Vladimir Obruchev

Vladimir Afanasyevich Obruchev (Russian: Влади́мир Афана́сьевич О́бручев; October 10 [O.S. September 28] 1863, Klepenino near Rzhev, Tver Oblast, Russian Empire – June 19, 1956, Moscow, USSR) was a Russian Empire and Soviet geologist who specialized in the study of Siberia and Central Asia. He was also one of the first Russian science fiction authors.

Vladimir Afanasyevich Obruchev
Obruchev, c. 1930s
Obruchev, c. 1930s
Born(1863-09-28)September 28, 1863
near Rzhev, Tver Oblast
DiedJune 19, 1956(1956-06-19) (aged 92)
Moscow, USSR
OccupationGeologist, Novelist
GenreScience Fiction
Notable worksPlutonia, Sannikov's Land, In the Wilds of Central Asia

Scientific researchEdit

Vladimir Obruchev graduated from the Petersburg Mining Institute in 1886. His early work involved the study of gold-mining, which led him to come up with a theory explaining the origin of gold deposits in Siberia. He also gave advice on construction of the Central Asian and Trans-Siberian Railways and consulted Sven Hedin on his projected journey to Siberia. While working for the railway, Obruchev explored the Karakum Desert, the shores of the Amu Darya River, and the old riverbeds of the Uzbois.[1] He also worked as a geologist on Lake Baikal, on the Lena River, and in gold fields near the Vitim.[1]

Between 1892 and 1894, Obruchev "was a member of the Grigory Potanin's expedition into ... Mongolia, [and] to the mountains of Nan Shan and Northern China." He also explored the Transbaikal area, Dzhungaria, and Altai.[1] Largely as a result of his participation in this expedition he became interested in loess and made considerable contributions to the study of loess deposits.[2]

In 1929, Obruchev was elected to the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.[1]

Having spent half a century in exploring Siberia and Inner Asia, Obruchev summarized his findings with a three-volume monograph, The Geology of Siberia (1935–1938), followed by The History of Geological Exploration of Siberia. Many of his works deal with the origins of loess in Central Asia and Siberia, ice formation and permafrost in Siberia, problems of Siberian tectonics, and Siberian goldfields. He also authored many popular scientific works, such as Formation of Mountains and Ore Deposits (1932), Fundamentals of Geology (1944), Field Geology (1927), Ore Deposits (1928–1929), and others. All together, Obruchev authored

over a thousand scientific works, among which are a most extensive geological study of Siberia and a five-volume history of the geological exploration of Siberia, which have been awarded the Lenin Prize as well as the prizes and medals of several scientific societies.[1]

He was the director of the Geological Institute (1930-1933) and the Permafrost Institute (1939-1956) of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.[3]

During 1954, he completed an extensive geographical study of Nan Shan Mountains in China based on his own and previous expeditions to the region and spent his last years working up a geological study of the mountains.[1]

Popular fictionEdit

Plutonia (Плутония, 1915)

In his native country Obruchev is best known as the author of two perennially popular science fiction novels, Plutonia (Плутония, 1915) and Sannikov Land (Земля Санникова, 1924). Both of these stories, imitating the pattern of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, depict in vivid detail the discovery of an isolated world of prehistoric animals in hitherto unexplored large islands north of Alaska or Siberia. In Plutonia, dinosaurs and other Jurassic species are found in a fictional underground area north of Alaska. The descriptive passages are made more credible by Obruchev's extensive knowledge of paleontology. "Sannikov Land" is named for a phantom island of the Arctic Ocean, reported historically by Yakov Sannikov in 1811. Paul J. McAuley praised the novel in a 1999 column, saying "It's true that the characters are indistinguishably wooden mouthpieces for the author's opinions, and the plot is pure pulp, but all this is redeemed by the novel's rigorous scientific sensibility."[4]

During the Soviet period, Obruchev attempted to emulate Edwardian models of boys' adventure stories in his novels Golddiggers in the Desert (1928) and In the Wilds of Central Asia (1951).

Official positionsEdit

Awards and honorsEdit

Obruchev namesakesEdit

Vladimir A. Obruchev, USSR Post stamp issued in 1963 at the occasion of his 100th birthday


Two of his sons also became notable scientists:


  • Fundamentals Of Geology, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow. From Archive.org
  • (1924) Plutoniya (Плутония); English translation: Plutonia (1957), Moscow: Raduga Publishers, ISBN 5-05-001691-6
  • (1926) Zemlya Sannikova (Земля Санникова); English translation: Sannikov Land (1988), Moscow: Raduga Publishers, ISBN 5-05-001690-8


  1. ^ a b c d e f Plutonia A Word about the author. p. 404. Translated by Fainna Solasko. Raduga Publishers. Moscow. 1988. 2d printing.
  2. ^ Smalley, I., Markovic.S.B. 2017. Four loess pioneers: Charles Lyell, F.von Richthofen, V.A.Obruchev, L.S.Berg. Quaternary International http://dx.doi/10.1016.J.quaint.2016.07.031[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Vtorov I. P. 2021. The letters of academician V.A. Obruchev from the collection of the Geological institute of RAS and their importance for the history of geosciences // IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 867. 012131. doi:10.1088/1755-1315/867/1/012131
  4. ^ Curiosities, F&SF, February 2000
  5. ^ SHIPPING; NEW TONNAGE. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. Part 1 The USSR; Weekly Economic Report; A. ECONOMIC AND SCIENTIFIC; TRANSPORT; SU/W1297/A/11; July 20, 1984. Moscow 1400 gmt 4 Jul 84

External linksEdit