Yuri Isakov

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Yuri Andreyevich Isakov (25 January 1912 - 25 October 1988) was a Russian professor of zoology who specialized in waterbirds and pioneered wetland conservation in the Soviet Union.

At school, Isakov was a member of the Young Biologists' Club at the Moscow Zoological Garden with Professor Petr A. Manteifel as a mentor. Isakov was refused entrance to Moscow University as his father, a mathematician, came from an aristocratic background. He then worked as a guide at the zoo and in 1933 he was successful in becoming a student of biology, studying the reproduction of the red squirrel. He was influenced by Alexander Formosov. In 1934 he was imprisoned and sent into exile in Karelia. The cause was apparently a politically critical poem written by a member of the Young Biologists' Club. The NKVD interrogated members and 13 persons were sent to a labour camp, accused of counter-revolutionary activities. He too was considered guilty for not recognizing the political crimes of others and for not denouncing them. In prison, he was involved in hunting squirrels for their pelt. He was released in 1937 but forbidden to take up permanent residence anywhere within 100 kilometres of Moscow. He then travelled through the steppe to Hasan-Kuli on the Caspian coast and found work in a nature reserve (zapovednik) in Turkmenistan. Here he studied waterbirds. In 1940 he married zoologist Olga Nikolayevna Sassonova. In 1941 he joined the army at a medical station to work on ticks to prevent tularemia in the Siberian Tomsk. He contracted tuberculosis and became seriously ill during this period but recovered. He also continued studies through correspondence courses at the Moscow University and completed his examination in 1944. After the Second World War he became director of the Volga Delta Nature Reserve in Astrakhan and in 1947 he studied the effects of damming of the Volga and Sheksna with the creation of the Rybinsk Reservoir. He authored parts of the Birds of the Soviet Union[1] dealing with the Anseriformes. In 1953, after Stalin's death, he was permitted to return to Moscow and in 1961 he was rehabilitated and was able to obtain a doctorate in 1963. From 1958 he worked on biogeography under A.N. Formozov. In 1967 he was appointed professor. Along with Boris N. Bogdanov, he worked on conservation initiatives.[2] He was a corresponding member of the British Ornithologists' Union from 1976. His son Alexey Yurievich Isakov (1952–2001) was a noted zoological artist.[3][4]


  1. ^ Isakov, Y A.; Ptushenko, E.S. (1952). Order Anseriformes. Ptitsy Sovetskogo Soyuza. Volume 4 (in Russian). Moscow: Sov. Nauka. pp. 250–640.
  2. ^ Nowak, Eugeniusz (2018). Biologists in the Age of Totalitarianism: Personal Reminiscences of Ornithologists and Other Naturalists. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 53–60.
  3. ^ Olney, Peter (2008). "British Ornithologists' Union Report of the Council for 1976 the Year's Work". Ibis. 119 (3): 433–436. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1977.tb08264.x.
  4. ^ Злотин Р. И.; Флинт В. Е.; Тишков А. А.; Панфилов Д. В. (2018). "Памяти Юрия Андреевича Исакова] (1912—1988)". Русский орнитологический журнал (in Russian). 27 (1592): 1617–1622.