Libmonster ID: U.S.-1233


Candidate of Historical Sciences

Ceylon... With this word, a Russian person associates green hills overgrown with a tea bush, tea pickers with baskets over their shoulders and a smile on the entire TV screen of the owner of the Ahmad tea brand...

Meanwhile, earlier Ceylon, or modern Sri Lanka, interested our compatriots not only as a tea producer; rather, the first Russians visited the island long before the tea bush was grown there. And the island itself interested Russia for a number of reasons.

The first Russian to set foot in Ceylon was Lieutenant Yuri Fyodorovich Lisyansky. He was sent to serve in the British Royal Navy and visited India and Ceylon in January 1799. During his voyages, he kept a diary, or journal, as he called it, where he wrote down everything that seemed interesting.

Prince Alexey Dmitrievich Saltykov became the first Russian traveler, whose testimonies about his stay on the island were published first in French,and then in Russian. After retiring at the age of 34, he took up painting and arranged his life in such a way that his relatives began to call him "Indian". His heart's desire was to travel to India, where he went in early 1841. In March, he landed at Bombay, and then proceeded to Madras by sea, so that in early April 1841 he was able to reach the city of Madras. He was in Colombo for the first time.

During both the first and second trips, which took place four years later, Alexey Dmitrievich constantly painted landscapes, Hindu and Buddhist temples, pilgrims, merchants, beggars. He was the first to show Europe the Rhodian untouchables of Ceylon.

A.D. Saltykov went to social events in Colombo, and in the huts of the Rodievs, but he was more attracted to the "native Indian". He, like many other travelers of the time, often referred to Ceylon as "India".

In 1858, the island was visited by Fyodor Romanovich Osten-Saken, a geographer, naturalist, ethnographer, who repeatedly served as secretary, chairman of branches and assistant to the chairman of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society, statesman and diplomat. He was a member of Count E. V. Putyatin's Russian embassy to China, and on the way back he had already independently visited the Russian coast of the Sea of Japan and the island of Ceylon. Later, he published his impressions in Izvestiya Russkogo Geograficheskogo Obshchestva.


In 1869, the Suez Canal was opened. This event led to sea routes now passing through Point de Galle( modern Galle), Trincomalee, and Colombo. The distance between Odessa and Sevastopol and the ports of the Pacific and Indian Oceans has been reduced by three times. Increasingly, Russian ships entered the harbors of Ceylon to replenish coal, food and water supplies, and sometimes there were all sorts of other urgent problems, the solution of which the captains sought on land, in ports. There was a need to have a Russian consul in Ceylon.

At first, the duties of the Russian consul were assigned to foreign merchants living on the island, a practice that was generally recognized at that time. In 1882, the first Russian diplomatic representative in Point de Galle, Anthony Delmage, was appointed. The first Russian first freelance and later full-time vice-consul in Colombo from 1890 to 1897 was collegiate assessor Edmund Romanovich von Frisch. Since 1890, the seat of the Vice-Consul of the Russian Empire finally becomes Colombo.

Since the 90-ies of the XIX century, Colombo became a port where Russian ships called on their way from the European part of Russia to the Far East and back. In the report of Vice-Consul V. K. Schneider for the end of 1900-beginning of 1901, it is stated that up to 2 thousand Russian people passed through Colombo every week, 2 mainly recruits and contracted to work in the Far East.

Ceylon was important for Russia not only as an important port on the way from the European part of the country to the Far East and back, but also as a producer and supplier of tea, to a much lesser extent-other "colonial goods": copra, coffee, cocoa, ratan, and graphite. At first, all these goods came through the UK. In 1898, Russian merchants switched to direct purchases of tea in Ceylon. Representatives of the companies Molchanov, Pechatnov and K 0, Shcherbachev, Chokov and K 0, Tokmakov, Molotkov and K 0 and others settled in Colombo. This was the beginning of trade relations between our countries. Imports of Ceylon teas grew year on year. This was the beginning of the Russian colony on the island.

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A colony of Russians permanently residing in Ceylon, in the early 20th century. it numbered more than 10 people. At that time, this was a significant number, and taking into account the temporary residents and passengers of ships that made stops in Colombo, the number of Russians increased significantly. In 1902, the question of opening an Orthodox mission on the island was even raised, but the Synod refused. 3 The head of the colony was considered to be the Vice-consul (the Consulate General was located in Calcutta-T. Z.).

Who were these people, how did they live, what was their fate?

