Painting of Ma Yuan, detail (Shanghai Museum)Painting of Ma Yuan (1160 k-1225), detail

A week ago we uploaded here as a musical accompaniment to our report on the exhibition of Aurel Stein’s archive Silk Road photos in Hong Kong, the Classical Chinese music “Three variations on the Yang Pass” performed by Wu Wenguang on guqin, that deep-voiced Chinese zither which also features in the masterful propaganda film of Zhang Yimou The Hero, with the blind musician playing on it during the first clash in the tea house. As this song was written by Wang Wei (699-761), whose beautiful book of poems gave name to our blog exactly a year ago, therefore we have decided to write in his honor some words on this poem before it would submerge among the other knots measuring the speed of the Wang River.

Wang Wei: 陽關三疊 – Three variations on the Yang Pass – Wu Wenguang, guqin solo

We translate this poem according to the method elaborated by us in the “Casa de la Poesía China”. The original text in traditional Chinese characters is followed by a transcription so that it would let you feel to some extent the music of the original poem. Right now it is not so important, as we have also included the poem as an audio file, but we are not always so lucky to find one. The English equivalents of the single words of the poem are displayed in floating windows to let you perceive the original structures of meaning. And finally we publish a translation as literal as we can. Indeed, the power of Classical Chinese poems is given by the fact that they, with very simple words and images, shape a wide space of associations, just like Classical Chinese paintings that use emptiness as a basic mean for their composition. The rest is entrusted to the reader.

Painting of Ma Yuan, detail (Shanghai Museum)


wèichéng zhāo yŭ yì qīng chén
kèshè qīng qīng liŭ sè xīn
quàn jūn gèng jìn yī bēi jiŭ
xī chū yángguān wú gù rén

Wang Wei: 陽關三疊 – Three variations on the Yang Pass

En Wei la lluvia de la mañana
lava el tenue polvo

el verde renueva
los sauces de la posada

te lo pido, amigo, toma
otra copa de vino

pasando al oeste de Yang
no quedan amistades

In Wei the morning rain
washes off the light dust

green, newly green are
the willows at the inn

I urge you, my friend, to take
another cup of wine

to the west of Yang Pass
there are no old friends

The Yangguan (“Southern Pass”, as it stood to the south-west of the famous Yumen Pass), built by Emperor Wu (156-87 BC) was the westernmost border pass of the Empire, only seventy kilometers from the caves of Dunhuang at the edge of Taklamakan Desert along the Silk Road where Aurel Stein made his discovery, a thousand and five hundred years after Wang Wei, of several thousands of manuscripts hidden from the nomads in a cave library. From here on the rule of the barbarians began. The expression 西出陽關 xī chū yángguān in the third verse literally means “leaving the Yang Pass for the West”, leaving civilization and everything familiar and entering into the threatening Unknown.

Qin Dahu: Leaving  the Yang Pass for the WestQin Dahu (1938), a painter of the “patriotic realism” in vogue since early 90’s:
西出陽關 – Leaving the Yang Pass for the West

Another traditional title for this poem is “Farewell to Yuan Er on his Mission to Anxi”. The friend of Wang Wei set off to the barbarian kingdom of Anxi to offer them the alliance of the Chinese against the Huns. This makes meaningful the name of Wei in the poem. The town stood on the bank of the Wei river, at the northernmost point of the central territory under firm control of the Chinese army, some thousand kilometers before the Yang Pass. The territories laying to the north of the river were threatened by the attacks of the barbarians, so the envoys leaving for the west were seen off by their friends only to this point. The Annals of the Han Dynasty for example write this on the legendary campaign of Li Guangli in the time of Wu:

General Li Guangli was going to lead the army to attack the Huns. The Prime Minister saw him off all the way to the Wei Bridge.

This tune has been worked up several times since Wang Wei, and it became a distinguished piece in the repertoire of guqin. It is called “Three variations” because traditionally it is played three times in three different variations. It is also often used today as a farewell song. I, for example, heard it at the airport of Shenzhen as the signal of the loudspeaker when I left for the west, to the Pearl River.

