The paganoslav-Russian environment
by Aldo C. Marturano
Pages 1 -2-3Here are found the raw materials indispensable for the development of human societies. First of all, wood is obtained for building, heating, arming, making ships and wagons, furnishing and manufacturing furnishings and tools, melting metals and making bricks etc. And it doesn't stop there! The attentive collector finds edible and industrial plants: from medicines to dye plants, from salads, mushrooms, fruit, to pasture for pets, hallucinogens and much more.
The animal world, apart from man, is represented in all its usefulness: from large mammals to smaller ones, from fur or to be hunted for consumption as food, from migratory or sedentary birds to edible insects in addition to the many products commercial such as honey and wax important in the past to illuminate, sweeten, preserve, medicate ...
Today we have recognized an even greater role in this biocenosis for all terrestrial life when we discovered that it is the only oxygen factory and the only carbon dioxide re-user with chlorophyll photosynthesis carried out from the surface of millions of square meters of leaves. absolutely fundamental for the bio-ecological balance of the planet!
The European forest we are dealing with is part of the green belt that has colonized the northern regions of the world. 6000 years ago: The Boreal Forest. It must be said that, as mentioned above, as early as the year 1000 AD. this strip had been greatly reduced and, were it not for the decision of King Ladislao Jagellone (of Russian-Lithuanian origin and himself born in the forest) who declared it a national park in the 15th century, with the industrial revolution of the 19th century. it would surely disappear.
What remains today (naturally with different plants with the passage of time and climate) and which represents our green heart is recognizable in the Bielovezhskaja Pusc'ia which extends eastwards from the Vistula basin to that of the Neman and north to the banks. of the Baltic Sea. To the south it reaches Kiev along the slopes of the Tatra Mountains including the Great Pripyat Marshes (in Russian called La Selva or Poljesje) and continues down to the left bank of the Dnieper from where the steppe begins (in Russian Campo Selvaggio or Dikoe Polje) just beyond Cernìgov.
The northernmost part is also called taigà which, apart from the Scandinavian areas, today covers the republic of Camelia, the Governorates of Pskov, St. Petersburg and Great Novgorod up to the Arctic Circle from where the tundra begins, another type of This time a shrub biocenosis, equally important from an ecological point of view for the animals raised by the Lapps, and here it comes to mind that Herodotus had visited it when he wrote about the Neuri or Nevri probable inhabitants of today's Lithuanian-Polish-Belarusian region.
It is likely that the name of the Narva river or the other Nerevka river (or other similar toponym) that flow close to him suggested the ethnonym. The Greek historian also remembers the Marshes of Pripyat which for their extension seemed to him a sea or, in his opinion, what a continuation of the Northern Ocean Sea! The Pusc'ia is distributed on an immense lowland: the European Russian Plain.This region is raised here and there in slight heights (average height below 400 m asl) which in practice constitute the watersheds of the largest European rivers that they rise gurgling from the soil of the forest to pour into the northern and southern seas of Europe after thousands of kilometers of course.
The Volga and the Don and further west the Dnieper are born here while the Dnestr, the Prut and the Southern Bug flow from the Carpathians (the Western Bug has springs close to its namesake, but flows into the Vistula).
These waters, not to mention their tributaries, flow into the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea or the Azov Sea. Those that flow into the Baltic, spraying the Pusc'ia before ending up in the sea are the Vistula, the Elbe (the Hamburg river that flows into the North Sea), the Oder to the west, the Nieman (German Memel), the Dvinà (the river of Riga), the Svisloc '(the river of Minsk) and countless other currents while the northern Dvinà (which always flows here) even ends up in the Arctic Ocean. The longer currents usually have numerous meanders due to the slight slope of the Russian Plain and often linger in lakes and ponds of which it will be enough to name the most notable within this forest such as the Mazuri, Lake Pskov or Ilmen ' . The area is naturally rich in swamps (11% of the territory of over 100 thousand square kilometers) so humidity and mosquitoes reign supreme in the summer and make it difficult for both man and beasts to cross, as soon as the winter ice has melted.
