Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences
Institute of Literature named after Nizami Ganjavi


Artur Rudolfovich Zifeld-Simumyaghi (Literary Institute after Nizami Ganjavi-90)

09-02-2024 [ 15:09 ] [ read:273 ]
printerA+ | A-

Among the linguists residing in Baku during the repression years, Artur Rudolfovich Zifeld-Simumyaghi, an Estonian by nationality, was the most prominent and noted by his eccentric demeanour. Although his colleagues' studies on specific Turkish language concerns continue to be important at various levels, Zifeld-Simumyagi's broad generalizations and universal judgments remain without context. In any event, he contributed significantly to Azerbaijan's scientific and social life, as well as the training of experts. We utilized archive material No. 22326 for this article.

Artur Rudolfovich Seefeld (who later adopted the second portion of his surname) was born in Revel (Tallinn) in 1889. He grew up in Odessa, and according to his assertion, "in 1912, he took a course at the faculty of history and philology" at Novorossiysk University. It is unclear if he earned a university degree, although Zifeld-Simumyaghi was a professor during the Soviet era. However, he was primarily involved in clandestine revolutionary activities in Odessa and, as he claimed, altered his political views several times. In 1906, he joined the party of works; in 1907, he joined the party of "people's socialists" (right party of works); but in 1908, he parted from them and became the leader of the "anarcho-socialists" party, which is nearest to the left, works. Seefeld-Simumyaghi was discovered as a subversive in 1912, and he then engaged in criminal activities before immigrating to Germany on a forged passport.

A year later, due to unclear issues in his passport, Seefeld-Simumyaghi was expelled from Germany and moved to Switzerland, living in Zurich until 1917. According to him, while he was still in Odessa, under the influence of GV Plekhanov's works, he joined the ranks of social democrats and called himself a Marxist since 1911. After moving to Switzerland, Artur Rudolfovich met Plekhanov, who headed a small group of the Menshevik party, and became a member of their foreign office. With the beginning of World War 1, he cut ties with Plekhanov, who supported war ideas, and tried to improve relations with the Bolsheviks who refused to work with him. At the end of 1914, together with the deputy of the second term of the State Duma, A.G. Zurabov, he founded the United Social-Democratic Internationalists party, which took an anti-war position in Zurich: later, he himself called this association "a combination of various political trends, a political Noah's Ark." In 1915, he finally joined the Bolshevik Party, from which his membership in the party began to be officially counted.

However, while still an emigrant, Zifeld-Simumyaghi became interested in linguistics. The young revolutionary was interested in the Ural-Altaic hypothesis, which confirmed the merger of the Finno-Ugric, Samayed, Turkic, Mongolian, Tungus-Manchurian (sometimes Japanese and Korean languages were also included) languages in the big Ural-Altaic family, which became the subject of wide discussion in science at that time. Modern science confirms this hypothesis in a different form: Uralic (Finno-Ugric, Samayed) and Altaic (Turkic, Mongolian, Tungus-Manchurian, Korean, Japanese) languages are considered members of a giant macrofamily together with Indo-European and others, but separately Uralic -Altay does not accept his family. However, in the 10-30s of the 20th century, it was impossible to prove or disprove this hypothesis, because many Uralic and Altaic languages were not fully studied. Even if he had a chance to listen to the lectures of the great linguist A. V. Thomson while in Odessa, this young researcher, who hardly had a good linguistic training, without realizing the difficulty of the problem, developed strong hypotheses in his free time from political struggles. He was not afraid to use any Sumerian material, even if he got it second-hand or third-hand.​In 1916, an event occurred that shaped several facets of Artur Rudolfovich's later life. He served as a journalist at the Third League of Nations in Lausanne (as noted in the probe). The Russian team was led by Yusif Akchurin, a distinguished Turkish scientist and politician who eventually emigrated. During this time, he served as editor of the Istanbul-based journal "Türk Yurdu". Zifeld-Simumyaqi offered him an essay on the link between Turks and Sumerians, which was published. As a result, the young enthusiast began cooperating with Turkologists.