Wang Wei: 陽關三疊 – Three variations on the Yang Pass – Liu Weishan (guzheng), Chen Jiebing (erhu), Zhao Yangqin (yangqin), Min Xiaofen (pipa) (5'28")

Wang Wei: 陽關三疊 – Three variations on the Yang Pass – Yu Hongmei, erhu (accompanied on guqin) (5'04")

Wang Wei: 陽關三疊 – Three variations on the Yang Pass – Dai Xiaolian, guqin solo (4'49")

Wang Wei: 陽關三疊 – Three variations on the Yang Pass – Anonymous modern performance from the CD “Gu Yue Xin Yun” (Old Music, New Sound) (7'08")

The Yang Pass todayThe Yang Pass today

La inauguración

Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa, sala central
Este aspecto tenía la sala central de la Biblioteca –se trata de la Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa, para quien no haya leído la entrada anterior– unas horas antes de su solemne apertura. Las vitrinas ante las estanterías barrocas se habían preparado con todo esmero para exhibir las Biblias impresas más preciadas de la colección, mientras que los manuscritos quedaban en el vestíbulo previo. En la página de presentación de la serie de los «Tesoros de Kalocsa», en Studiolum, se puede ver también esta sala desprovista de las vitrinas –bueno, aquella imagen la tomó un fotógrafo profesional, no nosotros.

Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa, sala C, exposición de códicesDetalle de la exposición de códices

Antes de que lleguen los invitados, demos un vistazo a las salas de depósito de la biblioteca, cerradas a los visitantes, donde tantas horas hemos pasado concentrados en familiarizarnos con los libros.

Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa, sala K
Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa, sala K
Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa, sala K

Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa, sala central, inauguración de la exposiciónAbrieron la muestra el arzobispo de Kalocsa, Balázs Bábel, y el legado del Papa, arzobispo Juliusz Janusz.

Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa, sala central, inauguración de la exposiciónEn la esquina inferior derecha está el expositor de Erasmo, con dos joyas: la monumental edición en diez volúmenes de las Opera omnia de Leiden, hasta hoy la mejor edición completa de Erasmo, y una carta autógrafa del escritor. En el expositor anterior, dedicado a Lutero, también se encuentra un poema autógrafo del teólogo alemán.

Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa, sala central, Karolina Takács, Zita GróczLa apoteosis de las bibliotecarias

Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa, sala central


Kalocsa, Cathedral Library, main hall
This is how the main hall of the library – the Cathedral Library of Kalocsa, if someone has not read the previous post – looked some hours before the solemn opening. The glass cases in front of the Baroque bookshelves had been prepared specifically for this exhibition. They exhibit the most precious printed Bibles of the library, while the codices are in the previous hall. On the start page of the “Treasures of Kalocsa” series by Studiolum you can also see the image of the main hall without the glass cases – all right, that image was taken by a professional photographer, not by us.

Kalocsa, Cathedral Library, C hall, codex expositionDetail of the codex exhibition

Before the guests arrive, let us have a look at the stack-rooms of the library, closed from visitors, where we have spent so many intimate hours browsing among the books.

Kalocsa, Cathedral Library, K hall
Kalocsa, Cathedral Library, K hall
Kalocsa, Cathedral Library, K hall

Kalocsa, Cathedral Library, main hall, exhibition openingThe exhibition is opened by Archbishop Balázs Bábel of Kalocsa and by papal legate Archbishop Juliusz Janusz.

Kalocsa, Cathedral Library, main hall, exhibition openingIn the right lower corner there is the Erasmus exhibition case displaying two highlights, the monumental ten volumes Leiden edition of Erasmus’s Opera omnia – even today the best complete edition of Erasmus – and an autograph letter by Erasmus. In the previous Luther case one can also read an autograph poem by Luther.

Kalocsa, Cathedral Library, main hall, exhibition opening, Karolina Takács, Zita GróczApotheosis of the librarians

Kalocsa, Cathedral Library, main hall, detail

Y en la tierra, paz

Back cover of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa), detailDedicado a Enrique Lázaro

En la Biblioteca de la Catedral de Kalocsa se inaugura mañana una muestra de valor inmenso: la colección de antiguas Biblias recogidas durante siglos por una singular sucesión de arzobispos bibliófilos que residieron allá. Dos preciosos ejemplares medievales iluminados —un Salterio de Bohemia de principios de 1400 y un manuscrito parisino de las cartas de San Pablo de hacia 1250— han sido ya publicados en sendos DVDs por Studiolum.

También hemos participado en la selección de esta muestra, y mientras trajinábamos entre libros nos fue dado descubrir una peculiar Biblia que nadie había registrado aún en el catálogo de la biblioteca.

