Today, July 17 is the 172nd anniversary of the birth of Nikolai Nikolayevich Miklukho-Maklay, a famous Russian ethnographer, anthropologist and traveler, a member of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society (1846-1888). To commemorate the day, when the person who laid the foundations of the Russian anthropology and ethnography was born, we celebrate the Ethnographer Day in Russia.
Nikolay Miklukho-Maklay was born in the village of Yazykovo-Rozhdestveno of the Novgorod province. Since he was a young man, he had shown interest in natural sciences. While studying at Jena University (Germany), the future researcher studied medicine, zoology, took part in several scientific expeditions. Even then, the young scientist was interested in little-known regions of our planet, such areas of geographical research, which promised major discoveries.
Miklukho-Maclay was the first European to set foot on the land of New Guinea, and his research of the indigenous population of South-East Asia, Australia and Oceania brought him fame. Now a part of the North-East coast of the island of New Guinea is named after the scientist, the Coast of Maclay.
For Miklukho-Maclay, the aborigines were not alien. Of course, at first the people of New Guinea reacted to the researcher, "the man from the moon", with distrust. But over time, the Russian scientist became their friend, teacher, even a semblance of a deity; they often named children Maclays after the scientist.
Nikolai Miklukho-Maclay knew the language of the natives perfectly: he spoke fluent Astrolabe, immediately answered all the questions. The anthropologist himself admitted that local languages, especially at first, were not easy for him.
"The study of the first Papuan dialect was very difficult, because there was not a single person who could serve as a translator. The words that I wanted to know, I could learn by either pointing to an object or gestures with which I imitated some action. But these two methods were often sources of misunderstanding and error," he wrote in his diaries.
The Russian traveler saw one of the main goals of his life in the protection of the indigenous population of New Guinea; he defended the interests of the natives before the governments of European States, preventing their exploitation and extermination.
Nikolai Nikolayevich Miklukho-Maclay made a great contribution to the development of world science. More than 100 works on anthropology, ethnography, zoology, comparative anatomy, geography and other disciplines were published during his life.
Another unique heritage of the scientist is his amazing drawings made during his expeditions. In total, the archives contain more than 700 images. The researcher's works are particularly accurate and clear. Among them there are images of fish, birds, animals, but most of them are portraits of indigenous people, images of their homes, clothing, and jewelry. For a number of peoples, these drawings are still the only historical source, showing the disappeared or disappearing features of their culture and life.