In the early 1830s, the explorer Fyodor Litke paused his program of documenting little-known islands and circumnavigating the globe, returned to Russia, and took on his next challenge: the education of a five-year-old boy. Litke had been asked by Tsar Nicholas I to tutor one of his sons, Konstantin Nikolaevich.
The explorer taught his young pupil principles of navigation and appreciation for the natural sciences. This teaching relationship led to the establishment, in 1845, of the Russian Geographical Society, whose original mission was to “bring together and enable the brightest youth to explore the homeland.” The Society created Russia’s first national parks, and aims to protect rare species of plants and animals. Since its founding 170 years ago, the Society has never ceased its work.
Doodler Lydia Nichols created three designs for today’s illustration. Each collage highlights a set of photographs and drawings from the Society’s archives (“a veritable wealth of imagery,” Nichols said). We see drawings of flora and fauna from naturalists’ expeditions, early black and white photos of the Kola Peninsula, and striking contemporary landscapes by the photographer Ilya Melnikov. We hope each design offers a hint of the treasures within the Society’s vast archives. Special thanks to the Society for permission to share part of its history today.