He laid the foundation for phytogeography and was the first to describe the vegetation zones of the globe. He organized a botanical-geographical garden in Kharkov and Batumi. He traveled around the world, repeatedly traveled to East and South Asia, introduced the practice of geographical excursions. A mountain in the Sakhalin region and a genus of plants are named after him. Andrey Krasnov was born 160 years ago – a botanist, soil scientist, traveler, the first doctor of geography in Russia.
Botanist in a general’s family
Don Cossacks Krasnovs traditionally walked through the military unit, invariably growing to high ranks. But the eldest son of Lieutenant General Nikolai Krasnov broke this tradition by deciding to become a naturalist. Since childhood, he was fond of the books of Jules Verne, and read more serious travel literature – for example, Stanley’s book “How I Found Livingston”. He collected a collection of butterflies from the St. Petersburg province and by the age of 19 had already published his first scientific publication – “Essay on the life of ordinary insects of all orders.”
However, the range of interests of the future scientist was not exhausted by the sciences of nature. In his youth, he managed to become pretty adept at the Finnish language, from which he could even make literary translations. As a high school student, he dabbled in versification, writing, in particular, the poem “Two Cossacks”, dedicated to the battle of Ochakovo, and “Elli and Maati” on the Finnish theme. Craving for literary creativity later resulted in his travel essays, written extremely lively and poetic.
He was lucky with the environment. From gymnasium times, Andrei Krasnov was friends with Vladimir Vernadsky, and at St. Petersburg University, where he entered the natural department, his professors were Vasily Dokuchaev, Andrei Beketov and Ivan Mushketov. “Krasnov was among the few who went to the natural department by vocation. A naturalist since childhood, for the first time at the university he finally found what his mind, which had penetrated into nature, had been looking for for so long”– Vernadsky later recalled.
“There was hardly another Russian naturalist of his time, with the possible exception of A. I. Voeikov, who was equally familiar with his personal experiences with the nature of various regions of the earth’s surface. And at the same time, everyone knows that for a thinking and No book will ever replace a searching researcher for personal experiences associated with at least a short stay among nature or in a new cultural environment. For a geographer, this is equivalent to what a researcher of experimental sciences receives by doing experiments and seeing their effects … “
Vladimir Vernadsky “In memory of Krasnov”
From the second year of university, Krasnov began to travel actively. In 1882, he became a member of the expedition to the Altai mining district, organized by the Ministry of the Court. Then the novice botanist collected plants in the southern part of the Tomsk province. A year later, under the leadership of Dokuchaev, he conducted geobotanical research in the Nizhny Novgorod and Poltava provinces.
In addition, together with Ivan Mushketov, he went to the Caspian desert and independently reached Altai again, where he collected an impressive herbarium. 375 sheets of this collection are still kept in the I.P. Borodin Herbarium of the St. Petersburg Forestry Academy. The work “On the Origin of Chernozem”, completed by Krasnov in 1884, received a gold medal.
In the summer of 1885, Andrei Krasnov, who graduated from the university, went to study the features of the Kalmyk steppes in the Astrakhan province. And in the spring of 1886, the young scientist went to the Central Tien Shan, fulfilling the instructions of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society. So he got to the border regions of China, Kulja, Aksu (now Kashgaria). It was then that the researcher began to pay special attention to how climate affects plant species. And he named the glacier he discovered after one of his teachers, Ivan Mushketov. The journey turned out to be very fruitful, and in 1888 Krasnov defended his master’s thesis on the topic “Experience in the history of the development of the flora of the southern part of the Eastern Tien Shan.”
“Really, don’t shelve your tropics. Believe me, the life of that person who has not seen this wonderful world is not complete. Later, together with you, we would publish a book entitled: “The Journey of Two Russian Naturalists to the Big and Small Sunda Islands”, where we would state our thoughts, observations and impressions.
From a letter from Andrey Krasnov to Vladimir Vernadsky dated June 1, 1888
In 1889, Krasnov received a position as an extraordinary professor at Kharkov University, where he created the Department of Physical Geography and Anthropogeography. He began teaching with a course in general geography, about which he wrote to his friend Vernadsky: “The task … is to connect the conclusions of astronomy, astrophysics, geology that relate to the globe, to derive from them, as a consequence, modern climates, the distribution of phenomena of dynamic geology, soils, plants, animals and human tribes”.
To make it easier for students to work, Krasnov compiled a textbook on general physical geography – “Fundamentals of Geography”. The book was published in 1895. Convinced that printed works alone were not enough to immerse themselves in the subject, the professor took his students to Svaneti in 1890. This was the beginning of “geographical excursions”, a kind of scientific and educational tourism.
“Nothing develops a person so much, nothing elevates his soul so much as communication with nature and observing its great laws. In the West and in America, this has long been recognized by everyone. life, are a necessary means of upbringing and education of the younger generation.<...> In Russia, such an acquaintance with the fatherland is associated with many difficulties.<...> However, even here, with the development and cheapening of railway lines, pedagogical excursions.The purpose of such excursions is selected corners of Russia, the nature of which would be as varied and instructive as possible: the Volga, the Crimea and, most often, the majestic Caucasus.