Frontispiece of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa)
Este infolio de los Evangelios en eslavo eclesiástico va protegido por una suntuosa encuadernación en metal. Originalmente, las imágenes esmaltadas de Cristo y los Cuatro Evangelistas se insertaban en la cubierta frontal, y las de la Santísima Trinidad en la posterior. Los cuatro soportes o remaches de la tapa posterior revelan que el libro, como es normal en la liturgia ortodoxa, se fijaba al atril del altar para representar así la permanencia de Cristo en su Iglesia hasta el fin de los tiempos.

Front cover of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa)
Back cover of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa)
Back cover of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa)
La introducción del libro enumera los nombres de todos aquellos que contribuyeron económicamente a la preparación —impresión, encuadernación o decoración— de este ejemplar, y subraya que no se trata de una publicación ordinaria, sino de un valioso libro litúrgico producido uno a uno con gran esfuerzo y destinado a ocupar un puesto de honor. La introducción acaba con la fecha de publicación, al Estilo Antiguo de la Iglesia Ortodoxa, informándonos de que el libro se finalizó en Moscú, en la imprenta del Santo Sínodo, en el año 7400 después de la creación del mundo y en el de 1892 tras la encarnación del Verbo, el sexto día de agosto. Fecha y lugar se anotaron también en húngaro, a lápiz, debajo del texto impreso.

End of the preface of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa) with the place and date of edition
Estos Evangelios contienen otras dos notas manuscritas, una en la primera y otra en la última hoja de guarda. Y son justamente estas inscripciones las que convierten el libro en un objeto singular a cuyo alrededor gira una fascinante historia cultural y geográfica.

A Hungarian inscription on the inner endpaper of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa), 1916Recuerdo del Campo de Batalla Ruso
Malec (Distrito Pružany, Gobernación de Grodno, Lituania)
22 de noviembre de 1916.
Ferenc Fischer
Teniente de húsares húngaro

Al leerlo, uno queda molesto por el sacrilegio e imagina a los soldados húngaros expoliando las iglesias ortodoxas de los territorios lituanos ocupados, arramblando con cualquier objeto que pudiera servir como «recuerdo de la guerra». Sin embargo, si atendemos a los hechos podremos contemplar un panorama diferente.

Grodno, Báthory Square with the Jesuit church, convent and pharmacy
La Gobernación de Grodno (Grodna, Горадня, Гродна, Hrodna, Gardinas, הורדנה, Gorodna, Гродно) se constituyó en 1796 tras la división del histórico reino polaco-lituano de los territorios que tocaron a Rusia, y sus fronteras cambiaron mucho incluso en tiempos zaristas. La ciudad que había pertenecido al gran ducado lituano, y luego al reino polaco, después de la Primera Guerra Mundial regresó a la restablecida Polonia. Desde 1939 pasó a formar parte de la Unión Soviética, aunque también estuvo ocupada por los alemanes entre 1941 y 1944. Desde 1990 pertenece a la Bielorrusia independiente, como la mayor parte de la antigua Gobernación, mientras que otra parte de aquella Gobernación se reparte entre Polonia y Lituania. Así, los más viejos de Grodno podrían decir lo mismo que los de la no tan lejana ciudad húngara de Ungvár (Ужгород), en Ucrania: que han vivido en cinco países distintos sin haber abandonado nunca su ciudad. Por lo menos, quienes hayan logrado superar todos estos terremotos.

The Grodno Governorate from the Atlas of Marks/Marx, 1910La Gobernación de Grodno en el Atlas de Marks (Большой всемирный настольный атласъ Маркса, segunda edición, revisada, 1910, detalle de la Tabla 9)

Malecz (Малеч, Malech, Maliecz, Maletsch, Malch, Maltz, Maltesch, Малечь) fue en su día una ciudad mercado. Hoy queda en el centro de la antigua Gobernación de Grodno, entre lagos y pantanos, a medio camino entre Bialostok, el escenario de El violinista en el tejado, y Pinsk, ciudad natal de Ryszard Kapuściński, sobre la que escribe unas cálidas páginas al principio de su obra El Imperio. El lugar se puede ver al sudeste de la letra «H» de la palabra ГУБЕРНIЯ en esta tabla del gran Atlas de Marks. El compendio estadístico de la Gobernación de Grodno nos informa de que la ciudad estuvo habitada por población polaca, bielorrusa, rusa y judía, coloreada con minorías armenias, alemanas y tártaras, y cada uno con su religión particular, como en toda la Cherta, desde el Báltico al Mar Negro. Una parte del 10-15% de la población judía empezó a emigrar a América desde principios del siglo XX, y fueron sus descendientes quienes crearon esta base de datos de historias familiares que cubre seis pequeñas ciudades. Aquí encontramos la mayor información sobre la Malecz de la preguerra. Los que permanecieron en casa fueron aniquilados por la ocupación alemana. Uno de los escasos supervivientes, Shmuel Mordechai Rubinstein, que pasó 27 meses en Auschwitz, en su autobiografía escrita en 1978 dejó una precisa información sobre la vida de la ciudad antes de la Guerra.

