Hydrogeology Journal

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 2299–2302 | Cite as

Octaviy Tolstihin, a hydrogeologist who fell in love with Siberia

  • E. Zaltsberg
Profile of Eminent Hydrogeologist


Profile (eminent hydrogeologist) Russia Permafrost Groundwater/surface water relations Groundwater resources 

Octaviy Tolstihin, un hydrogéologue qui tomba amoureux de la Sibérie

Octaviy Tolstihin, un hidrogeólogo que se apasiona por la Siberia.

Octaviy Tolstihin, 一位爱上西伯利亚的水文地质学家

Octaviy Tolstihin, um hidrogeólogo que se apaixonou pela Sibéria

Октавий Толстихин-гидрогеолог, влюбленный в Сибирь

Professor Octaviy Nestorovich Tolstihin was one of the pioneers in studying groundwater in the Siberian permafrost zone. He was a member of the International Academy of Ecology and Human Security, an Honorable Scientist of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), a Senior Scientist at the Melnikov Permafrost Institute of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Yakutsk, and the author of about 300 publications on the hydrogeology and ecology of Siberia (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

Octaviy Nestorovich Tolstihin in the 1970s

Octaviy was born in 1927 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) into a family of famous hydrogeologists. His father, Professor Nestor Ivanovich Tolstihin (1896-1992) was a patriarch of Russian hydrogeology, well known for his achievements in regional hydrogeology, hydrogeology of the permafrost zone, and thermal and mineral groundwater exploration. For many years Nestor was head of the Department of Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology at the Leningrad (now Saint-Petersburg) Mining Institute; many of his monographs and text books were (and still are) table books for several generations of Russian hydrogeologists (for more on N.I. Tolstihin, see Zaltsberg 1995). Octaviy’s mother Matilda Moiseevna Tolstihina (1902-1984) was a professor, the first woman in Russia who hold a doctorate degree in geology. She was a well-known specialist in oilfield geology.

The name Octaviy was given to the newly born child in honor to Professor Octaviy Lange, the teacher and mentor of Nestor Tolstihin (for more on O. Lange, see Zaltsberg 2014). At the age of 13, Octaviy participated in an expedition to Ural headed by his mother, and worked as a geologist technician. He graduated from the Mining College in the city of Cheremhovo in 1944, and 5 years later from the Mining Institute in Leningrad where one of his teachers was his father.

In 1951, Octaviy Tolstihin was appointed as head of the hydrogeological group for studying groundwater on the Kuril Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula. After 3 years of extensive fieldwork, geological, hydrogeological and hydrochemical maps (scale 1:1,000,000) were compiled and reported for the study area for the first time. Of special interest is the hydrogeological map showing numerous sparkling springs and gas-condensate deposits which could be used for energy generation. Based on the results obtained, in 1957 Octaviy defended the Candidate dissertation entitled “Main problems of groundwater formation in South Eastern Kamchatka and Kuril Islands”.

In 1961 Octaviy moved to Yakutsk and 3 years later headed the newly established Laboratory of Groundwaters in the Cryolithological Zone at the Melnikov Permafrost Institute. He kept this position till 1972 when he moved to Moscow. During these years his scientific interests were focused on the following subjects: industrial and domestic water supply in the permafrost area; general regularities and specific features of groundwater formation in the cryogenic zone; and hydrogeological mapping in permafrost areas.

Octaviy was a coauthor of the monograph entitled Groundwater in Yakutia as the Source of Water Supply (Kononova et al. 1967). It contained a comprehensive description of the existing water supply based on groundwater resources utilization, estimations of groundwater potential and perspectives on their use, and the scheme of hydrogeological zoning. In the books following the monograph, recommendations were given on construction of water supply wells and their protection from freezing, and groundwater prospecting, conservation and utilization under cryogenic conditions (Dmitriev and Tolstihin 1971; Tolstihin 1976).

The huge amount of field data collected and analyzed by Octaviy allowed him to defend in 1971 the doctorate thesis entitled “Talics in the North East of the USSR” and receive a Doctor of Science (DSc) degree. Three years later he published a fundamental monograph on icings and groundwaters in the same region (Tolstihin 1974).

Octaviy participated in the unique multi-volume monograph entitled Hydrogeology of the USSR. Each volume describes in full the hydrogeological conditions within the specific area under study, including the occurrences of main aquifers, their regime and resource potential, and their use in industry, agriculture and domestic water supply.

Octaviy made a significant input to the monograph’s XXth volume (Efimov and Zaitsev 1970), which describes hydrogeology in the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Yakut ASSR, now the Republic of Sakha). In particular, he was the author of the following chapters in this volume: Introduction; Permafrost conditions; Geological factors defining groundwater formation; Hydrogeological zoning; Water-bearing complexes of the Neogene age; Groundwater resources; Hydrodynamical and hydrochemical zoning; Present water supply and its perspectives; Groundwater protection; and Hydrogeological conditions at mineral deposits.

