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Über dieses Buch

Understanding the current state and dynamics of any forest is extremely difficult - if not impossible - without recognizing its history. Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF), located on the border between Poland and Belarus, is one of the best preserved European lowland forests and a subject of myriads of works focusing on countless aspects of its biology, ecology, management. BPF was protected for centuries (15th-18th century) as a game reserve of Polish kings and Lithuanian grand dukes. Being, at that time, a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, BPF was subject to long-lasting traditional, multi-functional utilisation characteristic for this part of Europe, including haymaking on forest meadows, traditional bee-keeping and fishing in rivers flowing through forest. This traditional model of management came to an abrupt end due to political change in 1795, when Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania ceased to exist in effect of partitioning by neighbouring countries, and the territory of BPF was taken over by the Russian Empire. The new Russian administration, influenced by the German trends in forestry, attempted at introducing the new, science-based forestry model in the BPF throughout the 19th century. The entire 19th century in the history of BPF is a story of struggle between new trends and concepts brought and implemented by new rulers of the land, and the traditional perception of the forest and forest uses, culturally rooted in this area and originating from mediaeval (or older) practices.

The book will show the historical background and the outcome of this struggle: the forest’s history in the long 19th century focusing on tracking all cultural imprints, both material (artificial landscapes, introduced alien species, human-induced processes) and immaterial (traditional knowledge of forest and use of forest resources, the political and cultural significance of the forest) that shaped the forest’s current state and picture. Our book will deliver a picture of a crucial moment in forest history, relevant not only to the Central Europe, but to the continent in general. Moment of transition between a royal hunting ground, traditional type of use widespread throughout Europe, to a modern, managed forest. Looking at main obstacles in the management shift, the essential difference in perceptions of the forest and goods it provides in both modes of management, and the implications of the management change for the state of BPF in the long 19th century could help in better understanding the changes that European forests underwent in general.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

1. Introduction

Abstract
This chapter sets the scene for the volume. Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF) is a biological, ecological, historical and cultural phenomenon, with continuous vegetation history reaching back to the last glaciation (about 11–12 thousand years ago). This landscape and its ecology persisted until modern times with richly diverse animal and plant species, diverse forest environments with abundance of dead and decaying trees, and above all, its ecological systems driven by largely natural processes. Divided between Poland and Belarus, BPF is a trans-boundary UNESCO World Heritage Site “Białowieża Forest” (established in 1992), with the Polish part being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1976, and covered by a Natura 2000 network of nature protection areas (since 2004). BPF is a reference point in research on temperate forests and is a forest biodiversity “hot-spot”. However, BPF is also a historical phenomenon. The first identifiable traces of human presence in the forest go back several thousand years. Scattered throughout the forest there are remnants of past settlements, cemeteries, and agricultural activities from ancient and early mediaeval periods. Furthermore, these are preserved in a very good state due to BPF’s conservation as a royal hunting ground since the fourteenth century. Finally, BPF is also a cultural phenomenon and noted to be outstanding and important already by the eighteenth century. At this time, it was recognised as one of the last truly untamed and wild forest in Europe holding one of the only two remaining populations of European bison. The forest became a study area, source of inspiration, and travel destination, playing a major role in the history and development of relevant science, especially the natural sciences. The focus of our book is the process through which this cultural role of BPF evolved. To answer this question, we consider the history and environmental history of the forest through the “long nineteenth century” (confined between two dates: 1795 and 1915). In parallel with this exploration, we follow the cultural significance of the forest as manifested in material imprints of management and conservation, and in the cultural heritage and ultural recognition of the forest among naturalists, travellers, writers and artists. The first chapter closes with some thoughts on the current issues and challenges for the forest.
Tomasz Samojlik, Anastasia Fedotova, Piotr Daszkiewicz, Ian D. Rotherham

