DU3 Altai

DIALOGE UNIT 3: Aesthetic Sovereignty Along the Russian Chinese Border — Case Studies in the Altai and Ussurii                        Regions


Many minorities can be found along the Russian Chinese borders from the Altai eastward to the Pacific Ocean that do not share either a Chinese or a Russian cultural background. Due to the historical development in these regions, these minorities could insist on their cultural sovereignty due to the non-existence of Chinese or Russian administration along the borders for a long a period of time. This changed dramatically with the treaty of Aigun (1858) when Russian and China changed their presence from border posts to a more territorial presence. Travelers, colonists, traders, military, mining industries and missionaries settled in the border regions. The indigenous cultures of small minorities came under pressure.

At nearly the same time there are documents of material cultures that relate the story of aesthetic sovereignty in two cases: the Russian Altai and the Ussuri Region in Manchuria. In the first case the ethnographic sketches of the Altaian painter Gregorij Choros Gurkin provide evidence on the self-understanding of the Altaian people, while in the second case the diary of the ethnographer Vladimir Arseniev (Dersu Uzala) and the first Russian ethnographic film of his student Litvinov: “Forest people” are historic documents on the material culture at the beginning of the twentieth century.

These two document corpuses will be analysed and compared with the material culture of the region today:
Is there a prevailing aesthetic sovereignty as the Altaian painter Choros Gurkin claimed in 1907?
Or, have these aesthetics of the borderland minorities been dissolved over the last 100 years?

Dr. Natalia Ryzhova
habil. Olaf Günther, Dr.

Vladimir Degtiar, BA


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