Kronotsky Nature Reserve, Russia


Kronotsky Biosphere Reserve is the largest and most famous reserve in Kamchatka. Almost all landscapes of the peninsula are represented in the reserve: shrub and wooded middle mountains, tundra coastal lowlands and, of course, volcanic high mountains with glaciers.

The state nature reserve was founded on the site of the former Soboliniy zakaznik in Kronoki. In 1951 it was liquidated, and then restored. In 1961 the reserve was liquidated again. Its final restoration to its former borders took place in January 1967.

In 1985, the reserve became part of the international network of biosphere reserves, and since 1996 it has been on the list of UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites “Volcanoes of Kamchatka”. The main goal of the reserve was to restore the population of the valuable fur-bearing animal - the sable.


Status and structure

According to the Regulations on the Federal State Institution “Kronotsky State Natural Biosphere Reserve” (approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation on May 16, 2001), “economic and other activities that adversely affect natural objects and complexes of the reserve are prohibited within the protected zone of the reserve”; “on the territory and in the water area of the reserve, any activity that is contrary to the tasks of the reserve and the regime of special protection of its territory is prohibited.”

The international status of protected areas for the Kronotsky Reserve is defined as a biosphere reserve, a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage site as part of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka site. Category of protected areas according to the classification of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, IUCN): strict nature reserve.

Federal State Budgetary Institution "Kronotsky State Reserve" is a nature protection and research institution subordinate to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation. It manages three specially protected natural areas of federal significance: the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, the Koryaksky Nature Reserve and the South Kamchatka Federal Reserve. In these territories and neighboring settlements, projects are being implemented aimed at protecting and studying nature, involving the local population in environmental activities.


History of creation

At the insistence of the former Polish exile, the well-known zoologist and geographer B. I. Dybovsky, in Kamchatka in 1880, for the first time, forbidden dates for sable hunting were established (from March 1 to October 15). Later, B. I. Dybovsky, on behalf of the inhabitants of the Petropavlovsk District, petitioned the government to declare the Kronok and Asachi areas protected. The request was granted, and in 1882, to protect not only the sable, but also the bighorn sheep, reindeer and river otter, the reserve of these lands was established. Protective measures gave a certain result, although the reserve did not have staff and funding, and the regime was supported only by the forces of the local population interested in preserving resources.

Attempts to create a reserve as an institution continued. In 1916-1917, an expedition of the Department of Agriculture worked in Kamchatka, and based on the results of its research, on July 8, 1917, the Kronotsky area was declared a reserve by the new Provisional Government of Russia. However, due to the Civil War, this plan was not implemented.

Only after the establishment of Soviet power, in 1926, already the Far Eastern Executive Committee, and in 1929 the Kamchatka Regional Executive Committee decide on the organization of the Kronotsky Reserve, which was created on June 1, 1934.

Until 1938, the reserve was subordinate to various hunting organizations, which at that time were responsible for nature protection, then it was transferred to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, and in 1951 it was liquidated. This was due to the line on the "conquest of nature" and the recognition of "passive conservation of nature" as inappropriate. Since the 1930s, despite the regime of the reserve, oil has been searched here. In 1959, the Kronotsky State Reserve was restored to the system of the RSFSR Glavokhota, but on June 10, 1961, it was liquidated again during the campaign to eliminate the reserves.

In the spring of 1967, the reserve (with an area of 964 thousand hectares) was restored at the request of the participants in the 2nd All-Union Conference of Volcanologists.


Flora and fauna

The main part of the territory of the reserve is occupied by forests of stone birch (Erman birch), thickets of cedar and alder elfin are common in the upper parts of the mountain slopes. Coniferous forests of Cajander larch with the participation of Ayan spruce and flat-leaved birch are common in the Kronotskoye Lake basin. Floodplain forests grow along the rivers, where the main forest-forming species are fragrant poplar, chosenia, Sakhalin willow, and downy alder. In the second tier of coniferous and mixed forests, there are Asian bird cherry, green hawthorn, and Siberian mountain ash. In the undergrowth of stone-birch forests, elderberry mountain ash, which has large sweet fruits, wild rose, birch-leaved spirea, blue honeysuckle and Shamisso, goat and udskaya willows and others are common. In the extreme south of the reserve, there is an endemic of Kamchatka - the Kamchatka elder, here the northern border of the distribution of this species passes.