2. Sources and Methods

Abstract
This second chapter addresses the archival, literature, and map-based research, which underpins our investigation. The materials for the study of environmental history of Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF) used in this book were mostly written sources (published and archival manuscripts), along with archival maps and artistic depictions of the Forest and its dwellers (both animals and people). The written sources were obtained during archival surveys in archives and libraries of Russia, Belarus, Poland, France and Lithuania. The greatest number of documents on the management of BPF in the long nineteenth century is kept at the Russian State Historical Archive in St. Petersburg (RSHA), with the National Archive of the Republic of Belarus in Grodno (NHARBG) being the second largest collection of files connected with BPF. Unfortunately, both NHARBG and RSHA were substantially damaged during the Russian Revolution and both World Wars of the twentieth century. Only the last, appanage period in BPF’s history (1889–1915) is present in the archive in a continuous way, while all other periods of the nineteenth century—are only fragmentary. Other surveyed archives included the Russian State Archive of Navy in St. Petersburg, the Archives of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and its St. Petersburg branch, the State Archive of the Russian Federation, Moscow, the Central State Historical Archive in St. Petersburg, the Central Archive of Historical Records in Warsaw, the National Library of Poland in Warsaw, the Polish State Archive in Białystok, the Archive of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznań, the Polish Library in Paris, the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris and the Museum’s archives stored at Archives Nationales, the Defence Historical Service (Service Historique de la Défense) in Vincennes, the City Archive in Strasbourg (Archives de la Ville et de l’Eurométropole de Strasbourg), the Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius and the Manuscript Department of the Vilnius University Library, the National Archives in Tartu, Estonia and the Archives of Natural History Museum in Berlin. We also conducted a thorough search of literature concerning BPF and forests of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania published in second half of the eighteenth century through until the early twentieth century. Indeed, the bibliography of the nineteenth-century publications (books and articles) connected with the subject amounts to several hundred items. Every forest has its own history and in this case, most information came from different kinds of written sources (a) published and generally available to the public and (b) archival manuscripts. The latter category includes meticulous accounts, tables and inventories. Archival maps that help identify nineteenth-century interactions between man and forest supplemented this knowledge. Artistic depictions of the Forest and its dwellers (both animals and people) were important in tracing the cultural significance of BPF in the nineteenth century. Through analysis of what was depicted, in what form, and where was the work published, it was possible to identify the significance and perception of BPF in European culture.
Tomasz Samojlik, Anastasia Fedotova, Piotr Daszkiewicz, Ian D. Rotherham

3. Traditions of a Royal Period (Until 1795)

Abstract
 This chapter covers the period when Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF) served as a hunting reserve for the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the Polish Kings from the late fourteenth century until 1795. At the same time, along with grand hunting, a various traditional uses were allowed associated with villages, towns, and churches. The most significant of these were haymaking and forest beekeeping. The anthropogenic environmental impact of this royal period can be seen in the creation of the cultural landscape of a hunting garden, in the evolution of stands of pure pine resulting from centuries of fire use, and the establishment of the conservation and winter supplementary feeding system for European bison. The cultural heritage of the period, incorporated traditions connected with European bison, small-leaved lime, Scots pine, and the local knowledge of forest herbs and their uses. All these traditions persisted here because of the royal status of the Forest and the longevity of its customary management. This entailed legal protection over game species and the forest itself ensured by customary laws, and later codified in three editions of Statutes of Lithuania. The history, impacts, and roles of royal hunting are considered along with the traditional uses of the forest by various groups of local people. The two aspects are closely intertwined as the overall usage was overseen by the designated authorities charged with responsibility for the Forest.
Tomasz Samojlik, Anastasia Fedotova, Piotr Daszkiewicz, Ian D. Rotherham

4. The Beginning of the Imperial Period (1796–1837)

Abstract
The fourth chapter addresses the period when Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF) was taken into the custodianship of the Russian State. By 1795, after the third partition of Poland, BPF was incorporated into the Russian Empire, to be the property of the Russian state treasury. Following the 1795 partition, the administrative system that had previously protected the Forest partly collapsed. One of the thirteen forest districts of BPF given to a favourite of Russian Empress Catherine II was soon sold and clear-cut. This left a distinctive deforested triangle on the Forest's map. However, in 1802 and 1803 Tsar Alexander I reinstated all the former protection afforded to the European bison and BPF, and since 1820 any timber felling or hunting in the forest was prohibited. In the meantime, the Russian imperial administration sought to improve the forestry management based on “scientific” and “rational” principles, but it encountered several problems in achieving their ambitions.
Tomasz Samojlik, Anastasia Fedotova, Piotr Daszkiewicz, Ian D. Rotherham

5. Mixed Management Goals (1838–1860)

Abstract
This chapter takes us though the period of mid-nineteenth century when the goals of management of Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF) shifted from economic exploitation to preservation of European bison and creation of hunting reserve. The new Ministry of State Domains (created in 1837) with the new Forestry Department (created in 1843) aimed at combining the protection and exploitation of BPF. By 1849, the first forest inventory plan of BPF was finalized, and the forest was divided into rectangular compartments. However, most of the forest modernization projects, including creating plants, canals and a forestry school in BPF, were rejected by the Forestry Department. Furthermore, instead of the planned clear cuttings, the Forestry Department decided to first remove several thousands of culturally modified trees scattered throughout the forest, described by foresters as “damaged trees”. Problems with external contractors selected to extract large quantities of wood from BPF delayed the introduction of clear cuts till the end of the period. The first Tsar’s hunt (in October 1860) again made the preservation of European bison population a main goal of BPF management. Few outstanding naturalists visited BPF in this period, but it did not bring any major scientific publication on the Forest or European bison. The important cultural heritage of the mid-nineteenth century was the successful hybridization of European bison and cattle made by Leopold Walicki.
Tomasz Samojlik, Anastasia Fedotova, Piotr Daszkiewicz, Ian D. Rotherham

