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POBEDITELI  Soldiers of the Great War

A History of Russian Forestry and its Leaders

Chapter 1

History of Forest Use, Management, Policy, and Legislation in Russia

"The first going is a bridge to followers."
(M. M. Orlov)

"The friends of mine! Take crosier yours. Move into the woods, stroll in the valleys."
(Alexander S. Pushkin)

The resolution of theoretical and practical problems in any field of economic endeavor requires the knowledge of previous experience. What sort of contribution did early Russian leaders make in the formation of governmental forest policy and forest management? What can we find that is useful and instructional for today in the history of Russia's forest practices? The periods which follow present, in very condensed form, general information about the conditions and environment in which the leaders of Russian forestry lived and worked.

(8th-12th Centuries)

The First Period (8th-12th centuries) witnessed the unlimited use of the forests and forest lands. At the same time, there was no need for forest legislation, management or policies.

In the archives on the history of Ancient Rus, the forest as a land category was rarely mentioned. This is because the forest was such a natural element of the landscape that it didn't require any special mention in the chronicles. The chronicles of the time more frequently mention lands having greater significance at the time, such as plowed fields and meadows, hay and honey fields, beaver haunts, etc. Forest lands are mentioned in the documents from areas where forest lands or timber were in short supply, for example in the forest-steppe zone.

The ancient Slavs lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering, and they worshipped the forests, groves, trees, rivers, lakes, and springs. The forests and waters were considered holy, as they supplied food and drink. Large parts of the forest were considered holy groves and forbidden reserves.

In the ancient Russian language, the verbs to preserve (zapovedat') and to forbid (zakazat') meant "to say what must be done in the future." This is the origin of the words preserve (zapovednik) and refuge (zakaznik) , which denote the area of the forest where hunting and logging are forbidden. With the adoption of Christianity in ancient Rus, the preservation of certain parts of the forest took place ceremoniously, with a procession of icons, holy banners, and prayers. The people took an oath not to enter the forest, not to cut it, and not to hunt. These measures prevented damage to the forest, especially in the border areas that separated Rus from the wilderness, in the forests that protected Russian lands from attack by nomads.

Refuge groves were community property. Based on superstitions, the taboo against using these groves facilitated the reproduction and the subsequent expansion to new areas of various animal species. The groves also held an abundance of medicinal herbs, berries, mushrooms, and roots, which had become rare in other areas.

From ancient times, the protection of rights to forest lands, hunting, honey gathering and fishing lands were on the same level as agricultural lands.

The regulation of property ownership and land use was based on the Law of Russia (Pravda Roskaya). Which included the normal law of the eastern Slavs and Kievan Rus and was partially reflected in the treaties between Rus and Byzantium of 911 and 944. The law contained the norms of criminal, inheritance, family, and judicial rights.

Agricultural lands, hunting, honey gathering and fishing lands surrounded the towns and villages of the princes. They put their mark or tamgi on the rocks, trees and trunks to show their ownership and to mark the border of their princely holdings. Forests comprised part of these holdings. The law prosecuted violators who cut tree markers, moved markers, or plowed a marked border. These regulations were strengthened in the Russian Law. Shortened Edition, dating from the early 11th century.

In northeastern Rus, the strengthening of laws on property, water, construction, and other rights came about in the form of various land deeds: service deeds, protective deeds, negotiated deeds, inherited deeds, and others. One of the first deeds of this type, which has been preserved to this day, is the protective deed from Great Prince Vsevolod Mstislavich to the Yuriev Monastery (1134).

During the early development of the country and society, forest products were of extreme importance both domestically and in foreign trade, especially on the Black Sea market. It is a fact that 20 square kilometers of land could feed 5,000-6,000 farmers or one hunter (R.V Bobrov, 1990, p.4). In spite of this, it was probably much more advantageous for the princes in the forest zone to take furs, honey, and fish from one's subjects rather than several measures of grain, which was grown mainly for personal use, and not for sale.

Honey gathering (taking honey from wild bees) began to develop in the 5th century. At the beginning of the 10th century, in all likelihood, bee keeping was already established. In the Russian Law. Long Edition (1209), of 121 articles, 10 are devoted to the protection of ownership rights for the forest trades, above all honey gathering (4 articles). In addition, the law also dealt with responsibility for the theft of hunting birds and dogs, which were valued no less than a horse, were objects of pride among the princes and were prime objects for export.

The Law of Yaroslav the Wise on "Church Courts and Zemstvo Affairs" stated that, "Anyone who burns the forest of another or who cuts the trees of another will be severely condemned and his hand will be cut off" F. K. Arnold has correctly noted that, "The prohibition contained in this law was completely foreign to the thinking of the people of that time. The people held the land in common; he who did not belong to the society, did not receive a share of the land. Forests were not included in the division of land, the people did not pay taxes on it; so the forest, it stood to figure, must not have been important property, as it did not provide the opportunity to receive income... The prince was seen as the provider for the people. One could not, under those circumstances, grasp the concept that the people were forbidden to cut the forest, when it was as abundant as water".

There were not many regulations that dealt with the preservation of specific cult groves, honey reserves, and forest areas designated as royal hunting grounds.

One of the first manifestations of the strengthened property laws on land, forests and waters was the creation of various land deeds: service and gift deeds, purchased deeds, inherited deeds and others.

The first mention of such a deed was at the end of the 12th century in the town Obonezhiye, when in 1181-82 Councilman Ivan Fomin gave "hay fields, cultivated fields, water and surrounding forests" to the Muromsk Monastery. A dispute about the ownership of the Shenkurski cemetery also mentions, "...the land, water, fields, forests, rivers, bogs, lakes, and falcon nests... ".

(13th- Late 16th Centuries)

The Second Period (13th- late 16th centuries) witnessed the strengthening of property rights for forests included in patrimonial estates. They created the opportunity to transfer forest land as an inheritance or to other persons, as formulated through appropriate deeds (service deeds, protective deeds, negotiated deeds, inherited deeds and others).

