I’m well into Slezkine’s Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (see this post), and I’ve encountered one of those impressive people I like to commemorate here occasionally: Lev (Chaim-Leib) Sternberg. I don’t have time to write much about him (and the Wikipedia article is terrible, focusing almost entirely on his political activity and prison sentences), so I’ll just say he was a founding father of Russian anthropology and ethnography with an admirably humanistic orientation; according to him:
The goal of ethnography was to study culture in general and the non-literate peoples in particular. It both included and was a part of history, sociology, archaeology, philosophy, folklore, linguistics, and the study of religion. Accordingly, along with various ethnology courses, the curriculum of Shternberg’s department included all of the above disciplines plus traditional Sinology, Egyptology, and Oriental studies. A convinced evolutionist and a believer in the “psychic unity of mankind,” Shternberg attributed backwardness to the environment. It was only natural, therefore, that his students were required to master the basics of physics, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, biology, and geology.
And he had a saying I like very much: “He who knows but one people does not know any; he who knows but one religion and one culture, does not know any.” [Кто знает один народ - не знает ни одного, кто знает одну религию, одну культуру - не знает ни одной.]