Yugyd Va National Park, Russia


Description of Yugyd Va National Park

The Yugyd Va National Park (translated from Komi as “light water”) was created on April 23, 1994 by the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 377. It is located in the Northern and Subpolar Urals in the south-east of the Komi Republic. The total area of the park is 1,891,701 hectares, including 21,421 hectares of water area. According to 2006, it is the largest national park in Russia. The park is located within the UNESCO World Heritage Site Virgin Komi Forests. In the south, the Yugyd Va National Park borders the Pechora-Ilychsky Reserve.


Territory and biodiversity

National Park "Yugyd Va" is the largest national park in Europe, its area is more than 1.89 million hectares. It is located 80 km southwest of the city of Inta, 100 km east of the city of Pechora, 50 km east of the villages of Aranets and Synya, 20 km north and 70 km east of the city of Vuktyl. The nearest settlements to the park are the villages of Podcherye, Kyrta, Ust-Shchugor. On the territory of "Yugyd va" the largest array of primary boreal forests in Europe has been preserved. The territory of the park stretches for almost 300 km from north to south, occupying three orographic zones - the Pechora Lowland, the foothills of the Ural Range and the mountains of the Northern and Subpolar Urals. Thanks to this, the national park is distinguished by a rich variety of landscapes: it features bald tundras, coniferous taiga, crooked forests, swamps and alpine meadows. 56% of the park is covered with forests; in the entire European region, only Yugyd Va has preserved untouched virgin taiga.

In "Yugyd va" there are the highest peaks of the Urals: mountains Narodnaya (1825 m), Telpos-iz (1617 m). The symbol of the park is Mount Manaraga (1662 m) with six peaks. There are 38 glaciers in the mountains. The mountain rivers of the park - Kosyu, Vangyr, Bolshaya Synya, Podcherye, Kozhim - are distinguished by the purity and transparency of the waters. The Shchugor River is the longest (more than 300 km) and full-flowing Yugydva River, in its middle reaches the border of the Northern and Subpolar Urals passes. These rivers feed the Pechora, recognized as one of the cleanest rivers in Northern Europe. There are also more than 800 high-mountain lakes, mostly of glacial origin, in the park.

The territory of the park has a unique biodiversity, 16 types of ecosystems are distinguished, from subalpine mountain tundra to swamps, and 668 species of vascular plants are registered, 120 of which are rare and endangered. "Yugyd va" plays a major role in the conservation of more than 47 species of rare plants listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation and Komi, as well as relic boreal species. "Yugyd va" is the only place in the European north of Russia where the entomofauna has been preserved in its primitive form, not affected by human activities. The traditional migration route of indigenous peoples engaged in reindeer herding passes through the national park.

"Yugyd va" is a key ornithological area of international importance. The total number of identified bird species is about 190, 12 of which are included in the IUCN Red List and the Red Book of the Russian Federation, and 21 in the Komi Red Book. The park is also inhabited by 40 species of mammals (wolverine, wolf, fox, marten, elk, reindeer, lynx, etc.) and 16 species of fish (grayling, roach, ide, etc.). The species diversity of insects is rich: 87 species from five families of cycads, rare butterflies (for example, swallowtail, Apollo Phoebus, large mother-of-pearl, mnemosyne, etc.), over 352 species of beetles, 59 species from 17 families of caddisflies are registered in Yugyd Va.

Monuments of nature and culture
On the territory of "Yugyd va" there are many natural monuments and traces of ancient human settlements, among which the most remarkable are:
“Saran-grandfather”, “Stone woman”, “Old man-owner” are sacred rocks-outliers.
“Zalaz-di-bezh” is an outcrop of mudstones, clayey limestones, dolomites and marls, a section of the bottom of an ancient sea basin, where fouling of brachiopod shells under algae can be traced.
"Kirpich-Kyrta" - a chain of rocks up to 5.5 km long, formed by a shallow subtropical sea. It includes the rock "Castle" 50 m high, which resembles a medieval bastion in shape.
"Grotto Arka" - a rock sanctuary of the XI century AD. e., an altar where magical rituals took place.
“Lower Gates of the Podcherem River” (“Kyrta-Varta”) are two coastal rocks 12 km from the mouth of the Podcherem River. On the right bank there are lime burning kilns left over from ancient human settlements.

The cultural monuments include the Sibiryakovsky tract and the huts of the Old Believers near the bed of the Podcherem river: Kamchatka, Parfen, Pilyakerka, Oselok, Orlovka; near the river Shchugor: Michabichevnik; Mezentsev's estate is located near the Vangyr River.



