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S C I E N T I F I C   E X P E D I T I O N S   

T O   E A S T E R N   T U R K E S T A N [1]



Ancient period of history and culture of Central Asia remained unstudied up to the last quarter of the 19th century. The Russian Geographical Society as well as the Russian Committee for Study of Central Asia has dispatched a number of scientific expeditions into Central Asia since the 1880’s. Those expeditions made geographic maps of the region and performed archaeological, ethnographic and other exploration.


The Geographical Society sent five expeditions in Central Asia, headed by:

  •  M.V.Pevtsov (1889-1890)

  • G.N.Potanin (1884-1885)

  • V.I.Roborovsky (1893-1895)

  • P.K.Kozlov (1883)

  • D.A.Klementz (1898)


Expeditions organized by the Russian Committee invaluably contributed in history and cultures studies of Central Asia. They were lead by:

  • M.M.Berezovsky to Kuçar (1905-1907)
  • A.I.Kokhanovsky to Turfan (1905-1907)
  • Mongol-Sychuan expedition by P.K.Kozlov (1909)
  • Two expeditions by S.F.Oldenburg:
    • 1909-1910 - In Eastern Turkestan
    • 1914-1915  - Dunghuang (Thousand Caves)
  • Two expeditions by S.E.Malov (1909-1911 and 1913-1915)

These expeditions discovered important monuments of pre-Muslim culture of Central Asia as well as great number of manuscripts.


Researchers from other countries participated actively in research of Central Asia as well.

  • Three expeditions to Eastern Turkestan headed by British researcher A. Stein: 

  • 1900-1901

  • 1906-1908

  • 1913-1916

The manuscripts, found by the expedition are kept in museums of England and India.


  • French expeditions explored Central Asia twice:

    • Dutre de Rein - 1890-1895

    • P.Pelieau – 1906

The latter found in Dunghuang unique Chinese, Tibetan and Indian manuscripts, which form the largest Dunghuang collection in the world now.


  • Four expeditions to Central Asia were dispatched by Germany headed by:

    • Dr. Gut and A.Grunvedel to Turfan - 1902-1903

    • A.von Lecoq to Turfan and Qumul - 1904-1905

    • A.von Lecoq and A.Grunvedel to Qaşqar, Quçar, Maralbaşi, Qizil, and Qaraşahar - 1905-1907

    • A.von Lecoq toQizil, Maralbaşi, Tumşuq, Quçar, etc. - 1913-1914


  • Three Japanese expeditions visited Qaşqar, Yarkänt, Taşqurğan, Hotän, Quçar, Turfan, etc. headed by:

    • Otani - 1902-1904

    • Tatibana - 1908-1909

    • Tatibana – 1910.


All these expeditions brought out from Eastern Turkestan a huge amount of materials related to culture, art, and history of the Uighur people who inhabited the region from time immemorial. Today all these materials are kept in museums, libraries and depositories in Russia, Germany, France, Great Britain, India, Japan and other countries.


[1] Role of Hand-Written Book in Central Asian Culture of Pre-Islamic Period // Role of Hand-Written Book in Culture of the Peoples of Orient. Moscow, 1988, p.313 (In Russian)




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