blizhnem Vostoke, Moscow, 1965, pp. 173-77.
Èntsiklopedicheskiĭ slovar’, St. Petersburg, 1892, III, pp. 511-12.
G. Ghennady, Les écrivains franco-russes, Dresden, 1874, p. 3.
A. N. Kononova, Bibliograficheskiĭ slovar’ otechestvennykh tyurkologov, Moscow, 1974, pp. 122-26.
I. Yu. Krachkovskiĭ, “Melochi dlya kharakteristiki I. N. Berezina,” ZKV 1, 1925, pp. 177-91.
N. A. Kuznetsova and B. M. Dantsig, “I. N. Berezin—puteshestvennik po Zakavkaz’yu, Iranu i Blizhnemu Vostoku,” in Kratkie soobshcheniya Instituta vostokovedeniya 22, Moscow, 1956, pp. 92-200.
S. F. Ol’denburg, “I. N. Berezin kak puteshestvennik i issledovatel’ iranskikh narechiĭ,” ZKV 1, 1925, pp. 173-76.
A. N. Samoĭlovich, “I. N. Berezin kak tyurkolog,” ibid., pp. 161-72.
Türk ansiklopedisi VI, Ankara, 1953, p. 160.
S. A. Vengerov, Kritiko-biograficheskiĭ slovar’ russkikh pisateleĭ i uchënykh III, St. Petersburg, 1889-1904, pp. 66-69.
B. Ya. Vladimirtsov, “I. N. Berezin—mongolist,” ZKV 1, 1925, pp. 192-94.
A. Yu. Yakubovskiĭ, “Iz istorii izucheniya mogolov,” in Ocherki po istorii russkogo vostokovedeniya, Moscow, 1953, pp. 55-60.
Biographical data on Berezin are found in both tsarist and Russian writings, many of which are not readily available.
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
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