Photo credit: Vlad Bagno
To the west of Moscow (about 500 km from the capital), almost on the border with Belarus, lies Smolensk Lakeland National Park. The park (120 km north of Smolensk) covers about 3% of the territory of Smolensk Oblast, which is 146,237 hectares in area.
The park’s unique landscape comes from the combination of high hills separated by rivers and lakes (35 in total), home to pike, perch, and ruffe. Most of the territory of Smolensk Lakeland is covered with forest, and the park’s fauna is typical of forestland: elk, wild boar, bear, wolf, fox, lynx, hare, beaver, stoat, and a vast array of birds.
Prshevalsky horseIn the late 19th century the famous Russian scientist and explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky, known worldwide primarily as an ethnographer who first discovered and detailed the hitherto unknown breed of wild horse known today as the Przhevalsky horse, settled in Lakeland, after which a medical station, post office, and telegraph appeared in the small village where he lived, and Przhevalsky’s actual estate was declared a nature reserve. Today the village is the administrative center of Lakeland and bears Przhevalsky’s name in honor of the great explorer.
Industrial logging for export began in the second half of the 18th century: logs were sent by waterway as far as the Daugava river, and onwards to Riga and Europe. In Soviet times four logging enterprises operated here. Before the national park was created, intensive logging was carried out, reaching up to 300,000 m3 per year during certain periods.
In the mid-1980s scientists from the Smolensk State Pedagogical Institute highlighted the need to preserve this unique region. Smolensk Lakeland National Park was opened only in 1992. In November 2002 it was included in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
In recent years great significance has been attached to the development of tourism in specially protected natural areas. Lakeland is visited by more than 250,000 people every year. The park offers six nature trails, and has around a dozen information centers.
Last but not least, the region is of interest to military history buffs, since Smolensk Oblast witnessed some of the most crucial battles of WW2 during 1941-1943, the traces of which are everywhere to be seen. Next to Lake Chistik stands a lookout post of the 43rd Army of the Soviet Union, replete with trenches, mortar points, dugouts, etc.
How to get there?
19 Gurevich Str., Przhevalskoe Settlement, Demidov District, Smolensk Oblast, 216270, Tel .: 007 (48147) 26204
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