the study of frozen rock, soils, and ground. It deals with the origin, historical development, and conditions of existence of frozen strata in the earth’s crust; the processes and phenomena that occur in freezing, frozen, and thawing rock, soils, and ground, as well as their structure, composition, and properties; and the geophysical, physicogeological, geomorphological, and hydrogeological phenomena related to the processes of the freezing, thawing, and diagenesis of frozen strata. In addition to developing the theory of such processes, geocryology deals with the development of methods of influencing processes of freezing in the interests of construction, transportation, agriculture, and other activities. In this connection, two main directions or branches are developing—general geocryology and engineering geocryology, which has practical significance.

The study of frozen ground as an independent branch of knowledge of frozen rock, soils, and ground took shape in the USSR in the 1920’s at the interface of the geological, geographical, geophysical, and engineering-technical disciplines. The main credit for the establishment of the study of frozen ground in the USSR belongs to M. I. Sumgin. As science developed, the terms “frozen ground” and “permafrost” were criticized as ambiguous. In the 1950’s the V. A. Obruchev Institute for the Study of Frozen Ground of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR proposed that the name of the science, “study of frozen ground” (Russian merzlotovedenie), be changed to “geocryology” (geokriologiia); however, both terms still exist today.

Encompassing a broad range of questions, geocryology uses various methods of investigation—a complex of field (expeditionary) and laboratory methods of the geological, geographic, and geophysical sciences and the physical and physicochemical laboratory methods. Geocryology combines experimental research with theoretical and makes extensive use of mathematical methods. The importance of geocryology in the development of the productive forces of the USSR is determined by the expansion and intensification of national economic development of the northern and eastern territories of the USSR, which are in an area where permanently frozen rock is widespread. Many scientific and industrial organizations are carrying on research, including the Institute of Geocryology of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Yakutsk, the departments of geography and geology of Moscow State University, the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology (VSEGINGEO), and the Production and Scientific Research Institute of Engineering Prospecting of the State Committee on Construction of the USSR (PNIIIS) in Moscow.

The most significant research on geocryology abroad is being done in the USA (the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory [CRREL], with its scientific center in Hanover, N. H.) and Canada (the National Research Council in Montreal).

Scientific periodicals on various questions of geocryology include Merzlotnye issledovaniia (Geocryological Research; since 1961) and Trudy Severnogo otdeleniia Instituta merz-lotovedeniia im. V. A. Obrucheva (Transactions of the Northern Division of the V. A. Obruchev Institute of Geocryology; Syktyvkar, since 1960).


Shvetsov, P. F. “Soderzhanie i zadachi sovetskoi geokriologii.” Sovetskaia geologiia, 1958, no. 12.
Osnovy geokriologii (merzlotovedeniia), parts 1-2. Moscow, 1959.
Kachurin, S. P. “Merzlotovedenie (geokriologiia).” In the collection Sovetskaia geografiia. Moscow, 1960.
Dostovalov, B. N., and V. A. Kudriavtsev. Obshchee .merzlotovedenie. Moscow, 1967.
Popov, A. I. Merzlotnye iavleniia v zemnoi kore (kriolitologiia). Moscow, 1967.