• Vadim Sidorovich

Naliboki Forest in 16th-18th centuries, when the terrain was owned Radzivils and Khraptoviches

Updated: Oct 3, 2019


If this section is referred to the terrain of Naliboki Forest (Nalibotskaya Pushcha), it means the territory within its present perception, because then in the 16th-18th centuries, especially in the first half of this period, there was no such a naming. There was a fascinating, almost boundless forest-swamp array, the сentral part of which was called as Mikalaieva Forest (Mikalayewski Lies). Some parts of it were owned by magnates and shliakhta (specific to Lithuania and Poland middle-class wealthy part of the society with full political rights), the second part belonged to the state in the person of the Grand Duke of Great Luthuania.


As well as the entire section of the local history in the vastness of Naliboki Forest, these notes were based on archive materials as well as given according to a number of printed articles and other printed information. Description of local people life in the terrain of Naliboki Forest was reconstructed by basing on many segmentary facts and general knowledge about life of workers in the system of game-forestry husbandry of Radzivil magnate that was learnt from imaginative literature, e.g., “Novaja Ziamlja” by Jakub Kolas or documentary publicism, e.g., the famous book by Adam Mal’dzis (1982). Significantly important of these articles were those of Zmitsier Kryvasheyew in the proceeding of the local history of the Nioman upper reaches of the terrain Vierkhniaye Paniamonnie that was published in 2012, and his website (does not exist now) of the “Management and economic status of Naliboki Forest in the 16th-18th centuries” and “People in the forestry of the Dukes Radzivil in the second half of the 17th-18th centuries.” These printed works of Zmitsier Kryvasheyew refer to a number of archival materials of the State historical fund, which were also studied by the author and in this regard are cited in the list of references. These are primarily archive department 694, chapter 2, articles 201, 1587, 3984, 4353 in it and chapter 3, articles 2012, 2015, 1217 in it. In the archive department 694 there were also investigated chapter 2, articles 198, 227 and others; then chapter 3, articles 2013, 2014, 1219, 1230 and others as well as the suitable information sources from the chapters 4 and 7 of this archive department. However, it should be also pointed out that in the archive departments of Belarus there are a lot of documents related to the forestry and hunting of the Radzivils that the author despite of his enough knowledge of Polish language could not investigate , because of his inability to read too rough Polish cursive. These text decrypts, where the letters are almost unrecognizable, require a lot of time and very special knowledge. In this author’s case, Aliaksandr M. (wishing to remain anonymous) helped a lot to read rough Polish cursive. Anyway, the author believes that if there is such a motivated, thorough and meticulous researcher, he will write а thick and а very interesting book about the Radzivil-Khraptovich period in the vastness of Naliboki Forest. But still, the author offers what he has done, and, in fact, it is the result of a hard work. Compared with mentioned articles of dear valued Zmitsier Kryvasheyew, which were taken as a basis in terms of the knowledge on the way the Radzivils run their the system of game-forestry husbandry , I wanted to tell as much as possible about the Naliboki forested terrain and the events on the forest track in those days and to less focus on how the Radzivils and their hunter officials managed their forest workers and how those ones gave reports in their turn. But this chapter is definitely not just a retelling of his article. There are our own significant additional fragments of topographic, toponymic, game, zoological and botanical aspects, and these knowledges were gained from the additional archive information as well as other published sources. Some interesting knowledge mainly in regard to hunting in the beginning of 18th century was acquired from the memoirs of Kryshtaf Zavisha (1862), published in a translated version in 2011. Similar interesting knowledges were obtained from the memoirs of Julian Niamtsevich (1868). Interesting information about the Radzivils and their husbandry in Naliboki Forest was taken from the books of Klawdziya Shyshyhina-Patotskaya (2007), articles of Zmitsier Hurnievich (2012), the book of Adam Mal’dzis (1982), brochure of S.H. Halaktsiyonaw and H.M. Yatskievich (1989), and book of memoirs by Mikhaila Butseniava (2018). A lot of interesting pieces of the information were also taken from the three-volume encyclopedic edition «the Grand Duchy of Lithuania» of 2006-2008. The primitive methods of extraction of iron from the marsh iron ore were taken from the book of M.F. Huryn (1999). In addition, the Internet-site http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/lida-district/bak-encyc served as a certain source of information, and maps of that time: Polish map of 1749 and 1770, the Russian three-mile map of 1816.

In the beginning, it is necessary to specially note, why Radzivil period is prominent for Naliboki Forest and why it had such time borders as 16th-18th centuries. This time period began in 16th century, when the magnate family of Radzivils began buying up estates gradually in the region and compounding them into one game-logging economy sector. Let us tell more about it.

In the 16th century the terrain of Naliboki Forest was situated in the expanses of the Great Lithuania, where the right of private ownership was imposed not only on plough-land, but also on the natural terrain (forests, swamps, floodplain meadows) together with the variety of plants and animals. Thus, in the 14th-15th centuries, many parts of the land in Naliboki Forest were divided into relatively small-sized magnate possessions. Mikalaj Radzivil Chorny began the process of concentration of Naliboki Forest land in the hands of the magnate family of Radzivils, having bought from the magnates Shemits and Zavishas in 1555 the settlement Naliboki with belonging to them arable land and forests. In 1586, during the separation of the Radzivil’s possessions among three family branches and establishment of Nias’vizh, Klietsk and the Alytsy family husbandry branches, the settlement of Naliboki with adjacent forest expanses got into the possession of the Alytsy family husbandry branch. Mikalaj Kryshtaf Sirotka continued uniting Naliboki Forest in his impartible possession. During 1594-1595, he added the settlements of Dzierawnoye and Khatava with the surrounding woods and the swinging sites to his Nias’vizh family husbandry branch. When in 1599 the owner of Naliboki, the first owner of the Alytsy family husbandry branch Stanislaw Radzivil died without leaving legal heirs, his lands moved soon to the possessions of the Nias’vizh family husbandry branch.

So why did that Radzivil period for Naliboki Forest come to an end on the boundary of the 18th and the 19th centuries? At that time, Daminik Hieranim Radzivil was the owner of the Nias’vizh husbandry branch. Being very young (born in 1786), he served in the army of the Duchy of Warsaw in 1810 and had the rank of Colonel. Daminik Radzivil was an ardent patriot of his native land and a fighter for the rebirth of the country and thus, in June 1812, in Vil’nia, he joined with considerable army to the army of the French Emperor Napoleon, when the latter promised freedom and independence of the Rech Pospolita (united Poland and the Great Duchy of Lithuania). He took part in the Napoleon campaign to Moscow and was awarded the Legion of Honor for participation in the battle near Smalensk. He did not leave the Emperor Napoleon, even when he was defeated. Having received a severe contusion near Ghana, he died in France on November 11, 1813. He was the last one of the Nias’vizh Radzivils’ male line, which lasted without interruption for about 230 years. The Russian Empire sequestered Daminik Radzivil’s estates for his part in the war on the side of Napoleon.


Daminik Radzivil had a son Aliaksandr and a daughter Stephaniya. But Aliaksandr had been born before the divorce of his parents in their previous marriage, and was considered illegitimate until 1822, but even then the Russian Court did not agree with this decision. Duchess Stephaniya was born after the divorce and was legitimate heir to her father’s property. Willing to reward the 1812 war hero Duke Piotr Wittgenstein Russian Tsar Aliaksandr I granted him the estate. In 1829, Stephaniya married Liudvih Wittgenstein (the son of Piotr Wittgenstein), and by the way she brought most of the Naliboki terrain as a dowry to him. Thus, Radzivils’ husbandry in Naliboki Forest stopped. The next owner of the Nias’vizh family husbandry branch became Antoni Henryk Radzivil from Prussia family branch of the Radzivils, who, together with the estate, heired the duties of his predecessor Daminik Radzivil. Treasury in the Nias’vizh castle was almost empty, there was no money even for the maintenance of any castle or manors, not to mention a considerable husbandry in that part of Naliboki Forest, that remained in the Nias’vizh family branch and was not transferred to the Wittgensteins as a dowry of Stephaniya Radzivil. But let us go back to the story of the Radzivils’ husbandry there at the beginning of the 17th century, when this magnate family possessed most of this natural forest-swamp terrain.


