• Vadim Sidorovich

Water mills in Naliboki Forest and its surroundings

A number of factors influenced on that fact that the terrain of Naliboki Forest, especially its edges with the rural surroundings, was the land of mills and let us explain why. The relief of the terrain of Naliboki Forest is large lowland plain, which from the north, east and south, is mainly surrounded

by hilly uplands. Only on the west the forest vastness borders with flatland. As for those upland hills, the more or less present-day borders of Naliboki Forest prostrate on a relief scrap from the hills to lowland, and farther from the hollows there goes an agricultural land. As it is known, the rivers run faster on slopes from uplands to lowlands and it is the perfect place for water mills to be built, once there was a grain to grind. There were enough grains for grinding, as Naliboki Forest, no matter how

large it was, was surrounded by the agricultural or forest-agrarian landscape.


Thus, a lot where in Naliboki Forest, especially on its borders with the agricultural landscape, there were a lot of water mills. Especially favorable conditions for the construction of water mills were on the rivers Vusa, Sula, Islach and Volma, as well as in their small tributaries. Water mills appeared on that land in the early husbandry of the Radzivils at the end of 16th century. In the second half of 18th century within the borders of the Radzivils’ land in Naliboki Forest ten water mills were known, in particular on the river Liebiazhoda in Naliboki, on the river Shura in Prudy and Jankavichy, on the river Vusa in Haliandernja, Lubien’ and Rudnia Kamienskaya (later known as Rudnia Pil’nianskaya), on the river Sula in Litva, Najdzionavichy and Tuliontsy, as well as on the river Miranka and on the river Vusha near Yaremichy. The greatest mill development on the Naliboki Forest terrain and within its agricultural borders took place in the second half of 19th century and first half of 20th century. On the river Vusa in the 1920s and 1930s there were eight water mills in villages Val’tsy, Pahonja, Mieshychy, Navapol’lie, Rudnia Pil’nianskaya, Vazany, Sutoki and Rudnia Nalibotskaya. Also, there were water mills on the river Vusa tributaries, for example, on the river Zamianka there were four of them. On the Volma river there were five water mills in the villages Volma, Dudki, Mikhaliewshchyna, Zamastsiany and Ivianiets. On the Islach river from Bielakorats and up to Baravikowshchyna there were two water mills: near Baravikowshchyna and Yatskava

Mlynovyia. On the river Hal’shanka near the village Vishnieva there were two water

mills and one water mill was under Linki. There was a water mill on the river Chapunka near Liazhnievichy and Krupli, and also there was a water mill on the river Vol’ka in the locality Kamiennaya Slabada. During the time mentioned mills existed permanently, or disappeared, especially during the First World War, then started working again or did not. On this occasion (the temporary existence) not all the water mills can be mentioned.


Water mills were built of wood as well as of stones and bricks, or only of bricks. Almost all water mills had a foundation of big stones. The stones in the wall were split in a special way to have one flat side. The foundation was strengthened with lime.The water mill was erected on the dame of different length and about two meters high. Thus, a pond was formed with an area of several hectares and up to tens of hectares. Through the gateway of dame the water-jet shower moved to spinning wheel, which gave the corresponding movement to all the mechanism of the mill. The water mills

were relatively small, and were intended for grain grinding. Other relatively large mills were designed not only for grinding grain, but also for some goods production, for which a mechanical movement was needed, giving the water flow through the spinning wheel of the mill. It is interesting that on large water mills generators of electricity were installed, driven by water flow through the spinning wheel. One of the largest mills was in Navapollie on the Sula river and resembles not a water mill, but a real manufacture.


The decline of watermill activity in Naliboki Forest and its agrarian surrounding areas took place with the advent of Soviet power in 1939 when the western Belarusian lands were returned to Belarus, and then when they were captured by the German invaders in 1941. Soviet authorities considered the majority of water mills owners to be village capitalists, and servants of the defeated Polish authorities, and many of them were repressed by the Soviet authorities. With the occurrence of a significant guerrilla movement the existence of the water mills deep in the forest, or even those on forest edges was not on hand to the German invaders. There guerrillas could have a temporary shelter, where they could obtain food and useful information.


Thus the fate of water mill workers before and during the Second World War was particularly unenviable. Thanks to the Internet-site of the Kress archive of Stanislaw Karlik, the tragic history

of mill workers brothers Drachynski was got to know. They had water mills on the rivers Vusa and Sula: in Navapol”lie – the mill of Mikhal Drachynski, in Rudnia Pil’nianskaya and in Vazany – one of Kazimir Drachynski, in Sutoki – one of Vintsent Drachynski. The fourth of the brothers Drachynski Uladzislaw did not have his own mill and either helped brothers or worked somewhere in Ivianiets. Kazimir Drachynski got ill and died without good medical care. His brothers Vintsent and Uladzislaw Drachynski were murdered by someone from their compatriots. Mikhal Drachynski that had the greatest water mill on Sula in Navapollie left all the property and hid with his family somewhere in Ivianiets and other human settlements.


A final end to the existence and possible restore of the water mill activity happened during the German antiguerrilla operation “German” in the summer of 1943. Then all available mill buildings were set on fire, and their residents or workers were either expelled or killed. Up to the present days, in Naliboki Forest and its forest-agrarian surroundings only a stone-brick ruins of the four water mills had survived in Rudnia Pil’nianskaya on the river Vusa (stone-brick walls without a roof had remained), in Navapollie on the Sula river (there is a very large three-story brick walls without a roof), in Liubna on the river Mirantsy (there are only partially ruined stone-brick walls without a roof and dame ruins) and in Zhukaw Barok on the small river Yachanka in its confluence with the Nioman (almost an intact mill with stonebrick walls even with all mill equipment in the middle). The water mill in Zhukaw Barok was still working on the electricity at least until 2003.




Water mill in the Zhukaw Barok village at the Nioman river.


Water mill in the Zhukaw Barok village at the Nioman river.


The Nioman river in the Zhukaw Barok village at the mill.


Water mill in Traby village in the beginning of 20th century. The photo was taken from the book “Geographischer Bilderatlas des polnisch-weibrussischen Grenzgebietes” by B. Brandt (1918).


Water mill in the Rudnja Nalibotskaja village in the mid-1930s. Photo from Shybut family collection.



Water mill in the Navapollie village at the Sula river.

Water mill in the Navapollie village at the Sula river.




Water mill in the Rudnja Pil'nianskaja village at the Vusa river.


Water mill in the Rudnja Pil'nianskaja village at the Vusa river.


Water mill at the Miranka river nearby the Luzha hamlet.



At the left you a reconstruction of the water mill that was in the Haliandernja hamlet before the First world war. Drawing by Hanna Sidorovich.

At the right you a reconstruction of the water mill that was in the Staw locality nearby the Kamiennaja Slabada hamlet in 1920th and 1930th. Drawing by Valiantsina Tsekhanovich.

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