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Toumansky, Aleksandr Grigorevich

by Jahangir Dorri

published in Encyclopaedia Iranica
New York: Columbia University, 2009
TUMANSKIǏ (Toumansky), Aleksandr Grigor’evich (b. 23 September 1861; d. Istanbul, 1 December 1920), Russian orientalist, Major-General of the Russian Imperial Army. Tumanskiǐ belonged to an ancient aristocratic family which had originated from the Great Duchy of Lithuania. He spoke eleven languages and, besides serving in the Russian Imperial Guards, he was several times sent to the East with diplomatic missions. Tumanskiǐ received his Oriental education in 1888-91 at the Officers’ Courses of Oriental Languages organized by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He studied Arabic, Turkish, and Persian. In the words of the famous Russian Orientalist I.Yu.Krachkovskiǐ (1883-1951), “Tumanskiǐ was one of the rare—in Russia—Orientalists by vocation and not by profession” (Krachkovskiǐ, p. 112). In 1891-95 Tumanskiǐ stayed in Central Asia. In 1894 he made a trip to southern Persia with the purpose of carrying out reconnaissance of routes that lead from the Russian-Persian frontier to the Persian Gulf. In 1900-05 Tumanskiǐ served as Russian vice-consul in Van, Turkey. In 1908 and 1909 he was sent to Persia again. In 1911 he was appointed the head of the officers’ preparatory school of Oriental languages in Tiflis (Tbilisi), which functioned under the Headquarters of the Caucasian Military Command. Tumanskiǐ retired from the military service in March 1917 in the rank of Major-General (Baskhanov, pp. 242-43). He left Russia after the October Revolution in 1917 and died in Istanbul on 1 December 1920 (Ḥudüd al-ʿālam, p. xliv).

Tumanskiǐ was friendly with the Bahais, whom he first met in Ashgabat in 1890. He maintained close relationship with the Bahais in Central Asia and Transcaucasia, and he studied and translated Bahai works and literature. The most important publication of Tumanskiǐ in the field of Bahai studies was his translation (1899) of the Ketāb-e aqdas by Bahāʾ-Allāh (1817-92). Besides the Russian translation, the publication also contains the Arabic original and an introduction on 48 pages. An earlier publication of Tumanskiǐ (1892) deals with Bahāʾ-Allāh’s other work, Ketāb-e ʿahd. In his studies in the field, Tumanskiǐ corresponded with E.G. Browne (1862-1926). He offered significant assistance to the Bahai community in Russia, especially when the first Bahai temple was being constructed in Ashgabat (Ḥudüd al-ʿālam, pp. xlii-xliii). Tumanskiǐ translated into Russian the work Šajara-ye Tarākema (‘Genealogical Tree of the Turkmen’) of Abu’l-Ḡāzi Bahādor Khan of Khiva (1603-63). This translation was published in Ashgabat in 1897. Being a military man, he wrote a book entitled Military Art of the Ancient Arabs (1897).

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