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    Semen Dezhnev

    Encyclopedia Arctica 15: Biographies

    001      |      Vol_XV-0240                                                                                                                  
    E. Olkhine.


            Semen Dezhnev (1608?-1673) , the Russian c C ossack who, in 1648, circumnavig–

    ated the northeastern tip of Siberia and, sailing from the Arctic

    Ocean Sea into the Pacific, was the first to prove the existence of a

    strait between Asia and America, i.e. , of the Strait of Anian (qv)

    shown on ancient maps.

            Dezhnev's reports on his voyage remained unheeded in the Aarch–

    ives of the town of Yakutsk for almost 100 years until the historian

    G.F. Müller (qv) , member of the Bering Expedition (qv) , discovered

    them in 1736 and gave the first account of them in his work entitled

    "Description of sea voyages in the Arctic and Eastern Seas carried

    out from the Russian side" (Opisanie morskikh puteshestvii po Ledo–

    vitomu i Vostochnomu moriu s rossiiskoi storony uchinennykh), pub–

    lished in St. Petersburg in 1759. Nonetheless, some scholars

    expressed doubts that such a feat could have been accomplished with

    the poor sea craft available in Siberia at that time. But this was

    definitely confirmed after the discovery, by the histor ian N.

    Ogloblin, of 17th century documents from the Siberian Department

    of old Muscovy.

            Semen Ivanov Dezhnev, a native of Ustiug Velikii, a city in

    the upper reaches of Severnaia Dvina River (qv) , must have been

    born about 160 0 8 , but the exact date of his birth remains unknown.

    Driven by his adventurous spirit, he set out eastward early in his

    youth, first moving to Tobolsk, then capital of Siberia, thence to

    Yeniseisk (qv) , and in 1638 he reached Yakutsk (qv) , founded but

    a few years previously. He then enrolled in the newly established

    unit of "Yakutsk cossacks," who were entrusted with the arduous but

    profitable task of collecting tribute ( iassak qv iassak ) from the

    002      |      Vol_XV-0241                                                                                                                  
    Siberian natives. Thereafter, biographical data on Dezhnev grows

    more complete thanks to his two famours reports to the Voevoda of

    Yakutsk and his four petitions to Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, discov–

    ered by Ogloblin and published in 1890.

            In 1639, Dezhnev carried out a successful tribute-collecting

    expedition among Yakut tribes. This resulted in delivery to the

    Treasury of 140 sable pelts.

            Next, in 1640, Voevoda Poiarkov (qv) despatched Dezhnev together

    with Dmitri Zyrian to collect tribute and subjugate natives on the

    newly discovered Iana River (qv). The expedition, consisting of 15

    men, negotiated the land route between Zhigansk on the Lena (qv) and

    Verkhoiansk on the Iana in winter, by sled and ski. On his way back

    with two other cossacks and 340 sable pelts, Dezhnev was wounded in

    the leg during an encounter with native Tungus (qv), but nonetheless

    reached Yakutsk in 1641 with the entire booty.

            In 1642, together with Mikhail Stadukhin (qv) and a company of

    15 cossacks, Dezhnev set pout to collect tribute on Oimekon River (qv)

    in the upper reaches of Indigirka River (qv). Dezhnev and Stadukhin

    then dispatched some of their men with the sable pelts to Yakutsk,

    but themselves remained on the Indigirka and, building a "Koch" (qv),

    salled down the river, right to its mouth. Here, Dezhnev joined

    forces with Dmitri Zyrian and proceeded eastward to collect tribute

    along Alazeia River (qv). Still moving eastward, they reached

    Kolyma River (qv) mouth, where they found Mikhailo Stadukhin, who

    had reached it by sea from Indigirka River mouth, and had founded

    Nizhne-Kolymsk (qv) in 1644.

            On Kolyma River, Dezhnev, Stadukhin and Zyrian joined forces

    in order to withstand the warlike Iukagir (qv), who besieged their

    003      |      Vol_XV-0242                                                                                                                  
    stockade, but whom they finally defeated. Until 1648, Dezhnev rem–

    ained under the command of Dmitri Zyrian, who had been appointed to

    head the Ostrog (qv) . His task was to collect tribute from yet un–

    subjugated tribes, many of whom offered stuboorn resistance. Dezhhev

    proved a valiant fighter and suffered numerous injuries.

            About that time, the agent of a wealthy merchant from Ustiug

    Velikii, one Fedot Alekseev popov, appeared on Kolyma River. A

    native of Kholmogory (qv), he was one of those sturdy, fearless

    " pomory" (natives of the northern shores) whose adventurous spirit

    is responsible for most of the early Russian arctic exploration.

    From Isaia Ignatiev (qv) who, sailing from the Kolyma, had reached

    Chaun Bay (qv) in 1646, he had heard of the abundance of walrus tusks

    to eastward, and had decided to sail to Anadyr River, of which the

    rRussians had but a vague idea from what they had heard from natives..

    In 1647, Popov equipped 4 "kochi" kochi , and sailed eastward with an exped–

    ition in which Dezhnev is said to have taken part. That summer, how–

    ever, the sea was so ice-ridden, that the party was induced to return.

