V. NOVIKOV, (c)
by Valery NOVIKOV, Cand. Sc. (Geol. & Mineral.), Director, Ugra National Park
What we call the world system of national parks took shape almost 130 years ago. As for this country in particular, the first natural preserve was established as late as 1983. Today we have a total of 35 such specially protected areas, stretching from the Baltic Region to Eastern Siberia with the greatest number of them located in European Russia. Their main objective and mission is to preserve and maintain what we call the traditional natural-cultural landscapes in the conditions of regulated uses of nature. One of these preserves is the Ugra National Park established in 1997 by a special decision of the Government of the Russian Federation.
Our park is situated within the confines of six administrative districts of the Kaluga Region, and the diversity of its landscapes depends on the fact that it is located in two physico-geographical provinces: the Smolensk-Moskovskaya and the Srednerusskaya (Central Russian) ones. It has a total area of 98.6 thous. hectares, stretching from the northwest to the south-east for nearly 200 km. It has what we call a typically valley landscape with the main "axes" of the park being the Ugra River, the Zhizdra and the left bank of the Oka. More than 65 percent of the territory are covered with forests, rivers and lakes.
The territory of the park contains 20 natural monuments and 4 key ornithological territories (three of them of regional and one of international importance). The roster of local greenery includes about 1,000 higher species, including 165 plants which are rare for this area. The fauna includes 210 bird species, 33 fish and 320 vertebrates. Among the animals common in these places are elks, roe deers, wild boars, wolves and foxes, badgers, beavers, black grouses, wood grouses and one also comes across martens, minks and brown bears. Breeding in
the water-meadows of the Zhizdra and the Oka is the Russian musk-rat* (endemic), included into the register of the International Union for the Protection of Nature. The Red Data Book of Russia lists 5 local plants species orchids: Dactylorhiw baltica, Dactylorhiw cruenta, Cephalanthera longifolia, Cepha-lanthera rubra and Trapa naians, 20 birds (including Pandion haliaetus, Circaetus gallicus, Haliaeetus albicilla, Faico cherrug, Aquila clanga, Ciconia nigra or black stork)**, one fish species Cottus gobio and six invertebrate species.
Protected by the state are more than 130 archeological objects, numerous sites of historic battles, some famous religious centers, more than 20 architectural monuments and some 20 former gentry estates.
The Ugra Park consists of three main areas: Ugorsky, Zhizdrinsky (lower reaches of a river of the same name) and Vorotynsky (part of the Vyssa River valley before its confluence with the Oka). The park also includes three isolated natural landmarks: Morozovskoye swamp, Tysh Lake and Chyortovo Gorodishche forests.
The Ugorsky section occupies nearly two thirds of the total area of the park and includes, apart from the Ugra river valley, the near- estuary areas of the Vorya and the Techa. Located in the lower reaches of the former are the Zaiidovskye water-meadows of about 1,000 hectares. The territory looks like a typical moraine*** plane, formed during the Moscow glaciation period (some 170-125 thousand years ago). It is characterized by a hilly relief with numerous swamps in depressions; the biggest of them is called Morozovskoye (85 hectares). The whole area is covered with coniferous and broad-leaved forests, including the Galkinsky woods with a large swamp favoured by terns and river-gulls****.
Local forests have plenty of mushrooms and berries and fresh- water Spongilla sponges prosper in the clear local streams. The region abounds in ground waters, including mineral springs (Popovsky spring, Troitse-Yekaterininskye ferruginous springs). From the geological point of view, of interest are forms of the glacial relief and limestone outcroppings with fossil fauna of the Carboniferous period. Also of interest for scientists is a lake of meteorite origin located near the Ozerko village.
The process of population settlement in the area is deeply rooted in history and local finds include archeological monuments starting from the Mesolithic***** to the Paleolithic and numerous Early Slavonic villages and towns (Zhary, Aleskandrovka, Kosaya
* See: M. Kolotova, "Laboratory of Nature Reanimation", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2001. -Еd.
