In the history of geographical discovery and exploration, a well-known cast of European characters and events takes center stage. While the importance of achievements by Columbus, Cortes, Pizarro, Magellan, Cook, Lewis and Clark, and Neil Armstrong remains unassailable, the participation of Russia in the European era of exploration, conquest, expansion, and colonization deserves equal attention. This study provides a narrative survey and critical analysis of a rich but overlooked tradition of geographical exploration by Russians and others in Russian service since 1580. Following Russian pioneers across Siberia, Alaska, Brazil, Hawaii and the Pacific, Central Asia, Australasia, the Arctic and Antarctic, and into space, this work introduces Russia into the history of world exploration and connects the Russian experience of exploration to Russian national identity past and present.
Brian Bonhomme is an associate professor of Russian and environmental history at Youngstown State University in Ohio. He is the author of several scholarly works on the environmental history of Russia.