            Undaunted by this failure, popov set about preparing a second

    expedition, on a large scale, and invited Dezhnev and a number of

    cCossacks, whose armed help was needed in the event of native resist–

    ance. Moreover, the presence of Dezhnev, a Treasury agent entrusted

    with the collection of tribute from newly s i u bjugated tribes, lent an

    official character to the expedition. It would seem that Popov and

    Dezhnev headed it jointly.

            Dezhnev states that the expedition consisted of 6 kochi (single–

    deck boats), carrying 70 crew and cCossacks, and 20 "promyshlenniki"

    (qv). Food supplies, weapons and ammunition were taken in large

    quantities. Other sources have mentioned 7 kochi kochi , and some have

    004      |      Vol_XV-0243                                                                                                                  
    mentioned A nk udinov's koch koch and his men separately from the rest,

    as having "joined" Popov and Dezhnev. This may explain why Dezhnev,

    who was on bad terms with Ankudinov, mentioned only the 6 kochi kochi

    under his and Popov's command.

            On June 20, 1648, the expedition left Kolyma River mouth and

    sailed eastward along the coast. Weather conditions were favorable

    and no ice was encountered. By the second half of s S eptember, three

    kochi kochi reached Bering strait, but nothing is known about the other

    three three, or four.

            A landing was apparently made in the area where the "Bolshoi

    Kamennyi Nos", the great stone cape, "swings round towards Anadyr

    river", and a fight with the natives ensued, [ ?] during which

    popov was wounded. Then, Ankudinov's vessel suffered shipwreck, but

    the crew was rescued and transferred to Dezhnov's and popov's craft.

    The two remaining kochi kochi continued the voyage.

            In the Pacific, the two kochi kochi battled against a severe storm,

    [ ?] and were separated, never to meet again.

    For several years Dezhnev believed that Popov and his party had per–

    ished in the storm until, in 1654, during a battle with a Koriak (qv)

    tribe,he took a number of prisoners among whom he found a Yakut woman

    who had accompanied Popov on the voyage. Her story was that their

    boat had been wrecked, that Popov and Ankudinov and most of the others

    had died of scurvy, or had been killed, while the remaining few had

    set out on a boat, she knew not whereto. It is presumed that this

    boat landed on Kamchatka, because when Vladimir Atlasov (qv) first

    explored Kamchatka in 1697, he was told by the natives that many

    years ago, several r R ussians lived at Nikula river mouth on the

    eastern shore. The ruins of a Russian log cabin were still in

    005      |      Vol_XV-0244                                                                                                                  
    evidence at that spot at the time of Krasheninnikov's (qv) exploration

    of Kamchatka. G.F. Muiler, historian of the Bering Expedition, has

    stated that Popov's men were the first men to settle in Kamchatka.

            Dezhnev's craft, badly battered, was carried by winds and waves

    for a number of days and finally wrecked on the Siberian shore, pres–

    umably somewhere in the region of Oliutorski Peninsula (qv). Hungry,

    poorly clad and barefoot, the 25 survivors Dezhnev among them, set out northward along

    the coast until, 10 weeks later, they reached what turned out to

    be Anadyr River mouth (qv). Twelve of the men continued upstream

    along the river bank, hoping to come across natives. Twenty days

    after their departure, two of them returned, famished and exhausted –

    the rest had died.

            Dezhnev and his men, reduced to twelve, survived a hard winter.

    In the spring, they built a boat and started up Anadyr river. Sal–

    vation came when they ran into natives, from whom they seized not

    only food, but also tribute. Although fighting developed, and Dezh–

    nev was again wounded, resistance was short. In the middle reaches

    of the Anadyr, Dezhnev then built a wintering, (1649) the future Anadyr

    Ostrog, [ ?] which remained his headquarters until 1656.

            Meantime, in the spring of 1650, an expedition headed by Mikhailo

    Stadukhin and Semen Motora had set out from Kolyma River mouth in–

    tending to reach Anadyr River overland. As they proceeded sailed downstream,

    they ran into Dezhnov's wintering. Dezhnev and Motora then joined

    forces, and in the course of the next two years (1650-51) carried

    out a number of short expeditions subjugating the surrounding tribes

    and collecting tribute from them, while Stadukhin, who was on bad

    terms with Dezhnev, proceeded on his own.

            In the summer of 1652, Dezhnev sailed down Anadyr River and,

    006      |      Vol_XV-0245                                                                                                                  
    near its estuary, discovered the so-called "Korga" (bank or shoal),

    swarming with walrus. From that time on, while still collecting

    tribute in pelts from the natives, Dezhnev devote s d much time to

    visiting the Korga, which he consider s ed his own preserve. In the

    four years which followed, 1652-55, he collected for the government

    close to 1,000 lbs of walrus tusk, and it may be presumed that he

    put some aside for himself.

            In the summer of 1653, Dezhnev built a number of "kochi" kochi at

    Anadyr River mouth with the intention of sending his 5-years ' spoil

    by sea to Kolyma and Yakutsk, but he gave up the idea on account of

    the stormy sea, the strong currents, and the danger of floating ice.

