Yerofey Khabarov
Yerofey Pavlovich Khabarov or Svyatitsky in contemporary accounts; 1603 – after 1671), was a Russian entrepreneur and adventurer, best known for his exploring the Amur river region and his attempts to colonize the area for Russia. For background see Russian-Manchu border conflicts
Russian-Manchu border conflicts
The Russian–Manchu border conflicts were a series of intermittent skirmishes between the Manchus and the Cossacks in which the Cossacks tried and failed to gain the land north of the Amur River...


The major Russian city of Khabarovsk
Khabarovsk is the largest city and the administrative center of Khabarovsk Krai, Russia. It is located some from the Chinese border. It is the second largest city in the Russian Far East, after Vladivostok. The city became the administrative center of the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia...

, as well as the small town and railway station Yerofey Pavlovich (Ерофей Павлович) (located on the Trans-Siberian railroad in Amur Oblast
Amur Oblast
Amur Oblast is a federal subject of Russia , situated about east of Moscow on the banks of the Amur and Zeya Rivers. It shares its border with the Sakha Republic in the north, Khabarovsk Krai and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the east, People's Republic of China in the south, and Zabaykalsky...

) bear his name.

A native of the Veliky Ustyug
Veliky Ustyug
Veliky Ustyug is a town in the northeast of Vologda Oblast, Russia, located at the confluence of the Sukhona and Yug Rivers. Administratively, it is incorporated as a town of oblast significance . It also serves as the administrative center of Velikoustyugsky District, by which it is completely...

 area in the northern European Russia, Khabarov was a manager for the Stroganovs
The Stroganovs or Strogonovs , also spelled in French manner as Stroganoffs, were a family of highly successful Russian merchants, industrialists, landowners, and statesmen of the 16th – 20th centuries who eventually earned nobility.-Origins:...

 at the saltworks in Solvychegodsk
Solvychegodsk is a town in the southern part of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia, located on the right-hand bank of the Vychegda River northeast of Kotlas. Administratively, it is a part of Kotlassky District. Municipally, it is incorporated as Solvychegodskoye Urban Settlement of Kotlassky Municipal...

. In 1625, Khabarov sailed from Tobolsk
Tobolsk is a town in Tyumen Oblast, Russia, located at the confluence of the Tobol and Irtysh Rivers. It is a historic capital of Siberia. Population: -History:...

 to Mangazeya
Mangazeya was a Northwest Siberian trans-Ural trade colony and later city in the 16-17th centuries. Founded in 1600, it was situated on the Taz River, between the lower courses of the Ob and Yenisei Rivers flowing into the Arctic Ocean....

. Three years later, he left the town with his expedition and reached the Kheta river (eastern part of Taimyr). In 1630, Khabarov took part in a voyage from Mangazeya to Tobolsk. In 1632—1641, he reached the Lena River
Lena River
The Lena is the easternmost of the three great Siberian rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean . It is the 11th longest river in the world and has the 9th largest watershed...

 and founded a farming settlement
A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. The size a settlement must be in order to be called a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world, so that, for example, many American "small towns" seem to British people to be no more than villages, while...

 with saltworks along the Lena at the mouths of the Kuta
Kuta River
The Kuta River is a Siberian river north of Lake Baikal in Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, that flows into the Lena River at Ust-Kut. With its right tributary, the Kupa River, it forms a ‘T’ shape with the flat head pointing west and the point at Ust-Kut....

 and Kirenga
Kirenga River
Kirenga River is a river in Irkutsk Oblast in Russia, a right tributary of the Lena which flows north between the upper Lena and Lake Baikal. The length of the river is 746 km. The area of its basin is 46,600 km². The Kirenga River freezes up in the late October - early November and...


First Expedition 1649–50

In 1649 he became the second Russian to explore the Amur after Vassili Poyarkov
Vassili Poyarkov
Vassili Danilovich Poyarkov was the first Russian explorer of the Amur region.The Russian expansion into Siberia began with the conquest of the Khanate of Sibir in 1582. By 1643 they reached the Pacific at Okhotsk...

 (1643–1646). Poyarkov's route up the Aldan River
Aldan River
The Aldan River is the second-longest tributary of the Lena River in the Sakha Republic in eastern Siberia. The river is 2,273 km long, of which around 1,600 km is navigable. It was part of the River Route to Okhotsk...

 was too difficult to be practical. At some point Khabarov attempted to reach the Amur via the Vitim River
Vitim River
Vitim River is a major tributary of the Lena River. With its source east of Lake Baikal, the Vitim flows 1,978 km north through the Transbaykalian Mountains and the town of Bodaybo. The river peaks in June and freezes from November to May. It is navigable from the Lena to Bodaybo. Upstream,...