Unfortunately, these details are largely unknown to us. The staff of the Vice-consulate consisted of a vice-consul and a consular agent, but both positions were rarely occupied at the same time, and since 1910 the position of Vice-consul was performed by a consular agent. The position of a consular agent, sometimes with the definition of "non-standard", was performed mainly by representatives of tea companies that lived on the island: I. A. Shcherbachev and T. K. Chokov. The only consular agent sent from Russia in 1913 was Boris Petrovich Kadomtsev. The last report was made by him on May 14, 1917, but it seems that the Vice-consulate continued to function at least until the autumn of 1918. On November 12, 1918, the Omsk Provisional Government sent a telegram to the Consulate General in Calcutta asking them to send an estimate of expenses for the next year. Consul General V. V. Tomanovsky replied: "The maintenance of the consulate in Calcutta and the vice-consul is 300 pounds a month. In Ceylon, 25 pounds a month. " 4

Vice-consuls who served in Ceylon received a decent salary, but they had to live and work in unusual, hard-to-bear, and often simply unhealthy natural conditions.5 Of the five vice-consuls and three consular agents, one, V. K. Schneider, died the following year upon his return to Russia; the other, A. Y. Bulakh, went mad and was deported to his homeland accompanied by an orderly; T. K. Chokov committed suicide. Trifon Kirillovich settled on the island in 1898, founded his own tea trading company, successfully exported tea, tried to interest Russian merchants in trading with Ceylon, tried to establish exports from Russia himself, was an agent of the Russian-Chinese Bank, and more than once performed his duties in the absence of the vice-consul. In his suicide note, he wrote that he was aware of his incurable heart disease and did not want to suffer any more.6 In June 1899, after living in Colombo for about a year, Vice-Consul N. P. Danilov wrote to his friend that he was seriously ill, most likely it was consumption. The local doctor said he couldn't live in a humid climate. Nikolai Pavlovich asked a friend to help him transfer to a healthier place.7


So, with the opening of the Suez Canal and the development of commercial and passenger navigation to the Far East, more and more Russians visited Ceylon. Some people found themselves here by chance and, after staying for several days, continued their journey (A. P. Chekhov, M. G. Grebenshchikov, P. I. Pashino, etc.). There were also those who went to Ceylon to study its flora and especially the culture of the tea bush (V. A. Tikhomirov, A. N. Krasnov, V. I. Lipsky and many others), for studying Buddhism and worshipping holy places (hambolama Ch. Ureltuev, founder of the Theosophical Society H. P. Blavatsky, Professor of St. Petersburg University I. P. Minaev), for studying everyday life and collecting ethnographic collections (employees of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, spouses L. A. and G. H. Mervart) and, finally, just to visit this most interesting corner of the Globe, get new impressions (I. A. Bunin, K. D. Balmont, artists V. V. Vereshchagin, V. A. Vatagin, A. I. Kravchenko and others). And no one was left indifferent to this emerald island. Let us recall the cycle of poems by I. A. Bunin about Ceylon and his humorous lines in a letter to his friend the writer N. F. Teleshev:

 I live on Sandunov's shelf,  
 with pineapples and bananas in my hand.  
 Top fries, bottom steams... 
   I'm completely,  
 sorry, shameless: 
  just a helmet.  
 Snakes, tigers, Sinhalese 
  and elephants!  
 Give me back my  

In 1912, on the way from Odessa to the Far East, the then navigator and future writer Boris Stepanovich Zhitkov visited Colombo. He described his impressions of what he saw on the island much later, in 1927, in the story "Tikhon Matveich". A. P. Chekhov stopped on the island on the way from Sakhalin in 1890. The ship's stay was short-lived, while Chekhov was under the impression of the life of exiles and convicts, wrote the story "Gusev", one night the flood began, he had to move to another hotel 8. In addition to his impressions of Ceylon, Anton Chekhov brought a mongoose to Russia. Unaccustomed to the domestic environment, the animal broke dishes, gnawed furniture, and in the end it had to be transferred to the Zoological Garden. At the very beginning of 1914, three artists-V. A. Vatagin, N. F. Sheremetevskaya and A. I. Kravchenko, sent abroad by the Academy of Arts, decided to make a stop in Ceylon. The brightness of colors, light contrasts, and unusual architecture impressed A. I. Kravchenko. The result of this trip was numerous sketches of Kandy Lake, paintings "Landscape", " Ceylon. Fishing boat on the ocean", " Ceylon. Village street". The plasticity of forms and movements of the island's animal world can be observed in the following cases:-

page 65

later published works of the animalist V. A. Vatagin.

Representatives of the royal family visited Ceylon several times. Hunting with beaters for various kinds of game and large animals was specially arranged for them. The heir-tsarevich in 1891, making a trip to the East on the frigate "Memory of Azov", stopped on the island. He visited horse races, watched the domestication of wild elephants, and planted an iron tree in the botanical garden. And now in Peradeniya grows this sprawling tree, which is attached to a memorial plaque with the inscription in three languages: "Planted by the last Russian tsar in 1891."

Ceylon was a mecca for natural scientists of all nationalities. The famous Peradeniya Botanical Garden and tea plantations in the interior of the island were places of constant study of flora and fauna by Russian botanists, geographers and agronomists. When it was decided to start tea bush cultivation in the Chakva appanage of the Batumi district, the members of the integrated government agricultural expedition spent a lot of time in Ceylon, studying all the stages of tea bush cultivation, collecting leaves and processing them. Some came to study the tea leaf culture, others to collect collections and herbariums. And here there were many problems due to the humid climate of Ceylon: how to dry if any leather item without daily airing was covered with mold in a day or two? The so - called Russian method was used-a method of drying in soldier's cloth.

