Thursday, September 10, 2015


A 17th-century koch in a museum in Krasnoyarsk. Kochs were the earliest icebreakers and were widely used by Russian people in the Arctic and on Siberian rivers.

(c. 1610–1667), adventurer, explorer of Siberia.

Born in Vologda region, Yerofei Khabarov began his career managing a saltworks for the famed Stroganov clan. He traveled throughout western Siberia in the 1620s. He moved on to the Yenisei River, then the Lena, in the 1630s. He invested in farmlands and local saltworks. He also developed useful ties to Vasily Poyarkov, the administrator of Yakutsk and an early explorer of the Amur River basin.

In 1649 Khabarov turned to exploration. His goal was to follow up on Poyarkov’s earlier forays into the Amur region, seeking an easier and more reliable route than Poyarkov had been able to find. In March, Khabarov left Yakutsk with 150 men, following the Olekma River.

Over the winter of 1650, Khabarov crossed the Yablonovy Range, reaching the Amur River soon after. He ruthlessly pacified the local tribe, the Daurs. He also established a garrison on the Amur. In his reports to Yakutsk and Moscow, Khabarov advocated conquest of the Amur, both for the river’s strategic importance and the region’s economic assets: grain, fish, and fur.

In 1650 and 1651, Khabarov launched further assaults against the Daurs, expanding Russian control over the area, but with great violence. Khabarov founded Achansk, captured Albazin, and made his way down the Amur until the summer of 1651. By this point, he was encroaching on territory that China’s recently founded Manchu (Qing) Dynasty considered to be its sphere of influence. When the Daurs appealed to China for assistance, the Manchus attacked Achansk in the spring of 1652. Khabarov’s garrison was forced to withdraw, but for the moment, the Manchus did not press their advantage. Nonetheless, Russia and China would engage in many frontier struggles until the signing of the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689).

Meanwhile, word of Khabarov’s cruel treatment of the Daurs reached Russian authorities, and he was arrested in the fall of 1653. Khabarov was put on trial, but his services were considered valuable enough to have outweighed the abuses he had committed. He was exonerated and placed in command of the Siberian fortress of Ilimsk. In 1858 Russia’s new city at the juncture of the Amur and Ussuri rivers, Khabarovsk, was given his name.

Bassin, Mark. (1999). Imperial Visions: Nationalist Imagination and Geographical Expansion in the Russian Far East, 1840–1865. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Bobrick, Benson. (1992). East of the Sun: The Epic Conquest and Tragic History of Siberia. New York: Poseidon.
Lincoln, W. Bruce. (1993). Conquest of a Continent: Siberia and the Russians. New York: Random House.

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