The protective deeds merit further explanation. Protective deeds were viewed at that time as a special case of limitations, affording exclusive cutting rights to the owners of the forest. In 1485, Prince Ivan III gave the Troitski-Sergeyev monastery a protective deed in which the cutting of the monastery's forests was forbidden to the public. In addition, Ivan III prohibited logging in Pereslavl and in the forests of the Zosimski, Kalinski and Meletvinski monasteries.

Protective deeds prohibited not only logging in the forests, but, in addition, any other type of forest trades. For example, the deed to the Vyazhitski Monastery of 1477-78 prohibited the keeper of the monastery Yakim and the peasants of Tolvui from conducting any business on the islands of the monastery. It stated, "...don't cut the forests, don't cut the hay, don't chase the rabbits, don't catch the fish, don't pick a single berry, and don't poach the game. He who does not listen, will be deprived of his boat and nets and will pay a one ruble fine."

In 1497, Ivan III published the first written legal code (Sudebnik) emanating from a higher authority. However, of the 68 articles of the code, not one dealt with violations of forest use, including logging, hunting, honey gathering, etc.

In June of 1550, the Boyar Duma affirmed the new legal code of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. In 1551, the Hundred Articles Council, a representative council, so-called because the new codex contained 100 articles, affirmed the code. This new codex was a continuation of the Sudebnik of 1497 together with the Russian Law of the 12th century. The Hundred Articles broadened the powers of the tsar, the boyars and other feudal landlords, but contained no articles concerning violations of forest use.

(Early 17th Century -1725)

The Third Period (early 17th century-1725) created the first legislative acts on forests, their use and preservation that dealt with forests as a separate entity and not as part of other property. The credit for this belongs to Peter I (the Great).

In 1649, Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, the father of Peter I, adopted the Council Code, which included all past laws and decrees, court decisions, and other judicial documents. The Code gave final judicial clarification concerning forest ownership with the following property divisions: landlord forests. royal family forests, state forests, state servants' forests, preserve forests, and border forests. Of the 658 articles contained in the Code, 67 dealt with forest use.

Landlord forests were forests on inherited lands. Royal family forests belonged to the tsar, who could give or lease the forests (including honey gathering and other special grounds on it) to other people. State forests were forests located on the border between estates. State servant forests were forests on the lands that the tsar gave to people for their service to be held temporarily or in perpetuity. Preserves and border forests have already been discussed and will be discussed again later.

If the lands given by the tsar did not have enough forest area, then additional forest land was added in proportion to the amount of cultivated land. During the next land survey it was added to the registry books in accordance with Article 24 (Chapter 17) for the next taxation period (same place, p. 183).

One regulation (article 23, chapter 7) allowed "servants of the tsar" to cut trees in any private forest without taxation; "...heirs and landlords who own the forests shall not demand payment. But no one is allowed to enter the border areas and preserves; serving people will receive as much fire wood and construction timber as they need for personal use."

At the same time, logging and other violations, such as damaging bird habitat, trapping and netting grouse and partridge, damaging or cutting honey grounds, theft of bees, etc. were severely punished. Article 220 and 223 stated, "If anyone, even an heir or landlord, cuts the forest without permission or violates other regulations leading to damage of the forest including fire, will be prosecuted, punished and be fined." If a fire was started by accident no fine was imposed. In all likelihood, fines for intentional cutting and fires in the forests were not significant; however, for the first time in Russian judicial practice, these articles treat the forest (not timber) as a separate entity.

Taxes paid by landlords, civil servants and serfs were based on the location and use of the land. In the north and Siberia the forest taxes were much lower than in the steppe areas. Article 88 of the Sudebnik of 1550 states the amount of taxes to be paid by different landholders.

It is interesting to note that for the tax period of 1653, honey gathering, fishing, and beaver grounds were taxed at a higher rate, almost ten times as high, as agricultural lands. The taxation rates point out the certain profitability of honey gathering, fishing, and hunting. Therefore, honey gathering grounds were strictly protected and rated special articles in the Council Code of 1649.

Historical documents of the 14-17 th centuries often refer to waterfowl (swans and ducks) and forest fowl (grouse and wood grouse), birds of prey (falcons, hawks and eagles). Eagles and hawks were such prized birds that many documents on land ownership mention not only honey grounds, forests, beaver and moose habitat, but also falcon nests.

The favorite pastime of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich was hunting. The tsar designated special reserves and forest areas to protect his hunting grounds, for example Moose Island and Izmailovo near Moscow. To protect the falcon habitat, the tsar ordered that seven islands off the eastern coast near Murmansk be designated as a tsar's reserve.

As the state became interested in preserving the forests as a military defense line and border, those cutting and damaging the forests were punished severely, sometimes by death. For example, in 1638 when the government learned about logging, road building, honey gathering and hunting in the forest reserves of the Dubinski region, it decreed that, "no one is to enter the reserve border forests. If anyone begins to steal or go there, they will be punished by death." Having been informed that large-scale cutting had taken place in the forest near Belgorod, Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich published a personal decree (May 29, 1659) prohibiting the cutting of the forest "along the line, on this side of the line and beyond the line ..."

Peter I (1689-1725) also used abatisi as a defensive structure during the war with Charles XII of Sweden. Abatis lost their strategic importance only in the late 18 th century when Russia's border moved far to the south.

In the 17th century, with the development of commercial uses for timber and the widespread destruction of forests for coal, potash production, etc., new economic relationships arose, such as the leasing of forest land for logging, and the rights of forest owners were curtailed. During this period forests as raw materials bases and state shipbuilding forests were added to the already existing reserve, defense and other state forests. An especially great number of regulations and innovations date to the reign of Peter I.

During Peter's reign over 200 decrees, instructions and other documents dealt with rational forest use, preservation, reforestation, wood processing (for example, planks had to be cut with a saw rather than an ax), the training of specialists, etc. Half of the documents pertain to shipbuilding.

The first forest decrees of Peter I, which appeared in 1697-1703, were not of national significance. The first national decree was the Decree of November 19, 1703, which required the survey of all forests along rivers, including the area within 50 versts (1 versta = 3,500 feet) along major rivers and 20 versts along smaller rivers. Rangers counted the trees in these forests with a diameter of 18 inches or more. The inventory included oak, elm, ash, larch and pine. The oak forests of the Simbirski and Kharkov districts were designated as preserves. Trees in these forests could be cut only for state needs, mainly for the fleet. The death penalty was imposed for violations of the Decree. Peter somewhat softened the articles of the Decree with the Decree of January 19, 1705.

