«Сведения о климате, почве, образе хозяйства и господствующих растениях должны быть собраны…»: просвещенная бюрократия, гумбольдтовская наука и местное знание в Российской империи второй четверти XIX в.
The article is devoted to the history of the first climate and soil maps that were published in the Economic-Statistical Atlas of European Russia (1851). It examines the wider scientific and sociopolitical contexts, in which these maps were compiled in the Ministry of State Domains (MSD). The author emphasizes a key role played by “ministerial science” – academic committees and statistical sections in various branches of Russian civil service – as an institutional infrastructure for scientific research in the decades prior to the Great Reforms era. The article further examines the scientific underpinnings of the project demonstrating that the climate and soil maps, contrary to the prevailing opinion, were in line with the state of research in these fields in France and Germany. The conceptual framework provided by Humboldtian science perfectly fitted the pragmatic considerations of the “enlightened bureaucrats” at the MSD who were engaged in developing more efficient means of supervising state lands and natural resources. Finally, the article examines the interaction between the MSD in St. Petersburg and its provincial correspondents who provided field data for the maps. It analyzes in detail the nature of their interaction, demonstrating how local knowledge had to be transformed into scientific data for the success of the enterprise. Elsewhere in Europe and North America provincial amateur naturalists ensured the success of Humboldtian science by providing a stable “input” of reliable data, while at the same time their scholarly endeavors were essential for the formation of modern local and regional identities and for the rise of “civic science.” The article draws on these observations to argue against interpreting the compilation of climate and soil maps only as an attempt to make territory “legible” for the state. The dependency on local informants ensured that these and similar projects, even in the context of the Russian Empire, contributed to the making of modern civil society. In Russia, however, the key problem was the lack of amateur naturalists in the provinces who could have taken part in compiling the atlas. This was one of the major reasons why the MSD had to rely predominantly on its own personnel “on the ground” – a factor that gave the project its “bureaucratic” reputation.