Atlasov Vladimir

The Russian explorer Vladimir Vladimirovich Atlasov made the first exploration and description of the Kamchatka Peninsula in 1697. Atlasov's first tour resulted in a new line of geographical discoveries in the Pacific Ocean and joined vast areas of the Far East to the Russian state.

A Cossack in the czarist army from the 1680s to the 1690s, Atlasov served in the southern borders of the Yakutia military establishment near the rivers of Maya, Uchur, Tugir, Gonama, and Ul'ya, where he collected Russian fur taxes (yasak) and built the winter quarters and fortresses. In August 1682, Atlasov joined I. Zhirkov's command, setting off for Uchur in southern Yakutia. The Cossacks' march was deemed successful because in January 1683, Atlasov had already delivered taxes that he had collected among the Uchur Tungus people to Yakutsk. From 1684 to 1687, Atlasov served in the May sky, Tugirsky, and Udskoi winter quarters, and in 1688-1694 he took his service on the northeastern rivers Indigirka, Kolyma, and Anadyr. On August 31, 1694, Atlasov arrived in Yakutsk. He presented a report on his five-year trip through Kolyma and Anadyr along with information about the Chukchi Peninsula.

On October 11, 1694, the Yakutia military leader I.M. Gagarin made Atlasov a Cossack pyatidesyatnik (a military leader of 50 or more soldiers). In August 1695, Atlasov received the appointment of a commander on the Anadyr River, and the same month he went to the Anadyr fortress for service. In mid-December 1696, Atlasov began his tour from Anadyrsk to Kamchatka along with 60 other Cossacks and a similar number of the Yukagir. They first reached Penzhina Bay by reindeer, where they imposed a fur tax on the Koryaks. In February 1698, the army subdued the Olyutor Koryaks and collected taxes from them. Before returning to Anadyrsk in July 1699, Atlasov's group moved along various routes throughout Kamchatka and reached the most southern part of the peninsula, the district where the Kuriles lived. Upon his return to the Anadyrsk fortress, Atlasov reported on his tour to Dorofey Traurnicht, the Yakutia military leader. He wrote that Kamchatka was populated by peoples unknown in Russia and that the region was rich in sable, fox, and beaver furs. He also reported on the Kuril Islands.

During his tour to Kamchatka, Atlasov heard from the indigenous people of Kamchatka, the Itel'men, about a prisoner-foreigner whom he wanted to contact. Atlasov did not, however, get his wish, as the foreigner spoke a language unfamiliar to both the aboriginals and the Russians. The Cossacks only understood that the prisoner's name was Denbei. Atlasov decided that he was "an Indian of the Uzakinsky State of the Indian kingdom." He subsequently brought the prisoner to the Anadyr fortress and then to Yakutsk. Later they ascertained that the foreigner lived in Osaka, a Japanese town, and was engaged in trade. A storm had carried his ship to the Kamchatka Peninsula where indigenous tribes captured him and his crew. Atlasov's report prompted Czar Peter I to order more Cossack tours to new uninhabited lands. The Czar further ordered Traurnicht to search for the silver and copper ores that the Russians coveted. Peter I wanted to meet the prisoner, and he sent a decree asking for the delivery of Denbei to Moscow.

Atlasov's narratives about the Kamchatka lands and islands, its nature and population, as well as the existence of the Japanese prisoner drew Peter's attention primarily because he was interested in conquering the Far Eastern borderlands of Russia. Atlasov was quickly fit out for return journey in which he led a new tour for Kamchatka. He earned the rank of Cossack leader for the first and successful Kamchatka tour. In April 1701, he left Moscow for Yakutsk. Along the way he was arrested for robbing a merchant's trade caravan and was imprisoned for five years. After a not-guilty verdict in 1706, Atlasov arrived in Yakutsk and traveled to Kamchatka the following year. Great changes had taken place during his seven-year absence: new fortresses had been established and the number of officials and trade people had increased. Cossacks routinely robbed civilians. Atlasov did everything possible to stop the tyranny and coercion, but such measures to bring order only enraged the Cossacks. In 1711, Atlasov was killed during the Cossacks' rebellion in Nizhne-Kamchatsk.

Shortly before his death, the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was writing an essay entitled "About the Russian conquest of Kamchatka," in which he compared Atlasov to a conqueror of Siberia, "Ermak of Kamchatka." Atlasov's name is commemorated in Northeast Asia as Atlasov Island in the Kuril archipelago.

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