Scientific Journey in East Altai and the Adjacent Parts of the Chinese Border Made by the Order of H. M. the Emperor of Russia by Pierre de Chikhachev


This book, published in France in 1845, presents a series of illustrations of the eastern Altai, or Altay, region in southern Siberia near the Russo-Chinese border. The author and compiler, Petr Chikhachev, was a Russian geologist and renowned traveler who had gone to the rugged Altai Range on a scientific and cultural expedition. Despite much effort, Chikhachev was unable to publish his work in Russia. He eventually left Russia for Paris, where he succeeded in bringing out a French edition. The book includes illustrations by the noted Russian artists E. Mayer and Ivan Aivazovskii of the steep valleys, deep lakes, and wide rivers typical of the area through which Chikhachev traveled. It also includes plates by Eduard von Kornatzki of fossilized plant specimens from the Altai, reflecting the research focus of the expedition. Some of the illustrations show peoples from the region and their mode of dress, as well as vignettes, such as horses at a rural encampment and a camel caravan traversing a valley pass. Most of these images are bucolic and pastoral, and thus tap into a common idealized Russian vision of the conquest of Siberia. They resonate nonetheless, evoking such ancient traditions as the long caravans that for centuries moved from China into the Russian steppe to transport tea to Russia and Europe. The Russian expansion into this region under the tsars inevitably resulted in tensions with imperial China, which in the course of the 19th century was weakened by external intervention by the Western powers and the domestic upheaval known as the Taiping Rebellion (1850–64). Imperial Russia capitalized on the weakness of its Asian neighbor to expand far beyond the Altai to Vladivostok and the farthest reaches of Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Last updated: December 11, 2017