The Russians and Australia

The Russians and Australia

The Russians and Australia

The Russians and Australia

Synopsis

Known for his pioneering work on Russia's early exploits in Australia and the Pacific, historian Glynn Barratt again breaks new ground in presenting the first comprehensive study of Russian naval, social, mercantile, and scientific enterprise in New South Wales between 1807 and 1835.

Excerpt

Tsar Peter Alekseevich (Peter the Great) showed active interest in the remote Pacific fringes of his empire at intervals throughout his life. Both as protector of the Russian China trade, which was not healthy in the early 1690s, and as student of geography, he was particularly conscious of the problem of the "Strait of Anian," which was supposed by most geographers to separate the continents of Asia and America. The modest volume of all Russo-Chinese trade and the impediments placed in the way of Russian merchants by the ever-xenophobic Chinese government suggested the importance of a navigable sea-route to the Orient--if one existed. The discovery and exploitation of such a sea-route, Peter recognized, would have Imperial but also major scientific value. Many times during his life, in fact, he was exhorted by his own like-minded, forward- looking subjects and especially by foreigners to send a major expedition to the uttermost northeastern rim of Asia, where the strait might be expected to be found. Some of the projects and petitions handed to him on that subject and, more generally, on the need for proper mapping of the far northeastern limits of the empire, were purely scientific and dispassionate in nature. The great German scientist Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz, for example, urged the tsar to undertake, at state expense, a major programme of magnetic observations from the Baltic to the North Pacific shores; and as in Germany, so too in France there were savants who argued eloquently for cartography and/or hydrography in what is now known as Chukotka. (Peter promised the Académie in Paris that the Russians would investigate the Strait of Anian, but he declined to let French scientists participate in what was later to take shape as the First Bering . . .

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