From S.N. Zemlyano's article published in "Mustaqil Gazete" we learned that there was another aspect of Zifeld-Simumyagi's creativity at that time. It mentions the interest of German intelligence in the work of the Bolsheviks led by V. I. Lenin (of course, this does not mean that Lenin is a "German spy"). The article also mentions the ambassador von Remberg sent by the Germans to Sweden and his secretary, Alexander Keskula, who was originally from Estonia. And then Zemliano writes: the mediator between von Remberg, Alexander Keskula and Lenin was the Scandinavian-born Bolshevik Arthur Seefeld, who was close to the leadership of the Bolsheviks. Keskula provided Seefeld with money he received from the Germans, which he imperceptibly transferred to the coffers of the Bolshevik party. Zifeld, in turn, informed Keskula about Lenin's behavior and everything that happened around him.

Lenin's name is not mentioned anywhere in the investigation. This name appears only during his acquittal, when Zifeld-Simumyagi's collaboration with Lenin is used as a positive argument. It is clear from this that Baku was aware of this cooperation, at least, Arthur Rudolph himself could not refrain from talking a lot. It should be noted that all these issues had nothing to do with Zifeld-Simumyagi's arrest in 1938, and these issues were not considered at all in his investigative work.

This tale is not entirely clear. However, given what we know about this individual, it's impossible to image him as a professional intelligence operative. As a dreamer who was interested in everything but was actually a frivolous man, he performed the same role in his scientific work as he unintentionally did in hidden operations. It's possible that his compatriot misunderstood Keskula's work. By the way, where did the version of Zifeld's "Scandinavian descent" come from? Didn't he come up with this version to increase his price? It appears that, despite his revolutionary history and personal relationship with Lenin, Zifeld-Simumyaghi did not carve out a distinct career throughout the Soviet era.

In 1917, in pursuit of the first immigrants who arrived to V. I. Lenin, the second group, which included Artur Rudolfovich, traversed Germany and Sweden before entering Russia through Switzerland. His actions between 1917 and 1923 were very busy, but only a few of them were represented in the investigation work: in 1919, he fought in Tonkonov's partisan unit in the North Caucasus, and in 1920, he served at the embassy of the then-Menshevik Georgia of the RSFSR.

In 1923, Zifeld-Simumyaghi was sent to work in Baku. He lived here until the early 1930s, then moved to Tbilisi for a short time, returned to Baku in 1935 and lived here until his arrest. For some time he works in party work, but from the 20s he completely switches to the field of science. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Zifeld-Simumyaghi worked at the Azerbaijan State University and the Azerbaijan Research and Research Society. After returning to Baku, his main workplace became the Azerbaijan branch of EA of the USSR. Thus, in 1935-1937, he was the director of the Institute of Language and Literature, and in 1937 he headed the combined Institute of History, Language and Literature for a short period of time; at the same time, he was also a member of the presidium of the branch and the editor-in-chief of "Khablar", its main press.

Zifeld-Simumyaghi had great influence in Baku due to his revolutionary background, extensive knowledge and commitment to science. However, modern readers will have a rather strange impression of his activity. The scientist who defended the idea of the Ural-Altaic family was later influenced by the "New teaching of language", which was highly influential at that time and repeatedly put forward by academician N.Y. Marr. The Baku professor, who accepted this method of education, not only studied Maar, but also tried to compete with him, and combined it with the Ural-Altaic concept, which was important to him as well as to all Ural-Estonians living in the Altai-Azerbaijan territory, which Marr denied.

As a result, he understood that the Ural-Altaic languages were not a family, but a "federation of languages" united by economic characteristics. Among the Ural-Altaic languages he attributed many, from Sumerian to Latvian, and some Slavic languages: "The Great Russians are largely Slavonic Volga Finns... The Danubian Bulgarians are descended from the Volga Bulgars (Turks)" .... He collected material covering an immense number of languages. , but he obtained them from unsubstantiated sources such as A. V. Starchevsky's "Yuzdillik dictionary".

