Chapter 2.

2.1. National Parks in the Russian System of Protected Areas

2.2. Features of Russian National Parks

2.3. National Park Network

2.4. Russian National Parks and International Conservation Programmes


National Parks are one of the most important categories of protected natural area in Russia. National Parks include natural complexes and objects, which have unique ecological, historical, and cultural values and are of national significance.

The Federal Act On Protected Natural Areas defines National Park objectives. For the purpose of this Strategy, these objectives have been interpreted as the basis of National Park management policy, directing National Parks to focus their efforts on:

  • Preserving natural systems, unique and representative sites and features;
  • Preserving historical and cultural heritage;
  • Generating public awareness and providing environmental education, especially for local communities;
  • Creating conditions for controlled tourism and recreation;
  • Undertaking research and introducing scientific methods for conservation and education;
  • Environmental monitoring;
  • Restoring damaged natural and historico-cultural complexes and objects.

The mission of Russian National Parks is to conserve the best samples of national natural and cultural heritage and ensure their continued availability to current and future generations. The implementation of such a mission requires significant efforts to create new public understanding of National Parks significance and role. In every National Park, the staff should endeavour to create a strategic vision for their own National Park, i.e. what should its National Park look like in the future. The process of vision creation will allow each National Park staff member to understand his/her long-term goals and role.

The physical existence of a National Park and the application of its management objectives have an impact on the socio-economic development of the people that live in and around the National Park. As a result, public participation in the development and management of the National Park, and the benefits that flow from it, is important and must be strived for at all times.


The Federal Act On Protected Natural Areas defines seven protected area categories in Russia. State Nature Zapovedniks and National Parks occupy a specific place among these categories as they are exclusively federally owned and managed. Their designation is the exclusive authority of the Government of the Russian Federation. National Parks and Zapovedniks are the principal components of the system of regional and all-Russian ecological network creation and play a key role in the conservation of Russian biological and landscape diversity.

The specificity and range of the National Park objectives set by the conservation legislation determines their place in the single Russian system of protected areas and makes them one of the most significant and important protected area categories in Russia. In addition to having objectives similar to those of Zapovedniks (i.e. conservation of natural complexes, environmental education of local communities, scientific research and environmental monitoring), National Parks are also responsible for the conservation of historico-cultural objects, restoration of damaged natural and historico-cultural complexes and objects, and for the provision of regulated tourism and recreation.


The current legislation defines National Parks as conservation, eco-education and research institutions. Their areas include natural complexes and objects of specific ecological, historical and aesthetic value. They are managed for conservation, education, scientific and cultural purposes, and also for regulated tourism.

The main legislative features of National Parks are that:

  • the lands given to National Parks are federally-owned and belong to the nature-zapovednik fund;
  • the National Park area may include the lands of other stakeholders not subtracted from economic use (Included Lands);
  • National Parks are managed by federal authorities, funded from the federal budget and have their own staff, including a protection inspectorate;
  • National Parks are divided to achieve the National Parks objectives into functional zones with specific protection and resource use regimes;
  • each National Park has a Statement approved at federal level which determines its individual goals, objectives, and territorial-administrative structure;
  • the nature use regime in Included Lands is determined by a specific Statement approved at federal level after confirmation from the appropriate regional authorities;
  • all projects within settlements located within a National Park that require town planning approval must also be agreed with the National Park authorities;
  • land privatisation within National Parks is forbidden; National Parks have the exclusive right to acquire such lands;
  • National Parks, as non-profit organisations, can undertake income-generating activities if these do not contravene the National Parks objectives.

National Parks have been created alongside an existing strong system of strictly protected natural areas (State Zapovedniks). Although they share a federal nature conservation role with the Zapovedniks, National Parks have greater responsibility for addressing the great need of the community for eco-education and protected area-based regulated tourism and recreation, while Zapovedniks focus more on their important conservation functions.

A continuum can be observed between National Parks that are established in the more remote unpopulated regions of Russia and those in the built-up regions of European Russia. National Parks which are more distant from population centres tend to play a more significant role in preserving natural processes and objects while those established in the built-up regions of Russia generally place more significance on cultural landscape management objectives, recreation possibilities, and participation in regional socio-economic development i.e. there is a need to protect and manage historico-cultural features and landscapes, while ensuring the maintenance and development of local community living standards and addressing the relevant socio-economic issues of the area.

Russian National Parks, while reflecting, and embraced within, the regional network of natural and cultural features, remain federal institutions; they are established and function according to federal legislation.


The Russian National Park network was created during Russias transition period at the end of the 1980s and in the early 1990s when regions were actively establishing various protected areas. Zapovedniks and National Parks became the most popular category in that period as their federal status not only guaranteed protection of natural complexes but also ensured rational nature use and allowed hopes of additional funding from the federal budget.

At present there are 35 National Parks covering a total area of 7 million hectares. They exist in 33 Russian regions, most of them in the European-Ural part of the country. Only 6 National Parks are found currently in Siberia. There are no National Parks in the Russian Far-East. The network of Russian National Parks is, therefore, currently at an early stage of establishment, and there are strong grounds for its further development.

Past experience in National Park Network creation and functioning allows the following conclusions:

  • Despite active state support of National Park designation, the general public undervalues their role in heritage preservation, public awareness creation and tourism. National Parks do not satisfactorily meet the communitys expectations.
  • All National Parks are still, in reality, in the development stage, as the organisational-technical measures on their designation did not provide funding for the appropriate infrastructure essential to implementation of National Park objectives.

Further development of the National Park network needs to be linked with improvement of their normative-legislative basis and their integration into regional socio-economic development. It is necessary involve local authorities, communities, scientific institutions, and conservation organisations into the problem-solving processes of National Park management and to find additional sources of funding.

Such changes require improvement in the management structure and staff capacity of National Parks.


Russian National Parks are recognised at an international level and actively participate in many international programmes. Russian National Parks, in collaboration with Zapovedniks, execute many of the international environmental conventions to which Russia is a signatory. These include including the Ramsar Convention (1971), UNESCO Convention on Preservation of World Natural and Cultural Heritage (1972), and the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992).

Russian National Parks are an integral part of Pan-European Ecological Network and should play a key role in implementation of the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy.

Many Russian National Parks are eligible for designation as UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserves.



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