Peers of the mammoth and "Forest Jerusalem". Nalibokskaya Pushcha in the project "Grodno region: reserved world"

Peers of the mammoth and "Forest Jerusalem". Nalibokskaya Pushcha in the project "Grodno region: reserved world"

Naliboki is one of the largest forests in Belarus and Eastern Europe

An untouched forest, impenetrable swamps, pristine rivers and unique lakes, semi-wild horses, bison, red deer, the country's only breeding grouse nursery, a partisan camp and much more. Naliboki is one of the largest forests in the Republic of Belarus and throughout Eastern Europe, which has been preserved almost in its original state. This is a whole country in the country - mysterious and poorly studied, equal in area to Luxembourg or Moscow, and by the originality of nature, richness of myths and historical and cultural images - incomparable and unique.

Uniting Pushcha

Nalibokskaa Pushcha stretches in the basins of the right tributaries of the Neman - Berezina and Ussa, extending to the Oshmyany ridges in the north and the Minsk Upland in the east. The vast green space with an area of ​​240 thousand hectares is a unique in composition an integral massif of swamps and forests of various types.


Pushcha unites Minsk and Grodno regions, on its territory there is a republican landscape reserve "Naliboksky" with an area of ​​86.892 hectares - the largest in the country and the only one under the wing of the Ministry of Forestry. The enormous international significance of the Naliboksky reserve for the conservation of biological 


Eighty percent of the Pushcha is an impenetrable forest. Due to the inaccessibility and infertility of the soil, it is practically untouched, little populated. That is why it is called by the people the mysterious, unknown, Terra Incognita. The gateway to Pushcha is the village of Naliboki, Stolbtsy District, Minsk Region, but we are going to study its Grodno part - in Ivye and Novogrudok districts.

- The reserve was created in 2012,  says Larisa Kulak, our guide on forest trails, an environmental engineer of the Republican landscape reserve "Naliboksky". Since then, we have been carrying out painstaking work to preserve and enhance the flora and fauna.

What was Pushcha famous for

On the way, Larissa, a person who is in love with her profession and perfectly knows the history of her native land and forest, excitedly talks about the Naliboki region - a place with a rich historical past. The famous museums of Europe, including the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, museums in Moscow, Krakow, Warsaw, exhibit Naliboki glass products. Here, in Naliboki, in 1717, the leading Nalibokskaya guta for those times was founded, that is, a small glass factory. The princely and royal courts bought in large quantities the products of the Nalibok glaziers.

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In 1849, Prince Wittgenstein, known in narrow circles, the owner of the surrounding villages, founded an iron factory in Kletishche. The Khreptovichy metallurgical plant in Vishnevo was of approximately the same scale.

In the wilds of Nalibok, they made vodka known throughout Lithuania, famous for its strength. Alcoholic drinks were produced by local "entrepreneurs" in a wide range and were even exported to Warsaw, to Königsberg.


Journey to the natural world

After driving along the gravel road to the beginning of the ecological path, we go deep into the forest on foot. There are two ecological paths in the Naliboksky reserve. One, adapted for people with disabilities, begins near the village of Belokorets, Minsk region, the other, along which we are walking, - “Syabryn crossroads” - circular, 960 meters long, leads through three biotopes: forest, meadow and swamp.   


-Last year, about 4.5 thousand tourists visited the reserve,” says Larisa.  This figure includes cyclists and nature trail enthusiasts. For many years, canoeists have been traveling to Pushcha to raft along Isloch, environmental students. This is a real Klondike for scientific researchers.


How the bison was returned to Pushcha

The beauties of the Belarusian forests - gigantic bison, stately deer and elks, shy roe deer, wild boars, wolves, foxes, beavers, otters, muskrats, minks, squirrels, martens - have become home to all these and a number of other animals. Recently, a camera trap recorded a bear walking in the forest.