In general, the professor's works are considered an example of scientific dilettantism. To prove this, let's pay attention to an example that does not require further explanation: "There are many things in common in the phonetics of the associations of mountain shepherds. For example, there is a similarity in terms of the development of throaty throat sounds in Switzerland and the Caucasus highlanders, and the development of a long vowel in the cold-blooded peoples of the Northern regions from the Netherlands to Yakutia." Such an example proves the scientist's unrequited and fanatical commitment to his principles: he named his only daughter Uraltay, who was born in 1927.

He was someone who lived in his own fantasy world and did not care about the mundane social affairs of running an institute. We came across this issue in the same statements given by many people in some investigative cases. Gulam Bagirov, the deputy of Zifeld-Sumyagi, says about him: "A good scientist, a bad leader and organizer." S. Tevosov, secretary of the party committee of the Azerbaijan Branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (EAAF), says: "We know that he is incompetent in organizational work." Ethnographer A.A. Klimov, in his statement before Zifeld-Sumumyagi's acquittal, notes: "He had a sensitive nature like a human being, he believed in everyone, he did not want to hurt anyone. He was weak as a leader, he paid more attention to science, and he was not very interested in the public affairs of the Institute. He would entrust his work to other authorized employees of the Institute - H. Zeynalli and G. Baghirov".

The main thing that distinguished Zifeld-Simumyagin from non-Turkish Baku professors was his knowledge of the Azerbaijani language and his interest in Turkish culture. Russian, Jewish and Armenian professors did not know this language and did not communicate with their Turkish colleagues outside of work. The main factor that brought Artur Rudolfovich closer to Turkish intellectuals was the Ural-Altai hypothesis, which he always adhered to; as mentioned in the investigation, if he was not pan-Turkist, he was at least a fan of Turkey. Although he did not admit his "anti-revolutionary" activities during the investigation, he could not deny that he had a close relationship with B.V. Chobanzade, G.S. Gubaidullin, V. Khuluflu, H. Zeynalli, A. Taghizadeh, X.S. Khojayev and others who had already been destroyed by that time. Because they also mentioned Seefeld's name. One of the main evidences that made his arrest important was the testimony given by G.S. Gubaidulli, which most likely has real grounds: "Not every person becomes a Marxist-communist directly. Eastern workers usually go to communism in this way: first he becomes a local-nationalist, then pan-Turkist, pan-Turanist and finally internationalist". Until 1924, Zifeld-Simumyaghi called himself a pan-Turkist, after which he distanced himself from pan-Turkism. Probably, until 1924, he intended to recognize the kinship of the Turkic languages, and then he changed his point of view under the influence of N.Y. Marr's research. But the investigation interpreted his words differently.

It is thought that his intimate association with Turkish scientists contributed to his unfortunate death. As previously stated, during the 1937-1938 repressions, scientists and professionals of non-Turkish ancestry were seldom, if ever, affected. It is significant to note that following the wave of repression that injured nearly the whole administration, the Institute of History, Language, and Literature was led by A.A. Klimov, a retired Russian ethnographer who could not know Azerbaijani. Zifeld-Simumyagin was part of the group of Turkish scientists...

But he did not fall into the first part of the mass arrests: neither in January, nor in March, nor in June of 1937 did they touch him. However, after the arrest of B.B. Chobanzade and H. Zeynalli in January 1937, his condition began to deteriorate. Both of them work at the Institute of Language and Literature, which he heads, and Zeynalli was the institute's scientific secretary. The minutes of the meeting of the party committee of the Azerbaijan branch of the EA of the USSR dated February 14, 1937 were also attached to the work of G. Bagirov. Zifeld-Simumyaghi was still a member of the party committee at this time and criticized his deputy Gulam Bagirov, who was excluded from candidacy for party membership at the meeting along with others. However, in the speeches of other members of the party committee, criticism of the director of the institute was felt. He was accused of "liberalism", as well as distancing himself from institute affairs, which resulted in "Zeynalli's arbitrariness". More serious accusations have also come to light. In January 1937, B.V. Chobanzade and G. Bagirov were resting together in Kislovodski, where B.V. Chobanzade was imprisoned. Unaware of the latest events, Zifeld-Simumyaghi writes a letter to Kislovodsky-Bagyrov and sends greetings to Chobanzade. During the interrogation, such a meaningless question is asked: "Why do you send greetings to Chobanzade in your letter to Baghirov?" At that time, this matter had not yet developed, although Artur Rufdolfovich would be informed about this matter in the investigation. For now, it was noted that: "There is liberalism in Seefeld, we are trying to correct it, if necessary, we will put the matter sharply."

