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First ethnographic description of whole Russia: book by academician J.G. Georgi

On September 17, 2002 5th temporary exhibition from “World of one item” series has opened. Book by famous ethnographer and naturalist, academician of Russian Academy of Sciences Johann Gottlieb Georgi A Description of All the Peoples inhabiting the Russian State” from funds of MAE library (department of library of Russian Academy of Sciences) is presented there.

Repeated prize-winners of international contests Vladimir and Alexander Bermyakov conducted a masterclass. In front of visitors’ eyes a dress made of live dahlias was created.

Dahlias for exhibition were given by Petersburg breeder Gennadiy Ivanovich Vasiliev.

Exhibition is conducted with help of Consulate General of Federal Republic of Germany, Germal Cultural Centre of Goethe Vladimir Bermyakov’s floristic studio «Tsubaky».

J.G. Georgi and his book

Johann Gottlieb Georgi (31.12.2729 – 08.11.1802) was born in Wachholzhagen, Pomerania in a family of a priest. Studied in Uppsala University learning chemistry, mineralogy, natural sciences. Worked as a pharmaceutist after graduating as Doctor of Medicine. Arrived to Russia in 1770 by invitation of Petersburg Academy of Sciences in order to participate in scientific “Physical expedition”.  First in group of Professor I.P. Falck, then with academician P.S. Pallas and after that – in independent journey, Georgi visited Volga Region, Middle and Southern Urals, western Siberia, Baikal Region. He collected considerable natural and ethnographic collections.

On the basis of his observations and information taken from other researchers J.G. Georgi created his most famous writing – “A Description of All the Peoples inhabiting the Russian State, as Well as Their Daily Rituals, Beliefs, Customs, Clothing, Dwellings and Other Memorabilities”. Illustrations were hand-painted engravings depicting Russia’s inhabitants in their national costumes. Engravings were created by masters of Engraving Chamber of Academy of Sciences Roth and Schlepper according to images made from Kunstkamera’s exhibits and “living originals” This is the first summary ethnographic description of Russia and it still has scientific importance these days. The book was published in German, Russian and French languages. Exposed are two publications in Russian: first one, published in 1776, with traditional “academic” cover lettered in gold, and second one, published in 1799.

To the end of his days J.G. Georgi (he was called Ivan Ivanovich in Russia) lived in St. Petersburg , worked in Academy of Sciences, published two-volume description of his travels, numerous works on chemistry, mineralogy, natural history and geography. He wrote “Description of the Russian Imperial Capital City of St Petersburg” and detailed nine-volume natural-historical and physical-geographical review on Russia. In 1776 he was made an adjunct (junior scientific assistant) of Academy of Sciences, in 1783 elected as academician.

J.G. Georgi was a competent botanic, student of famous Carl Linnaeus – founder of binomial classification system of animals and plants, wrote a description of near-Baikal flora and St. Petersburg province.

A genus of compositae plants – Georgina – was named in honor of Georgi. As discovered later, this genus was already described under name of Dahlia. However, in Russia this popular and loved flower is still known as Georgina: the memory about noticeable scientist, who devoted many of his years to research of Russia, is kept in its name.

Chosen illustrations from J.G. Georgi's book


Bobrov E.G. Carl Linnaeus: 1707-1778 – Nauka. Leningr. Otd-nie, 1970. – p.273-275
Gnucheva V.F., Materials for history of expeditions of Academy of Sciences in XVIII and XIX centuries: chronological reviews and description of archive materials // Works of Archive [AN USSR] – 1940 – Iss. 4 – p.106-108
Two hundred twenty five years since birth of academician I.G. Georgi // Izvestiya AN USSR. Geological ser. –1954. -№5. – p.148-149
History of USSR Academy of Sciences – Moscow-Leningrad, Izd-vo AN USSR, 1958 – V.1. – p.375-376
Kudryavtsev F.A From history of research of Zabaikalje (Materials about expeditions of academicians Pallas and Georgi) // Archive of history of science and technics. – 1935. – Iss.5. – p.569-577.
Chronicle of Russian Academy of Sciences V.1: 1724-1802. – St.Petersburg: Nauka, 2000.
Obruchev V.A. History of geological exploration of Siberia: First period – taking XVII and XVIII centuries (Gmelin, Pallas, Georgi). – Leningrad:Izd-vo AN USSR, 1931. – p.19
Osipov V.I. Petersburg Academy of Sciences and Russian-German scientific connections in last third part of XVIII century. – St.Petersburg.: PFA RAN, 1995. – p.51,83-84
Pirutko J.M. Preface to book.: I.G. Georgi. Description of the Russian Imperial Capital City of St Petersburg and memorabilities in its suburbs. – SPb.: Lenizdat, 1996. – p.3-12
Taranovich V.P. Expeditions of Academy of Sciences in XVIII century and their role in affair of forest knowledges development (with 4 maps) // Archive of history of science and technics. – 1933. – Iss. 1. – p.177-204
Tokarev S.A. First summary ethnographic work about peoples of Russia (from history of Russian ethnography in XVIII cent.) // Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta. – 1958. - №4. – p.113-127.


Georgina (dahlia) – genus of perennial gramineous plants from compositae family. Country of origin – Mexico. About 15 species in genus. First brought to Europe in 1784. Nowadays about 8000 breeds of different forms and colors are known.

Genus was named after academician J.G. Georgi (Georgina Willdenov, 1803). Though earlier name – dahlia (Dahlia Cavanilles, 1701) – is considered prior in science, everywhere in Russia this flower is known as Georgina.

Dahlias for exhibition “First ethnographic description of whole Russia: book by academician J.G. Georgi” were given by Petersburg breeder Gennadiy Ivanovich Vasiliev.


Project’s authors: T.I. Shaskolskaya and N.M. Sysoyeva

Design of exposition: E.A. Speshilov
Graphic design: A.J. Kharitonova
Photography: A.N. Tokhomirov

With collaboration and financial support of:
Consulate General of Federal Republic of Germany
Germal Cultural Centre of Goethe
Vladimir Bermyakov’s floristic studio «Tsubaky».

Dahlias given by G.I. Vasiliev

© MAE (Kunstkamera) RAS
© An\.N. Tikhomirov, digital photography and image processing
© A.V. Gromov, web-design