** See: M. Kolotova, "The Royal Bird", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2002. - Ed.
*** Moraine-accumulation of earth and stones carried and finally deposited by a glacier. - Ed.
**** River-gulls-subfamily of the tern (gull) family - Ed.
***** Mesolithic - of or relating to a transitional period from the Paleolithic (early Stone Age) to the Neolithic - circa X-V ths. years B.C. - Ed.
Gora, Mokrovo, etc.). By the start of 2nd century A.D. the Ugra became part of a river route, or passage "from the Varangians to the Greeks" with some famous early Russian urbs being located on its banks, like Dmitrov, Opakov and Luza, and its valley being the site of major battles during the Mongol-Tatar and Polish- Lithuanian inroads, and also during the Patriotic War of 1812 and the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. At the end of 15th century, after the "Stand-off" on the Ugra (1480) which put an end to the Golden Horde domination over Rus, the river became a "borderline" popularly known as "the Girdle of the Most Pure Virgin''.
Preserved near the Ugra are some historic parks and churches, such as those in the villages of Palatki, Velino, Sergievskoye, Pluskovo, etc. The list of rare architectural monuments includes the country estates of V Yaroshenko (a wealthy patron of arts and brother of the well-known painter Nikolai Yaroshenko), called "Pavlishchev Bor" and the "Polotnyany Zavod" estate of the industrialists Goncharovs (the wife of the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin belonged to that family). The unique beauty of the Podgorye landscapes attracted the attention of many Russian writers, painters and public figures of that period.
The Zhizdra section of the Ugra Park borders on the state wild-life preserve of "Kaluzhskiye Zaseki" and stretches down to the confluence of the Zhizdra and the Oka. Also included are the near- estuary stretch of the picturesque Serena River and the "Chyortovo Gorodishche" (devil's abode) with stone grottos, relict ferns and luminescent mosses, hailed in many legends.
Stretching on the right bank of the Zhizdra is an outwash (sandy- pebbly) plain with soils favoured by broad-leaved trees like oaks, ash-trees, maples, limes and elms. The grass cover of the leafy grooves has plenty of ramson. Until 18th century the native forests on the right bank of the Zhizdra served as a natural defense belt, sheltering the Moscovy State from the inroads of the "steppe nomads".
A prominent feature of this area are its numerous lakes favoured by musk-rats. There are also all kinds of migratory birds and plenty of aquatic plants:
Satvinia natans, Potamogeton acuti-folius, Hattonia palustre. In the purest natural reservoir of the Park - Lake Gorozhenoye - there is the only population of Trapa natans nuts in the Kaluga Region.
The Zhizdra valley is also interesting in geological respect: its bluffy banks contain outcroppings of marine carboniferous and quaternary glacial deposits, there are piles of water-seasoned oaks and mineral springs flow here and there.
The historical landmarks of this area include some very ancient finds (Stone Age dwellings, burial mounds and cult stones) and also more recent cultural centers, like the celebrated Optina Wilderness, Shamordinsky, Klykovsky, Sharovkin and Gremyachev monasteries connected with the names of the great Russian writers like N. Gogol, F. Dostoyevsky and L. Tolstoy In the past the region contained some of this country's main iron foundries (Sereno-Zavod), medical glass factories (Stekolny Zavod) and coal and iron-ore mines (Bumashevo, Klykovo). Of great interest to tourists are also early Russian towns located "at the gates" of the park: Kozelsk and Peremyshi (first chronicle mentions in 1147 and 1328 respectively).
The Vorotynsk area is located on the fringe of the Meshchovskoye Opolye and together with the Zhizdrinsky district represents a landscape of erosional planes of the Srednerusskaya (Central Russian) plateau. It is confined between the Vyssa valley and the large flood plain of the Oka. Along the Vyssa there are many springs, and beavers dwell halfway downstream. Lake Tish - the longest of its kind in this area, favoured by waterfowl, is in the estuary of the Oka. Forest tracts here alternate with plantations of an agricultural research center specializing in some elite crops varieties.
