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Our predecessors

A.N. Reichardt


(by O.L. Kryzhanovsky)

I met Axel Nikolayevich Reichardt only twice and had an opportunity to talk with him only once. However it happened that I became his co-author and finished his large uncompleted work.

A.N. Reichardt worked hard all his life. He was born in Estonia near Tartu into a doctor’s family in 1891. At first he entered the Medical Faculty of Yuryevsky (Tartu) University, but in 1913 he became a student of the Natural Sciences Department and in 1914 took part in an expedition to Daghestan where he collected vast interesting material. During the WWI the University was evacuated to Voronezh. Later Voronezh University was established on its basis. A.N. Reichardt graduated from the university in 1971 and was awarded a medal for the diploma entitled “Biology of noxious insects of Voronezh and its enviorns”. Moreover in summer 1916 he examined pests of grain on elevators of Samara-Zlatoust and Tashkent railways. After graduation form the university he worked some time in applied research at Voronezh Entomological Station.

In 1918 A.N. Reichardt moved to Petrograd, in July he was employed at the Northern Regional station for Plant Protection and from February 1920 through April 1925 he was the head of that station and the Entomological Department. Up to 1929 he read lectures on zoology and morphology of insects at a college of applied ecology. From 1925 through 1933 A.N. Reichardt was a senior specialist in systematics of Coleoptera at the Department of General Entomology of the State Institute of Experimental Agronomy. That department later became a department of the All-Union Plant Protection Institute.

In parallel A.N. Reichard since 1918 worked at the Zoological Museum (Since 1930 Institute) of the USSR Academy of Sciences. At the beginning that was “private job” headed by the eminent Russian entomologist G.G. Jacobson. Here from the first years A.N. Reichardt became interested in systematics of beetles, particularly of Histeridae family, on which he soon became specialist of the world class. In 1924 he was enrolled on the staff of the Zoological Museum, but for lack of vacancies in the area of his specialization he got the position of a technician at the Hymenoptera Department where for three years he performed purely technical work on collections of that department. He could spend only one day a week on his research of beetles, but he had done a lot during those years.

It was not until 1927 that A.N. Reichardt was appointed a scientific researcher at the Coleoptera Department. Since 1933 the Zoological Institute became his main place of work and he was the Head of Coleoptera Department.

Reichardt was a man of great erudition and among best experts in the order Coleoptera among entomologists of his generation. His rich experience in systematics permitted him not only to conduct taxonomic study on many families of this order, but also to be an excellent advisor on all questions of life histories of beetles of the USSR fauna, their practical significance and control.

Many dozens of people consulted him. Once in January 1941 when I was a 5-year student of Moscow University I addressed him with a request to identify two species of histerids from Tajikistan collected during an expedition of 1939. I approached A.N. Reichardt tremulously and introduced myself. He inquired what my questions were. I replied and took out a box with beetles. He asked me why I was interested in them. I replied that they eat larvae of flies in dead animals. He took the beetles and asked me to come next day. When I came he returned the box and briefly commented on the identification. Then he said that his book would come out soon, which would make easy identification of these species. He also said I should write him if necessity arose. Then he turned to the binocular and I understood that my visit was over. We did not meet again. Five months later war started.

A.N. Reichardt went on expeditions relatively seldom, but those rare trips were highly efficient in both quantity and quality of material collected. In the summer 1922 he went on a study tour to Altai and to Kulundinskaya steppe. He then headed an expedition on a study of noxious grasshoppers. In 1928 he participated in Soviet-German expedition to Pamir when he visited a number of regions difficult of access, made interesting collections and examined clow bettles and darkling beetles . For nearly 20 years he conducted thorough observations and faunal collections of beetles, mounted and identified them.

Research of A.N. Reichardt was focused on the family Histeridae. He published more than 30 works on that family. Among those were two issues of “The Fauna of the USSR” (one published posthumously) and a large monograph published in Berlin in 1932. ("Beitrage zu einer Monographie der Saprininae (Coleoptera, Histeridae), I", 1932).

He also described a small number of new taxa of that family (up to South Africa and Burma) and revised the system of the family, in particular convincingly proved the placement of the genus Niponius in Histeridae family. Earlier the genus Niponius was placed in a separate family.

He also paid much attention to the family of darkling beetles. He published a book in the series “Keys to the fauna of the USSR” ("Darkling beetles of the tribe Opatrini of the Palearctic Region”, 1936, 224 pp.) and a number of articles. He also studied the blister beetles and weevils; he published a few articles on the leaf beetles, scarabs and other taxa.

Of great importance were keys to beetles compiled by A.N. Reichardt and published in three editions “Key to insects” (1928, 1931, 1948), which for many years were the major manuals on beetles of our fauna.

He made an important contribution in the studies that were of great practical importance. It is no mere chance that his first serious publication was agricultural monograph on lesser cabbage moth, and one of the last papers published during his life time “Air transport, insects and diseases” published in 1941 in the journal “Priroda”. A.N. Reichardt wrote with his usual scrupulous care a number of chapters for the first “List of noxious insects of the USSR” (1932).

Finally A.N. Reichard spent much time and effort examining collections of the institute. He regarded none of his works finished unless apart from manuscript he had set the respective part of the collection. But apart from “his” groups [histerids and many darkling beetles] he brought into ideal order hundreds of collection boxes with beetles that were far from his scientific interests. Thus, he set again a large portion of a large and very valuable collection of ground beetles of T.S. Chicherin, that before that was arranged in small boxes in disorder.

