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Lisianski, Yuri Fedorovich

Lisianski, Yuri Fedorovich (1773-1837)

Best known for his involvement in the first Russian round-the-world voyage, Yuri Lisianski was a naval officer and explorer. Born in Nezhin (nowadays Ukraine) and educated in St. Petersburg, he saw his first naval battle at the age of 15, when he served as a naval cadet on a Russian warship during the Swedish war. In 1793, he was sent to serve in the British fleet. Over the next four years he participated in a number of British naval campaigns, sailing to North America, Africa and India. In 1802, he was tasked with purchasing two ships for the first Russian round-the-world voyage from St. Petersburg to Alaska. Designed with the objective to open a direct line of supply between the Russian capital and American colonies and exploring new avenues for trade, this expedition also pursued many scientific goals, including compiling a visual record of the voyage.

According to the Russian archival sources, the expedition had two official artists - Stepan Kurliandtsev and Vasili Prichetnikov. Both were distinguished graduates of the Russian Academy of Art. Prichetnikov, however, received a different appointment shortly before the expedition’s departure. Kurliandtsev left St. Petersburg on the Nadezhda captained by I. F. Kruzenshtern. On route to Kamchatka, a conflict arose between Kruzenshtern and N. P. Rezanov, the appointed leader of the expedition, resulting in a mutiny. During the government investigation in Petropavlovsk, a number of crew members were removed from the expedition, including Kurliandtsev. The role of expedition artist was then delegated to Wilhelm Gottlieb Tilesius von Tilenau, the naturalist and doctor aboard of Kruzenshtern’s ship. In addition to his degree in medicine with specialisation in skin and veneral deseases, Tilesius was a trained artist. His sketches and watercolors were made into engravings illustrating Atlas k puteshestviyu vokrug sveta kapitana Kruzenshterna [Atlas illustrating the round-the-world voyage of the Captain Kruzenshtern], published in St. Petersburg in 1813. Since Kruzenshtern did not sail to North America, none of these images pertain to Alaska.

Neither archival nor published records contain any information about the presence of an artist aboard Lisianski’s ship Neva, which called to Peter and Paul Harbor on Kodiak Island, and then proceeded to Sitka, where it played a key role in re-establishing Russian presence in Southeast Alaska. The images accompanying Lisianski’s Travel around the world on the ship Neva were based on his sketches and drawings, several of which are included in the ship’s logs. Lisianski assembled an impressive collection of Alaskan material, including charts and ethnographic collections from Kodiak and Sitka, and returned to the Russian capital in July 1806.

After the voyage, Lisianski commanded ships in the Baltic Sea. He retired from active service in 1809 and occupied himself with preparing his notes about the voyage for publication. The Admiralty turned down his manuscript three times on the ground of many errors in the Russian language. He finally self-published both the textual account and atlas in 1812, and then translated his Voyage round the world into English. The book was published in London in 1814. Lisianski died in 1837 and was buried in the Aleksandr-Nevski Lavra, St. Petersburg.


Sources and literature:

Krusenshtern, A. J. Voyage round the world, in the years 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806. London 1813.

Lisianski, Y. F. Sobranie kart I risunkov prinadlezhaschih k puteshestviyu flota kapitana 1-go ranga I kavalera Yuriya Lisyanskogo na korable Neve [Collection of charts and drawings belonging to the Voyage of the Captain of the first class and cavalier Yurii Lisianski], St. Petersburg, 1812.

Lisiansky, Urei. Voyage Round the World in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806. London: Printed for J. Booth 1814.

Russian State Historic Archive, document 468 -1-2-3920, O naznachenii zhalovaniya khudozhnikam Prichetnikovu I Kurlyandtsevu na vremya uchastiya v Krugosvetnoi ekspeditsii Rezanova I obraschenii zhalovaniya v pension posle vozvrascheniya iz ekspeditsii [About assigning salary for artists Prichetnikov and Kurlyandtsev during their participation in the round-the-world voyage, and making it into a pension upon their return from the expedition], 1803.

Tilesius, V.G. Atlas k puteshestviyu vokrug sveta kapitana Kruzenshterna. [Atlas for the Captain Kruzenshtern’s travels around the world]. St. Petersburg, 1813.