Bartold, Vasilii

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bartol’d, Vasilii Vladimirovich


Born Nov. 3 (15), 1869, in St. Petersburg; died Aug. 19, 1930, in Leningrad. Soviet orientalist; academician (1913).

Bartol’d graduated from the University of St. Petersburg (department of Eastern languages) in 1891 and engaged in scholarly work and teaching there. (From 1901 he was a professor.) The degree of doctor of history of the Orient was conferred on him for his two-volume monograph Turkestan in the Era of the Mongol Invasion.

Having developed as a scholar in bourgeois society, Bartol’d essentially held the idealistic conception of the historical process. However, he was always interested in issues of socioeconomic history and the situation of the masses of people. His works on the history of Middle Asia are of great scholarly value; in them he makes use of a great wealth of material from Arabic, Persian, and local authors. He was the author of works on the history of Islam: Islam (1918), The Culture of Islam (1918), The Muslim World (1922), Museilima (1925), and others. In these books he presented a critical survey of the major works of Arab and Western European authors, verified Muslim information, compiled an enormous amount of well-selected factual material, and in many respects illuminated the history of Islam in its initial period, its spread among the peoples of the East, and the development of Muslim culture in a new way. His conclusions and observations enriched world Islamic studies, but some of his theses and interpretations are disputed. In his work Caliph and Sultan (1912) he reached an important scientific conclusion and proved that the conception of the transfer of spiritual power by the Abbasid caliph to the Turkish sultan Selim I in the 16th century was a legend that did not appear until the 18th century.

One-sided interpretations may be found in Bartol’d’s works on the Mongol conquests—in particular, insufficient consideration is given to the fact that the Mongol conquest led to the destruction of productive forces and the protracted enslavement of subjugated peoples.

Bartol’d gave much fruitful study to the Arabic authors who wrote about the ancient Slavs (Recent Muslim Information About the Russians, 1896, and Arab Information About the People of Rus’, 1918, published in 1940). He devoted great attention to the history of oriental studies. He published the fundamental work The History of the Study of the East in Europe and in Russia (1911; 2nd ed., 1925) and A Survey of the Activity of the Department of Eastern Languages of the University of St. Petersburg, 1855–1905 (1909), among other such works. His works on Iran and on the history of several peoples of the USSR (the Kirghiz, Tadzhiks, Turkmens, and others) contain rich material and generalizations.

Bartol’d was the organizer and editor of the journal Mirislama (World of Islam; 1912–13), and later of Musul’-manskii mir (Muslim World; 1917). He was one of the founders of the Russian school of oriental studies; after the October Revolution he headed the College of Orientalists, which was established in 1921 under the auspices of the Asiatic Museum. He also headed its organ, Zapiski kollegii vostokovedov (Notes of the College of Orientalists; 1925–30). He engaged in extensive pedagogical work, participated in commissions to translate the alphabets of many of the peoples of the USSR from their Arabic base to a Latin base, and carried out the assignments of the Soviet government in organizing the Middle Asian University (1918), establishing libraries for oriental studies and gathering Eastern manuscripts. Many of his monographs have been translated into foreign languages (English, German, Turkish, French, Arabic, Persian, and so forth). He is the author of a number of articles in the Encyclopedia of Islam.

Bartol’d’s works are published in nine volumes: vol. 1—Turkestan in the Epoch of the Mongol Invasion; vol. 2, part 1—General Pieces on the History of Middle Asia: On the History of the Caucasus and Eastern Europe, part 2—On Specific Problems of the History of Middle Asia; vol. 3—On Historical Geography; vol. 4—On Archaeology, Numismatics, Epigraphy, and Ethnography; vol. 5—On the History and Philology of the Turkish and Mongolian Peoples, On the History of Central Asia and the Far East; vol. 6—On the History of Islam and the Arab Caliphate; vol. 7—On the History and Philology of Iran and Afghanistan; vol. 8—On the History of the Study of Sources; and vol. 9—On the History of Oriental Studies.


Sochineniia, vols. 1–7. Moscow, 1963–71. (Ongoing publication.)


Umniakov, 1.1. V. V. Bartol’d. Tashkent, 1926.
Krachkovskii, I. Iu. “V. V. Bartol’d v istorii islamovedeniia.” lzbr. soch., vol. 5. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958.
Smirnov, N. A. Ocherki istorii izucheniia islama v SSSR. Moscow, 1954.
Iakubovskii, A. Iu. “Problema sotsial’noi istorii narodov Vostoka v trudakhakademika V. V. Bartol’da.” Vestnik LGU, 1947, no. 12.
Lunin, B. V. Iz istorii russkogo vostokovedeniia i arkheologii v Turkestane. Tashkent, 1958.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.