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Russian Geographical Society


The Russian Geographical Society is one of the world's oldest geographical societies, dating to 1845 ("Imperial Russian Geographical Society"). The name reappeared in 1917 after the October Revolution, only to be replaced by the "State Geographical Society" (19261938). After 1938, the organization became identified with the USSR until 1991, when it became the Russian Geographical Society again.

In 1917 the Geographical Society was composed of eleven subdivisions and 1,000 members. By 1971, membership had soared to 19,000 individuals, who sent delegates to an All-Soviet Geographical Congress held every five years. Between congresses, the affairs of the society were administered by a scientific council, selected by the delegates at the congress, and its presidium led by a president. Past presidents include Yuri Shokalsky, Nikolai Vavilov, Lev Berg, Yevgeny Pavlovsky, and Stanislav Kalesnik. Sergei Lavrov serves currently. By 2003, membership had again declined to one thousand.

In 1970 the Geographical Society, based in Leningrad, supervised fourteen geographical societies in the constituent republics, fifteen affiliates in the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (RSFSR), and approximately one hundred subbranches. Between 1947 and 1991, the society authorized discussion of more than sixty thousand scientific papers, the convening of a wide array of scientific conferences, and All-Union Congresses in Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev, Tbilisi, and several other Soviet cities. The Geographical Society also provided practical expertise and consultation to the Soviet government on issues pertaining to geography and regional development, and organized or sponsored twenty to fifty scientific expeditions every year. Society members were urged to popularize the results of their research at public meetings. More than fifty of the affiliates published their own journals, the most famous of which is the Moscow affiliate's Problems of Geography (Voprosy geografii , first published in 1946).

As of 2003, the Moscow affiliate alone could claim a mere 200 to 300 employees, who existed on paper only, coming to the offices in the affiliate's twenty-story skyscraper simply to retrieve their biweekly $35 salary. Former members provided consulting to the Russian government, while the more ambitious went into business.

See also: geography; imperial russian geography society


Harris, Chauncy D. (1962). Soviet Geography: Accomplishments and Tasks. New York: American Geographical Society.

Victor L. Mote

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