6. The Restoration Period (1861–1888)

Abstract
The history of Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF) experienced a pivotal moment with the royal hunt by Alexander II in 1860. The impact of the hunt was to trigger a gradual change in BPF management (creating a game reserve, purchasing deer, exterminating predators, restricting logging) that ultimately transformed it into the private hunting ground of the Russian Tsars; a process completed in 1888. There was a major shift from the incremental moves towards commercial forestry driven by nineteenth-century scientific forestry towards being a hunting ground based on principals of German “rational” game management. The changes that the era of Great Reforms brought in the 1860s, sparked conflicts between former state peasants and BPF administration over traditional forest use. At the same time, as this change was sweeping through the forest interest in the natural world and in new ideas such as evolution and natural selection were emerging throughout Europe and North America. With this new enlightenment, the forest became subject to increasing interest and scrutiny from a more educated society. A consequence of this change was that the forest appeared regularly as a topic in publications devoted to nature and forestry. Furthermore, the region was visited by prominent artists and writers and perceptions and ideas relating to the forest and its European bison emerged from that time and some remain with us today.
Tomasz Samojlik, Anastasia Fedotova, Piotr Daszkiewicz, Ian D. Rotherham

7. The Tsars’ Private Hunting Ground (1888–1915)

Abstract
In September 1888, Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF) together with the adjacent Świsłocz Forest was transferred to the Tsar’s family private property managed by the Ministry of Imperial Court. This was in order to secure better protection for European bison and turn the Forest into the Tsar’s private hunting ground. In the years following the transfer, the imperial palace designed by Nicolas de Rochefort was erected, along with accompanying infrastructure. Game management was given priority in the overall administration of the Forest, and royal hunts were organized in 1894, 1897, 1900, 1903 and 1912. Forest inventories carried out in 1889–1890 and in 1909–1911 assigned low volumes of oler timber to be extracted. This extraction was further limited according to Tsar Nikolai II’s wish to sustain the original, primeval appearance of the Forest. In the period from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, a wave of botanists, zoologists, forestry scientists, and veterinarians, passed through BPF and produced several landmark works on various key aspects of its natural values. However, more rigorous control of the new administration over forest use led to increased number of conflicts with  local dwellers. This chapter considers the management and administration of the Forest during this critical period in its history. 
Tomasz Samojlik, Anastasia Fedotova, Piotr Daszkiewicz, Ian D. Rotherham

8. The End of the Imperial Epoch

Abstract
The beginning of World War I did not significantly affect the daily life of Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF) until the approaching battle-front forced the evacuation of forest and of the game management employees, along with the palace and appanage properties. The Germans entered Białowieża on August 17th, 1915, and left it on December 28th, 1918. However, the three years of the German occupation was a crucial episode in the history of BPF, with the effects felt even to this day. The rapid exploitation of the Forest’s resources started with around 2.6 million cubic metres of timber harvested in the period 1915–1918. The German administration used mainly prisoners of war and local residens as forced labourers. The population of European bison and other ungulates fell dramatically in the first months of the occupation. A glimmer of hope, but with the backdrop of the overexploitation of forest resources during WWI, was Hugo Conwentz’s effort to protect the Forest and European bison. The German occupation drastically changed the status of the Forest—from the Tsars’ hunting reserve with large areas excluded from any exploitation to heavily logged source of timber for German economy. The latter demanded the forest resources that BPF could supply.
Tomasz Samojlik, Anastasia Fedotova, Piotr Daszkiewicz, Ian D. Rotherham

9. Conclusions—Learning the Past to Understand the Future of BPF

Abstract
Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF) entered the long nineteenth century having recently lost its royal forest status in 1795. By the end of the period, it was once again deprived but this time of its status as an imperial hunting reserve. Nevertheless, in the meantime, the human-forest relationship evolved and countless scientific and literary publications and works of art devoted to BPF were produced. These were evidence of BPF’s rise to prominence as a symbol of the diversity, longevity and persistence of nature. Together with the European bison (regarded as a curiosity and sought-after addition to any natural history museum, university collection, zoological garden or private hunting park), the Forest grew to become a reference point in many scientific debates. BPF survived sufficiently long for its pristine character to be appreciated by key naturalists and environmental activists. A scientific discussion on the “naturalness” of forests began in eighteenth-century France with the definition of terms “natural”, “pristine” and “primeval” but as merely hypothetical states. Then the nineteenth century brought the gradual realization that in the European lowlands such a place actually survived. In this chapter, we show how knowledge of the nineteenth-century history of BPF is relevant for current conservation. Indeed, the debates about the future management of BPF, its protected status, and the limits of acceptable human intervention in forest ecosystems, demand better understanding of historic processes.
Tomasz Samojlik, Anastasia Fedotova, Piotr Daszkiewicz, Ian D. Rotherham
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