Oz Bush Telegraph https://ozbushtelegraph.online Share Your News Australia Wed, 24 May 2017 15:25:43 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 https://i1.wp.com/ozbushtelegraph.online/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-LOGO-NEW-1.jpg?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Oz Bush Telegraph https://ozbushtelegraph.online 32 32 124405012 150 years on, another Miklouho-Maclay is off to meet the Papuans https://ozbushtelegraph.online/150-years-on-another-miklouho-maclay-is-off-to-meet-the-papuans/ https://ozbushtelegraph.online/150-years-on-another-miklouho-maclay-is-off-to-meet-the-papuans/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 15:24:32 +0000 https://ozbushtelegraph.online/150-years-on-another-miklouho-maclay-is-off-to-meet-the-papuans/

“I have always reacted normally to who I am. Maybe because I
had no other choice?” Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay smiles, sitting
on an office chair with impeccable posture. As is the proper
way to sit for a hereditary nobleman.

He was born exactly 102 years after his namesake and
world-renowned great-great-grandfather Nikolai [Nicholas]
Miklouho-Maclay landed on the shores of Papua New Guinea. Today
he is the founder and director of the Miklouho-Maclay
Foundation for the Preservation of Ethnocultural Heritage. His
temporary office is directly opposite one of the oldest
cemeteries in St. Petersburg – people have been buried here
since the emergence of the Russian state and Russian Empire.
Admittedly, the ethnographer is not buried here and, anyway,
any physical proximity to his ancestors is a matter of pure
accident: It just happened this way. He also says that he was
named Nikolai not after the explorer, but because his parents
liked the name.

Today the descendants of Miklouho-Maclay, who studied the Papua
New Guinea natives for 12 years, live mainly in Russia and
Australia. But so far it’s only Nikolai who has decided that
after 150 years he needs to to meet the Papuans and trace the
footsteps of his ancestor. Moreover, to travel 18,000
kilometers exclusively by car, crossing seven countries.

Family anecdotes, cannibals, and a deadly bite

Very few people today remember anything about Miklouho-Maclay,
except his name – and this upsets his great-great-grandson
Nikolai.

Nikolai Myklukha-Maklai: "Nikolai Nikolayevich (Miklouho-Maclay) never believed that one race or culture should dominate another." Photo: Explorer Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay, Malay Peninsula, 1874-75. Source: Archive PhotoNikolai
Myklukha-Maklai: “Nikolai Nikolayevich (Miklouho-Maclay) never
believed that one race or culture should dominate another.”
Photo: Explorer Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay, Malay Peninsula,
1874-75. Source: Archive Photo

“There is Miklouho-Maclay’s street in Moscow, and some people
are absolutely convinced that my surname is in honor of the
street. Also, I have been dogged by incidents because of my
surname. On one occasion I called an ambulance for my mother
and was asked for my name. And no ambulance came. I called back
but was told: ‘Young man, call the psychiatric clinic.’ At
times it becomes ridiculous: I arrive somewhere and am asked,
‘What is your name?’ – ‘Miklouho-Maclay’ – ‘What?’ –
‘Miklouho-Maclay.’ – ‘What?’ – ‘Ivanov [the most common Russian
surname – RBTH]’ – ‘Come in’.”

There is a video clip posted on the foundation’s website in
which residents of St. Petersburg are trying hard to guess who
Miklouho-Maclay was, but all they can remember are some jokes
which, in their opinion, are better not to tell.

In the past Nikolai worked in the agricultural sector. He had
his own business and used the money he earned to travel the
world. Then he realized that his main job should be to try to
preserve the memory of his ancestor. That was how he came up
with the idea of an expedition by road to the shores of Papua
New Guinea: First to reach Papua New Guinea via China,
Thailand, and Indonesia, and then to drive across the whole of
Russia, telling stories about the ethnographer.

Nikolai realized that his main job should be to try to preserve the memory of his ancestor. That was how he came up with the idea of an expedition by road to the shores of Papua New Guinea: First to reach Papua New Guinea via China, Thailand, and Indonesia, and then to drive across the whole of Russia, telling stories about the ethnographer. Source: Ruslan ShamukovNikolai
realized that his main job should be to try to preserve the
memory of his ancestor. That was how he came up with the idea
of an expedition by road to the shores of Papua New Guinea:
First to reach Papua New Guinea via China, Thailand, and
Indonesia, and then to drive across the whole of Russia,
telling stories about the ethnographer. Source: Ruslan
Shamukov

The crew includes scientists and explorers. Together, for two
weeks, they will examine the daily life of the Papuans, to see
if the natives have been influenced by Russian culture.

The first white man in Papua, Miklouho-Maclay, became a synonym
for all Europeans who later visited the islands. His name was
given to crops brought from the mainland. Thanks to the Russian
ethnographer, the local languages acquired words such as
“topor,” “kukuruza,” and “arbuz” (Russian for “ax,” “corn,” and
“watermelon”, respectively).

