This year marks the 160th anniversary of the outbreak of the January Uprising – the Polish revolt against the Russian Empire aimed at regaining independence. On 22 January 1863, the Provisional National Government issued a Manifesto announcing the outbreak of the uprising, calling for the enfranchisement of peasants and the abolition of serfdom.

After the Uprising’s collapse, the wave of Russian repression against the Poles intensified. Between 1860 and 1868, nearly 20,000 people were exiled to Eastern Siberia.

Benedykt Dybowski (1833–1930). Archives MiIZ PAN.

Benedykt Dybowski is a symbolic figure both as a scientist, naturalist, and also as a patriot. Fate decreed that the two greatest passions of this brilliant scientist – a love of his homeland and nature – would become interwoven and would endure throughout his 97 years of a very rich and active life.


Władysław Taczanowski (1819–1890). Archives MiIZ PAN.

Dybowski spent only two years in Warsaw (1862–1864), where he was a professor in the Department of Zoology at the Main School, at which time he befriended Władysław Taczanowski, the custodian of the Zoological Cabinet. The Cabinet served as a scientific laboratory and, at the same time, as a zoological museum subordinated to Dybowski, whose career as a university professor was disrupted by his arrest on 26 March 1864, imprisonment in the 10th Pavilion of the Warsaw Citadel and, finally, exiled to Siberia combined with hard labour.


Vertebrate collection of the Warsaw Zoological Cabinet. (4a) Saiga antelope, in which B. Dybowski hid documents relating to the January Uprising.

In his memoirs, Benedict Dybowski described two events that took place just before his arrest in 1864: in a stuffed specimen of a Saiga antelope (i.e. an antelope found on the Mongolian Steppe) he hid secret documents relating to the January Uprising, and sewed an insurgent seal in a stuffed heron.


X-rays of ‘Dybowski’s heron’. Laboratory of the Zoological Museum of MiIZ PAN.

Dybowski’s account shows that the documents and the seal were removed from the exhibits, but the heron was examined (X-rayed), mainly to confirm the possibility of using it to hide the seal. In the nineteenth century, the technique used for preparing scientific specimens was based on constructing metal cages and covering them with the skins thereby making it possible to prepare hiding places in museum exhibits.


From the left: Antoni Waga (1799–1890), Konstanty Branicki (1824–1884), Władysław Taczanowski (1819–1890). Archives MiIZ PAN.

Władysław Taczanowski cooperated with the Branicki family, whose members were generous patrons of the Cabinet, and also acted as intermediaries in exchanging materials with the most important natural science institutions in Europe. The exiles received money for the specimens obtained, which enabled them to survive and at the same time conduct scientific research. Thanks to this, Dybowski and his colleagues made a decisive contribution to the preparation of numerous typescripts of scientific papers which were published in the best European journals.


Benedykt Dybowski (second from right) and Wiktor Godlewski (first from left) during measurements carried out on Lake Baikal (Tygodnik Ilustrowany, 1884, no. 59; collections of the Digital Library of the University of Łódź).

After a brief stay in Irkutsk, Benedykt Dybowski and Wiktor Godlewski settled in Kultuk on Lake Baikal, where they worked until 1873 and achieved outstanding results. They established 120 species of crustaceans and amphipods (Amphipoda), of which only five were previously known.


Benedykt Dybowski during winter exploration of Lake Baikal. Archives MiIZ PAN.

Excerpt from a letter from Władysław Taczanowski to Konstanty Branicki, 13 June 1869, Warsaw:

[…] So far, there has been complete stagnation in the Cabinet. First, a shipment from Baikal containing winter yields is to arrive. […] I am expecting the arrival of this shipment any day now. Spring acquisitions from this country will be very important. Baikal fish, crayfish, there are supposed to be countless species, new ones are caught almost every day, some are supposed to be very decorative, Dybowski only cares about preserving the colours and therefore he carries out tests by storing them in various liquids. I also expect a good collection of eggs, among which there should be species that have not been found before […]


Wiktor Ignacy Godlewski (1831–1900). Archives MiIZ PAN.

In 1863, he was arrested for participating in the January Uprising and sentenced to 12 years of hard labour in the mines in Dauria. In 1864 he came to Irkutsk, where he was sent to the mines in Petrovsk-Zabaykalsky. A year later he was sent to the prison camp in Sivakova. In 1866, together with Dybowski and other exiles, he was moved to Darasun.


Michał Jankowski (1842–1912).

In 1864, he was exiled to the Nerchinsk Mining District for participating in the January Uprising. In Siberia – in Sivakova – he met Benedykt Dybowski, under whose influence he began to study nature. In 1868, he was released from forced labour and ordered to settle in Dauria. In 1872–1874 he participated with Dybowski and Godlewski in an expedition along the Amur and Ussuri rivers and the coast of the Sea of Japan. In 1874 he broke away from the expedition and settled on Askold Island, where he became the manager of a gold mine.


Catalogue cards of fish collections from the Zoological Cabinet of the University of Warsaw. Laboratory of the Zoological Museum of MiIZ PAN.


Catalogue cards of the collection of birds from the Zoological Museum of Count Branicki in Frascati. Laboratory of the Zoological Museum of MiIZ PAN.

Collections accumulated for more than 100 years made possible the establishment of the National Natural History Museum (later the State Zoological Museum) in 1919, which took over the collections of the Zoological Cabinet and the Branicki Museum. These exceptionally rich collections are now on loan to the Scientific Zoological Collections of the Museum and Institute of Zoology (PAN).


Baikal sponge, Spongia baikalensis Pallas, 1776, collected by B. Dybowski and W. Godlewski. Laboratory of the Zoological Museum of MiIZ PAN.