Occupying a prominent position in the historical and cultural respects is the old village of Vorotynsk which preserves its original layout and typical attributes of early Russian rural centers, including a church, merchants' quarters, district hospital and wooden houses and structures of peculiar architecture. A total of nearly 15 archeological monuments have been found in the surrounding area, including a "gorodishche" - site of an ancient settlement of 14th-17th centuries which used to be the center of an apanage principality The better known from among the local rulers was Prince M. Vorotynsky (circa 1510-1573) who organized the defense of the Muscovy state from the inroads of the Crimean Tatars and the Lithuanians. This period is commemorated by the Spassky (Savior's) Monastery built in the 16th century on donations of the Vorotynsky princes on the point of confluence of the Ugra with the Oka.
In order to promote what we call nature protection activities we have allocated, within the park, areas with special regimes of protection and utilization. This prohibited zone is intended for the preservation of what we call "standard" or "reference" patches of the local nature in its uninterrupted progression (about 10 percent of the total park area). Any and all economic activities and tourism are banned there and visitors are accepted only on special days and along specially prescribed routes.
The specially protected zone includes ecologically important natural areas.
The territory of the "Protected Landscape" includes the already established natural-historical complexes and landscapes.
As for brief or longer holidays of nature-lovers we have provided a special recreation zone. Our guests can set up tents and there are parkings, berths and a network of roads and pathways which are administered by the park's-management.
One of the tasks on the agenda of the Ugra National Park is monitoring natural processes and recreational "stresses" on various complexes. Our special-
ists, working in conjunction with scientists of the research centers and colleges of Kaluga, Obninsk, Moscow and other cities, are engaged on more than 10 research projects. These cover the studies and restoration of "old-age" broad-leaved forests of the Zasechnaya Cherta area; comprehensive studies of floodplain lakes on the Zhizdra, ornithological and botanical investigations on key and "model" territories and assessments of the populations of rare and protected species. Our staff members are also implementing a program of studies of archeological monuments in which geophysical and biolocation methods are being used.
Our foresters are also working on the restoration of broad-leaved oak woods of the former Zasechnaya Cherta area, gradual restoration of valuable species in places of wood clearings where there have appeared, all by themselves or through planting, furs, pines, birches and aspens. At the same time, preserved within the confines of the park are patches of old-age broad-leaved forests on an area of some 4 thousand hectares. And it is they that make up the unique natural legacy of the park and are a "genetic" store of the former biodiversity.
At the present time our specialists, working in conjunction with the RAS Center of Ecology and Forests' Productivity, the International Institute of Forestry and the Pushchinsk University, are studying the natural evolution of the unique local forests and assessing the diversity of the local vegetation and soils and prognosticating any likely changes. As a result, recommendations will be obtained on what we call the techniques of forests restoration, and this includes the conduct of selective clearings with the subsequent replantations on these spots and the introduction of certain wild animals (like bisons*, beavers, etc.).
Another object of close attention in the Ugra Park are some unique ecosystems of the 70 floodplain lakes on the Zhizdra. Their dimensions are not very large: length of up to 3,000 m, width of up to 150 m and depth of some 6.5 m and the age of the most ancient of them is about 6 to 7 thousand years. In the past they all belonged to the winding bed of the river and today demonstrate different staged of ageing and swamping.
With the participation of researchers of the Chair of Geophysics of the Moscow State University, Obninsk Center of Hydrometeorological Data and the Kaluga State Pedagogical University our specialists have carried out comprehensive investigations of the lakes including their geological structure, general parameters and morphology, hydrogeological regime and geochemical composition and of the local flora and fauna. It has been
* See: M. Kolotova, "Bisons in Meshchera", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2002, -Ed.
established that the lakes are supplied with water from a "mixture" of sources-underground springs, rivers (floods), water from melted snow and from natural precipitation. Water in the lakes has medium and low levels of mineralization and Lake Gorozhenoye is distinguished from all other Podmoskovye (Moscow area) lakes by its fresh water with its lowest hardness factor.