    It should be added that the craft built at Anadyr River mouth were

    most primitive, lacking either good sails or anchors, or [ ?] sailing

    gearg [ ?] such as he had when leaving the Kolyma in 1848. On the other

    hand it was dangerous to dispatch all the wealth accumulated in pelts

    and walrus tusk overland across the territory of still unsubjugated

    and warlike tribes.

            Dezhnev experienced difficulty in fighting off a Koriak tribe,

    which had appeared in the vicinity of his Korga, and had started kill–

    ing off the walrus. Finally, in a pitched battle, he and his men

    virtually exterminated the entire tribe and seized all women and


            In the spring of 1654 a new party of c C ossacks, headed by one Iuri

    Selivestrov, arrived by land from the Kolyma. Although Dozhnev states

    that he never interfered with Selivestrov's hunting and collecting of

    walrus tusk on the now famous Korga, Selivestrov sent reports to

    Yakutsk, complaining that Dezhnev and his men would not let him

    [ ?] "collect walrus tusk for the Treasury on the Korga."

    007      |      Vol_XV-0246                                                                                                                  

            In 1656, an envoy from Yakutsk arrived with the order to Dezh–

    nev and his assistant Semenov, and also to Selivestrov, to proceed

    to Yakutsk to deliver the Treasury's share of pelts and walrus tusk.

    The spoil was apparently dispatched, and Semenov and Selivestrov left,

    but Dezhnev remained in his Anadyr stockade.

            He mentions drawing up a map of Anadyr river, "up to its source,

    with indication of all its tributaries, and reaching down to the

    Korga, where the walrus congregate." Unfortunately, this has not

    come down to us. In his 1655 report he also describes the vegetation

    of the river area, animal life, and gives numerous details about the

    fishes. This is the first accurate description of the Anadyr, and

    shows how keen an observer Dezhnev was.

            Little is known about the last years Dezhnev spent on the Anadyr.

    He remained at the head of the garrison until 1659, when he handed

    his official duties over to Kurbat Ivanov. However, he remained in

    his "ostrog" another two years, hunting and collecting walrus tusk

    f i o r himself, and thereafter turning up in Yakutsk in 1662. It was

    from there that he sent his first petition to the Tsar, reporting on

    his 20-years' work, and asking for back-pay for all the years he had

    been collecting tribute for the Treasury and bringing new territories

    and tribes into the Tsar's realm.

            Apparently warmly welcomed in Yakutsk, he was entrusted with

    what was considered the high responsibility and honor of bringing

    to Moscow the Treasury's share of walrus tusk, then held in high

    esteem. He left Yakutsk in the early winter of 1662, and arrived

    in Moscow in 1664.

            Upon reaching the capital, Dezhnev se [ ?] n t his second petition to

    the Tsar, again applying for back-pay and stating that he had great

    008      |      Vol_XV-0247                                                                                                                  
    debts, still unpaid. He also asked to be granted the rank of

    " sotnik sotnik " ( c C ossack rank equivalent to captain).

            According to the figuring of the time, for 19 years' service,

    Dezhnev was entitled to 126 rubles 20 1/2 kopeks: The authorities

    issued the order to pay him one third in money, and two thirds in

    cloth. Thus, he received 38 rubles 67 1/2 kopeks in cash, and 97

    "arshin" (about 100 y e ards) of cloth. He sold to the Treasury his

    own wairus tusk for 500 rubles. Considering that the walrus tusk

    which he had collected for the Treasury was valued at 17,340 rubles

    - nd there is no mention of the sable pelts he had collected as

    tribute - his pay seems disproportionately small. The only compens–

    ation was that, instead of being given the rank of " sotnik sotnik " he had

    asked for, he was elevated to the rank of " ataman ataman " (commander), with

    a yearly salary of 9 rubles, 7 quarters" of rye, 4 "quarters" of

    oats, and 90 lbs of salt.

            Dezhnev left Moscow in march 1665, entrusted with carrying gov–

    ernment funds to Yakutsk, which meant that he enjoyed the full con–

    fidence of [th ?] e authorities. On his way east, he stopped in his native

    city of Ustiug Velikii to pick up his nephew and the latter's wife,

    whom he took along with him to Yakutsk.

            Nothing is known of the years 1666 to 1670 which [ ?] ezhnev spent

    in Yakutsk, occupying the post of "ataman" ataman . In the summer of 1670

    he was again dispatched to Moscow with the "tribute in sables", and

    various documents. He was accompanied by aides and a convoy. He

    reached Moscow on d D ecember 25, 1671, where he remained until his

    death in 1673, presumably at the age of 65. This we know from the

    only mention thereof, found in a Yakutsk account book: "Semen

    Dezhnev died in Moscow in 1673, his salary appropriation is being


    009      |      Vol_XV-0248                                                                                                                  

            Despite the scant biographical material available on Dezhnev,

    it seems clear that he possessed all the qualities of an explorer.

