Gavriil Ivanovich Tanfilev

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tanfil’ev, Gavriil Ivanovich


Born Feb. 22 (Mar. 6), 1857, in Tallinn; died Sept. 4, 1928, in Odessa. Soviet physical geographer, botanist, and soil scientist.

Tanfil’ev graduated from the University of St. Petersburg in 1883. He was a student of A. N. Beketov and V. V. Dokuchaev. In 1885 he began working in the land cultivation department of the Ministry of State Domains, participating in many expeditions to various parts of Russia. In 1895 he began working at the St. Petersburg Botanical Garden and at the University of St. Petersburg. In 1905 he became a professor at Novorossiia University in Odessa.

Tanfil’ev developed Dokuchaev’s teachings on natural zones. He studied the geography of marshes and the interrelation of tundra and steppe vegetation with the vegetation of the forest zone: he explained the treelessness of the tundra by bog formation on the edges of forests and the development of permafrost, and explained the treelessness of the steppe by the high alkalinity of the soil and subsoil resulting from the dry climate. He proposed one of the first schemes for physicogeographical regionahzation of European Russia in 1897 and of all Russia in 1903; he was the author of Geography of Russia (four books, 1916–24). One of the Kuril Islands was named in honor of Tanfil’ev.


Bolota i torfianiki Poles’ia. St. Petersburg, 1895.
Ocherk geografii i istorii glavneishikh kul’turnykh rastenii. Odessa, 1923.
Moría Kaspiiskoe, Chernoe, Baltiiskoe, Ledovitoe, Sibirskoe i Vostochnyi okean: Istoriia issledovaniia, morfometriia, gidrologiia, biologiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
Geograficheskie raboty. Moscow, 1953. (Contains a list of Tanfil’ev’s works.)


Belozorov, S. T. Gavriil Ivanovich Tanfil’ev: Geograf, botanik i pochvoved, 1857–1928. Moscow, 1951. (Contains a list of Tanfil’ev’s works.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.