ZEǏMAL’, Evegeniǐ Vladislavovich


ZEǏMAL’, Evegeniǐ Vladislavovich (b. Moscow, 10 March 1932; d. St. Petersburg, 6 May 1998), Russian numismatist and historian of ancient Iran and Central Asia. His father, Vladislav Ivanovich Zeǐmal’, a Latvian, and his mother, Ol’ga Iosifovna, were repressed by Stalin’s regime in 1937, and Evgeniǐ was brought up by his aunt in Leningrad. In 1950 Zeǐmal’ became a student of the Oriental Faculty of the Leningrad (at present St. Petersburg) University, specializing in Turkology, but in 1953 he transferred to the Faculty of History. After graduating, he moved to Dushanbe (at that time, Stalinabad) in Tajikistan. At first he worked in the Tajik archeological expedition and later was employed by the Tajik Republican Radio broadcasting system. From 1956 to 1959 he acted as the director of the Department of History of the Dushanbe Museum. By that time, a circle of young intellectuals had formed in Dushanbe, who later became the elite of Russian Oriental studies, among them B. A. Litvinskiǐ, V. A. Livshits, I. M. Oranskiǐ (1923-1977), B. I. Marshak (1933-2006), and E. A. Davidovich. They grouped around the so-called Avestan Seminar directed by V. A. Livshits.

In 1956-57 Zeǐmal’ joined the Tajik archeological expedition again, at that time directed by A. M. Belenitskiǐ (b. 1904), and later he headed his own archeological team which carried out excavations in the Gissar (see HEṢĀR) valley in Tajikistan. Zeǐmal’ studied ancient coins in local museums and investigated the circumstances of the discovery of the famous Oxus Treasure, suggesting that it had come from the site of Tahti Kubad (Taḵt-e Qobād) in southern Tajikistan. His first article on the Oxus Treasure appeared in 1962. In 1959 he returned to Leningrad to become a post-graduate student at the Hermitage Museum. Professor Kamilla Trever (1892-1974) became the supervisor of his doctorate thesis which was devoted to the study of coins of the Kushan kingdom. Zeǐmal’ also participated in Trever’s seminar on art and culture of the Hellenistic period.

Kushan chronology was, and still is, one of the principal problems in the history of Central Asia. Zeǐmal’ wrote several works on the subject. The first publication appeared as abstracts in 1964; his book Kushan Chronology came out in 1968; and his last paper on the matter was delivered in 1996 at the Kushan conference in Vienna. The relatively late date (278 C.E.) suggested for the initial year of Kanishka’s reign probably resulted from Zeǐmal’s critical attitude towards the tendency to “antiquate” certain cultures by the scholars who studied them. His book Kushan Chronology became a starting point for polemics centered on this problem, urging many specialists all over the world to prove their own points of view. Zeǐmal’ did much to inspire the last conference on Kushan chronology held in Vienna in April 1996.

Zeǐmal’s archeological investigations were always connected with numismatics. When working in Tajikistan, he started to assemble materials for his monograph Ancient Coins of Tajikistan (published in 1983, written together with E. A. Davidovich). He published coins found at many sites in Central Asia, viewing them in connection with the stratigraphy of the sites and also within the general context of other finds. Zeǐmal’s scholarly interests included history and culture of Hellenistic civilization and of the Parthian kingdom in different periods of its history, pre-Islamic Central Asia, Chinese Turkestan, archeology, numismatics, Oriental metalwork, theoretical problems connected with monetary circulation, and the minting of the “barbaric imitations” of Hellenistic, Parthian, and Sasanian coins.

Among the works he translated into Russian are The Heritage of Persia by Richard Frye and The Golden Peaches of Samarqand by Edward Schafer (translated together with V. A. Livshits, edited by M. A. Dandamaev). Zeǐmal’ also prepared for publication some of the Russian versions of the numerous scholarly works by V. V. Barthold (1869-1930). In the very last days of his life Zeǐmal’ was working on the publication of Ya. I. Smirnov’s book Oriental Silverware. Under the invitation of the British Museum, Zeǐmal’ worked together with John Curtis on a new publication of the catalogue of the Oxus Treasure, one of the favorite subjects of his studies.

For the last twelve years of his life Zeǐmal’ was the head of the Ancient East section of the Oriental Department of the Hermitage Museum. He devoted all his energy and knowledge to the development and promotion of Oriental studies. His scholarly heritage includes over 150 publications. Several international conferences and exhibitions of Oriental art and archeology took place due to his efforts.


Selected works of E. V. Zeǐmal’: “Klad rimskikh denariev iz Tadzhikistana” (A Hoard of Roman Denarii from Tajikistan), Numizmatika i èpigrafika 3, Moscow, 1962, pp. 141-46.

“Esche raz o meste nakhodki Amudar’inskogo klada” (Once again about the place of finding the Oxus Treasure), Izvestiya Otdeleniya Obshchestvennykh nauk AN Tadzhikskoǐ SSR 1(28), 1962, pp. 40-45 (together with T. I. Zeǐmal’).

