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Prince Gregory Gagarin

The Princes Gagarin were of an aristocratic Russian family which traces its origins to the ancient rulers of Starodub. Their extensive mineral collection, now preserved in the Vernadsky State Geological Museum, is known as the Karacharovo Collection, named for the Gagarin Family's country estate in Tver' province. It was the product of three generations of princely collectors: Gregory Gregor'evich Gagarin (1810-1893), his son Gregory Gregor'evich Gagarin (1850-1918) and daughter Maria Gregor'evna Gagarin (1851-1941), and the grandson Georgii Gregor'evich Gagarin (1882-1924).

Until the age of 13, the elder Prince Gregory lived in Paris and Rome with his parents, receiving an excellent education at Tolomea College in Sienna and the University of Paris, where he indulged his passion for art and painting, as well as a life-long interest in mineralogy. After graduation he served in the Russian Embassies in Paris, Rome and Constantinople, collecting minerals at every opportunity, eventually accumulating a collection of about 400 specimens of 80 species. After returning to St. Petersburg he was appointed Vice President of the Russian Academy of Arts, a position he held until 1872. He died in 1893.

Prince Gregory had selected a tutor for his two sons (Gregory and Andrei) who was an expert in the natural sciences: Vasilii Vasil'evich Dukochaev (1846-1903). Gregory's son, Gregory (1850-1918), and also his daughter Maria, inherited his love of mineralogy, thanks in part to the influence of Dukochaev, who rose to the position of Chairman of the Mineralogy Department at the University of St. Petersburg, and curated the collection there from 1872 until 1889. Prince Gregory the younger died at his estate in 1918, at the age of 68, still enjoying his collection and conducting chemical experiments; his sister lived another 23 years, and transferred 60 specimens from her collection to Moscow University in 1902.

The younger Gregory's son Georgii (1882-1924) inherited the family passion for mineralogy as well. He apparently began building his own collection in 1900 on a trip through Europe, where he attended the fabulous Paris Exposition of 1900, with its lavish displays of minerals. There he made the acquaintance of the American mineral dealer Albert E. Foote, buying 325 specimens for $2076; he continued corresponding with Foote's Paris office and purchasing 30-40 specimens a year until 1913. He also obtained specimens through numerous other dealers and from various relatives who obtained things for him.

Because of the October 1917 Revolution, the last specimen was added to the Karacharovo Collection in 1918, the year Georgii's father died. Having joined the White Army during that conflict, Georgii found it prudent to leave the family mineral collection behind and emigrate with his family to Yugoslavia, where his son Georgii the younger (1912-1950) eventually became a professional geologist. Prince Georgii Gagarin died in Yugoslavia in 1924, at the age of 42. It is interesting to note that all of the "Prince Gregory Gagarin" labels in the Label Archive are for specimens from Yugoslavia, suggesting that perhaps they were collected by Georgii and labeled using his father's old labels.

The Gagarin family's mineral collection at Karacharovo, consisting of 3,000 specimens, was confiscated in the first years of the Soviet Period and deposited in the Moscow Historical Museum, but was later returned to its owners. It was then donated to the Moscow Mining Academy Museum in the early 1920's by the elder Georgii's younger brother, Igor' Gregor'evich Gagarin (1891-1960). It was finally transferred to the Moscow Geological Mining Institute (renamed the Vernadsky Museum in 1988), where it remains today.

MININA, E.L., and STARODUBTSEVA, I.A. (1995) The collection of the Princes Gagarin in the Vernadsky State Geological Museum. World of Stones, no.6, 20-23.
MININA, E.L., and STARODUBTSEVA, I.A. (2000) Collection of the Princes Gagarin. Mineralogical Almanac, 2, part 1, 46-53.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2020)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Prince Gregory Gagarin Prince Gregory Gagarin (1810-1892)
The Mineralogical Record - Prince Gregory Gagarin
The Mineralogical Record - Prince Gregory Gagarin 49 x 134 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Prince Gregory Gagarin 49 x 135 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Prince Gregory Gagarin 46 x 86 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Prince Gregory Gagarin 46 x 86 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Prince Gregory Gagarin 47 x 87 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Prince Gregory Gagarin 46 x 87 mm
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