Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Ekaterina GUSAROVA, Institute of Oriental Manuscripts Russian Academy of Sciences

Nikolay Ashinov, the Russian free Cossack ataman, is considered an adventurer in literary sources of the last quarter of the 19th century. It is generally accepted that he managed to reach Ethiopia twice, in 1885-1886 and at the end of 1888-1889. The period was marked by intense international activity of European Empires in the struggle to acquire new colonies. The main idea of Ashinov was to found a Russian naval base on the Red Sea shore and to establish strong political and religious links between Ethiopia and the Russian Empire. The heritage of the mission can be found in different state institutions of the Russian Federation and other countries involved in the conflict (libraries, archives and museums). We refer here to official correspondence of the Ministries of foreign affairs, private letters, diaries of the participants in the mission, memoirs of contemporaries, manuscripts, etc. In the process of analyzing this material it turned out that not all of it was taken into account by researchers of Ashinov’s activity in the Horn of Africa. In particular, it was revealed that between April 1886 (the end of the first trip) and November 1888 (the beginning of the last trip) Ashinov organized one further trip to Ethiopia (less official, if we can say so in the context of the generally unofficial character of his actions), probably together with his wife. From a certain point of view Ashinov was a part of an inconsistent game of Russian politicians and diplomats on the international scene. In the course of the present research we propose to rethink Ashinov’s mission, its goals, ideas and results, and to remove, where possible, the negative connotation of the word adventurer, ubiquitously used to describe him.