    Adventurous and bold, he was of the " c C ossack" species, incessantly

    driven towards lands unknown, and yearning for a free life unhamper–

    ed by the shackles of authority. From his own, simple, unadorned

    accounts, and also from the results he achieved, we can assess his

    tenacity and fearlessness in the face of constant danger and untold

    hardships. Apparently, nothing could deter him from the pursuance of

    his goal. In kindliness and generosity he seems to have favorably

    differed from his contemporaries and fellow-explorers, for he did not

    share their ruthlessness and unbridled greed. This is apparent from

    his differences with other c C ossack leaders, such as Stadukhin or Seli–

    vestrov, whom, for example, he begged "not to kill natives indiscrim–

    inately, for that is not good."

            The American historian F.A. Golder, in his book "Russian Ex–

    pansion in the Pacific 1641-1850", published in 1914, contends that

    Dezhnev never circumnavigated Chukotsk Peninsula (qv), and that he

    made up the entire sat story of his sailing from the Kolyma to the

    Anadyr. But it should be remembered that Dezhnev was not aware of

    the great geographical significance of his voyage, and neither were

    his immediate superiors, and he therefore had no reason to write a

    false report. Indeed, so little did he think of his feat, that he

    delayed reporting on it until 1655, when other reasons prompted him

    to send a message to the Voevoda of Yakutsk. He invariably stresses

    his activities on land, and not his voyage, the description of which

    takes up much less space than the enumeration of battles with the

    natives, of his subjugating them and collecting tribute for the

    Treasury. Most of all was he interested in the "Korga", where he

    010      |      Vol_XV-0249                                                                                                                  
    had discivered the walrus rookery, and that was the one and only

    thing he laid claim to. This being his prime concern, he was int–

    erested in the shortest route to the Anadyr, regardless of whether

    it was by land or sea. Had he abandoned his "kochi" kochi already at

    Chaun Bay, as Golder asserts, he would doubtless have told the story

    of the overlan d trek, and the route followed would have been ident–

    ified, as have been all his other routes.

            In his first report Dezhnev writes: "..... the Bolshoi

    Kamennyi Nos (Great Stone Cape). This NOS extends far seaward, and

    on it live many Chukchi, and opposite the NOS, on the islands, live

    people called 'zubati' (an adjective meaning 'having big teeth'),

    because they thrust through their lips two pieces of tusk, and this

    o i s not the first"Sviatoi"Nos from the Kolyma, and this Great NOS, we

    Semen and comrades we know it well, for there it was that Ankudinov's

    koch was wrecked, and we took the men on our kochi, and we saw the

    big-toothed men on the island, and c f rom this NOS Anadyr River and the

    Korga are very far .... "

            And in his second report: "When sailing by sea from the Kolyma

    to the Anadyr, there is a NOS extending far out to sea ..... and

    opposite this NOS are two islands, and on these islands live Chukchi,

    and their lips are split, and pieces of walrus tusk thrust through

    them, and this NOS lies between north and northeast, and a river

    flows out on the Russian side of the NOS, and here is a Chukchi

    settlement, towers made of whalebone, and the NOS swings round

    towards Anadyr River ....... "

            Contrary to Golder's assertion that Dezhnev never rea ched

    farther than Shelagski, he clearly states that "this is not the first

    NOS" from the Kolyma, but the next one. There are no outstanding

    011      |      Vol_XV-0250                                                                                                                  
    capes except Shelagski and Dezhnev. F ru ur thermore, "the NOS swings

    round to Anadyr river." This clearly corresponds to the fact that

    after sailing along the northern coast in a southeasterly direction,

    doubling the cape constitutes a turn at a right angle, i.e. , swing–

    ing to a southwesterly direction.

            The location of the river on the side of the Cape is also accur–

    ate, and Dezhnev's description of tower-like Chukchi dwellings made

    of whale jaws and ribs is similar to the descriptions and drawings

    by Luka Voronin of the Sarychev Expedition, 1785-92 (qv). Nowhere

    but on Chukotka have such towers been seen.

            The islands lying opposite the NOS are obviously the Diomedes

    (qv), for upon nearing the extremity of the cape, a ship has the two

    islands before her. This would not be true of any islands near Cape

    Shelagski, for, upon nearing the latter, no islands are to be seen,

    the only islands, Aion and Rautan, having been passed on the right.

            The "tooth Chukchi" are clearly the American e E skimos wearing

    labrets, and can be none other, for nowehere else could Dezhnev have

    seen them.

            Contrary to Golder's assertion, Dezhnev never stated that he

    was wrecked October 1st. What he says is that he was hit by a storm

    after October 1-st ("Pokrov") and was tossed about by wind and waves

    for many days, and finally wrecked. From all evidence he was wrecked

    south of Anadyr Bay and thereafter proceeded north. But Colder arbit–

    rarily decides that after shipwreck he must have gone south. This,

    because he allegedly was wrecked on the northern shore, and hence had

    to go south in order to reach the Anadyr, and also, because, "it i [ ?]

    fair to assume that he would go in a s outherly direction so as to

    have the cold north and northwest winds at his back."

