Of all the great explorers who plundered the ancient treasures of the Silk Road a century ago, Baron Gustaf Mannerheim would become the most famous, but not for his archaeological exploits. Men such as Sven Hedin, Sir Aurel Stein, Albert von Le Coq and Paul Pelliot were the celebrity-explorers of their time. Feted and financed [...]
One of the riches treasures that Gustaf Mannerheim brought back from his journey along the Silk Road from 1906 to 1908 is his very considerable collection of photographs. The pictures contain a huge quantity of information, and the collection amounts to a colourful reportage of a bygone world and of peoples known to few Westerners at the time.
Harry Halén, a philologist and the foremost expert on Gustaf Mannerheim’s Asian expedition, has just edited a masterful new edition of Mannerheim’s travelogue. Like his original diary, this three-volume book is in Swedish. Published by Atlantis Books in Stockholm and weighing more than 10 pounds, it has been called “an ethnographic gold mine.”
In the spring of 1906, Gustaf Mannerheim, a colonel in the Russian Imperial Army who had recently return from war in Manchuria, was summoned to the General Staff Building in St. Petersburg. Inside to greet him was General Fyodor Palitsyn, Chief of the General Staff, who asked if he’d be willing to return to Asia to undertake a secret intelligence mission.
In order to disguise the military nature of his secret mission, Gustaf Mannerheim, a colonel in the Russian Imperial Army, conducted extensive ethnographic research and collected Silk Road artifacts during his journey through China from 1906 to 1908.
Preliminary Report on the Trip Undertaken by Imperial Order Across Chinese Turkestan and the Northern Provinces of China to Peking in 1906–07 and 1908 by Col. Baron Mannerheim