Libmonster ID: RU-17283
Author(s) of the publication: Nikolai VEKHOV

by Nikolai VEKHOV, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), Likhachev Russian Research Institute of Cultural and Natural Heritage

In 1767 Empress Catherine the Great who took a keen interest in the organization and wealth of her possessions travelled along the Volga from Tver to Simbirsk. The Empress was not only delighted with the beauty of the great river but also went ashore in cities and villages and gathered information on the state of business, trade, factories and crafts. Everything she saw during her trip roused her to conceive a project unprecedented in range of works and involved territory, i.e. to form an authentic presentation of Russia, including geological, mineralogical, animal and plant resources, historical, socio-economic and ethnographic features of different regions.

The Empress ordered to sponsor several expeditions with a view to gather and publish necessary information to realize a grandiose scheme for studies of her state in naturalistic and historical aspects. Only eminent encyclopedic scientists were able to solve such important task. But as Russia lacked its own specialists in this sphere at that time (the national Academy of Sciences was founded just recently, in 1724), the European, mainly German, scientists were invited for participation in the forthcoming project.

The following specialists came from Germany: natural scientists Samuel George Gmelin junior, Johann Anton Guldenstâ;dt and Johann Gottlieb Georgi and also the father of many trends of natural science Peter Simon Pallas, all of them were elected later fellows of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Johann Peter Falk, a famous botanist of that time and a disciple of the founder of biological sciences and outstanding biologist Carolus Linnaeus, came from Sweden. The prominent scientists were a base of leadership of field parties, and Pallas headed the whole

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project. When they came to the Russian capital, the preparation for its implementation was in full swing. It became clear that full-scale geographical studies were the main objective of the coming trip. It is no mere chance that this project is known in the history of formation of national science as "Major Academic Expeditions".

The elaboration of research routes and plans designed for a period of 1768-1774 was a responsibility of all national institutions interested in obtaining of up-to-date data including the Geographical Department of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences, Free Economic Society, Collegium of Medicine, Collegium of Mining and Collegium of Commerce. A special program was worked out for the expedition which included "observations... of the nature of lands and waters, populated localities, their advantages and disadvantages, growth and improvement of livestock farms, especially those producing wool; methods of fishing, wild animal trading, mineral coal, peat and ore signs; and also half-metals which are important for commerce. Besides, the Academy hopes that the travelers will note diligently everything which can provide explanation of... geography, describe social manners, spiritual ceremonies and ancient stories of peoples living in a country which they will visit and also pay attention to the encountered antiquities and examine ruins and remains of ancient places."

In the spring of 1768 the expedition parties were formed including six astronomical parties for Venus observation, three geographical parties to the Orenburg province and two parties to the Astrakhan province. The expedition was equipped with all necessary tools and instruments, appliances and laboratory equipment and a vast reference library. But their path was not strewed with roses. They moved in carts and mail coaches which broke down time after time, moved frequently in high winds, rainstorms and thunderstorms from which they sometimes could not find shelter. The surveying parties were not welcomed anywhere, and they were not always given the required help and came across sabotage in many cases despite the government instructions for the provincial authorities to assist them in such affair of national importance.

But it was not the most tragic thing. For six years that the travelers went about Russia, the draughtsman Ivan Borisov, naturalist Mikhail Kotov and academic students Boris Zryakovsky and Yakov Klyucharev died of diseases. Gmelin's death was a timeless and irreplaceable loss for the whole business. On his way back from Persia (Iran) in 1772 he was robbed and seized as hostage by the high-lander in Dagestan who tried to get ransom for the foreigner, and two years later he fell ill from hardships of every kind and died in captivity at the age of 30.

The gifted botanist Falk during his wandering about Russia became an opium-addict and susceptible to hypohondria and depression, which interfered with his work, he wrote in his letter to Count Vladimir Orlov, the then director of the Academy of Sciences, who held him in high respect: "Gout, headache and hypohondria have exhausted me all over and I feel unhappy about it... But 1 feel unhappy most of all about the thought that with all my zeal but to the detriment of the Academy and my own shame I cannot discharge my duties." As a result, on March 31, 1774, the naturalist committed suicide. Even Pallas, who was a young man of 27 in his prime when he set off on a multi-year trip, returned from the expedition at the age of 33 grizzled and affected with ophthalmia and scurvy.