The Orthodox Church of Malecz in 2003
La primera mención escrita de la iglesia ortodoxa de Malecz data de 1563. Los registros eclesiáticos que empiezan a fines de 1700 también nos dan su nombre, Семеновская, lo que significa que estaba dedicada a San Simeón. Sin embargo, el escudo de aquella ciudad mercado, vigente desde 1645, representaba a San Pedro. El catálogo ilustrado de los monumentos de la arquitectura bielorrusa fija la fecha de construcción de la iglesia actual en 1873 o 1928 (!). Probablemente ambas fechas son correctas: la primera para su erección y la segunda para la reconstrucción. Ahora veremos por qué. La fecha de 1873 también se ajusta temporalmente a la de la preparación de los lujosos evangelios. Sería tarea de los historiadores locales averiguar si las personas nombradas en la introducción pueden documentarse en el Malecz de por entonces.

The Eastern front of World War I in 1917
La Primera Guerra Mundial llegó a la ciudad en 1915. La ofensiva conjunta de los ejércitos alemán y austrohúngaro, lanzada en mayo, alcanzó en verano la frontera oriental polaco-rusa y allí permaneció hasta 1917, con el colapso de Rusia. Los cosacos instalados entre Brest y Pinsk se retiraron sin luchar, pero no sin incendiar cuantos asentamientos no les dieran el dinero suficiente para evitarlo. Shmuel Mordechai Rubinstein lo recuerda así en su autobiografía de Malecz:

Los cosacos rusos fueron los últimos en retirarse del empuje alemán durante la [Primera] Guerra. Nuestra ciudad carecía de oficiales públicos y a los vecinos no se les ocurrió la idea de recolectar una suma de dinero y estar atentos para sobornar a los cosacos, por lo que los cosacos sencillamente quemaron los pueblos hasta los cimientos (...) Todos los libros fueron destruidos por las llamas, así que no se podía comprobar la edad de nadie (...). Los gentiles marcharon a Rusia, por miedo a los alemanes. Se abandonó el campo (...) Entre 1917 y 1919 los no judíos empezaron a regresar a sus casas desde Rusia (...) pocos años después la ciudad estaba reconstruida y la vida empezó a mejorar.

Cosacos en retirada saqueando en Galicia. Desde el Nr. 42 del Der Krieg 1914-15 in Wort und Bild

Y debió ser en este tiempo cuando el teniente Ferenc Fischer, al entrar en la ciudad con los soldados austrohúngaros, encontró los evangelios. No sabemos cómo escaparon del fuego que devastó la iglesia, ni por qué quien los salvó no se los llevó consigo a Rusia. Quizá era un objeto demasiado pesado para un fugitivo, o puede que lo dejara escondido momentáneamente a la espera de una inmediata recuperación, quién sabe. Pero una cosa parece cierta, que el teniente no lo obtuvo por rapiña sino que lo rescató después de la destrucción de la iglesia por los cosacos.

La razón por la cual el teniente actuó así y por qué se llevó a casa como «souvenir» justamente este libro con los evangelios en eslavo eclesiástico quizá pueda iluminarse un poco con la tercera anotación del libro.