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Among the birds, white and black storks, gray and white herons, capercaillie, black grouse, hazel grouse, partridge, quail, owl, falcon, jay, thrush, bullfinch, woodpecker, duck, warbler, sandpiper, swan, kingfisher and others live here. The rich fauna of the Pushcha includes 53 species of mammals and about 190 species of upland and waterfowl.

During the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Nalibokskaya Pushcha was called Lithuanian. It was here that the great dukes, and later the Polish kings, hunted for the bison that had disappeared over time, and meat for the army was procured.

In 1994 15 bisons were brought here from Belovezhskaya Pushcha, and the specialists of the State Forestry Institution "Volozhin Forestry" took full responsibility for the maintenance and protection of the free-living herd. Thanks to their enthusiasm, the herd took root well and began to bear offspring. Now the number of bison has grown to 90. They can be found in the forests of Volozhinsky, Stolbtsovsky, Ivye and Novogrudok forestry enterprises. In recent years, the reserve has even supplied bison to the country's forestry enterprises.

- A huge work has been done, in which a large team of professionals was involved. Vasily Shakun - head of the laboratory of population ecology of terrestrial vertebrates and bioresources management of the State Scientific and Production Association of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus for Bioresources, Alexander Kozorez - head of the hunting department of the Ministry of Forestry and others, emphasizes Vasily Gurkov, director of the reserve.

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About 870 handsome deer, more than 420 elk also walk freely in the more often. There is a 5.4 hectare enclosure for deer holding.

In general, 53 species of animals from those listed in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus live within the boundaries of the reserve. In addition, there are a number of species of animals and birds listed in the Red Book of Europe, as well as those of general European nature conservation significance.

-All this testifies to a good degree of preservation of the forest territory from anthropogenic imact, as well as to the uniqueness, high ecological and environmental role of our reserve,  emphasizes Vasily Gurkov, the director of the reserve.   


Semi-wild tarpans and Tyakovo reclamation

On the territory of the Pushcha there are several towers from which you can observe nature. One of them is in the Tyakovo tract on the Syabrynsky crossroads trail. Since 2016, the UNDP / GEF project "Sustainable Management of Forest and Wetland Ecosystems to Achieve Multi-Purpose Benefits" has been implemented here. In order to restore wetland ecosystems, the areas that were once flood meadows and later overgrown with hmyznyak were again turned into meadows where semi-wild tarpan horses of the konik breed will graze. In August, they were brought from the Netherlands - such an amazing gift for the reserve.


-Konik horses are one of the lost elements of the ecosystem, says Vasily Gurkov, the director of the reserve, a supporter of the rewilding concept. - This is not a new species for this territory. 600 years ago, the warriors of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania fought in the Battle of Grunwald on tarpan-like horses, 400 years ago the last individual disappeared. In the management plan of the reserve there is an item on the introduction of tarpan-like horses or aurochs-like cattle. We are creating a self-regulating sustainable ecosystem that works without human intervention.



For now, incredibly beautiful horses are grazing under the "watch" of an electric shepherd, but soon they will be released. Huntsman Alexander Zenko takes care of newcomers. He can endlessly talk about horses, their habits, mood, nutrition.

-The horses get some of the food themselves, we additionally prepare hay for them, put oats in their feeders, says the huntsman. These horses clean the meadows like lawn mowers. That is, they naturally regulate the growth of herbaceous vegetation.

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By the way, the first foal has already appeared in the herd. It was named AM - from the word "Amsterdam", the capital of the state, from where the horses moved to Nalibokskaya Pushcha.


"Mum" for wood grouses

There are 29 bird species listed in the Red Book in the Pushcha. The kingfisher is considered an unofficial symbol of the Pushcha: the population of this beautiful bird on Isloch and in the lower reaches of the Western Berezina is the largest in Belarus.

The reserve also operates the only breeding nursery for black grouse birds in Belarus - a project of the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Nature, implemented at the expense of UNDP / GEF and UNDP / EU funds and the republican budget.

