On the occasion of 100th Birthday of Dr. Manouchehr Sotoudeh
The professor who travels and writes
Translated by: Anahita Hazrati Kiavandani
For those who search, deliberate, and investigate on the culture of Iranian ethnic groups, “manouchehr Sotoudeh” is a familiar name in this field and for those who are keen on travelling and have the power to move “Sotoudeh” is a unique model that evokes regret and jealousy. His name has been tied to Iranian ethnical historiography and lexicography. The preceptor of historical geography of Iran would pass the 100th year of his productive and prolific life.
Professor “Manouchehr Sotoudeh” was born in 28 June 1292 in Sarcheshmeh bazaar of old Tehran. However, his family’s original homeland is “Yasel Nour” in Mazandaran. His childhood as he puts it was passed in “Koucheh-Sourakhy or Koucheh-Zargarha”, near Imamzadeh Yahya. From there you can go to Hassan Abad square in Baba Taher alley – near current Sepah street- and from there he started his education in American Collage. His father was the principal of primary American school. He was a scholar and was as proud of the history of Iranian culture that nearly a century ago he named his children Manouchehr, Iraj, Parviz, Iran Dokht and Pouran Dokht. As studying in the school where the official language was English, he was also in charge of the library. After graduating from the American school, he went to Teachers University to study Persian language literature.
After graduation, he passed his military service during the war, and in 1320, he was employed in Ministry of Culture as a teacher. He taught in Lahijan and BandarAnzali and then in sharaf high school and preliminary university of Tehran… he taught English language literature in these schools and at that time, as his life concern, he studied Persian language literature simultaneously.
Sotoudeh remembers “Mirza Mahdi Khan Irani” who was his father’s friend and one of the officials at Human Resources in Culture department, always insisted to put him in charge of the Culture department in a county. However, Sotoudeh refuses and insists: “Sir, I am a teacher, I must just teach”, and he goes to Gilan to teach and to lay the cornerstones of his prolific life. Sotoudeh’s presence in Gilan was a period filled with reminiscence. Starting to collect the Gilaki culture also goes back to that period.
“I used to teach the same official ten-hour and I was fully free for the rest of the day and I started to write the Gilaki culture”. Although the “Gilak Culture” book was compiled and prepared in 700 pages in the same year, its publication was made possible with a long delay and after 10 years, but Sotoudeh never showed any distress or protest. In the same year Manouchehr Sotoudeh started writing an important book named “Qala’ Ismaelieh”. With the spirit of mountaineering, which he had from the prime of his youth, he traversed from village to village and city to city on foot and with the help of his precise measurement and his performed concise researches, he indited one of the most important researches about “Alamut Castle”. The study was later encouraged by Dr. “Forouzan Far” to be chosen as Manouchehr Sotoudeh’s PhD. Thesis.
After getting his PhD, Sotoudeh became a member of Philosophy and Human Sciences Association, where Dr. Taqizadeh, Saeed Nafisy and Dr. Forouzan Far were its main members. At the same time, by the invitation of Dr. forouzan Far, he went to school of Theology to teach historical geography, and this was the initiation of Dr. manouchehr Sotoudeh’s focus and continuity in the studies of historical geography. His teaching in the school of theology was coincided with dedication of Seyed Mohammed Meshkat’s library to Tehran University. Sotoudeh took the responsibility of delivering the books and setting up the central library of Tehran University with deceased Meshkat’s book collection. First microfilms of central library, which were brought to Iran from Turkey in 500 copies by Mojtaba Nabavi, were arranged and organized during Sotoudeh’s incumbency as the director of the library of Tehran University, and the library was officially recognized.
During the following years, he had several abroad study tours and from among his life events the following can be mentioned: promotion to assistant professor at Tehran University and then to associate professor, his transfer to Faculty of Literature at Tehran University, his membership in History department and finally his promotion to full professor in 1354.
His retirement and distance from teaching environment was a chance for the professor to finish his incomplete previous tasks and extend his privacy, which was never away from him; Whether it be the summering place of “koushk” near Gachsar or a place named “Golour” near Salman Shahr where he seems to stay more these days. Compiling, editing and annotating ancient texts and writing the collection of most important resources of Historical Geography of Iran ethnics and territories in more than 40 titles and volumes are the results of years of his suburbanization and solitude.
One of the most important works of Manouchehr Sotoudeh is a ten-volume set named “from Astara to Estarabad”. This is a precise historiography of Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan territories, which provides the audience with accurate and comprehensive information from buildings, monuments, historical works and geographical and historical information of the region. In this regard, professor says, “this set of ten volumes has not been written at a desk, I mean for any part, I have travelled each valley from Astara to Hossein Qoli bay. I went across more than sixty valleys and got back … I was aware that this writing must be accompanied with actual experience, if it had not been done so, I would not have gotten any results. Studies would not be accurate if only done at a desk.”
The first volume of “From Astara to Estarabad” set was published in 1348 by national heritage association. Publication of the first seven volumes was made possible by the help of this association; a set which Sotoudeh calls it his most important work. After the revolution, he started writing, investigation and research in southern areas of Caspian Sea and reached to the gates of Esfarayen, Jajrom and Bojnourd. In investigating Khorasan region, Dr. Sotoudeh stepped beyond geographical boundaries of Iran and travelled to Transoxiana and Kharazm; and with a team of his colleagues examined historical monuments and works of these two regions.
Dr. Sotoudeh believes that the issues of history and geography received sufficient credits in ancient Iran, “the attack of Khashayar Shah from Iran and his campaign to Greek reveals that they were aware of the road paths and their situations”.
He believes that Geography was born at the same time of the presence of human on earth. Dr. Sotoudeh has his special method of research and writing encyclopedias of national geography, that especially in relation with a country like Iran, with such vast topics in ethical lexicography, is of high importance.
Dr. Sotoudeh’s sharp and precise look at current issues and their peripherals, and his accuracy in reviewing the consequences of each cultural approach and policies, is a genuine sample of efforts of a generation who has used his knowledge, wisdom and culture to serve beloved Iran.
Those, who have closely understood the presence of Professor Manouchehr Sotoudeh, perfectly know that the professor’s language in critical issues is sharp and his social acquaintance is sweet and tender. He has a smooth sense in eloquence and poetry, and bravery in criticism. As mentioned whether in old stories about him or descriptions about his current life style, Dr. manouchehr Sotoudeh in his century-long prolific life, has always had a curious and seeker disposition.
This precious professor was appreciated in 1384 in the fifth conference of Permanent Personages in the field of historical geography.
The list of Dr. Sotoudeh’s books consists of 52 volumes and the number of his articles reaches 286 up to present. Dr. Sotoudeh’s books and articles are the sign of his deep and profound attachment to history, scope and history of Iranian culture. His century-long life has completely past with his love to Persian language, History and the geography of our country and how pleasant and memorable is such a life. We will conclude this topic with the statement of “Abdolrahman Emadi” at the night of celebration of Dr. Manouchehr Sotoudeh, held by Bukhara magazine: “for the first time a person named “Manouchehr Sotoudeh” appeared and an Iranian found himself capable of investigating in such areas. In fact, he chose a huge project. He picked up a stone and wanted to say that an Iranian person can pick a huge stone like Alborz Mountain. He studied and read all the books written about it, investigated them all step by step, visited it from distinct to distinct, talked to its ordinary people, took note of all of them, and the book is the efforts of only one person. An Iranian, had this drive, had such capability, chose a big stone which promised a big performance. That is why Dr. Sotoudeh is a unique person”.