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Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Science

Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Science

Situated in St. Petersburg on the Spit of Vasilievsky Island in the building on the corner of the Birzhevaya Square and Universitetskaya Embankment of the Neva River is the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. All St. Petersburgers are familiar from their childhood days with this building because it houses the Zoological Museum. However not everyone knows that the Museum is an exhibition part of the Zoological Institute: the most interesting part of the tremendous scientific collections of the institute is put on display in the museum. Not everyone knows that the Zoological Institute including the museum is one of the oldest scientific institutions in the city. In 2002 the institute will become 170 years old although history of establishment of collections at the institute and the museum began much earlier, i.e. since the time of Peter the Great, who purchased exhibits for the Kunstkammer, the first Russian museum established by him in 1714. Zoological specimens were added to the Kunstkammer collection after Peter the Great. The first museum catalogue (1742) lists approximately 4000 representatives of mammals, birds, amphibians, fishes, insects and invertebrates, deposited in scientific collections of the Kunstkammer. The 18th century was the age of great expeditions including the famous academic expeditions of P.S. Pallas in the southern regions of Russia and Siberia. Information obtained in the expeditions provided the basis for many books including the famous monographs of P.S. Pallas ("Zoographica Rosso-Asiatica"), etc. and material collected in the expeditions was added to the «natural cabinet» of the Kunskammer. Extensive material collected during numerous marine and land expeditions of the early 19th century filled depository of the Kunstkammer and a necessity arose to establish specialized museums, a zoological museum among those.

The official opening of the Zoological Museum took place in July 1832, which is accepted as the time of its foundation. Later the museum was transformed into the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences.

Now, celebrating its 170th anniversary the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences summarises some results. Its scientific collections comprise approximately 60,000,000 items. These enormous collections became the basis for the development of a great number of fundamental scientific problems concerning the fauna of Russia and of the whole world, including such issues as species diversity of the animal world, its evolution and ecology.

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