Only in the 20th century our contemporaries appraised worthily the selfless activity of the foreigners in Russian

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service. This is what Acad. Vladimir Vernadsky wrote about Pallas (Studies in the History of the Academy, 1988): his works "underlie up to now our knowledge of nature and people of Russia. They are inevitably referred to as to a living source by a geographer and ethnographer, a zoologist and botanist, a geologist and mineralogist, statistician, archeologist and linguist... His travels are in his presentation... an inexhaustible source of very diverse significant and negligible but always scientifically exact data."

Not belittling erudition and qualification of other researchers, it cannot be denied that the main and most diverse information was obtained just by Pallas and his colleagues. He headed the 1st party of the Orenburg expedition whose activity lasted from June 21, 1768 to June 30, 1774. Under the general instructions this party was entrusted with the following: "To study properties of waters, soils, tillage methods, farming conditions, frequent diseases of people and animals and seek out reme-

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dies to cure and prevent them, and study bee-keeping, sericulture, cattle-breeding, especially sheep-breeding. Then pay attention to mineral resources and mineral waters, arts, crafts and trades of every province, plants and animals, form and interior of mountains, and, finally, all branches of natural science... To carry out geographical and meteorological observations, astronomic reckoning of main territories and gather all information related to manners, customs, faith, legends, monuments and various antiquities."

In 1768 Pallas' party started taking a route of Petersburg, Veliky Novgorod, Tver, Klin, Moscow, Vladimir, Kasimov, Murom, Arzamas and Penza, came to Simbirsk (today Ulyanovsk) where it stayed for winter. In March of 1769 the researchers moved to Samara, then to Syzran and Serny town (Sernovodsk). Back to Samara they travelled to Orenburg via Borsk (village of Borskoye, Samara Region) and therefrom to the Yaitsky town (Uralsk), reached Guryev along the Ural River and then Ufa through the steppe. Here the party waited through the cold months, and its head finished the first volume of Travels to Different Provinces of the Russian State (published in Petersburg in 1771).

To execute the Empress' order, in the summer of 1770 Pallas described almost 40 large and small Ural plants, including iron foundry, copper-smelting and steel works. Many of them such as Nizhne- and Verkhne-Tagilskiye, Saldinskiye, Bogoslovsky, Yuryuzansky, Vyksunsky, Tury-inskiye, Nevyansky and Petropavlovsky works are operating up to now. The scientist described the methods of mining mineral resources, their reserves, transportation routes of raw materials and products, provision of water and manpower, ore content in rocks, distance to main industrial centers and many others, which was in essence the first evaluation of Ural as a main strategic region of Russia at that time.

In winter Pallas stayed in Chelyabinsk wherefrom visited Tobolsk and Tyumen. In May of 1771 he and his party went to Omsk, then moved southwards and visited the Altai region and reached Tomsk. He spent winter in Krasnoyarsk where he completed the second volume of his Travels to Different Provinces of the Russian State. Then he planned to go to China but due to his ill health he had to give up the idea of such long trip.

In March of 1772, the researchers proceeded to Irkutsk, crossed Lake Baikal, reached Selenginsk (today Novose-lenginsk) and made a journey to Kyakhta (town in Buryatia in a border zone with Mongolia). After that they visited the Transbaikalia and returned to Krasnoyarsk where they stayed until January of 1773. From this geo-

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graphical point which became the extreme eastern point in Pallas' trip the party moved to the European Russia. On the way to Petersburg the scientist stayed in Tsaritsyn (today Volgograd) wherefrom he several times visited Astrakhan.

The route of Pallas' party made in total about 28,000 km, which looks almost impossible even today when researchers have at their disposal various transport facilities and communication services. The many-year travels were connected with great difficulties and risks to life and required enormous efforts. Besides, as natives of Central Europe they faced an unfamiliar sharply continental climate. The expedition head was frequently ill, had frostbitten heels and chronic ophthalmia. They often had to stay overnight in abandoned winter huts and dug-outs and sometimes in the open air. The roads presented a lot of trouble, and it was difficult to get good horses. In wintertime they traveled by sledges and in summertime by carts and sometimes by water. On their way they met new regions of Russia where nomadic tribes did not shun robberies and plunder.

