Vitkovskii, N. I.

Nikolai Ivanovich Vitkovskii, ethnically Belorussian, provides a fascinating example of the political exile who remakes himself into an archeologist at the point of imprisonment, in this case one of the penal servitude camps along the Kara River system in Siberia. A participant in the Polish uprising of 1863, found himself in Irkutsk in the 1870s, freed but “he earned his bread doing the most menial, most difficult jobs.” The details of how he became a member of the East-Siberian Department of the Imperial Geographical Society are unclear, but by 1879 he was curator of the Society’s local museum and also participating in excursions to collect materials. He joined with the renowned geologist I. D. Cherskii, and developed new methodologies for understanding Stone-Age artefacts more closely integrated into their physical and geographical environments. An ethnographer as well, he collected materials on the “aborigines” of the region. He presented on this work at the 5th Congress in Tiflis. Sadly, Vitkovskii took his own life.