The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Memorial Forests Department

The history of the establishment of the forest service at Yasnaya Polyana is closely connected with the history of the museum itself. On June 10, 1921 the Yasnaya Polyana estate was declared a national government property. Since then, Leo Tolstoy’s house and every object in it, the writer’s grave, the forests and woods, parks and orchards, and all farm-buildings of the estate were required to be maintained and preserved in their historic and untouched form, and restoration work was to be done accordingly.

In 1922 a forestry division, which was named after Leo Tolstoy and included part of the area of the estate, was established here. All the work in the forests was done without taking their designated purpose into consideration; the commissar and curator of Yasnaya Polyana Alexandra Tolstaya (the writer’s daughter) wrote about it at that time: “… new trees have not been planted, and therefore the main goal – i.e. preservation of the forests, planted mostly by Tolstoy, in their authentic form – has not been achieved in the least.”  

In 1932 160 hectares more of the forest that had been formerly part of the estate was added to the museum area. Since then the work in the forest was done by museum employees assisted by forest specialists and representatives of various forest institutions. In 1936-1939 birch plantations on an area of 20.3 hectares were restored at the estate, in 1943–1950 3.8 hectares of fir-tree plantations and 6.2 hectares of birch plantations were restored, and in 1953 – 1.12 hectares of oak plantations.   

In the 1950s the forester K.S. Semyonov who worked for the museum at that time wrote “The History of the Forests of Yasnaya Polyana within the last 100 Years. The Tasks of Their preservation and restoration.” In his research the author divided all the estate plantations into categories according to their memorial value and suggested an individual care regime for each of them. 

Between 1965 and 1970 6.04 hectares of coniferous plantations destroyed by industrial pollution were restored at the estate.

In the 1980s specialists of forest engineering institutions raised the issue of the memorial value of forests. V.A. Agaltsova, the chief engineer of the park and forest engineering expedition which was in charge of designing a forest management project for Yasnaya Polyana, remarked that the practice and theory of restoration of park plantations was not that rich either here or abroad. There were no examples of restoring memorial forests at that time at all.  

Speaking about the ways of managing forests in such areas, they differ greatly from the ways of managing which are usually used in the forestland. The memorial character of the forests at Yasnaya Polyana makes it necessary to keep unchanged the authentic look of the forested area of the estate. First of all it concerns the man-made forests: tree plantations on slopes of ravines, in the river valley, and on non-arable lands. Restoring these areas we always use the same kinds of trees as those which were used by Tolstoy. As for the natural forests, they are allowed to grow in the natural way.

As the aging of Tolstoy’s groves progresses (with the uprooting of trees and the growth of secondary “non-memorial” species), the Memorial Forests Department carries out the step-by-step restoration of old-growth birch and fir plantations. This work consists of the planting of the necessary types of trees on the clearings taking into account the shade density. Right now restoration of five old-growth areas in Tolstoy’s groves is under way.

Selected sanitation cutting of trees, individual care of trees, and care of the forest floor are also carried out in the forests of the estate. Since 2011 we have been removing brood fir trees of the engraver bark beetle. After the outbreak of the insects is over the fir groves in the eastern and western parts of the estate will be restored.

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