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Evolution Of The Kulikovo Field


Evolution of the Kulikovo Field lands illustrates how national stability and instability may change territories, including their landscape, utilization and land settlement. This conclusion has been made by O.V. Burova from the Tula State Teacher’s Training University named after L.N. Tolstoy, who has analyzed archaeological investigation materials for many years, archives data, results of comprehensive geographical and palaeogeographical investigations.

During the Bronze Age, forest-steppes of the Upper Don River were favorite locality of nomads and cattle-breeders. By the 12th century, favorable conditions for settled life were formed on the territories of the Upper Don River: princes came to an agreement with the Don nomadic tribes (polovtsy), and the situation in the region became calm and relatively stable.

These lands were colonized by the Slavs who introduced agricultural system, the agricultural landscape began to set up there, settlements appeared, their number growing. The settlement locations were disforested, but agricultural holdings were established with minimal disafforestation. Therefore, the first phase of developing Kulikovo Field was a delicate one and not disastrous for environment, the specialists are talking about formation of the local type of agricultural landscape.

Problems began in the middle of the 14th century. Due to the break-up of the Golden Horde and danger of more frequent forays, the inhabitants left the territory in the 1370s, on the eve of the Kulikovo Battle. Agricultural lands remained desolated for 200 years and turned into a fallow land where natural growth started to restore gradually.

By the end of the 16th century, when 60 percent of the territory was occupied by a fallow land, the next phase of land-reclamation began. In spite of extraordinary measures of the government, who ladled out the lands, there were very few persons wishing to settle down in Kulikovo Field. Within one hundred years, no more than 5 percent of lands were reclaimed. However, in the second half of the 17th century, when the Russian State incorporated the Ukraine, and Tatars’ raids stopped, the reclamation became more intensive.

Stability made fertile lands of the Upper Don River favorable for mass settlement, edicts were issued on distribution of lands among landed gentry of different groups of Russian nobles. Large landowners such as A.G. Bobrinsky, princes Golitsins, S.D. Nechayev applied advanced economic methods in their estates. The major part of economy was based on small peasant farms where low rates of ploughing up and livestock per family remained invariable for centuries. It was at that time that the system of settling on this territory was formed, the system being preserved on the whole to present day.

Up to the 20th century, the region was developing actively and it became a remarkable producer not only of rye, wheat, barley, oats and buckwheat, but also of vegetables, milk and meat. However, the majority of farms still produced products solely for their own nourishment and did not extend their grounds.

The 20th century drastically changed appearance of the Kulikovo Field territory. Due to land nationalization, collective and state farms establishment, estate squares got significantly consolidated. Now, the average square of an arable field reached as much as 80 hectares vs. 5 to 6 hectares in the 17th and 18th centuries. If previously the borders of fields were natural boundaries – edges of a forest, slopes of gullies, waterways, etc., which supported biological diversity and landscape self-regeneration processes, now abutments disappeared.

All kinds of land including slopes near gallies and valleys were intended for ploughing up, and cattle pasture was transferred to gully slopes and water-meadows, thus destroying hayland. At that time percentage of forest land of Kulikovo Fiels made only 5 percent as compared to the natural one.

The next outflow of population to towns took place in the 90s of the 20th century when people abandoned their farms, land and houses (like it was during the Tatar and Mongolian foreys). The territory development was discontinued, vacant agricultural lands destroyed existing agricultural landscape and gradual restoration of natural landscape – grass and forest communities – began.

The finale is as follows: early in the 21st century, economic production processes revive again on the Kulikovo Field territory. But what kind of processes are they? Traditional way of management is changing: arable farming and grain-crops growing is actively replaced by cattle breeding. Such turnaround is explained by active replacement of nationalities inhabiting the Uper Don River territory by immigrants from southern republics of the former Soviet Union.

Thus, Kulikovo Field, under the influence of politics, state structure, stability and instability, made the 800-year turnaround and again returned back to cattle-breeding almost of the Bronze Age. Would the subsequent course of history be repeated?

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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