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Literature / Sannikov Land

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Земля Санникова (Sannikov Land) is a 1926 Russian/Soviet Science Fiction / Speculative Fiction / Action-Adventure novel by Vladimir Obruchev, that has a very loose 1973 film adaptation by Albert Mkrtchyan and Leonid Popov. The story is based on the legends about Sannikov Land, an island in the far north of the Arctic Ocean that is warmed by a volcano and inhabited by a tribe called the Onkilon. It is similar to the works of Jules Verne or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


This novel provides examples of:

  • Apocalypse How: On the low end of Class 0. The eruption will kill everyone and everything in Sannikov Land.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Gorokhov is incredibly unhappy with his wife who has a horrid temper, which is one of the reasons he decides to stay in Sannikov Land with gentle and kind Raku who adores him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Heavy on the bitter. The Onkilons and the Vampu have probably perished, Kostyakov is dead, Raku is killed, the entire unique ecosystem of Sannikov Land is gone for good, and the photos and tokens of the land are lost forever. However, apart from Kostyakov, the explorers make it home alive and well, and Ordin and Annuir end up together.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The explorers come to Sannikov Land only a short while before a Natural Disaster Cascade begins. The Onkilons, comparing the situation with an old prophecy about people from the continent bringing misfortunes, start to see it as cause-and-effect.
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  • Frazetta Man: The Vampu are hairy Paleolithic humans at a very low stage of development who are the Arch-Enemy of the Onkilons.
  • God Guise: Downplayed – as the Onkilons are animists, it’s "spirit guise". Gorokhov, while sitting high in a tree, shouts to the Onkilons that they should go north to escape the flood and claims he is the spirit of the sky. They believe him.
  • Grim Up North: The journey to Sannikov Land is described very meticulously, and the author makes it clear that an expedition to the polar regions is a really tough undertaking. Be it wind crashing their tents or ice breaking almost under their feet, the explorers have some narrow escapes from death before even reaching Sannikov Land.
  • Heel Realization: After the explorers scare off the Vampu and take some of their possessions for their collection, Goryunov realizes they have basically committed breaking and entering and robbery, even if it was purely for academic purposes. They decide to leave some of their own things to the Vampu in compensation.
  • I Choose to Stay:
    • Annuir decides to follow Ordin to the mainland.
    • Gorokhov decides to stay with the Onkilons, especially since he has fallen in love with Raku. He changes his mind just in time, so he escapes the flooding, but Raku doesn’t.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Gorokhov feels he could have saved Raku, if he had come to look for her only a little earlier.
  • Last Girl Wins: Annuir, Ordin's second wife (and, in addition, the last woman to get married at the wife-choosing festival), is the one with whom he finds real love.
  • Lost World: Sannikov Land is populated by mammoths, cave bears and other Pleistocene animals, as well as the Vampu who are Paleolithic humans.
  • Love at First Sight: Gorokhov chooses Raku as his wife the moment he sees her.
  • May–December Romance: Implied with Gorokhov and Raku. He decides to stay with her rather than return to his own elderly and bad-tempered wife. But then Raku dies in the flood.
  • Mighty Whitey: Subverted. Though enthusiastic to see them at first, the Onkilons are wary of the explorers and cautious to follow their advice, and anyway, the explorers can do nothing to prevent the coming catastrophe.
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Inverted. Ordin is white and Annuir is Asian, but he falls for her precisely because she is anything but mellow.
  • Natural Disaster Cascade: Over the course of four months, Sannikov Land suffers through a series of earthquakes, a severe frost, more earthquakes, a flood, and a volcanic eruption. Justified, since all these disasters are related to the seismic activity in the region or are indirectly caused by it (the frost occurs when the earthquakes block the active geysers that warm the land).
  • The Mole: Annuir spies on the Onkilons after their relationship with the explorers is soured. Ordin warns her not to be too vehement in her defense of him, so that the Onkilons wouldn’t suspect where her loyalties really lie.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Inverted with Ordin, who immediately likes Annuir’s determination and pride after she demands to marry him.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Ordin gets two Onkilon brides and both are called Annu. He decides to call them Annuan and Annuir, short for Annu-annen (Annu the First) and Annu-ngirak (Annu the Second).
  • Shout-Out: Gorokhov wants to shoot a baby rhino, but his friends tell him that the joint Papa Wolf and Mama Bear attack of the latter's parents would be deadly. In Obruchev's earlier novel Plutonia, Dr. Gromeko does shoot a baby rhino in highly similar circumstances, almost gets trampled by the adult ones and barely escapes with his life.

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