For groundwater resources evaluation, Octaviy widely used the relationship between the icing area and corresponding spring discharge at approximately 100 locations. These relationships were utilized for defining base flow values at many new locations where the icing area only was measured. For further clarification of the dependence between these two parameters, he organized long-term observations at numerous large icings. The results of these observations allowed for specifying the regime of icing formation, correlation between the icing volume and precipitation in the previous summer season, and some other icing characteristics. Along with this new approach, Octaviy Tolstihin also used Kudelin’s techniques for streamflow hydrograph separation and for defining base flow and groundwater potentials (for more on Kudelin, see Zaltsberg 2011).

Under Octaviy’s scientific guidance, the first hydrogeological map of Yakut ASSR (scale 1:2,500,000) was compiled and attached to the XXth volume of Hydrogeology of the USSR. Special attention was given to talics through which hydraulic connection between the frozen aquifer(s) and surface-water bodies occurs, and various icings. In particular, linear icings on the mountain slopes, indicating groundwater discharge zones, have been mapped. For the first time in the practice of hydrogeological mapping, cryopegs were delineated on the map along with the isolines of the permafrost thickness defining the depth of cryopeg occurrences. The low boundary of the permafrost zone was shown on the numerous cross-sections and borehole logs associated with the map. In addition, the first schematic hydrochemical map of shallow water-bearing complexes (scale 1:10,000,000) was also attached to the volume. The following features were shown on this regional map: the type of mineralization (hydrocarbon, chloride, sulphide, and mixed), its areal distribution, and total dissolved solids (TDS, in g/L).

Octaviy was the editor of Hydrogeology of the USSR, vol. XXVI (Tolstihin 1972) covering the North East of the country from the Yakutia border eastward to the Kamchatka peninsula. His contribution in the volume included such subjects as underground ice and icings; general principles and the scheme of hydrogeological zoning; and conclusions. Based on the comprehensive analysis of geological, hydrogeological and geocryological conditions, groundwater resource estimations and recommendations on their utilization were presented in the volume. Significant attention was given to the environmental impact assessment of various human activities on the cryozone and its groundwaters.

Under Octaviy’s scientific guidance, the first hydrogeological map of the North East of the USSR (scale 1: 2,500,000) was compiled and attached to the volume XXVI of Hydrogeology of the USSR. The main hydrogeological structures and complexes were shown on the map in conjunction with permafrost conditions, specifically the permafrost zone thickness and continuity. Various types of talics as potential sources of domestic and industrial water supply were also mapped.

In 1972 Octaviy moved to Moscow and worked at the All-Union Institute of Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology (VSEGINGEO) on the problems of geoecology, groundwater protection and the sustainable environment. For instance, in 1980-1984 he worked on the large-scale project entitled “Forecast of Changes in Hydrogeological and Engineering Geological Conditions in the Western Part of the Kansko-Achinsky Coal Basin”. He was one of the first hydrogeologists to study the various geoecological aspects of extensive coal-mining operations in this large coal deposit in South Western Siberia. The results of his investigations were either referred to or used in two monographs (Gavrilin and Ozersky 1996; Avdeev et al. 2002).

The map of cryogenic hydrogeological zoning (scale 1:2,500,000) was published in 1984 under Octaviy’s scientific leadership. It covers the huge territory from the Enisey River to the Kamchatka peninsula. Several types of cryogenic hydrogeological structures were identified and delineated on the map for the first time. This identification was based on the degree of change in the water-bearing structures caused by various thicknesses and discontinuities of the permafrost zone. For each structure, the following features were mapped: the type and mineralization of groundwater accumulations; springs; icings; and groundwater potentials. The last characteristic was calculated using a dual approach. For partially frozen water-bearing structures with discontinuity in the permafrost zone, groundwater resources were evaluated by applying Kudelin’s techniques of streamflow hydrograph separation and defining base flow over the entire river basin. For completely frozen water-bearing formations, this areal approach became inapplicable due to the absence of regional groundwater flow. Under this condition, river flow recharge (and groundwater discharge) occurs through numerous talics located in the river valley. To quantify this specific surface-water/groundwater relationship, the linear talic coefficient was introduced. It is the ratio (in m2/s) between increase in the long-term average annual base flow at the river source and streamflow gauging station, or at two gauging stations, and the corresponding river length. The base flow at the gauging stations was defined by Kudelin’s streamflow hydrograph separation techniques. The map was accompanied by the collective explanatory monograph (Shepelev et al. 1984).

In 1985 Octaviy moved to Yakutsk again and worked at various academic institutions to the end of his long and productive life. Octaviy Tolstihin was a devoted ecologist and educator, and vigorous advocate for a safe and sustainable environment. In the 1980s, he organized and headed several expeditions to the Moma River valley (northeastern Siberia) to demonstrate the need for and possibility of establishing a national park, including the spectacular Ulahan-Taryn icing, which is the biggest in the world with the total area of 100 km2. After some additional investigations and bureaucratic delays, the park was open in 1996 and accepted the first visitors. Since then, thousands of tourists have made a long trip to enjoy the Far North beauty.

