Where and what is Naliboki Forest?
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Naliboki Forest is a forest-swamp terrain along the river Biarezina 44-48 kilometres away from Minsk. To the east of Biarezina Naliboki Forest spreads more than to the west of the river. Approximately in the southern and south-western part of it, Naliboki Forest borders with the valley of the river Nieman, and on the opposite side of the Nieman valley the agrarian landscape prevails. The borders of the northern part of Naliboki Forest are not so pronounced. Naliboki Forest goes much furtherer along the valley of Biarezina, whereas to north-east the Naliboki Forest mainly borders with the valley of the river Islach except for its north-eastern angle. In the territorial and administrative sense Naliboki Forest is situated in the Stauptsy and Valozhyn district of the Miensk region of Belarus and in the Navahradak and Iwje districts of the Harodnja region of Belarus.
The area of Naliboki Forest, where semi-natural terrain prevails considerably, is about 1,71 thousands square km, whereas this semi-natural area together with the forest-rural mosaic at its edge, which still well associated with Naliboki Forest, comprise area of about 2,75 thousands square km.
The clear vision of Naliboki Forest is mainly based on the fact that its rather vast forest and swamp terrain is predominately fringed with the agrarian lands with lots of villages and towns. Thereby, according to the map and to the experience of a visitor, Naliboki Forest, with its relatively natural state of the environment, is pretty huge, but at the same time one can see the edges of where it ends and where the lands, which are mostly tilled by men, begin.
Despite the outlining and the assumed clarity of where Naliboki Forest is, the author has quizzed quite a lot of people many of them living 10-20 kilometers away from Naliboki Forest (according to the author’s views on its disposition) if they know where Naliboki Forest is. The majority of my Miensk acquaintances, even the ones familiar with zoology and botany, didn’t have any clear idea of the geography of Naliboki Forest. They said it was somewhere near Naliboki or Ivianiets, or Valozhyn. Some people said that Naliboki Forest was a big forest with drained swamps, that used to be huge, and which was situated along the river Biarezina, the western one. For me it was much more accurate information. Although I did not get any obvious and clear answers from the Miensk citizens. The ideas of the residents of my native village Haradzishcha, where I live and which is situated to the east of Miensk, were even worse. The majority of the people I asked for could not even show the direction, where Naliboki Forest was, but everyone knew that it had massive forests, many swamps and that the locals made special homemade strong alcohol that called as samahonka, or to put it simply in English, moonshine. I cannot say that I asked everyone, but the only one who told me easily that Naliboki Forest was near Ivianiets was my neighbor, Anatol’ Dychkin, whose wife was from near Ivianiets.
Almost all the locals whichever part of that region they were from, happened to have quite a clear idea of where Naliboki Forest was when I asked them. People from the villages of the left bank of the Nioman immediately answered that the forest was right there, behind the Nioman river. Some people from near Mir and Karelichy towns said that its beginning point was not behind the Nioman, but it was there, right near where we were, and it was quite fair, because the forest-swamped woodland along the river Nioman and towards Mir and Karelichy comes into sight right like a well-formed angle of Naliboki Forest. There was a clear vision on that question in central-western part of Naliboki Forest, its central east and north with only some exceptions. People there used to say that Naliboki Forest was right there, plain to see, a little further, where you could see the outlined border of the forest and where the bottomland began. That was Naliboki Forest. The boundaries of the north-eastern, south-eastern and southern part of the Forest were less defined for the locals as a relatively natural woodstand combines Naliboki Forest with some other big forests there. Many people tried to answer my question asking if the place we were at was already Naliboki Forest. And when my answer was positive or negative, they reacted to it somehow lively and with some interest. One could see the comic element in the situation with outlining the borders of Naliboki Forest in those woodstands that stretched so far. The mentioned above, but not clarified little fact about the locals’ vision of Naliboki Forest is the following. Many locals said that Naliboki Forest was near the Naliboki village and the forest that they had was called, for instance, Vishniava Forest (Vishniawskaya Pushcha). Besides Vishniava Forest, there were named such forests as Malaya Forest (Malaya Pushcha), Piarshai Forest (Piarshajskaya Pushcha), Valozhyn Forest (Valozhynskaya Pushcha), Bakshty Forest (Bakshtanskaya Pushcha), Dudy Forest (Dudawskaya Pushcha), Dzialiatychy Forest (Dzialiatychskaya Pushcha), Hrafski Forest (Hrafskaya Pushcha), Mir Forest (Mirskaya Pushcha) Zanioman Forest (Zaniomanskaya Pushcha) and Ataliez’ Forest (Ataliez’skaya Pushcha). The most frequently mentioned ones were Vishniava, Piarshai, Dzialiatychy and Hrafski Forests. To be fair, I have to admit that almost all those names trace back to the past. Thereby, with time, those names were used with the reference to the part of the forest and swamp terrain that became Naliboki or Zanioman Forest, or more like Mikalayew Forest (Mikalayewskaya Pushcha), in the 16th century. I would also like to notice that the famous names of Khatava Forest (Khatawskaya Pushcha) and Dzierawnaya Forest (Dzierawnowskaya Pushcha) are obviously relegated to oblivion, because those huge forest areas which would surround the villages Hatava and Dzierawnaya were mostly cut down and transformed into croplands. But even now that landscape forms a pattern of mosaic of forests and croplands.
It would be interesting and even surprising to tell about some other ideas of the locals about where Naliboki Forest is. Unexpectedly, quite a lot of people said like the following. For instance, the forest nearby was not Naliboki Forest, but the forested locality of e.g. Vajnilawshchyna, and behind it the Karytsishcha locality is situated, whereas the Kryvukha locality is a little farther. The explanation for that is that the locals lived permanently on a considerably small territory and limited their living space to not more than a couple of localities away from them, or, to put it another way, as far as it was possible to get by a horse vehicles, i.e. a trailer or sleigh. When I asked whether they knew something about Mil’va Biarezina or Darahun’ hamlets, which were situated within the same Naliboki Forest and were a little farther from there, the typical answer was that they heard about them, but those places were too far away and probably were not a part of this forest that I called as Naliboki one. It is also quite interesting to note that some people among the inhabitants of Kliatsishcha and Vajnilawshchyna called the whole forest territory around them the Mikalaiew Forest, which was the old name of the whole vast forested terrain. They also added that people used to call it that way, but not anymore. It must have been their grandparents, who called it by that name.
In the below you may see some unique as well as typical habitats of Naliboki Forest.