Peter I, concerned about the quantity and quality of the shipbuilding forests, established forest management. He purposely gave jurisdiction over the management of the forests to a naval agency, the Admiralty Collegium, with the Decree of June 17, 1719. A special department of forest rangers (waldmeisters) was created.

In 1722-23, a large number of decrees appeared, which regulated not only the cutting of the forests, but also many other aspects, such as:

  • location: "no cutting in swamps and very dry areas,"
  • condition of the trees: "fresh with green leaves, because yellowing is a sign of disease in the tree; "
  • time: "logs for shipbuilding should always be cut beginning in November" etc.

Forest policy of Peter's era was also characterized by the appearance of levels of forest management. This was both local, beginning with the Decree of January 31, 1716 on the creation of a supervisor for the forests of the Kazan district, and federal with the Decree of June 17, 1719 on the creation of elected supervisors for the whole country. Instructions for the supervisors were compiled; they were confirmed and put into effect by the Decrees of February 9 and April 14, 1722. "The instruction given by the Admiralty Collegium to supervisors on forest preserves protection" in reality summarized the earlier decrees on the shipbuilding forest preserves.

Every decree and order on forests contributed to the system of forest management, but the Decree on Forest Masters of April 6, 1722 was of special significance. The forest masters were instituted in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, Voronezh, Ryazan, Bryansk, Novgorod, Smolensk, Murom and "anywhere they are needed." It is significant that the places mentioned above were heavily populated and had large areas of forests suitable for shipbuilding that had to be protected against cutting violations.

The forest master instructions, published December 3, 1723, consisted of only 28 articles, but they unified and streamlined forest legislation.

In 1725 in Russia, there was one chief forest master, 20 forest masters, and 64 forest rangers. The salaries of the forest masters were paid from the fines collected by military officers or public commissioners for forest violations (Decree of November 6,1724). Although foresters and their assistants carried German titles, in the opinion of N. Shelgunov (1857), there is no direct evidence that the forest masters were actually German.

Peter I was obsessed with the goal of building a regular fleet and made this goal one of the cornerstones of his state policy. This laid the foundation of forest policy, legislation for the protection of the forest and nature and forest management in Russia.


The early years of the Fourth Period (1725-1798) were characterized by the restoration of unlimited freedom of ownership and arbitrary rule in regard to the forests, as established in 1741 by Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, who commanded that all the decrees of her father Peter I be strictly enforced.

After the introduction in 1765 of the regulations on The Management of the Admiralty and Fleets, supervision of the forests was carried out by the general-commissioner for shipyards.

In 1766, decrees were issued for a general survey, which may be considered an important point in the formation of state forest management since it resulted in the first reliable maps of the government forest estates.

Beginning in 1769, it became possible to sell forest land after the relatively widespread introduction of the practice of dividing forests into 30 parcels, as specified by the forest masters' instructions.

Totally unlimited logging of the forests began after the adoption of the Decree of September 22, 1782 which gave private forest owners "complete freedom to use all forests to their greatest advantage." The shipbuilding forests suffered the most, since "although they were recognized until this time as preserves, and marked as such," they were offered up to private forest owners to exploit as they saw fit.

In addition, from this moment, the character of state forest policy began to change. Forest management, which had as its goal the provision of the needs of the naval fleet, took on direct economic significance as a means to increase the treasury with the income from the forests in the form of stump-age fees.

S. Vedrov wrote that "in 1782 the history of forestry protection ended and a new period began that was characterized on the one hand by the management of the public forests and on the other hand by the sad chronicle of destruction of the private forests by their owners."

In 1784, upon the demand of the Admiralty Board, free logging on public lands was allowed. For other public needs, timber was produced only after payment of the stumpage fee.

The Draft Charter on Forests adopted in 1786 contributed new elements to forest policy and forest management. Public forests were regionalized and divided into three bands: northern, middle and southern. All the forests of Russia were to be divided into three categories: long-boled (with corresponding subdivisions of dark hard, soft white, and red coniferous), low growth forests, and brush. The division of the forests into units took the above-mentioned elements into consideration. Each unit had to contain seed trees to promote natural reforestation.

In addition, 20% of the long-boled dark and red forests were exempt from local use for state needs. Policy required that ditches be dug around the forests to protect them from destruction and possible fires. Logging was permitted only by decree of the tsar or the senate. However, in private holdings merciless logging of the forest continued.


The Fifth Period (1798-1832) is characterized, above all, by the formation in Russia of the Special Department for Forestry of the Expedition Commission. In official correspondence it was called the "Forest Department." Complaints received on the widespread destruction of the shipbuilding forests lead to a fundamental reform of forest management, which in its turn influenced forest policy. Emperor Paul I, in his decrees of March 12, 1798 on "forest management" and May 26, 1798 on "the management of all public forests and forest masters and rangers by the Admiralty Board," initiated state management of the forests in Russia.

During the first four years of the Forest Department, more than 70 decrees and commands were issued regarding forest policy. Among the most important was the ratification in July of 1799 of the first forestry taxes on timber produced in public forests. Also of significance was the division in 1800 of all districts into eight sections in accordance with their location, employment, and customs of the population, and types of forests in their territory. This was the first regional economic division of the forests in Russia.

A local (district) forestry department was founded by the Decree of March 12, 1798. The management consisted of 40 chief foresters and 160 ranger managers. According to N. V. Shelgunov, a leading specialist in the field of forest legislation, the government "strongly wanted to give forest management a scientific character and introduce science to a whole group of new rangers."

The Forest Department was moved in 1802 from the Admiralty Board to the Ministry of Finance, and two months later, the proposal for The Charter on Forests was adopted. It focused on implementing three main forest policy goals:

  • Efficiently organize forest management for the protection and use of the forests;
  • End the shortage of timber "not only for the use of residents, but also for state and naval needs; "
  • In heavily forested areas of the country, make forests profitable for the state without endangering the livelihood of the people and without loss to the government.