Registered in these bodies of water were more than 150 higher vascular plants and about 100 invertebrates; occurring in almost all of these lakes is bodyaga fresh-water sponge - an indicator of purity of water. The list offish species (19) mainly consists of crucians and perch-roach representatives. Among the mammals there are musk-rats, beavers, musquashes and minks. Muskrats were brought here in the early 1960s and before the preserve was established the population stood at a critical point (some 120 animals). Measures for wildlife protection and biotechne* adopted in the past few years have made it possible to stabilize the and increase the populations to 250.
Among the objects of what we call the historical-cultural legacy of the Park of unquestionable interest are gentry estates of 18th-early 20th centuries. Their state of preservation depends on the occasional uses they were put to in the recent past. Therefore it has been necessary to do a lot of work restoring their separate components, opening museum expositions, memorial plaques and noticeboards. This mainly applied to minor architectural objects. As for other structures, many shall be turned into information and administrative centers, small hotels and research labs.
Apart from the collection of historical data and preparation of a complete inventory of these estates we are preparing for some of them projects of parks restoration and conservation of buildings. One such example is the family estate of the Obolensky princes near the village of Berezichi of the Kozelsk Region where a park of lime-trees and larches has been cleared, a summer-house and a bridge restored and work is in progress on the construction of the front gates with decorative grills.
Work is in full progress under the program commemorating the historic "Stoyanye" on the Ugra (standoff of the Mongol and Muscovite armies) in 1480. This event-a turning point in the destiny of Muscovy Rus which put an end to the domination of the Golden Horde-has so far been chiefly studied from chronicle sources and there have been practically no archeological on-site studies in the valley of the Ugra. As a result there have been disputes on many aspects of the "Stoyanye", such as whether
* From the Greek - "techne-skill" - studies of measures for the protection and increasing the populations of "productive" animals in natural conditions and increasing their productivity. -Ed.
that was a bloodless encounter or there were numerous minor engagements between the two armies whose ranks were stretched for tens of kilometers along the opposite banks of the river facing each other. In any case the Ugra should be regarded as a major memorial site with a status of a "Field of Military Glory of the Motherland" - a territory deserving of thorough historical and landscape studies.
We at the National Park have a special program of scientific investigations providing, alongside archeological studies, studies in toponimics and cartography and for dealing with other problems associated with the reconstruction of the historical landscape more than 500 years old.
The work of archeologists under this program boils down to pinpointing the site of the general battle and identifying the location of the Tatar army camp during the "standoff" when prolonged, nearly a fortnight long negotiations were in progress. The most promising in this respect appears to be a search for artifacts with the help of HF metal detectors. And the second area of studies should be archeological excavations on sites either mentioned in the chronicles in connection with the events of 1480 (Vorotynsk urban site), or authentically identified with concrete objects of that time (Zhary urban site - Dmitrovets of the chronicles, Palatki urban site - named Opakov in chronicles). The studies of these and other early settlements have been conducted by members of our staff for several years now, including the use of various geophysical methods (electrical sounding, magnetic sounding, geo-radar surveys, etc.). Soil and palynological studies are being conducted now by experts from the Moscow State University, the Institute of Archeology and the RAS Institute of Geology.
Even back at the time of the "Stoyanye" the Ugra was popularly called "The Girdle of the Theotokos", of the Divine Protectress, having in mind Her role in the defense of the Russian lands. This poetic metaphor later assumed material shape in the form of military fortifications and also churches and monasteries dedicated to the Mother of God. Bearing all this in mind, it appears to be profoundly symbolic that the present-day status of the Ugra as a specially protected territory of national importance is fully consonant with this metaphor.
Опубликовано на Порталусе 14 сентября 2018 года
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