Short Portrait: Wilhelm Alexander Unkrig

Wilhelm Alexander Unkrig
Wilhelm Alexander Unkrig

Unkrig was born in 1883 in Köslin (today: Koszalin/Poland) as son of a crofter. He studied theology in Zhytomyr (today in Ukraine) and Kazan (today in Tatarstan) with the aim to become an orthodox missionary in Mongolia. In 1912 he finished his exams and became a Russian Orthodox priest. His main interests were Mongolian Language, Mongolian Buddhism and Lamaism.

After WW I he joined Pater Wilhelm Schmidts Anthropos-Institute in Mödling. From 1924 to 1926 he worked there as a librarian and an assistant to the anthropology journal Anthropos.

In 1926 he went to Berlin, where he worked as a freelance author. Berlin anthropologist Hans Findeisen supported him with jobs.

In 1936 he accepted an invitation of Erwin Roussell to work as librarian at the Institute for Sinology at Frankfurt/Main. There he also worked for the journals Sinica and Sinica Sonderausgaben. From 1943 onwards he worked as a lecturer for Mongolian, Tibetian and Lamaism at the University of Frankfurt/Main. Sven Hedin invited him to visit Stockholm and work with him on the catalogue Mongolica.

His involvement in the context of NS-policy on Central Asia and Tibet (Amt Rosenberg) is discussed in

Unkrig died in 1956 in Traisa (close to Darmstadt).

Unkrig is mentioned in the interview with Peter Snoy (


Publications by Unkrig

Aus den letzten Jahrzehnten des Lamaismus in Rußland [= Untersuchungen zur Geschichte des Buddhismus 20], München 1926,

W. Filchner und W.A. Unkrig: Kumbum Dschamba Ling. Das Kloster der Hunderttausend Bilder Maitreyas, Leipzig 1933

Die Tollwut in der Heilkunde des Lamaismus nach tibetisch-mongolischen Texten im »Statens Etnografiska Museum« zu Stockholm [= Contributions to Ethnography, Linguistics and History of Religion], Stockholm 1954


Publications about Unkrig

Bawden, Charles R., „W.A. Unkrig’s Correspondence with the British and Foreign Bible Society: A Contribution to the History of Bible Translation and of Printing in Mongolian in Russia in the Early Nineteenth Century“, in: Zentralasiatische Studien des Seminars für Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaft Zentralasiens der Universität Bonn 14 (1980) 1, S. 65-108

Walravens, Hartmut, Wilhelm Alexander Unkrig. Mongolist, Theologe und Kenner lamaistischer Heilkunde: Eine Bibliographie, Hamburg 1982

Walravens, Hartmut,, „W.A. Unkrig und sein Werk“, in: Zentralasiatische Studien des Seminars für Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaft Zentralasiens der Universität Bonn 16, Wiesbaden 1982, S. 251-291

Williams, D.S.M., „The Mongolian Mission of the London Missionary Society: An Episode in the History of Religion in the Russian Empire“, in: The Slavonic and East European Review, 56 (2003) 3, S. 329-345


(text by D.Haller, Jan 2013; photo and text source: