Diplomat, scientist, orientalist…
<img class="imgr" alt="You can find out a lot about famous countryman Iosif Goshkevich during visit to the National Historical Museum in Minsk" src="http://www.belarus-magazine.by/belen/data/upimages/2009/0001-009-377.jpg">[b]The 200th anniversary of the birth of Iosif Goshkevich is being celebrated worldwide, having been included on the List of Memorable Dates for 2014-2015 by the UNESCO General Conference [/b]<br />That this unique person united Belarus and Japan, can be seen by visiting an exhibition, entitled Iosif Goshkevich — A Diplomat and Oriental Scientist, hosted by the National Historical Museum in Minsk. “Meanwhile, its module part will soon go on display at the Rumyantsev Mansion in St. Petersburg,” notes museum’s Deputy Director, Nina Kolymaga. “Then it will move to the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from where it will travel to Japanese Hakodate in September.”
That this unique person united Belarus and Japan, can be seen by visiting an exhibition, entitled Iosif Goshkevich — A Diplomat and Oriental Scientist, hosted by the National Historical Museum in Minsk. “Meanwhile, its module part will soon go on display at the Rumyantsev Mansion in St. Petersburg,” notes museum’s Deputy Director, Nina Kolymaga. “Then it will move to the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from where it will travel to Japanese Hakodate in September.”
The stands of the Minsk museum provide information about Mr. Goshkevich in Belarusian, Russian and Japanese, with English booklets also available at the entrance. I came across a metric book, saying that Goshkevich was born on March 16th, 1814, in the Minsk Province’s Rechitsa District (now the Gomel Region). His father and brother were priests and initially, Goshkevich himself chose service to God and studied at the Minsk Theological Seminary and St. Petersburg Theological Academy. After his studies the young boy could speak six foreign languages and was enrolled to the Russian theological mission in China, where he spent a decade. There he studied culture, history and religion and practiced photography. “Iosif was taking perfect pictures of the flora and fauna of all countries where he was, while also collecting herbariums, insects and mammals and donating them to the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg,” continues Ms. Kolymaga. “According to documents which we’ve recently found, Goshkevich donated a collection of Chinese butterflies, as well as several samples of mammals and fish from Hakodate to the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg.”
Then Goshkevich (as an interpreter and advisor) was sent to Japan, together with a team of the Russian admiral and diplomat Yevfimiy Putyatin. Their mission was to negotiate on co-operation. At that time, Japan was closed from the external world and the world wasn’t that much interested in it either. They managed to sign the first Russian-Japanese treaty and the isolated country opened its harbours to Russian ships.
Goshkevich knew Chinese and used it for negotiations. However, he soon mastered the basics of the Japanese language and with the help of Japanese, Tachibana Kōsai he compiled a unique Japanese-Russian dictionary, which contained the translation of the word, as well as its explanation — what it meant in both languages. Goshkevich was awarded the Demidov Prize for this work, and the only manuscript containing his remarks is kept at the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg in the Eastern Manuscript Department.
Putyatin recommended appointing Goshkevich (a tactful, cultural and educated person) as the first Russian Consul to Japan. Goshkevich worked seven years in a large political centre, in the city of Hakodate. “Japanese called Goshkevich the ‘fair-haired consul’ and his wife Yelizaveta — ‘a saint’,” continues Ms. Kolymaga. He definitely deserved this love and respect. A school was opened at the consulate where Japanese boys mastered the basics of ship building, astronomy and the Russian language, while several samurais were sent to Russia to study.
Over a hundred Japanese were cured there annually on a free basis. It was from Goshkevich whom the residents of the country first learnt about the Orthodox faith, and a church was constructed. He also taught local tailor, Kidzu Kakiti, to take photos, and the latter opened the first photo studio. Then he opened a workshop where he sewed European clothes. After returning to his homeland, Goshkevich bought an estate of Mali near Ostrovets, at the Lithuanian border, where he practiced Eastern philology. His last book, which was released after his death — About the Roots of the Japanese Language — is also showcased at the exhibition.
Unfortunately, the museum doesn’t have items which were used by the consul, but the exposition enables us to feel the atmosphere in which Goshkevich lived, both in Belarus and in Japan. The exhibition presents wonderful Japanese porcelain from the mid-19th century, alongside fans and kimonos. The reproduction costumes of Goshkevich, when he was a theological seminary student and a consul, are also worth seeing. Moreover, one can also sit in the ‘cabinet’ of Iosif Goshkevich. The bust, created by sculptor Valerian Yanushkevich, adds some mystery to the exposition, and it seems that Goshkevich himself is present. The same bust has been installed in Ostrovets, while a memorial plaque was unveiled in the Mali estate. In Minsk, a street is named to honour Goshkevich.
“We hope that, after the exhibition, more people will learn about Iosif Goshkevich,” adds Ms. Kolymaga. “It’s interesting for visitors here. For example, recently schoolchildren came and the boys immediately began to look at the 18th century map, describing how travellers sailed from Russia to Japan and where the Land of the Rising Sun is situated directly. Foreign guests have also visited us — museum workers from the Baltic States.”
Researchers have only recently discovered where the consul was buried. I read a copy of the unique document which confirms that the remains of Iosif Goshkevich rest peacefully at the parochial cemetery in Ostrovets. However, it’s not known where exactly. Let’s hope that historians will soon reveal this fact.
By Yulia [b]Bukel[/b]