On the 140th anniversary of the birth of Evgeny Suvorov (1880-1953)
24 Jan — 2020
On the 140th anniversary of the birth of Evgeny Suvorov (1880-1953)

This year marks 140 years since the birth of the outstanding zoologist Evgeny Konstantinovich Suvorov. Since 1910, the scientist has been a consultant and member of commissions on hunting and fishing issues in the external and internal water bodies of Russia. Research materials from the Commander Islands provided the basis for an international agreement on the protection of marine mammals in the North Pacific. His publications have not yet lost relevance and are basic for many island researchers. 

Evgeny Konstantinovich was born in St. Petersburg on January 14/26, 1880. In 1903, he graduated from the Physics and Mathematics Department of St. Petersburg University and was left in the Department of Vertebrate Zoology. Since 1904 Suvorov took part in various scientific and harvesting expeditions to study fish and marine mammals of the Caspian, White, Baltic and Far Eastern seas, as well as the country's inland water bodies.

In 1988, Evgeni Konstantinovich received an offer from the Department of Agriculture to study the natural resources of the Commander Islands and with "great pleasure" responded to it positively. The main object of research was the production of fur, in particular, the fur seal industry. The researcher spent his first field season alternately on both islands - Bering and Medny. The scientist successfully combined the data of publications of earlier authors, reports, diary entries of Aleut hunters with his own field observations. The summarized material formed the basis of the book "Commander Islands and local fur trade" (1912).

Among other things, he noted that most of the earthquakes had a southwestern direction of shocks. One of them, which occurred on July 20, surprised everyone by the fact that having a considerable force on Bering Island,  it was not recorded on Kamchatka. The scientist was one step away from determining the probable epicenter (a subduction zone located between the peninsula and the Commander Islands), but did not dare to develop a bold conjecture and mistakenly connected the earthquakes with Kamchatka volcanoes.

Having chosen several free days, Suvorov visited Bering’s grave: “On a steep mountainside, at the mouth of the river, a hundred fathoms from the seashore, amidst thick grass, there is a simple, wooden, rickety, rotted cross. It is believed that approximately here rest the remains<...> Complete desert is around. <...> Silence, stillness... Only endless clouds of mosquitoes fill the air with buzzing and a lonely blue arctic fox, surprised by the unusual presence of a person, stops a few steps from me and tries to drive me away with its barking cry. "

Considering the position of the fur trade, it turned out to confirm a sad fact: the number of beavers (sea otters) and fur seals decreased with rapid speed. The rookeries were disappearing one after another, the haulouts of fur seals became nearly insignificant. The main reason for what happened was poaching of foreign ships. One summer, 5 attacks were made and the scientist witnessed how the Nerpichy Kamen site (the last remnant of the once rich Korabelnovsky rookeries) was completely destroyed. Many "predators" invaded the restricted 3-mile zone, landed ashore, and Japanese poachers even hunted arctic foxes and deer in the southern part of Bering island. Беринга. In a report read out on March 30 / April 12, 1911 at a general meeting of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society, Suvorov summarized: “An international agreement is urgently needed, or at least a separate agreement with Japan on the protection of fur seals, it is necessary to expand the zone forbidden for marine fishing, restriction ,if not the complete destruction of sea hunting for fur seals and beavers, careful protection of our islands and, finally, the long-term launch of the battle of fur seals on the rookeries themselves."

The second aspect that worried officials was the possibility of commercial harvesting of female fur seals. The almost complete absence of young males prompted the Department of Agriculture to grant permission to harvest adult females three times, the indicated number was obtained at the Urilye rookery on July 22 and August 1 (1017 individuals). Having calculated the damage, the specialist proved that this approach leads to the mass death of the cubs and is not acceptable in principle.

The next trip of the court adviser Yevgeny Suvorov took place in 1911. He held the position of Senior Fisheries Scientist in the Department of Agriculture. During this trip, special attention was paid to methods of counting seals.

First, in advance, before the animals came he divided Severnoye Rookery into sections, staining the stones in white and red and determined the number by area. Then he tried other methods used by the Americans on the Pribylov islands. But in the end, he refused all options, having come to the conclusion that, given the small number of animals, it is easier to count by driving away during the most populated period on the rookeries. Suvorov individually counted the pups, while each pup was picked up and transferred to another place, thereby ensuring absolute accuracy of the count. Calculation of harem and no-harem adult males, of course, is done daily at a distance. The method of one-by-one counting was used almost annually. In fact, it became the prototype of the practiced scare away counting.

In 1914, an article on whale and walrus hunt by Suvorov was published.  But he personally didn’t have a chance to visit the lands of high latitudes and had to use the survey data. The scientist believed that walruses had not been uncommon in Kamchatka and  Karaginsky Island too. If you believe the stories, in the 1880s they were hunted by thousands.  No one could provide accurate data on harvesting volumes, but it was clear that the number of mammals was rapidly declining.

In 1917, the five-year run of seals expired, and the authorities of St. Petersburg again raised the issue of allocating quotas for harvesting of young adult males. And Suvorov was sent for the third time to the Commander Islands. The scientist recommended to obtain exclusively 3-year-old males and simultaneously introduce their compulsory hot-iron marking(the first experiments on marking were carried out in 1912 by the auditor of the Amur Department of State Property Sergey Tikhenko, and in 1916, the senior ranger of Medny Alexander Chersky). The main purpose of this marking was not so much counting the animal as preserving the number of potential male producers. The brand made the skin unattractive and kept the animals alive.

This was his last trip to the islands. In the years 1921-1931,  Suvorov served as director of the Leningrad Polytechnic School organized at his initiative; since 1931 - professor at Leningrad University, and in 1949-1952 —the head of the department.  In 1935, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Biological Sciences. For many years Suvorov studied the most important commercial fish — herring, cod and flatfish. In 1920, he conducted experiments on artificial breeding of salmon; in 1948, he raised the question of expanding the list of fish used in fish farming.

The last publication on the Commander Islands, Evgeni Konstantinovich published in 1937. It is rarely cited, because, unlike earlier works, the article “Reorganization of the fur farm on the Commander Islands” does not contain a comprehensive analysis. On the one hand, the professor rightly noted that fishing was gaining more importance in the current period; on the other hand, in order to rationalize he proposed to relocate some inhabitants of Medny Island to the mainland, and some from Bering to Medny.  Беринга — на Медный. Obviously, it was these proposals, coupled with a number of other statements, that caused a wary attitude from the local population. Difficult relationships developed with colleagues. At the same time, Suvorov was the scientific adviser of Valentin Polikarpovich Khabarov, the first Aleut to receive a degree.

Natalya Tatarenkova, Head of the Department of Preservation of Historical and Cultural Heritage.

Заповедная Россия English

Заповедная Россия English