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Established: 1992
Size: 18,533 ha (185 km2)
Buffer Zone: 1935 ha (19.35 km2)

Contact information:
Fedoseev, Sergey Vasilevich, Director

Russia 249720, Kaluzhskaya oblast, s. Ulyanovo, ul. B. Sovetskaya, 75

Tel: (7-084-43) 1-19-32

"A crisp, clear fall day, with frost in the morning, when a birch, like a tree from a fairy tale, all gold, is beautifully drawn upon a pale blue sky, when the low sun no longer warms, but shines more brightly than in summer, a small grove of aspens sparkles throughout, as though pleased and comfortable to stand naked; hoarfrost still shines white upon the valley floor, and a fresh wind lightly chases and stirs through the fallen and crumpled leaves…" Ivan Turgenev, the famed author of A Hunter’s Sketches, was well acquainted with the forests of the Kaluga region where he lived. Centuries ago, they were part of a wide swath of deciduous forests south of Moscow so dense and impenetrable that they formed a natural protective barrier against invasions from the southern grasslands. Exactly for this reason these virgin forests were protected from logging for several centuries, preserving not only the trees but also the wealth of other plants and animals – moose, deer, wolves, wild boar, beaver, and others – that took shelter in the forest. Today only one of these tracts of old-growth broadleaf forests is protected in an official nature reserve, the Kaluzhsky Zaseki Zapovednik.

Photo © 2001 Igor Shpilenok

Zapovednik Images
Zapovednik Facts

Kaluzhsky Zapovednik in Russian Conservation News journal:



Images of Kaluzhsky Zapovednik

Click on each photo to see a large version.

© 2001 Igor Shpilenok

The reserve serves as an oasis for a number of animals, such as this fox.

© 2001 Igor Shpilenok

A mixture of evergreen and deciduous species characterizes many parts of the forest.

© 2001 Igor Shpilenok

Owls are well camoflauged in their homes in old trees.

© 2001 Igor Shpilenok

Old trees are marked with unusual and beautiful natural patterns which develop over decades.

© 2001 Igor Shpilenok

Multiple streams and wetland areas disect the zapovednik.


© 2001 Igor Shpilenok

Wild boars are common throughout the reserve.

© 2000 Sergey Alekseev

Scientists have identified 189 different species of mushrooms growing in the reserve.

© 2001 Igor Shpilenok

Early morning fog cloaks fields near the pine forests of the northern sector of the zapovednik.

Zapovednik Facts:

The true value of the Kaluzhsky Zaseki Zapovednik lies not in its history or in its individual trees, but in the complex of plant and animal life that the reserve supports. Although hunting, fishing, and human influence in general have depleted populations of wild animals in the surrounding region, the forests of the zapovednik teem with animals. Large ungulates such as moose (Alces alces), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and the red deer (Cervus elaphus), a cousin of the American elk, are common in the reserve. Wild boars (Sus scrofa) dig up the ground in search of food, leaving behind telltale heaps of soil and snow. Zapovednik staff once had plans to reintroduce the endangered European bison (Bison bonasus) into the area, but last year a herd of 13 animals living in the neighboring Orlovskoe Polesie National Park wandered into the zapovednik of their own accord.

The abundance of available prey keeps the zapovednik’s wolves (Canis lupus) from leaving the reserve’s borders to local farms and villages in search of food. Lynx (Felis lynx), foxes (Vulpes vulpes), European badgers (Meles meles), and raccoons (Nystereutes procyonoides) similarly find ample food among the reserve’s smaller animals, such as voles and other rodents. Other predators in the zapovednik include several members of the weasel family, including martens (Martes martes), ermine (Mustela erminea) and mink (Mustela lutreola).

Although forests cover about 95 percent of the zapovednik’s territory, a significant population of beavers (Casta fiber) takes advantage of the small streams that flow through the reserve, as do muskrats (Ondatra libethica) and river otters (Lutra lutra). Scientists have not yet completed an inventory of the fish that swim through these waters, but have already identified 22 species, including the endangered bullhead (Cottus gobio). At least nine species of amphibians and five species of reptiles also live in the reserve.

Avian life brings yet another dimension to the color of the forests. "And how lovely the forest is in late autumn," writes Turgenev, "When the woodcocks return! They don’t keep to the deepest parts of the woods, so you have to search for them along the edges. There’s the motion of the wind, but not a sound; the light air is filled with the perfume of fall, like the scent of wine." The zapovednik hosts a number of birds in the woodcock family, including the common snipe (Gallinago gallinago), great snipe (Gallinago media), and curlew (Numenius arquata). The white stork and endangered black stork (Ciconia ciconia, C. nigra) are also found in the reserve, along with the grey heron (Ardea cinerea) and common crane (Grus grus).

The Kaluzhsky Zaseki Zapovednik plays a particular role in preserving endangered species of birds of prey. The greater and lesser spotted eagles (Aquila clanga, A. Pomarina), as well as the short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) are all listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation. Locally endangered birds of prey include the marsh hawk (Circus cyaneus), marsh harrier (C. Cyaneus), black kite (Milvus migrans), goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus), and booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus). In all, scientists have recorded 167 different species of birds in the zapovednik.



