Afanasy Nikitin in India: A Historical Retrospective of the Legendary Journey
The article defines the historical significance of the journey of the Tver merchant Afanasy Nikitin in terms of its influence on the subsequent development of cultural contacts between Russia and India, and also reveals a number of circumstances associated with the installation of the only monument to this traveler in India. The text of a 15th-century literary monument, A Journey Beyond the Three Seas, is analyzed. The results of research by Indian and Russian scholars and a number of English-language sources are used. Systemic-historical, historical-genetic methods and a number of methods of historical source study related to the interpretation and analysis of textual content are applied. The book by Nikitin has been studied in the aspect of comparing its content with information provided, among others, by Portuguese authors. The historical value of Nikitin’s travel notes is emphasized as of the only evidence of the realities of the life of Indian society in the Bahmanid state, which allowed the author to reasonably make a number of corrections to the historical data. The late 19th-century publications of British and Indian authors dedicated to the detailed reconstruction of Afanasy Nikitin’s route and published in Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency are studied. The versions of the interpretation of the geographical names given in A Journey Beyond the Three Seas are considered. In the light of the publications that appeared on the pages of Gazetteer, the key stages of Nikitin’s journey through the territory of the Western Deccan are considered. Discussions caused by the study of the Journey by Indian authors at the end of the 19th century are analyzed. The author claims that, in his notes, Nikitin sought to comprehend and understand what he saw rather than compare the incomprehensible with the usual realities and condemn it for the fact that it does not fit into his own ideas at all. The concept of Orientalism in assessing the significance and motives of the activities of famous Russian travelers and researchers of the East is criticized. An extensive factual record of events related to the erection of the monument to Afanasy Nikitin in the vicinity of Mumbai in 2002 is presented. The construction of the monument to Nikitin is interpreted as an event that gave a new impetus to the development and expansion of Russian-Indian cooperation. The author points out that the cultural resource is the basis in building a general concept of interstate relations and continues to play a significant role in interstate cooperation between Russia and India.