Nikolay Przhevalsky : biography
Nikolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky ( also transliterated Przewalski (Polish-style) and Prjevalsky, ; 31 March (April 12) 1839—20 October (November 1) 1888), was a Russian geographer of Polish background and a renowned explorer of Central and Eastern Asia. Although he never reached his ultimate goal, the holy city of Lhasa in Tibet, he traveled through regions then unknown to the West, such as northern Tibet, modern Qinghai and Dzungaria (northern Xinjiang).Luce Boulnois, Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants, 2005, Odyssey Books, p. 415 ISBN 962-217-721-2 He contributed significantly to European knowledge of Central Asia and was the first known European to describe the only extant species of wild horse, which is named after him.
Przhevalsky is known to have had a personal relationship with Tasya Nuromskaya, whom he met in Smolensk. According to one legend, during their last meeting Tasya cut off her braid and gave it to him, saying that the braid would travel with him until their marriage. Unfortunately, Tasya died of a sunstroke while Przhevalsky was on an expedition.
Another woman in Przhevalsky's life was a mysterious young lady whose portrait, along with a fragment of poetry, was found in Przhevalsky's album. In the poem, she asks him to stay with her and not to go to Tibet, to which he responded in his diary: "I will never betray the ideal, to which is dedicated all of my life. As soon as I write everything necessary, I will return to the desert...where I will be much happier than in gilded salons that can be acquired by marriage".
Some researchers have claimed that Przhevalsky was a homosexual, who "despised women", and that his young male assistants that accompanied him on each of his journeys (including Nikolay Yagunov, aged 16, Mikhail Pyltsov, Fyodor Eklon, 18, and Yevgraf), could have been his lovers
There is an urban legend that Joseph Stalin was an illegitimate son of Nikolai Przhevalski. The legend is supported by the facial similarity of both men. However, Przhevalsky's visits to Georgia are not recorded. A humorously developed version of this legend appears in Book Three of Vladimir Voinovich — The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin.
Accusations of imperialism and racism
According to David Schimmelpenninck Van Der Oye's assessment, Przhevalsky's books on Central Asia feature his disdain for the Oriental— particularly Chinese civilization. Przhevalsky explicitly portrayed Chinese people as cowardly, dirty and lazy in his metaphor, "the blend of a mean Moscow pilferer and a kike"...in all respects inferior to..."European civilization".See, e.g. Nikolai Przhevalskii, "Mongolia, The Tangut Country and the Solitudes of Northern Tibet", two volumes, translated by E. Delmar Morgan with introduction and notes by Colonel Henry Yule (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1876, vol. 2, p. 24. He purportedly argued that Imperial China's hold on its northern territories, in particular Xinjiang and Mongolia, was tenuous and uncertain, and Przhevalsky openly called for Russia's annexation of bits and pieces of China's territory.David Schimmelpenninck Van Der Oye, "Toward the Rising Sun: Russian Ideologies of Empire and the Path to War with Japan" (DeKalb, Il: Northern Illinois University Press, 2001), p. 34 Przhevalsky said one should explore Asia "with a carbine in one hand, a whip in the other."
Przhevalsky, as well as other contemporary explorers including Sven Hedin, Sir Francis Younghusband, and Sir Aurel Stein, were active players in the British-Russian struggle for influence in Central Asia, the so-called Great Game.
"Here you can penetrate anywhere, only not with the Gospels under your arm, but with money in your pocket, a carbine in one hand and a whip in the other. Europeans must use these to come and bear away in the name of civilisation all these dregs of the human race. A thousand of our soldiers would be enough to subdue all Asia from Lake Baykal to the Himalayas....Here the exploits of Cortez can still be repeated."
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