Noble Arctic Scholar

Участники Русской полярной экспедиции 1900-1902 гг. Н.Н. Коломейцев второй слева в среднем ряду. Фото: Научный архив РГО

A mobile exhibition of documentary photographs will be open for visitors in the Great hall of the Society HQ in St. Petersburg till the end of February. The exhibition is dedicated to Nikolay Kolomeytsev (1867–1944), a vice-admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy and arctic explorer.

Copies of rare documents from the State Archive of the Russian Navy, books and photographs from the Solzhenitsyn Centre of Russian Emigre Studies and from the scientific library and archive of the Russian Geographical Society are part of the exhibition. They show us various aspects of life of this famous polar sailor and brave navy officer.

The exhibition sets out the most important events in Nikolay Kolomeytsev’s life in chronological order. In 1893 he took part in the Yenisei expedition, the first during the past 150 years trip of Russian ships from Europe to Siberia. In 1900-1901 he supervised the Zarya boat, the vehicle of the Russian polar exhibition led by Baron Eduard Toll. In 1902–1904 he commanded the Yermak icebreaker. Kolomeytsev also took part in preparations for the Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition (1910-1915) and other arctic initiatives of the early XX century. Visitors will be able to see a sketch of the icebreaking steamship designed for this expedition.

Nikolay Kolomeytsev went down in the history books as a noble arctic scholar. In 1901 he made a detailed description of 1000 kilometers of the Taymyr peninsular shore. The results of this work were published in periodicals of the Russian Geographical Society whose member he became in 1902.

Nikolay Kolomeytsev participated in several wars: Russo-Japanese war and World War I and was honored with the Gold Sword for Bravery and Order of St. George, 4th class.

After the Russian Civil War Kolomeytsev went into exile in France where he died. Traditionally, Kolomeytsev was considered to be buried together with his wife in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery. Many attempts were made to find his grave in this famous Russian cemetery but without success. Historian Nikita Kuznetsov, the author of the exhibition, had to make a serious investigation to localize Kolomeytsev’s grave.  Kuznetsov had made requests to all cemeteries in Paris to find out the Kolomeytsevs were buried in a small town of Bagneux not far from Paris. Unfortunately, the lease was out and the grave was destroyed. 

Though Nikolay Kolomeytsev was an immigrant, his name was not buried in oblivion in Russia. There are many geographical objects named in his honor. A civil hydrographic ship is also named after him.     

The 'Midnight Earth Pilgrim' exhibition has become a result of the long-term cooperation between the Solzhenitsyn Centre of Russian Emigre Studies, the State Archive of the Russian Navy and the Russian Geographical Society.   

The exhibition is open till February 28, 2018 in the Great hall of the Society HQ in St. Petersburg from Monday to Friday (more information on working hours here).