Did you know that the Philippines could have played an important role in Russia more than a hundred years ago?
In 19th century, Russian authorities considered the Philippine islands to be the food supplier of its territories in North America, particularly Alaska and a portion of northern California.
This intriguing information was revealed recently by Russian anthropologist Maria Stanyukovich during the first offering of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Museum 2018 lecture series.
The event was organized by UST archivist and church historian Regalado Trota José, Stanyukovich’s friend and fellow anthropologist.
Stanyukovich, who heads the Anthropology of Australia, Oceania and Indonesia department of Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) in St. Petersburg, Russia, explained the Russians chose the Philippines to be the food bowl of Russian America since travel time from the Philippines was shorter compared to the amount of time that would be spent if the supplies were to come from the European side of Russia.
‘Grains and greens’
She said the Russians were interested in the “grains and greens” or rice and vegetables of the country to be supplied to their American territories, which they held from the late 18th to mid-19th centuries.
However, the plan did not push through for reasons that still needed to be determined.
Stanyukovich also shared that a number of Russian mariners and scholars visited the Philippines in the 19th century.
Among them were Vassily Golovnin (1776-1831), Fyodor Petrovich Litke (1797-1882) and Nicolai Miklouho-Maclay (1846-1888).
She explained that these persons were botanists, biologists, painters and experts of the sea who made explorations in the field of anthropology.
Maclay in particular was a scientist and explorer who visited Zambales, Cebu and Mindanao in the 1870s, she added.
She also said the visits, done for explorations and economic purposes, did not mean the Russians have colonial interest in the late Spanish colonial Philippines.
Stanyukovich is one of only few Russian students who studied the Filipino language (being taught in Russia since 1959 when Vladimir Makarenko started teaching it at Moscow State University) at the Philippine language and culture department of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1967.
She specializes in Philippine studies, linguistic anthropology and epics, particularly the various kinds of the Hudhud of the Ifugao.
Aside from Filipino, she is also fluent in the Ifugao language Tuwali.
Also at the same event was Rodion Fedorov of the same academy who talked about his field recordings in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, documenting the T’boli epic “Todbulul.”
José said the 300-year old institution Kunstkamera was inaugurated in 1714, shortly after Peter the Great established St. Petersburg.
This Russian western enclave was later renamed Petrograd and Leningrad before reverting back to St. Petersburg after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
José said Peter the Great, a Russian czar, moved the capital to the banks of the Neva River near the Baltic Sea “so Russia would be more in contact with the rest of Europe, and as well be Russia’s showpiece to the world.” —CONTRIBUTED