The Charter (article 22) made into law the regulations on forests adopted under Catherine II which called for the sus-tainable use of forests: "commercial and state interests demand that the future abundance of the forests be insured by a precise relationship between harvesting and reforestation."

During the first ten years of its existence under the Ministry of Finance (1802-1811), the Forest Department solved a number of practical issues connected with improving forest management. It created institutions for forestry education, improved forest legislation and standardized penalties across the country for violations of forest regulations, in particular for cutting without permits. In addition, the first experiments in forest organization were carried out in the most valuable state forests and regulations were created for the sale of state timber requiring fees by "stumpage, board length and the piece." The sale of state timber abroad continued to be forbidden.

The transfer of the forestry agency to the Department of State Properties initiated the decentralization of forest management. The Minister of Finance, Count Yegor Frantsevich Kankrin (1774-1845), believed that the best way to preserve the forests was to transfer them directly to "those agencies and organisations that manage and use them, in the conviction that their own profit will motivate them to preserve and improve this property, which they hold conditionally." It is important to note that conditional ownership meant that the forests still belonged to the state and that the transfer of the forests to the various agencies did not have the effect desired by Kankrin.

During the following years, certain state forests were designated as: forests to support salt production (1818), ship building forests following the establishment of the Department of Ship Forests (1829), monastery forests (1832), city forests managed by the city Dumas (1832), forests to support horse-breeding enterprises (1833), principality forests that were transferred to the management of the Department of Principalities (1834), etc.

In 1826-32, a new reform for local forest management was introduced: five types of provinces were created, depending on their forest resources. Provinces were divided into regions, forest districts, forest blocks and forest plats. "Forest regions are divided into districts and blocks not primarily by size, but by their annual timber output and by the amount of forest preserved for the fleet and other uses."

The title of provincial oberforstmeister was changed to provincial forester; the title of forstmeister was changed to scientific forester and district forester; unter-forstmeisters were renamed district forester's assistants, fersters were renamed forest rangers, unter-fersters became forest ranger's assistants. This management hierarchy exists in the present forest management agencies. It is noteworthy that the Ministry of Finance appointed provincial and chief foresters, but other positions were filled by the Department of State Properties.

The Legislative Code of the Russian Empire of 1832 included all forest legislation under the Code of the Forest Charter. At the end of the same year, another document was introduced that did not carry the significance of the Code, but still had great practical importance. This was the Statute on a Permanent Forest Conservation Service under the Ministry of Finance. It freed forest conservation workers from state taxes, civil and military service and military billeting. The term of service was set at twenty years. This demonstrated the state's efforts to solve personnel issues within its forest policy.

Careful preparation was given to documents that dealt with regulating liability for forest violations, documentation for transporting timber to other provinces, investigation of forest fires and penalties, prohibitions against thinning and selling trees for logs, preservation of linden forests in Kostroma, Vyatka, Orenburg, Perm, Kaluga and Tula provinces, production of the Olonets mills, etc. It should be noted that the state decree on means to preserve from destruction the forest given to the Bashkirs as reservation land, reflects not only the influence of forest conservation, but also the impact of national policy.

During this period the foundation was laid for secondary and higher forestry education and rational forestry organization. The marketing of state timber abroad also began.


The Sixth Period (1832-1888) encompasses the period from the creation of the Ministry of State Properties to the adoption of the law on forest protection.

A Forest Corps was formed within the structure of the Ministry, but it was not until January 30,1839 that the Statute on the Forest Corps was issued. This decree organized the forest agency along military lines and "all ranks of the entire agency-the ranks of the provincial forest management and educational institutions, including the permanent conservation service-were united under one staff called the Corps of Foresters." The staff of the Corps consisted of the following positions: 4 generals, 12 colonels, 33 lieutenant colonels, 41 majors, 61 captains, 210 sergeant majors; 726 people total.

A remarkable event occurred at the beginning of 1843 when the Forest Department was reorganized. The forest administrations, which had formerly belonged to three different departments, were combined. The new Forest Department consisted of six subdepartments: inspection, forest management, forest conservation, rational forest resource management, forest use, and accounting. The Department also contained a drafting office, reception office, a special forestry committee and archives. The Imperial Order of 1855 to the Ministry of Properties was adopted. It stated the goals of the current forest policy: "a) the preservation of the forests from destruction, b) maximizing profits, c) increasing forestation where needed." Of note is the close connection between the continuity of the goals of the forest policy, as laid out in this imperial order, and the Forest Decree of 1802.

To meet the outlined goals, "the Ministry aims to introduce rational forest management and forestation in bare areas. To prepare, evaluate, and carry out the management plan, the Ministry will prepare specially trained surveyors, appraisers, and forest officers, will provide them with all necessary direction and will establish a system to review their work. The plan will be evaluated and carried out with the goal of maximizing profit from the forest to the state on the basis of sustainable forest management, while preserving the forests from destruction and overuse." In addition to the main goals in the Order, a number of other basic elements of forest policy were included. In today's terminology, they are organizational structure, forestry education, dissemination of information, control, direct oversight, etc. It is noteworthy that a Forest Auditor's Office was established the next year, in 1856. (It was closed in 1867).

In 1843-46, a structural reorganization occurred on the local level of forest management that eliminated the positions of district chief forest managers and district foresters. Their responsibilities were given to forest inspectors. All local forestry titles were changed. Graduates of wildlife management schools were appointed as assistants to local forest rangers; they were called forest conductors and carried out the duties of a ranger's assistant.

It is worthwhile to examine the forest organization instructions as a reflection of the accumulated experience in the field of forest regulation and forest management. In the spring, work was begun based on the first national forest regulation instruction, which was published by the Ministry of State Property under the title "Proposal for Directive on Forestry Survey Work for the Promotion of Rational Forest Management for-1842."

In 1845, a directive compiled by F. K. Arnold was issued called Proposal for Directive on Forestry Survey Work for the Promotion of Rational Forest Management. It contained the basic proposal of 1842, but more closely examined issues of climatic and economic conditions of various management areas, defining the degree of intensity of management. It also introduced for the first time three categories of forestry regulation. The directive defined the basis of national forest regulation in the state forests.