Inscription of the Greco-Catholic theologian Gavrilo Mustyanovich on the inner endpaper of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa)Ex hoc libro discebam linguam paleo-slovenicam. Гаврило Мустяновичь theol. gr.r.cat.
(Aprendí el antiguo eslavo con este libro. Gavrilo Mustyanovich, Teólogo Greco-Católico)

La nota del seminarista greco-católico Gavrilo Mustyanovich es muy posterior a la del teniente Ferenc Fischer. Tampoco hemos podido averiguar quién era ni cómo le llegó el libro. Su nombre es típicamente rusin, de aquella región montañosa que, como Subcarpatia, hasta 1918 perteneció a Hungría y hoy pertenece a Ucrania como Transcarpatia (o Rutenia Transcarpática), en la región más occidental de Ucrania. Según el ya citado diccionario de Pavlo Chuchko, Прізвища закарпатських українців. Історико-етимологічний словник (Apellidos de los ucranianos transcarpáticos. Diccionario histórico-etimológico), Львів 2005, p. 403, el nombre proviene del rumano mustean, que significa «fabricante de mosto». Stefan Mustyanovich (†1865) fue el autor de una Topographica descriptio Ruthenorum in comitatibus Marmaros et Beregh habitantium (Descripción topográfica de los rusin que habitan en los condados de Mármara y Bereg), publicada en 1851. El poeta rusin N. L. Mustyanovich fue un ardiente defensor de la autonomía de la lengua rusin en oposición al ucraniano y el ruso. Y un interesante artículo en La nación rusin cuenta una historia de inicios del siglo pasado sobre un «misionero» greco-católico llamado Mustyanovich que fue enviado por el obispo Gyula Firczák, junto con otros tres compañeros, al pueblo de Iza, en las montañas de los Cárpatos encima de Hust, para contrapesar la creciente influencia ortodoxa. Pero en lugar de cumplir el mandato, enseguida se pusieron a propagar la doctrina ortodoxa.

No se excluye que el propio Ferenc Fischer proviniera de esta región y fuera de confesión greco-católica; y que llevara consigo aquellos evangelios eslavos abandonados con la esperanza de que los fieles que usaran la misma lengua litúrgica pudieran aprovecharlo. Los soldados enviados al frente del este eran reclutados de manera abusiva en la zona noreste de Hungría —uno de nuestros abuelos, nacido en el pueblo de Mándok, en la región del Alto Tisza ahora en la frontera ucraniana, también estuvo entre ellos— donde la proporción de creyentes greco-católicos aún hoy es elevada. El regimiento de nuestro abuelo publicó después de la guerra un «álbum de memoria» que consignaba el nombre, origen y religión de cada soldado. No es imposible que el regimiento de Ferenc Fischer publicara también un álbum similar que nos diría si nuestras suposiciones son ciertas.

Finalmente, tampoco sabemos, ni siquiera, cómo llegó este libro a Kalocsa. No había huella suya en el catálogo y, a pesar de sus inusuales dimensiones, idioma y aspecto, ni un solo bibliotecario había reparado en él. Ni el nombre del teniente, ni el del seminarista les suena a nadie de la Biblioteca. Parece como si el libro se hubiera hecho presente de golpe, como testigo de una Europa Oriental multicolor que una vez existió para ser lijada por las tragedias del siglo veinte.

En enero de 2007, en el obituario de Ryszard Kapuściński, István Kovács escribió:

Kapuściński adquirió su experiencia de la tiranía en las cunetas del Infierno. Tenía siete años y medio cuando su tierra fue repartida entre Hitler y Stalin ante la indiferencia de Gran Bretaña y Francia, aliadas de Polonia. Su ciudad natal, Pinsk, en cuya plaza principal el cerkov ortodoxo, la iglesia católica y la sinagoga habían permanecido durante siglos se convirtió en una dependencia de la Unión Soviética. Pronto empezó la deportación de los polacos a Siberia. El padre de Kapuściński tuvo que huir, y el resto de la familia le siguió para encontrar un domicilio provisional en una barriada de Varsovia. En el verano de 1941 los nazis entraron en Pinsk, cosa que significó el exterminio de su población judía. El plan largamente querido por el autor de describir el mundo de su infancia, esto es, de rehacer el cuadro destrozado de la Europa del Este con las teselas de múltiples formas y colores que forman los grupos étnicos, las culturas, las lenguas y las religiones, queda ahora como un sueño para la eternidad.

De aquel mosaico no construido, este libro es una pequeña pieza.

And on earth peace

Back cover of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa), detailDedicado a Enrique Lázaro

In the Cathedral Library of Kalocsa tomorrow opens the exhibition of the uniquely valuable ancient Bibles collected through several centuries by a long series of bibliophile archbishops. Two precious illuminated medieval copies, a Bohemian Psaltery from the beginning of the 1400’s and a Parisian manuscript of the letters of St. Paul from around 1250 have already been published on DVD by Studiolum.

We have also participated in the selection of the exhibition items. This is how we have discovered a peculiar Bible that was not even registered in the catalog of the library.

