Here is a list of four most popular geographers of Russia, who formed the true heritage of the Russian geography which continued its existence even after the October revolution of 1917.
Geographer # 1. Prince Petre Kropotkin:
He was a contemporary of Semenov. Though he never held a university post, he was a geographer of the Anarchist School to which belonged Elisee Reclus. He is believed to have introduced radicalism into the contemporary geographic scholarship.
From 1876 to 1917, while Kropotkin was in exile from Russia, he worked for the Royal Geographical Society in London. His radical views were in contrast to what may be called the teleological explanation and appeared to be more humanistic in nature. Kropotkin’s geography seemed to have been deeply rooted in idealism. Most of what Reclus had to say about Russia was based on Kropotkin’s views.
Geographer # 2. A. I. Voeikov:
He studied at Berlin, Gottingen and Heidelberg universities of Germany. His doctoral dissertation, ‘Direct Insolation in various Parts of the Globe’ was accepted at Gottingen University. Voeikov was essentially a physical geographer. He studied the Earth’s heat and water balances which he continued for the rest of his life.
His studies of climatology were directed to the improvement of agriculture. He is credited with the snow-science. He laid down the foundation of systematic agro- climatic geography through elaboration of the comparative method as expounded by Cad Ritter. His concern with the improvement of Russian agriculture led him to compare the farm practices in places similar to those of European Russia.
On man-environment relationship, Voeikov followed the tradition of Comte de Buffon that man was an agent of destruction. The positivist approach was inherent in his report on the destructive effects of man’s use of land.
He pointed to the overgrazing of some of the Russian steppes with a consequent acceleration of gully erosion. The cleaning of forests in the north could produce a change in the climate towards increasing drought. He was always enthusiastic about what irrigation could do to improve the productivity of arid or semi-arid lands.
Geographer # 3. V. V. Dokuchaiev:
He was a distinguished geographer of pre-revolutionary Russia. He became the first professor of geography at St. Petersburg in 1885. His doctoral dissertation dealt with the Russian chernozem or black Earth which was published in 1883, before his appointment to the chair of geography.
In 1889, he published his concept of soil-forming processes and of the natural zonation of soils according to climate. He made outstanding contributions to the soil geography. His innovative studies of soil within a systematic framework led him to formulate certain generalisations regarding the formation of soils.
Dokuchaiev was the first geographer to realise that soil is not just disintegrated and decomposed rock. He observed that different kinds of soil could be identified by looking closely at the layers or horizons, which differed because of differences in the soil-forming processes. Soil is formed by water percolating through the loose material at the surface and carrying away soluble minerals, and soil is also formed by the mixture of organic matters from plants and animals with the upper horizon.
The soil, according to him, reflect- the extraordinary complex interaction of climate, slope, plants and animals, with the parent material derived from the underlying geological form A soil which was exposed to all these conditions for a long time, would more closely reflect the complex of climate and vegetation than it would the patent material.
His generalisations were quite different from those of German and French soil scientists who conceived of the soil as a reflection of the underlying geological formations. The generalisation of Dokuchaiev was essentially based on empirically observed arrangement of climatic zones which could produce observable soil differences over a large tract of plain.
While defining the genre de vie of the people that brought about the transformation of natural zones into agricultural regions, especially in the steppe region, Dokuchaiev attempted to adopt holistic approach to explain the very concept of man as a major agent of change on the surface of the Earth, which Voeikov did earlier. Dokuchaiev’s concept of natural zones transformed by man resembles Schluter’s concept of the landscape type. In fact, geography to him appeared as ‘landscape science’ (Landschaftovedenie).
Undoubtedly, he was one of the leading professional geographers of Russia and deserved major place among the world’s leading geographers of his time because of his contributions to systematic soil studies. Since all his works were written in Russian, his major ideas could produce little impact on west European geographers. It was only through the translation of his works into German and French after his death that he came to be known beyond the frontier of Russia as one of the founders of applied soil geography.
Dokuchaiev is believed to have developed a distinct heritage of soil geography at St. Petersburg in pre-revolutionary Russia and the tradition he established was carried forward by his pupils. His innovative soil studies received wide recognition in the United States.
This was because of the presence of large expanses of plain on which zonal soils could be observed and which resemble ‘the Russian conditions of large expanses of plain.’ Dokuchaiev seemed to have employed the hypothetical deductive method in his empirical studies in which he sought prime causes by deduction. The positivist approach was inherent in the works of his pupils who dealt with empirical questions which had factual content.
Geographer # 4. D. N. Anuchin:
He was an able administrator and organiser, and primarily an educator. In 1887, he was appointed to the newly created chair at the department of geography and ethnography at Moscow State University. He studied anthropology and anthropogeography at Heidelberg and was trained in the Germanic traditions of geography.
It was he who developed geography as a major university subject. His textbooks provided a new kind of geography to teach in school. It was due to his efforts that geography was recognised as a major field of landscape (in enquiry) and geography also became a popular subject throughout the country.