Columbus of North himself made collection for museum
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Columbus of North himself made collection for museum

February 15, 2021

Nikolay Urvantsev took an active part in the creation of the first museum exhibition.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Nikolay Urvantsev’s fund is considered the most complete and valuable not only for the collection of the Norilsk Museum. Its high status is due to the fact that the discoverer of the Norilsk deposits, a participant in the epoch-making Arctic expeditions, has participated in the acquisition of materials for more than a decade.

In the 1970s-1980s, Urvantsev handed over three photo albums on Severnaya Zemlya to its director Arseny Bashkirov. Urvantsev’s participation in this expedition was hushed up after his arrest in 1938. His first book, Two Years in Severnaya Zemlya, was withdrawn from the libraries and destroyed. 16 years later, in 1951, the same Sevmorput publishing house published another book about the expedition that mapped the archipelago. Its author, the head of the Severozemelsk expedition, Georgy Ushakov, was forced to write that there were three, not four participants in the expedition, having deleted his deputy for scientific work from the composition. Urvantsev learned about that in Norilsk, where, after his release from the camp, he acted as a senior geologist in the geological department of the combine.

One of the photo albums documenting the work and life of the ‘first inhabitants of the Northern Earth’ is accompanied by the author’s inscriptions. There are 204 images on 27 spreads. All the participants in the greatest geographical event of the 20th century are captured on them. Chief Georgy Ushakov, who, according to his will, was buried on Domashny Island in 1963. The radio operator Vasily Hodov. And the scientific leader of the Severozemelsky expedition, Nikolay Urvantsev.

From the landscape photographs, you can reconstruct the stages of the heroic events of 90 years ago. According to Urvantsev’s definition, this was the last polar expedition, when the main work was human endurance and perseverance in achieving the goal.

In just two years, the researchers covered three thousand kilometers. At least five thousand kilometers – by dogs…

Taiwai, discovered in 1913, later called the Land of Emperor Nicholas II and later renamed the Severnaya Zemlya, was completely mapped by Nikolay Urvantsev. That map with the names given by the members of the expedition was published in October 1932 by the Izvestia newspaper. There was also the Kosarev peninsula on it, in honor of the not yet repressed secretary of the Central Committee of the Komsomol, who was serving a sentence, like Urvantsev, in Norillag.

For the exploration of Severnaya Zemlya, the scientific leader of the expedition received recognition and glory, the Order of Lenin, the Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences degree without defending a thesis. Until a certain time, newspapers and magazines glorified Columbus of the northern latitudes. There is a newsreel of the winterers’ meeting with the crew of the Sibiryakov ship after the end of the expedition.

In addition to photo albums and negatives, the Norilsk Museum possesses manuscripts of three of the four books written by Urvantsev, presented in various versions and editions. The most recent in chronology is Taimyr is My Northern Land. In the manuscript of this book (and in the 1978 edition itself) there is a chapter – The Unknown Severnaya Zemlya.

The republished book of 1935 entitled On the Severnaya Zemlya autographed by Urvantsev is also kept in the museum. The author presented it to the Norilsk resident Fedor Antonov in Leningrad immediately after its publication on September 22, 1969.

Text: Valentina Vachaeva, Photo: Norilsk Museum

February 15, 2021

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