Meanwhile the expedition results exceeded all expectations: the invaluable data on zoology, botany, paleontology, geology, physical geography, economy, history, ethnography, culture and way of life of Russian peoples have become the basis for collections of the Kunstkammer*. Many of them are still kept in the museums of the

See: A. Teryukov, A. Salmin, "Kunstkammer and Its Collections", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2014.-Ed.

Russian Academy of Sciences*, and a part of them got into the Berlin University. Pallas made also a number of discoveries. For example, he revealed and described several hundreds of the then unknown to biologists species of plants, insects, mammals, birds, fish and marine animals (including lancelet), studied the fossilized remains of the bull and representatives of the so-called hipparion fauna (mammals which lived 2-12 mln years ago in the Central Eurasia, where herbaceous forest steppes prevailed in that period), i.e. mammoth and woolly rhinoceros.

In 1772 in the Krasnoyarsk region the scientist saw a 680 kg block, the largest siderolite ever found in Russia, i.e. aerosiderolite or pallasite. The "celestial wanderer" given the name "Krasnoyarsk" (or "Pallas' iron") was sent to Petersburg and now is exhibited at the meteorite section of the RAS Mineralogical Museum. The expedition was also of paramount practical importance as it gathered data on unique natural wealth of Eastern Siberia and the Altai almost unknown till then and on the needs of the peoples living there. Of eternal value is also the fact that it was managed to describe fields, steppes, forests, rivers, lakes and mountains in a condition when they did not yet experience anthropogenic influence and were populated in plenty by animal species many of which disappeared already in several decades as, for example, tarpan.

*See: L. Pavlinskaya, "Formation of Ethnographic Science in Russia", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2014.-Ed.

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Results of the travellers' scientific achievement were summed up in Pallas' numerous works published in Latin, German and Russian in Petersburg and then in English in Edinburgh and London and in French in Paris. These works were highly appreciated by the then international scientific fellowship and became a source of invaluable and detailed information on resources of our country.

The results of activities of other parties of the expedition also proved to be very impressive. For example, Johann Peter Falk and his assistants focused on the south of Russia, i.e. the Volga Region, Astrakhan and Kalmykia, and the steppe area of Western Siberia. The extreme points which he reached were Barnaul and Altai mines. The researchers gathered a vast botanical material and also plenty of ethnographic material related to the way of life and traditions of the Russian, Tatar, Bashkir and Kalmyk peoples.

Falk's notebook contains a large quantity of specific and sometimes minutest details about the nature and population of the visited places. In particular, he described thoroughly the "traces" of an ancient river connecting the Aral and Caspian seas in the geological past, i.e. dried-up river-bed, wells, springs, etc. Besides, the scientist studied the salty soils and springs in the Kuma (Kalmykia) and Kirghiz steppes, where he measured brine concentration by hydrometer, and also reservoirs of the Iset steppe (Eastern Ural) dividing them into fresh, licorice (brakish), bitter and empty (i.e. drying up and freezing).

Alas! The untimely death prevented the outstanding botanist from polishing his diaries, and it was done by Georgi who was familiar with his handwriting. The traveller's Notes by Falk were published first in German (1785-1787) and then in Russian as a part of Collected Works on Scholarly Travels in Russia (1818-1825).

Another member of the expedition, Johann Anton Giildenstadt, who started for the south of Russia in 1769 focused on the steppe regions from Voronezh and Tambov to Northern Caucasia and Georgia inclusive and then moved to Kiev via Poltava. His party undertook the longest trips and returned to Petersburg only in 1775. For seven years of travels which passed often in places where the foot of man had never stepped he managed to gather a great deal of valuable information on the natural conditions, the animal and vegetation world, minerals, resources, population of the territory under study, its way of life, economy and trade.

Güldenstadt is rightfully considered the father of Caucasian studies. In particular, it was just he who put into scientific use a rich factual material about the highland

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separating the Black Sea from the Caspian Sea, which made a basis for studies of the local nature, first of all, rivers and lakes, salt and mineral waters, oil and thermal springs.

Ivan Lepekhin, one of the first Russian academicians (from 1768), also gathered unique information. The party headed by him studied a vast territory stretching from the White Sea to the hot steppe (approximately to the Elton Lake, Volgograd Region) but he gave special priority to Cisural and Ural, where he, like Pallas with his assistants, visited many production units. The scientist brought to the capital comprehensive collections of insects, herbarium, animals preserved in alcohol, stuffed birds, skins of big game, and bones of fossilized inhabitants of the territory under study, minerals and various remains.