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-Our goal is to restore the population of wood grouses of a rare Western European subspecies, whose number in Nalibokskaya Pushcha has decreased 10 times over the past ten years, says Tatiana Pavlyushchik, researcher at the Center for Bioresources of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Belarus. - While we are completing the breeding stock. The first birds were removed from the wild, this year three broods were bred in captivity.

The technology for artificial breeding of birds in the nursery has been developed for three years. The technique was developed and adapted in Poland. Having studied the experience of our European colleagues, we decided to combine the method of incubation of eggs with their incubation by females in captivity. Later, the chicks will be transferred to summer adaptation enclosures in the forest. And only after that, the young will be released. Using this technology, the reserve is planning to receive a stable increase in birds and increase the number of wood grouses in Nalibokskaya Pushcha to 30 individuals by 2020.


In the meantime, the mother for the chicks has become ... Tatiana Pavlyushchik. They react to her voice, worry when she is not around. Babies from this year's brood are fed by the entire sanctuary. Employees from their garden bring green onions, spinach, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, greens to the nursery, pick blueberries, lingonberries ...

- And in order to reduce the stress in birds during adaptation to the Nalibok forest, the hunting for wood grouse was closed throughout the reserve, says Vasily Gurkov. 


Ploun is the same age as the mammoth

The climate in which Nalibokskaya Pushcha is located favors a riot of forests. Nature has generously endowed it with a variety of vegetation. The flora of the Pushcha, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources, numbers 820 plant species, 26 of which are included in the Red Book. High-stemmed pine forests, dense spruce forests, white birch groves, mighty oak forests, green-haired aspen forests delight the eye.

Maple, ash, hornbeam, black alder also grow here, in the undergrowth there are hazel, willow, buckthorn, viburnum, warty euonymus, juniper, dwarf birch and Karelian birch are found.The territory of the reserve belongs to the Neman floristic region. There are over a thousand species of higher plants here, and in terms of their number, the reserve is richer than any of the reserves in Belarus. Nalibokskaya Pushcha, as one of the botanically unique sites, is a part of the continent's ecological network. There is even a plow, the same age as the mammoth, which in ancient times grew up to 40 meters in height, and now it unnoticeably spreads near the wooden flooring of the eco-trail.

Floristic studies of the territory of the reserve showed that almost a quarter of the plants growing here are medicinal, many of them are included in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus. Large areas of the forest are covered with berries: blueberries, lingonberries, cranberries.

Water arteries

The main waterway of the Pushcha is the Neman River. It flows from the south-east to the north-west and bends around almost the entire western side of the forest. Western Berezina, Usa, Isloch and their main tributaries - Volma, Volka, Sivichanka, Izled also carry their waters through the territory of the reserve. The Pushcha is heavily bogged, from 1969 to 1977 there was an active land reclamation. 


There are few natural lakes on the territory of the Pushcha. The largest one is Kroman, located in the southern part of the reserve on the border of Novogrudok and Stolbtsy districts. The lake has an oval shape, its depth in some places reaches 26 meters, the total area is 92 hectares. The lake is flowing: the Blueshka river flows into it, the Kamenka flows out. Until 1939, the reservoir was a popular recreation place for the Polish nobility. There is evidence that the Polish Marshal Pilsudski, who loved to rest in Nalibokskaya Pushcha, planted a linden tree on the bank of the Kromani.

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The lake is surrounded on all sides by a forest, before the appearance of the tourist complex "Kroman" it was completely wild. It has clean and warm water. It is not surprising that tourists and fishing enthusiasts have chosen it. It is home to 19 species of fish. The most numerous are bream, roach, perch, crucian carp, ruff, pike, tench, silver bream. Crayfish are also found.

Or you can go to the Syabryn lakes in the Ivye region - the most beautiful artificial reservoirs with a picturesque island in the center, rent a manor house, a gazebo, organize barbecue or go fishing.

