The tourist part of Belovezhskaya Pushcha
Belovezhskaya Pushcha is one of the best known and most popular tourist places in Belarus. This nature reserve is truly unique: it is a primeval forest that existed on the Earth as far back as in prehistoric times. Once it occupied a vast territory stretching from the Baltic Sea to the banks of the Bug basin, from the Oder to the Dnieper basin. Despite the fact that an impressive part of the old-growth forest has been destroyed over time, it is located on the lands of Belarus and Poland, and thus it is the largest forest in Europe.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha is located quite far from the capital of Belarus – Minsk, 340 kilometers away. The forest was placed a name by no less important Brest district site – Belaya Vezha. This architectural monument, which construction took place in the XIII century, is located twenty kilometers from Brest region gem – the town of Kamenetz.
The history of Belovezhskaya Pushcha
The reserve is not only the biggest in Europe, but it is also the most ancient one. The first mentioning of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is found in written sources in 983 (Hypation Chronicle). Before the lands acquired their name, an illustrious Prince Vladimir Monomakh had whiled away the time in the primeval forest. He spent long days hunting for bisons, aurochs, deer. Prince Vladimir Volynsky founded Kamenets fortress in 1276, and the Lithuanian rule was established there in the XIII century.
The first person, who realized the value of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, was an outstanding Polish King Yagaylo. He banned hunting and ordered to consider those lands protected. According to his charter, published in 1406, anyone, except for him and his relatives, was forbidden to hunt there. Thus, the first steps were taken for the protection of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, but a large-scale royal hunting which Yagaylo arranged, continued to cause irreparable damage to bison, aurochs and other large animals’ livestock.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha was the royal hunting lands during a long time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s existence. When the rule over Brest region passed to the great Empress Catherine II, she immediately banned all hunting, allowing to shoot only bison. This led to a sharp reduction of their population. However, seven years later in 1802, Alexander I, who succeeded her on the throne, issued a decree, imposing a total ban on hunting for bison. Moreover, the animal stocktake was started. Gradually, deer were brought into the forest, which had already been exterminated by 1705, and the battues were arranged against them later.
During the First World War, an enormous damage had been done to the protected forest and wildlife. The Germans cut down and removed several million cubic meters of timber and rare valuable species, bison and fallow deer livestocks were decimated, wild boars and elks were almost completely wiped out.
A conservation activity gained strength in the postwar period. In 1939, when the forest territory became part of the BSSR, it was decided to organize the Belarusian State Reserve “Belovezhskaya Pushcha”. A section of the reserve became a part of Poland after the World War II.
In 1992, Belovezhskaya Pushcha has been listed in a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha nowadays
Belovezhskaya Pushcha is certainly worth a visit! Not only to see how freely and quietly bison, bears, deer and other animals walk, but also to visit a fairy tale – the residence of Ded Moroz, see the beautiful Belaya Vezha and breathe the cleanest air, which is so lacking in modern cities.