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The rapid exploration of the vast territories of Siberia was led primarily by Cossacks and Pomors hunting for valuable furs, spices and ivory.

Explorers such as Pyanda, Pyotr Beketov, Kurbat Ivanov, Ivan Moskvitin, Vasily Poyarkov and Yerofey Khabarov pushed eastward mostly along the Siberian River Routes, and by the mid-17th century there were Russian settlements in Eastern Siberia, on the Chukchi Peninsula, along the Amur River, and on the Pacific coast.

Russians mapped most of the Alaskan coasts and nearby islands, explored the inner areas of the peninsula, and went as far south as Fort Ross in California.

In 1803–06 the first Russian circumnavigation was led by Ivan Kruzenshtern and Yury Lisyansky, partly with the aim of establishing direct marine communications between Saint Petersburg and Russian America.

The journeys of Ivan Petlin and Nicolae Milescu established contacts between Moscow and Ming China.

With over 3,000 people directly and indirectly involved, the expedition was one of the largest exploration enterprises in history by its geographic scale and results.

the achievements of the expedition included the discovery of the Aleutian Islands and the Commander Islands by Bering and Alexei Chirikov, the mapping of most of the Russian Arctic coastline and part of the Pacific coast in 1733–1743 by teams led by Stepan Malygin, Dmitry Ovtsyn, Fyodor Minin, Semyon Chelyuskin, Vasily Pronchischev, Khariton Laptev and Dmitry Laptev.

In 1820-1821 a round-the-world expedition led by Faddey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev on sloops Vostok and Mirny discovered the continent of Antarctica.

In the 19th century the scientific exploration of the inner areas of Siberia intensified.