Lev Semenovich Berg

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Berg, Lev Semenovich


Born Mar. 2 (14), 1876, in Bendery; died Dec. 24, 1950, in Leningrad. Soviet physical geographer and biologist. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1946; corresponding member, 1928). Honored Scientist of the RSFSR (1934).

In 1898, Berg graduated from Moscow University. From 1904 to 1913 he worked as a zoologist at the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. From 1914 to 1918 he was professor of ichthyology at the Moscow Agricultural Institute. From 1916 he was professor of the subdepartment of physical geography at Petrograd University. Berg was one of the organizers (1918) of the Geography Institute, which was converted in 1925 to a department of Leningrad University, where Berg headed the subdepartment of physical geography until his death. From 1922 to 1934 he headed the department of applied ichthyology at the Institute of Experimental Agronomy. In the years 1918–30 he was chief of the lake department of the State Hydrology Institute. From 1934 he was head of the fossil fish laboratory of the Zoological Institute. During the years 1940–50 he was president of the Geographic Society of the USSR.

Berg elaborated the study of landscapes and developed the teaching of V. V. Dokuchaev on natural zones in his works Landscape and Geographical Zones of the USSR (part 1, 1931; 3rd ed., 1947; part 2: Geographical Zones of the Soviet Union, 1952) and Nature in the USSR (1937). He studied the lakes of Western Siberia; the Aral Sea; Lakes Balkhash, Issyk-Kul’, Sevan, and Ladoga; and the Kokchetav Lakes in northern Kazakhstan. Some of Berg’s works are also devoted to the Caspian Sea and Lake Baikal. An expedition under Berg’s leadership to Issyk-Kul’ in 1928 revealed that the lake’s maximum depth was 702 m. He is the author of the monograph Aral Sea (1908), for which he was granted the degree of doctor of geography. To Berg belong fundamental works on climatology and paleoclimatology, including Climate and Life (1922; 2nd ed., 1947) and Fundamentals of Climatology (1927; 2nd ed., 1938). He also wrote works on geomorphology (he proposed the first scheme for regionalizing the topography of the Asiatic part of the country), on soil science (he proposed a soil theory of the formation of loess), and on paleogeography and geology.

Berg also worked on the history of Russian geography. His principal works in that field include An Outline of the History of Russian Geographical Science (up to 1923) (1929), The Discovery of Kamchatka and the Kamchatka Expeditions of Bering (1924; 3rd ed., 1946), Essays on the History of Russian Geographical Discoveries (1946; 2nd ed., 1949), and 100 Years of the All-Union Geographical Society, 1845–1945 (1946).

Of Berg’s numerous works in the field of ichthyology, the most significant are monographs on the fish of Turkestan (1905) and the Amur basin; on the cyclostomes, sharks, rays, and sturgeon (1911); and on carp (1912, 1914). His studies of freshwater fish were summarized in the monograph Freshwater Fish of Russia (1916; 4th ed. entitled Freshwater Fish of the USSR and Adjoining Countries, parts 1–3, 1948–49; State Prize of the USSR, 1951). Berg traced the history of the origin and distribution of freshwater fish and their zoogeographic regionalization. Of great interest are Berg’s studies of fossil fish. The results of many years of study on the anatomy and taxonomy of fish are set forth in the book Taxonomy of Present-Day Fish and Fossil Fish (1940). Also significant are Berg’s works on the bipolar and amphiboreal distribution of organisms and on winter and spring strains of fish.

In 1922, Berg promulgated the idealist theory of nomogenesis, which was subjected to serious criticism.

The following are named for Berg: a volcano on the island Urup, a peak in the Pamirs, a cape on Oktiabr’skaia Revoliutsiia Island (Severnaia Zemlia), and glaciers in the Pamirs and Dzungarian Alatau. Berg’s name is part of the Latin nomenclature of more than 60 a imals and plants. He was awarded two orders and also medals.


Izbr. trudy, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1956–58.


Pamiati akademika L. S. Berga: Sbornik rabot po geografii i biologii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1955.
L. S. Berg (bibliography). Moscow, 1952. (Materialy k biobibliografii uchenykh SSSR: Seriia geografich. nauk, issue 2.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.