About this Project
Vladimir A. Petrushevsky (1891-1961) was a Hussar (light cavalry) for the Russian Tsar during World War I, a colonel for the Kolchak Army during Russia’s Civil War, a poet, a talented sketch artist, and—most notably—the first Russian volcanologist. Yet, Petrushevsky never stepped foot on a Russian volcano and he was also essentially unknown to the Soviet history of science. This was because in 1920 he emigrated from his native Russia as a White Army (anti-Bolshevik) officer, never to return.
When Petrushevsky left Russia on a steamship headed for Java (then a Dutch colony; present day Indonesia), it just so happened that he landed in one of the most volatile volcanic regions of the world. Though he had no training in geology, his experience with camp life and instruments made him well suited for a job at the Dutch Volcanological Services. Between 1921 and 1950, Petrushevsky went on nearly 300 expeditions and was responsible for monitoring 130 volcanoes, his main jobs being to observe, record, and report on volcanic behavior, as well as to make evacuation recommendations for local populations. Petrushevsky was at work on the volcanoes of the Indonesian Malay Archipelago a full decade before the Soviet Union launched its first expedition to the Kamchatka Peninsula (Russian Far East) in 1931. Though he spent the majority of his life living and working in Dutch territory and, later, in retirement in Australia, he never took the citizenship of either, remaining until his death a citizen of an empire that no longer existed.
The documents presented on this site have been translated from the Russian by Dickinson College students. This work was completed, in close consultation with the professor and outside experts, as part of Prof. DeBlasio’s regular Workshop in Translation in the Russian Department. We are very grateful to Marina Belousova and Alexander Belousov (Institute of Volcanology and Seismology) for their generosity in sharing materials and their invaluable assistance with translation. We have also been lucky to benefit from the geological expertise of Ben Edwards (Dickinson College) in translating technical passages. We are especially grateful to Sergei Petroeschevsky for access to the Petrushevsky family archives and for permission to host them here.