Известные имена

Potanin G.N.

Potanin G.N. Grigory Nickolaevich Potanin (1835 - 1920) traveler, ethnographer

In 19th century Kazakhstan was still scantily explored, almost unknown region for European scientists. A famous Russian traveler-scientist, ethnographer and folklore specialist Grigory Nickolayevich Potanin is one of the discoverers of the region.

He was born in 1835 in Yamishevskaya stanitsa of Akmolinsky region. It is interesting that his father Nickolay Iliych Potanin, who was a Cossack cornet officer, used to travel with commercial caravans through unexplored Kazakh steppe from Semipalatinsk to Kokand khanate. These commercial tours also were reconnoitering expeditions. He studied paths, made descriptions of roads and regions, learned everything about economy and military situation in the khanate and described all that he saw in “Records of N.I. Potanin about Kokand khanate”. This information was published in “Military journal” and was also used in scientific literature abroad.

In 1846 Potanin joined Siberian military school in Omsk, where he studied with Chokan Valikhanov. After finishing the school cornet G.N. Potanin was sent to Semipalatinsk and then to Omsk. When he was on his military service, he made a few trips to Kazakhstan, visited Verny (Almaty), Kuldzha, Altai. Meeting of G.N. Potanin and a famous traveler P.P. Semyonov-Tien-Shansky determined his future destiny. G.N. Potanin quitted his military service with the help of P.P. Semyonov-Tien-Shansky and in March 1859 entered the University of Petersburg, department of physics and mathematics. There in an intimate circle of Siberians studied G.N. Potanin, N.M. Yadrintsev, S.S. Shishkov, F.N. Usov etc. They made a study group of students holding the same views, who wanted to study their native Siberian land and very soon study group became a socio-political organization. In the beginning of the 60-s they took up the struggle for democratic reforms in Russia. Potanin was arrested because of his participation in students’ disorders and deported to Siberia in 1861.

He made his first expedition to Ural in 1862. In 1863-1864 he made a few trips to East Kazakhstan. In 1874 G.N. Potanin was allowed to settle in St. Petersburg in order to prepare for his Mongolian expedition. In 70-90-s he made a few trips to little-studied regions of Siberia and Central Asia, where he collected a lot of materials on geography, botany, economy, ethnography.

His last 20 years Potanin lived in Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk and Tomsk, he made summer journeys to Altai, Zabaykalie and Kirgiz steppe to collect legends, fairy-tales, superstitions, which he used to supplement his works about East era. In July 1917 Potanin, who knew the Kazakh language very well, took part in the First Kirgiz Congress in Orenburg as a delegate of Semipalatinsk region and he was chosen as a delegate to Russian Constituent Assembly.

He died on June 30th, 1920 in Tomsk.

One of the Nyan Shan mountains, the biggest glacier of mountain junction Tawan-Bogdo-Ula in Altai, asteroid 9915, sort of rose family plants – potaniya and streets in Siberian cities, in Almaty were named after Potanin, in his honor.

G.N. Potanin is an honorary member of Russian Geographic Society and an honorary citizen of Tomsk. There is a monument in Tomsk erected in honor of Potanin.