Forgotten Hero: The Story of the Russian Robinson

Everyone knows the story of the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, who found himself on a desert island after a shipwreck. But few people know that a similar story took place in Russia.

In 1882 in the magazine “Russian antiquity” appeared a note about “Russian Robinson” – Sergei Petrovich Lisitsyn. This hereditary nobleman and graduate of St. Petersburg University was trapped on a deserted island off the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk. His story is full of adventure, survival and fortitude.

Sergey Petrovich Lisitsyn was born into the family of a Russian army officer and was raised by his aunt on the Sosnovka estate. He graduated from the university with a degree in mathematical sciences, but he was not attracted to teaching or scientific activity. He enlisted in the Life Guards Hussar Regiment and led a colorful life of a capital guard. But one duel changed his fate. After this incident, Lisitsyn accepted the invitation of a relative and traveled to Alaska.

However, not everything was so smooth. During the voyage Lisitsyn insulted the commander of the ship and was sent under arrest and from his cabin began to incite the guard sailors to mutiny. The captain ordered to twist the instigator, blindfold him and put him on a deserted shore.

When the prisoner freed himself from his bonds and tore off the blindfold, he saw a departing ship on the horizon. The noble captain left him not only suitcases with clothes, three pairs of boots, a tulup (the Sea of Okhotsk is not a tropical ocean), a pair of pistols, a checker, a dagger, a supply of sugar and tea, a gold pocket watch, a folding knife, a pood of breadcrumbs, and two flasks of vodka, but also writing utensils with a supply of writing paper, clean notebooks, a razor and a teapot, a firebrand, a supply of matches, pencils, paints, drawing paper, 2,800 rubles in credit tickets, and even 200 Havana cigars.

To all this was attached an excellent gun with 26 charges and a note from the commander of the ship: “My dear Sergei Petrovich! According to the Naval Regulations you should have been condemned to death. But for the sake of your youth and your wonderful talents, and most importantly, the good heart I have noticed, I give you life…. I sincerely wish that seclusion and need will correct your unhappy character. Time and reflection will teach you to appreciate my leniency, and if fate ever brings us together again, which I heartily wish, we will not meet as enemies. A. M.”

The nobleman Lisitsyn had never done anything with his own hands: in the estate he was served by serfs, and in the regiment he was tutored by an attendant. Knowing that the ship was sailing on the Sea of Okhotsk, he hoped that it was left on one of the pieces of land of the Aleutian or Kuril Islands. But he soon became convinced that his situation was worse than ever. He was caught by fate in the clutches of two seas. The cold Sea of Okhotsk was splashing in front of him, and behind his back there was a dense “green sea of taiga”. And in it – bears, wolves, lynxes, poisonous snakes…..

Within a week “Russian Robinson” made himself a house with a stove, made furniture. He made a slingshot, a bow and arrows (prudently deciding to save ammunition for the gun). And rightly so – in winter a hungry wolf pack was tearing into his house – he killed 8 predators at point-blank range with his rifle. And before that he shot a bear, providing himself with a warm coat and a supply of bear meat. I fished, collected and dried mushrooms.

But what is Robinson without Friday? On April 12, Sergey Lisitsyn was walking along the shore, assessing the consequences of spring storms, and saw a man lying down. Without strength and feelings. It turned out that Vasily, as the unfortunate man’s name was, was from a transport going to Russian America. The ship had sprung a leak, everyone had fled, and he and his son had been forgotten. They found the ship nearby. In addition to the 16-year-old boy, there were two sheepdogs, cats, 8 Kholmogorsk cows, a bull, 16 oxen, 26 sheep, food supplies, tools, barley and rye seeds, weapons, a telescope, two telescopes, a samovar, construction and gardening tools.

Seven months of loneliness had completely erased all the nobility from the “barin”. With such a household and two pairs of strong and skillful hands they not only renovated the house and bathhouse, but also learned to make butter, sour cream, cheese and cottage cheese. They plowed the field and harvested barley and rye. They organized abundant fishing of sea and river fish. We began to collect and process mushrooms, berries and forest herbs. In short, we lived as a labor commune.

Chinese smugglers tried to attack the commune from time to time. The ship’s cannon came in handy. One day, warships of the Russian Navy came to this coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, sent to protect our borders from uninvited Chinese guests. Russian sailors helped the settlers to repel the Chinese. In 1857 the writer Alexander Sibiryakov met with Sergey Lisitsyn, the hospitable owner of copper and gold mines in the Amur region. The latter had once found deposits of copper ore and gold, being alone. He was appointed by the government as a manager of these lands. Vassili “Friday” was with him. His son studied at Moscow University.

And both sons of the commander of the ship that once landed the troublemaker Hussar on the deserted shore studied at the University of St. Petersburg at Lisitsyn’s expense. Having become a rich man, Sergei Petrovich found the old man, escorted him to his final resting place and took upon himself all the cares of his children. The story of the “Russian Robinson” ended richer than literary. And more human.

Today, the story of Sergei Petrovich Lisitsyn remains a forgotten page of Russian history. It reminds us of the strength of spirit and human survival in the most extreme conditions. This story should be studied and remembered to inspire us to overcome difficulties and achieve the impossible.

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