The herbarium of the Kronotsky State Reserve began to be systematically formed since 1987, the total number of samples is 1150.

Of the mammals in the reserve, there are brown bear, wild reindeer, elk, bighorn sheep, lynx, fox, wolverine, sable, ermine, weasel, squirrel, black-capped marmot, American ground squirrel, northern pika, voles, shrews, etc. Chiroptera are represented by 2 species - Brandt's night lamp and northern leather. Pacific salmon - pink salmon, chum salmon, chinook salmon, coho salmon, and sockeye - come to spawn in the rivers of the reserve. There are no reptiles, only 1 species of amphibians - the Siberian salamander. On the coast of the Kronotsky Bay there are sea lion rookeries. In the surrounding waters there are many species of whales - gray whales, Japanese right whales, killer whales, porpoises, as well as seals and sea otters - sea otters.

The most important role of the reserve is in the conservation of the brown bear: one of the largest protected wild populations of these animals in Russia (more than 800 individuals)[6] lives here, which ensures their stable preservation on the peninsula.

The Kamchatka subspecies of the wild reindeer is one of the largest in the world and is currently preserved mainly on the territory of the reserve, where it lives in mountainous volcanic regions. The fate of this species in Kamchatka strongly depends on the safety of the population in the protected area.



On the southeastern coast of the reserve, the climate is maritime and humid. The warmest month is August and the coldest month is January. The average annual rainfall is 1000-1500 mm. The growing season lasts 130-140 days.


Unique natural objects

The Valley of Geysers is one of the largest geyser fields in the world and the only one in Eurasia [source not specified 808 days]. It is a deep canyon of the Geysernaya River, on the sides of which, on an area of about 6 km², there are numerous outlets of geysers and hot springs, mud pots, thermal sites, waterfalls and lakes.

The Uzon volcano caldera is a unique area of complex manifestation of modern geological and microbiological processes: thermal springs and reservoirs create unusual conditions for the development of thermophilic organisms.

Kronotskaya Sopka is an active volcano with a height of 3528 m. The crater is filled with an extrusive plug, there are fumaroles (their activity was especially active in 1923). Volcanic eruptions are rare.

Lake Kronotskoye is the largest freshwater lake in Kamchatka. The lake is inhabited by a freshwater form of sockeye salmon (kokanee) and three endemic species of mountain charr. This unique ecosystem can serve as a benchmark for monitoring studies.

Graceful fir grove is a site of dark coniferous forest formed by the endemic of Kamchatka - graceful fir, with an area of ​​only about 20 hectares in the lower reaches of the Novy Semyachik River, 4 km from the Pacific coast.


"The Cleanup Case"

The modern territory of the reserve had the status of economic lands for many years, in the 1960s and 1970s settlements and military units were located on it, oil exploration was underway, and a hydroelectric power station was being designed. In 2015, the reserve was the first in Russia to be included in the pilot program for eliminating damage from economic activity, having allocated funding in the amount of 454 million rubles.

From February 2015 to August 2016 Alexander Ilyin was the Deputy Director for the Protection of Protected Areas. During his work at the post, Vitaliy Drozd's Ecology company received a contract to carry out work to clean up the territory of the reserve. In 2016, at the age of 36, the director of the reserve, Tikhon Shpilenok, a hereditary defender of nature, the son of the head of the Bryansk Forest reserve and the famous wildlife photographer Igor Shpilenok, died of cancer. Tikhon Shpilenok learned about his diagnosis in April 2015, because of the treatment he had to leave the reserve and he was not present at the workplace for almost the entire 2016. In March 2017, Tikhon's place as director of the reserve was taken by his brother Pyotr Shpilenok. In 2018, Vitaliy Drozd became a defendant in a fraud case, and in 2020, an embezzlement case. As part of his cooperation with the investigation, he stated that Tikhon Shpilenok and his colleagues stole the money given for cleaning up. Thanks to a deal with the investigation, instead of 10 years in prison, Drozd received a suspended sentence. Based on the testimony of Drozd and Ilyin, the Investigative Committee of Kamchatka opened a criminal case against four employees of the reserve: Roman Korchigin, director of science and tourism, Daria Panicheva, head of the scientific department, Oksana Terekhova, deputy director for financial support, and Nikolai Pozdnyakov, deputy director for general affairs.