Everyone who visited Ceylon had an image of a paradise on earth, a luxurious garden with many exotic flowering and fruit-bearing plants, unseen not only in Russia, but throughout Europe. It was the lush vegetation that travelers noted as a distinctive feature of Ceylon. This is understandable if you imagine sailing from some European port to the Far East: the last stop before Colombo was Aden - desert, sand, stunted vegetation. Then - a few days of sailing in the open sea, often without much comfort. This is how Professor A. N. Krasnov, who visited many remote corners of the globe, described his stay on the ship: "The captain agreed to take me on board his ship only thanks to the paper I had from the agency. But he didn't know where to put me, and apparently didn't want to know. The steamer was crowded with people. There were so many people traveling from Vladivostok and Sakhalin to Russia that a good half of those who took 1st-class tickets could only use the table, but they were placed anywhere - either in the 3rd-class compartments or in the luggage room... The audience was the most mixed - people of the most diverse beliefs and upbringing. " 9 After such a journey, seeing the lush vegetation of Ceylon was a feast, the eyes resting on the green foliage, the sense of smell aroused by new bitter-spicy smells...

Since the beginning of the 1880s, more and more notes of travelers who visited Ceylon have been published in periodicals, published in separate books.10

Nature, its amazing colors, unusual for the European eye, landscapes were first of all striking and attracted attention, but Russian travelers were always interested in those who live on this land, the natives, as they called them. In the XIX - first half of the XX century. this word did not have a pejorative connotation, but only meant what was originally contained in it - "a resident of those lands."

Today, when modern vehicles can reduce distances by dozens of times, Sri Lanka continues to interest us as a kind of exotic, as a country of Buddhism, as a country of tea bushes and spices. The same thing that interested travelers of imperial Russia.

1 The firm "Delmege, Foresight & Co.", one of the founders of which was E. Delmege, still exists today. Now it is one of the largest companies with a variety of activities from tourism to ship charter.

2 Archive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire (hereinafter-AVPRI), f. 155,1-5, op. 407, d. 917, l. 10-11 vol.

3 AVPRI, f. 155,1-5, op. 407, d. 1168, l. 13-14.

4 Russian-Indian relations in 1900-1917 Sbornik archivnykh dokumentov i materialov [Collection of archival documents and materials], Moscow: Vostochnaya Literatura Publishing Company of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 1999, Doc. N 388.

5 Apparently, the climate favorable for plants and animals was not suitable for people who were used to harsher conditions, lower temperatures and lower humidity. The chief botanist of the Petrograd Botanical Garden, who visited many countries. And Lipsky, pointing out that Ceylon has a milder climate compared to India, and that many new arrivals consider this island a paradise, emphasized: "Such a temporary visit is one thing, but a longer stay is another. A temporary (short-term) visitor does not know or even often does not suspect a lot of tropical troubles like termites, mosquitoes, leeches (which sit in the grass and easily get under their clothes), various other unpleasant insects, snakes, etc., not to mention tropical rains and the associated pleasures, harmful climate, the well-known inconvenience to the body associated with such a bath temperature, in general with a complete change in the mode of life. All this is undoubtedly reflected and sometimes leads to diseases in the end "[Lipsky VI. Ceylon and its botanical gardens. St. Petersburg. Publication of the Department of Agriculture GUZ i 3. 191, p. 54].

6 AVPRI, f. 147, op. 485, d. 1128, l. 14.

7 AVPRI, f. 147, op. 485, d. 3378, l. 25-27 and vol.

8 In the hotel where A. P. Chekhov stayed, a memorial room of the Russian writer was opened several years ago.

Krasnov A. N. 9 Pod tropikami Azii [Under the Tropics of Asia]. 1956, pp. 223-224.

Vereshchagin V. 10 Mesyot na Ceylone [The 10th Month in Ceylon].

Grebenshchikov M. X. Pozdka na Ceylon [Trip to Ceylon]. St. Petersburg, 1886. N3.

Shcherbatova OA. Across India and Ceylon. My travel notes 1890-1891 with two additional chapters on religion and architecture of India. Moscow, Tipo-lithography of T-va I. N. Kushnerev and K O. 1892.

Yuzhakov S. N. Twice around Asia. Travel impressions. SPb. Tipo-lithography by B. M. Wolf. 1894.

Novitsky V. F. Po stranam poludennym (Po stranami poludennym (Pozdevye ocherki Egypt, Ceylon and India)]. St. Petersburg. Tipolithografiya NL. Nyrkina. 1908.

Zhirmunsky A. Around Asia. Travel essays, sketches, and notes. Japan, Burma, India, and Egypt. M. Tipolitografiya T-va I. N. Kushnerev and K. O. 1914.


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