Yuri Semyonov's history "The Conquest of Siberia: An Epic of Human Passions" says:

Journeys to Siberia were always measured in years. In an old book the author, in order to make clear how long a journey through Siberia must take, told in all seriousness the following story:

The Empress Elizabeth desired to make the acquaintance of her most distant subjects, and commanded that six maidens should be sent to her at St Petersburg from Kamchatka. They were selected at Bolsheryetsk. The journey took so long that all became mothers before their arrival at Irkutsk. In spite of the dismissal of the officer accompanying them, they all reached St Petersburg again pregnant.

Elizabeth ruled from 1741 to 1762, when Bolsheryetesk was the seat of the regional commandant and the sea route to Okhotsk was already open. I assume that the maidens in question were Itelmen, natives of southern Kamchatka.

What's the origin of this story?

  • 12
    I suspect that the inclusion of the phrase "in all seriousness" indicates that Semyonov himself doesn't believe the story, even if the author he's quoting did believe it. Feb 20, 2017 at 13:37
  • 8
    Oddly enough there is an old Russian book (az.lib.ru/g/golownin_w_m/text_0020.shtml) called "Journey around the world, committed on a military sloop Kamchatka" and it apparently mentions an unrelated story about "six girls" sailing from the Azores to England. Not sure if that's a variation on a folk tale or just pure coincidence.
    – Brian Z
    Apr 26, 2017 at 18:37

1 Answer 1


I think I found Semyonov's "old book"! This is Sgibnev's Historical Essay of Most Important Events in Kamchatka, 1650-1855, published in 1869. The story there is more or less as follows:

On January 13, 1758 fourier Shakhturov arrived in Nizhnekamchatsk to select Kamchadal girls for the court. He brought to the Kamchatka toyons the Sovereign's order giving the goal of his trip to Kamchatka and the assurance that their daughters would not come to harm. Having chosen six young daughters of toyons, Shakhturov in the same year went with them to St. Petersburg, where he arrived a year later because all the girls had to stop along the road to give birth, thanks to Shakhturov's attention to them.


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