    012      |      Vol_XV-0251                                                                                                                  

            Although Golder declares that"the statements of Dezhnev have

    to be examined", which leads one to think he himself does so with

    the greatest care, we find that, quoting a statement he finds sus–

    picious, he misquotes his own translation. On p.78 we read: "The

    Anaduir falls into the sea," whereas in the appendix (p.287) where

    the entire document is given, the text runs: "the Anaduir falls

    into a bay" ('guba' is more exactly estuary). Incidentally, this

    makes a great difference in the context.

            Golder often bases himself on erroneous interpretations of

    Dezhnev's archaic and illiterate language, and also on the rather

    loose paraphrasing of it by Muller. When it suits his theory,

    Golder denounces some of Muller's paraphrasing, but fails to do so

    when it denies him an extra argument. Thus he overlooks a document

    discovered by Muller in 1736, and which bears evidence that rumors

    of Dezhnev's voyage were widespread in Siberia around 1700. It is the

    report of one Pe ë tr Popov who, in 1711, went on an expedition to the

    Chukchi on the "Nos", where he was told that " r R ussians had already

    visited them before, arriving by sea on kochi." Furthermore, a

    colleague of Muller's, Lindenau (qv) of the Second Bering Exped–

    ition, when visiting the Berin g Strait coast in 1741-43, reported

    hearing from the Chukchi that "som e 70 or more years ago, 12 kochi

    carying Russian merchants were scattered by a storm off the north–

    eastern shores of Asia.... "

            All experts who have thoroughly studied the Dezhnev question

    concur in the opinion that Dezhnev actually circumnavigated the

    northeast tip of Asia and sailed from the Arctic into the Pacific.

    In addition to Muller, these are: the explorer F. Wrangel, the

    historians N. N. Ogloblin and S.V. Bakhrushin, and,in our days,

    013      |      Vol_XV-0252                                                                                                                  
    the oceanographer I.M. Shokalsky, the historians A.I.Andreev,

    L.S.Berg, A.V.Efimov, and the expert on arctic matters V.I.Vize


            In his work, "The Discovery of Kamchatka and the Bering Exped "

    ition" (Otkrytie Kamchatki i Ekspeditsia Beringa), which appeared

    in 1935, and in a new edition in 1946, L.S.Berg has made an extens–

    ive and thorough analysis of the Dezhnev problem and has definite–

    ly established that the "Great Stone Nos" or"Chukotski Nos" is with "

    out doubt Cape Dezhnev (previously East Cape), that the two islands

    opposite the Nos are the Diomedes, that the "big tooth Chukchi" are

    the Ameican e E skimos.

            The only Russian student of the question who concurs with Golder

    in denying Dezhnev's discovery of Bering Strait, is the scientist

    and historian P.A. Slovtsov. Or it should rather be said that Golder

    borrowed the arg y u ments advanced by Slovtsov in his "Historical

    Review of Siberia" (Istoricheskoe Obozrenie Sibiri) published in

    1838, at a time when the numerous documents and old maps subsequent–

    ly discovered, were not yet available.

            In support of his point of view that Dezhnev neither accomplish–

    ed nor claimed "the feat credited to him", Golder considers as a

    strong argument the fact that "Dezhnev is totally ignored by his

    contemporaries." This "stron g argument has now been fully refuted,

    for, in addition to the evidence already existing in Golder's,time

    (and mentioned above), numerous documents and maps of the second

    half of the 17th century and of the 18th century, confirm that

    Dezhnev's voyage did affect his contemporaries and the geographical

    concepts of his time.

            For although Golder fully endorsed and circulated the opinion

    that Dezhnev's discovery of the strait separating Asia from America

    014      |      Vol_XV-0253                                                                                                                  
    remained unknown to e E uropeans until Muller discovered his reports,

    there is ample evidence - both published and in manuscript - that

    the momentous voyage of the Russian c C ossacks was known, although

    Dezhnev's name remained unmentioned. Thus, in his "Noord en Oost

    Tartarye", Amsterdam [ ?] 1705 , Nicholas Witsen writes:

            "This is the copy of a letter I received from Arkhangelsk in

    1698: ..... a r R ussian here informed me that, visiting Moscow last

    winter, he met cossacks who had been hunting sables in the farther–

    most parts of Siberia. On a small vessel they circumnavigated

    Ledianoi Mys (Ice Cape) that is the easternmost projection as shown

    on your map, and it took them three days to get to the end of the

    cape. There, the current was very swift, and they had to keep close

    to shore; but they saw no ice for it was in midsummer. Thus they

    sailed round the cape ....."

            This tallies with Dezhnev's report, which mentions swift

    currents, but no ice.

            The Witsen map mentioned in this letter is his "Nieuwe Lant–

    kaarte van het Noorder en Ooster deel van Asia en Europa," published

    in Amsterdam in 1687.

