THE FIRST ATLAS OF SIBERIA

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Опубликовано в библиотеке: 2021-10-08
Источник: Science in Russia, №4, 2012, C.97-103

by Vladimir BULATOV, Cand. Sc. (Geogr.), head of the Cartography Department, State Historical Museum

 

In 2011 the Public Charity Foundation "Revival of Tobolsk" published a unique monument of Russian cartography-The Chorographical Book of Siberia by Semyon Remezov (1697). The original was taken away from our country after 1917 and has never been studied by our experts.

 

Sheet 145. "Baikal Sea and Adjacent Territories". "The town of Irkutsk" located at the Angara River, "the fortress of Troitsk"-at the Selenga River. Inscriptions on the drawing specify the dimensions of the lake, with days taken as measurement units.

 

Science in Russia, No.4, 2012

 
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Foreign cartographers have always held Russia in high esteem: our cartographers mapped vast territories in central, northern and northeastern Eurasia. Maps drawn by Semyon Remezov and his sons sum up research works conducted in Siberia in the 17th century as well as geographical data amassed by the early 18th century. The Chorographical Book of Siberia is the most valuable part of the scientific heritage, as this book is the earliest and most complete atlas.

 

Research works conducted by Remezov Sr. are of special significance and value since his active years fell on the revolutionary cultural transformation our country under Czar Peter the Great. In cartography (under personal control of Peter I), the gap between pre-Petrine and new maps was so great that, according to 19th-century cartographers, Russia did not have maps of its territory at all: old atlases were just "barbarian" copies from West European sources. It is true that in 1701, with the Navigation School already established in Moscow (where English professors were teaching fundamentals of geodesy), Semyon Remezov and his sons kept making conventional drawings. What advantages and disadvantages did those Russian maps have? We'll try to answer this question, but first let's turn to the biography of author of The Chorographical Book.

 

Semyon Ulyanovich Remezov was born in 1642 in Tobolsk. He belonged to the lower class of "boyar children", but in the middle of his life became an "elected nobleman". His official activity was associated with constant journeys, collection of taxes (bread and money paid by Russian peasants and a yasak tribute* paid by foreigners) and delivery of collected food to remote fortresses. He also was in charge of land measurements, including the mapping of Tobolsk and its outskirts. He traveled not only throughout Siberia: in 1690 Remezov visited Moscow while accompanying a convoy of carts with yasak tribute products; in 1698 he visited Tobolsk to discuss plans of stone house building. Not all journeys were peaceful: Remezov had to beat off attacks by bands from the

 

* In Russia of the 15th-early 20th centuries-a tax in kind, mainly fur, imposed on peoples of Siberia and the Far North.--Ed.

 
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territory of present-day Kazakhstan, and fight bellicose Voguls (as the Mansi people were called in those days) and Tatars.

 

Remezov became famous both as a lay and an icon painter. Thus, in 1694 he decorated a mobile chapel with gold and paint, a work that impressed his coevals so much that they made a special note in the code of Siberian chronicles.

 

Remezov actively participated in the construction of stone fortifications in Tobolsk initiated in 1697. He drew layouts and made cost estimates, and then managed construction works-a highly qualified and widely informed man of those times. He was in charge of lime, sand and quarry stone prospecting works, supplied wooden piles, manufactured tools, extracted clay, built brick furnaces and supervised supplies. Not only the Tobolsk Kremlin, but also the administrative edifices-Department Office and Gostiny Dvor (Arcades)-were built to his design. He also developed a model design of a stone house for mass private construction. There is the Church of St. Peter and St.Paul designed by him for the Trinity Monastery in Tyumen. As an architect Remezov watched the latest trends.

 

Remezov also proved himself as a gifted industrial designer and architect. He developed layouts of a state steelworks in Kamensk, designed artillery guns and cannon shots to be made there. He headed prospecting works for nitre and established a gunpowder factory. Remezov had to discharge other important assignments-for example, in 1710 he organized a census in the Tobolsk District.

 
стр. 99

 

This list of his assignments alone attests to his versatile skills proper to outstanding men of the Renaissance and Enlightenment.

 

Semyon Remezov's year of death is not known, but he still lived in Tobolsk at least in 1720.

 

But let's go back to The Chorographical Book of Siberia. It should be remembered that Semyon Ulyaniovich considered himself a painter first and singled this type of activity from other numerous interests. His dedication to the world of art explained the exquisite manner of maps incorporated in the geographical atlas. As it was mentioned above, the book was compiled in 1697, but Remezov together with his sons Leonty, Semyon and Ivan kept supplementing it with new drawings and corrected older maps up until the year 1711.

 

The very name of the book may puzzle some readers since the word "chorography" fell out of use. It is of Greek origin (<choros, a place; + graphy) and means the art of mapping or describing a region or district, or such a map or description.

