Vladimir Arsenyev

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Vladimir Arsenyev

Vladimir Klavdiyevich Arsenyev, FRGS (Russian: Влади́мир Кла́вдиевич Арсе́ньев; 10 September 1872 – 4 September 1930) was a Russian explorer of the Far East who recounted his travels in a series of books — "По Уссурийскому Краю" ("Along the Ussuri land") (1921) and "Дерсу Узала" ("Dersu Uzala") (1923) — telling of his military journeys to the Ussuri basin with Dersu Uzala, a native hunter, from 1902 to 1907. He was the first to describe numerous species of Siberian flora and the lifestyles of native ethnic peoples.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lieutenant-colonel Arsenyev in 1917.

Arseniev was born in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire. His father, born a serf, became the chief of the Moscow District Railway. After a military education, Arseniev began his expeditions to the forests of the Far East. He lived in Vladivostok through the years of the Russian Civil War and was a Commissar for Ethnic Minorities (Komisar po delam inrodcheskim) of the independent Far Eastern Republic. After the Far Eastern Republic was absorbed by Soviet Russia in 1922 Arsenyev refused to emigrate and stayed in Vladivostok.[2]


Arsenyev and Dersu Uzala.
1956 Soviet postage stamp commemorating Vladimir Arsenyev.

Arseniev is most famous for authoring many books about his explorations, including some 60 works on the geography, wildlife and ethnography of the regions he traveled. Arseniev's most famous book, Dersu Uzala, is a memoir of three expeditions in the Ussurian taiga (forest) of Northern Asia along the Sea of Japan and North to Vladivostok. The book is named after Arseniev's guide, an Ussurian native of the Nanai/Goldi tribe. Eventually the book was made into two films, one by Soviet director Agasi Babayan in 1961, the other by Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in 1975. Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala won that year's Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film. The third book of Arsenyev's trilogy, In the Sikhote-Alin mountains, was published posthumously in 1937.

Arsenyev's books have been translated into multiple languages including English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, and more. The "Dersu Uzala trilogy" was first translated in 1924 into German as a two-volume set (In der Wildnis Ostsibiriens).[3] More recently, in 2016 an uncensored, annotated edition of 1921's Across the Ussuri Kray was translated to English.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Arseniev died in 1930 in Vladivostok at the age of 57. His widow, Margarita Nikolaevna Arsenieva, was arrested in 1934 and again in 1937 after being accused of being a member of an underground organization of spies and saboteurs allegedly headed by her late husband. The military court hearings of the case (21 August 1938) took only 10 minutes and sentenced her to death. She was executed immediately. Arsenyev's daughter Natalya also was arrested in April 1941 and sentenced to the Gulag.[2]


Arsenyev’s family home in Vladivostok has been made into a museum.[5] Arsenyev, a town located in Primorsky Krai, was named after him. In 2018 Vladivostok International Airport was renamed after him.[6]


  • "По Уссурийскому краю (Дерсу Узала). Путешествие в горную область "Сихотэ-Алинь" (Po Ussuriyskomu Krayu) (Vladivostok 1921), the first book of Dersu Uzala trilogy.
  • "Дерсу Узала Из воспоминаний о путешествиях по Уссурийскому краю в 1907 г. Владивосток" (Dersu Uzala) (1923).
  • "Dersu Uzala" translated by Malcolm Burr as "Dersu the trapper." Kingston, N.Y.: McPherson & Company, 1996.
  • "В горах Сихотэ-Алиня" (In the Sikhote-Alin Mountains), the third book of the Dersu-Uzala trilogy, published posthumously in 1937 [2]
  • "Мифы, легенды, предания и сказки народов Дальнего Востока" (Mify, legendy, predaniya i skazki narodov Dal'nego Vostoka) (Myths, legends, traditions, and fables of peoples of Far East). Monograph Series, International Institute of Ethnolinguistic and Oriental Studies (IIEOS), ISSN 1230-3283 ; 10, ISBN 83-902273-4-7


  1. ^ "Arseniev, Vladimir K(lavdievich) 1872-1930 | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Sergey Krivshenko. "Vladimir Klavdievich Arsenyev and his heritage" (in Russian). Vladivostok. Archived from the original on 13 September 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  3. ^ W.A. Unkrig. "Reviewed Work: In der Wildnis Ostsibiriens by Wladimir K. Arsenjew". JSTOR 40445084. Retrieved 29 January 2021. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Michelle Nijhuis. "A Fuller Vision of Russia's Far East". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 2 January 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  5. ^ "Retracing one explorer's path-breaking journey through the Russian Far East". Russia Beyond. 26 October 2016.
  6. ^ "The airport is named after Vladimir Arsenyev". Vladivostok International airport. Archived from the original on 2 January 2021.

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