Vladimir Obruchev

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Obruchev, Vladimir Afanas’evich


Born Sept. 28 (Oct. 10), 1863, in the village of Klepenino, in what is now Kalinin Oblast, RSFSR; died June 19, 1956, in Moscow. Soviet geologist and geographer. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1929; corresponding member, 1921). Hero of Socialist Labor (1945). Honorary president of the Geographical Society of the USSR (from 1947).

Obruchev graduated from the Mining Institute in St. Petersburg in 1886. He was a professor at the Tomsk Technological Institute from 1919 to 1921, at Tauride University in Simferopol’ in 1918–19, and at the Moscow Mining Academy from 1921 to 1929. In 1930 he became chairman of the Committee for the Study of Permafrost, and in 1939, director of the Institute of Geocryology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. From 1942 to 1946 he served as academician-secretary of the department of geological and geographical sciences of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

Obruchev is a well-known researcher on the geology of Siberia and Central and Middle Asia. In the 1880’s and 1890’s he was associated with the planning for the Transcaspian and Trans-Siberian railroads. The results of his work of many years are set forth in the three-volume monograph The Geology of Siberia (1935–38) and in The History of the Geological Investigation of Siberia (vols. 1–5, 1931–59).

Obruchev’s major works are concerned with both theoretical and practical problems. He studied, for example, the origin of loess in Central and Middle Asia, distinguishing primary loess, which is of exclusively eolian origin, and secondary loess-like deposits, which are diverse in origin. He investigated glaciation and permafrost in Siberia, treating such topics as glacial deposits, types of glaciation, and the distribution of glaciers in the Pleistocene. Obruchev’s contributions to the general study of tectonics and the tectonic structure of Siberia include the validation of the concept of vertical movements of the earth’s crust and the role of these movements in the formation of the modern relief of Siberia; in conjunction with this phenomenon, he proposed the term “neotectonics.” He also studied the geology of gold deposits in Siberia, summarizing the data on their location and predicting the outcome of explorations for gold placers. He took part in the debate over the existence of E. Suess’ hypothetical “ancient crown of Asia.”

Obruchev is the author of numerous popular-science works, including Formation of Mountains and Ore Deposits (1932) and Principles of Geology (1944). He also wrote the textbooks Field Geology (vols. 1–2, 1927) and Ore Deposits (parts 1–2, 1928–29), as well as science-fiction novels, the best-known of which are Plutonia (1915; published 1924), The Land of Sannikov (1924; published 1926), Gold Prospectors in the Desert (1928), and In the Wilds of Central Asia (1951). For his works on the study of Central Asia, Obruchev was awarded the N. M. Przheval’skii Prize, the large gold medal of the Russian Geographical Society, and two P. A. Chikhachev prizes from the French Academy of Sciences (1898 and 1925). In 1947, Obruchev was awarded the first A. P. Karpinskii Gold Medal. He received the V. I. Lenin Prize in 1926 and the State Prize of the USSR in 1941 and 1950. He was awarded five orders of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, and a number of medals.

A mountain range in the Tuva ASSR has been named after Obruchev, as well as a mountain in the upper Vitim River, an oasis in Antarctica, and other natural features. The mineral obruchevite, (Y, U, Ca) 2–xNb2O6(OH), a hydrated, uranoyttric variety of pyrochlore, is also named after him. In 1938 the Academy of Sciences of the USSR established the V. A. Obruchev Prize for the best studies of the geology of Siberia.


Izbrannye raboty po geografii Azii, vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1951.
Izbr. trudy, vol. 1. Moscow, 1958.


Vladimir Afanas’evich Obruchev. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946. (AN SSSR: Materialy k biografii uchenykh SSSR; Seriia geologicheskikh nauk, vol. 6.)
Varsanof’eva, V. A. “Pamiati Vladimira Afanas’evicha Obrucheva.” Biul. Moskovskogo ob-va ispytateleiprirody. Otdel geologicheskii, 1956, vol. 31, no. 5.
Postupal’skaia, M., and S. Ardashnikova. Obruchev. Moscow, 1963.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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