Czechoslovak legionaries’ account of Buryat Buddhism: visual and literal sources



Year of publication 2017
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description A specific position among travelers to Asia in the first quarter of the 20th century is occupied by a group of "Czech and Slovak explorers of the Orient", who completely differed from other types of travelers. It is remarkable that although they did not prepare for their "travel to the Orient" in any way, they did not plan it and yet they achieved results comparable with other travelers. These were Czech and Slovak legionaries, men who were brought by the First World War from various Austro-Hungarian battlefields from where they deserted, were captivated or enlisted in the legions from elsewhere and with the first Czech and Slovak foreign army they got as far as Siberia, Manchuria and Japan. This contribution analyses several photographs made by legionaries; these photographs capture various aspects of Buryat Buddhism: monks, lay people, their cult structures, temples and temple complexes and also interiors, altars etc. About twenty photographs of this type are found in the Central Military Archive of the Czech Republic in Prague, which has not been precisely identified and which have a remarkable testimonial value. They capture the state of Buryat Buddhism before the Bolshevik revolution whose effects became apparent in this region only after the departure of foreign intervention armies, including Czechoslovak legionaries. If it is an extensive and systematically created set it is difficult to tell, as the photographs were discovered more or less by accident and they do not represent a targeted collection.

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