“Shiva na monetakh Velikikh Kushan” (Shiva on the Coins of the Great Kushans),” Tezisy dokladov nauchnoǐ sessii, posvyaschennoǐ itogam raboty Gosudarstvennogo E`rmitazha za 1962 god, Leningrad, 1964, pp. 40-41.

“Monety Velikikh Kushan v Gosudarstvennom E`rmitazhe” (Coins of the Great Kushans in the State Hermitage Museum), Trudy Gosudarstvennogo E`rmitazha 9, Leningrad, 1967, pp. 55-86.

Kushanskaya khronologiya (materialy po probleme), (Kushan Chronology: materials for the subject), Moscow, 1968.

R. N. Frye, The Heritage of Persia, New York, 1963; tr.

V. A. Livshits and E. V. Zeǐmal’, ed. M. A. Dandamaev as Nasledie Irana, Moscow, 1972a.

“Tali-barzinskiǐ klad monet s izobrazheniem luchnika” (The Tali-Barzu hoard of coins with the image of an archer), Soobshcheniya Gosudarstvennogo E`rmitazha 34, 1972b, pp. 70-75.

“Rannesogdiǐskie monety s izobrazheniem Zevsa i Gerakla” (Early Sogdian coins with representations of Zeus and Heracles), Soobshcheniya Gosudarstvennogo E`rmitazha 37, 1973, pp. 68-73.

“Monety Zapadnykh Kshatrapov v kollektsii Gosudarstvennogo E`rmitazha” (Coins of the Western Kshatrapas in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum), in Kul’tura i iskusstvo Indii i stran Dal’nego Vostoka (Culture and art of India and of the countries of the Far East), ed. E. I. Lubo-Lesnichenko, Leningrad, 1975, pp. 4-20.

“Politicheskaya istoriya drevneǐ Transoksiany po numizmaticheskim dannym” (Political history of ancient Transoxania on the basis of numismatic data), Kul’tura Vostoka. Drevnost’ i rannee srednevekov’e, ed. V. G. Lukonin, Leningrad, 1978, pp. 192-214.

Amudar’inskiǐ klad. Katalog vystavki (The Oxus Treasure: Exhibition catalogue), ed. E. V. Zeǐmal’, Leningrad, 1979.

E. H. Shafer, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: a Study of T’ang Exotics, Berkeley, Calif., 1963, repr. 1985; tr.

E. V. Zeǐmal’ as Zolotye persiki Samarkanda: kniga o chuzhezemnykh dikovinakh v imperii Tan, Moscow, 1981.

“Parfyanskiǐ luchnik i ego proiskhozhdenie” (The Parthian archer and his origin), Soobshcheniya Gosudarstvennogo E`rmitazha 47, 1982, pp. 46-49.

Drevnie monety Tadzhikistana (Ancient coins of Tajikistan), Dushanbe, 1983a (together with E. A. Davidovich).

“The Political History of Transoxiana,” The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3 (1): The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods, Cambridge, 1983b, pp. 232-62.

“Problèmes de circulation monétaire dans la Bactriane hellénistique,” Actes du Colloque franco-soviétique. L’archéologie de la Bactriane ancienne, Dushanbe (U.R.S.S.), 27 octobre - 3 novembre 1982, Paris, 1985, pp. 273-79.

Drevnosti Pal’miry. Katalog vystavki (Antiquities of Palmyra: Exhibition catalogue), ed. E. V. Zeǐmal’, Leningrad, 1986.

“Pravitel’ Parfii Andragor i ego monety” (The ruler of Parthia, Andragoras, and his coins), VDI, 1988, no. 4, pp. 4-19 (together with I. M. Diakonoff).

“The Circulation of Coins in Central Asia During the Early Medieval Period (Fifth-Eighth Centuries A.D.),” Bulletin of the Asia Institute, N.S. 8, 1994, pp. 245-67.

“Denezhnoe obrashchenie v Vostochnom Turkestane” (Money circulation in Eastern Turkestan), in Vostochnyǐ Turkestan v drevnosti i rannem srednevekov’e. Khozyaǐstvo, material’naya kul’tura, ed. B. A. Litvinskiǐ, Moscow, 1995, pp. 430-73, 478-80.

“The Kidarite Kingdom in Central Asia,” in History of civilizations of Central Asia. Vol. III. The crossroads of civilizations: A.D. 250 to 750, ed. B. A. Litvinsky, Zhang Guang-da, and R. Shabani Samghabadi, Paris, 1996, pp. 119-33.

“The Coins from the Excavations of Takht-i Sangin (1976-1991),” in Studies in Silk Road Coins Art and Culture. Papers in Honour of Professor Ikuo Hirayama on his 65th Birthday, ed. K. Tanabe, J. Cribb, and H. Wang, Kamakura, 1997a, pp. 89-110.

“Visha-Shiva in the Kushan Pantheon,” in Gandharan Art in Context: East-West Exchanges at the Crossroads of Asia, ed. F. R. Allchin et al., New Delhi, 1997b, pp. 245-66.

(Alexander Nikitin)

Originally Published: January 1, 2000

Last Updated: April 15, 2010