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Chikhachyov P.A.

Chikhachyov P.A. Pyotr Aleksandrovich Chikhachyov (1808-1890), explorer and scientist

Pyotr Aleksandrovich Chikhachyov, a famous Russian explorer and scientist, was born on August 16, 1808 in Gatchina.

After graduating from diplomatic school he was assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the same time Pyotr Aleksandrovich saw it fit to set about detailed study of natural sciences. From 1834 till 1836 Chikhachyov, performing a great job in Asian department of MFA, visited various countries of Southern Europe, Middle East and North Africa.

But in 1836 he quitted diplomatic career and decided to devote himself to research.

Among his numerous trips to China, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Asia Minor, Armenia, Algeria, Tunisia, Greece, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, his expedition to Altai in March-December 1842 is especially scientifically valuable.

The last destination of Chikhachyov’s expedition was East Kazakhstan. He described this rich region adequately and in depth. The expedition passed the Uba massives and picturesque river-valleys of Irtysh, Ulba, Bukhtarma and Maralikha with their lush and rich flora. Chikhachyov explored the region from the point of view of geology, climate and botany. He described in details rocks of the region – performed chemical analysis of the rocks, analyzed their magnetism, made stratigraphical diagrams - among which mica schist and clay slate were prevailing. The most detailed research he performed on porphyric granite of the right side of the Irtysh River.

The route of the expedition lay through the villages Vydrikha, Bystrukha, Tarkhanskoye, Cheremshanka, Shamanaikha (now Shemonaikha), Glubukoye, Ablaketka. There, except geologic framework and mineral composition of the rocks, the explorer studied the flora, and also life, culture and traditions of local population.

“Starting with Shamanaikha,-the scientist wrote- the inhabitants of most of the villages are Old Believers, mostly migrants from Ciscaucasian Russia. They are very handsome and hard-working people with mild nature. They have a good influence on Kazakh neighbors settled in the Uba steppes. We visited several yurts. These yurts are the opposition of those over the Irtysh river. These Kazakhs have camel herds which in frosty days are kept in shelters. . The people of Uba suburbs also practice farming though a rather sector of economy is beekeeping. There’s nothing else that has a better taste or fragrance than the honey I was given here. Since Athens, where I happened to taste honey on the Hymettus mountain slope, I haven’t eaten such honey as here”.

The materials he gathered about East Kazakhstan mines – Nikolayevsky, Ridder, Zyryanovsk – are of great significance. Chikhachyov described their geologic framework, bedding and properties of extracted rocks and also living conditions and the way of life of the workers.

The scientist studied the manners, the language and class differentiation of Kazakhs living on the left bank of the Irtysh River as well. He described how nomadic tribes gradually settled down under the influence of Russians and along with ranching began farming and trading. Chikhachyov wrote a lot about relationships between natives and Russians, who settled there, or visitors coming for dealings. On October 10 P.A. Chikhachov stopped going forward into the Kazakh steppes and got back to Ust-Kamenogorsk so that he would come back to Petersburg, along the Irtysh valley and through Semipalatinsk and Omsk.

The expedition ended in writing the work “A trip to East Altai” (“Voyage scientifique dans l’Altai oriental et les parties adjacentes de la frontiere de Chine par Pierre de Tchihatcheff”) illustrated by Russian painter E.E.Meyer, who participated in the expedition, and a great artist I.K.Aivazovsky. Due to rich content, accurate description, graphic design and cartographic documents, the work, published in Paris in 1845, became an all-time monument of Russian and world geographic literature dedicated to Altai of the first half of XIX century.

In 1848-1863 P.A.Chikhachev made eight expeditions to Asia Minor and published about 100 scientific works.

He died on October 13, 1890. One of the Altai mountain ranges, where he once carried out researches, is named after him.