In July 1938 intensive research work of A.N. Reichardt was interrupted. He and several other researchers from the Zoological Institute with “suspicious” names G.P Adlerberg, G.U. Lindberg, A.A. Richter, A.A. Stakelberg, B.K. Stegman were arrested. During a year NKVD investigators tried to fabricate a conspiracy case. In spite of the tortures that were applied to the majority of zoologists has withstood. Even though a few of those had signed confession the “conspiracy case” was not working out. That was probably the reason why in 1939, when Ezhov was relieved of his position of People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs, a few people including the zoologists were released from prison. However G.P. Adlerberg, a specialist in systematics of ungulates, was not released. He was born a count, his grandfather and great grandfather were ministers at the emperor’s court.

In the autumn 1939 A.N. Reichard returned to the Zoological Institute, but at first he was enrolled in the position of senior technician, and in 1940 he resumed his work in the position of Senior Researcher of in Coleoptera Department. In spring 1941 his largest work was published, i.e. the first issue of the monograph of Histeridae in the series “The Fauna of the USSR” prepared before his arrest. In its exceptional skill in accurate correspondence with the material upon which the book was based and conclusions made it was one of the best volumes in the series. Unfortunately it was published before the war and most of the copies were destroyed in the storage, so the book immediately became a bibliographic rarity (as well as many other volumes of the “Fauna”).

A.N. Reichardt was 50 when the war began. He was not conscribed to the army and stayed in Leningrad. Like other staff members of the institute he was on barrack regime, watching on the roof during air raids, moving the most valuable collections to the safe basement of the Zoological Institute. At the same time he continued working on the manuscript of the second issue of his “Fauna”. Unfortunately the manuscript was not completed. He was getting weaker and weaker of starvation; like all tall men he was particularly suffering of famine. Later one of his colleagues who survived the Siege of Leningrad wrote that at the beginning of February she came into the room of A.N. Reichardt whom she had not seen for two or three days before that He lay on a mattress, his face swallen byt clean shaven, in a white shirt and a tie. When she asked why he was in full dress he replied: “One must appear there decent looking ”. He died two days later in February 1942.

In 1953 A.A. Stakelberg published an excellent obituary of A.N. Reichardt provided with detailed bibliography including titles of 73 publications 3 large monographs among them (Entomologicheskoe obozrenie, 1953, vol. 33, p. 369—375).

About ten years after WWII A.N. Reichardt’s manuscripts for the second issue of “The Fauna of the USSR” on Histeridae were found in a cabinet of our laboratory. The three folders with notebooks in self-made hard cover contained sheets carefully written in small hand in even format. Text was written on sheets of different origin: notebooks, reverse side of sheets with typed text, fragments of ledgers, free pages of booklets. Some sheets were made of separate fragments of glued together. Paper was in deficit before the war, new paper was used for fair copies; drafts were written on anything that was available.

A.A. Stakelberg knew that I was interested in Histeridae and offered me to prepare this manuscript for print. But for a few years I could not find time for this work. I went on far expeditions examined results and wrote chapters for “The Key to Beetles” and edited it, worked on a book on fauna of Middle Asia. It was not until 1966 after both books were published that I started working on manuscripts of A.N. Reichardt.

The notes were started apparently in 1940. A.N. Reichardt worked always methodically carefully every day. The handwriting is small, regular, distinct up to the end of the notes. At first the notes were written in Indian ink and then by violet ink, notes in pencil occur, in those cases when those are preliminary. One folder contained all accessory material; notes from books, lists of identified species bibliographical references. Two others contain the main text. The second has square brackets notes about the Siege of Leningrad. One description is interrupted by a protocol phrase : “[5 p.m. the building is shaking with a close burst of a shell]” and then description of elytral sculpture. A few pages later A.N. Reichardt wrote that relations between two representatives of the subgenus Paralister remain unclear: some authors regarded them as species others as forms of one and the same species and comparative study of sex apparatus should. There is a note in square brackets “[If I do not die of starvation I will accomplish this. 16 December 1941”]. There are many pages following this page. Evidently A.N. Reichardt worked up to the very end.

When I started working it became clear that numerous new data on the family were accumulated: rich collection material from the USSR and adjacent countries, biological observation and extensive mostly foreign literature. The system of the family Histeridae was basically restructured, and the number of species known from the territory covered by the fauna increased from 210 to 285.

This demanded a complete revision not only of the manuscripts of A.N. Reichardt, but also of text of the 1st issue to be republished. Several chapters lacking in his manuscripts were rewritten. Numerous amendments in Histeridae collection manuscript had to be made; a large portion of it had to be restructured. Therefore A.A. Stakelberg regarded it necessary to publish the book under the names of two authors A.N. Reichardt’s and mine.

In 1971 the large manuscript (more than 50 signatures) was prepared for print. However some time passed before it was printed. It was not until 1976 that a new volume of the Fauna of the USSR came out. It included all Histeridae of the USSR fauna. Its title read “Kryzhanovsky, O.L., Reichardt, A.N. Beetles of the superfamily Histeroidea (families Sphaeritidae, Histeridae, Synteliidae). The Fauna of the USSR. Coleoptera. Vol. V, issue 4, (New series No. 111), 1976. 434 pp. One more joint paper had been published before (A.N. Reichardt and O.L. Kryzhanovsky. To the fauna of beetles of the family Histeridae of south-eastern China. Entomologicheskoye obozreniye, Vol. 33, 1, 1964, pp. 170—174).

In his review of this book the well-known specialist on Coleoptera Prof. R. Crowson wrote that it may be regarded as the most important joint work on Histeridae after the publication of the classical monograph of the unknown scientist … in the series "Genera Insectorum" (Holland, 1917).

A list of scientific publications of A.N. Reichardt was published by A.A. Stackelberg in the obituary (1953, see above); a few later publications are listed above. Therefore it would be reasonable to repeat them again.

O.L. Kryzhanovsky.