Hunting on bison horseback with cold steel, namely with heavy spears, mid 17th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Hunting on bison horseback with cold steel, namely with heavy spears, mid 17th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.

Pulling of hunted bison by peasants under the control of straliets, late 16th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Pulling of hunted bison by peasants under the control of straliets, late 16th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.


As for the possessions of the Khraptovichs everything was slightly different with them. From ancient times the family owned the country seat Shchorsy and a considerable part of about 100 square kilometres of the forest at the southern borders of Naliboki forest which is called Hrafskaya pushcha since then (the Khraptovichs held the nobility title of Graf or Count). Approximately at the end of the 16th or at the beginning of the 17th they bought estates with about 180 square kilometres of pushcha lands in the north-western part of the pushcha towards Vishneva and Andryvonzh, then a little bit later they purchased Bakshty and the surrounding areas of the Naliboki pushcha up to the Lower and Middle small river of Vol’ka. Accordingly, during the 17th and the 18th centuries the Khraptovichs owned first almost a quarter and then in the 18th century and later one-third of the Naliboki Forest which, at that time, was not the name of the Forest. At the end of the 19th century with complete annexation of the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania by the Russian Empire Iaahim Litavor Khraptovich, the real that time owner, decided to retire and turn over property management to his son Adam. Nothing changed for the Khraptovichs in terms of their property rights.


Primeval look of Naliboki Forest in the Middle Ages. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Primeval look of Naliboki Forest in the Middle Ages. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.

But a lot of things changed radically for the Radzivils who owned most part of the Naliboki Forest when the Russians came. Therefore, defining the specified time period, the 16th -18th centuries, I am primarily aimed at the situation he Radzivils.

Now let us turn back to the beginning of the story about the Radzivils’ period of the Naliboki Forest.

First of all, the Naliboki forest-game husbandry (the Nalibotskaye lavietstva) was formed with a huge forest-swamp terrain. For more effective economy management, it was divided into three forest-game subhusbandries at the particular forest parts: the Naliboki subhusbandry, the Dzierawnaya subhusbandry and the Khatava subhusbandry. Such a division of the Naliboki forest-game husbandry remained during the whole Radzivils’ possession of the Naliboki terrain over the 16th-18th centuries. According to the schematic maps of the end of the 18th centuries, printed by Zmitsier Kryvasheyew (2012), the area that was in the Naliboki forest-game husbandry, covered only the entire south-eastern and central part of the large part of the Naliboki forested terrain in its present exposure. Since 1606 the Radzivils possesed the part of Naliboki Forest that was called Liubcha Forest, which had the Dzialiatychy forest-game subhusbandry. Around that time, the Mir and Ataliez’ forest-game subhusbandries were formed too, which were mainly located within the present boundaries of Naliboki Forest. Thus, most of the forest-swamp terrain of Naliboki Forest was in the ownership and management of a magnate of the Radzivil family from Nias’vizh. However, their possessions in Naliboki Forest stretched to the east of current eastern borders of Naliboki Forest, where now the forest-agricultural landscape extends around Naliboki, Dzierawnaya, Khatava, Tonava and Rubiazhevichy.


Winter hunting of shliakhtich for the brown bear at hibernating den with a spear, mid 17th century. Special  dogs turned the bear out of the den. The furious bear tends to attack the hunter who waiting nearby with a spear. At the moment when the bear stood on its hind paws in front of the hunter for the final killing throw, the brave hunter thrust a spear to the bear’s heart, and the end of the spear rested against the ground. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Winter hunting of shliakhtich for the brown bear at hibernating den with a spear, mid 17th century. Special dogs turned the bear out of the den. The furious bear tends to attack the hunter who waiting nearby with a spear. At the moment when the bear stood on its hind paws in front of the hunter for the final killing throw, the brave hunter thrust a spear to the bear’s heart, and the end of the spear rested against the ground. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.

However, not all Naliboki Forest in its contemporary realizing belonged to Radzivil family. In the central-western part of the forest massif of Naliboki Forest its parts namely the Dudy or Bakshty Forest (Dudawskaya or Bakshtanskaya Pushcha) were at different times partially owned by the families of Zavisha, Harbachewski, Valovich, Zamojski, Pats, Bujnitski, Ziankievich and others, in the north-eastern part of the Naliboki forest massif the Valozhyn-Piarshaj Forest (Valozhynska-Piarshajskaya Pushcha) was in the possession of the Viarejskis, the Radzivils only in 1582-1614, the Slushkos, the Chartaryjskis, in the north-western part of Naliboki Forest – the Vishniava Forest (Vishniawskaya Pushcha) and in the central-southern part of the forest massif – the Shchorsy Forest (Shchorsawskaya or Hrafskaya Pushcha) was in the possession of the Khraptovichs.

Thus, a large part of the current Naliboki Forest terrain belonged to the magnates Khraptovichs, primarily in its north (Vishnieva Forest from both edges) and the south (Grafskaya Pushcha near Shchorsy). Moreover, ineffective trials for certain pieces of this rich forest-swamp terrain ran for a long time between the Radzivils and the Khraptovichs. The possessions of the Khraptovichs in Naliboki Forest expanded in a great measure at the end of 17th century and at the beginning of 19th century. So, in 1787, Vil’nia Bishop Masal’ski handed Bakshty into rent to Lithuanian Vice-Chancellor Khraptovich. Khraptovich got Bakshty first on loan and then in 1790 the lease was renewed for another three years, and at the end of this period – for another 50 years. In 1795, following the accession of Belarussian lands to Russia, Bakshty and the forest territory along it went into use of the royal authority. But the Russian Empress Katherine II homologated the rights of Khraptovich possession of Bakshty for a period of 50 years. Despite the previous hard war between the Great Lithuania and Russia, Bakshty remained the Naliboki Forest’s largest settlement and almost along with the Naliboki borough played the role of another center, being in the ownership of Khraptovichs. In 1886 year in the Bakshty borough there were still registered 83 homesteads with 918 citizens, there was an Orthodox church, a synagogue, a tavern and two pubs. However, according to Zavisha’s message at the end of 17th century in the Bakshty borough and the surrounding villages e.g. Zaberez’ lived about five thousand people. Perhaps, this considerable reduction in the Bakshty-area population happened across the bloody wars of the 18th century.


From the above it follows that the Radzivils had never owned all the territory of the current Naliboki Forest; but the possession of two-thirds of its territory, as well as its social and economic development in Naliboki, in Radzivil forests in the Naliboki surrounding area and farther, gave the name of all this forest-swamp terrain as Nalibotskaya Pushcha (Naliboki Forest). However, in those days, nobody called this terrain by this name. In Radzivil’s forest-game economy it was called Zaniomanskaya Pushcha (Beyond-Nioman Forest) according to its location beyond the river Nioman in relation to the family branch of the Radzivils from the entailed estate in the Nias’vizh town. At the same time, locals often called this whole huge forest-swamp terrain as Mikalaieva Forest (Mikalayewski Lies), and different parts of this huge forested terrain were called Liubchanskaya Pushcha (Liubcha Forest), Dudawskaya Pushcha (Dudy Forest), Bakshtanskaya Pushcha (Bakshty Forest), Vishniewskaya Pushcha (Vishnieva Forest), Valozhynskaya Pushcha (Valozhyn Forest), Piarshajskaya Pushcha (Piarshaj Forest), Mikalaiewskaya Pushcha (Mikalaieva Forest; the central part of the contemporary Naliboki Forest around the Kliatsishcha village), Nalibotskaya Pushcha (Naliboki Forest; the part of the contemporary one that is not far from the Naliboki borough), Hrafskaya Pushcha (Hraf Forest), Mirskaya Pushcha (Mir Forest), Khatawskaya Pushcha (Khatava Forest), Dzierawnowskaya Pushcha (Dzierawnaya Forest) and Ataliez’skaya Pushcha (Ataliez’ Forest).


