UNESCO'S WORLD HERITAGE LIST AND RUSSIA’S PLACE
UNESCO's Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s
and Cultural Heritage / the World Heritage List
The World Heritage Convention (hereafter — the Convention) adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at the 17th Session in November 1972 in Paris is one of the most efficient instruments for the conservation of outstanding cultural monuments.
The creation of the World Heritage List (hereafter — the List), a special international inventory, features largely in various measures envisaged by the Convention and aims at to conserve world heritage. The List includes the world’s most outstanding cultural and natural monuments as well as sites of both cultural and natural value.
In accordance with Article 2 of the Convention, the sites must satisfy at least one of the following criteria to be considered part of the World Natural Heritage (hereafter — WNH) and included in the World Heritage List. Natural monuments should be:
i — outstanding examples representing major stages of the earth's
history, including the record of life, significant ongoing geological processes
in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic
ii — outstanding examples representing significant ongoing ecological
and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial,
fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals,
iii — superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural
beauty and aesthetic importance, or
iv — vital natural habitats for in situ conservation of biological
diversity, including those containing endangered species of outstanding universal
value for science or conservation.
Presently, the List is increasing by 30 to 35 monuments annually. As of January 2001, 690 different monuments including 563 cultural, 144 natural, and 23 mixed, had been included.
The greatest number of these monuments belongs to the United States (12), Australia (10) and Canada (8) – two monuments are shared by the USA and Canada.
The List includes many protected natural areas (hereafter — PNAs) of various sizes and statuses. Among them 135 national parks (including 3 in Russia), approximately 100 different nature reserves (including 8 in Russia) and around 25 nature (provincial, regional and state) parks (including 5 in Russia). Additionally, WNHs incorporate nature monuments and refuges, nature reserve buffer zones, national parks and nature parks, wilderness areas, state-owned forests, private protected areas, ecological stations, ethnographic reserves, etc.
The areas of approximately 50 WNHs coincide completely or partially with biosphere reserves (inter alia Russian Baikalsky, Bargusinsky, Caucasian, Katunsky, Kronotsky and Pechoro-Ilychsky biosphere reserves). A number of WNH sites include wetlands of outstanding universal value (the Ramsaar Convention). In Russia it is Selenga River Delta.
The World Natural Heritage Properties in Russia — Current Situation and Prospects
As of January 1, 2001, there have been 16 nominations to the List from Russia, including 11 cultural heritage nominations and 5 natural monuments (see Table).
Table. Russia's World Natural Heritage Properties
on the List
Vergin Komi Forests
Pechero-Ilychsky Nature Reserve and its buffer zone, Yugud-Va National
Water and coastal areas, including Baikalo-Lensky, Baikalsky and
Bargusinsky Nature Reserve as well as National Parks Zabaikalsky and
i - iv
Kronotsky , Nature Parks Bystrinsky, Nalychevo and Uzhno-Kamchatsky
i - iii
Nature Reserves Altaisky and Katunsky, the Teletskoe Lake with its
buffer zone, Ukok Quiet Zone, Belukha Nature Park
Kavkazsky Nature Reserve and part of its buffer zone, Bolshoi Thach
Nature Park, 3 nature monuments
Note: Kurshskaya Kosa (Curonian Spit) National Park (6,600 hectares,
see **) was recently included in the World Heritage
List. Though nominated primarily as a mixed site, it was approved as Cultural
Heritage. Currently, the park comprises the joint Lithuania/Russian site
called the Curonian Spit.
The combined area of the 5 WNH sites in Russia is slightly over 15 million hectares, including 3.3 million hectares of water area. All Russian WHS sites are outstanding in scale: they include 8 nature reserves, 3 national parks, 5 nature parks, and a number of nature refuges and natural monuments.
However, if one considers the vastness of Russia and the exceptional diversity of its nature, it becomes evident that the number of Russian monuments on the World Heritage List is scant and should be substantially increased.
