N.N. Miklouho-Maclay and Papua Kowiai

N.N. Miklouho-Maclay and Papua Kowiai

In 1870-1880, the outstanding Russian humanist scientist and traveler Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay was conducting research on the territory of the Moluccas, Sulawesi, and the South-West of the Island.

For the first time, Miklouho-Maclay approached these lands on the Russian clipper ‘Izumrud’ in 1873 after his first expedition to the northeastern coast of New Guinea (the Maclay Coast, 1871-1872). Miklouho-Maclay did not waste time during the stops of the ‘Izumrud’. In Ternate, the Russian humanist scientist got interesting information from the local sea traders about the inhabitants of the South-West of New Guinea — Papua Kowiai.

Papua Kowiai is an obsolete name of the part of the southwest region that is now called «Kaimana» (Indonesia). In the XIX century, many scientists and traders did not dare to travel there because of rumors about the bloodthirstiness and treachery of the local residents. Stories about the dangers of Papua Kowiai on the contrary suited Miklouho-Maclay, as he wanted to study the tribes that were less known to Europeans and less susceptible to influences of Europeans.

The aim of Miklouho-Maclay’s expedition in Papua Kowiai was to learn more about the culture, traditions and language of the local people while observing nature. In early 1874, Miklouho-Maclay reached Papua Kowiai. The beautiful view of the South-West of New Guinea caused an extraordinary admiration.

The people of Papua Kowiai were surprised by Miklouho-Maclay’s desire to live among them, but they treated the explorer with friendliness and respect. As the locals led a mobile lifestyle, moving by their pirogues from one bay to another, the hut of the Russian scientist on Papua Kowiai soon became a gathering center for the islanders.

For science, his most important discovery during the expedition in Papua Kowiai became the results of the study of the Malay-Papuan mestizos. The Russian scientist found that interracial marriages produce healthy progeny, rather than lead to inferiority. This fact became another argument in favor of equality of all races on the planet. With his research in Oceania and Southeast Asia, Miklouho-Maclay completely refuted racist theories and proved to the whole world that there were no superior or inferior race and all people were equal by nature.

Miklouho-Maclay left for future generations a number of scientific works on Papua Kowiai, as well as the peoples of New Guinea and Southeast Asia, which are relevant today.

In 2011, with the support of the Russian Geographical Society, a monument to Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay was erected in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. This is the first monument to a Russian in Indonesia.

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/