Libmonster ID: RU-17159
Author(s) of the publication: Nikolai VEKHOV

by Nikolai VEKHOV, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), Russian Scientific Research Center of the Cultural and Natural Heritage named after D. Likhachev, RF Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications

The Kola Peninsula located in the north-west of our country and washed by the Barents and White Seas is considered to be the best-studied arctic region of the planet. Although that Russian Lapland, as they used to call it in historical literature, had a reputation of a god-forsaken place with a history full of conjectures and legends, it was there that in the 1930s the first institutes of the USSR Academy of Sciences and a number of branch ministries were established.

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The Kola Peninsular or Murman-the eastern part of the habitat of Lappish tribes–made part of the Novgorod Republic* in the early 13th century. Dozens of travelers visited this remote region and step by step filled the "bank" of information on the people and nature of the northern land. The first scientist who carried out analytical studies of this region was a famous encyclopedist Mikhail Lomonosov (full member of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1745)**, who visited it several times in the 1720s. In 1727-1730 French scientist Louis Delisle de la Croyere (Academician from 1727), who served in Russia, organized the first astrogeodesic expedition there. He visited the Island of Kildin in the Barents Sea, settlements Kola, Kandalaksha, Kovda, Keret and a coastline of the White Sea, kept an observation book, determined latitudes of geographical points.

The first period of studies in the Russian Lapland was devoted to its geography. All data on local rivers, lakes, mountains and settlements collected by the early 17th century were published in one book The Book of Maps (a description to the biggest map of those times drawn up by the Moscow Military Department in 1627; unfortunately, not preserved). As early as in 1745, the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences published an atlas with a reliable outline of the Kola Peninsular, sketches of its major rivers, lakes and settlements, etc.

In the second half of the 18th century, new generations of scientists set out for remote northern lands. Ivan Lepekhin (Academician from 1768), who was there in 1771 and 1772, made a significant contribution to the exploration of local nature. He was among those who predicted mineral wealth of these lands: "From these spurs downwards along the inlet to the Tersky shore (from the Kandalaksha mountains to the east, along the northern coast of the White Sea.–TV. Vekhov)" there are great canyons; their location and bald peaks promise metal deposits."

Information gathered by the scientist was published in the 4-volume edition Daily Records by Ivan Lepekhin, Doctor and Adjunct of the Academy of Sciences, Traveling in

See: V. Darkevich, "Republic on the Volkhov", Science in Russia, No. 5, 1998.–Ed.

** See: E. Karpeev. "A Giant of Russia's Enlightenment". Science in Russia, No. 3, 2003.–Ed.

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the Outlands of Russia (1771 -1805). Another Russian scientist Nikolai Ozeretskovsky (Academician from 1779) who studied everyday life and trades of the indigenous population published a series of historical, ethnographical and nature-oriented assays, including The Description of Kola and Astrakhan (1804)–the first printed paper dedicated to the Russian Lapland.

In early 19th century, expeditions to this remote northern territory were organized by the state, it was a kind of reaction to the policy of Scandinavian countries that had laid claims to the Kola Peninsula from time immemorial. For example, Sweden and Norway inhabited by Lapps in the north explained their claims by the fact that Russia did not paid much attention to these lands and did not develop them. Indeed, vast expanses of our part of Russian Lapland was inhabited by several thousands of Russians (in coastal areas) and about three thousands of Lapps, most of them were hunters and fishermen (sea and fur trade).

