Academician Chibilyov: “Explore your country, there will be enough discoveries to last you a lifetime!”

А.А. Chibilyov. Photo: press service of the RGS

The day of the international educational campaign "Geographical Dictation" is fast approaching. Alexander Chibilyov, a famous scholar of geography, steppe researcher, academician, told us about the opportunities offered by the campaign.

Alexander Chibilyov is vice-president of the Russian Geographical Society, academician, scientific supervisor of the Orenburg Federal Research Center. He demonstrates an unusual for a modern man fidelity to his occupation - for more than 65 years he has been learning the natural world and generously shares the results of his observations.

— Were there any projects like the Geographical Dictation during your studies?

— Of course, the modern Geographical Dictation is very good. But I owe my devotion to geography to a unique radio program broadcast in the 60s and 70s on Thursdays. The program was listened to from Kaliningrad to Chukotka, from Taymyr to Kushka (a village in southern Turkmenistan). In this radio show there were both geographic dictations and fascinating stories about wonderful places of our Motherland, which had to be decoded, learned, filled in the field journal and sent to Moscow by post. At the same time the participants could compose their own dictations and riddles. I can say that I have both my field journals and diplomas, about which the presenter spoke on the radio. The radio program lasted only 20 minutes. The task was recorded. And you had to decode the dictation without the Internet and solve a fascinating geographical puzzle.

— What do you see as the purpose of the international educational campaign “Geographical Dictation”?

— For those who live in Russia, the Geographical Dictation is first of all an opportunity to learn the breadth, diversity and depth of our country through geographical knowledge. On an international level, the event allows foreigners to get to know our country better.

— In preparation for the dictation, there are various contests whose participants aren't professional geographers generally. Do you think that even such a minimal contact with the Earth Science can be a starting point for a deeper learning of the world of geography?

— Geography is a field of knowledge which connects absolutely all people, not just those who are professionals in it. People who travel and read a lot sometimes know geography better than professional geographers. Undoubtedly, participation in contests and dictations attracts people to geography.

— Another significant date this year is the 310th anniversary of the birth of Peter Ivanovich Rychkov, historian, geographer, and organizer of the Orenburg region. He is considered to have been the pioneer of economic geography in Russia. Alexander Alexandrovich, how would you evaluate the role of Pyotr Ivanovich Rychkov in the development of geographical science in Orenburg?

— I think that we should not consider Peter Ivanovich's activity only within the borders of Orenburg and Orenburg Province. Yes, Pyotr Ivanovich worked in Orenburg for 43 years in various positions under nine rulers of the region. But his role in geographical, economic, and historical sciences goes far beyond the borders of the Orenburg region.

Firstly, the borders of the region, studied and described by P. I. Rychkov, covered a vast territory of more than 2.5 million km2, including the Volga, Southern Urals, Northern Caspian, Trans-Urals, a large part of Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

Second, he wrote a unique scientific work - a prototype of future monographs on geography as an explanatory note to the first atlas of the vast territory.

Third, for his work "Topography of Orenburg" and a series of articles he was the first in Russia to receive the honorary title of a Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Sciences.

Besides, Peter Ivanovich Rychkov wrote many articles on the economic geography of the territory, which are still relevant today, after two and a half centuries.

— The last question, many dictation participants are interested in the answer to it. How would you recommend preparing for the dictation? Does it make sense to study academic literature?

— I don't think you need to read anything before dictation. The field of geographical knowledge is so vast that no amount of geographical literature will help. I have been doing geography almost all my life and there is still a lot I don't know, I'm discovering the immense world. Write a dictation with pleasure, learn your country, admire it, so there will be enough to discover for the lifetime!