Russia's first nature reserve at Lake Baikal

In 1916 Tsar Nicholas II established the first Russian conservation area on the northeast bank of Lake Baikal. The choice of territory stemmed from tsarist-era concerns over protecting remaining stocks of sable. However, the nature reserve (in Russian, Zapovednik) in the Barguzinsky area, which covered 375,000 hectares, was only a fraction of the lake’s entire area. Economic and industrial programs initiated under the Soviet regime led to a dramatic deterioration of the lake’s natural habitats, as new industrial facilities released untreated waste into the lake. The Baikalsky Pulp and Paper Mill, opened in 1966, remains the lake’s largest polluter.

In 1986 the entire Lake Baikal region was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. At the same time, three new national parks were created along its shores, and in 1996, Lake Baikal was designated a World Natural Heritage Site. The Baikalsky Pulp and Paper Mill was, however, excluded from the UNESCO Site.

Further Readings: 
  • Weiner, Douglas R. A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachëv. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.