CONSERVATION OF THE BELOVEZHSKAYA PUSHCHA CULTURAL HERITAGE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF ECOTOURISM

Alla V. Kvyatkovskaya,
Institute of History,
National Academy of Sciences

Alexandr I. Tarasyonok,
Belarussian State University,
Minsk,
Belarus

ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND ETHNIC RESEARCH

An archaeological survey in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha and its vicinity to locate, map and inventorise its archaeological and historic artefacts and sites, and to undertake ethnic research, has been ongoing since 1994.

Within the archaeological category, the following objects are included:

Places of worship:

In the Viskuli Palace in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha the dissolution of the Soviet Union has been assigned in 1991
Figure 59. In the Viskuli Palace
in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha
the dissolution of the Soviet
Union has been assigned in 1991 (VE)

Ethnographic research has also covered settlements in the vicinity of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Oral traditions related to the emergence of certain settlements (including the villages of Chadel, Babinets, and Rovbitsk) have been collected, as well as descriptions of human sacrificial practices to put an end to epidemics (such as in the villages of Brovsk and Omelyanets).

A small study of the archaeology, ethnography, and history of this very territory has revealed the urgent need for immediate fundamental research since, with each year that passes, the number of people who are keepers of these "grains of history" and the spiritual culture is diminishing. At the same time, technical progress brings more and more new objects into their daily lives, and erosion continues in the traditional, everyday utensils, furniture, dress, etc. The immediate task is to establish a database of the archaeology, ethnography, and history of the region, to conserve these and teach this culture to the generations to come. This can only be achieved through the provision of a multifunctional centre, such as a Historic and Cultural Facility (HCF).

HISTORIC AND CULTURAL FACILITY

Burial mounds in forest
Figure 60. Burial mounds
in forest (NC)

In 1996, a project proposal, in conjunction with the architects of Enterprise "Tekton" (Grodno), for the establishment of such a facility, was drawn up. The HCF would include an Ethnocosmology Centre and the main HCF building, predominantly functional and compositional. The core of the Ethnocosmology Centre would be a museum space. Tours for excursion parties would be organized on the principle of two spirals. The first, an ascending one, would demonstrate those positive traits acquired in the course of ethnological development; the second, a descending one, would exhibit what man and nature have "lost" in the course of historical development. Further, there would be a complex of museums such as a Museum of History & Archaeology, and ones for Ethnography, Folklore, Anthropology, Crafts, and Folk Arts together with a display facility; the Museum of Hunting and Fishing, Wild-Hive Beekeeping, and the Museum of Nature (in the northern part of the Pushcha). Also planned are an Ethnographic Village with a water mill, a pottery, a shopping centre, streets of craftsmen and service personnel, researchers, a consumer service establishment, a stage for summer performances, a children's playground, building and engineering constructions and other infrastructure.

Wooden sculptures in a hunting lodge
Figure 61. Wooden sculptures in
a hunting lodge (NC)

With the establishment of a Nature Museum Complex in the north, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha would acquire an axis of routes from the north to the south. Ecologically-based routes - on foot, by bike, by water, by horse (both on horseback and in carriages) - can be organized for one or several days, with visits to natural, historic and archaeological sites and objects.

The establishment of such a Facility would achieve the following:

From the point of view of ecology, such a Historical and Cultural Facility cannot be criticised: there are no production facilities to harm the environment. Just as in the time of great antiquity, the region can again become the focus of spirituality, both for Belarussians and also for those who crave harmony with their inner world and surroundings.

PREMISES FOR EDUCATION AND TOURISM IN THE FUTURE

Currently, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha encourages three types of tourism: hunting, passive health-improving, and nature. Research has suggested that the objectives and functions of the National Park should be limited to naturalistic ones. Hunting (trophy seeking) tourism, based on the active exploitation of the available fauna resources, may continue for the next 5-10 years as a means of obtaining funds for further investment in ecological forms of tourism. Once a favourable balance and sex-and-age structure of the fauna has been achieved, hunting should be halted or perhaps severely localised in small, enclosed, areas of purposefully breed animals (game husbandry). Health-improving tourism, organised by tour companies, should be eliminated completely, since it is more appropriate to specialized Belarussian resorts, rest-houses, and leisure and recreation zones, than to a National Park. Moreover, it is the main source of pollution and rubbish in the environment due to the popularity of picnics with tourists.

Tourist ride using a horse-drawn carriage
Figure 62. Tourist ride using
a horse-drawn carriage (AK)

The most promising form of tourism for the National Park is seen as organized scientific and educational ecotourism, particularly aimed at the international market. To promote this type of tourism, it is necessary to set up a permanent ecological establishment for foreign students and lecturers of natural sciences, on a rotational and contractual basis. Such an establishment could also serve groups of national visitors and students from leading higher-educational establishments, on a commercial basis if they were willing to co-operate with the foreign visitors. In winter, such an establishment could be used as a conference centre. In order to rationally exploit existing assets, Hotel 2 in Kamenyuki could be radically reconstructed to form such an establishment, especially since it is unprofitable at present.

Especially considering the specificity, and the extent of the preservation of historical and ethnographic resources in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Region, it can be argued that the establishment of the above-mentioned Historical and Cultural Facility would be expedient.

Old tsar manger for wild ungulates
Figure 63. Old tsar manger
for wild ungulates (NC)

With infrastructural features and facilities located at polar extremes; i.e. the existing Ecological-Cultural Educational Centre in the south of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, and a new Nature and Culture Museum Complex in the north, will help to encourage a more complete and territorially spread utilisation of the Pushcha's recreational potential. In this way, the goals of nature management and those of ecotourism will be proper matched.