N.N. Miklouho-Maclay and his travel into the Malay Peninsula

N.N. Miklouho-Maclay and his travel into the Malay Peninsula

The name of the outstanding Russian humanist scientist and traveler Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay (1846-1888) is associated with his expeditions to the northeastern coast of New Guinea (the Maclay Coast). Only a small number of travel enthusiasts know that Miklouho-Maclay also studied the population of the deep regions of the Malay Peninsula, having made two expeditions there in 1874-1875, which took a total of about six months.

The history of Miklouho-Maclay’s travels on the territory of today’s Malaysia began in 1874, when he arrived in the Johor Sultanate. Soon after the arrival of Miklouho-Maclay, the local Governor cordially received the Russian traveler, but did not do it without intent. For him, Miklouho-Maclay was not just a world famous traveler and scientist, but a person who would go deep into the jungles of the Malay Peninsula and collect information useful for further expansion of the colony. Later, Miklouho-Maclay understood the main reason of the plans and kept safe the collected information about the Malay population.

At that time, there was another very remarkable figure – Abu Bakar, Maharaja of Johor. He invited Miklouho-Maclay to his Palace in Johor Bahru, the capital of the Johor Sultanate, so that the Russian humanist scientist could live there, work on his scientific papers, and prepare for an expedition to the jungles of the Malay Peninsula.

During his expeditions to the Malay Peninsula in 1874-1875, the Russian humanist scientist carefully studied the way of life, customs and traditions of the Malays, but focused on the search and study of orang utans (in Malay, orang – «person, man», utan –»forest»), which he believed might be related to Melanesians.

With an ultimate care, the scientist compiled dictionaries of the main words from the local dialects, and also thoroughly studied the Malay language. Dozens of drawings have survived and are of great interest for science and art.

During his expeditions, the Russian humanist scientist always treated the locals with respect. For example, when approaching Malacca villages, Miklouho-Maclay would warn the villagers in advance of his appearance with the help of his assistant and always tried to show peaceful intentions. The Russian humanist scientist also used his knowledge in medicine and healed the local residents.

N.N. Miklouho-Maclay’s travel into the Malay Peninsula once again confirms that the Russian scientist followed his humanistic ideas about the equality of all people on the planet in every place of the world, opposed colonization and was a true friend to the indigenous population, who always came with peace.

For more information about the «Russian Academic and Cultural Luminaries and Their Worldwide Legacy» educational project and Miklouho-Maclay’s travels visit our website: https://cse.mikluho-maclay.ru/