Soon, two humanitarian institutes, whose composition was seriously reduced due to arrests, were merged. Zifeld-Simumyaghi became the director of the combined institute for a few months, but in September 1937 the matter was brought to a sharp end, and he was dismissed from this position, although not arrested. Until his arrest, he worked in the branch only as a professor-consultant in the history of the Near East.

Later, in addition to case No. 12493, a new case was opened under the name of causing damage to the Azerbaijan branch of EA of the USSR. In February-April 1938, 4 people were arrested in connection with this case: A.R. Zifeld-Simumyaghi, his former deputy G. Bagirov, I. Hasanov, who joined the management of the institute, and the general scientific secretary of the branch, chemist D. A. R. Kazimov. The first of them, Artur Rudolfovich, was arrested - on February 1, 1938.

At that time, evidence was collected for him from all his acquaintances and associates who were shot in October 1937 and January 1938. Although no one called him a "member of the organization", the materials at hand were enough. It should be noted that during the arrest of the professor, changes were made in the leadership of the NKVD of Azerbaijan, which was mentioned in the investigative case of R. Akhundov. Timofey Mikhailovich Borshev, who had a close relationship with Mir Jafar Bagirov at that time, replaced B. Gerasimov, who served as the assistant People's Commissar. As mentioned, in 1956 they suffered the same fate.

In the report on the arrest, Rasskazchikov, the head of the 4th department of the State Security Department of the NKVD of the Azerbaijan SSR, concluded that the statements of B.V. Chobanzade, H.S. Gubaydullin and Ali Nazim Mahmudzade "expose Zifeld-Simumyaghi". Then, a decision is issued on the final opportunity measure signed by Borshev. The arrest warrant was also signed in his name. The search protocol, which included "parsigar" among the removed items, and the personal search took place on the same day. Later, on March 29, 1939, the decree "to destroy manuscripts, letters and books by burning" was added to this part of the investigative work. Thus, we will never know anything about the scientist's unpublished works (in the 1930s, he was little published).

After the arrest, on February 20, 1938, Zifeld-Simumyaghi was interrogated by investigator Mustafayev. During the next 1 year, no documents were recorded in the case. Only at the end of March 1939, the interrogation protocols reappear, it is clear that for some reason they want to close the long-running case. On the night of March 26-27, 1939, investigator Dranishkov drew up 3 protocols. It is noted that the interrogation lasted for 17 hours on March 26, a break was given until 11 p.m., and then continued all night and ended at 10:30 a.m. the next day.

During these two days, Zifeld-Simumyaghi spoke in detail about his eventful past, admitted that he adheres to "pan-Turkism", and listed the "enemies" he met. He admitted that in 1937, when the question of expelling the "pan-Turkist" Chobanzadeh was raised, he took him under his protection at the party meeting and helped him stay in his job. Another regret was related to Mahmud Kashgari's dictionary. "I confess that I have not studied this book sufficiently, and that I regard it as a rare copy of linguistics compared to other extinct languages." However, although he was subjected to physical pressure (there is no information about the attitude towards him in the investigative case, but G. Bagirov, who was interrogated at the same time as him, testified to this), he did not admit the main issue - the issue of "being a member of the organization" at all. In response to the testimony of those who were interrogated earlier, Zifeld-Simumyaghi stated in his statement that everyone slandered him because he had revealed their insides. Also, he did not understand why Gubaidullin testified against him when they had a good relationship. He tried to prove that his "Ural-Altai" idea was designed against Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism, because it serves to unite one Turkic nation with another, Muslim with non-Muslim.