            And elsewhere in Witsen:

            " I learned from a prominent Moscow merchant that some cossacks

    told him it had taken them three days to reach the end of Ledianoi

    Mys, or Ice Cape (later East Cape, then Cape Dezhnev). In some

    places the strait is so narrow that one may see both shores. Those

    cossacks or Moscow soldiers had been dispatched from Yakutsk to

    collect tribute, and as is the custom, they proceeded in groups of

    10 or 20 men... They also said they had eight small vessels, of

    which four succeeded in sailing round Ice Cape. But finally they

    015      |      Vol_XV-0254                                                                                                                  
    cam e across such cross-currents, where the northern current meets

    the southern, that those four vessels were smashed to pieces and

    all the men perished."

            This again is very similar to Dezhnev's account of cross–

    currents, and also of the wreck of Ankudinov's "koch" koch .

            There does not seem to be any doubt that these were echoes of

    De zh nev's voyage. It may be that Witsen's statements were still un '

    known to Leibnitz in 1697 when he raised the question of whether

    Asia and America were separated by a strait, although Witsen's first

    edition had appeared in 1692, and his map in 1687. However, when

    Leibnitz again raised this question in 1712, in his letter to Peter

    the Great's adviser Bruce, he no dou n b t had read Witsen, and so had

    Tsar Peter, who was personally acquainted with the Amsterdam burgo–

    master. Both might have discounted Witsen's statements, knowing

    they were but hearsay. They knew not then that this hearsay would

    prove surprisingly similar to the reports of Dezhnev, which had not

    yet been discovered.

            Another instance of such hearsay is to be found in the "Historia

    de Sibiria", written around 1680 by the Croatian Catholic priest Iurii Krizhanich,

    who spent a number of years in exile in Tobolsk. Although his book,

    written in Latin, w as not published at the time, Witsen seems to have

    seen one of his manuscripts. On the question of whether the Arctic

    Sea is connected with the "Eastern", i.e. , the Pacific, Krizhanich

    writes that, "this has no t w been solved by Lena and Nerchinsk cossacks

    who covered the entire country right to the ocean, and assert that

    there is no land to eastward, and that the two seas are not separ–

    ated by anything."

            In addition to writings, old maps also show that the impact

    016      |      Vol_XV-0255                                                                                                                  
    of Dezhnev's voyage was considerable even on European geographical

    thought and that, particularly in Siberia, the strait between Asia

    and America was taken for granted long before Bering.

            Several versions of in the series of maps by Remezov and Peter

    Godunov (qqv), drawn up at the end of the 17th century and around

    1700, show Northeastern Siberia surrounded by the sea, and the

    Arctic and Pacific connected by a strait. So does Witsen's map

    mentioned above.

            The hand-made sketch by the so-called "Yakut nobleman Ivan

    Lvov", dated 1710, and handed over to Muller in Yakutsk in 1736

    shows Chukotsk Peninsula surrounded by the sea and, opposite the

    "Nos", two islands, and beyond them to eastward, part of a cont–

    i nent. The Anadyr, its tributaries, and the surrounding mountain

    ridges, are all shown in detail, and Anadyr Ostrog occupies an

    important place. This sketch, or rather copies of it, must have

    reached Europe, for the map of the Nurnberg geographer Johann

    Baptist Homan, first published in 1725, follows Lvov's map very

    closely in regard to Northeastern Siberia, the Bering Strait and

    Anadyr areas. It clearly implies a free seaway from the Kolyma

    to Kamchatka. This map was again published in the Homan atlas of

    1759, although by then geography had undergone great changes, and

    the Russian Academy of Science map giving the results of the Bering

    Expedition, had already appeared in 1754.

            Another map, the anonymous Leyden map dated 1726, ten years

    prior to Muller's discovery of Dezhnev's reports, shows the north–

    eastern tip of Siberia surrounded by the sea, islands off the

    coast, and the inscription: "Les russes venants de la Lena et des

    autres rivières à l'est de la Lena passent par ici avec leurs

    017      |      Vol_XV-0256                                                                                                                  
    bâtiments pour aller négocier avec les Kamtschadahles," (The

    r R ussians coming from the Lena and from the other rivers east of

    the Lena, pass here with their vessels to go and trade with the


            Of interest are Vitus Bering's words in a letter dated 1725

    from Yeniseisk, while on his way east: ".... it is possible to

    sail from Kolyma River mouth to the Anadyr, as testified by the

    new asiatic maps, and as communicated by the inhabitants, that

    this route has been used before."

            Strahlenberg's (qv) map, also drawn up prior to the Bering

    Expedition, bears this inscription at the mouth of the Indigirka

    River: "From here the russians, crossing the ice-ridden sea - the

    north wind drives it toward the shore and the south wind drives it

    back - have, with great difficulty and danger for their lives,

    reached Kamchatka."

            As stated by the historian A.I. Andreev, the Russian sketch–

    maps of the time testify that in Siberia, knowledge of the discovery

    of the seaway through the strait was widespread. This could be

    nought else but a consequence of the fact that the Dezhnev 's voyage

    was known, and that the geographical data he had supplied - not

    alone in his reports but also by word of mouth - was being taken

    into consideration by seamen and mapmakers.