Nikolai says he’s not afraid of anything (despite the fact that
there are tribes of cannibals still living just a few
kilometers inland from the eastern Maclay Coast). But his
fellow team member (formerly a surgeon) Konstantin Bespalko has
traveled around the world – the falls of Iguazu and Angel, the
Galápagos Islands, Madagascar, Laos, Cambodia, and India – and
he knows that there are things to be afraid of.

“Ten years ago in Madagascar I was bitten by a toad of some
kind. I was on a mountain and everyone said to me “oh, danger
danger!” pointing at a little frog. It turned out that, if you
step on it, two hours later you can bid farewell to your
companions. I don’t know when exactly it bit me but my whole
leg ended up covered in blood because the blood stopped
clotting – it must have had anticoagulants in its saliva.

“And in Cambodia there was another incident: The rainy season
started and the roads were covered in a thin sheet of water. So
we stopped. And then we saw red dots on the trees. One person
in our group decided to walk off the road. And the locals
shouted ‘Stop!’ What were those red dots? They remain from the
time of the Khmer Rouge and mean that the area has still not
been cleared of mines. Only the narrow strip of road flooded
with water had been cleared,” Bespalko says.

‘I can do it myself without the other Nikolai
Miklouho-Maclay’

There is a paper map spread on the desk and a glowing globe in
the foundation’s office. These must be the only things that
hint at the type of activity its occupant is involved in. He
says that, despite the numerous interviews he gives to
journalists and his membership of the oldest Russian
Geographical Society (its board of trustees includes the
Russian president, the defense minister, and some of the
country’s richest people), he does not feel like an exceptional
individual.

Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay: "During my childhood, since the age of 13, I was fond of sailing but only recently, 30 years later, I have discovered that one of my sailing friends charged several kopecks for exhibiting me to others." Source: Ruslan ShamukovNikolai
Miklouho-Maclay: “During my childhood, since the age of 13, I
was fond of sailing but only recently, 30 years later, I have
discovered that one of my sailing friends charged several
kopecks for exhibiting me to others.” Source: Ruslan
Shamukov

“Rather, I was surprised how important this is for other
people. You know, during my childhood, since the age of 13, I
was fond of sailing but only recently, 30 years later, I have
discovered that one of my sailing friends charged several
kopecks for exhibiting me to others. And what is amazing is not
that he was making money from it, but that children at the time
were prepared to pay to see a live Miklouho-Maclay,” Nikolai
recalls.

Children from the Maclay Coast, Papua New Guinea, 2010. Photo from the personal archive of Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay. Source: Personal archiveChildren
from the Maclay Coast, Papua New Guinea, 2010. Photo from the
personal archive of Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay. Source: Personal
archive

The magic of the name still works. Apart from the noble goal of
preserving the memory of his ancestor and raising the level of
erudition among today’s schoolchildren, he doesn’t admit to
having any other goals. For example, his ancestor had political
ambitions, among other things. Any school pupil can read in his
textbooks that Miklouho-Maclay proposed that the land he had
discovered should be colonized. The scientist and navigator
suggested calling the islands Chernorossiya (Russian for “Black
Russia,” because of the color of the indigenous population) and
he himself wanted to be in charge of the colonial state. But
the emperor did not allow it and the coast was colonized by
Germany.

“Russia’s colonization was needed for one reason – to take
under its protection the small ethnic groups that populated
Papua New Guinea. Nikolai Nikolayevich (Miklouho-Maclay) never
believed that one race or culture should dominate another,”
Nikolai observes politely after a short pause.

“And ambition is a good thing,” he says, animatedly. He recalls
one of his great-great-grandfather’s mottos. “If a person can
afford it and he has ambition, it is a wonderful thing, and a
big responsibility. A person can be judged by his goals. And he
had big goals.”

Children From the Bongu Village, Papua New Guinea. Photo from the personal archive of Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay. Source: Personal archiveChildren
From the Bongu Village, Papua New Guinea. Photo from the
personal archive of Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay. Source: Personal
archive

‘And your goal – is it big enough?’

“This must be my biggest goal. What you are talking about is a
huge undertaking and if we manage to get it going… we should
not distort history.”

Nikolai keeps saying that it’s not just about him being a
descendant of a world-renowned person.

“I set up this foundation only when I realized that I am quite
a mature personality irrespective of the other Nikolai
Miklouho-Maclay. I myself am a person who can do good things,
without being linked to him. Yes, of course, while preserving
his legacy. Yes, of course, while drawing on his work. It would
have been silly not to draw on it.”

Read more: Russia Versus
Europe: Fear and loathing in the age of the Grand
Tour>>>

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