Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Armin Vambrey Orientalist

Vambéry, Armin (Hermann) (1832-1913)  born in the Austro- Hungarian empire in what is now Slovakia (albeit he was a native Hungarian speaker). A famed orientalist and linguist  after a year in Constantinople, he published a German-Turkish dictionary in 1858. Later, he also published various other linguistic works. He said to have spoken some twenty Turkic languages and dialects.

In the early 1860ies Armin travelled through Armenia, Persia and Turkestan and with his Turkic language skills was able to gain a deeper insight into the local customs than previous European travelers. Setting out from Budapest in June 1861 via Constantinople to onto Trebizond by crossing the Black sea and then overland via Kurdistan to Tehran . Here he joined a band of pilgrims returning from Mecca and spent several months with them traveling across Iran before crossing the desert to Khiva.

In these times travelling in central Asia was considered very dangerous for outsiders particularly to those like Vambery who were also it is said to be collecting information. (At various times Vambery worked for the Ottomans, the British as well as Austro-Hungarian authorities). For his trip to Khiva he was disguised as a travelling dervish who went by the name "Reshit Efendi,". Upon his arrival in Khiva he managed to keep up appearances during interviews with the Khiva Khan. Then onto Bokhara and Samarkand. Initially, he aroused the suspicions of the Bukharin Khan but managed to maintain his pretence, and left the audience laden with gifts. Upon leaving Samarkand, he then made his way back to Constantinople in Mach 1864, traveling by way of Heart. This was the first successful journey of its kind undertaken by a European to the heart of central Asia since medieval times.

On his return to Budapest he published his recollections from his travels in  Central Asian Journey. . This book was a great success and made him an internationally renowned writer and celebrity, with the Austrian Emperor rewarding him by granting him professorship in the Royal University of Pest in 1865.

References :
Ármin Vámbéry, Travels in Central Asia, being the account of a journey from Teheran across the Turkoman Desert on the Eastern shore of the Caspian to Khiva, Bokhara, and Samarcand, performed in the year 1863. (London, 1864.) 2354.d.1. (The book is divided into two parts: the first a description of his travels, the second devoted to notices concerning the geography, statistics, politics, and social relations of Central Asia). Other books in English Arminius Vámbéry, His Life and Adventures(ib. 1883) and Struggles of My Life (ib. 1904).