Andrey Krasnov “Naturalist in the Caucasus”
Krasnov looked at geography as a complex science and was convinced that the geographical environment has a huge impact on a person. “Geography is a science that studies the current state of the earth’s surface. It seeks to find a causal relationship between forms and phenomena, the combination of which predetermines the dissimilarity of different parts of this surface, explores their nature, distribution and influence on human life and culture”he wrote.
From time to time, teaching activities had to be interrupted – the scientist was not going to give up expeditions. In the autumn of 1890, he traveled to North America, combing it from New York to Utah, after which he returned through New Mexico. The following year, he traveled through the Kharkov and Poltava provinces, and then through the South-Eastern Caucasus, which made a huge impression on him.
“This is a great laboratory, a huge museum, where a geographer, geologist, botanist, zoologist and ethnographer can in a short time, at a small distance from each other, observe and study such phenomena, which in other places are scattered far from each other … Only here for one a week of travel you can collect … snow and plant species of the polar countries, and types of salt licks, and stony placers of the deserts of the center of Asia, walk among tea plantations, bamboo and cypress groves of Japan and pine forests or feather grass steppes of your native fatherland.
Andrey Krasnov “Naturalist in the Caucasus”
In 1892, the professor’s goal was much more distant lands. With his own money, he sailed along the coast of Asia: from Sakhalin through Japan, China, Java, India and Ceylon. From the trip he brought solid herbariums and travel notes, which formed the basis of essays written in a very easy language. The general public enthusiastically got acquainted with the descriptions of distant countries, completely immersing themselves in an unusual atmosphere.
“There is nothing more poetic than an evening in a tropical village, especially in Ceylon. By this time, the sky usually clears up, the wind subsides. As soon as the last rays of the sun begin to fade, as from everywhere, and from motionless palm crowns, and from quivering leaves of bamboo, the chirping of cicadas begins, at first quiet and frequent, like the chirping of our grasshoppers, then louder and louder, finally, it turns into an almost deafening concert, where the crackling of rather harsh tones of cicadas merges with a gentle ringing, reminiscent of the ringing of small silver bells. This is the croaking of special tropical green frogs. “
“On the islands of the Far East, Travel essays by A. N. Krasnov”
In 1894, Krasnov received another scientific degree for the monograph Grass Steppes of the Northern Hemisphere. At the same time, the scientist became the first doctor of geography in Russia after the public defense of his dissertation. A year later, he again went on an expedition – the Ministry of the Court sent him on a business trip to Central India, Ceylon, Japan and China to study the intricacies of creating tea plantations. This round-the-world trip took over a year.
The purpose of the trip was quite pragmatic – the government thought of growing tea in a specific department in the Batumi region. Krasnov liked the idea, based on the results of the expedition, he published a voluminous two-volume work “Tea districts of the subtropical regions of Asia. Cultural and geographical sketches of the Far East.”
The scientist approached the research thoughtfully, describing not only the natural conditions necessary for the tea bushes to grow safely. He also delved into the peculiarities of the life of the local population, the subtleties of life in the Asian tea regions. And there is a reason for this – Krasnov understood well the difference between the Russian and Asian subtropics, as well as between the mentality of the peoples. Thoughtlessly adopting other people’s developments would not be very effective, and Krasnov tried to identify exactly which technologies could successfully take root with us. From his point of view, a truly prosperous region could be created in Batumi.
“… if the people of Batumi, instead of imitating Italian villas, took Japanese gardens or cottages of English settlers as a model, instead of disappointment they would receive a lot of aesthetic pleasure, relaxing under the canopy of camphor trees, in the evergreen groves of Japanese tangerines or among the gray greenery of acacias, inhaling their balsamic smell with the resinous aroma of cryptomeria and cypresses of the Far East, they would drink tea on balconies flooded with flowers of wisteria and other Chinese and Japanese climbing plants.<…> Tea, ramie, dioscorea, caladium, bananas, bamboo, tangerines, lacquer and wax trees, these are the pillars of Japanese agriculture … This is what should be the source of wealth and glory of the Batumi farmer.
Andrey Krasnov “Russian Tropics”
However, more than a decade passed before the idea was realized. Only in 1912, the government gave the green light to the organization of the Batumi Botanical Garden. Krasnov moved from Kharkov to a new place and enthusiastically set to work. First of all, I chose a suitable place 9 km from Batumi, in the area of the Green Cape. The landscape and natural conditions here looked promising – the rugged terrain made it possible to show the diversity of plants, the humid and warm climate fully met the objectives.
The scientist wanted to show typical landscapes of the subtropics from different parts of the globe, allocating his plot of land for each. He created a one-of-a-kind botanical garden, organized on a geographical basis, allowing you to see firsthand the vegetation of North America, Japan, China, the Himalayas, Chile, Australia and New Zealand. Krasnov was convinced that the garden should have not only scientific, but also educational value, become a kind of living museum.
To bring the idea to life, he carried out phytomelioration of the swamps of Colchis, planting them with Australian eucalyptus trees – these trees successfully pulled water from the soil. Later, Igor Chervanev spoke of Krasnov as a scientist, “who, almost on his own, turned the Black Sea subtropics of Georgia from a kingdom of swamps and malaria into a flourishing and prosperous country, having spent a decade and a half of his short life on this.”
In 1914, the scientist died, having bequeathed to bury him near the Botanical Garden: “Make a clearing from my grave so that I can see Chakva with the snowy mountains surrounding it, pieces of the sea; I first started work there; a piece of my self also remained there …”