The purpose of the creation of the park: protection and organization of recreational use of the mountain-taiga ecosystems of the Subpolar and Northern Urals. As stated on the official website of the park, its main tasks are:
preservation of natural complexes, unique and standard natural sites and objects;
preservation of historical and cultural objects;
environmental education of the population;
creation of conditions for regulated tourism and recreation;
development and implementation of scientific methods of nature protection and environmental education;
implementation of environmental monitoring;
restoration of disturbed natural and historical-cultural complexes and objects.

Tourism is an important activity of the park. In 2017, 6.5 thousand people visited Yugyd Va. In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of guests decreased compared to 2018-2019 and amounted to 6713 people, however, the park management continues to create new routes, improve parking lots and guest houses. In 2020, the project "Tourist and recreational cluster" Virgin forests of Komi "" won first place in the All-Russian competition to identify pilot areas for the development of ecotourism. In 2017 and 2018, the subpolar stage of the TransUral ultramarathon was held in the park. It is very important to strike a balance between increasing the flow of visitors and preserving wildlife - in the absence of sufficient state funding, the park can only earn on tourism, but an increase in load can lead to the degradation of natural ecosystems. Currently, you can visit the Yugyd Va territory only after receiving a special permit, and stay in tents at tourist sites. During spawning and during fire periods, the territory of the park is closed to the public.

Scientific activities are actively carried out at Yugyd Va - students from many Russian universities, as well as scientists from abroad - Norway, Finland and other countries, come on expeditions and for summer practice. Since 2016, the park has been implementing the Heart of Taiga International Volunteer Camps program. Volunteers from Japan, France, Iceland, Serbia, Norway, Romania and other countries come to Yugyd Va and participate in the repair, arrangement of ecopaths and tourist camps, and animal count Rare species of plants and animals continue to be found in the park.For example, in 2017, employees of the Institute of Biology of the Scientific Center of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences recorded six rare bryophytes and 13 vascular plants in the Shchugora basin, the habitats of four species of birds: dunlin, blackbilled cricket, polar bunting The winter count of animals in 2021 showed a threefold increase in the number of reindeer in the Inta part of the park compared to 2020. The populations of elk, marten, hazel grouse and capercaillie have increased.



The first information about the flora and fauna of the Yugyd va territories is found in the works of Nikolai Ivanitsky (1882) and Richard Pole (1907). The scientific justification for the need to create a national park in the Northern and Subpolar Urals was prepared in the 1970s. The Yugyd Va National Park was formed by a resolution of the Komi Council of Ministers on September 28, 1990. The status of the park was finally established on April 23, 1994 by Decree No. 377 of the Government of the Russian Federation.

In 1995, "Yugyd Va" as part of the natural complex "Virgin Komi Forests" was included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites. In the same year, the Swiss government allocated a grant of 5 million francs for the development of the national park. In 2005, the German Foundation provided funds and helped Yugyd Va organize infrastructure for the development of eco-tourism, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation provided a grant for conservation of the Kozhim River.

gold mining
In the 1970s, between the Sanaiz and Maldynyrd ridges on the banks of the Balbanyu River, the Sanavozh base was founded for the artel of geologists-gold miners Vadim Tumanov, who developed the Chudnoye deposit. It is located in the southern part of the Maldynyrd ridge in the upper reaches of the Balbanyu and Kozhim rivers. The development went on until 1994, when Yugyd Va received the status of a national park. After the work was stopped, all equipment, change houses and garbage of varying degrees of toxicity were left in the vicinity of Chudny. Numerous uncultivated areas remained in the surrounding areas[39]. Gold mining, during which drilling and blasting operations were carried out, caused long-term damage to nature: sturgeons disappeared from the Balbanyu and Kozhim rivers, Lake Grubependity became cloudy from suspension, the slopes of Maldynyrd, on which the waste rock was dumped, were not covered with vegetation even by 2021.

Attempts to change park boundaries in 2010-2020
Since 1994, authorities at various levels have already tried 11 times to withdraw the territory of the Chudnoye deposit from the boundaries of the national park. In 1994, the organization "Polyarnouralgeologia" carried out prospecting and evaluation work and revealed the high potential of gold occurrences in Chudnoye. According to various estimates, the total volume of gold in the deposit ranges from 80 to 600 tons, which can bring the operating company up to $200 million a year. In 1997, 2002 and 2004, the heads of the Komi Republic issued decrees on the exclusion of 200,000 to 35,000 hectares of land from the national park[39], but after an appeal from the prosecutor's office, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation canceled these decrees. On November 28, 2008, the administration of Inta, the city closest to Chudny, decided to withdraw 1,900 hectares of land from the national park for mining. At the suit of Greenpeace, the prosecutor's office of Inta protested this decision, and the Inta court canceled it on July 10, 2009[59]. However, on December 30, 2009, a certain Gold Minerals CJSC received a license from Rosnedr for geological exploration and gold mining in Chudnoye for a period of 25 years.