In view of the current situation, in 1821-1824 the Admiralty Department sent a group of researchers to Murman. It was headed by a sailor and geographer Fyo-dor Litke (in 1864-1882 President of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, one of the organizers of the Russian Geographical Society, established in 1845 ) who in 1828 published a fundamental work The Fourfold Travels to the Arctic Ocean... In 1826-1832, the studies commenced by Litke were took up by a military hydro-grapher Mikhail Reineke. He described tides and sea currents and determined exact coordinates of geographical points that later were included in the atlas of the White Sea and Lapland coast (1831) and then in a two-volume edition The Hydrological Description of the Northern Coast of Russia (1843 and 1850 respectively).*

The next period of studies of Russian Lapland was dedicated to its nature and ethnography. In 1840, Karl Baer (Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg AS from 1862) and Alexander Middendorff (Honorary Member of the Petersburg AS from 1865) studied the Vaida inlet, eastern part of the Kola Peninsula, biology of birds and animals, and defined more exactly geographical position of many rivers, lakes and settlements. Moreover, in 1870 Baer visited Murman once again to study the Nord Cape branch of the warm sea current Gulf Stream.

See: M. Tsiporukha, "Explorer and President of the Academy", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2000.–Ed.

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In 1841-1842, Finnish ethnographer, linguist, traveler and graduate of Helsinki University Mafias A. Castren* went first to Russian Lapland, then visited Karelia** and Siberia. As a result of this expedition, a book in the Norwegian language was published. It was the first scientific work on Russian Lapps, their tales, beliefs, language and everyday life, published after death of its author.

In 1887, the ethnographer Nikolai Kharuzin together with his sister and colleague Vera visited Babinsky, Ekostrovsky, Lovozersky, Kildinsky, etc. church yards and collected much information about local culture, everyday life and history of the Lapps. Three years later he published a fundamental work called The Russian Lapps, that was awarded gold medals of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society and the Moscow Society of Admirers of Natural Science, Anthropology and Ethnography, and for many years was considered the most complete collection of peculiarities of this small people.

Despite all the above-said, the Kola Peninsula was perceived in the society as a god-forsaken place, remote outskirts, a boundless desert with allegedly no natural reserves. The first expedition that awoke interest in this territory was arranged by Finnish scientists headed by Wilhelm Ramsay under the auspices of the Petersburg AS (1887-1892). Its participants the geologist Victor Hak-mann, zoologist Johan Palmen, botanists Oswald Kihl-man and Viktor Broterius studied flora and fauna of Lapland, the cartographer Alfred Petrelius drew up the first detailed map of the Khibiny Mountains, determined a number of astronomic points, carried out surveying in the basins of the Imandra, Umbozero and Lovozero rivers.

The natural scientists were the first researchers who reported on the availability of apatite there–a "mineral of fertility", a material to manufacture phosphate fertilizers–and described Lovozero tundras (local rock massif, the second in size after the Khibiny Mountains). It is not by chance that a modern map of the region is full of geographical names given in honor of participants of that expedition; moreover, one of the discovered minerals was called ramsayite.

The late 19th-early 20th centuries were marked by establishment of the first scientific institutions there. In

* That time Finland was a part of the Russian Empire with the rights of autonomous protectorate.–Auth.

** See: N. Chikina, "Healing Waters of Karelia", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2010.–Ed.

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1899, a biological station of the Imperial St. Petersburg Society of Natural Scientists was transferred from Solov-ki* to Alexandrovsk-on-Murman, a recently founded city (on the shore of the Catherine's Harbor in the Kola Bay of the Barents Sea) and a new administrative center of the Kola Uyezd, Arkhangelsk Gubernia. It is worth saying that this station played a very important role in studying not only the earlier unknown peculiarities of the White Sea region, but also helped a lot in studying nature as a whole. It was then that the basics of national hydrobiology were laid.

As compared with Solovki, the biological station on the Kola Peninsula carried out its scientific activities more actively, and soon it became well-known both in our country and abroad. Scientists constructed there flowing sea-water aquariums and installed equipment that enabled them to carry out research works in the coastal area, gathered a big library and created a scientific museum representing local fauna; in 1902, the Orka boat was purchased for research needs, and 6 years later the station bought one more vessel–the schooner Alexander Kovalev-sky. Notwithstanding a small staff, the station succeeded in studying marine animals and plants, students came every year for training. In 1929, the station was incorporated into the Floating Marine Research Institute that later on was reorganized into the Polar Research Institute of Fishery and Oceanography.

