Cover Osteuropa 5/2020

In Osteuropa 5/2020

An ice-free crossing via the North Pole?
The search for the north-east passage in the 18th century

Kristina Küntzel-Witt

Deutsche Fassung


For many years, Russia showed no interest in the possibility of creating a shipping route along the coast to Asia. It was only under Peter I that exploration began of the Siberian coast of the Arctic Ocean. The issue of a northern sea route began to be discussed, and the theory was developed that an ice-free passage across the Arctic was possible. This was based on the assumption that sea water cannot freeze, since the saline content is too high. The polymath Mikhail Lomonosov also promoted this hypothesis. In 1765/1766, he initiated Vasily Chichagov’s first expedition to the North Pole. When this attempt failed, the Russian Empire abandoned the prospect of developing a passage via the North Pole. However, this idea experienced a renaissance in western Europe during the 19th century.

(Osteuropa 5/2020, pp. 23–37)