Because of the legal arguments and tribunals between the Radzivils and Khraptovichs for the lands within Naliboki Forest, fairly pronounced bordering between husbandries of these magnats was established. These landholdings changed somehow from time to time; the bordering changed respectively. The bordering of different husbandries went mostly along the rivers, but it could also go through the forest habitats in the form ofa clearing up to 10 meters wide. Such a border clearing was renewed once per 3-5 years. There was a well-known border clearing at the forested landholdings of Khraptovichs (called as Hrafskaya Pushcha) at the south of Naliboki Forest of the Radzivils. This border clearing went southwards from the Chornaya hamlet to the Nioman river (in the Haliazowshchyna locality) through the Makhnachova locality. However, this border mostly went along the Bojnaya river (at that time, perhaps, Bujnaya river). At the north-western part of Radzivil’s landholdings in Naliboki Forest in 18th century there was also a border clearing across the forest-swamp localities of Yunitsa, Kukhnya, Svistunova Hrada and Vysokaya Hrada from the Iz’liedz’ river to the Bystraya river. Usually, in the most important border points on a ground mound there used to be installed bordering signs in the kind of a broad pole from an oak trunk supplied with respective border signs.


It is essential to describe those human settlements, horse-riding roads, bridges across the Nioman and Biarezina rivers and main waterways for movement across the densely forested area of Naliboki Forest. On the Polish map of 1770s in the approximate area of Naliboki Forest there were a few human settlements but is important to notice that almost a quarter of them no longer exists. It is particularly interesting that somewhere around 2-3 km to the north-west of the present-day the Kliatsishcha village in the direction to the hamlet Vajnilawshchyna in the second half of 18th century there was a small human settlement like a village, which was called Mikalaieva, and the whole territory of the present-day Naliboki Forest on the Polish map was marked as Mikalayewski Lies. Now, this settlement does not exist in that place, but we know a small stow (urochishche) on the left bank of the Zhowta-Nioman canal between two larger stowsof Kliatsishcha and Kryvukha. As far as it is possible to realize the former Mikalaeva village was on the dry-land plot between the swampy valley of the Vusa river and two other swamped stows of Karytsishcha and Kryvukha. Also, it is worthwhile to notice that in the region of this forest massif there is another village of Mikalaieva on the banks of Nioman, but it is far enough from Naliboki Forest.


On the Russian map of 1816 there were quite a lot of human settlements in the terrain of Naliboki Forest, all of which are marked on the reconstructed old maps of 19th century (see the respective topographic chapter). Here let us describe the main horse-riding roads, that have been pointed out there, for, no doubt, almost all of them did exist in former Radzivil times. Let us move from the north to the south and from the west to the east, but before that, we note that around the outskirts of the permanent forest–swamp complex of Naliboki Forest there were a lot of different roads and there is no necessity to describe them here. There were mostly several parallel roads along Naliboki Forest edge that were distanced 5-15 km from each other. Between them there were connecting roads that united remote human settlements. Let us focus on internal forest roads, many roads running through the Naliboki terrain, mostly forested, and a great number of other places on the causeway across the marsh. The public road from Miensk ran from Valozhyn along the Islach river valley to Bakshty and farther to the west up to Harodnia. Near the Rasolishki village there was an offshoot of this road to the north along the Valozhynka river valley, and from Bakshty there were road offshoots to the north and south along the valley of the river Biarezina on both sides. To the south they mainly ran up to a large forest workhouse on Biarezina, where there are now hamlets Koniki and Patashnia. From the right bank of Patashnia the road went the west to the described Bakshty public road, where now the Harodnia high road lies. A little farther to the south-west from that public road, the road went south to Chapun’. From the left bank of the Biarezina near Koniki the road led through a continuous forest fragment to the Ivianiets and Kamien’ villages, from which there were two northern offshoots in the direction of the river Islach and Bakshty. Approximately in the middle of this road there was a steading, which was called Pawdarozhzha. From Naliboki there was a road running through the village Rudnia Nalibotskaya, and farther to the north-west in the direction of the main road Ivianiets-Bakshty and joined it closer to Bakshty. There was a road that ran from Kamien’ along the river Vusa right bank to the road Naliboki-Bakshty, and coalesced into one in Rudnia Nalibotskaya. Another road ran from the side of Kamien’ to Bakshty past Rudnia Nalibotskaya. Along the Vusa left bank there ran the road from Prudy to Naliboki-Bakshty road. In Rudnia Nalibotskaya the main road Naliboki-Bakshty turned to Kliatsishcha. From Liubcha and Kupijsk along the Nioman valley, and on the latitude of Haliandernia and Brodnaye through the marsh and continuous forest, the road ran to Naliboki. Not far from Brodnaye that road led through huge Valasien’ open grassy marsh. From the mentioned main road Liubcha-Naliboki there were road offshoots towards Budy and Smiejna. There was a road from Liubcha to Biarezina, and from there to Charnievichy towards the public road to Harodnia. It is interesting that most of these roads, or modern asphalt or gravel roads running in their direction, function as the main roads from Radzivil times till today.


It is obvious that in Radzivil times in the vastness of Naliboki Forest the Naliboki and Bakshty villages both were the most developed human settlements. Although the towns Mir, Liubcha, Shchorsy, Vishniava, Ivianiets and Valozhyn had a significant relationship to Naliboki Forest, yet somehow they were situated at the edges, and thus cannot be called belonging to Naliboki Forest. Now even the Naliboki village is out of the densely forested terrain, as in the Naliboki vicinity the continuous forest has been cut, but there is still a forest-agricultural mosaic with a significant portion of forest habitats.


It seems to be worthwhile to tell a bit about the bridges particularly across the water-abundant rivers of Biarezina and Nioman during the Radzivil’s period in the 16th-18th centuries. All the other rivers of Naliboki Forest could be overcome ford. All fording points were well known, and the horse roads were directed to those places. Usually the respective localities were even named as a ford (in Belarusian it is brod, brody, brodnaye etc.). For instance, a husbandry-valuable ford situated across Vusa not far from its confluence with Nioman. This place was called as Brodnaye, where a hamlet appeared since the late 16th century. Still there is a steading there, which is called as it used to be Brodnaye. There were fords across the Nioman and Biarezina rivers, too, but only a horseman or foot-mobile could use the fords. Crossing of the water-abundant rivers through the fords was impossible for horse with a loaded trailer. To provide freight transporting to Naliboki Forest from the southern and western sides there were bridges built across the Nioman and Biarezina rivers. In the 17th and 18th centuries the biggest bridges were in Nadniomanskaya (Siniawskaya) Slabada on the way of Radzivils from Nias’vizh residence to Naliboki borough; and in the Bakshty borough (one of the forestry-game center in Naliboki Forest) too on the way to Harodnya from the eastern side. These two bridges were based on strong broad piles and were supplied with breakers having iron blades. The rest bridges across the Nioman in Shchorsy, Liubcha, sometimes in Kupijsk and Dzialiatychy were afloat and moveable, because of the demands of timber raft from the Vusa mouth downstream of the Nioman.


