First and only edition. Large Octavo (24,5x16 cm). [2- t.p.], [2 – h.t.], [1- table of contents], 170, [1 - errata] pp. With a large folding chromolithographed map at the rear. Ink stamps of the private library of Anur Vakhitov (of Tbilisi) on the title page, half title and p. 97. Period remboîtage brown quarter sheep with cloth boards. Spine with raised bands and a gilt-lettered title; new endpapers. With the front original publisher’s wrapper bound in. The wrapper, title page and the map with tears or minor losses, neatly repaired, the map is backed, the text with occasional staining, but overall a very good copy.
Rare Russian imprint with only seven paper copies found in Worldcat. Historically significant, first Russian study of traditional Kalmyk land rights in the steppes of the Astrakhan Province (modern-day Kalmykia and Astrakhan oblast of Russia). The edition was initiated by the Imperial Ministry of State Properties, which administered lands of the nomad Kalmyks and was interested in gradually transitioning them from traditional tribal to individual land ownership and a sedentary way of life. The book was never republished or translated into other languages.
The author was a retired Russian military officer, the head of the Astrakhan Chamber of State Properties and Chief Trustee of the Kalmyks, Kapiton Kostenkov. In 1860-61, he commanded the Kuma-Manych military topographical expedition to the southern Kalmyk Steppe, which prepared thorough maps of the region, specified geographical coordinates and height of several major sites, researched the steppe’s geology and soils, collected statistical data, interviewed the Kalmyks about their way of life, &c. Kostenkov became a member of the Russian Geographical Society and authored several books and articles on the history, culture, religion and modern administration of the Kalmyks, including the first Kalmyk-Russian ABC textbook (Kalmytsko-Russkiy bukvar. SPb.: Academy of Sciences, 1871).
“The information in this book is taken from official and other sources, but mainly from the Archive of the Kalmyk Department, whose papers are preserved since 1703, and from the Complete Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire” (Kostenkov’s note under the table of contents). The author also used original articles from Astrakhan newspapers and official publications (i.e. “Astrakhanskiye Gubernskiye Vedomosti” – p. 4), classical historical works (see p. 29) by Johann Fischer (“Sibirskaya Istoriya…” SPb., 1774) and Iakinf Bichurin (“Istorichaskoye Obozreniye Oyratov…” SPb., 1834), “History of Kalmyk khans and materials for the history of Oyrats (Kalmyks)” translated by Georgy Lytkin and published in the “Astrakhanskye Gubernskiye Novosti” newspaper (1860), and others.
The book consists of six chapters:
1) History of the origin of the Kalmyk people and their relations with the Russian government;
2) Historical sketch of the rights of Kalmyk Noyons [princes]-proprietors and Zaysangs [noblemen];
3) Formation of the uluses and transfer of their administration to current Noyons-proprietors;
4) Kalmyks’ rights to the land provided to them in the Astrakhan Province;
5) Structure of the Kalmyk society and statistical information about the Kalmyks of the Astrakhan Province;
6) Results of the census of the Kalmyks, which ran in December 1868.
Chapter 3 is supplemented with three statistical tables, listing the main clans of Kalmyk Noyons and Zaysangs and indicating the number of kibitkas (yurts) or cattle on their property. Fragments of chapter 5 were first published in the Proceedings of the Astrakhan Province Statistical Committee (Kostenkov, K.I. Statisticheskiye Svedenia o Kalmykakh, Kochuyushchikh v Astrakhanskoi Gubernii// Trudy Astrakhanskogo Gubernskogo Statisticheskogo Komiteta. 1869, Issue 1), but our edition has the text significantly enlarged and reworked.
The text is supplemented with a large, content-rich map of the Kalmyk Steppe from the Volga River to the borders of the Lands of the Don Kossacks and Stavropol Province. The map marks main settlements, postal stations, geographical objects, roads, sites of astronomical and trigonometrical surveys and the future headquarters of government administration offices. Summer and winter lands of different uluses are marked by several colours.
Both the title page and the wrapper have an elaborate woodcut decorative frame with seven enclosed vignettes. They are based on Kostenkov's original photographs (as indicated under the largest vignette in the centre). Three vignettes show a group of Kalmyk kibitkas or yurts in the steppe and portraits of a Kalmyk man and woman in traditional dress. Four smaller vignettes in each corner of the border show Kalmyk cattle – a camel, an oak, horses and sheep.
Overall an attractive copy of a rare original Russian work on the history and contemporary issues of Kalmyk land rights, illustrated with a large detailed map. Our copy bears the ownership stamp of Anur Khismatovich Vakhitov (1932-1984), a Bashkir writer and translator, a member of the Union of Writers of Bashkiria (1965).