Ukrainians are not a sea-faring nation, it is true, but it does not mean they don’t like to travel. The reasons for travel were and are different: business, pleasure, economic hardships at home, curiosity, desire to discover the new worlds. There are millions of people of Ukrainian descent living in Canada, United States, Russia, Argentina, Australia, and Europe. These days there are a lot of Ukrainians selling and buying at the markets of Istanbul and Warsaw. But joking apart, there were many Ukrainian adventurers, wayfarers, pioneers and explorers who helped expand our knowledge of geography. In the early mediaeval times, Kyivan Rus-Ukrainian warriors went all the way south to Constantinople, Byzantium, and pilgrims from Rus - Ukraine travelled long distances to the holy sites in Israel and Greece. Starting from the 14th century, Ukrainians made their way to universities of Europe where they studied, among other subjects, geography. Later, Cossacks served as mercenaries in many armies of the European countries. In the 17th century, Mykhaylo Boym from the city of Lviv travelled a very long distance to China, and in the 18th century, Vasyl Hryhorovych-Barsky from Kyiv spent twenty-four years in travels. It could very well be a world record in the time spent non-stop in travels.
Vasyl Hryhorovych-Barsky was born in Podil, an old part of Kyiv, in 1701. His father Hryhoriy Barsky was a merchant, and his brother Ivan was a prominent architect. Vasyl Barsky was educated at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, and in 1723, he walked all the way from Kyiv to Lviv in search of new experiences. He stayed there for some time, getting an old sore on the foot treated, and after it was cured and healed, he went on a grand walking tour of Europe. He visited Budapest, Vienna, Rome and many other towns in Italy, getting from place to place on foot. He walked around the Balkans, travelled to many islands of the Aegean Sea (he could not walk on the water, of course, so boats were his means of transportation over the seas).
He lived for stretches of time in Cyprus, Palestine, Sinai, Egypt, Syria and other places. In Damask he produced such an impression upon the local Orthodox Christian clergy by his vast knowledge that he was asked to stay there for good, but he refused to stay and moved on. In 1746 he started on his way home, walking through Bulgaria, Moldova and Poland. He arrived in Kyiv on September 2, 1747 an exhausted and sick man. On October 7 of the same year he died and was buried in the Bratsky Monastery. A manuscript describing his travels with 150 drawings illustrating them was discovered among his scanty possessions. The manuscript was copied by hand in a considerable number of copies, and later was published as a book (in 1778). This printed edition was a great success, and was reprinted many times in the next hundred years. In the nineteenth century, the Ukrainians seem to have lost interest in travel to distant lands, limiting themselves to reading about travels. Nonetheless, several Ukrainians in the service of the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian Empires, between which Ukraine was divided, did go to the far-away destinations.
In 1803-1806, Yuriy Lysyansky (1773-1837), born in the town of Nizhyn and educated at the Navy Cadet School in Kronstadt, Russia, sailed around the world on an expedition he organized together with Ivan (Adam Johann) Krusenstern, a Russian naval officer of German descent. Two ships they commanded, Neva and Nadezhda, sailed from Kronstadt, then went all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, rounded Cape Horn, crossed the Pacific Ocean, visited the Hawaiian Islands, Alaska, and then made their way through Sunda Strait, circled the Cape of Good Hope, and returned to Kronstadt, thus circumnavigating the globe. Lysyansky made geographic discoveries in the Pacific Ocean, and one of the Hawaiian islands and a bay in Alaska are named after him (Lisianski Island, Hawaii; Lisianski Inlet, Alaska).
He wrote a book, describing his circumnavigation of the globe, Voyage Round the World on Neva in the Years 1803-1806, which was later translated into English. Mykola Myklukho-Maklay (1846-1888), a Ukrainian explorer, anthropologist and ethnographer, is better known to the Ukrainian public be- cause several books about him were recently written and published. His father, Mykola Myklukha (1818-1858), a grandson of Stepan Myklukha, a Cossacks commander, was born in Ukraine, in the land of Chernihivshchyna. The Myklukha family had an estate in the village of Malyna, in the land of Kyivshchyna. Mykola Myklukho-Maklay studied at St Petersburg, Heidelberg and Leipzig Universities. At the University of Jena, he worked as an assistant to Ernst Haeckel, a prominent German scientist. In 1864, he changed his last name from Myklukha to Myklukho-Maklay, his brothers following suit (Volodymyr was captain of Admiral Ushakov battleship and fought later in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, and Mykhaylo was a geologist, doing geological prospecting in the land of Polissya). Mykola Myklukho-Maklay is best known for his expeditions to New Guinea, Malay Peninsula, islands of the Melanesia and Micronesia (1870-1886). His ethnographic studies of the Papua people were a considerable contribution to ethnography. Thanks to his talent of winning the trust of the people he dealt with, he managed, by his openness, compassion and easy-going attitudes, to make himself accepted even by the wildest savages, recent cannibals. He returned to St Petersburg in 1887 and died soon after. He did not have time to publish the results of his ethnographic field studies, and some of his 160 works, left in manuscripts, were published later. The most interesting ones deal with ethnographic and anthropological issues concerning the population of New Guinea.