The investigation did not show any interest in the professor's Estonian origin, nor in the Eser-Menshevik past. Zifeld-Simumyaghi himself spoke openly about his youth activities. The investigation was programmed on the "counter-revolutionary pan-Turkist organization", everything else was of no interest to them. Statements against Zifeld-Simumyakin were also added to the later pages of the case. The testimony of G. Bagirov (the other two did not provide any necessary information) and Y.D. Kozina, S.P. Tevosov and A.A. Klimova, who held leading positions in the Azerbaijan branch of the EA of the USSR in 1938-1939, were added to the statements of 1937. The last three people did not say anything about the counter-revolutionary activities of the imprisoned Zifeld, they only confirmed the organizational defects in the administration and his close relations with B.V. Chobanzade, G.S. Gubaydullin and H. Zeynalli.

On March 27, 1939, after the interrogation, a protocol was prepared on its completion. It was stated there that the accused person does not accept what was said and only admits that he "entrusted the financial affairs of the Institute of Language and Literature to scientific secretary H. Zeynalli", therefore he is ready to take responsibility. On April 1, Dranishnikov and Mustafayev prepared an indictment approved by Karimov, the new deputy of the Narkom. A.R.Zifeld-Simumyaghi was accused of being a member of the "organization", participating in the translation of "M. Kashgari's pan-Turkist book" and "planning harmful scientific research in the Azerbaijan branch of the EA of the USSR". It is interesting that there are records that he pleaded not guilty. It was decided that these four cases will be sent to Moscow for a special discussion to be presented to the department that deals with cases that do not involve the death sentence. In 1938, after the release of N. I. Yezhov from his position, this procedure began to become common as the wave of repression weakened.

Before the court hearing, Moscow prosecutor Kuzmin produced an excerpt from May 3, 1939. It was said there: "Ziefeld was only in contact with the pan-Turkists until 1924, and he did not feel himself guilty by demonstrating that he had left them. Only later did the USSR detect the presence of a pan-Turkist organization in the Azerbaijan branch of EA. Furthermore, Zifeld disputed that he took the pan-Turkist Chobanzade under his protection in 1931. It is claimed that following these comments, the prosecutor should have considered whether the accused individual was indeed guilty or not. However, he ruled that Seefeld-Simumyaghi would be banished for eight years. The June 21, 1939 meeting resulted in such a resolution.

Sara Yakovlenna Khovanskaya, Artur Rudolfovich's wife, later wrote that on June 16, 1939, or rather, before the case was closed, he had already been removed from Baku, and then at the end of November she wrote from Vladivastok that all the Bakurians (G. Bagirov, I. Hasanov, D. A. R. Kazymov)) Kolyma, and the "old men" like him are taken to a warmer climate. When compared to the other letters, it is evident that this one was written earlier and arrived in Baku around the end of November. But they duped the scientist by sending him to Kolym, where his health could not endure the hard environment.

Among the investigative papers is a doctor's certificate, signed in Baku on March 19, 1939, declaring that he is totally well and capable of enduring the northern temperature. Later, in the act of death, A.R. Seefeld-Simumyagi is alleged to have died on December 6, 1939, in an unintelligible camp (the only thing certain is that it begins with the letter X). According to the record, he was transferred from Nizhny Debin (located in Kolym) to the centre (most likely the hospital) on November 29. "Weakness due to age, fatigue" was diagnosed, with "heart failure" listed as the cause of death. After 16 months in prison and 6 months in exile, a healthy 50-year-old man became an emaciated old man and died.

The acquittal portion of the case begins with S. Khovanskaya's application dated December 7, 1955, who is currently in Baku. All of them who had to malign the professor had either been acquitted or were in the process of being acquitted. A. Klimov and S. Tavesov, two prior witnesses, were examined again, and both expressed good opinions about the dead. The prosecutor's final document dates from 22.06.1956, the appeal to the Supreme Court is dated 27.06.1956, and the court ruling on the annulment of the investigation case is dated 03.07.1956.

The text is based on the book "Repressed Turkology" by F.D. Ashnin, B.M.Alpatov, and D.M. Nasilov.




"Literary newspaper". 2018. May 8; 12.