In Solikamsk Lepekhin drew up a plant catalog of the Demidov Botanical Gardens founded in 1731 by one of the representatives of this dynasty of businessmen well known in Russia. He counted 422 flora species there (or 525 by other sources), and among them were not only those typical of Ural and Siberia but also thermophilic plants, including those from tropical and subtropical zones of the planet, such as coffee, cactus, aloe, amaryllis, canna, hyacinth, pineapple, oleander, laurel, myrtle, lemon and banana.

Lepekhin gathered essential information on useful plants, methods of plant cultivation and use, attentively scrutinized the process of forest regeneration after fires. He outlined in his travel notes his considerations regarding the means and methods of fruit tree protection in frost and the influence of the environment on the nature of flora. In the territory of the Volgograd Region the traveller found several lakes with a high content of salt much like Glauber's salt (sodium sulphate) and advanced an idea of possible production of this substance important for industry and medicine from wastes of salt-works.

A significant place in Lepekhin's party activity belongs to acquaintance with mines, mining, leather-dressing and other productions of Ural. Even at that time he noticed cases of clogging of rivers with production wastes. Having examined the local enterprises the scientist gave thought to improvement of methods and conditions of resource development. Besides he gathered a great deal of data on lodging, customs, ceremonies, clothes, hairstyles and ornaments of Mordovians, Chuvash, Komi-Permyak and other inhabitants of the visited places, on their languages, origin of the names of mountains, rivers and backwoods; on diseases and popular remedies; on ancient settlements and fortifications, and others. All this invaluable material was included into Daily Notes of Travels in Different Provinces of the Russian State in 1768-1772 published first in Russian in Petersburg, in German in Altenburg and in French in Lausanne and then reprinted in Collected Works on Scholarly Travels.

The route of another notable researcher Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin included the southern direction strategically important for Russia which threatened with raids of nomadic tribes. Proceeding to the steppe regions he vis-

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ited Azov and Tsimlyansk, reached the Lower Volga river, travelled throughout the whole territory of Eastern Caucasia, reached Northern Persia, put out to the Caspian Sea and reached Astrabad and Enzeli Bays but he could have done more had he not fallen prisoner and died in captivity.

Gmelin attentively studied the animal and vegetation world of the visited places. He was the first to describe big-eared hedgehog, Persian squirrel and Asiatic mouflon, he characterized saiga, a little-known species of the Central Asian antelope. His diaries give detailed account of the Lower Volga region and Azov steppes, especially the Kuma steppe, fishing practices in the northern shores of Azov and Caspian seas, local navigation, and manners and customs of peoples inhabiting the regions under study including Persians. The scientist prepared a map of Astrakhan salt lakes and suggested classification of salt lakes* according to their chemical composition. His works were published in Petersburg first in German and then in Russian.

In conclusion we would like to tell you about yet another wonderful participant of the expedition-Johann Gottlieb Georgi. Right away upon arrival in Russia in 1770 he started field studies of the Kalmyk steppe as a member of the Falk party, but due to the illness of the latter he and Alexei Pushkarev went over to the Pallas party and

* Salt lakes are characterized by so high salt concentration that salt can crystallize and precipitate to the bottom.-Ed.

received a task to examine Lake Baikal and its environs. In 1773 the scientist inspected the works in Tara (today a town in the Omsk Region) and Tobolsk, made observations in the Chusovaya river basin and the next year devoted to studies of the Volga Region. On his way to Petersburg he learnt about Falk's death and took his manuscripts in Kazan, which he later on prepared for publication.

Together with Pushkarev Georgi prepared the first authentic map of the "Sea of Baikal". "Description of all peoples living in the Russian state and also their life ceremonies, beliefs, customs, lodging, clothes and other peculiarities" was a major result of his activities and was published first in German and then in Russian (1776-1780). This fundamental work in four volumes with a great number of colored engravings, watercolors and black-and-white pictures generalizing the results of ethnographic studies of the national scientists is not only the first composite richly illustrated description of different sides of culture and way of life of the Russian peoples but also a standard of ethnographic studies recognized by the world scientific fellowship.


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