Department of Mineralogy
St. Petersburg University
St. Petersburg, the one-time capital of Russia, has long been the country's center of geological studies. The oldest and best mineral collections were established here, the first being the Mineral Cabinet (exhibition) in Peter's Kunstkamera, dating from 1714. This exhibition grew and evolved into the Mineralogical Museum of the Russian Academy of Science. In the 1930s, when all the best things were being gathered in Moscow, the collection was transported there in its entirety, and today it fills the famed Fersman Museum (address: Moscow, Lenin Prospect, 18).
Nonetheless, St. Petersburg remains a major mineralogical center. In 1773 the Mining Museum was founded at the Mining School in St. Petersburg. Its collection is a unique display of minerals from old Russia (address: St. Petersburg, 21 Line, 2). At about the same time, the mineral collection of St. Petersburg University, which this article will describe in detail, was begun. In 1914 a vast Museum of Applied Geology was created under the Committee of Geology of Russia (address: Central Museum of Geological Prospecting, St. Petersburg, Vassi-lyevskiy Island, Middle Prospect, 74) Supreme in beauty and craftsmanship, gemstone objets d'art from different times are on display at the Hermitage halls and at the former residence of the Russian czars, the Winter Palace. A brief description of these collections in St. Petersburg is found in Precious Stones, Ores and Minerals in Leningrad Museums by N. B. Abak-oumova, D. P. Grigoryev, and coauthors, published in 1982 in both English and Russian.
The history of St. Petersburg University began in 1724-the year that the Russian Academy of Science, University of Academy, Gymnasium of Academy were founded-but the special mineral collections were not begun until 1784. Subsequently, a beautiful museum in the Department of Mineralogy was opened to hold them. The department itself and the museum are located in the historical center of St. Petersburg at the Neva embankment. They are on the second floor of the 12th Ministries Building, which was finished in 1741 after almost twenty years of construction during the time of Czar Peter the Great. It was designed in the early baroque style by the architect D. Trezin to house the Senate, Ministries, and Synod, governmental institutions of the time. Later, the inside layout of the building was changed to accommodate the capital's university. The university has functioned there since 1838. Since then, the Department of Mineralogy and the museum have occupied the front rooms of the south wing. Their style, excellent collections, and beautiful view over the Neva, Admiralty, St. Isaak Cathedral, the Senate, and the Synod leave an unforgettable impression on visitors. The museum and the Department of Mineralogy are described in detail in History of One Mineralogical Collection (1993) by G. F. Anastasenko and History of the Department of Mineralogy of Leningrad University (1972) by S. M. Kurbatov.
The mineral collection of St. Petersburg University is housed in three rooms and several lecture halls. It exhibits 39,000 specimens from more than 900 national and 300 foreign collections. The systematic display includes 865 mineral types-among them kassite, cafetite, carbocernaite, natronio-bite, tetraferriphlogopite, armstrongite, bystrite, and olenite- discovered and described by department employees and graduates. There is also an exhibition of precious and semiprecious stones, including a collection of charoite and accompanying minerals that is inimitable in its completeness. This collection was assembled by M. D. Yevdokimov and the author, members of the Department of Mineralogy, and their students during long years of work at the charoite deposit in Yakutia (Siberia). The variety of this collection has repeatedly impressed visitors to the exposition in Hamburg and Marburg since 1991. (There is a special report on this collection in Lapis, 1993, no. 4, pp. 13-20.) It includes not only beautiful specimens, such as the beryls and topazes from the old and new deposits of Russia and the Ukraine, but also synthetic minerals, meteorites, typical associations of minerals, and material from different deposits.
For knowledgeable mineralogists the most attractive exhibits are the special collections of samples used for teaching aspects of mineralogy to students (physical properties, crystal growth, significant minerals, and famous deposits of old Russia and the former USSR). The collections from the traditional work areas of the department's employees-the Urals, the Baikal region, Yakutia, and Kola Peninsula-are the most complete. They include semiprecious stones, minerals of greis-ens, pegmatites, skarns, alkaline rocks, and earbonatites.
As G. F. Anastasenko notes in her book, Senator P. V. Zavadovskiy may be considered the initiator of this museum collection. It was at his request in 1785 that an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Johann Gotlieb Georgy (1729-1802), handed over 371 mineral objects to the newly created Mineral Cabinet. Georgy was born in Germany and studied in Uppsala, Sweden, where he attended lectures by K. Linnay. Georgy lived and worked in Russia from 1769 until his death, becoming a famous naturalist and ethnographer, a member of academy expeditions to Siberia, and the companion of P. S. Pallas.
The second major donation to the museum was made in 1795 by the Court Counselor, A. V. Razderishin (1754-1812). From a poor noble family, he graduated from the Mining School in St. Petersburg and then worked in Karelia, the Urals, and the Baikal region. It was in these places that he acquired his mineral collections, which he generously donated to various educational institutions in Russia.
Later came many other donations and acquisitions from collectors, travelers, mineralogists, chemists, natural scientists, and students and professors of the university. The collection of Archbishop Nile, consisting of rare specimens from Siberia, is outstanding in its completeness, variety, and beauty.
Over the years an impressive assemblage of minerals from famous collections of Russia and many other countries was formed. By 1828 the collection was so extensive that the museum was able to provide 850 items to the Alexandre University in Helsinki, which had suffered a fire.
Those interested in history will be enchanted to see the workplace of the academician/geochemist V. I. Vernadskiy (1863-1945), famous student of the department and curator of the museum, and his tutor-mineralogist and soil scientist V. V. Dokutchaev (1846-1903). A book by Dokutchaev, Russian Black Soil, was translated and published in the United States at the end of the last century.
Since 1990 the museum has been invited to display parts of its collections at mineral shows in Krakow, Warsaw, Prague, Hamburg, and Marburg. Some of the most interesting and unusual traveling exhibits have had the following themes: “The Best Minerals from Old Deposits,“ ”The Archbishop Nile Collection,” “German Names in the History of the Department of Mineralogy of St. Petersburg University,” “Charoite-Mineral from Siberia,” “Europe Has Invited the Urals,” and “Minerals from the Trans-Baikal Mountains.” All of them were noted for their beautiful specimens and enjoyed great popularity. Undoubtedly, a visit to the Mineralogical Museum of St. Petersburg University will bring even greater joy to any connoisseur of fine mineral specimens and objets d'art.
Andrei Bulakh is a professor in the Department of Mineralogy at St. Petersburg University.
ROCKS & MINERALS Volume 71, May/June 1996, 187-190 p.