As for waterways, it is obvious that they were all fairly deep rivers of the terrain of Naliboki Forest such as the Nioman, Biarezina, Islach and Vusa. People floated down those rivers not only in a dawbionka (a narrow boat that was made of a thick aspen trunk) and in small plank boats, but also in flat-footed vitsinas (yawls). Down the Nioman and Biarezina there floated Radzivil flat-bottomed vitsina-boats with bearing capacity up to 30 tons, that had sail as well as rowing motion. At the same time Radzivil terrain employees in their hunting husbandry, as well as ordinary Naliboki Forest citizens often used aspen dawbionkas to navigate the rivers deep in the forest, where there were no horse-riding roads and passes. The most popular of them in this respect were the rivers of Vol’ka, Izliedz’, Zhawtsianka, Pruzhenitsa, Kamienka (the inflow of the Vol’ka), Liebiazhoda, Sakha, Kramanitsa, Chornaya, Hal’shanka, Bystraya, Lipnitsa, Bojnaya and Chapunka. The hydrography of the terrain of Naliboki Forest allowed to create several ring waterways, on which hunting employees (babrowniks, asochniks, stralietses) often shuttled. In the simplest case, the circular route was made, when two neighboring nearly parallel rivers ran into one big river, and the upper reaches of these rivers located fairly close to each other – up to several kilometers walk through the bowels of Naliboki Forest. In that case, a man could get to swimmable reaches of one river, and after walking could reach a certain place of the other one, there take another dawbionka hidden in advance (that should be done in the previous swimming to the opposite bank direction), and float down that latter river, then having swum up to the bigger river, go up the stream to the mouth of the river, from where he went. The next time the man swam the waterway in the opposite direction. Those ring waterways, that were used in a such way in Radzivil times before the proper development of forest roads, were: Zhawtsianka – Pruzhenitsa – Vol’ka; Sivichanka – Al’shanitsa – Vol’ka; Lubianka – Vol’ka; Izliedz’ – Kamienka; Izliedz’ – Vol’ka – Biarezina – Nioman – Vusa – Vadzichan’ka; Bojnaya – Chornaya – Kramanitsa.


The active use of these water routes began to decrease after a significant expansion of the network of roads in the middle of 18th century, when the Radzivils started logging in Naliboki Forest on the most part of its territory and were forced to improve the condition of those roads that had already existed and lay new ones. In 18th century the same magnate clans also laid several roads from the Vishnieva borough to the south, south-western and south-eastern directions (Khraptovich’ husbandry), and from Rudnya Nalibotskaya to the south-western direction (Radzivil’s husbandry). The aim of these roads was delivery of iron mine from the localities of Kliatsishcha in the Vusa valley (in the case of Radzivils) and from the localities of Rapieya, Chornaya Vymoina, Bartsienikha and Zhardzieli mostly in the Biarezina valley and nearby swamps (in the case of Khraptovichs).

Having told more or less about the magnates, who owned the terrain of Naliboki Forest in 16th-18th centuries and about the certain area that belonged to the Radzivils, having described the human settlements and roads in Naliboki Forest at that time, it is necessary to make a review of employees, who served in the forest and game economy of the magnates, first of all the Radzivils (who managed the main part of Naliboki Forest), how and what they were doing. The Radzivils’ forest-hunting economy of the Naliboki terrain was managed by special official called lowchy (huntsman), who lived in the Naliboki borough, that was under the general lowchy from the Nias’vizh town. The Nias’vizh general lowchy managed not only this large-scale forest at the right side of the Nioman valley, but many other forested terrains that were located at the left side of Nioman from the Nias’vizh side, too. Therefore, he was sometimes called as Zaniomanski and Nadniomanski lowchy. As it was already described, the Radzivils’ economy in the forest-swamp terrain, which was at the right side from the Nioman river, consisted of three subhusbandries: Naliboki, Dzierawnaya and Khatava. Subhusbandries were divided into smaller parts called strazhas. Each subhusbandry was headed by its own manager called padlowchy (junior huntsman). Lowchy sent out numerous orders and regulations, corresponded with padlowchys. He also presided during terrain raids. Lowchy had to make a monthly inspection of the nearest forest areas and economic units, and every three months a bit distant ones. The contact between padlowchy and lowchy maintained by mean of every-month reports. General-lowchy, in his turn, on the basis of the lowchys’ reports regularly prepared his own report to the Radzivils.


Naliboki padlowchy dislocated closer to his direct subordinates in the locality Brodnaye that was in a suitable place on a bank of the Vusa downstream on the only road-way from the Liubcha town at the Nioman valley past the Kroman’ lake and hamlet (with a haiownya) to the Naliboki borough. That place was called Brodnaye, because of the convenient wade into ecologically rich and diverse island having primeval coniferous and broadleaved deciduous forests, which expanded between swamped valley of the Vusa river and large marshes of the Pawdniovaye Wiunishcha in the Bystraya river valley. At that time, the forest was called Kazlow Barok, or just Barok. And nowadays this place is called Brodnaye with the corresponding hamlet, and not far from the former Vusa valley there is a hamlet Kazlow Barok.


The padlowchy of the Dzierawnaya subhusbandry lived at the Nioman in Nadniomanskaya Slabada, that is now called Siniawskaya Slabada. His place of residence was not chosen accidentally, as this settlement was situated on the former public road that ran from Nias’vizh (the Radzivil’s residence) through the villages and towns that located on the opposite side of the Nioman river (Mir, Yaremichy, Turets and others) to Dzierawnaya and farther to Naliboki with the Naliboki lowchy office. And now there is a corresponding road that from Siniawskaya Slabada runs through the forest as a not frequently used forest road near Rudz’ma steadings, but by a width of the road the former development of the road can be clearly seen now. Just along this way the horse-camel caravans of Radzivil’s hunting expeditions passed from Nias’vizh to Naliboki.


The padlowchy of Khotava subhusbandry lived in the Liawkawshchyna hamlet near Khatava. All these padlowchys had to make a weekly inspection across the most valuable forest fragments and special workshop, where timber was burned into ash, coal, tar and potash and which were called budy. The discharge of official duties by frontline workers was also monitored by various ordinary forest workers who were generally called liasovyia.


In the Radzivil’s forestry-game husbandry in Naliboki Forest amongst the liasovyia workers there were special armed guards of the forested terrain, which were called stralietses or strazhniks (armed forest guards); more specialized forest guards and workers mostly armed as well and called liesniks

(foresters); hunting wardens, who protect the game animals and trace their distribution for the aims of hunting, they were called asochniks ( game workers); specialized beaver wardens called babrowniks

(beaverkeepers); specialized fishermen (called rybalows or rybniks); specialized bee workers called bortniks ( beekeepers); gatherer and compiler of a medicative herb and herb-based potables (called trawniks or ziolachniks); workers, who looked after wild mammals in special enclosure called zviarynniks ( menagerie-keepers); workers, who looked after pheasants and wild birds in special large cages called basantarniks ( aviary-keepers). As to the armed forest guards, from the manager side in the Radzivil’s husbandry they were mostly called stralietses, while on the local scale and between the common workers in the Naliboki terrain they were mostly called strazhniks; there were also such differences in the usage of this employer names with time. Already in the 19th century in the Radzivil’s forestry-game husbandry the duties of straletses were fulfilled by employers, who were called ab’iezdchyk, while asochnicks and liesnics were substituted by employers, who were called paliasowshchyk or strazh liasny. Fairly often the same employer carried out several different jobs of the above-mentioned professions in the Radzivil’s forestry-game husbandry, for instance: zviarynnik and basantarnik, rybalow and babrownik, asochnik and babrownik, liesnik and trawnik, bortnik and trawnik; but only stralietses were merely directed on the control and protection functions. Furthermore, stralietses usually took part in the all magnate huntings, and they directed the hunting processes a lot.


To realize the scale of the activity of the Radzivil’s forestry-game husbandry in the Naliboki terrain, it may be told that during the 17th and 18th centuries (except the heavy war periods) only in the Naliboki sub-husbandry 12 to 27 workers were permanently employed. Stralietses and bortniks always constituted the main part of such employers. Besides them there used to be hired quite a lot of people: common forestry workers, who were employed for logging, timber transporting as well as working in budas with the timber. Several kinds of employers such as zviarynniks and basantarniks, trawniks and rybniks were often subordinated to the administration of lavetstva or directly managed from the Radzivil’s registry from Nias’vizh.


