Time and people: Descendant of princely family

Regional news
At the beginning of the summer in 1917 the Imperial Guard officer of the 14th Emperor’s Royal Rifle Prince Irakly Tumanov arrived at the small station of Zalesye for serving military obligations in the Grenadier Division that was fighting battles near Smorgon.

Peter Tumanoff at the memorial devoted to World War I (Smorgon).jpg

Peter Tumanoff at the memorial devoted to World War I (Smorgon)

It was when he saw Her on the platform for the first time. It was impossible not to notice her. She was dressed as a nurse in a white apron with a red cross on it. Her eyes were so expressive and speechful that the girl seemed to look deep in your soul. Later he couldn’t recollect the reason for starting a conversation, he only remembered the girl’s name and surname – Sofya Parfenova.

Sofya Parfenova.jpg

Sofya Parfenova

A hundred years later Sofya and Irakly Tumanov’s grandson – Professor and Doctor of Economics Peter Tumanoff – came to the station of Zalesye from the USA. The surname of the ancestors was transformed under the influence of American phonetics. The Professor’s watchful stare was focused on the most significant things for the descendant of the princely family: monumental inscription on the monument where people who died of gas attacks in the autumn of 1915 were buried; Adam's death's-head on the grave of a nurse as a symbol of volunteers; two monuments installed on the place of burial of Akaky Otkhmezuri, the colonel of the 14th the Grenadier Georgian Guards. Everything connected with World War I on Smorgon land is very important for the American guest since these two events played a significant role in the destiny of the Tunamov family. The four brothers: Irakly, Lev, Vladimir, Yazon – contributed much to the history of Russia but for an uncertain reason were forgotten. They had to emigrate because they didn’t support the Revolution. The eldest men in the Tumanov family are mostly officers: Yazon , the marine officer, is a participant of the Tsusima battle; Lev, the general, took part in fights near Smorgon (his grand-nephew Peter learned about this after visiting the village of Zabrodye and talking to local historian Boris Tsitovich). Nowadays the descendants of this princely family make an intellectual contribution to Economics, Science, Art of the countries they live in. They work as diplomats, economists and space program engineers.

At the communal grave 1915. Near Zalesye.jpg

At the communal grave 1915. Near Zalesye

Prince Irakly Tumanov.jpg

Prince Irakly Tumanov

Peter Tumanov has always identified himself as an American man as his mother is an American. He began learning Russian only during his study in Yale University. Mr. Tumanov especially needed Russian when he was preparing for defending the dissertation on Stolypin’s agrarian reform in Russia. It was in 1977. Twenty years later he found a chest with manuscripts on the attic of his grandfather’s old farm in New Hampshire. They turned out to be the memoirs in Russian and English written by Sofya and Irakly Tumanov. Peter had to look for a specialist who could “translate” the text written tortuously into modern Russian. It was found out that on top of all of this his grandmother wrote the history of Russia and paid a lot of attention to the period of Stolypin’s agrarian reform.

Local historian Vladimir Prikhach and director of the local charity fund “Northern Athens” Alla Shitikova guided Peter to the old stomping grounds of the Russian Army where his grandad Irakly Tumanov served. The heritor of the glorious family came to our country for a personal reason. He is going to publish his grandparents’ memoirs so he decided to visit the places described by them. Besides he wanted to see that small station where they met and got acquainted – the station that became the starting point of their heroic love. By the way, two stories by Irakly Tumanov were published in the regional natural history magazine “Vesi” in issue 10 in 2013 where you can see his literary talent and social position. These publications are of great interest to us as the action takes place on the outskirts of Zalesye.

During this visit an interesting meeting was held in M.K. Oginsky’s manor. Our guest presented some family photos, told about members of his family and their destiny. Those who came learnt that Sofya Parfenova was a daughter of the titular counsellor of a civil servant in the Communication Lines Institution. Since the May of 1916 she worked as a nurse in the 3rd Elizabethan mobile hospital. After getting married to prince Tumanov Sofya Sergeevna underwent all troubles and fears, travails and emigration, hard life in the foreign country, where they had to start from nothing. Her husband refused to accept the American citizenship for a long

time because he didn’t want to lose his dignity. When old war wounds reminded of themselves he together with the family moved to a farm where they raised poultry and sold as “Poultry from Tumanov”. In their spare time the couple wrote memoirs. Sofya Sergeevna translated her husband’s memories into English and made notes in the margins. In many years Peter Tumanoff found the chest with their manuscripts and he searched the traces of the described events during every visit to the republics of the former USSR.

Now Professor Peter Tumanoff is teaching History of Foreign Economics in Polotsk University due to the Fullbright Exchange Program. He has already been retired but he is often asked to go on such business trips. He has visited Russia, Georgia, Armenia and during these trips he found evidences of his family everywhere. Next time Peter is going to visit Belarus together with his wife Susanna. In the USA they have two sons, Andrey and Nikolay, and a granddaughter named Lexi.

We cannot but wait for the publication of the memoirs which will open new pages in the history of our small motherland.

Alla Klemenok

Photos: by author and library photo of the Tumanovs

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