According to Greenpeace’s Moscow office, no less than 20 areas in Russia are worth included in the List. UNESCO experts are currently considering the following: Ubsunursk Cavin, the mixed transboundary site (Tuva Republic/Mongolia), Delta of the Lena River (Sakha Republic—Yakutia), Central Sikhote Alin (Primorski Krai), Wrangel Island (Chukchee Autonomous District).
Arguments in favor of the following nature sites have been already completed: the Kurils (Sakhalin Region.), Poutoran Plateau (Taimyr Autonomous District), Valdai Height (Tver and Novgorod Regions), and Komandorskie Islands (Kamchatka Region).
Arguments in favor of the Green Belt of Fennanscandia (Republic of Karelia, Murmansk and Leningrad regions) are currently being developed.
Moreover, according to Greenpeace’s Russian Office, the following properties may be nominated for inclusion in the List: Nature Reserves Daursky (Chita Region), Magadansky (Magadan Region), Tungusky (Evensky Autonomous District), Astrakhansky (Astrakhan Region), The Black Lands (Republic of Kalmykia) and Meschersky National Park (Ryazan Region).
In 1996—1998 efforts were made to nominate Bashkirsky Urals (Republik of Bashkortostan) and Vodlozersky National Park (republic of Karelia and Arkhangelsk Region) for the List. However, the World Heritage Commission rejected both nominations. In future, these sites will again be nominated for the List, but as cultural landscape sites.
Efforts made to nominate natural monuments and mixed sites to UNESCO’s List notwithstanding, Russia’s World Heritage should not be limited to the above-mentioned sites. We believe that such natural monuments as Samarskaya Luka (Samara Region) and Lenskie Stolby (Republic of Sakha—Yakutia) and mixed sites New Land and Kenozersky National Park (both sites are located in the Arkhangelsk Region) should also be included in the List. Volga-Akhtubinskaya Overflow Land, including Astrakhansky Zapovednik (Astrakhan and Volgograd Regiona and Republic of Kalmykia), might be recommended for inclusion as well.
The search for new nominations for UNESCO's List should continue.
Place of Russian Sites in UNESCO’s World Heritage List
In order to increase the number of Russian monuments on the World Heritage List, the place of Russian natural monuments in the WHL should first be analyzed from a number of points of view.
Because different countries are represented on the List differently, the whole picture seems rather varied. The Balkans and the western coast of the Black Sea, the mountainous Wild West of the United States and Canada, the Himalayas and Tibet, equatorial and subequatorial Africa and the western tropical coast of Australia are replete with natural World Heritage monuments.
On the other hand, the WNH map seems incomplete. Such monuments as the cultivated plains of the United States and Canada, the greater part of Brazil, the Arabian Peninsula, the Sahara Desert, Mongolia and Australia’s interior are missing.
In Russia, the WHL is missing northern Siberia and the entire Far East (except for Kamchatka).
Value, or the Range of Significance
The 138 WNH monuments on the List so far include most popular sites, such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, the Hawaiian Islands (USA), Iguazu Waterfall (Argentina/Brazil), the Danube Delta (Romania), Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Belarus/Poland), Mount Everest (Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal), Komodo Island and Krakatoa Volcano (Indonesia), Mount Kilimanjaro and Serengheti and Ngorongoro National Parks (Tanzania), the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), etc.
Such unique Russian phenomena as Lake Baikal, Kamchatka, the Subpolar and Northern Urals, Altai and the Caucasian Highlands clearly deserve to be considered part of the world’s outstanding heritage.
The sites on the List vary considerably. They represent various of the Earth’s ecosystems including mountainous areas, virgin forests located in different zones, wetlands, deserts, steppes, prairies and savannas, tundra and open woodlands, glaciers and volcanoes, outstanding geologic and geomorphologic formations (including karst topography, caves, subterranean rivers, etc.), dune complexes, palaeontological fossil remains, unique watercourses, reservoirs and waterfalls, thermal and water springs, large river deltas and mangroves, parts of water areas, archipelagos and separate islands, fjords, atolls and reefs, etc.