            That this news had spread westward is further evidenced by

    the fact that, as early as 1652, rumors were current among foreign

    diplomats in Moscow, that the r R ussians had discovered America from

    the W w est, and were preparing to dispatch an important force to the

    American coast. These rumors were reported to q Q ueen Christina of

    Sweden by her envoy in Russia , Johan de Rodes, who resided in Moscow

    018      |      Vol_XV-0257                                                                                                                  
    from 1650 to 1655. His reports, preserved in the Stockholm State

    Archives, were published in part in Russia in 1915 by B.G. Kurts

    in a book entitled "The Condition of Russia in 1650-1655 from the

    reports of Rodes."

            Rodes was apparently greatly interested in developments in

    Siberia, in the discovery of gold and silver, and in Russian rel–

    ations with China. On April 28, 1652, he reported that 2,000

    "strels i y " (fusiliers) had been dispatched do w n the Volga to

    Kazan, whence they would proceed to Siberia to reinforce the

    Voevoda of Yakutsk , Dmitri Fratsbekov, and added: "It is rumored

    that they will be used for dispatching to America...." It would

    appear that these rumors created great excitement in the foreign

    colony in Moscow.

            Frantsbekov had been appointed Voevoda of Yakutsk in 1648,

    the very year Dezhnev set out on his expedition, and it may be

    p resumed that by 1652 the Voevoda had been informed of Dezhnev's

    settling on the Anadyr. We know that Dezhnev never reached Amer–

    ica, but the rumor long persisted in Siberia that the three "kochi" kochi

    which had first been separated from the Dezhnev-Popov party –

    presumably upon entering the strait - had reached the American

    coast, and that it was precisely then, that the first Russian

    settlement was founded in the Western h H emisphere. The protagonists

    of this version, however, have no factual evidence to support them,

    except, perhaps, the presence of white-skinned and blond a A leuts

    first encountered by Shelekhov (qv) in Yakutat Bay in 1788, and

    the 1937 find on Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, of the remains of an

    ancient settlement, which could have been only r R ussian (judging by

    the method of building and the objects found), and which American

    019      |      Vol_XV-0258                                                                                                                  
    experts estimated at being around 300 years old. It should be

    added, however, that both the blond a A leuts and the builders of

    the settlement, might rather have been the descendants of pilot

    Dementiev and his 12 seamen who had been sent ashore by Chirikov

    (qv) in 1741, and had never returned.

            The conviction that Russian settlements existed in America

    was current long before Shelekhov started colonizing Russian Amer–

    ica in the 1780-ies. Thus the plenisner map ( c C olonel Plenisner, a

    former member of the Second Bering Expedition, was head of the

    Ostrog of Anadyrsk), drawn up on the basis of information supplied

    by c C ossack Nikolai Daurkin (a chukcha by origin) in 1763, shows

    Chukotsk Peninsula, the strait with its two islands, and the oppos–

    ite shore named "Kygmyn" (the Ch u kchi name for America is Kyymyn).

    At about where Cape Prince of Wales is, this map shows a river

    flowing into the sea named "Khevuvren" and, slightly upstream, a

    drawing shows a stockade, several men and a boat, and the inscript–

    ion "fortress". This map is a hand-made colored sketch, and it

    should be noted that all the men are dark-skinned except one, whose

    skin is light pink with the apparent implication that he is a

    r R ussian.

            Information on r R ussians on the American coast is also to be

    found in a document discovered not so long ago in the Central State

    Archives in Moscow. It is a report by c C ossack Kobelev, who in 1779

    visited Chukotsk Peninsula and the islands Imagli and Igellin

    (Ratmanov and Krusenstern), where he heard that a year before two

    vessels had visited the islands (apparently Cook), but that many

    years ago, two other large vessels had been there (Bering's ships).

    While on Igellin, Kobelev heard that, on the eastern shore, on

    020      |      Vol_XV-0259                                                                                                                  
    "Khevuvren" river , is an "ostrog" (stockade), "where live Russian

    people; who speak r R uss i an, read books, write and worship ikons,"

    and that, contrary to the a A mericans who have scarce beards and

    pluck them, "the r R ussians have large, bushy beards."

            Kobelev begged the islander to take him to the other shore,

    but the islander refused to do so lest harm come to him, but he

    promised to send over a letter from Kobelev. Kobelev states that

    in his message he called the American russians "blood-brothers",

    and asked them whether they were the descendants of the "men of

    the 4 kochi, which, in old days, had got separated from the 7 kochi,

    sailing round Chukotski Nos."

            Later, Kobelev reported that an American e E skimo had brought

    to Imagli a "letter" from the bearded r R ussians on the other shore,

    who had asked that it be sent to the r R ussians in Anadyrsk. The

    "letter" was a board, with Russian script in red paint on one side,

    and letters carved out and painted p b lack on the other side. The

    writer said they had all they needed except iron, and begged that

    some be sent to them. The e E skimo showed how those people cross

    themselves, and said that they congregate in one large house for

    prayer, and that, in a field, they set up poles with small boards

    across them.

            I.I.Lindenau, interpreter to the Second Bering Expedition,

    who visited the Chukchi on the Strait in 1741-43, reported hearing

    from them that, "some 70 or more years ago, 12 kochi carrying

    Russian merchants were scattered by a storm off the northeastern

    shores of Asia ..... some of them reached Kamchatka, and some land–

    ed on the opposite shore called "Great Land".

