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POBEDITELI  Soldiers of the Great War

A History of Russian Forestry and its Leaders


It is difficult to overestimate the role of the forest in Russian life. The well-known Russian historian V. O. Klyuchevskiy wrote, "The forest served the Russian people in a number of ways: economically, politically and even morally. They built with pine and oak, they heated with birch and aspen, they lighted their cabins with birch splinters, they shod themselves with bast, and made household tools of linden. For centuries in the north, as in earlier times in the south, the forest fed the economy with the pelts of fur-bearing animals and the honey of the forest bees. The forest served as a dependable refuge from external enemies who burdened the Russian people with sorrow and chains..."1

Over many centuries, forest science in Russia developed along its own distinct path. Its roots lie in the folklore and the keen powers of observation of the Russian people. For example, the slash and burn method of agriculture was mirrored in the ancient Russian calendar and in the calendars of other Slavic peoples (Belorussians, Poles, Ukrainians, Czechs, etc.). January on the old Russian calendar was called Cutting Time (in Russian sechen and in modern Ukrainian sicken}, as if designating the time to cut the forest. March was called Berioz.oz.ol (berezen in Ukrainian, brezets in Czech), the time to burn the cut birch trees and turn them to ash. Berioz.oz.ol is from the word for birch, and birch forests were most often cut and made into fields, for the soil in birch forests was always more fertile than in pine forests. Because spring arrives later farther to the north, the name Berioz.oz.ol there stood not for March, but for the month following March. Lipets (Ukrainian lipen) stood for July, the month when the lindens bloom.

Because the soil of the forests with broad-leaf and broad-leaf needle trees, often called "under the oak soil," was highly fertile, logging in the forest steppe zone gave way to hay fields and pasture land in the areas close to the cities, towns and villages. Black forest was the widespread folk name for oak, birch, aspen and other deciduous forests, especially in the southern and southwestern part of the country. This name arose from the sharp contrast of the black silhouettes of the leafless trees in winter against the white snow. There is also the concept of the red forest, which is applied mainly to light coniferous forests of pines which have a reddish bark. It is also often associated with coniferous forests in general because of their beauty in all seasons of the year (the Russian word krasniy, which means red, is used here in its old meaning of beautiful, like Red Square in Moscow). In contemporary forestry literature these terms are no longer used, but they were widely applied in earlier times.2

Not all forested land was appropriate for agriculture. As early as the 15th century forested land was divided into arable and non-arable. Bogs, for example, belonged to the latter category.

I. S. Melekhov in his book Silvics noted that, "the shortened folk terms denoting various types of forests, were expressive and capacious, reflecting the forest's practical significance. Terms such as kholm, "hill" (a spruce forest on a rise); belomoshnik "white moss" or smolokurniy bor "dense resin woods" (a pine forest with lichen covering dry areas); subolot, "sub-swamp " (pine growing in wet areas); sogra (boggy spruce forest with grassy ground cover), rada (pine growing in a swamp). The Russian peasant knew where he could get the best building materials, where he could distill tar, where he could hunt hazel grouse, quail, wood grouse and other game birds, and where he could cut the best hay."3

Thus, more than 500 years ago the foundation was laid for the future sciences of phenology, forestry regulation, and forest typology. Leaders in the field of forestry became renowned because their work is universally known, universally recognized, and has eternal value. The great forestry scientists were also excellent teachers; they taught in the universities, institutes, and schools of Russia. Many received excellent training, including study abroad. Important government leaders and naturalists of the time had no forestry experience, but even they had an affinity for the forest, its needs, and its role in the life of the people. All of the giants in the field, who are mentioned here, as well as those who are not mentioned, are teachers, teachers in the greatest sense of the word.

The authors tried to avoid numbers and descriptions of Russia forests. In the last decade, many publications on Russian forests, forest resources, and forestry became available.4

Chapter 1, shows the main historical developments in forest use, the formation of forest property rights, forest legislation, forest policies and forest management. The chapter gives the prehistory and background for the development of forest sciences in Russia, the publication of works on forestry, the founding of forest science institutions and the growth of scientists and scientific schools.

Chapter 2 presents biographical information and excerpts from the works of the founding fathers of forestry and forest science.

Chapter 3 is a compilation of the works of soil scientists, geobotanists, and forest ecologists. This is included with purpose, since it is impossible to separate the forest from the soil.

Chapter 4 is a collection of materials about scientists who made the greatest contribution to the development of Russian forestry, forest inventory, forest management, and the theory of forest use.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, it is impossible to encompass the unencompassable. The book is not large. That is good: if someone picks it up and looks through it but decides not to read it, they haven't wasted much time or money; and another, who does read it, may ask the authors for a sequel. And there is much to write about. Very, very much!

1 Klyuchevsky, V. 0. 1987. The Course of Russian History in: Works in 9 Volumes. Moscow, Mysl. Vol. l, Pt. 1, p. 83.
2 See, for example: D. Kaigorodov. 1897. Conversations on the Russian Forest. Black Forest. Deciduous Forest. 4th edition, corrected and supplemented, St. Petersburg, Suvorin Publications. 178 pp.
Also, D. Kaigorodov. 1899. Conversations on the Russian Forest. Red Forest. Coniferous Forest. 4th edition, corrected and supplemented, St. Petersburg, Suvorin Publications. 130 pp.
3 Melekshov, I. S. 1980. SUvics. Moscow, Forest Industry, p. 326-327.
4 Teplyakov, Victor K. 1994. Forestry Education in Russia. Forestry Chronicle. November-December. No. 70/6. p. 700-703.
On the Ecological and Economic Impacts of the Wood Harvesting and Trade in North-West Russia. 1996. Oy Peg-Forest and Environment Group Ltd. Joensuu, Finland. 152 pp.
Atlas on the Biological Diversity of the European Russia and Adjacent Territories. 1996.
IUCN The World Conservation Union, Moscow, Office. Project No. 75126. Moscow. 144 pp, including 143 maps.
Russia: Forest Policy During Transition. 1997. The World Bank Country Study. Washington, D.C. 279pp.
Potential of the Russian Forests and Forest Industries. 1997. International seminar for forestry and forest industry specialists. May 14-16, 1997 at Moscow, Russia. University of Joensuu, Finland - Russian Institute of Continuous Education in Forestry, Pushkino, Russia. Research Notes 61, University of Joensuu, Faculty of Forestry. 144 pp.

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