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Go to Foreigners in Russia / RT projects / Russiapedia / Prominent Russians / Geography and exploration / Ivan Kruzenshtern (Adam Johann von Krusenstern)

Prominent Russians: Ivan Kruzenshtern (Adam Johann von Krusenstern)

October 10, 1770 – August 12, 1846

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Ivan Fedorovich Kruzenshtern (Adam Johann von Krusenstern) was a Russian sailor and admiral, descending from German nobles. He was the head of the first Russian round-the-world expedition and one of the founders of Russian oceanography. Kruzenshtern was the first to put around a thousand kilometers of the eastern, northern and northwestern coast of the Sakhalin Islands in the Russian Far East on the map. He also wrote the “Atlas of the Southern Sea” (“Atlas Yuzhnogo Morya”).

Kruzenshtern was born on the Hagudis Estate in Northern Estonia into a noble but poor family. He studied in the Naval Cadet Corps, from which he graduated ahead of schedule. He took part in the Russo-Swedish War of 1789-1790, and three years later was sent to England to study seamanship. He sailed with the English fleet to the American coast, where he took part in battling French ships. In 1793-1799 he voluntarily served on English ships in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the South China Sea. After returning home, Kruzenshtern presented projects of direct trade routes between Russian ports in the Baltic and Alaska. To fulfill the projects, the first Russian round-the-world expedition was created and three years later Kruzenshtern was appointed its leader. In summer, the expedition set off from Kronstadt (a port thirty kilometers west of St. Petersburg) on two boats: the “Nadezhda” (“Hope”) and the “Neva” (named after the Neva River).

One of the expedition’s main goals was to explore the mouth of the Amur River and the territories around it to find convenient bases and supply routes for the Pacific fleet. In March 1804 the boats sailed round Cape Horn and parted ways three weeks later. Of the Russian and borderlands, the expedition turned special attention to the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kuril Islands and the Sakhalin Islands. In his notes about the trip, Kruzenshtern described the many curious things he had seen on the way, especially the life and customs of the local tribes. The atlas he created, exceptional for the time, was full of maps, schemes and drawings. The participants of the first Russian circumnavigation made a great contribution to science by removing a non-existent island from the map and defining the location of many geographic spots. They discovered opposite streams between the trade winds of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, measured the temperature of water at the depths of over 400 meters, its density, transparency and color, discovered the reasons for sea-fire, gathered plenty of data on atmospheric pressure and rises and falls of the tide in various parts of the world’s oceans.

In 1811 Kruzenshtern was assigned Class Inspector of the Naval Cadet Corps, where he worked until the start of the Russian-French war of 1812. At the beginning of the war he gave a third of all his wealth to the militia. He spent almost a year in England with a Russian diplomatic mission. In 1809-1812 Kruzenshtern published the three-volume “Trip Around the World” (“Puteshestvie Vokrug Sveta”), which was translated into seven European languages, and the “Atlas for the Trip Around the World” (“Atlas k puteshestviyu vokrug sveta”), which included over 100 maps and drawings. A year later he was elected to the academies and scientific communities of England, France, Germany and Denmark.

In 1815 Kruzenshtern took an indefinite leave for treatment and scientific work. He composed and published the two-volume “Atlas of the Southern Sea” (“Atlas Yuzhnogo Morya”) with extensive geographic annotations. In 1827, after gradually rising in rank to full admiral, he became Director of the Naval Cadet Corps. He was behind the creation of a higher officers’ class in the Corps, which later became the Naval Academy. He also initiated the round-the-world expeditions of Otto von Kotzebue (1815-1818), Mikhail Vasilyev and Gleb Shishmarev (1819-1822), Fabian von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev (1819-1821) and Mikhail Stanyukovich and Fyodor Litke (1826-1829).

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Most of all, Kruzenshtern valued the welfare of Russia. Without fear of consequences, he condemned serfdom and unruly discipline in the army. People felt attracted to his dignity, modesty, punctuality and vast knowledge. Many prominent sailors and travelers from Russia and abroad petitioned him for advice. Ivan Kruzenshtern was physically very well developed. According to his contemporaries, he stood out among others with his athletic build and was stronger than any of the sailors in the expeditions he headed. It is known for certain that in his circumnavigation, to his colleagues’ surprise, he took two four-stone (32 kilos) weights and exercised with them for 30-40 minutes every day.

Kruzenshtern was very fond of pets. His spaniel accompanied him on his travels, to the joy of his crew. It was a tradition for everyone to pet the dog’s long ears before every departure, and it was believed that every journey went surprisingly well because of this ritual. There were ridiculous situations when savages, who had never seen an animal with such long ears before, ran away in fear.

Thirteen geographical locations in various parts of the planet are named after Kruzenshtern: two atolls, an island, two gulfs, three mountains, three capes, a reef and a bay. In 1869, a monument to the navigator was erected in St. Petersburg. Ivan Kruzenshtern is buried in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tallinn.

Written by Olga Pigareva, RT

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