July 01, 2020

Russian Geographical Society

Russian Geographical Society
Founders of the Russian Geographical Society. From top left: Friedrich Georg Wilhelm (Vasily) von Struve, Adam Johann (Ivan) von Krusenstern, Ferdinand von Wrangel, Karl Ernst von Baer, Gregor von Helmersen, Peter (Pyotr) von Köppen, and Pyotr Rikord. Right image, from top left: Vladimir Odoyevsky, Alexey Levshin, Konstantin Arseniev, Vladimir Dal, Platon Chikhachov, Mikhail Vronchenko, and Friedrich (Fyodor) von Berg.

In Russian high schools, all subjects continue through eleventh grade, the final grade before graduation. Only geography terminates after tenth grade, giving the general impression that it is of secondary importance. This seems to be a longstanding view. Even in The Minor («Недоросль»), an eighteenth-century classic comedy by Denis Fonvizin, Mrs. Simpleton (mother of the title character, Mitrofan) seems utterly confounded when asked whether her son is studying geography. The work is full of “speaking names” that make it crystal clear what each character represents.

Mrs. Simpleton (to her son): You hear, my sweet? What sort of science is that?

Mitrofan (quietly, to his mother): How should I know?

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