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My Land

New exhibition at NB Gallery - My Land - paintings by Klim Chursin, Boris Kondrashin, Nickolay Chesnokov, Ivan Osipov, Pavel Chernov, Vasiliy Orlov, Marina Kozlovskaja, Viktor Letjanin.

27.11.2019 — 27.12.2019

Kamchatka (by Ciel Yogis)

In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Westerners and other outsiders were permitted for the first time in over half a century to visit Kamchatka, one of the most mysterious regions of the former Soviet empire. Kamchatka is a 900-mile-long peninsula roughly the size of California, yet only 400,000 Soviet persons were allowed to live there, and all with special military clearances. The reason for the secrecy was Kamchatka's far eastern location: A little bit west of the Aleutian Islands, the peninsula was just far east enough to eavesdrop on the United States during the Cold War.

It was not until 1724 that the Tsar Peter I of Russia commissioned the first official expedition to Kamchatka. His chosen leader of the expedition was Vitus Bering, a Dane who served in the Russian navy for 20 years. Bering was sent to discover whether there was a land bridge between Asia and America to the north, and although his mission did not achieve this particular goal, it was successful in bringing Kamchatka to the attention of the world's scientists.

Steller was the first to ignite an interest in the vast mystery of Kamchatka and the Bering Sea area, but the first full account of the peninsula was recorded by a natural scientist named Stepan Krasheninnikov. This Russian-born professor and explorer succeeded in describing the religion, myths and beliefs of the natives, their customs and their language. He experimented with the land by trying to grow grain, and lived in a house full of plant and animal collections that he studied. He got along extremely well with the indigenous peoples of Kamchatka, a friendship that was given full value in his book "An Account of the Land of Kamchatka," published after his death in 1755.

In Krasheninnikov's footsteps came the tyranny of fur hunters, aroused by the world's interest in this strange and vacant land. The peninsula's primary wealth lay in its sable, silver and red fox, kalan sea otter, fur seal and the brown bear. In less than 100 years, the seemingly inexhaustible resource of fur was nearly exhausted. By the mid 19th century, the kalans and walrus had nearly disappeared. Despite the overkill, the hunters only slowed their massacre in some places. Finally, in 1934, the Kronotsky Nature Reserve was set up by a natural conservation act. Today, it remains one of the largest nature reserves in Russia, covering more than a million hectares.