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2015 | 60 | 3 | 55–66

Article title

Opisanie Zabajkalskiej Krainy w Syberii na tle XIX-wiecznej literatury geograficznej


Title variants

Description of the Zabajkale Region in Siberia against a background of the 19th-century geographical literature

Languages of publication



The purpose of this publication is to present Agaton Giller as a Zabajkale Region researcher. Earlier works devoted to him related primarily to his political activity during the 1863 uprising and his journalism in exile. In this paper special emphasis is put on geographical explorations and Giller’s observation touring, which are reflected in his writings from the period of his stay in Eastern Siberia. In addition, an attempt was made to locate Description of the Zabajkale Region against a background of contemporary geographical literature. Agaton Giller lived in Siberia from 1854 to 1860. He had been sent there by the tsarist authorities for illegal attempt to cross the border. Being formally a soldier, he was allowed to travel to Zabajkale. His trips served him as a source of environmental knowledge about the region. He also conducted meteorological and ornithological observations and watched the local flora and fauna. His additional source of information about Zabajkale was scientific literature. Giller benefited from articles published in a newspaper by a local geographical society. However, there were very few of them at that time. In the 19th century, geography emerged as a separate academic discipline and there were first departments of geography created at universities. Gradually, within the scope of geographical research, physical geography was emerging. Until mid-19th century, the topics in this field were dealt with mainly by geologists and naturalists. Much faster human geography was developed based on the study of transformations of settlement, economic development, transportation and communication. Three research areas were singled out: descriptions of travel, descriptions of economy and statistical descriptions of the region. The term “statistics” of the time related to records of natural resources and economic area. It often also contained information concerning biology, population, ethnography, economy and history. This way of description of geographic space influenced publications themselves: they were often a collection of dry facts and statements. Referring to the major nineteenth-century conventions in description of natural environment, Description of the Zabajkale Region can be classified as a statistical and economical one. This is due to the fact that the Giller listed a number of facts and information but did not try to analyze them in depth. He was not looking for complex cause-effect relationship, nor he attempted to explain the relationship between the individual components of the environment. The elements characteristic for propagated by Karl Ritter convention of regional description appeared only in the analysis of the impact of selected environmental factors on people’s lives. It can be assumed that this was not done on purpose. This information was placed by Giller quite randomly in different parts of the text and tend to refer rather to the ways of coping in extreme conditions. To sum up, it can be stated that Description of the Zabajkale Region is not a scientific monograph of the region. It omitted many important natural issues and developed marginal ones, concerning e.g. buddhism, or the history of Genghis Khan. This may be due to the fact that Giller did not have factual knowledge: he did not graduate from a university and did not receive proper education. However, it is still an interesting example of a study conducted by a Polish exile.








Physical description


  • Uniwersytet Warszawski Wydział Geografii i Studiów Regionalnych Zakład Klimatologii Warszawa


Document Type

Publication order reference


YADDA identifier

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