In 1846, F. K. Arnold published The Instructions to Forest Organization and Survey. In the same year, he developed and presented to The Free Economic Society the first map of government forests in Russia, for which he was awarded a gold medal. In 1854. The Rules for the Auditing of Managed Forest Estates were published along with the Instructions of 1845 that were issued under the general title The Instruction for Forest Management and Auditing.

These efforts began to pay off. The accounts of the Forest Department of 1845, 1847 and 1853 show the growth of the area of reforested forest units respectively: 7,989 desyatinas (desyatina = 2.7 acres), 15,938 desyatina and 35,585 desyatinas. A positive role was also played by the Senate Decree of March 28, 1850 on State Peasants Participation in Forest Reproduction.

This period produced a large amount of legislation connected with logging in various provinces, clean-up following harvest, payment of fees, free or advantageous terms of access to timber, river transport of logs, marketing timber abroad, etc.

Forest management was streamlined into central, provincial and local administrations.

Count Pavel Dmitrievich Kiselev (1788-1872), who headed the Ministry of State Property from 1837 to 1856 made a large contribution to the establishment of forest management. His coworker and biographer A. P. Zabolotski-Desyatovski wrote, "Count Kiselev viewed the state forests from a general state-economic point of view: the impact of the forests on the climate, the prosperity of the country, providing future generations with firewood and construction materials. He strongly upheld the indivisibility of state lands and forests and he considered it his duty to protect the state's wealth against illegal possession and use, against making it, by one means or another, private property. What is more, he protected the forests from ill-advised logging, even though by doing so, he cut the growth of profitability from the forests."

After the abolition of serfdom, the condition of the forests seriously deteriorated. The main reasons for this were: elimination of serf responsibility for forest protection, elimination of free serf labor for forest regulation, forest-agronomy and other forest improvement work, and the appearance of large peasant-owned forest plots. A Resolution on Forest Protection on State Lands was published on June 3, 1869 to improve the situation. This resolution introduced the hiring of national paid forest guards who were selected from forest rangers and abolished the responsibility of state peasants for state forest protection.

The structure of the Foresters Corps was also changed during this period; ranks were renamed and managers were rotated every four to five years. Provincial forest management was restructured twice during this period. In 1866, provincial Departments of State Properties were created, and the heads of these departments became the chief foresters in 20 provinces. In 1882-1885, these departments were consolidated in ten provinces, so that one department served two provinces or more.

In the future, the number of departments constantly changed when new ones were created in areas like Western Siberia, the Far East, the Caucasus, the Polish Kingdom, etc. The staff of foresters, inspectors, ranges and forest guard grew constantly, as did their salaries and privileges and benefits.

The Resolution on the Preservation of Forests of April 4, 1888 was based on legislative documents aimed at curtailing the rights of forest owners to unlawfully take over state forest lands and transfer them to other forms of use. This resolution included new elements of forest policy that recognized the role of the forest in protecting nature in the state and public interest. Such forests were called conservation forests. They included forests and brush land that:

  • contain percolating sands along rivers, canals, reservoirs and coastal areas;
  • protect populated areas and transportation arterials, cultivated fields and pastures from snowdrifts;
  • protect the banks of waterways from erosion and damage from ice flows;
  • grow on mountains, hills and slopes and protect them from erosion, avalanches and rapid streams.

It is interesting to note that the Resolution appointed the Forest Conservation Committee to classify the forests as conservation forests, but the initiative for the classification of the forests, as well as specifying those at headwaters and stream sources, came from the provincial, county and other local administrations. In conservation forests, the management plan could eliminate or limit clearcuts, stump and root removal, grazing, collection of forest undergrowth and other secondary uses. This document clarified and standardized the government's treatment of state and private forests.

A large volume of legislation adopted during this period covered the complete spectrum of forest management and organization: forest regulation and use, surveying, forest protection and management, forest education, experimental forest plots, forestation and reforestation, forest products marketing, etc.


The Seventh Period (1888-1917) is the last in the development of Russia as a unitary state.

In 1892, the work of the famous Dokuchayev Special Expedition began. The expedition was formed within the Forest Department to "test and survey the forest and water resources in the steppes of Russia" and to "explore the headwaters of the largest Russian rivers." Eighteen volumes of the survey conducted by the Special Expedition were published in a period of four years, and this publication laid the foundation for a system of experimental forestry in Russia.

After the Ministry of Agriculture and State Properties was created in 1894, it was charged with managing agriculture, forest and mining industries in addition to state properties. Apparently this combination required a systemic approach to forest management in regard to forest profits, reforestation, forest reproduction, forest regulation, etc. In March 1896, new regulations were published that gave foresters greater freedom to use their own initiative and provided better coordination among local agencies. According to the new regulations, foresters created management plans for the coming year. To promote coordination and exchange of information, the regulations established annual conferences of district foresters.

Prior to 1894, special surveying parties conducted all forest regulation work. In order to increase the volume of work and more efficiently make use of trained surveyors, local foresters were included in this work beginning in 1894. In the same year, a new directive (the sixth) was adopted for the management of state forests and surveying of the northern forests began.

In 1896, in the southern provinces of Tavria and Ekaterinislav, work began to create field shelterbelts.

Between 1894 and 1897, many Ministry regulations were adopted to standardize the timber trade, to increase the power of local forest authorities, to regulate the sale of forest land to peasants at fixed prices, to implement new forest taxes, etc.

A new forestry code was adopted in 1905 that consisted of 815 articles. The code was an important branch in the development of forest legislation and management in Russia. However, it was gargantuan and flawed by an overabundance of insignificant limitations and archaic articles, for example, from the Code of 1649. Over the course of several years, serious work continued on a new Code that was adopted in 1913.

The Forestry Code of 1913 included 481 articles grouped into six categories:

  1. protection and conservation of the forests;
  2. state forests;
  3. state forests not under the direct management of the forestry agencies;
  4. private forests;
  5. public and disputed forests;
  6. liability for violation of forestry regulations.

The most important category was the first one on forest conservation. Conservation committees, created in 1888 after the adoption of the new forestry code, received increased responsibilities and the new position of county forester was established.