Oleksiy Fedchenko is less known than Myklukho-Maklay but he was also one of those Ukrainians who in the nineteenth century travelled far and wide. He was born in the city of Irkutsk, in 1844, into a Ukrainian family. After completing his studies at the St Petersburg University, he, accompanied by his wife Olga, travelled on exploratory missions to the Pamirs area. They explored the Holodny Steppe, the valley of the Zeravshan River, the Zeravshan Mountains, the Iskander-Kul Lake, the Eastern Kizil-Kum, the Alai Ridge, making several important geographical discoveries in the process. They studied the geological and climatic peculiarities of the areas they travelled through, did ethnographic studies of the people living in those areas, compiled collections of the indigenous plants and animals.

Oleksiy Fedchenko died a tragic death in November of 1873, when he made an attempt to climb to the top of the Mont Blanc mountain peak. His son Borys inherited from his father an urge of exploring, and together with his mother he made expeditions to the Tien Shan (1897), the Pamirs, the Fergana Valley and the Holodny Steppe in 1901-1915. Ivan Strelbytsky (1828-1900) should be mentioned here too as a prominent Ukrainian cartographer. He was born in the land of Poltavshchyna, into an aristocratic family. After the service in the army and studies at the Military Academy, he was promoted to the General Staff where he was commissioned to edit a new special map of the European part of the Russian Empire. It took four years to complete the work on the map, and in 1871 it was released on 152 sheets, printed in four colours. It was the first map of such a scale, and it included the European part of Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Finland (at that time, Ukraine, Poland and Finland were still part of the Russian Empire), the Caucasus, and the Urals. This map can be regarded as a considerable achievement of the 19th-century cartography. Ivan Strelbytsky also calculated the total area occupied by the European part of Russia (it took him six years to do it, from 1868 to 1874), and later by the Asian part as well. For his cartographic and geographical work he received awards from Russian and foreign geographical societies. Oleksiy Tillo, a prominent geographer, cartographer and land surveyor, was the one who gave names to many geographical features of Western Russia and Ukraine, among them: Valdai Hills, Serednyo-Ruski Hills, Volyno-Podilski Hills. He was born in Kyiv in 1839, into a family of railroad engineers. In 1859, Tillo finished a Kyiv cadet school, in 1863 he graduated from the Artillery Academy in St Petersburg, and in 1864 he studied at the Geodesy Department of the Military Academy at the General Staff. He took part in many expeditions to various locations in the European part of Russia, Siberia and central Asia in the capacity of a geographer, cartographer and land surveyor. His greatest achievement was a hypsometric map (relating to, or indicating elevation on a map) of the European part of Russia published in 1889. It was the first map of its kind that showed elevation correctly. For creating this map Tillo was elected a corresponding member of the Russian and Parisian Academies of Sciences. Feodosiy Chernyshov (1856-1914), another native of Kyiv, a geologist and palaeontologist by education, made himself known by his expeditions to and exploration of the Urals, the northern parts of Western Russia, the Donetsk area, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. His prospecting prepared the ground for the discovery of the Pechora coal deposits, Ukhtyn and Povolzhya deposits of oil, the Southern Urals deposits of manganese, potassic salt deposits in Solikamsk, rock salt in Iletsk, coal deposits in Kuzbas and Karaganda. Upon his return from his travels, Chernyshov set up a “Palace of Geology” and headed the Geological Museum of the Academy of Sciences turning it into a research centre. Hryhoriy Brusylov, an explorer of the North, was a Ukrainian, born in the city of Mykolayiv in 1884. His father was a naval officer, Levko Brusylov. In 1905, Hryhoriy Brusylov completed his studies at the Marine Corps School, and fought in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905. After the war, he joined the Baltic Fleet. Brusylov took part in expeditions exploring the North on icebreakers Taymyr and Vaygach. He had an ambition though to go across the Arctic Ocean on an expedition of his own. In spring 1912, he bought a schooner in Britain (for his uncle’s money) and on July 28 of the same year, he sailed from St Petersburg on a dangerous voyage. His schooner, St Anne, intended to move along the northern shores of the Russian Empire all the way to the Bering Strait, pass through it and head to Vladivostok, situated on the Pacific shore of Russia. But St Anne got only to the Kara Sea where it was beset by the pack ice. The crew found itself stranded without being able to release the ship out from the grip of ice. The ship slowly drifted with the ice field it was frozen into. When after two years of drifting, it became finally clear that no rescue was coming — no one on the mainland apparently had any idea where they might be — Brusylov ordered the navigator Albanov and 13 sailors to abandon ship and try to reach on foot the Franz Josef Land, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, north of the Novaya Zemlya, which they thought had to be somewhere to the south from their position. Three sailors, realizing they would not make it, returned back to the ship. The rest did get to the archipelago, but only the navigator Albanov and the sailor Konrad were alive when they were spotted and taken aboard St Foka, the ship captained by Sedov, an explorer of the North. Albanov also managed to preserve all the most essential materials pertaining to Brusylov’s expedition. Brusylov himself and the sailors remaining with him, eventually succumbed to the cold and starvation, and perished. We have deliberately abstained from mentioning any famous Ukrainian geographers of more recent times as it would take another big article to describe their achievements. Strange as it may seem, but it is only recently that we in Ukraine have begun to discover the names of Ukrainians of the past who contributed a lot to the exploration of the globe.

By Oles Ilchenko