. In 1647 a hunter returned to Yakutsk from the Olyokma River
Olyokma River
The Olyokma River is a tributary of the Lena in eastern Siberia. To the west is the Vitim River, to the south the Shilka River and Amur River and to the east, the upper Aldan River. Its right branch, the Tungur River, leads to a portage to the Shilka. Yerofey Khabarov used this route to travel...

 and reported that this might lead to the Amur. In the spring of 1649 Khabarov set off at his own expense up the Olyokma River, then its branch, the Tungur and portaged to the Shilka River
Shilka River
Shilka is a river in Zabaykalsky Krai, south-eastern Russia. It has a length . It originates as a confluence of the Onon and Ingoda rivers. Its confluence with the Ergune on the Russia-China border gives rise to the Amur River. The river is navigable for its entire length....

. Reaching the upper Amur (Dauria) in early 1650, he found the country nearly deserted, the cossacks' reputation having preceded them. Having pioneered a good route, he returned to Yakutsk in May, 1650 and gave his report. He praised the land, warned of the danger of Chinese intervention and suggested a larger expedition with professional soldiers.

Second Expedition 1650–53

Given the time delays in communicating with Moscow, the Yakutsk Voivode Frantsbekov decided to act on his own and sent Khabarov back south with a larger force. The voivode also gave Khabarov letters from His Majesty Czar Alexis to the Daurian Prince Lavkai of Albazin and "Prince Bogdoi" asking those potentates to submit to the Russian Czar, and threatening to send a 6,000-strong army if they don't obey.
Frantsbekov assumed that this Prince Bogdoy was another Siberian chieftain. He was, in fact, the Emperor of China
Emperor of China
The Emperor of China refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BCE, and the fall of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China in 1916. When referred to as the Son of Heaven , a title that predates the Qin unification, the...


Khabarov crossed the mountains in the fall of 1650 and this time was met with armed resistance. He built winter quarters at Albazin
Albazino is a village in Skovorodinsky District of Amur Oblast, Russia, noted as the site of Albazin , the first Russian settlement on the Amur River....

 at the northernmost point of the Amur. After receiving reinforcements in June 1651 he set off down the Amur. By September they reached the mouth of the Sungari. By 29 September they reached Achansk near present-day Khabarovsk
Khabarovsk is the largest city and the administrative center of Khabarovsk Krai, Russia. It is located some from the Chinese border. It is the second largest city in the Russian Far East, after Vladivostok. The city became the administrative center of the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia...

 and decided to winter there. On 8 October they were attacked by about 1,000 local people, who, being defeated, appealed to their Manchu overlords. On March 24, 1652, a force of 2,000 Manchus and Koreans armed with artillery arrived from Ninguta and attacked Achansk. Khabarov somehow managed to defeat them. (The Manchu general, Haise, was later executed for his incompetence) Not knowing how many more Chinese were in the area, on 22 April he withdrew up the Amur. At one point he encountered another force of 6,000 Chinese, but was able to slip around them under cover of fog and darkness. Further upstream he met a force of 117 cossacks who had been sent as reinforcements. He learned from a captive that a new Manchu army was being gathered on the Sungari. On August 1 he reached the mouth of the Zeya. Here 136 of his men mutinied leaving only 212 loyal. (Since Khabarov mentions the mutiny immediately after mentioning the question of where to build winter quarters, it may have been connected with the question of whether it was wise to remain on the Zeya and await a possible Manchu attack.) From the Zeya he sent a report to the Yakutsk Voevode matter-of-factly describing the burning of villages, slaughter of natives and the torture of prisoners.

From this point the English sources become unclear. They apparently wintered at the Zeya. In the fall of 1653, 150 reinforcements under Dimitry Zinoviev appeared. As a nobleman, Zinoviev demanded full command. When Khabarov refused, he was arrested. Unable to gain the support of Khabarov's men and having no adequate way to deal with the Manchus, Zinoviev and part of the force withdrew from the Amur. Onufriy Stepanov
Onufriy Stepanov
Onufriy Stepanov was a Siberian Cossack and explorer of the Amur River. For background see Russian–Manchu border conflicts....

 was left in charge of those who remained.

Khabarov was deprived of his rank and property and was sent on a fifteen-month journey to Moscow to be tried. After a year's delay he was acquitted. He was given a minor noble rank (Syn boyarsky of Ilimsk
Ilimsk was a small town in Siberia, within today's Irkutsk Oblast of Russia. The town was flooded by the Ust-Ilimsk Reservoir in the mid-1970s....

) on the condition that he return to Siberia. He reappears again in the records in 1658 when the Siberian Office ordered that he be placed in irons if he refused to guide a new expedition to the Amur. After that he disappears from the records.

Khabarov charted the Amur river in his "Draft of the Amur river" .


  • W Bruce Lincoln, The Conquest of a Continent, 1994
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