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The incredibly beautiful lake Chereshlya in the Novogrudok region belongs to the basin of the Neman River, it is connected with the Neman by the Berezka River. The mirror area is about 0.44 km, the length of the coastline is about 2.9 km. The mystical lake Svyatoe is connected with this lake by a stream, not far from Glukhoye - "a hole in the ground" and Sandy.

Chereshlya. In sandals in the swamp

- Foreigners are now very interested in Belarus. And if they want to see the Belarusian way of life, they are looking for such estates as ours: surrounded by forests and lakes, with an authentic national way of life, says Mikhail Zuyevich, one of the founders of agroecotourism in Novogrudok.

Mikhail Zuevich is very keen on the history of his native land, Belarusian culture, ancient crafts. In my father's house, I set up an agriturismo with an authentic way of life: a bathhouse, a hayloft, a mini-museum of bast shoes and old instruments.

Here you can relax in complete silence, try on sandals and go for cranberries in the swamp or go kayaking, cycling around the world, a mushroom and berry hike or one of the walking routes. And you can get a master class on bast weaving and making baskets from a vine from 86-year-old Anatoly Zuevich - Mikhail's father. It is not surprising that this picturesque corner is chosen by tourists not only from Belarus, but also from Poland, Russia, the Baltic States, Germany, Israel, France, England, and the USA.

Chereshlya is surrounded by forests, meadows and pine forest on the shore of the 44.4 hectare lake of the same name, rich in fish and connected to the Neman River. In the vicinity there are three more lakes - Pesochnoe, Svyatoe and Glukhoe, numerous inflows, the Plisa river flows nearby and the Western Berezina flows into the Neman. This village in Nalibokskaya Pushcha is a real paradise for lovers of outdoor activities and ethnography.

If a tourist is interested in the topic of war, Mikhail Zuevich will organize for him a special tour "Chereshlya Partisan": next to the village there is a partisan camp with dugouts and a fireplace in the center. During the war years there was a ferry across the Neman, and the camp was used to guard it. The parking lot was reconstructed in the 70s of the last century.

Leaving Chereshlya, everyone will certainly embrace a beautiful 300-year-old oak tree to feel the power and strength, peace and peace in the soul. After all, it is for this - harmony, silence, nourishment - that people come here ...


Pushcha is partisan. "Forest Jerusalem"

A large partisan formation functioned on the territory of Nalibokskaya Pushcha during the Great Patriotic War, the total number of partisans in this area exceeded 20 thousand people. There was also a separate Jewish partisan detachment of the Belsky brothers, numbering over 3,000 people - a detachment in which there were Jews who had escaped from the ghetto. About 1000 people (children, invalids, old people, women and children) fled from death in "Forest Jerusalem" - Nalibokskaya Pushcha.


-The detachment was a whole village, which was called“ Forest Jerusalem, says Tamara Vershitskaya, a researcher at the Novogrudok Museum of History and Local Lore and curator of the Museum of Jewish Resistance. - Workshops were organized in the detachment, in which shoemakers, blacksmiths, tailors, tanners worked. A bakery, a laundry, a hospital, a school and a kindergarten, and a synagogue were built in the forest.


This summer, descendants of those who lived in “Forest Jerusalem” came to Novogrudok and Nalibokskaya Pushcha. Children and grandchildren of the rescued people flew in from America, Australia, Europe and Asia. They walked along the road that their ancestors walked. And in Novogrudok, a memorial wall was opened - a monument to Jews who escaped from the ghetto during the war. Most of the construction of the memorial was funded by the father of US President Donald Trump's aide and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Charles.

One of the Belsky brothers, Aron, who now lives in the United States, also attended the opening. During the war he was 12 years old. In the partisan detachment, he was a liaison. Based on the history of the Belsky squad in Hollywood, the film "Challenge" was filmed, it was released in 2008 and grossed more than $ 50 million at the box office. One of the Belsky brothers, Tuvue, was played by Daniel Craig. The role of Aron, who came to Novogrudok, was played by the English actor George McKay.


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