Buddruss: an embodiment of scholarly commitment

Prof Georg Buddruss

By Aziz Ali Dad

I just received sad news from Germany that Professor Dr Georg Buddruss an internationally acclaimed scholar on High Asia, linguist and specialist in
Indian languages breathed his last in Mainz, Germany on August 13, 2021, at the age of 91.

He was a great scholar of Nuristani and Dardic languages in northern Pakistan. Dr Buddruss was among the first generation of German researchers who for the first time visited Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan in 1955 as a part of the German Hindukush Expedition. His lifelong engagement with the region has helped to create a corpus of linguistic material. It has facilitated people working in the field of linguistics in the northern part of Pakistan. His scholarship embraced language research about Waigali, Prasun, Kati, Khowar, Maya, Shina, Burushaski, Wakhi and Doomaki.

German scholar on High Asia, linguist and specialist on Dardic and Nuristani languages is no more. Photo: Family

Although I was aware of his scholarly contributions to the languages and culture of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral, I realised his dedication to his field and the region during my sojourn in Berlin as a research fellow in 2015. During my stay in Berlin, as a Crossroads Asia fellow at Modern Oriental Institute, we interacted with different researchers and members of academia. On one weekend my supervisor and I were invited by Dr Hermann Kreutzmann and his wife Sabine Felmy for a dinner. At that time Hermann was serving as the Chair of Human Geography and Development Studies at Freie University Berlin, Germany. He presented his book “Pamirian Crossroads: Kirghiz and Wakhis of High Asia” as a gift to me. It was the result of more than thirty years of research on the Pamir region. My Spanish supervisor commented that patience and investing a long time in research is a typical traits of German scholarship.

Hermann told us that Professor Buddruss contributed to the glossary of Shina and provided guidance related to these issues. As an acknowledgement, he sent his book to Professor Buddruss. According to Hermann, Buddruss called him after a few weeks and appreciated his book. Replying to him Hermann said that his hard work of 35 years bore fruit in the shape of this book. According to Hermann, Buddruss lauded his patience for his research for all those long years. Thereafter, Buddruss told Hermann that he is lucky to publish his research in a lifetime. Sharing his experience about research related to Shina and other Dardic languages, Professor Buddruss told Professor Hermann that he had started work on his book in 1959, but it is not complete yet.

Prof Buddruss with Peter Snoy wrote about Hindukush expedition ‘Die Deutsche Hindukush Expedition (DHE) 1955-56 in Brandstätter, Anna-Maria; Carola Lentz (eds.). Another work is ‘Zur Mythologie der Prasun­ Kafiren’. Other papers by Buddruss are: ‘New written languages ​​in northern Pakistan” and ‘German linguistic research in the Northern Areas of Pakistan.”

The researchers of today mainly deem the written word as a sign of scholarship and consider other mediums except for the written word as unscholarly. Prof Buddruss was well aware of the orality of local languages of High Asia, especially Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. Instead of spurning local languages as unintellectual, he explored the functions of spoken word in oral cultures like Gilgit. Till the advent of modern media in GB in early 2000, radio was the main medium of information and entertainment.

Prof Buddruss employed the medium of radio to communicate his research work. I still remember Buddruss narrating the mythical story of the cannibal king of Gilgit called Shri Badat from Radio Pakistan Gilgit in the 1980s. For the broader academic audience, he transformed some of the products of Radio Pakistan Gilgit into a written word. In this regard, he translated some of the radio features of Muhammad Amin Zia, a noted writer and broadcaster of Gilgit, into English. Based on these features Professor Buddruss published a book titled “The meeting place. Radio features in the Shina language of Gilgit” with Almuth Degener in 2012. I had the honour to write a book review “Modernity and Mutation” in The News on Sunday in 2013. It is a scholarly work dealing with themes of the interface between tradition and modernity in the cultural and social settings of Gilgit.

Commenting on his demise and scholarship, a renowned scholar on High Asia Professor Hermann Kruezmann wrote: “His example should be a guiding principle for all of us to continue research on the communities whose unwritten languages have been termed as endangered by international linguistic organisations.”

It is my earnest wish to establish Professor Georg Buddruss’s corner in either Municipal Public Library Gilgit or the library of Karakoram International University, Gilgit, wherein his works, manuscripts and archives can be made accessible for the new generation of researchers in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. It will help us to push the boundaries of knowledge further in the region which is an anthropological treasure trove but intellectually barren.

May Professor Buddress’s scholarly soul repose in eternal peace. Amen!

Works of Prof Georg Buddruss

Neue Schriftsprachen im Norden Pakistans. Einige Beobachtungen. In: A. and J. Assmann/ Chr. Hardmeier (ed.): Schrift und Gedächtnis. Archäologie der literarischen Kommunikation. München, pp. 231–244. 1983. (New written languages in northern Pakistan. Some observations. In: A. and J. Assmann / Chr. Hardmeier (ed.): Writing and memory. Archeology of literary communication. Munich, pp. 231–244. 1983.

Shina. Muhammad Amin Zia: An meine Lebensgefährtin. In: Sontheimer, Günther-Dietz (ed.), Südasien-Anthologie. 44 Übersetzungen aus südasiatischen Literaturen, published by the Südasien-Institut, Universität Heidelberg. Beiträge zur Südasienforschung, 140. Stuttgart, pp. 1–4. 1993a (To my partner. In: Sontheimer, Günther-Dietz (ed.), South Asia anthology. 44 translations from South Asian literatures)

German linguistic research in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. In: Neuere deutsche Beiträge zu Geschichte und Kultur Pakistans (Schriftenreihe des Deutsch-Pakistanischen Forums, 10), 38–49. 1993b. (Recent German contributions to the history and culture of Pakistan (series of publications by the German-Pakistani Forum)

Georg Buddruss and Almuth Degener (eds.). The Meeting Place: Radio Features in the Shina Language of Gilgit. Harrassowitz Verlag·Wiesbaden. 2012.

Aziz Ali Dad studied Philosophy of Social Sciences at the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. He was a Crossroads Asia research fellow at Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, Germany, and a research fellow of the Asia Leadership Fellow Program in Tokyo, Japan. His research focuses on the history of ideas and the sociology of margins.
Aziz regularly writes for the mainstream media of Pakistan on issues related to philosophy, subaltern and peripheral communities of High Asia. He is a regular columnist for The News and other papers and journals in Pakistan. He has delivered lectures on culture, politics, literature and philosophy at national and international universities. With interests in philosophy, identity politics, culture and issues of Gilgit-Baltistan, he is noted for his pioneering work in understanding history, politics and cultural dynamics in Gilgit-Baltistan. He can be reached at azizalidad@gmail.com

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