Frontispiece of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa)
This folio edition of the four gospels in Church Slavonic is protected by a lavishly decorated metal binding. Originally the enamelled images of Christ and the four evangelists were inserted in the front cover, and that of the Holy Trinity in the back cover. The four little legs on the back cover indicate that the evangeliary, as it is habitual in Orthodox liturgy, was permanently placed on the book-holder on the altar, representing Christ who remains with His church until the end of times.

Front cover of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa)
Back cover of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa)
Back cover of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa)
The introduction of the book lists the names of all those who financially contributed to the preparation – printing, binding or decoration – of this copy, also indicating its being not an ordinary publication, but a precious liturgical book individually fabricated with large costs, and intended for an honored place. The end of the introduction gives the date of publication in the Old Style of the Orthodox Church, informing us that the book was completed in Moscow, in the typography of the Holy Synod, in the 7400th year after the creation of the world and in the 1892 after the incarnation of the Verb, on the sixth day of August. The place and date were also added with pencil in Hungarian under the printed text.

End of the preface of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa) with the place and date of edition
The evangeliary also includes two more handwritten inscriptions, the one on the first and the other on the last inner backpaper. It is exactly these inscriptions that make this book so incomparably individual, reconstructing a fascinating historical and geographical context around it.

A Hungarian inscription on the inner endpaper of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa), 1916Souvenir from the Russian battle field.
Malec (Pružany district, Grodno governorate, Lithuania)
November 22, 1916.
Ferenc Fischer
Hungarian hussar lieutenant

At the first glance one is shocked at this sacrilege, and immediately imagines the Hungarian soldiers pillaging the Orthodox churches in the occupied Lithuanian territories and taking home the stolen ecclesiastical objects as “war souvenirs”. However, if one sees to the events then he will see that things were completely different.

Grodno, Báthory Square with the Jesuit church, convent and pharmacy
The Grodno (Grodna, Горадня, Гродна, Hrodna, Gardinas, הורדנה, Gorodna, Гродно) Governorate was shaped up in 1796, after the division of the historical Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom, of the territories that fell to Russia, and its borders changed a lot even in the Tsarist times. The town that had belonged to the Lithuanian Grand Duchy, and then to the Polish Kingdom, after World War I got back to the reestablished Poland. From 1939 it became part of the Soviet Union, although it was also occupied by Germany between 1941 and 1944. Since 1990 it has been part of the independent Belarus where the largest part of the former Governorate belongs, while a smaller part of the same Governorate is shared among Poland and Lithuania. Thus the elder citizens of Grodno can tell the same that those of the not so distant Hungarian town of Ungvár (Ужгород) in Ukraine: that they have lived in five countries without ever leaving their town. At least those who have at all survived these movements of the earth.

The Grodno Governorate from the Atlas of Marks/Marx, 1910The Grodno Governorate in the Atlas of Marks (not that Marx!) (Большой всемирный настольный атласъ Маркса, second, revised edition, 1910, detail of Table 9)

Malecz (Малеч, Malech, Maliecz, Maletsch, Malch, Maltz, Maltesch, Малечь), once a market-town, today a village, lays around the middle of the former Grodno Governorate, among lakes and swamps, half way between Bialystok, scene of the Fiddler on the Roof and Pinsk, native town of Ryszard Kapuściński about which he writes so charming in the first chapter of his volume The Empire. The settlement is situated to the south-east of letter “H” of the inscription ГУБЕРНIЯ on the above table of Marks’s large atlas. The statistical compendium of Grodno Governorate informs us that the town was inhabited by Polish, Belarussian, Russian and Jewish population, further colored by some Armenian, German and Tatar minority, all of them following different religions – as in all the Cherta from the Baltic to the Black Sea. A part of the Jewish population of 10-15% started to emigrate to America from the beginning of the century, and it was their descendants who created the family history database extending to six little towns that contains the most information about pre-war Malecz. Those remaining at home were annihilated by the German occupiers. One of the few survivors, Shmuel Mordechai Rubinstein who spent 27 months in Auschwitz, gives a detailed description about the life of the town before the war in his autobiography written in 1978.