In his lectures, popular books, text books and scientific monographs he advocated and encouraged sensitivity towards nature and, specifically, the permafrost environment (Muhina and Tolstihin 1985; Tolstihin et al. 1974, 1986; Tolstihin 1978, 1981, 1990; Tolstihin and Piguzova 1969; Tolstihin and Trofimtsev 1998).

Octaviy Tolstihin was the author of the Conception of Ecological Education and Awareness in Yakutia. Based on this Conception, the parliament of the Republic of Sakhа passed a law which is considered one of the best legislatures on ecological education in Russia.

In 1993 the innovative map of suprapermafrost groundwaters in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia; scale 1:2,500,000) was compiled under Octaviy’s scientific leadership (Melnikov and Tolstihin 1993). Depending on the lithological composition of shallow aquifers, their hydraulic properties, groundwater flow values, and the depth of the cryogenic aquitard, nine types of groundwater regime formation were identified and mapped. Some regional characteristics such as TDS and chemical composition, as well as main industrial structures influencing shallow groundwater, were also shown on the map.

In addition to his impressive scientific and educational achievements, Octaviy wrote nice poetry expressing his love for Siberian nature and Yakutia, which became his second homeland. He taught several generations of Russian and Yakutian hydrogeologists and supervised numerous candidate and doctoral theses. All of them maintain the memory of this talented lecturer and teacher and his extraordinary personality.

Octaviy Tolstihin died in Yakutsk (Russian Federation) in March 2019 at the age of 91. He will be remembered as a diverse scientist who essentially enriched our knowledge on hydrogeology of Siberia, the permafrost environment, and Siberian nature.



The author would like to thank Mrs. A. Stadnik (O. Tolstihin’s daughter) of Moscow and Dr.V. Shepelev of Yakutsk for sharing information on the late Dr. O. Tolstihin.


  1. Avdeev A, Cherepovsky A, Sharov G, Uzvitsky A (eds) (2002) Database of coal deposits in Russia, vol 3 (in Russian). Geoinformark, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  2. Dmitriev E, Tolstihin O (1971) Utilization of groundwater for water supply in Yakutan ASSR (in Russian). The Melnikov Permafrost Institute, YakutskGoogle Scholar
  3. Efimov A, Zaitsev I (eds) (1970) Hydrogeology of the USSR, vol. XX (in Russian). Yakutan ASSR. Nedra, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  4. Gavrilin K, Ozersky A (1996) The Kansko-Achinsky coal basin (in Russian). Nedra, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  5. Kononova R, Tolstihin O, Zhirkov E, Anisimova N (1967) Groundwater in Yakutia as a source of water supply (in Russian). Nedra, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  6. Melnikov P, Tolstihin O (eds) (1993) The map of suprapermafrost groundwaters in the republic of Sakha (Yakutia) (scale 1:2,500,000) (in Russian). Yakutan Airgeodesy Co., YakutskGoogle Scholar
  7. Muhina L, Tolstihin O (1985) Nature and scientific technical revolution (in Russian). Nedra, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  8. Shepelev V, Tolstihin O, Piguzova V (1984) Cryogenic hydrogeological conditions in eastern Siberia (in Russian). Nauka, NovosibirskGoogle Scholar
  9. Tolstihin N, Tolstihin O, Belobaev V (1974) General geocryology (in Russian). Nauka, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  10. Tolstihin O (ed) (1972) Hydrogeology of the USSR, vol XXVI: north east of the USSR (in Russian). Nedra, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  11. Tolstihin O (1974) Icings and groundwaters in the North East of the USSR (in Russian). Nedra, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  12. Tolstihin O (1976) Efficient utilization and conservation of northern subsurface waters. Int Geol Rev 18(3):713–716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Tolstihin O (1978) In the land of icings (in Russian). Gidrometeoizdat, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  14. Tolstihin O (1981) The earth is in people’s hands (in Russian). Nedra, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  15. Tolstihin O (1990) Protection of nature. Introduction into engineering geoecology (in Russian). The Yakutsk University, YakutskGoogle Scholar
  16. Tolstihin O, Piguzova V (1969) Icings in Siberia (in Russian). Nauka, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  17. Tolstihin O, Viktorov S, Kuzmina I (1986) Changing landscapes (in Russian). Agropromizdat, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  18. Tolstihin O, Trofimtsev Y (1998) Ecological management: regulation of the environment exemplified by Yakutia (in Russian). Nauka, NovosibirskGoogle Scholar
  19. Zaltsberg E (1995) N.I. Tolstihin, a patriarch of Russian hydrogeology. Hydrogeol J 3(3):75–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Zaltsberg E (2011) B.I. Kudelin: a pioneer of regional evaluation of groundwater resources in Russia. Hydrogeol J 20(1):201–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Zaltsberg E (2014) Octaviy Lange: an elder of Russian hydrogeology. Hydrogeol J 22(3):739–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Zaltsberg
    • 1
  1. 1.TorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations