Man’s interference in the northern environment during economic development profoundly alters the terrain and permafrost parameters. In view of the many problems permafrost creates in northern development, the Permafrost Research Committee was formed in 1930 by the USSR Academy of Sciences on Prof. V.Vernadsky’s initiative. It was the first academic institution with the mission to study seasonal and perennial frost. The Committee was chaired by the well-known geologist V.A.Obruchev. Prof. M.I. Sumgin whose book ‘Eternal Frost in the USSR” (1927) laid foundations for a new science of geocryology was appointed as its academic secretary.
The first permafrost research station in Yakutia was established in the summer 1941 in the south-western vicinity of Yakutsk where MPI now stands. The station was headed by Pavel Melnikov. In 1956, the station was reorganized into the North-Eastern Department of the Obruchev Permafrost Institute in Moscow and, four years later, into the Permafrost Institute, subordinate to the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
From its foundation in 1960 to 1987, the Permafrost Institute was headed by Academician Pavel I. Melnikov, one of the pioneers of geocryological science and the first president of the International Permafrost Association (1983–1988). In the following years, the Institute was run by Dr. Rostislav M. Kamensky (1988 to 2003) and Dr. Rudolf V. Zhang (2004-2012). In March 2012, Dr. Mikhail Zhelezniak was named Acting Director of MPI. On April 25, 2013, Dr. Zhelezniak was elected to the position of MPI Director by the General Assembly of the RAS Siberian Branch for the term of five years.