The Orthodox Church of Malecz in 2003
The first written record on the Orthodox church in Malecz comes from 1563. The church registries beginning with the end of the 1700’s also mention its name: Семеновская, which means that it was dedicated to Saint Simeon. Nevertheless, the seal of the market-town in use since 1645 represented Saint Peter. The illustrated catalog of the Belarussian architectural monuments fixes the date of construction of the present church at 1873 or 1928. Probably both dates are correct, the first one being that of its construction, while the second of its reconstruction, soon we will see why. The date of 1873 would also fit in time with the preparation of the sumptuous evangeliary. It would be the task of local historians to see whether the persons named in its introduction can be documented in Malecz of that time.

The Eastern front of World War I in 1917
World War I reached the town in 1915. The united offensive of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies, launched in May, arrived by summer to the Eastern borders of Russian-Poland, and it remained there until 1917, the collapse of Russia. The Cossacks stationed between Brest and Pinsk retired without fighting, but not without burning all those settlements that had not enough money to bribe them. Shmuel Mordechai Rubinstein recalls it like this in his Malecz autobiography:

The Russian Cossacks were the last to retreat from the Germans during the [First World] War. Our town had no public officials and it did not occur to the people to collect a sum of money and be on the alert to bribe the Cossacks, so the Cossacks simply burned the villages to the ground. (…) All the books were destroyed in the fire, so there was no way to prove anyone’s age. (…) All the gentiles fled to Russia, for fear of the Germans. Fields were abandoned. (…) Between 1917 and 1919 the non-Jews began returning home from Russia. (…) A few years later the town was rebuilt, and life began to improve.

Retrating Cossacks plundering in Galicia. From Nr. 42 of Der Krieg 1914-15 in Wort und Bild

It was probably at this time that Lieutenant Ferenc Fischer, entering the town with the Austro-Hungarian army, found the evangeliary. It is not known how it escaped the destruction by fire of the church, and why the person saving it did not take it with himself to Russia. Perhaps it was too heavy for the fugitives, or perhaps it was left somewhere in the hope of a close return – who knows. That much is sure that the lieutenant did not obtain it by pillaging, but took care of it after the destruction of the church by the Cossacks.

The reason of why he did so and why he took home as a “souvenir” exactly this Gospel book in Church Slavonic, can be perhaps enlightened to some extent by the third handwritten inscription in the book.

Inscription of the Greco-Catholic theologian Gavrilo Mustyanovich on the inner endpaper of the evangeliary of Malecz (Kalocsa)Ex hoc libro discebam linguam paleo-slovenicam. Гаврило Мустяновичь theol. gr.r.cat.
(I learned Old Slavonic from this book. Gavrilo Mustyanovich Greco-Catholic theologian)

The inscription of the Greco-Catholic seminarist Gavrilo Mustyanovich is much later than that of Lieutenant Ferenc Fischer. We do not know who he was and how this book got to him. His name is a typical Rusyn name from that mountainous region which as Subcarpathia until 1918 belonged to Hungary, and today as Transcarpathian Rus is the westernmost region of Ukraine. According to the already cited thesaurus of Pavlo Chuchko, Прізвища закарпатських українців. Історико-етимологічний словник (Family names of the Transcarpathian Ukrainians. A historico-etymological dictionary), Львів 2005, p. 403, it comes from the Romanian name Mustean meaning „grape juice producer”. Stefan Mustyanovich (†1865) was the author of a Topographica descriptio Ruthenorum in comitatibus Marmaros et Beregh habitantium (Topographical description of the Rusyns living in Máramaros and Bereg counties of Hungary), published in 1851. The Rusyn poet N. L. Mustyanovich was an ardent defender of the autonomy of the Rusyn language as opposed to Ukrainian and Russian. And an interesting article in the Rusyn Nation publishes a story from the turn of the last century about a Greco-Catholic “missionarian” called Mustyanovich who was sent, together with three companions, by bishop Gyula Firczák to the village of Iza in the Carpathian mountains above Hust to counterbalance the growing Orthodox influence, but instead of this soon he also started to propagate Orthodox teachings.

It is not excluded that Ferenc Fischer himself originated from this region and was of Greco-Catholic faith, and that he took with himself the abandoned Slavonic Gospel book because he hoped that his fellow Christians using the same liturgical language can take use of it. Soldiers sent to the Eastern front were overwhelmingly recruited in nearby North-Eastern Hungary – my grandfather, born in the village of Mándok at the Upper Tisza region, now at the Ukrainian border, was also among them – where the proportion of Greco-Catholic believers is still high today. The regiment of my grandfather published a “memorial album” after the war that included the name, origins and religion of each soldier. It is not impossible that the regiment of Ferenc Fischer also published a similar album that could help us to decide whether our assumption is right

And finally we do not even know how this book got to Kalocsa. It has no trace in the catalog and, in spite of its unusual dimensions, language and appearance, even the librarians have just noticed it now. Neither the name of the lieutenant, nor that of the seminarist sound familiar to them. It looks as if the book suddenly appeared there as a survivor of an once existing many-colored East European world that was washed away by the tragedies of the twentieth century.

