KRYMSKIĬ, Agfangel Efimovich


KRYMSKIĬ, AGFANGEL (Agatangel) EFIMOVICH (b. 3 January Julian calendar = 15 January 1871, Vladimir-Volinskiy, Ukraine; d. 25 January 1942, Kustanay, Kazakhstan). Ukrainian Orientalist, specialist in Slavonic philology, member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (1918), author of over 1000 works on the history and culture of Iran, Arab countries, Turkey, the Khanate of the Crimea, and Azerbaijan; also generally regarded as an accomplished writer, poet, and translator.

Krymskiĭ’s father was a teacher of history and geography (the name Krymskiĭ is related to the Crimean roots of the family). From 1885 to 1889 Krymskiĭ studied at the Pavel Galagan College at Kiev, where he learnt Greek and Latin and taught himself Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Turkish. His primary interest at the time was focused on the influence of the neighboring countries of the East on the historical development of Russia and the Ukraine, and he regarded the learning of these languages as a prerequisite for this task (Istoriya Vostokovedeniya 1997, p. 76). The remarkable achievements of Oriental studies in Russia and the influence and impact of Orientalism on the Russian literature of the Silver Age further increased his interest in the East. In 1889 Krymskiĭ enrolled as a student in the Lazarevsky Institute of Oriental Languages in Moscow, where he studied Arabic, Persian, and Turkish with such eminent teachers as Professors Mikhail Attaya, Vsevolod Miller, and Feodor Korsh. Upon his graduation in 1892 he entered the Historical and Philological Faculty (Slavonic Department) of Moscow University, where he was taught by Professors Roman Brandt, Alexander Veselovskiĭ, and Ivan Kholmogorov. Having completed his education in 1896, he specialized in two branches of philology, Slavonic and Oriental, and was acquainted with fifteen Oriental and Western European languages.

From 1893 Krymskiĭ was an editor and regular contributor of entries on the Near and Middle East to the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopaedia. In 1896 he left for the Levant where he spent two years working with manuscripts in libraries and learning Arabic dialects (primarily Syrian) and contributing to the Arabic periodicals (see Pis’ma iz Livana: 1896-1898, Moscow 1975; reissued, Beirut, 1981, in Arabic). From 1898 to 1919 he taught at the Lazarevsky Institute in Moscow at the Department of Arabic Philology and History of the Muslim East. He began as a lecturer and was made professor in 1900 and appointed as the head of the department in 1912. His lecture courses included Arabic language and literature, folklore, history of Islam, and Persian and Turkish literature. He was the mentor of many an eminent scholar of the next generation including Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Semyonov (Semenov), and Vladimir Minorsky in Iranian Studies, and Vladimir Aleksandrovich Gordlevskiĭ in Turkic Studies.

After the 1918 October Revolution, Krymskiĭ moved to Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, and became one of the organizers of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He was the head of the Historical and Philological Department of the Academy until 1929 and taught at Kiev State University. Krymskiĭ is regarded as the founder of Oriental Studies in Ukraine because of his leading role in establishing special Academic committees on Arabic Studies, Iranology, Turkology, Byzantology, and Ancient Hebrew Studies. He also undertook the first direct translations of Arabic and Persian poems into Ukrainian (Palmove Gill’a, “The Palm leaves,” 1902; and Hafez, 1924). After the advent of Stalin’s fierce repression, the Historical and Philological Department of the Ukrainian Academy was closed down along with all Oriental studies institutions; Krymskiĭ was relieved of his posts and spent eight years out of favor. In 1936 the scholar was partially rehabilitated and a year later received an invitation to write a history of modern Arabic literature. In 1939, after the annexation of western Ukraine by the USSR, Krymskiĭ was sent along to Lvov as a living embodiment of the greatness of the Ukrainian Academia. His 70th birthday (January 1941) was celebrated with official festivities. However, on July 20, 1941 he was arrested and proclaimed an ideologist of Ukrainian nationalism and deported and imprisoned in Kustanay. He died in January 1942 in the prison hospital; his burial place is not known.

Krymskiĭ’s research and teaching activities can be divided into two periods—Muscovite (1898-1918), and Ukrainian—clearly distinguishable from each other by the place of residence (Moscow and Kiev, Lvov), and historical situation (pre-revolutionary Russia, Soviet Ukraine). The great bulk of his works in Oriental studies date from the Muscovite period (many of them were translated into Ukrainian by himself and published later in Kiev). Although diverse in subject matter, his contributions are united and informed by his ultimate goal of including the history and culture of the East as an integral part of the world’s cultural processes. Krymskiĭ’s main books and articles contain detailed bibliographical surveys, so that at the beginning of the 20th century they were thought of by his students to be a “window on the European study of the East,” to quote the well-known lines from Pushkin’s Bronze Horseman. The scope of his academic interests was dictated by the immediate teaching requirements at the Lazarevsky Institute, and foremost by the need to provide up-to-date teaching manuals. His early years of teaching were mostly devoted to Arabic and Semitic studies. In the spring of 1898 he defended a žMagister’ thesis on Arabic folklore based on material he had himself collected in Syria and Palestine. His lecture courses in the ensuing years formed the basis for numerous early editions revised and supplemented later (Istoriya musul’manstva 1912; Semitskie yazyki 1910-1912; Istoriya arabov 1911-1913; Arabskaya literatura 1911). In the opinion of I. Yu. Krachkovskiĭ, “steadily, but at a fast pace, he created a comprehensive library of the necessary textbooks for Arabic studies” (Ocherki, p. 118). Krymskiĭ made an important contribution to the translation and study of the Qurʾān in Russia (Istochniki 1902; Lektsii po Koranu 1902). His long-term discussion with Professor Krachkovskiĭ on the meaning of certain Meccan suras has been partially preserved in his letters (Pis’ma A. E. Krymskogo I. Yu. Krachkovskomu. ed. A. Nedvedskiĭ, I. Smilyanskaya, Vostok 3, 1993, pp. 150-69); Leo Tolstoy, by his own admission, taught himself the Qurʾān “through Krymskiĭ’s works” (Dieterix, pp. 115-16). The scholar also had a hand in preparing specialists in Turkic philology (Istoriya Turtsii i eyo literatury 1910; rev. ed. 1916). Krymskiĭ’s contributions to Iranology date from the beginning of the 20th century. He considered political history as the determining factor in cultural development; consequently, his early works in the field covered the history of Iranian dynasties (Arshakidy, 1900; Sasanidy, 1904). His views on the early Middle Ages were summed up in his book Istoriya Sasanidov (1905), which was based on his lectures, and included chapters on the Parthians, Arsacids, Sasanids, the Arab conquest of Iran, and the main stages in the literary history of Syriac Christians.

The first edition of Krymskiĭ’s history of Persian literature appeared in 1903-06 (Istoriya Persii...). Its full title “The History of Persia, Its Literature, and Dervish Theosophy,” already points to a mode of organization that links literary heritage to a historical framework based on the succession of ruling dynasties (from the Samanids up to the Safavids and the Great Mughals of India), and on some changes in religious beliefs and practices. Krymskiĭ attempted to rebut the thesis that the world of Islam comprised a monolithic culture. He concentrated his attention upon the national features of the imaginative literature of Persia, and stressed the close links between the pre- and post-Islamic stages of Persian creativity that in his view successfully resisted “Islamization.” The same approach could be seen in his representation of Iranian Sufism or “Dervish theosophy.” He supports the version of the indigenous origin of its eastern branch and also traces a strong influence of Indian religions on Sufism during its formative stage (see also Ocherk razvitiya sufisma ... do kontsa III veka Gidzhry, Moscow, 1896). Along with historical chapters on each period, Istoriya incorporates bio-biographical sketches (Rudaki, Sanāʾi, Anwari, Ḵāqāni, Nezami, Rumi, Saʿdi etc.) that contain a wide-ranging bibliographical survey of European works relevant to the case, along with examples of poetry, mostly in the author’s own translation. After Professor Feodor Korsh’s death in 1915, Krymskiĭ took upon himself the bulk of the Iranian literature course and became the leading authority of the time on the Persian Classics.

Though Krymskiĭ’s main achievement was to make the works of European Orientalists available to Russian students of the East, at least two books written in the last decade of his life had been based directly on primary sources, namely, the History of Modern Arabic Literature (Istoriya novoĭ arabskoĭ literatury,1971), and the monograph Nezami and his contemporaries (Nezami,1981). The book on Nezami, innovative in spirit, provides a fascinating panorama of literary life in twelfth century Azerbaijan; however, the work was interrupted by Krymskiĭ’s arrest in 1941 and the chapters on Nezami himself were left unwritten. On the full bibliography of Krymskiĭ’s works see A. Krimskiy, Bibliografichniy Pokazhchik (1889-1971), Kiev, 1972, (in Ukrainian).


Krymskiĭ’s Publications:

Arshakidy, Sasanidy i zavoevanie Irana arabami (The Arsacids, the Sasanids, and the Conquest of Iran by the Arabs), Moscow, 1900; 2nd ed., Moscow, 1905.

Istochniki dlya istorii Mohammeda (Sources for the History of Mohammad), Trudy Lazarevskogo Instituta, 1902, fasc.13.

Lektsii po Koranu. Sury stareyshego perioda (Lectures on the Qurʾān: the earliest Suras), Moscow, 1902.

Sasanidy, Moscow, 1904.

Andriy Lagovskiy [A novel], Lvov, 1905 (in Ukrainian).

Istoriya Turtsii i eyo literatury: ot rastsveta do nachala upadka (History of Turkey and Its Literature: From the Beginnings to the Advent of Decline), Moscow, 1910; revised, Vols. 1-2, Moscow, 1916.

Semitskie yazyki i narody (Semitic Languages and Peoples), Part I-III, Moscow, 1910-12.

Arabskaya literatura v ocherkakh i obraztsakh (Arabic Literature in Surveys and Samples), Moscow, 1911.

Istoriya arabov i arabskoĭ literatury, svetskoĭ i dukhovnoĭ (History of the Arabs and of Arabic Literature, Sacred and Profane), Part I-III, Moscow, 1911-1913.

Istoriya Musul’manstva. Ocherki religioznoĭ zhizni (History of Islam. Sketches of Religious Life), Moscow, 1912.

Khamasa Abu Temmama Tayskogo(circa 805 - 846), Moscow, 1912.

Obshchiĭ istoricheskiĭ ocherk Babizma i obzor noveĭsheĭ literatury o nyom (A General Historical Survey of Babism and recent scholarly literature), Moscow, 1913.

Aban al-Lahiki, Moscow, 1913.

Istoriya Persii, eyo literatury i dervisheskoĭ teosofii (History of Persia, its Literature, and Dervish Theosophy), Vol. I-III, Moscow 1903-1906; revised with ample supplements Moscow 1914-1917;

Perskiy teatr (Persian Theatre), Kiev, 1921 (in Ukrainian).

Pal’move gill’a. Ekzotichni Poezii (Krymskiĭ’s poems and translations from Oriental Poetry),Zvenigorogka, 1902 (in Ukrainian); Kiev, 1922 (Part III).

Hafiz ta yogo pisni v yogo ridni Persii XIV veka ta v noviy Evropi (Hafez and His Poems in his native Persia of the 14th Century and in Modern Europe), Kiev, 1924 (in Ukrainian).

Istoriya novoĭ arabskoĭ literatury XIX-nachala XX veka (History of Modern Arabic Literature of the 19th-early 20th Century), ed. A.B Khalidov, Moscow, 1971.

Tvori (Collected Works), Vol. 1-5, Kiev, 1972-1973 (in Ukrainian)

Nizami i ego sovremenniki (Nezami and his Contemporaries), ed. Z. M. Buniyatov and G. Y. Aliev, Baku, 1981.

Secondary literature:

I. K. Dieterix Vospominaniya o L.N. Tolstom (Memoirs on L.N. Tolstoy). in Tolstoĭ i o Tolstom: novye materialy (Tolstoy and about Tolstoy: New Materials), Moscow, 1926, pp. 115-16.

I. Yu. Krachkovskiĭ, Ocherki po istorii russkoĭ arabistiki (Essays on the History of Arabic Studies in Russia) in Izbrannye Sochineniya (Selected Works), Vol. V, Moscow, 1958, pp. 118-20.

Istoriya otechestvennogo vostokovedeniya (s serediny XIX veka do 1917 goda) (History of National/Russian Oriental Studies from mid-nineteenth century to the year 1917) ,ed. A. Vigasin, A. Khokhlov, and P. Shastitko,Moscow, 1997, pp. 172-76, 208-14.

For a list of books and articles on Krymskiĭ’s life and activity see S. D. Miliband, Biobibliograficheskiĭ slovar’ otechestvennykh vostokovedov (Bio-bibliographical Dictionary of National/Russian/Soviet Orientalists, Moscow, 1995, Vol. 1, pp. 622-24.

(Natalia Chalisova)

Originally Published: November 15, 2006

Last Updated: November 15, 2006