            The presence of r R ussians on the American mainland before

    021      |      Vol_XV-0260                                                                                                                  
    colonizing by Shelekhov had begun, and particularly so far north –

    it should be kept in mind that pilot Dementiev's party had landed

    much farther south - poses the question as to who those settlers

    were, and whence they had come, and this brings up the plausibil–

    ity of the hypothesis that Dezhnev's missing kochi kochi had landed on

    the American continent.

            In support of his assertion that Dezhnev never passed Bering

    Strait, and never could have done so in a primitive "koch" koch , Golder

    states that, "A kotsh was a flat-bottomed decked vessel .... it

    had a wooden mast and sails of deer skin, which are of little use

    in damp weather. The chief motive power, therefore, was the

    paddle. Anchors were made of wood and stone, and cables of leather."

            This opinion on the unseaworthiness of Dezhnev's vessels indeed

    prevailed until quite lately. The kochi kochi were believed to be most

    primitive, flat-bottomed boats, using deer-skins for sails, and

    lacking in western navigational gear.

            The study of 17th century documents has now fully refuted this

    viewpoint. The "koch" koch must have been a large seaworthy craft, with

    deck and keel, with deck-canoes and iron anchors, of sturdy build,

    and additionally reinforced to withstand the pressure of high seas

    and ice. Judging by old shipbuilders' orders and specifications,

    these vessels were about 60 ft long by some 15 ft wide, drawing,

    however, no more than 5 - or 6 ft. Their capacity was 30 to 35 tons.

    The size seems to have differed little from that of the English or

    Dutch vessels plying the northern seas between London and Arkhang–

    elsk, or Amsterdam and Arkhangelsk. The main difference was the

    small draught, necessary for navigating along shore leads in arctic

    waters. This difference was responsible for the failure of western

    022      |      Vol_XV-0261                                                                                                                  
    seamen to negotiate the passage to the Ob and Yenis s ei despite

    their eagerness to do so and trade direct with Siberian natives,

    as evidenced by the accounts of English merchants who, in those

    days, visited Arkhangelsk and Pustozersk - but never got farther


            Equipped with a regular set of sails - a total surface of

    some 1,000 sq ft - and given favorable winds, the koch koch could cover

    from 120 to 150 miles a day at a speed of 5 to 6 knots.

            It has now been ascertained that Dezhnev's expedition took

    along no less than "13 compasses in bone frames." It may therefore

    be presumed that Dezhnev and his seamen navigated with the help of

    instruments and gear available at the time. This is confirmed by

    Witsen's statement that, "when sailing to the Kolyma, the Lena

    cossacks used compasses and deep-sounding logs." The elaborate

    compass, sun-dial and navigational gear found on Taimyr Peninsula

    (see Taimyr Pena., History), at the camp of the 17th century (ca.

    1620) navigators, fully supports this opinion, and it may be presum ' -

    ed that, taking place [ ?] an odd 30 years later, Dezhnev's exped–

    ition must have been still better equipped.

            Nevertheless, Golder states: "Indeed, it is extremely doubt–

    ful whether they had a compass or knew its use... Among the num–

    erous 17th centur y documents examined, the author did not come

    across the wo r d compass... the word appears in the early 18th cent–

    ury." Had he only glanced at Witsen's book, he would have found the

    statement quoted above. O[?] f course, he may not have seen the docum " -

    ent of the Yakutsk Archives, which is a receipt for "13 compasses

    in bone frames", taken on the trip by just one of the parties of

    "promyshlenniki" promyshlenniki who accompanied Dezhnev. [ ?] It is true that

    023      |      Vol_XV-0262                                                                                                                  
    what is used on the receipt is not the foreign word compass, but

    the term used at the time by northern seafarers. In the days of

    Peter the Great foreign words flocked into the Russian language,

    particularly in regard to seafaring and military matters, so no

    wonder Golder found the word "compass" in [ ?] 18th century docum–


            Following the suggestion of the Imperial Russian Geographic–

    al Society and of the prominent oceanographer I.M.Shokalsky, East

    Cape was officially named Cape Dezhnev in 1898.

            The 300-th Anniversary of Semen Dezhnev's epoch-making voyage

    through Bering Strait was celebrated in the USSR on October 26,

    1948, in a special joint c s ession of the All-Union Geographical

    Society and the Arctic Research Institute.

            In connection with the Tricentenary, the Council of Ministers

    of the USSR decreed the foundation of a 15,000 rubles Prize in

    Memory of Semen Dezhnev, to be awarded by the Scientific Council

    of the Geographical Society, once every three years, beg n inning in

    1948, for the best work and research on the geography of North–

    eastern Asia.

            (attach copy of map opposite p. 580 in: Izvestia Vsesoiuznogo

    Geograficheskogo Obshchestva, vol. 80, N°6, Nov.-Dec. 1948.)

    024      |      Vol_XV-0263                                                                                                                  

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    025      |      Vol_XV-0264                                                                                                                  

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