Littell's Living Age/Volume 129/Issue 1669/Miscellany
< Littell's Living Age | Volume 129 | Issue 1669
In the obituary notice of the Imperial Geographical Society of St. Petersburg for the past year, a prominent place is accorded to Constantine Vladimirovitch Chefkin, who died at Nice last November. He rose to be minister of public works during the early years of the reign of the present emperor. But although most of his time was devoted to the affairs of State, Chefkin found leisure for scientific and literary pursuits. He was on the council of the Geographical Society from its foundation in 1846 to 1856, and subsequently became an honorary fellow. He contributed to its transactions an important paper on the mineral resources of Russia. Another important name is that of Timkoffski, the pioneer of Russian travellers in China, whose travels in Mongolia (1820-21) edited by Klaproth, were translated into English. He died at the ripe age of eighty-five, having been a member of the society since 1846. He has left behind him a name which Russians may justly be proud of, for his persevering energy and love of adventure were combined in a remarkable degree with high moral excellence. But death has been most active amongst the members of the affiliated society of the Caucasus, no less than three of its most distinguished fellows having passed away in the course of the year. The first of these, General Alexander Petrovitch Kartseff, professor of military tactics and chief of the staff of the army of the Caucasus, died at Karkoff at the age of fifty-nine. He was president of the section from 1861 to 1869, and took an active part in promoting its scientific undertakings. Among these were the 40-verst map of the Caucasus, a collection of statistics, works on geology, etc. With his name is associated that of Dimitry Elaitch Kovalensky, who acted as secretary and editor of the section's proceedings from 1861 to the year of his death. The reports and articles which emanated from his gifted pen embraced all branches of science. Lastly, the loss is recorded of Baron Uslar, a celebrated philologist. Among his earlier works was "Four Months in the Kirghiz Steppe," containing the result of his ethnological studies in that region. In 1850 he was transferred to the Caucasus and soon devoted himself with assiduity to the study of that interesting country. In 1858 he was commissioned by the emperor to write a history of the Caucasus; but the obscurity and incompleteness of existing information compelled him in his forty-fifth year to devote himself to the study of its languages, in order to discover and elucidate many important problems connected with its inhabitants. One result of his labours was the compilation of a grammar of the language of Abhasia, and this gained the Demidoff medal at the Academy of Sciences in 1862. After mastering the languages of the western Caucasus, Uslar turned his attention to those of Chechenia and Daghestan in the east, of which he also compiled grammars. These philological studies were not merely elementary, but also comprised the etymology, phonetics, and syntax of the separate languages. Thus he sought to lay a secure foundation for his great historical work; but this, alas, it was never his fortune to accomplish, and while deploring his untimely loss, Russia may point with pride to the great services rendered by one of the noblest of her sons in the advancement of science in this remote part of her dominions.