Rashid Kaplanov has passed away. To my great sorrow, he is not the first person of my generation to depart. This is always a tragedy. It always happens too early. And there is never anyone to replace the one who is gone. The loss of Rashid is painful for those who knew and loved him, but it is also a great tragedy for the humanities in Russia and abroad.
We will miss Rashid as a prominent scholar and brilliant conversationalist, traveller and polyglot who spoke thirty-six languages, a kind, honest and educated person, a bright example of the true national elite, and an aristocrat in the best sense of the word. Not all of those who called him ‘Prince’ knew that on his father’s side he was the last of the Kumyk princes, descendents of Muhammad.
Rashid was deeply involved in Jewish affairs in the last decades of his life. A Halakhic Jew and recognized leader of the academic Judaica community, he was the first Russian citizen to preside over the European Association for Jewish Studies. This pioneering international Jewish organization, which Rashid headed, acting as its symbol and true driving force, was orphaned when Rashid died, as was everybody who knew, loved and was friends with him.
He suffered long, experiencing pain that he never deserved. He was the last in his family as he left no heirs. He loved life and people with a trusting and touching love. People were drawn to Rashid and loved him as an adult with a child’s sincere soul, all the more so because he was heart-broken and desperately lonely ever since he lost his mother, to whom he was very close.
We are deeply grateful for the efforts of the doctors at the cardiology center headed by Academician Yevgeniy Chazov, who struggled to the end to save Rashid’s life.
Perhaps G-d gives each person his own span of years. We can console ourselves with the thought that He knows best when we should leave this world. We can keep repeating that G-d takes the best ones first. But when we lose such a good friend and person as Rashid Kaplanov, we cannot help but feel the deep injustice of death. As we come to terms with our loss, there is nothing for us to do but to remember Rashid and hope that as long as the memory of him is alive, part of his soul remains with us.
Viatcheslav (Moshe) Kantor