 

Even though a handwritten atlas was intended for Peter I, for some reasons it was never handed to him and stayed with the Remezovs in Tobolsk. At the moment we know nothing about the book and how it survived the 19th century. In the early 20th century it made part of the collection owned by Count Illarion Vorontsov-Dashkov and was kept in his estate Novotomnikovo in the Tambov Region. Before the count's death in 1916, the book caught attention of Lev Bagrov involved with making an atlas of Asian Russia. He said the book then landed at the Archeological Committee that in turn lent it to the Migration Department. Bagrov's testimony that the book belonged to the Archeological Committee was confirmed by Alexander Andreyev, Academic Secretary of the Standing Historical and Archeographical Committee (national Academy of Sciences), who claimed he was searching for the lost atlas in 1926-1927.

 

After the October Revolution of 1917, the book must have been kept by Lev Bagrov who in 1918 emigrated to Berlin. He confided he had to thank for the book, the gem of his collection of ancient maps, Hugo Stinnes who in 1923 bought it from a Moscow second-hand book dealer. This fact is highly disputable but we cannot omit it either.

 

In May 1945, Bagrov fled from Germany to Sweden; he published a number of research works on the history of Russian cartography and some drawings incorporated in The Chorographical Book of Siberia. In 1958 the collector published a black and white copy of the atlas. Then, the original was purchased by the Houghton Library of Harvard University (USA) where the book is kept now. A facsimile edition of The Chorographical Book took the atlas back to its native country and now it is available to our readers and researchers.

 

The edition also incorporates a complete text of the doctoral thesis by Leonid Goldenberg (1920-1989) titled "S.U. Remezov and Research of Cartographic Sources of Siberia of the Second Half of the 17th-Early 18th Centuries" (M., 1967)-the most funda-

 
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mental paper devoted to geographical studies of the outstanding Siberian. It was a tribute to the scholar who, forty years before, had seen it necessary to publish a facsimile edition of The Chorographical Book and did a lot for that.

 

As for Remezov's method of mapping, he described it in this work. However, as a scholar expert in ancient authors and the Holy Writ, and as a manager and administrator he revealed certain dualty.

 

Remezov the scholar was acquainted with Russian translations of the famous atlas of 1645 by a Dutch cartographer Jan Blaeu, for his Service Book carries a vast quotation from this work. While presenting the theory of chorography, Remezov says about the need of a map scale. However, the available cartographic materials could hardly meet high theoretical requirements. Neither were they based on astronomical measurements of geographical coordinates nor had a definite scale. Maps of Siberia were not intended for scientists, they were intended for current practical tasks like the time and cost of deliveries, outlays for new quarters and defense facilities. That is why Remezov made his maps in the traditions of Russian cartography of the 16th and 17th centuries. His drawings were based on documents of the Siberian Department, registers, oral reports of old-timers and his own observations.

 

It is not possible to assess properly the contents of the maps without a knowledge of the specifics of the traditional Russian cartography. First, we should see what kind of information we can get and what we cannot. Some researchers of the atlas will joke about the naive image of the Gulf of Ob represented in the form of a crescent or lakes looking like potatoes. Other researchers will attribute to Remezov maps merits they do not actually have-the scale, for example.

 

At the same time it should be noted that The Chorographical Book is a plentiful source of diverse data on the historical geography of Siberia of the late 17th century. The atlas contains detailed hydrological data attesting to a high level of knowledge of the river network of this part of Russia. It depicts the local population, settlements, fortresses, monasteries, villages, summer and winter tents of nomads. It also represents different natural landscapes. The author pays special attention to land use, he indicates farm and pasture lands, summer and winter camps of nomads, gaming territories, fishing and fowling areas, ore mines, partially developed and undeveloped lands suitable for farming and new settlements. This ethnographic aspect of Remezov's works is of high interest for historians: thanks to his drawings they can see what the territories populated by Siberian ethnic groups looked like.

 

As for individual geographical objects on old maps, including those made by Remezov, these have an arbitrary representation. In particular, vectors of the same mountain chains may differ, and lakes and seas may have varying borders on different maps. Such discrepancies, if not taken into account, can lead to errors. Here we'd like to refer to the above-said Leonid Goldenberg, expert in Remezov's maps. In his opinion, the Caspian Sea was represented elongated in the meridian direction on the drawing of the Cossack

 
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Horde dated March 20, 1697 (sheet 144). But if you take a hard second book, you will see it was a mistake, otherwise you must admit that the Volga River runs into the Caspian Sea from the southwest.