The zapovednik marks the northernmost edge of the band of broadleaf forests that stretches through Russia. In the old-growth deciduous forests in the southern section of the reserve, pedunculate oaks (Quercus robur) dominate, including individual trees that date to the time of Peter the Great. Scotch elms (Ulmus scabra), small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata), common ash (Fraxinus excelsior), various birches (Betula sp.), Norway and common maple (Acer platanoides, A. campestre) are also common in these forests, giving the woods particular beauty in fall, when each tree turns a different shade of brown, yellow, or red.

Although old-growth broadleaf forests are the pride of the Kaluzhsky Zaseki Zapovednik, they cover only a fourth of the reserve’s territory. Despite various measures of protection over the centuries, logging has affected several regions of the zapovednik, replacing oak forests with younger stands of aspens (Populus tremula) and willows (Salix sp.). Nonetheless, given the lack of cutting during the past decade, natural succession processes have begun, leading the broadleaf forests native to the region to regenerate naturally: the understories of these aspen and willow stands are filled with young oaks and other broadleaf species.

In the northern section of the reserve, beyond the range of a number of broadleaf trees, coniferous forests dominate. Stands of spruces (Picea sp.) and pines (Pinus sp.) tentatively point the way to the great northern taiga.

A diversity of plant life also grows on the forest floor. When the snows melt in the spring, the long-rooted onion (Allium ursinum), a locally endangered species, rises out of the soil and into bloom all across the forest floor. Ferns (Filicales sp.) uncoil their tender, light green leaves, and mezereon shrubs (Daphne mezereum) sprout bright pink flowers. By late spring, fields of delicate white lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) fill the forest with their heavy perfume. The flowers of the rare early-purple orchid (Orchis mascula), perennial honesty (Lunaria redivia), and Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) stand out upon the green background of the forest. With abundant rainfall common during spring, summer, and fall, the zapovednik’s 189 species of mushrooms — including seven that are listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation — develop colonies rapidly on the ground and along tree trunks.


Geographical Features

The Kaluzhsky Zaseki Zapovednik is located in the Central Russian Uplands about 250 kilometers southwest of Moscow. Its two sections, northern and southern, are spaced 12 kilometers from one another in the Ulyanovksy Region of the Kaluzhskaya Oblast. This location places the reserve just north of the vast steppe region of southern Russia at the edge of the great northern forests.

Glaciers covered the region during the last ice age, leaving the landscape flat with characteristic moraines and gentle hills. Because the reserve is located near the border of various natural zones, its soils are diverse, ranging from those characteristic of the northern taiga to brown forest soils to the black earth of the southern steppe region. Much of the forest lies on swampy ground, and eight streams flow through the zapovednik, ultimately falling into the Oka River, which in turn flows east into the Volga. In the southern section of the zapovednik, beavers have created an artificial pond by damming one of these streams.


Conservation Status

Russian history has played a particular role in preserving the forests of the Kaluzhsky Zaseki Zapovednik. As early as the 8th and 9th centuries Slavic people began settling in the forested regions beyond the Dnepr River. Using the trees for construction and firewood and practicing slash-and-burn agriculture, they razed many forests to the ground. Nonetheless, they made a special point of preserving and protecting the dense broadleaf forests that bordered the southern grasslands because they formed a natural defense against the horse-riding nomads of the steppes.

In subsequent centuries, local princes strengthened the defensive value of the forests. Together with ramparts, moats, and barricades of felled trees — in Russian ‘zaseki’ — the forests formed a defensive complex so strictly protected that all logging was forbidden and even visitors were barred from traveling through the forests.

As the borders of Russia expanded southward and the threat of invasion subsided towards the end of the 17th century, the forests lost their military importance, and as a result, their special protected status. Although Russian rulers recognized the need to preserve and restore forests, the growing economy demanded increased timber for factories and industries. Over the next three centuries, the forests of the Kaluzhsky Zaseki were maintained but subjected to logging and replanting. Nonetheless, due to the absence of clear-cutting, individual trees more than 300 years old have remained untouched to this day.

In the mid-1980s, a duo of scientists studying the forests of the Kaluzhskaya Oblast happened upon a tract of nearly undisturbed broadleaf forest. This old-growth forest was so deeply hidden in the middle of a younger forest that it had been left virtually untouched. In 1992, on the basis of these scientists’ recommendations, the Kaluzhsky Zaseki Zapovednik was founded. Since that time, its small staff has been actively pursuing the reserve’s conservation and scientific mission. In the course of this work, it also directs special attention to the region’s children, holding special events and camps to interest them in nature protection. Two neighboring national parks, Orlovskoe Polesie to the south and Ugra to the north, founded in 1994 and 1997 help support the work of the zapovednik.



Evaluation and Preservation of the Biodiversity of the Forest Cover in the Zapovedniks of European Russia. L.B. Zaugolrnova, ed. Moscow: Nauchny mir, 2000.

Maxim Bobovski, "Kaluzhskie Zaseki Zapovednik: A History of Ancient Forests and People." Russian Conservation News No. 17 (Fall) 1998, pp. 9-10.

Zapovedniks and National Parks of Russia. Moscow: Logata, 1998.

Additional materials and interviews provided by the zapovednik staff.

Text by Lisa Woodson.

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