Forest riches were protected against misuse by strialetses which were sometimes called forest guards, strazha or simply strazhniks. There was a significant difference in the use of the terms defining that position over time by the Radzivils and Khraptovichs. By the 19th century strialetses were called strazhniks more and more often and then rangers or ab’ezdchiks which became less militarized. Then gradually appeared both ab’ezdchiks and strazhniks as two separate positions in forestry-game husbandry of the Radzivils (and the Khraptovichs). Ab’ezdchiks would mostly ride around the whole area in order to control the whole forestry-game husbandry and to find facts of violations and problem situations whereas strazhniks were assigned local-guarding functions. That was in the 19th century, but in the 16th, 17th and up to the second half of the 18th century straletses-strazhniks were those who would protect Nalibotskaya pushcha from its misuse, would control the legal exploitation of its resourses, the rules for local peasants and shliakhta in accordance with the permits and licenses bought or granted under temporary permissions or privileges. Strialetses had a right to recover money in case of minor violations and report thereon to the padlowchy who collected the fines. In case of more serious offences committed by peasants or any violations committed by shlyahta the right to try was given to padlowchy and lowchy or even higher on the prosecution presented by strazhniks or padlowchy.


Asochniks patroling the Naliboki Forest, 16th-18th centuries. Drawing by Anna Sidorovich.Стральцы на службе ў магната Радзівіла ў Налібоцкай пушчы.   Малюнак Аляксандра Мітяніна.
Asochniks patroling the Naliboki Forest, 16th-18th centuries. Drawing by Anna Sidorovich.

Stralietses or strazhniks inspected their forested area mostly by riding horses, and sometimes on foot or boating along waterways. Usually, one straliets had to protect a smallest administrative forest unit that was called strazha. However, actually several stralietses patrolled several strazhas. Normally stralietses guarded for a week. Then they were released from duty by other ones. The center of a strazha in most cases was buda, where forestry-related employees worked with timber and gained potash, charcoals and others. The majority of budas had a special building for stralietses, where they could rest, recover after hard inspections of the forested areas and to store food. Besides them, ten other special sites were formed to provide stralietses with vital requirements in the Naliboki, Dzierawnaya and Khotava sub- husbandries predominantly in the vicinity of the most valuable places in Naliboki Forest. Such a straliets’s house in a buda or in other place was called strazhnitsa. Interestingly, that at the confluence of the Sula and Nioman rivers in the south-eastern part of Naliboki Forest one hilly locality is still called Strazhava Hara that evidently means the hill of strazhniks, i.e. stralietses. When there was no any strazhnitsa around, stralietses simply did the rounds of the certain part of the forest terrain and slept at several minimally organized sites with a fire place and some roof or even without a roof under a big spruce.


Stralietses were given the military rank of lieutenant and during the war years they were called to the army where they formed separate regiments. Stralietses were recruited from the shliakhta or rich peasants. They were armed with hussar swords, pistols or shotguns. They skillfully handled weapons and were considered very good shooters. A special uniform sewn for them was called barva. In the warm season it was a green-coloured coatee, felt hat with a wide, wrapped on the left side pent, lederverk from black leather (lederverk is leather stripes to bear arms and ammunition). At a certain time stralietses had a special metal sign, which could be sewn to clothes or carried in a pocket or a satchel. This sign was an evidence of straliets authority given by the Radzivils. In general, leather, bast, or canvas satchels were an integral part of the stralietses marching property, which was attached behind his horse saddle. Summer satchels were small, but in the cold season for long-distance rides horse luggage got noticeably larger to provide stralietses with sleeping stuff and generally help to survive in winter forest without losing much time on foraging. In winter, stralietses dressed less formal than in the warm season. Often it was an ordinary jupe and a hat made of sheepskin and leather boots.


Asochniks were of a lower rank than stralietses. This service was carried out exclusively by peasants. Asochniks had to trace the distribution of game mammals and birds, which included the search of core areas of their territories, feeding, breeding, and their pathways.

Special attention was paid to search of the places where animals gave birth to their offspring, where they survived late winter starving in deep fluffy snow and search for frequently used pathways by game animals. Special attention was focused on search of such a pathways of wolves and hoofed mammals where they could be easily hunted with a gun and different traps.

They censused the game animals and birds of different species and searched for convenient places of easy hunting them. Asochniks were the main employees that directly provided magnate hunting. Stralietses also played a significant role in the hunting, but more in the hunting itself than in preparations.



Hunting on capercaylie leck. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.


There were a lot of preparations for hunting of magnates. Most of them included labor-consuming work with building of something. First, there had to be built many hides on trees to hunt wild ungulates, wolves and red foxes. Such a hide looked like a small house on the height of 2-5 meters. Usually, asochniks used the hides to shoot wolves and red foxes as well as less important guests of the Radzivils could be placed there during magnate hunting .Similar hides were also built in the lekking ground of capercailyes and black grouses. These hides were usually built by asochniks together with ordinary employees. First of all, in Naliboki Forest such hides were placed in the main hunting areas, which were called vodstup. Vodstups had primeval and ecologically rich forest that was interspersed with openings in river valleys and swamps; that was needed not only for a successful hunting, but also added beauty to the hunting process. Asochniks also organized and took part in building fences and platforms for hunt-drives, during which the Radzivils and their noble guests killed many games. Usually such a hunt-drive was directed to a vodstup, so, the respective hunting platform was situated there. Asochniks would regularly check and initiate maintenance of those constructions. Normally, each sub-husbandry of the Radzivils in Naliboki Forest had, at least, one fenced hunt-drive with a hunting platform at the end. Moreover, in the direction of hunting platform of such a hunt-drive there had to be forest cleared from small trees to provide easy riding for the hunting group of the Radzivils and their main guests. Usually, such a horse-riding route about 30-50 meters wide was situated within old pine stands and primeval oak forest. At the same time, a horse-trailer road normally laid to such a hunting platform. All these works were responsibilities of asochniks. Evidently, that the amount of such work was too big for a few asochniks; many other peasants were temporarily employed for that, but asockniks had to check and direct the respective works. Local stralietses also had obligations to control the state of hunting buildings and the hunt-drive ones, first of all.


As for fenced hunt-drives and hunting platforms for hunting involving numerous noble guests, in the 17th and at the end of the 16th century there was a huge hunt-drive with a fence made of sturdy logs and a special gate for daily passage of wild animals which closed at a drive-hunt. The hunt-drive looked like a getting narrow triangle corridor. Its beginning was very wide extending for kilometres from Prudy in the north up to Naliboki in the south. The narrow exit of the hunt-drive only 30-100 metres wide with hunting platforms and numerous hides was near Budy and got to grassy marshes stretching to Shubin. Before a hunt wild animals were pushed into the hunt-drive through wide side gates which also had fences made of logs. The hunt-drive was about 15 kilometres long. Its maintenance before a hunt involved hundreds of employees and hired workers. There could be hundreds of killed at a hunt animals including dozens of bisons and bears in the shreks (special places to put hunting bag).



Radzivivl's hunting file is crossing the Nioman river in the Nadniomanskaja Slabada on the way to the Naliboki borough, 17th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.



Preparation to a hunt-drive for Radzivil and his noble guests, 18th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Preparation to a hunt-drive for Radzivil and his noble guests, 18th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.

Shooting of games during hunt-drive by noble hunters in Naliboki Forest, 18th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Shooting of games during hunt-drive by noble hunters in Naliboki Forest, 18th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.

Stralietses together with asochniks trapped wild mammals for the Radzivil game zoo, located in a forested locality and called zviaryniets. Most often, they caught roe deer, red deer, wild boars, European bisons and elks, as well as grey wolves, red foxes, otters, brown bears, badgers and lynxes. Sometimes, they cought birds alive, especially ducks and tetraonids. There was a wide variety of traps and all sorts of devices for catching such animals, but for ungulates, except for bison, basically there were nets with fairly thick linen tarred ropes that were set at a slant on the high sticks. Bison and wild boars were often caught alive in an enclosure with flipping gate and then baited inside. Such a catching enclosure was built in a favorable habitat, where the species passed frequently. Birds were caught alive with small specific putanka-net and with various traps. Wrought iron traps were set and concealed for catching otters alive or dead, red foxes, badgers and lynxes. Young elks, red deer and wild boars were also caught with a specific shoe made with a special catching hole, where hoofs got stuck. With that sort of “walking shoe” it was difficult to walk and stuck ungulates could easily be found and got caught.


