Belovezhskaya Pushcha is the largest remnant of the primeval lowland forests that have existed in Europe since prehistoric times. Over centuries nearly all truly virgin forests have gradually been felled, while the region of Belovezhsky is nearly the only location where the truly natural and authentic primeval forest remained more or less intact on a large scale. In 1992 UNESCO credited the Belovezhskaya Pushcha the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1993 Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park was given the status of a Biosphere Reserve and, in 1997 the forest was awarded a Council of Europe Diploma.

Belovezhskaya Pushcha is a unique and largest massif of ancient forests typical for lowland areas in Central Europe. The average age of the forest stands within the Belovezhskaya Pushcha-complex is more than 100 years and separate patches of the forest are aged at 250 up to 350 years. More than thousand giant trees within the Pushcha are officially registered thanks to their size and age, among which 400 to 600-year old Oaks, 250 to 350-year old Ashes and Pines and 200 to 250-years old Spruces. The richness of species of plants and animals in Belovezhskaya Pushcha Primeval Forest is surpassed nowhere in other lowland areas of Europe. 958 species of high vascular plants, 260 of mosses, more than 290 lichens and 570 of fungi do grow here. The Fauna List of Belovezhskaya Pushcha lists 59 species of mammals, 227 birds, 7 reptiles, 11 amphibian, 24 fish and more than 11,000 species of invertebrates. The largest population of European bison worldwide inhabits the forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

In terms of large herbivorous animals Red Deer, Wild Boar, Roe Deer and European Elk can be found and amongst predators Wolf, Fox, Lynx, Badger, Pine martin, Otter and others species can be met here. The Belovezhskaya Pushcha has also retained unique associations of invertebrates, inhabitants of dead and rotten wood and Polyporus fungies in bogs and fens. The flora and fauna include a great number of rare species of plants and animals which are listed in the Belarus Red Data Book (Belarus Red Lists) like Silver Fir, different species of Lily and many other grass plants as well as mammals and birds like European Bison, Lynx, Badger, White-tailed Eagle, Shorttoed Eagle, Black Stork, Crane, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eagle Owl, Great Gray Eagle, Pigmy Owl, White-backed woodpecker, Three-toed woodpecker, Roller, Aquatic Warbler and many others.

Location of Belovezhskaya Pushcha

click to enlarge

Belovezhskaya Pushcha is located in the southwest of the Republic of Belarus at a distance of 340 km from the city of Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The forest lies within the borders of Grodno and Brest regions. The territory of the National Park covers about 120,000 hectares. The Polish-Belarussian border crosses the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. A watershed between the Baltic and Black seas is situated in the vicinity of the Park.

For the purpose of preserving the unique nature, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha was divided into four functional zones with various regimes of protection. These areas are the Wildness Protection Zone (Strict Reserve), the Regulated Nature Zone, the Regulated Recreational and Economic Activity Zones and the so-called Support or Buffer Zone is situated as a shield around the Belovezhskaya Pushcha and exists of partly forested and non-forested land.

The natural heritage of Belovezhskaya Pushcha has been protected since the 14th or 15th century. Since 1413 the Belovezhskaya Pushcha belonged to Poland, while in 1795 it became the territory of the Russian Empire. In 1919 the Belovezhskaya Pushcha passed again into Polish hands and in 1921 the so-called “Rezerwat” (Forestry Reserve), covering 4.693 centrally located hectares, was created here. 1061 hectares were fully protected. Starting in 1939 Belovezhskaya Pushcha belonged to the Byelorussian Soviet Socialistic Republic and the Byelorussian Belovezhskaya Pushcha State Nature Reserve was established in its territory. In 1957 the forest obtained the status of a so-called State Protected Game Ground, which was reorganized in 1991 when the forest became protected as a State National Park.

At the beginning of the 21st century the State National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" is the largest touristic centre of Belarus, which offers different kinds of services for visitors: comfortable hotels and motels, restaurants and cafes, sporting facilities and other activities. Tourists may visit the Museum of Nature as will and they have the opportunity to see enclosures with wild animals. Specially designated trails (to be followed on foot, by horse or by car) are available where tourists, accompanied by a professional guide, can admire the unique primeval beauty of Belovezhskaya Pushcha forest and visit the famous governmental residence “Viskuli”. In this well known building the "Belovezhskoe Accords" were signed in December 1991, concerning the disaffiliation of independent republics from the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Visitors of the Park can also see historical and cultural monuments: Tyshkevich's country estate, an ancient imperial path as well as some other objects located in the vicinity of the National Park, for example the ancient Kamenetz tower ("White Tower") which was built in the XIIIth century, a rare church ensemble and so on.

More about the Belovezhskaya Pushcha

[History] [Geographical location and general information] [Climate, hydrology, geology and geomorphology] [Soils] [Flora and vegetation] [Fauna] [National Park's structure] [Protection] [Science and research] [Cultural monuments and tourism] [Belarusian Grandfather Frost's Residence] [Economic activity] [Maps and schemes]

- Discription of the Polish Bialowieza Forest on the website "Encyclopedia of Earth".
- Discription of the Belarusian Bialowieza Forest on the website "Encyclopedia of Earth".