Thus, in prerevolutionary Russia, a system developed which included a state forest policy, forest legislation, forest management, forest regulation, forest conservation, education; the system was oriented toward the various types of ownership in Russia. In spite of a broad foundation for private ownership, the country's forest policy focused more on the public interest and the future of the country. This is why people often viewed private owners negatively, since their main concern was receiving maximum profit from the forests.


The Eighth Period (1917-1991), according to Russian national literature (Koldanov, 1992; Tarasenko, Pisarenko, Ipatiev, 1993; and others), is characterized most often by the seven stages of reform of Soviet forest management. How ever, we will adhere to the style already adopted and not divide this period into smaller stages.

An accounting of the Eighth Period must begin on April 27,1917 during the rule of the Provisional Government when the Second Congress of Foresters was held in Petrograd. The Congress declared that it would be "desirable to abolish the right of private property ownership afforests and to establish that all forests without exception become national (state) property, intended to meet the needs of the people on the basis of the planned distribution of forestry products."

The clearly expressed position of the foresters at the Second Congress and in the document of April 5, 1917 led to the nationalization of the forests, which was carried out in accordance with Article 2 of the Decree on Land adopted on October 26 (November 8), 1917. The first article abolished the private ownership of land (socialization). The second article established that forests of state importance would be transferred to exclusive state use (nationalization), and all small forests would be transferred to the use of the communities under the condition that local municipalities would manage them.

A directive of June 28, 1917 organized advisory committees (Soviets) in each forest district under the leadership of the district forester. The complete authority of the district forester was replaced by a forest parliament, the effectiveness of which was very low. The forest conservation committees - the last stronghold of the old system of management and control - were abolished on February 23, 1918 and replaced with forestry offices. Soon after, the forest controllers were replaced by forest inspectors, etc.

Simultaneously with the reorganization of local management, the duties of the Forest Department were turned over to the Central Forest Office, later renamed the Forestry Agency under the People Commissariat of Lands.

On April 5, 1918, V. I. Lenin signed a document, part of which is well known to forestry specialists. In particular, the document states that:

"...3) forestry specialists can not be replaced without loss to the forests and the entire country; forest management requires special technical knowledge;

...5) the consequences of the unfortunate war left huge barren areas, which, in the interests of the people, must be immediately reforested;

...6) all forests must be described, surveyed, managed and used;

...7) no forests are owned by towns, counties, regions, provinces, but are part of a national fund and cannot be divided among citizens or enterprises."

The Decree on Forests of May 27,1918, also known unofficially as the Main Law on Forests, stated that forest management must be in the interests of the general good and based on planned resource renewal (article 77). The main law consisted of 8 parts with 117 articles.

The law gave "equal rights to all citizens to use the forests with temporary payment of stumpage fees, to secondary forest products, and free access to forests. At the same time, each citizen has duties and responsibilities to promote forest reproduction and conservation, to protect the forest from fire, disease, insects, overgrazing and other damage."

The law on forests attempted to encourage the people to participate in the creation and improvement of forest management. This required a large degree of knowledge and public consciousness, as well as a correct understanding of the state's goals for the forest economy.

During the period of the Civil War and foreign intervention in Russia, the forests sustained immense damage, especially in the areas along waterways. It is interesting that at this time the Central Forest Office refused to accept the task of organizing forest harvesting, which, in the opinion of some experts, resulted in the collapse of the forest system. However, this was not actually the case.

The Central Forest Office was organized as a part of the People's Commissariat of Lands, but it had no budget and no authority over forest products. In addition, the Main Forestry Committee was established at the end of 1918 under the Federal Commissariat for State Economy. Its main function was to oversee forest harvesting. The creation of still another central forest agency violated the Decree on Forests of 1918, which stated that the forests (a public fund) could not be divided between agencies. This undermined the concept of forest management as an independent branch of the national economy.

In 1923, a law was passed to deal with drought. The Forest Code of the Russian Federation became law on August 1, 1923. The Forest Code contained 7 parts and 73 articles:

Part 1. Basic premises
Part 2. Local forests
Part 3. State forests

Article 1. Basic premises
Article 2. Basic structure of forest management
Article 3. Secondary use of forests
Part 4. Forests of special significance
Part 5. Transforming forest land to agricultural uses
Part 6. State forest management agencies
Part 7. Forest conservation.

In the interest of space we will examine only Article 1, which defines the forest fund.

The concept of forest fund is broader than the term forest. It was never used previously in any legislation or other regulatory acts. In essence, the term forest fund includes three different funds:

  • the forest fund itself (timber); territory covered with timber and brush;
  • the forest land fund; unforested territory, but designated for forestation;
  • auxiliary land fund: territory designated to support the needs of the forest industry.

From the point of view of forest policy, increasing the territory of the forest land fund meant that the forest fund itself decreased and points to ineffective management.

The next thing that requires examination is the decision made under the new economic policy in the forest industry to sell timber from state forests at bid (Resolution II of the session of the Federal Executive Central Committee of October 16,1924). This measure was intended to increase profits from the forests by introducing economic incentive methods and overcome problems connected with the unequal division of forest lands throughout the country, tax regulation, shortages of manpower and draft animals, etc. Consequently, forest industry agencies harvested the most accessible areas, ones close to transportation routes and mills. This attempt to establish equality led to great dissatisfaction with the work of local forestry committees and abuse by some forest management employees.

A second document adopted by the same session of the Federal Executive Central Committee focused on changing financing methods and increasing profitability. The document stated that:

"1) financing for the forest industry will come from the state budget based on economic estimates. Note: a supplementary source of financing for the forest industry will come from the existing fixed rate from state income from forest activity;

2) expenditure estimates for the forest industry should give special attention to: 1) the immediacy of forest organization, 2) forest silviculture in the steppe regions,

3) increasing wages and benefits for forestry workers,

4) increasing per diems to forest workers." To increase profitability, changes in the Forest Code were introduced in articles dealing with timber sales (Articles 23, 26-29). These changes prolonged the practice of violating the laws and regulations, which had been adopted only months and weeks before.

The third document deals with measures to provide welfare to families of forest workers killed on duty.

The documents and issues reviewed above have not only historical importance, but are also significant today, seventy years later, because they demonstrate the folly of ignoring Russia's underlying forest policy, as happened in the Soviet era. It would be interesting, as well, to examine the discussions of that era that had a direct impact on forest policy and management.