Wolf that was caught by leg-hold trap, 18th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Wolf that was caught by leg-hold trap, 18th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.

Asochniks as well as strazhniks were obliged to control the number of wolves that were considered very harmful predators, because they were competitors to people in their capture of wild ungulates. Wolves also attacked lifestock sometimes. In the 16th century wolves were mainly killed with the help of certain pitfalls with special paddock. Pitfalls with a paddock were built up on the order of padlowchy or lowchy by asochniks and peasants that were specially employed. In the 18th century, wolves were killed mainly at hunting raids that expelled wolves to the shooters that were placed there in advance. They also began to eliminate the wolf in a wide rectangular siege with human-smelling pieces of linen tissue on the ropes. Besides, for the purpose of wolf depopulation every spring wolf litters were searched for and killed. To do that job, each husbandry had its own wolf pup searcher, who during litter raising period (the end of April-August) was primarily engaged in the searching and elimination of the cubs. In most cases that wolf pup searcher was in the position of asochnik and even strazhnik. Anyway, in the game husbandry of the Radzivils wolf pup searchers had quite a high status. Doing that very important job for the game husbandry, they were given some privileges mostly in terms of hunting – they used to be allowed to catch some game for their sake or got some money reward.


Drive-hunting on wolves in Naliboki Forest,    17th century. Across corrals with fenced sides well-hidden among trees and bushes, which gradually narrowed, wolves were driven into special pitfalls with wooden sharp peaks inside at thebottom. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Drive-hunting on wolves in Naliboki Forest, 17th century. Across corrals with fenced sides well-hidden among trees and bushes, which gradually narrowed, wolves were driven into special pitfalls with wooden sharp peaks inside at thebottom. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.

Similar to asochniks’ were the professional duties of babrowniks’ with beavers and other fur game as their main concern. First of all, they searched for new beaver settlements on a wide territory, controlled the previously found beaver settlements, recorded the number of settlements that had lodges, and the number of beaver families that inhabited holes. Babrownik also ensured protection of beavers from poaching. Special attention was paid to river parts having many beaver settlements called as babrovyia hony. On the order of lowchy or padlowchy babrownik would catch beavers to the Radzivils’ kitchen. In the cold season babrowniks caught beavers, otters, minks, and other species of fur animals (lynxes, pine martens, red foxes and weasels) and handed the fur over to the Radzivils’ riches. This hunting was carried out primarily with traps. Besides them, beavers were also caught with special wire-including nets and using special dogs. Beaver nets were made by babrowniks, and they also raised, trained and looked after beaver dogs. Quite often asochnik could combine the duties of asochnik and babrownik.




Wolves in pitfall with sharp peaks. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Wolves in pitfall with sharp peaks. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.

If in the protection of game animals and hunting straliets cooperated with asochniks and babrowniks, in relation to the protection of the forest they primarily interacted with liesniks. When in the mid-19th century the straliets or strazhnik professions became history, a lot of their duties passed to liesniks. That is why liesniks were sometimes called strazhniks, too. Liesnik was also called paliasowshchyk or strazh liasny. To protect forest, liesnik had to have a gun. Similarly as strazniks or stralets, one of the main duties of liesniks was to guard forest area with valuable timber from fires and forest poaching. But at the same time liesniks, like stralietses and asochniks, had their hunting duties. In the Radzivils’ period liesniks also had to look after roads, bordering and against-fire forest-clearings from overgrowing with young trees and bushes in Naliboki Forest. Liesniks maintained small bridges across small rivers. Together with asochniks and other common employees liesniks would take part in building hunting hides, platforms and hunt-drive fences. On padlowchy’s order liesniks marked forest plots to log, then they protected the forestry from misuse.



Bortnik checking a beehive in Naliboki Forest, 16th-18th centuries. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Bortnik checking a beehive in Naliboki Forest, 16th-18th centuries. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.

As for bortniks, they stood to some extent aside in terms of the specifics of their professional duties,. They had to take care of the magnate’s wild beehives or bortsi (beehive inside a tree trunk) and kalody (bee butt, that is beehive inside a woodblock). They also had to besiege the new ones as well as to control ground-located bee gardens with a lot of beehives. The responsibilities included collecting honey and bee wax, catching swarms and preparing beehives for wintering and other things. Particularly a lot of work bortniks would invest to establish a new bee butt. Making a bee butt itself demanded a lot of work. Then those new bee butts would be delivered into the wilderness of Naliboki Forest, where bee butts would be fixed on tree trunks with a platform or without. Bortniks made a special equipment to climb trees called lies’by and one to lift bee butts (pad’iomnik); they smoked (dymar) the bees to keep them quiet and made special wooden vessels to collect honey at height and keep honey afterwards. Besides those, another significant bortnik’s duty was beehive protection from their destruction by brown bears, which populated the vastness of Naliboki Forest quite densely. Pine marten could also damage beehives. So, bortniks really had a lot of specific work. Not every peasant could be a good bortnik . Since honey and other bee products were in demand, good bortniks were respectable employees in the Radzivils’ husbandry in Naliboki Forest. Therefore, they would not be involved in other urgent works in the husbandry as it happened to other employees like asochniks or liesniks.


Medieval peasants are catching mud loaches (locally called as wiun) in Pawnochnaye Wiunishcha swamp, the central north of Naliboki Forest with such a special catching equipment done from willow twigs; 17th or 18th century. Drawing by Anna Sidorovich.
Medieval peasants are catching mud loaches (locally called as wiun) in Pawnochnaye Wiunishcha swamp, the central north of Naliboki Forest with such a special catching equipment done from willow twigs; 17th or 18th century. Drawing by Anna Sidorovich.

Another employee that acted in the forestry-game husbandry of the Radzivils in Naliboki Forest was a fishman, who was called rybalow or rybnik. Rybniks would catch fish and crayfish for the Radzivils’ kitchen in Nias’vizh as well as for other high positioned graves in the husbandry and the magnate attendants. Fish was caught year-round, so, it was a continuous occupation; however, sometimes babrownik worked as rybnik, too. Usually in Zaniomanskaj Pushcha (i.e. behind Nioman forest that is Naliboki Forest) there were a few groups of rybniks. They had to catch fish and crayfish and protect those resources from poaching what meant catching fish without buying a special license. Lesses and some locals from shliakhta were specially permitted to catch fish in a certain place within the husbandry, too. One of the rybnik groups fished in the Nioman river and its floodplain lakes from Zhukaw Barok and downstream to Dzialiatychy. Another rybnik group worked in the Biarezina valley. A shliakhtich from the Ustryn’-Barki hamlet at the Kroman’ lake or someone else at other times had to provide the Radzivils’ kitchen in Nias’vizh with fish and crayfish. Fish was delivered by rybniks in fresh just caught as well as cooked in kinds of dried or smoked products. Rybniks had special cold stores for keeping fish, where they would put a lot of ice in winter.

In the Radzivils’ husbandry there were always a few trawniks or ziolachniks, who collected and dried medicinal herbs as well as various aromatic plants to produce tasty drinks and for other purposes. This job requiered a lot of relevant botanic and medical knowledge and such knowledge was often passed on within a family. There were a few families known to work with herbs for the Radzivils. At different times they lived in Naliboki Forest in Z’viarynets, Chornaya and Dziliatychy. In Nias’vizh the Radzivils had their own pharmacy where there was a wide selection of dried herbs for herbal remedies or just for tasty aromatic beverages.


All the above-mentioned employees had to follow quite strict rules and to obey long-term instructions and day-to-day orders of their seniors, report lowchy or padlowchy. They risked to be punished for irregularities or refusal to comply with the orders of their superiors depending on how heavy the offence was they could be told off or turned out of job, get evicted from the forest and even go to jail. However, there were not really so many heavy conflicts between the managers (lowchy, padlowchy and others) of the Radzivils’ forest-game husbandry in Naliboki Forest from one side and their employees. At that time, on the Radzivils’ lands in Naliboki Forest there were many families that provided employees for the husbandry. In such dynastic families all men of working age were involved in service for the Radzivils on the territory of Naliboki Forest. From the very childhood children were brought up in a spirit of careful and thorough service in the forest. They were mostly obedient people and faithful servants, and for that they got the Radzivils’ and their managers’ good attitude. Those families had the best arable land and households, respectively, the best well-being. Gradually, those forestry families moved deeper into the forest of the Naliboki terrain and their steadings were called hayounya. Thus, a chain of hayounyas was formed there and most of it had still existed until the Second World War, despite fundamental changes in the government and in the political system.

As it has been already mentioned above, all those forest workers, stralietses, liasniks, asochniks, babrowniks, bortniks, rybniks, trawniks, zviarynniks and bazantarniks were generally called as liasovys, forest workers. All of them came from peasants who lived in communities. The service in the Radzivil’s forestry sector was the only way to raise their financial and social status. Liasovys were considered to be a privileged part of the peasants and that privilege, resulting in a noticeably lower taxation and more liberal way of life, actually tore them out of the peasant community, making them strangers to their fellow villagers. Liasovys protected the resources of Naliboki Forest primarily from the peasants that caused a rather tough confrontation between those village groups, because liasovys would chastise peasants when they were caught red-handed misusing the Radzivils’ forest wealth. On the one hand, more liberal way of those forest workers’ life and, on the other hand, harsh living conditions of the peasants, as well as different seasonal lifestyle caused enemy relationships between those village groups. If the peasants had annual cycle from planting till harvest, forest workers, liasovys, had the most intense period of work from the end of the harvest till planting. It was then, when the largest magnate huntings were carried out, and when the peasants stocked up firewood for the next year’s winter (so that it could dry up during summer) and building and craft materials were stocked as well. It was during that period, when the most significant abuses of forest exploitation and all unauthorized violent deforestation and hunting took place. The existence of common responsibilities, common lifestyle and social isolation from the peasantry, shliakhta, town residents and magnates created all necessary conditions for turning forest workers into a separate social group.


Stralietses controlled the right of peasants to enter the forest territory. Only those who had a special receipt were allowed to enter the forest. At the expiration those receipts had to be collected by straletses, who then passed them to the padlowchy. Each padlowchy, in his turn, would report the lowchy of the Naliboki lavetstva. Each subhusbandry in the Naliboki lavetstva had receipts of a certain color with a special drawing on it. The receipts were personalized and, therefore, were not allowed to be given to someone else. Payment for the firewood was called uhajnaye. Besides the firewood, a peasant or a representative of shliakhta who lived in the vastness of Naliboki Forest on the Radzivils’ land, sometimes needed different types of building materials for the construction or repairing of houses and outbuildings. For cases like these, in subhusbandries of Naliboki Forest there were special rates and receipts, which described basic and most important categories of wood building materials to be stocked. The specific forest users were craftsmen: dziagtsiars (tar getters), smaliars (resin getters), koladzejs (well builders), hontars (roof makers), stoliars (carpenters), bondars (coopers), and others. Their work was closely incorporated with the using of rather valuable wood of sometimes less common grade. For the opportunity to take necessary wood, they also, like other peasants, annually paid uhajnaye to lowchy, it was equal to the peasants’ one or personally set. The exact location for wood stocking for a specific purpose (firewood, building materials, craft materials) was shown by liasnik in accordance with the registry of forest arrangement of that time. In that case, there occurred a primitive agreement of how much and what could be cut down. If someone violated the agreement and decided to cut down the trees in the forbidden place, or not the right trees, he had to pay a fine, the main part of which belonged to the Radzivils, and the rest was shared between the straliets, the liasnik or the asochnik who had noticed the violation.


As to illegal logging of fire wood or building materials or stealing wood for other needs, it may be noticed that in the non-war periods such occasions were not registered commonly. Timber is too heavy to be transported descreetly, whereas all the road and river itineraries as that was at all possible were well controlled by the Radzivils’ employees, first of all, by straletses. Of course, while having a billet to get timber, people tended to get more wooden materials than it was permitted. During the periods of numerous wars poaching of timber was also quite common in Naliboki Forest and sometimes that grew to an awful rate.

In order to minimize poaching in the Radzivils’ estates in Naliboki Forest, the husbandry administration established many prohibitions and respective fines. Fishing with a net was strictly prohibited as well as catching pikes with lances during its spawning. In many places it was allowed to fish with a fishing tackle, and also peasants and shliakhta had permission to catch fish with willow fikes out of fish spawning season (approximately since the mid-April till the mid-June). Shliakhta were allowed to use up to five fikes, while peasants only two.


It was prohibited to hunt with a gun, traps or nets, it was also forbidden to dig animal pits, even walking through the wood with a gun was forbidden. This prohibition applied to the peasants and the surrounding shliakhta, as well as to manor renters. At the same time, walking in the forest was allowed , but normally peasants and shliakhta did not walk in the wild just for fun. Therefore, normally when a person was caught in the Radzivil’s husbandry in Naliboki Forest without proper authorization and motivation, or if he, having one, damaged forest estate, for example, cutting commercial wood, padding, hunting without permission, obtaining resin, tar, ash for his own needs, then all his assets available were impounded and a fine was imposed. And again, that money was distributed among the Radzivils’ treasury, revealer of the crime, lowchy or padlowchy. As it can be seen from the distribution of fine payments, the Radzivils’ managers motivated forest guards by money, so that they guarded forest values as carefully as possible and informed about any violence on their owners’ forest treasures.


Quite often there were revealed cases of poaching of games, sometimes, quite significant. That mainly related to furbearing mammals such as otter, beaver, stoat, European mink and pine marten. In Naliboki Forest such poaching was feasible to carry out, because wooden traps could be made in the forest, while snares and leg-hold traps could be brought there. It was also possible somehow at night to bring the roughly elaborated skins of the trapped furbearing games from the forest. Sometimes, in the wilderness of Naliboki Forest such illegal trappers established hidden camps with small houses. In a station like that illegal trappers could live for a month and longer catching furbearers. Illegal trappers were not a small problem of babrowniks and other liasovyias in the Radzivil’s husbandry in Naliboki Forest. Of course, those poachers got captured and punished from time to time, but new ones appeared. That was a particularly hard problem during war periods, when the Radzivils’ guarding service weakened or almost disappeared.


In the Radzivils’ possessions in Naliboki Forest peasants would cut grass in meadows particularly in the remote grassy marshlands and even in the strictly protected areas (called as a vodstup).. Quite often that happened in the swamped localities of Yunishcha, Asovyia, Kazialits, Symonava, Shubin, Valasien’, Khmielishcha, Puhach and Prudzishcha. On the Radzivils’ lands in Naliboki Forest there was not enough plough-land and to survive local peasants needed to raise enough cattle, but on the other hand, the places, where peasants could get sufficient amount of hay, were limited, too. Therefore, peasants tended to mow grass in Naliboki Forest illegally. In Naliboki husbandry they could buy a special ticket allowing to mow grass in a particular place of Naliboki Forest (mostly in the marshlands) or to rent the place for this purpose. But, first, poor peasants were short of money, and, second, there was no any guarantee that there would be grass in a given summer would available to cut and dry, because of too high water-table, for example. So, in the lowlands of Naliboki Forest peasants risked to be left with no money and no hay. Therefore, in the hay season they would look for a remote open areas, were it was possible to get hay illegally. On the other hand, the Naliboki husbandry administration avoided to prohibit hay taking too strictly. Local peasants could revenge the husbandry by burning commercially good forest. Gradually, it was more or less established in the following way. The husbandry administration avoided strict punishment for illegal hay-taking, but they would get fine payment or a part of the hay from hay-poachers. As to the Radzivils’ peasants, they had to pay a special tax from a cart of hay, every third cart of hay was taken from a stranger.




Wolf pack is going to attack horses and old man, who is transporting hay from Naliboki Forest, 18th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitianin.
Wolf pack is going to attack horses and old man, who is transporting hay from Naliboki Forest, 18th century. Drawing by Aliaksandr Mitsianin.

