Understanding the current state and dynamics of any forest is impossible without recognizing its history. Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF), located on the border between Poland and Belarus, is one of the best preserved European lowland forests and a subject of myriads of works focusing on countless aspects of its biology, ecology, and management. After few centuries (14th-18th) of protection as a royal forest and game reserve of Polish kings and Lithuanian grand dukes, the forest fell under the rule of Russian state and later (since 1888) - under personal ownership of Russian tsars. During the long 19th century many of “older” ways of multi-functional utilisation of the forest (haymaking, bee-keeping, cattle pasturing, etc.) underwent changes in accordance with the requirements of the new administration and principles of “rational” forestry. They were put under tighter control, or even fell under the ban. However, attempts at introducing the “rational” forestry in the last refugium of European bison were hindered by numerous obstacles. The entire long 19th century (in this case 1795-1915) in the history of BPF is a story of struggle between “traditional” use, new administrative trends in forest and game management and the rising perception of the primeval or pristine forest. The book shows the historical background and the outcome of this struggle: BPF’s history in the long 19th century focusing on tracking all cultural imprints, both material (cultural landscapes, introduced alien species, human-induced processes) and immaterial(traditional knowledge of forest and use of forest resources, the political and cultural significance of the forest, scientific research) that shaped the state and picture of one of the last truly wild forests of Europe.
Anastasia Fedotova is a historian of science with her main research interests in the role of scientific knowledge for the rationalization of agriculture and forestry in the 19th and 20th century in Russian Empire and USSR. She has a MSc in Plant Ecology from St Petersburg State University (2000) and a PhD in History of Science (2012, Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Moscow). Her current research topic encompass (1) the history of study, exploitation and protection of Białowieża Forest and Białowieża bison in the long 19th century, (2) the history of applied entomology and pest control services.
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