Updated date:

The Southern Elephant of the Paleontologist G. Manokhin

Nikolas studies bios of the famous people as a bright example of high common culture and perfect professionalism

Southern Elephant or Mammuthus Meridionalis

The Citizen of the World

  • Manokhin, Georgiy Vasilyevitch, (the dates of life unknown), was a scientist in the sphere of paleontology. He was graduated both from St.Petersburg University and Sorbonne. His knowledge of foreign languages was perfect. In 1927, he removed with his family from Leningrad (St.Petersburg) to Berdiansk. He hoped to become lost at the heart of the country. Nobody will prevent him from scientific work. Moreover, nobody will point out which famous revolutionary date to make a discovery.
  • G. Manokhin wrote in “Neus Jarhbuh fur Mineralogie, Geologie und Paleontologie”, issued May 1943 about it. After three-day southern storms, on the 18 of June 1941, he had observed the coast. At the end of a small depression near Nogaysk, the present Primorsk, he found bones of the Southern Elephant. The scientist knew the autumn southern-eastern winds and storms to take away the fossils into the sea in one year. Then he decided to ask the German command for help.
  • The answer went immediately.

From the Northern Coast of the Sea of Azov to Berlin

  • The German battalion under the command of Sonderfurer Caspary arrived. Its task was excavations, keeping, and transportation of the skeleton. The officer was to have accomplished out all requests of the scientist even if they seemed to be strange.
  • The bones were transporting to Berlin. Professor of Berlin University V.Dietrich determined them to the old male aged from 80 to 100 years.
  • G.Manokhin arrived in Berlin. He took part in the organization and conducting of the science exhibition.

From Berlin to Leningrad - St Peterburg

  • After the war, 12 cases with the bones of Elephant came to Hermitage Museum. Why to this Museum? The matter was that Germans were marking captured values in different packages due to their concrete content. They were using a certain cipher. For example, cases with pictures had the letter “K”. That black letter was on cases with the bones of the Elephant.
  • It led Soviet specialists into error. That's why the cases went to Hermitage.

  • In 1949 the bones of the Southern Elephant proceeded to the Zoological Museum of AN USSR (Academy of Sciences). The Candidate of Biology Vadim Garutt was to restore and mount the skeleton. Firstly, he needs to clear from what country they came of. After careful observing, he managed to remark letters of Ancient Greek on the bones. In contrast, German scientists were marking their discoveries with Latin ones. In one of the cases he found the above-mentioned article of G. Manokhin in a German scientific review. Due to it, the scientist concluded the skeleton to stay at the Northern Azov coast.


  • V.Garutt was attending Berdiansk many times. He was in friendly relations with the author O.Ogultchanskiy. The local historian helped him in deciphering of Manokhin enumeration.


  • In 1951, a those times single complete skeleton rose in the Mammoth Hall of Leningrad Zoological Museum.

  • The elephant stands out considerably among other exhibits. It almost reached the ceiling (4,3 m), has massive tusks, the right one vanished by half. Nowadays, this Southern Elephant remains the first greatest one, in Europe.

The Southern Elephant from the Northern Coast of the Sea of Azov

The Southern Elephant

The Southern Elephant

A Tragic Destiny of G. Manokhin

  • G.Manokhin came back to Berdiansk in 1943, after its deliberation from German troops. He was arrested for “collaboration with occupants” and went to Kharkiv concentration camp Cold Mount.
  • In this camp he was gone, perhaps, he was shot or didn't survive in severe camp conditions. In any case, for the inquiry of L.Beriya (Ministry of the State Security) the answer of the camp's chief was “died of acute pneumonia”. Thus, the curriculum vitae of the scientist, given the unique find to mankind, finished. Nobody thinks of him after the war.


  • His daughter Yelena was departing her custodial sentence as a member of anti-Soviet People Labor Organization, in northern Norilsk. Also, she had a title “relative of the enemy of the Soviet people”. Further facts about her life aren't known.
  • The Director of Berdiansk Regional Studies Museum I.Sentchenko was gathering for many years the information about the scientist privately.
  • The local historian, author O.Ogultchanskiy was helping him. Contrary, the first man, who decided to name the scientist, was the journalist from Zaporizhia V. Suprunenko. He described the feat in the feature story Elephant from The Azov Coast,1982.

Will the Adventures Continue?

  1. The adventures of the Southern Elephant haven't finished yet. Will Ukraine be able to return this exhibit from St. Peterburg to Berdiansk?
  2. State Committee on Transmission of Cultural Treasures to Ukraine was liquidated in 1998. Will Berdiansk, as a resort town, be able to receive this original specimen? There are more questions than answers.

The Paleontologist G.Manokhin

Paleontologist Manokhin

Paleontologist Manokhin

The Philosophy of Paleontology

To Come Back Home?

Related Articles