Yefim Pivovar: "Eurasian integration still has a lot to offer"
April 12th marks the 180th anniversary Nikolai Przhevalsky’s birth. He was a researcher, scientist, Honorary Member of the Russian Geographical Society (RGS). He was the General Staff officer, and the information obtained on expeditions, including cartographic information, is still of essential importance. Przhevalsky died on the shore of Issyk Kul, where his next expedition was designated. The President of the Russian State University for Humanities, a member of the Council of the Russian Geographical Society, Yefim Pivovar spoke with Vestnik Kavkaza about the heritage of the scientist.
- Yefim Iosifovich, you recently returned from Kyrgyzstan, where you participated in the forum dedicated to the anniversary of Przhevalsky. Is Kyrgyzstan honoring the legacy of a Russian scientist?
- On April 12-13, an International Forum dedicated to the 180th anniversary of Przhevalsky was held in Jalal-Abad. The scientist made five journeys to Central Asia. Much of what he did still remains in Kyrgyzstan as his heritage. He was a man of very broad erudition, he was a geographer, a biologist, a naturalist, an ethnologist, and a historian. He accompanied all his expeditions with detailed records that have been preserved to our days. That is, he set an example of interdisciplinarity in the full sense. Unfortunately, after the collapse of the USSR, there were several ideological attacks on his legacy and him as well. He was considered some kind of a scout. But he was not. He contributed a lot to the development of humanitarian and natural science knowledge and died after being infected with typhoid fever and he was not even 50 years old. Przhevalsky was buried in Kyrgyzstan, near Karakol, which until 1990 was called Przhevalsk. His grave is preserved in the town and his memory is honored there as well.
In connection with the anniversary of Przhevalsky, two events took place in Kyrgyzstan. One of them was organized by the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University in Bishkek with the participation of the Russian Embassy, the ambassador took part in the event. Another event in which I participated was held by the National University and Jalal-Abad University. The representatives of universities from Osh were invited as well. Considering that the Forum of Rectors of Russia and Kyrgyzstan was held recently, and before that, Vladimir Putin had visited the country, everything just lined up. Kyrgyz colleagues invited the delegation of the Russian Geographical Society to the forum, including me. My presentation was dedicated to the role and place of Przhevalsky's heritage in the cultural and scientific ties of modern Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
Of course, the value of the forum is unprecedented, because it was an initiative of the Kyrgyz side, and we just supported it. It is also important that the forum was held in the south of Kyrgyzstan - it is a territory with a very complex ethnic composition and rather tense inter-ethnic situation. In 1990 and in 2010, there were clashes on ethnic grounds there. Therefore, it was necessary to show the importance of those relations that make it possible to unite the efforts of Kyrgyzstan as a whole and to strengthen the Russian-Kyrgyz scientific and cultural educational ties. I enjoyed speaking at the forum. I held a whole series of meetings with the rectors of these universities, with the university community, visited auditoriums, reviewed their work, signed several documents, including a cooperation agreement between the RSUH and the University of Jalal-Abad. The rector of the National Law University will visit us soon, and our rector will sign such an agreement with him. It is not just about the framework agreements, we also agreed on some projects, including the possibility of issuing a joint publication of Russian and Kyrgyz historians. I negotiated with the dean of the history department of the National University of Bishkek, who also participated in this conference, and we agreed that they would send proposals that we would discuss as a matter of course.
- In your opinion, what is Przhevalsky's contribution to science?
- We are now striving for an interdisciplinary approach to the synthesis of various sciences, which allows us to identify the boundary fields and new approaches in the theory and methodology of research. Przhevalsky is important precisely as a direct example of the implementation of this approach in the 19the century. He examined almost the entire environment, which he studied as part of the noosphere. The ideas of Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky about the biosphere and the noosphere were embodied in this sense. Przhevalsky reviewed these ideas as a geographer, historian, ethnologist, anthropologist, philologist-folklorist, biologist, ecologist. From the point of view of the development of science, this legacy is very important.
In addition, Przhevalsky made five expeditions, including to Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Pamir. He walked a thousand miles. It speaks not only of hard work and perseverance, but also of a thirst for knowledge. This is very important in regard to the educational practice. He discovered unknown representatives of the animal world, flora, described many water objects. Kyrgyz historians and cultural scientists are actively working in our archives, studying his heritage.
Przhevalsky started his work being very young. At the age of 25, he was already engaged in expeditions. His legacy was supported by his followers: both Petr Petrovich Semenov-Tian-Shansky and our other geographers, travelers relied on the achievements of Przhevalsky. The history of his family is also symbolic: on the one hand, he represented the Cossacks, on the other hand, the gentry, who partially even converted to Catholicism, but his clan, his family remained in Orthodoxy. So in all respects, this is the most interesting object for analysis of our post-Soviet space.