István Kovács wrote in January 2007 in the obituary of Ryszard Kapuściński:

Kapuściński took his personal experience about tyranny from the ditches of Hell. He was seven and half years old when his homeland fell a victim of the partition among Hitler and Stalin, accompanied by the indifference of Britain and France, allies of Poland. His native town Pinsk, at the main square of which the Orthodox cerkov, the Catholic church and the synagogue had got on well together for centuries, now fell to the Soviet Union. Soon they started the deportation of the Polish population to Siberia. The father of Kapuściński had to flee, and the rest of the family followed him as well to find a temporary home in the neighborhood of Warsaw. In the summer of 1941 the Nazis entered Pinsk that meant the extirpation of the Jewish population of the town. The plan, cherished for so long time by the author, to describe the world of his childhood, that is, to pave the ruined wall of Eastern Europe with the small slabs of many shapes and colors of the various ethnic groups, cultures, languages and religions, has now remained a dream for the eternity.

Of this never realized mosaic is one little slab this book.

Aurel Stein in China

Fascinated by the Orient. Life and Works of Marc Aurel Stein Aurel Stein, discoverer of the sand-buried settlements of the Silk Road and of the manuscripts of Dunhuang, in his last will of 1934 bequeathed to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences all his library and almost five thousand archive photos. However, it took almost fifteen years until his legacy arrived at its place of destination.

Stein Aurél fotójaStein died on October 26, 1943, only some days after his arrival to Afghanistan where he intended to reconstruct the trace of the military expedition of Alexander the Great. “I had a wonderful life that could have not finished happier than by finally coming to Afghanistan, which I have been longing to see for sixty years.” – were his last words.

Stein Aurél fotójaHowever, his legacy left in London, as soon as it was legally passed to the Hungarian Academy, was seized by the Department of the Sequestration of Enemy Goods as property of a hostile state, and they set about its sale as ordained by law. The Academy could obtain only the books left in Kashmir that at the death of Stein were not in Britain. However, when after the conclusion of the war they could have started to take them to Budapest, the iron curtain fell, and the books remained in the custody of the Bodleian Library. Only by 1957 the international situation was eased that much that the legacy could be delivered to Budapest, including among others the unparalleled collection of archive photos taken by Stein in the course of his Central Asian expeditions.

Stein Aurél fotójaThis collection has been recently processed and digitized in collaboration of the specialists of the British Library and the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The completion of the works coincided with the centenary of the discovery of the Dunhuang library cave, celebrated by the participants with an international conference organized in Budapest. To increase the solemnity of the conference, a first exhibition of a hundred selected archive photos of Stein was also opened at the Hungarian Academy on November 22, 2007, whose web edition was prepared by us in Studiolum in English, Spanish and Hungarian versions.

Stein Aurél fotójaThe news about this important international collaboration, about the conference and the exhibition spread quickly, and thus it happened that the Hong Kong bussinesman Paul Kan, Chairman of Champion Technology and sponsor of a number of exhibitions connected with the history and art of China, offered his support to the organization of a much larger exhibition presenting all the photo collection in the University Museum and Art Gallery of Hong Kong. This exhibition was opened some weeks ago – its beautiful leaflet can be found here in pdf format –, and now we are working on the preparation of its web edition in Chinese, English, Spanish and Hungarian.

Stein Aurél fotójaThe name of Aurel Stein – in Chinese 史坦因, Shĭtănyīn – has not sounded very well thus far in China. The Chinese official line regards him as one of the imperialists who used to steal the cultural values of the country, and not as the discoverer of the library cave who saved several ten thousands of unique documents from the devastation that soon fell on the rest of the Dunhuang monuments in the period of the civil war and of the Japanese occupation. An exhibition like this would have been unimaginable in China even only ten years ago. It is possible that Hong Kong, like so many times before in Chinese cultural politics, functions as a testing place and attests the silent change of this position.

Stein Aurél fotója