Siberian collections in the Scientific Zoological Collections of the Museum and Institute of Zoology (PAN).

In a letter dated 3 February 1871, written to Konstanty Branicki, Władysław Taczanowski enthuses about the abundance of Siberian fauna. Among the numerous species of rare birds, fish, the genus Gammarus and insects, there is a ‘fine specimen of the Baikal sponge’. This specimen has survived in the collections of NKZ MiIZ PAN to this day, it is a species described in 1776 by Pallas as Spongia baikalensis Pallas, 1776. In 1880, Benedykt Dybowski founded the genus Lubomirskia, to which he transferred the species described by Pallas, hence the current name Lubomirskia baikalensis (Pallas, 1776).


Anemone of the genus Actinia Linnaeus, 1767, collected by B. Dybowski in 1869. Laboratory of the Zoological Museum of MiIZ PAN.

The only coral specimen from the Siberian collections (currently in the Scientific Zoological Collections of MiIZ PAN), which has survived to this day, comes from the Sea of Japan, probably from the eastern coast of Russia.


Gammarus grubii, Dybowski 1874, from Lake Baikal, collected and described as new to science by B. Dybowski. Laboratory of the Zoological Museum of MiIZ PAN.

The collections of NKZ MiIZ PAN include 107 crustacean specimens collected by Benedykt Dybowski at Baikal, a few specimens come from the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Sea of Japan. The most interesting specimens include the descriptive types Gammarus grubii, Dybowski 1874, and Amphipoda collected by Dybowski in Baikal. Documentation work is carried out as part of the digitization of collections projects, including: acquiring scans using microtomography (Micro-CT), enabling the non-invasive examination of 3D models. An example is a scan of a specimen of Gammarus sophianonosii Dybowski, 1874 (Syberia Bajkał Dybowski B.), which can be viewed as a 3D animation:
Gammarus sophianosii Dybowski, 1874


Attus viduus (Kulczyński) [Kuktuk, syntype].

The arachnid collection contains 899 specimens collected in the years 1864–1885 by Siberian exiles (B. Dybowski, W. Godlewski), as well as their companions on Siberian expeditions (M. Przewalski) and independent travellers (K. Podhorski). In addition to spiders (Araneae), the collection also includes Opiliones moths (4 species) and mites (1 species).



A beetle from the Cerambycidae family, Neodorcadion carinatum involvedns Fisch.

The resources of NKZ MiIZ PAN include the beetles collection of Szymon Tenenbaum (1892–1941). Among the nearly 250,000 specimens in this collection, are 945 beetles collected by Benedykt Dybowski and his colleagues during their stay in Siberia. This material represents 36 families and includes 440 species, subspecies and infrasubspecific subdivisions.



Mollusc Pecten yessoensis Jey collected by B. Dybowski in the Amur River.

The resources of NKZ MiIZ PAN include Benedykt Dybowski’s mollusc collection, which includes over 4,500 specimens of snails and mussels. The majority of the materials were obtained by Dybowski and his collaborator Wiktor Godlewski during research conducted on Lake Baikal in 1868–1872 and 1876–1877. The materials of these two naturalists also include molluscs collected, among others, while travelling along the Onon, Argun, Amur and Ussuri rivers in 1869–1873. Dybowski’s materials from the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Bering Island from 1878–1883 are also noteworthy.



Parabramis pekinensis (Basilewsky, 1855), a fish specimen caught by B. Dybowski in 1869 in Lake Khanka.

The Scientific Zoological Collections of MiIZ PAN contains a collection of 123 fish specimens collected by Benedykt Dybowski and his colleagues during their stay in Siberia. This material represents 16 families and includes 34 species and subspecies. They include some of the most valuable specimens – descriptive types of species described by Benedykt Dybowski and the Austrian zoologist, Franz Steindachner (1834–1919).



Hebius vibakari (Boie, 1826), a snake caught by Benedict Dybowski in 1869 in Posjet.

The database of reptiles from Benedict Dybowski’s collection includes information on 18 specimens. Most of them were collected by Dybowski and Victor Godlewski in two localities: Kultuk and Possieta located in Russia.



Siberian capercaillie, subspecies Tetrao urogalloides kamtschaticus Kittlitz, 1858. Specimen collected by B. Dybowski during his stay in Kamchatka.

The largest collection of data on Siberian materials housed at NKZ MiIZ PAN concerns the bird collection, which contains over 3,000 specimens, including eggs, nests, skins and stuffed specimens. The most valuable exhibits are descriptive types (86) and specimens representing rare or endangered species, such as the white-naped crane Grus monacha Temminck, 1835 or the crested ibis Nipponia nippon Temminck, 1835.



Cyanopolius cyanus (Pallas, 1776) [Siberia, Dauria 1867 Dybowski B., Parvex A.].



Sitta uralensis Gloger, 1834 [Dauria, Darasuwa 27/11/1865 Dybowski B., Parvex A.].



Pinicola enucleator kamtschatensis Dybowski, 1883 [Russia, Kamchatka, Machoura Dybowski B].



A specimen of Dybowski’s Cervus [a type of deer] described by Władysław Taczanowski in 1876 as Cervus dybowskii (Cervus nippon mantchuricus Swinhoe, 1864).

The collections of NKZ MiIZ PAN contain 57 specimens collected mainly in the vicinity of Lake Baikal in the years 1867–1872 and 1876–1877, as well as in Kamchatka and the Chukchi Peninsula. Most specimens are mainly representatives of small mammals, including: families such as the squirrel, hamster, pika and mole.



Co-financed by the “Niepodległa” Office as part of the Programme “January Uprising 1863-1864”