According to investigators, an organized criminal group from the leadership of the Kronotsky Reserve stole 460 million rubles allocated by the state for its cleaning, and buried the scrap metal right on the territory of the reserve. The prosecution requested 6 years in prison for Roman Korchigin, 7 years for Daria Panicheva, 8 for Oksana Terekhova, and 4.5 years for Nikolai Pozdnyakov.

Defenders of the reserve employees draw attention to massive inconsistencies in the prosecution materials: for example, evidence of Roman Korchigin's guilt is based on episodes of 2015, when he was not yet working in the reserve. In addition, the investigation did not conduct a single confrontation, refused to provide an expert assessment of documents and an examination of the work performed. The places on the territory of the reserve, where the garbage is allegedly buried, are also not named. The fact that 243 km of the coastline of the reserve was cleared of garbage, having taken out more than 1,300 tons of solid waste and more than 5,000 barrels of fuel and lubricants, is confirmed by a huge amount of photo and video materials, numerous reports published on federal channels, in many of they were attended by regional officials. The court, however, refused to take into account all these documents. The court also refused to add to the case the report of the Moscow State University scientists for 2021, in which they documented the restoration of the vegetation cover in the cleared areas. One of the witnesses for the prosecution, Koval I.S., confirmed that some of the signatures in the protocols had been forged on his behalf, this was confirmed by the examination.

The defendants were supported by Governor of the Kamchatka Territory Vladimir Solodov, Honored Ecologist of the Russian Federation Vsevolod Stepanitsky, Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Kamchatka Territory Alexei Kumarkov, and Director of RussiaDiscovery Vadim Mamontov. On June 30, 2022, in protest against the unfair persecution of colleagues, director Pyotr Shpilenok filed a letter of resignation. Shpilenok is sure that a lobby of supporters of industrial salmon farming on Lake Kronotsky is behind the accusation. The project for the construction of an artificial fishway between the lake and the Pacific Ocean belongs to the Russian Fishery Company of Gleb Frank, the son-in-law of businessman Gennady Timchenko. Daria Panicheva, as the head of the scientific department of the reserve, was involved in the preparation of scientific justifications against the project. It is noteworthy that even the main witness for the prosecution, Vitaly Drozd, said in court that he did not understand “what the reserve’s employees are doing here,” and Alexander Ilyin said that “cleaning work was carried out with the involvement of equipment, with the involvement of ships, transport.”

Only when a guilty verdict had already been passed, in early December 2022, the Ministry of Natural Resources ordered an examination of the state of nature in the reserve. The examination showed that there are no waste disposal sites on its territory, but evidence of work on the movement of waste to the points of export is visible. This completely refutes the main accusation of the investigation that the budget money was embezzled and the scrap metal was simply buried. Lyubov Timofeeva, director of the natural park "Volcanoes of Kamchatka", resigned as a sign of protest against the persecution of her colleagues. In early September 2022, over 60 representatives of environmental organizations sent an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin with a request to take the case against Kronotsky employees under personal control and instruct the Prosecutor General's Office and the RF IC to re-examine the case materials and conduct independent examinations.

The lack of staff due to a criminal case led to the suspension of research and excursion activities in the Kronotsky Reserve and the South Kamchatka Federal Reserve.

On February 7, 2023, the Kamchatka Regional Court overturned the verdict and released the defendants from custody, the case was sent for review to the court of first instance. Defense lawyer Irina Dyachenko and former director of Kronotsky Pyotr Shpilenok called this an important step towards restoring justice