If this is an impediment to human colonization, housing niches are created for the animals and certain species of Pusc’ia are nowhere to be found elsewhere.
In this pulsating world of life, the Slavs sought and found clearings and free corners for their new villages in a territory already inhabited by others who had arrived here before them: that is, by the Balts and the Ugro-Finns. There was space to be able to live together in that distant VII-VIII century. A.D. without gross conflicts and archaeological evidence confirms that the ethnic groups lived together almost without armed clashes until the 10th century. each keeping its own cultural area separate from the others. However, this did not prevent the ethnic mixture, if we consider the custom of exogamy, that is, of marrying one's daughters to males born outside the village, prevalent among the Slavs and which we will discuss later.
But how do you get into the forest and cross its borders? It is an operation whose sacredness we have already mentioned when we said of the community that it carves out a space for itself, and, if we add that when you are a migrant there is not much time to decide where to settle, you have to violate a border! And where does the edge of the forest begin? Here the limits are completely arbitrary since the forest biocenosis in its aspect is very complicated with clearings, ponds and meadows and to set up a village it is necessary to find above all where there are no large old trees and, only after evaluating the appearance and variety plants present the convenience to settle there, the necessary propitiatory rites to the goddess Mother Moist Earth (Mat 'Syra Zemljà) are used without delay. The forest has its own internal borders and divisions which, however, remain impenetrable and unrecognizable to those who are not pure and sanctified.
The enterprise of transforming the clearing into a field to be cultivated and inhabited with the cut-and-burn method is a violent operation against nature and the local gods could refuse the consent to an invasive and illegitimate intervention, forcing us to search another place! The rites are therefore very laborious and folklore informs us that for divine authorization to colonize a certain parcel of wood it was even necessary to resort to human sacrifice! Then the village was born and grew ...
When you live here it can also happen that you have never ventured in certain directions and do not know the surrounding environment very well because, having created your own space and established as a division from any nearby water current, outside this limit is culturally forbidden to move and the shore is a sacred and inviolable margin. Here the man is at ease while the rest of the space usually behind him thickly covered by trees will be visited and explored, only if he has permission. Why explore in the thick? The reasons are many: search for food, materials, products to exchange ...
Of course, every plant or animal also has its own reserved space and chooses its neighbors with whom it relates in the same way as men do with its fellow men and divine beings with whom man maintains good relations are in charge of this order of things. In fact, in the heart of the forest (matoc'ka) it was even believed that its lord and master lived, called in Russian Ljescii, a sort of dusky being with elastic dimensions that, if disturbed, could cause hurricanes and other destructive madnesses. At his call all the animals of the forest congregated and they also came to him to die and therefore man also revered him.
It seems a complex complex of ideas to accept today, but in those days it was the pagan way of managing the environment in the best possible way since the forest was exploited by trafficking! Indeed, as far as the trade in forest products is concerned, the exchange with the local inhabitants was exclusively placed on a sacred basis and never on personal profit. The consent of the deities was primary and it was useless, in those days, to push the foresters to collect more honey or to hunt more furs while waving more profits. The whole history of Novgorod-the-Great, the queen-city of the taiga, revolved around this way of doing business with the Ugro-Finns who were very attentive to these aspects of the question ...
A. Burovskii adds that in today's Russian Federation, where peasants still represent 80% of Russian-speaking citizens, the taigà still remains a magical environment, divine and precious at the same time, and, fearing to profane it with illegal behavior , if you see a stranger wandering around it, you are warned to be careful at the crossroads of the paths, the bridges, the caves, the wells and the borders of the villages and fields! They are all places frequented by the protective divine forces and adverse to strangers.
Pages 1 -2-3Note
(1) Original photograph courtesy by Gary Kramer / Natural Resources Conservation Service
(2) Original photograph courtesy of by Hillebrand Steve / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(3) Original photograph courtesy of by Cline, David / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(4) Original photograph courtesy by Burton Ken / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(5) Original photograph courtesy National Park Servic
(6) Original photograph courtesy National Park Service