The exploration company JSC "Gold Minerals" has three employees, its authorized capital is located in Cyprus. Thanks to an investigation by environmentalists and activists, it was possible to find out that Gold Minerals was part of Nord Minerals CJSC, the latter was bought in 2008 by the Russian mining company Vysochaishy PJSC, owned by billionaire Sergey Dokuchaev. Part of Vysochaishy's shares is owned by the American investment fund BlackRock. Dokuchaev is a business partner of the son of the head of Rostec, Sergei Chemezov. In 2011, Vysochaishy announced the sale of Gold Minerals, but did not disclose the buyer. According to information available to The Telegraph, the Highest himself planned to buy the Chinese concern Fosun International.

In 2010, the Ministry of Nature of the Russian Federation withdrew the territory of the Chudnoye deposit from the national park, where exploration and gold mining began, including with blasting. Soil damage led to the cloudiness of the waters of Lake Grubependity, its transparency was not restored even ten years later. UNESCO specialists recorded pollution of the waters of the Bolbanyu River on space monitoring. In 2011, Greenpeace Russia filed an appeal to the prosecutor's office, but received a response that "there were no grounds for the application of prosecutorial response measures by the prosecutor's office of the republic." At the 35th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, Greenpeace proposed to transfer the World Heritage site "Virgin Komi Forests" to the "World Heritage in Danger" list, but was refused.

In January 2012, Gold Minerals made the only statement about the project, telling the press that it plans to mine 4 tons of gold per year for 10-12 years. The mountainous location of Chudny makes it impossible to develop it without affecting other lands of Yugyd va. When the park was created in 1994, scientists from the Komi Scientific Center of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences substantiated that the Kozhyma river basin must be included in the number of protected lands. Gold mining in Chudnoye will cause irreparable damage to both rivers: the passage of heavy equipment is carried out through specially protected areas, drilling and blasting destroy fish, and the discharge of rock into the rivers causes water turbidity. The creation of a quarry will disrupt the landscape and river channels, and the leaching and cyanide processes associated with gold mining will cause toxic damage. All these interventions entail a complex violation of ecosystems that go far beyond the borders of Chudnoye and the disputed 50 thousand hectares of land. The consequences of gold mining in 1960-1970 still affect the ecological state of the park. In addition to the actual violations of the landscape and ecosystems, ecologists also note a direct impact on animals. For example, in 2019, a drilling warehouse abandoned in the early 1980s was discovered. It fell into disrepair, the roof and walls collapsed, and under the influence of rains, the bags in which cement and drilling clay were stored rotted. Several tens of tons of materials spread over an area with a diameter of 15 meters. Drill clay was found to contain salt, and for decades hares, moose and bears went to eat it, mistaking it for natural salt licks.

The next order of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation to exclude Chudny from the boundaries of the national park was appealed by the prosecutor's office in the Supreme Court and canceled in the summer of 2013. In August of the same year, Gold Minerals stopped work.

In 2015, the mayor of Inta, Pavel Smirnov, publicly discussed the development strategy of the field and called Greenpeace representatives "foreign henchmen." Smirnov and the head of Komi Vyacheslav Gaizer were arrested in November of the same year on charges of creating an organized criminal group, bribery and fraud with state property. Smirnov was sentenced to 11 years in a strict regime colony, Gaiser received 11 years in prison and a fine of 160 million rubles.

In 2015, the Committee for Saving the Pechora NGO met with experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Greenpeace and UNESCO to draw the attention of organizations to the threat to the territorial integrity of the park. In 2016, the court issued a writ of execution, which obliged Gold Minerals to reclaim the areas of the park affected by the work, including removing equipment, household and technical waste, filling up diversion channels through which industrial pollution and waste rock enter the rivers.

In 2016, the head of the region Sergey Gaplikov initiated the unification of the ministries of industry and ecology under the leadership of the latter. Experts suggested that one of the goals of such an initiative was to facilitate the removal of Chudny from the national park. After a series of protests and attempts to organize a referendum, the authorities restored the Ministry of Nature.

In 2017, declared the Year of Specially Protected Natural Areas (PAs) in Russia, environmentalists assessed the state of the Yugyd Va park as deteriorating. In a written appeal to the Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Dmitry Kobylkin dated October 15, 2018, the head of Komi argued that the Yugyd Va mountain areas had lost their environmental significance, and asked to be excluded from the protected area in order to improve the economic situation in the Inta region.

In 2019, it became known that the issue of withdrawing part of the Yugyd Va territory for mining is still being worked out in the government. At the same time, in response to a request from Greenpeace, the Ministry of Natural Resources replied that "the exclusion of part of the territory from the national park is contrary to the legislation of the Russian Federation."