Forest management problems are related to legislative norms and the specific production characteristics of the forest industry. Much debated was the question of who should be in charge of the administration and management of the forest industry, the People's Commissariat for Lands or the People's Committee for Finance. This resulted from the duality of the forest industry, which is first a timber producing industry based on renewal processes and, secondly, a rent recipient under the system of nationalization and state capitalism.

At that time, a political decision was made to refrain from selling forest land on an incentive basis because it would have deprived the state of an enormous amount of rent (non-tax income) from the forest industry.

Another political problem was the feasibility and necessity of instituting the principle of sustainability in forest use.

The implementation of a long-term plan for the forest industry of the Russian Federation in 1925-1928 allowed the industry to increase production to the 1913 level. However, the growth of industry and the population increased demands for timber. Consequently, the founding principles of forest management were even more frequently violated.

Discussions began in 1931-1933 about forest use and related issues of forest management, forest economy and forest regulation. The main principle was considered unacceptable since it contradicted the planning foundation of socialist forest economics. The essence of this principle, harvest rotation, was replaced by age harvesting. Forest regulation work was practically abolished or replaced by inspection and inventory work carried out according to agency directives devoid of any scientific basis.

M. G. Zdorik described the essence of the forest policy in the late 1930's as follows, "the forest, as an object of nature, should serve the goal of building socialism. For this to happen, economic activity had to be organized in the forests. The forest industry, as one branch of the state economy, had to be in complete compliance with the goals of state economic policy. Therefore, any breach of this policy or attempt to preserve the old forms of management was viewed as bourgeois and reactionary."

The People's Commissar for Forest Industry, Z. Zh. Lobov, in 1932 stated directly that, "... it is imperative to decisively expose opportunistic, kulak-capitalist, damaging theories and practices that stem from the 'principle of sustainability' in forest use, which until recently were ensconced in forest management and science. The main principle of forest exploitation must be concentrated clearcutting." (S. G. Sinitsin, 1987, p. 7)

Given the fact that forests were under the administration of numerous people's commissariats, total anarchy and chaos broke out in forest management. There was a retreat from the demands of forest legislation regulations (the Decree on Forests of 1918).

In 1931, the forests were divided into forest culture zones, and from them water conservation zone forests were created in 1936. These were transferred to the administration of the newly created Chief Directorate of Forest Conservation and Forestation under the Council of People's Commissariats of the USSR. The forests of the water conservation zones were cleaned up and significantly improved. Forest policy was directed not only toward forest conservation, but also toward forestation of bare lands and reforestation. Forest management and the introduction of economic activity in the forests was based on proven scientific principles.

In 1943, the forest funds were divided into three groups by economic and ecological value. Forests of the First Group mainly executed different protective functions with limited use. Forests of the Third Group were designated for timber harvesting on an industrial scale. The Second Group represented a combination of both groups of forests.

In 1947, the Ministry of Forest Industry of the USSR was established. It took over the entire forest fund, material, technical and human resources both centrally and locally. However, the Ministry did not have control over forest products and was financially dependent on the national budget.

In 1948, a new law was adopted. It was entitled Plan for Planting Field Shelterbelts. Implementing Crop Rotation. Constructing Ponds and Reservoirs to Increase and Stabilize Harvests in the Steppe and Forest-Steppe Areas of the European Part of the USSR (Stalin's Plan of Nature Transformation). Large-scale forestation began as a result of planting forest belts as windbreaks nationwide. This project made use of scientific methods, advanced technology, and modem machinery and equipment.

In the following years forest policy did not change, but the management structure did undergo change in a search for optimal solutions to the problems of harvesting and reforestation and, to an even greater extent, in the division of authority among the ministries and agencies.

Damage, severe and for many reasons irreparable, was inflicted on the forests in 1953 after the abolition of the Ministry of Forestry of the USSR. In the following years, forestry was transferred six times from one agency to another.

The management of Russia's forests was centralized in 1966 under the Ministry of Forestry of the Russian Federation, as a part of the State Forestry Agency of the USSR Council of Ministers. This centralization and the creation of new scientific programs for forest management and organization with the combined efforts of all forestry workers permitted significant improvement of the forest fund and forest resources.

The essential laws of the new period were adopted during the next 10-12 years and played an important role for forestry. These laws were entitled Immediate Measures for Soil Conservation from Water and Wind Erosion (1967). Reinforcement of Nature Conservation and Improved Usage of Natural Resources (1972), Principles of Forest Legislation of the USSR and Union Republics (1977), Forest Code of the Russian Federation (1978), and Resolutions on State Forest Enterprises (Gosleskhoz) (1969) and its successor, the National Forest Committee of the USSR (1982).

The principles of forest legislation of the USSR as well as the Forest Code affirmed state ownership of the forests, first proclaimed in 1917, but did not provide the main principles of forest use or clarify the terms fo rest and forest fund, etc. Although the Forest Code was somewhat progressive, it continued a policy that mirrored the spirit of the time, a time of regulations and directives.

In general, the forest policy, forest legislation and forest management of the Soviet period was under pressure from the monopoly of the national economy. The state, sometimes even ignoring common sense, continued to conduct internal and external policies that sacrificed the forest sector to its short-term interests.


The Ninth Period (1991- present) technically begins in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Empire, which changed the face of the planet. However, in practical terms this period began in 1993 when the Russian Federation adopted new principles of forest legislation. The new principles were developed on the basis of the new Russian constitution.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the forest sector of Russia was under the administration of the State Committee on Forests of the USSR which controlled the Ministry of Forest Industry of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Wood, Paper and Timber Products Industries of the USSR. In the former USSR, Russia contained about 50% of the population, 75% of the land area, and 94% of the forest area.

The State Committee on Forests of the USSR was abolished on February 1, 1992 by presidential decree. The Ministry of Forest Industry of the USSR was also liquidated. The institutions, enterprises and organizations of the abolished state committee were transferred to the Ministry of Forest Industry of the Russian Federation. This ministry was shortly thereafter reorganized as the Russian Committee on Forests under the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Russian Federation. Later in 1992, the Russian Forestry Committee was reorganized as the Federal Forest Service of Russia directly subordinate to the Council of Ministers (the governing body of the Russian Federation).