In 1898, the Murmansk Scientific and Field Station started functioning, organized and headed by an eminent specialist in oceanography and marine biology Nikolai Knipovich (Honorary Member of the USSR AS from 1935) in the Russian Lapland. Its employees made a lot to find real reserves, to determine their distribution, methods and volumes of fish and marine animal catch in the White and Barents seas, which was summarized in the report On the Fish and Game Industry in the Arkhangelsk Gubernia (1897).

In the early 20th century the Murman natural wealth was finally estimated and the main trends of scientific research were set. In 1906, professor Dmitry Pryanishni-kov (Academician of the USSR AS from 1929) conducted a series of vegetation experiments at the Moscow Institute of Agriculture: he added nepheline (a rock-forming mineral, waste rock in the apatite production) brought from the Khibiny Mountains to the soil. It turned out that buckwheat, wheat and oat assimilated well potassium contained

See: V. Darkevich, '"Sovereign Stronghold' on the White Sea", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2000; O. Borisova, "Islands of Prayer and Labor", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2010.–Ed.

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in it. The effect was even better than after sylvine-the most expansive potassium fertilizer of that time.

One more fact: in 1908 an article by professor Sergei Fyodorov on the discovery of apatite ore at the Cape Tury of the Kola Peninsula was published in The News of the Moscow University of Agriculture magazine. After analyzing the ore, the author made the following conclusion: "On the whole, the composition of this mineral is really exceptional and seems to be fit for use in agriculture. It is manifested not only in an extremely high content of phosphoric acid and alkali, but also in a rather easy decomposition of the main mineral–nepheline."

These events determined future of the Russian Lapland as one of the main national reserves of raw materials. Starting from March 4, 1920, after adoption of the government decree on the creation of the Northern Scientific and Production Expedition that inter alia was engaged in exploration of mineral resources, there started a real "scientific offensive". No doubt, it could not become a success without proper transport infrastructure. But Murman was a lucky exception: a couple of years before that (1915-1917) there had been laid a railroad from Petrozavodsk.

In 1920, the Kola Peninsula was visited by a commission consisting of Alexander Karpinsky, President of the Academy of Sciences, and Academician Alexander Fersman, mineralogist and geologist*. Then the Northern Scientific and Production Expedition worked in the local "storage house"–the Khibiny Mountains–for three years (later on it was transformed into the Institute of Northern Studies that laid a foundation for agricultural development of Lapland). The total mileage of its research routes made up 1,450 km, and the weight of collected samples exceeded 3,200 kg. The expedition carried out pioneer research of great significance for the development of geochemistry and establishment of new industries in a high-latitude region and national school of mineralogy.

In June 1921, in the Khibiny Mountains, on the bank of lake Imandra, there was organized an agricultural station, experimental fields were arranged on the rooted out land. In three years it was reorganized into the Polar Experimental Station of the All-Union Institute of Plant-Growing, where scientists headed by professor Pyotr Borisov began to use syenite (a magmatic alkaline rock) consisting of nepheline as a fertilizer. It was there that dozens of zoned varieties of potato, beet, cabbage, carrot and other vegetables were bred that are nowadays cultivat -

See: R. Balandin, "Poetry in Stone", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2003,–Ed.

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ed by local residents who gather crops no worse than in the moderate climate. Thanks to the efforts of northern plant-breeders and acclimatizers, cucumbers, tomatoes and even strawberry are now cultivated in the Kola Peninsula.

In 1923, the geologist Alexander Labuntsov discovered famous apatite deposits on the Rasvumchorr plateau, that was a real breakthrough in the development of the Russian Lapland. In autumn 1926, the government commission visited this and the adjoining deposit Yukspor and estimated reserves of the local variety of the "fertility rock" in 1, 250 thous. tons. In a short time up to 200 tons of ore were explored, and the estimated resources even exceeded this figure 10 times. In 1929, there was established a republican trust "Apatite" and it became clear to everyone: it will be the first northern region in the country with an enormous economic potential.