 

Even though pre-Petrine maps were lacking a mathematical basis, they were very important practical tools used by officials of the time. The first thing you notice while looking at 17th-century maps is their inconsistency: some territories are drawn in much detail, and geographical objects, overdrawn; other areas are represented loosely and furnish little, if any, information. Detailed maps show places of high interest to officials: rivers, skidding trails and land roads. Since Siberia was being developed along roads and rivers, we can say that circumstantial maps depicted most populous and developed areas. Traffic roads served as a framework for credible detailed maps. It is not by chance that in 1929 cartographers of the Taz (a river in the northern part of Western Siberia) ruled that maps of the 17th century were more real than those published two centuries later. According to Alexei Zaitsev, Cand. Sc. (Hist.), canoe tourists who in the 1960s traveled by Siberian rivers thought highly of Remezov maps since they showed bends of some rivers in more detail than touristic maps of the mid-20th century. Consequently, oldtime maps were quite useful for traveling by already known routes, but almost useless for trailblazers. One can compare those maps to modern subway maps: they are useful for getting from one station to another, but do not coincide with overland routes.

 

Since those were used as road maps, travelers wanted to know distances between settlements and road mileage. Cartographic images as such did not furnish these data since they were not scaled. For this purpose, the maps contained special inscriptions: fixed distances between settlements and fortresses, length of rivers, length of roads. Sometimes the length of roads was indicated in Russian versts (one verst slightly above a kilometer), but more often time units were common-days and weeks.

 

The atlas incorporates data not only on rivers, settlements and roads, but also depicts dominating landscapes; it supplies also data on ethnography, history and economic life. We ought to point to innovations in cartographic forms introduced by Remezov: he made an attempt to unify conventional signs and used legends* that still hold today. Although many of his drawings are of a comprehensive nature, there are also specialized ethnographic and ore mining maps; so, Remezov is actually one of the founding fathers of specialized cartography in Russia.

 

It looks like Semyon Remezov had some knowledge of astronomy. When in Moscow he discussed sophisticated problems in the field of astronomy and geography with General-Field Marshal Yakov Brus, one of Peter's associates, as proved by his records in the Service Book. It describes one of the popular theories of the 17th century, according to which a steady rotation of the Earth around its axis proves a uniform distribution of earth masses on the planet, i.e. America should counterweigh Eurasia, and a hypothetical Southern Continent (Terra Australia Incognita)- lands of the Northern Hemisphere.

 

At the same time, there are many bits of evidence to show that Remezov held an archaic view of the world.

 

* Map legend-an explanatory description accompanying a map, chart, or other illustration.-Ed.

 
стр. 102

 

One remarkable thing: the map of the Chinese Kingdom shows a Paradise situated on the New Holland Island, i.e. in Australia. He had no doubts about the existence of Paradise far in the east.

 

Peter I did away with the conventional pre-Petrine cartography. However, the price was very high: together with the outdated methodology, important geographical information was lost. Unfortunately, Remezov the cartographer was not appreciated by his descendants. Perhaps one of the reasons for such attitude was that his maps did not satisfy Peter I and his demands for the mathematical basis of such drawings.

 

Remarkably, The Atlas of the Russian Empire (1745) that incorporated maps made by Petrine geodesists contained grave errors. For example, it had two cities of Kursk: the first one located where it should be but named Sursk, and the second one located aside but named Kursk. Small wonder that knowledgeable people, including the historian and geographer Vasily Tatishchev, recommended to correct the atlas using the Big Layout*. Many of the old maps, inter alia, Remezov's, were irretrievably lost. There is no evidence that the famous geodesist and researcher of Siberia Pyotr Chichagov, who visited Tobolsk in the early 1720s, used old drawings allegedly kept in the city.

 

Nevertheless, Remezov's maps were a major contribution to global cartography. In the late 17th-early 18th centuries two Dutchmen, Ides and Witsen, and German Tabbert (Strahlenberg) copied some of Remezov's drawings, even though they were secret, and included them into their own maps, and that improved on the representation of northeastern Eurasia in the West European atlases.

 

Sadness fills the words of the famous Russian naturalist and traveler Acad. Alexander Middendorff dated 1860 with regard to The Chorographical Book of Siberia: "The accuracy of the Remezov maps of Tobolsk and neighboring territories, including even many arms of the Ob River, settlements along Yenisei, Amur Territory and the ethnographic situation in Siberia of those times-all these things make this atlas something more than a simple archaeological rarity. Moreover, this atlas, like many similar oldtime works, is a wellspring of data that could improve modern maps of Russia."

 

Our contemporaries are aware of the significance of the Remezov maps. Here are comments of two eminent students of cartography. Fyodor Shibanov: "The author has immortalized himself and enriched world science." Leonid Goldenberg: Remezov "was totally taken by one solid science-exploration of Siberia".

 

* The Big Layout-a large-scale general map of the Moscow State made in the 16th century by order of Ivan IV the Terrible.--Ed.


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