The management structure and enterprises of the former Ministry of Forest Industry of the USSR underwent a complex process of reorganization, privatization and sale through stock offerings. At the end of 1992, the holding company Roslesprom became the largest agency in the forest industry. In May 1994, it was reorganized as the Russian state forest industries company Roslesprom.

In June 1996, the State Committee of the Russian Federation for Forest, Paper and Wood Products (Goskomlesprom of Russia) became the state agency in charge of forest industries.

In the previous century, the central forest agencies in Russia were reorganized four times. Between 1917 and 1992, they were reorganized twenty times and underwent three complete liquidations.

On March 6, 1993 the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation adopted new forest legislation that differed radically in principle from all previous forest laws. It defined the terms forest (in the preamble) and forest fund (in Article 2). After many decades, the principle of sustainability was reflected in legislation (Article 12). In addition, a division of authority was achieved among the federal, regional and local forestry agencies that was acceptable to all at that time (Article 3-7). Another innovation of the law was to separate the management of the forest fund from the management of operational harvesting (Article 8).

With the approval of a new constitution by national referendum on December 12, 1993, work began on the development of a new Forest Code of the Russian Federation. The State Duma (parliament) of the Russian Federation, having overcome a presidential veto and a veto by the Federation Council, adopted by an overwhelming majority of votes a new Forest Code on January 21, 1997 that was forwarded to the President for his signature.

The Forest Code became law on February 4, 1997 and brought forest management to a new level in Russia. The Code legislatively affirmed the underlying principles of forest management: sustainable development of the economy and improvement of the environment, rational and sustainable use of forest resources, the incompatibility of the functions of forest management and forest harvesting and wood processing.

The main goals of forest management are formulated with sufficient clarity in the second article of the Forest Code. These are the rational and sustainable use of the forests, forest conservation, protection, and reclamation based on the principles consistent management and preservation of the biological diversity of forest ecosystems, and maximization of the ecological and resource potential of the forests. They also include meeting the needs of society for forest resources on the basis of scientifically proven and diversified forest use.

The history of national forest policy, forest legislation and management demonstrates their inconsistency and shortsightedness, which often resulted in the sacrifice of the forests in the name of national political interests. In historical perspective, the forest policy of Russia formed over several centuries. Even today the policy is not correctly formulated as a complete document or long-term declaration that specifies the state's goals in the forest sector, including forestry, wood processing, pulp and paper manufacturing, furniture manufacturing, import/export, forest industry, and the related fields of wildlife, agriculture, water resources and other economic activities.

History presents numerous examples of the extreme changes in the forest laws, from completely unlimited forest use and destructive mass clearcuts to strict prohibitions and application of the death penalty to punish unauthorized use of the forests.

Forest management has undergone numerous reorganizations, including its complete elimination as an independent institution.


Arnold, F.K. 1895. The History of Forestry in Russia, France and Germany. St. Petersburg. 404 pp.

Bobrov, R.V. 1990. Historical Aspects of Forest Policy. Express Information, No. 29-30, Moscow, VNIPIEIlesprom. 49 pp.

-----. 1990. National Forest Management (An Historical Overview). Information Overview, ed. 6. Moscow, VNIITslesresurs. 52 pp.

Vedrov, S. O. 1878. Russian Legislation on Forest Conservation. 224 pp.

Koldanov, V. Ya. 1992. Essays on the History of Soviet Forestry. Moscow, Ecology. 256 pp.

Krasnova, E. Yu., Bobrov, R. V., and Kobelnikov, N. F. 1993 Forest Legislation of Russia. Information Overview, ed. 10. Moscow, VNIITslesresurs. 40 pp. Kuzmichev, A. S., Sinitsyn, S. G., and Sokolov, D. M. 1991. Historical Development of the Organization of Forest Use. Information Overview, ed. 7. Moscow, VNIITslesresurs. 36pp.

1957. Forest Industry in pre-Revolutionary Russia. A. A. Zabolotskaya, ed. Moscow, Goslesbumizdat. 92 pp.

1997. Forestry Code of the Russian Federation. Moscow. 65 pp.

1991. Forestry at the Turn of the 21st Century. Moscow, Ecology. 333 pp.

Orlov, M. M. 1930. Forest Management Based on Forest Husbandry Planning. Leningrad. 491 pp.

1993. Principles of Forest Legislation of the Russian Federation. Moscow, Ekos-Inform. 64 pp.

1977. Principles of Forest Legislation of the USSR and Union Republics. Moscow, TsBNTI Gosleskhoz USSR. 34pp.

Pisarenko, A. I., Redko, G. I., and Merzlenko, M. D. 1992. Artificial Forests. 2 parts. Moscow, VNIITslesresurs.

Redko, G. I. 1981. The History of Russian Forestry. Leningrad, LLTA. 84 pp.

1898. Centennial of the Forest Department (1798-1898). St. Petersburg. 251 pp.

Tarasenko, V. P., Pisarenko, A. I., and Ipatiev, V. A. 1993. Forest Legislation is the Basis of Forestry. Information Overview, ed. 2. Moscow, VNIITslesresurs. 32 pp.

Teplyakov, V. K. 1992. Forests in the History of Pre-Petrine Russia. College text for the course: World and National Culture. Moscow, MLTI. 80 pp.

Faleyev, N. I. 1918. Forest Policy. Moscow, Narkomzem Publishing.

Shelgunov,N. 1857. The History of Russian Forest Legislation, St. Petersburg. VIII. 378 pp.

Schultz, A. I. 1925. Principles of Soviet Forest Policy. Leningrad, Leningrad Forestry Institute. 182 pp.

I Abatises were the simplest defensive barrier constructions made from trees fallen on top of each other. To make the abatis impenetrable for cavalry, logs were piled chest-high. The length of an abatis sometimes reached one verst (3500 feet). The line of abatises and other natural barriers was called an "abatis boundary." In the broad sense, the Russian word for boundary denoted the strip of earth between the forest and the steppe, which was a source of continual animosity between the Russian government and the steppe peoples.

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