Baikal Ice, Siberia, 2005

The Story:
On November 7th 1889 a young Cossack, stationed on the border of Russia & China, mounted a small gray horse named Serko with the firm intention of getting to Saint Petersburg, the capital of the empire. The 18-year-old Dimitri Peshkov (who had never been out of his village) set out across Siberia on horseback to ask the Tsar to uphold his promise to protect the native Evenk tribe from abuse at the hands of a corrupt local Governor.

The distance from the Amur River to St Petersburg was nearly 9,000 kilometers (over 5,000 miles), no one believed they would make it. On 19th May 1890, Dimitri and Serko – both in excellent shape – arrived in the city of the Tsars, having traversed the Russian Empire from Asia to Europe, crossing The Eurasian Steppe, Tien Shan Mountains and Siberian forests. Having covered more than 9000 kilometers in less than 200 days, the young rider has achieved and the most amazing equestrian feat of all time.

About the Photograph:
Photographer Matthieu Paley created this series of photographs recreating this moment in history. These images were used for the cover and inside pages of the book “Serko : Ou comment Dimitri Pechkov traversa la Russie d'est en ouest sur son petit cheval gris” which translates to “Serko: Or how Dimitri Peshkov across Russia from East to West on his little gray horse”.

This photograph depicts “Dimitri” and “Serko” crossing Lake Baikal with Olkhon island in the background. Researchers and historians acknowledge Olkhon island as the birthplace of shamanism A large minority of people in North Asia, particularly in Siberia, still follow the religio-cultural practices of shamanism to this day. Olkhon is an important Shamanist centre and the home of Shamanka, or Shaman’s Rock.

Location: Irkutsk District, Siberia, Russia
Photograph Date: 2005
Medium: Chromogenic Print
Edition: 200

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About the Photographer

Matthieu Paley

Matthieu Paley is a regular contributor to National Geographic.

Matthieu’s passion for the human nature has taken him all over the world. He likes to focus his camera on regions that are under-reported or misrepresented. Matthieu has published several books of his work on the Pamir mountains, Mongolia, Siberia and on the Evolution of Diet.

He is the recipient of many awards, including a 2017 World Press award. Over the course of his career, Matthieu has learned 6 languages, feeding his passion to connect with the people he meets and helping him to instil a sense of intimacy into his images. He regularly leads National Geographic workshops, more recently in Paris, Prague, Turkey and Mongolia.

Born in France, Matthieu currently spends his time between the remote and a small village on the Aegean coast in Turkey. More of his work can be seen on his website ( and by following him on Instagram @paleyphoto

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