Making a fire in the forest was strictly banned on the Radzivils’ lands in Naliboki Forest. Forest fires caused big losses to the Radzivils’ treasury, so, in subhusbandries of Naliboki Forest fire watch was carried out thoroughly and penalties for igniting fires in the warm season were significant. Cattle grazing was under special ban. Shepherds would make fires which basically caused forest fires. Sometimes in spring, peasants would deliberately singe old grass in the places where they planned to arrange a pasture for livestock, which was also strictly prohibited.


During the war years, particularly bloody ones of long difficult period from the middle of 17th century to the first half of 18th century, Naliboki Forest got quite uninhabited. There was a shortage of workers not only for logging and hunting, but simply for the protection of the forest treasures from the violent using. So, since the 1730s the demographic situation had markedly improved and forest development in Naliboki Forest began to pass more successfully. At that time the most active development and use of the economic potential of the forest started. But in the years 1772-1777 during the difficult war between Rech Pospolita and Russia, resulting in the defeat of the former and the annexation of the eastern part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in its composition, there was the greatest economic crisis in the Radzivils’ possessions in Naliboki Forest. At that time the owner of the Niasvizh family branch was Karal’ Radzivil, nicknamed Pan Kakhanku. He was forced to leave the Grand Duchy, and the Russian military garrisons were accommodated in the most significant places and economic centers of the Radzivils’ possessions in Naliboki Forest, the Radzivils’ castles, in Niasvizh, Naliboki, Mir and Liubcha. Garrison commanders were given special powers on the Radzivils’ territory. Karal’ Radzivil was declared an enemy of Russia, so the occupation troops attached special importance to the control of his land. This war with Russia and the Russian occupation of Naliboki Forest brought extreme destruction to the forest, hunting and other sectors in the terrain. It particularly affected the peasantry, who were imposed additional taxes for the maintenance of Russian garrisons.


Once the Radzivils’ authority disappeared, abuse and corruption started to prevail in the forest husbandry. Envy of neighboring shliakhta and former hostility between the shliakhta clans, combined with the possibility of getting violent gain turned externally-established economic-regulatory mechanism in management of Naliboki Forest into chaos. Shliakhta would lay hands on the Radzivils’ possessions in Naliboki Forest. Many formerly honest peasants and representatives of shliakhta were also pushed to violations by poverty. Even some of the heads of the Radzivils’ management would contribute to such violations to achieve internal social tranquility and prevent population from growing aggression and rebellion.


The administrations of rented estates, subhusbandries and husbandries in Naliboki Forest had to make considerable efforts to bring order to the subordinated land, to bring perpetrators to justice and to compensate somehow the losses and to establish further husbandry. The attempts of local superiors to punish severely those responsible for the violent using and looting of property in the Radzivils’ Naliboki Forest caused quite strong activity in response. There were numerous burnings of forests and even of protected areas with hunters’ houses. Deliberateness of those actions was doubtless. The same forest localities of Naliboki Forest could burn for several times, sometimes in the dry period forest fire reached very far. In that case haiownias and even entire villages that were at the edge of the forest would burn. It is known that a lot of forest (mostly pine stands and spruce-pine mixtures) in the localities of Rakitny Bor, Siatryshcha and Lysyia Hory burned for several times, there were larger or smaller fires in the localities of Zavushnya, Makhnachova and Shylawshchyna. Within the large localities of Zavushnya and Lysyia Hory at the left side of the small river Iz’liedz’ the burned forest stretched from the Karytsetski Bor locality eastwards to the Z’viarynets hamlet. Haiownias, hamlets and villages, which were situated at the edge of dry-land forest were damaged by the forest fire a lot. Chornaya, Kliatsishcha, Z’viarynets, Liakhava and Budy were almost burned, and a significant part of the villages of Nadniomanskaya Slabada, Tsierabiejnaye and Prudy was burned, too. It was quite difficult to find arsonists, though in every case of forest fire special police were sent to Naliboki Forest by local authorities.


In addition, the shliakhta and Russian military troops would conduct raids on the possessions of the Radzivils in Naliboki Forest. For example, in 1776, there was a big attack on Naliboki neighborhood. Not only that village suffered, but most of the surrounding villages like Aharodniki, Yankavichy, Niestsiarovichy and Prudy did. Brewery, honey houses, stables, houses at homestead, barn and other buildings were totally looted. A lot of people were killed there. Most of the peoples’ and the Radzivils’ property in Naliboki and surrounding area were looted. People were intimidated, the local life there after that clash was directed almost only for survival, and the real Radzivils’ management in Naliboki and surrounding areas as it was disappeared.

The crisis of 1772-1777 was not over in 1777, a certain decline of discipline and management was noticeable for a long time. But after the military conflict was resolved by annexing a large part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by Russia (the first separation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Rech Pospolita), Karal’ Radzivil returned to the life and work in the Niasvizh family branch. The order and the usual management of Naliboki Forest were gradually restored.

Having described the system of forest workers in the Radzivils’ forestry-hunting husbandry in Naliboki Forest, let us pay more attention to the forest itself and to the management on its vastness. As topographical sections of Naliboki Forest in time of the Radzivils s, forest plots were distinguished by different sizes and in connection with the specificity of their environment (in the current forestry terminology such homogeneous forest fragments are called vydziels in Belarusian). Those forest parts were vodstup, haj, bor, hushchar, alieshnik, lies, (liasy in plural) and vostraw or vyspa. Vodstup was identified with some picturesque, ecologically rich, mostly mature, almost primeval forest, which was adapted for hunting. For comfortable hunting in vodstup there were horse-riding roads, there were also built hunting towers, in order to shoot from above, there were ground-based hides for hunters, the fence, so that the animals could be directed to the hunters from hunting towers, sometimes there were buildings for night rest and canopies for the feast after hunting. There were long fenced corridors directed to the main vodstups for a large hunt drive, first of all, in relation to wild ungulates and wolves. At the end of the hunt drive there was a hunting platform, from which the Radzivil’s magnates and their noble guests killed a lot of games that were driven by peasants and liasovyia workers. Vodstups were chosen in such a way so that there were grassy openings, which contributed much to hunting, no matter which means it was conducted by. Since the selection of forest plots for vodstup regarded the requirements of natural beauty for hunting, greater visibility and high habitat carrying capacity, primeval deciduous forest was mainly chosen as vodstup. Vodstup was often an oak forest with marsh openings, and both words were used at the same time, oak vodstup. Vodstups were protected by special orders of the Radzivils and general-lowchy. They were closely monitored by forest workers, so that there were not fires and violent logging, and in general so that there were not any strangers. However, vodstups were sometimes cut out partly, or even utterly. In the Radzivil-owned part of Naliboki Forest there were famous vodstups in the locality groups of Brodnaie, S’miejnaye and Budy; Rabachova and Drazdy; Krasnaya Horka, Svistunova Hrada, Vysokaya Hrada and Hrabiani. At the same time with the term vodstup, which was largely used to define mature deciduous forest, the word haj was used, which also implied mainly high-quality deciduous forest. Thus, in that case the term haj mostly referred to forestry, not the game nature of a particular part of Naliboki Forest, as in the case of the term vodstup.


Besides vodstups, there was the term haj meaning old birch and aspen forests,. Especially over the years along with the cutting of primeval oak and mixed deciduous forest, and after their respective replacement on small-leaved forests the term haj was primarily applied to old mixed small- and broad-leaved forests, or even old small-leaved forests.


The name bor always implied mature pine forest. Hushchar referred to mature spruce or mixed with spruce forests usually with a large windfall (as spruces grow on moist, sometimes marshy soil and their roots spread on the surface) and very dense undergrowth in places like that. Alieshnik was a swamped black alder forest. The term liasy usually implied variable and diverse immature forest environment that was formed in deforestation places, until the tree stand got the final look of one of the forest types mentioned above as a result of succession. Island dry forest patches among swamps, or remnants in between large-scale logging or burned areas in the form of outstanding tree stand, which towered over the nearby forest environment was called vostraw or vyspa.