9. No Squirrels in Crimea. Insights into the Natural History of Ukraine (ca. 1900)

Around 1900, advanced geographic knowledge and a further expansion of the railway network that had been laid down in Europe in the 1830s had made the territory of today’s Ukraine more accessible. This circumstance favored not only waves of tourism towards Eastern Europe but also the scientific exploration of the region. Beiträge zur Kenntniss des Russischen Reiches (45 vols. 1839­–1896), published by the Imperial Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences and considered the first scientific book series in Russia, is central in that respect. The contributions often resulted from extensive scientific excursions and the contributors were geographers, geologists, and ethnographers. Friedrich Theodor Köppen (Fjodor Petrovitj Kjoppen; 1833–1908), a member of the Academy, contributed particularly frequently from the standpoint of a zoologist and botanist. In two articles (1863), he dealt with the initially marginal question of the absence of the squirrel in the Crimea. The phenomenon had previously occupied experts for decades and led to different hypotheses. Köppen concluded that there never was a connection between Crimean and central Russian forests. The vast treeless steppe between these territories had prevented animal migration and led to the emergence of a unique ecosystem on the peninsula. In addition to the many voices that emphasize the specifics of Ukraine’s cultural history, Köppen argues for the country’s unique natural history. [TT]