Development of the discovered and yet an explored mineral wealth was accompanied by a comprehensive studies of Lapland. "Discovery of new deposits opened up more and more extensive prospects for the Kola land. Global problems get a real shape against modern science, and their solution in the near future seems a fantastic challenge," Alexander Fersman recollected. He understood that the perspectives of the region, its economic development and living conditions of the local population were directly dependant on a successful cooperation of economic theory and practice. But all research centers were in the center of the country, which kept down development of the productive forces of remote districts. The necessity in creating a system of "real strong points of scientific work", prototypes of the USSR AS branches, became apparent.

In this context, in 1930 the Mountain Scientific Station "Tietta" (today the Kola Scientific Center of the RAS) was built on the coast of Maly Vudyar Lake–the first remote institution of the USSR AS. Soon after that, a symbolic designation of newly explored ore deposits appeared on the map of the region: nickel in the Moncha-tundra (Monchegorsk plant "Severonikel"), iron in Kovdor and Zaimandra (Kovdor Mining-and-Concen-trating Industrial Complex), aluminum in Keivy, titanium in Afrikanda, rare metals in Lovozero, etc.

"We gave our station a Lappish name 'Tietta' as it perfectly describes its designation; it means 'science, knowledge, school'," Fersman wrote. "Indeed, our station has three main tasks–to serve science, provide economic and industrial sectors with specific and accurate data and, finally, to be a school for visitors, serve as a shelter and show the way to the mountains. That is why our Mountain Station of the Academy of Sciences is not limited by specific research tasks in the field of mineral explorations and use of mineral resources in the mountainous areas of the Kola Peninsula, it must be an institution for comprehensive geographical, geochemical and economic studies of all districts and areas adjoining Khibinogorsk (former name of Kirovsk.–N. V.)".

Headed by Fersman, "Tietta" soon became a "Mecca" for participants of numerous surveying teams, geological parties and expeditions. Within the framework of this "Northern Academy", annual Polar Conferences were held, where urgent problems of local development were discussed; for the first years of publishing activities only, seven books Khibiny Apatites (Nephelines, Rare Elements and Pyrrhotines) were published, scientific works of the station employees were regularly released.

Soon, one more scientific institution-the Polar Alpine Botanical Gardens (today the Garden Institute named after N. Avrorin)*-was established at the foot of the Vudyavrchorr mountain; up to the present days it is the northernmost institution on the planet; Fersman who had collected a library of about 10,000 books donated it to this scientific center. It was established by Nikolai Avrorin who also was the first director of the center and held this position till 1960. The center was created beyond the Polar Circle to study local plants and use them in industrial production, to plant with trees and gardens new towns and settlements, which were built in the areas of hydroelectric power stations, of natural reserves along railroads and highways.

Headed by Avrorin, enthusiasts covered thousands of kilometers. As a result, a five-volume collection The Flora of the Murmansk Region (1953-1966) was published. But the main task of the Botanical Gardens was to select highly decorative and flowering exotic plants to use them in the local park development. In search of new plants, Kola botanists visited almost all European countries and many Asian regions similar in natural conditions, they received parcels with seeds, roots and bulbs of foreign plants from all over the world and then acclimatized them in the Khibiny region. It was the time when national decorative flower growing, gardening and park dendrology originated in the Far North.

The Kola Peninsula gave birth to many theoretical and applied works that then spread to different regions of the country and were widely used abroad; it was a place where hundreds and thousands of scientists, who later on became known in other territories of Russia, had made the first steps in their research work.

See: V. Zhirov, L. Lukvanova, "Oasis in Khibiny", Science in Russia. No. 2,2010.–Ed.


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