Given this variety, Russia’s WHL representation looks monotonous – since all the sites are mountainous areas located in the moderate zone – and inadequate.
WNH sites on the List also vary in size. There are small areas of less than 1,000 hectares (the Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve in the Seychelles, for example, occupies less than 19.5 hectares) as well as vast sites, such as mountain parks and reserves on the border of Alaska and northwestern Canada (9.8 million hectares), Lake Baikal with adjacent national parks and nature reserves (8.8 million hectares), the Galapagos Islands (8.77 million hectares, including 8 million hectares of adjacent water areas), Air and Tenere Nature Reserves in Niger (7.7 million hectares), the Great Barrier Reef National Sea Park (5.1 million hectares).
Three of the five Russian WNH sites exceed 3 million hectares, and Lake Baikal is the second largest site on the List.
The inclusion of vast areas with complicated (mosaic) territorial structures on the List is a rather common phenomenon. Some WNH sites consist of a number of adjacent PNAs (for example, the outstanding mountainous forest area on the northwest coast of Australia embraces 19 national parks, 31 state forests, 5 forest reserves, and 1 ethnographic reserve).
In Russia, the most outstanding site in this respect is Lake Baikal. Its territory includes 2 national parks, 3 nature reserves and a number of refuges and natural monuments. In spite of its mosaic structure, the Baikal zone remains an integral complex, limited in space in accordance with its uniform principle (draining, or catchment area).
Cluster structures are also common on the List. For example, the other Australian site, located on the east coast, consists of approximately 45 different PNAs, integrated in 8 blocks. Their total area is 370,000 hectares.
Among Russian WNH sites, the Volcanoes of Kamchatka possess the most evident cluster structure: 5 isolated sites representing the peninsula’s most valuable ecosystems.
The List includes around 10 trans-boundary sites, consisting of so-called parallel PNAs, among them Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Belarus/Poland), a complex of parks and nature reserves in Alaska (Canada/USA), Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls, (Zambia/Zimbabwe).
Russia’s only trans-boundary WNH site is the Golden Mountains of Altai (Kazakhstan/China/Mongolia).
Conclusions and Recommendations
Russia’s representation on the UNESCO List should be increased in accordance with a clear and unified schedule.
First of all, the criteria set by the Convention must be followed. However, we believe that those criteria reflect a certain ideology on the part of UNESCO experts. We would therefore recommend that the following steps be taken:
1. The distribution of WNH sites in Russia should be made more equable.
This would better represent Russia's regional specificity, in particular
its main natural landscapes. This corresponds to UNESCO’s position on this
issue: the World Heritage List should represent in total the globe’s diversity
of outstanding natural monuments and cultural sites of universal value.
Therefore, most important today is the proposal to nominate the following Siberian and Far East sites for the List: Poutoran Plateau, Lena Delta, Wrangel Island, Central Sihote-Alin, and several Nature Reserves (Daursky, Magadansky and Tungussky, Lenskie Stolby). These sites ensure the integrity of Asian Russia’s natural heritage as well as representing several of the planet’s eco-regions.
2. In nominating sites for the List, all types of landscapes should
be considered – not just mainly mountainous landscapes, as is now the case.
The following non-mountainous sites deserve immediate consideration: the
Lena and Volga Deltas, the Commander Islands and the Kurils, Wrangel Island,
Samarkskaya Luka, Valdai, Meschera, and the Black Lands Nature Reserve.
Typological diversity can be increased with mixed sites in the cultural landscape category. Sites of outstanding historical and cultural value include the Bashkirsky Urals and National Parks Vodlozersky and Kenozersky.
3. Sites exceeding 1 million hectares should be included in the List.
For instance, Siberia and the Far East where considerable territorial reserves
still remain. Also: Ubsunursk Cavin (over 2 million hectares), Poutoran
Plateau (over 2 million hectares), Sikhote-Alin and Lena Delta (1.5 million
4. Cluster and mosaic sites should be promoted since they would mean
a high international status for a number of valuable sites at one time.
Most interesting for this purpose are the Green Belt of Fennoscandia (cluster
structure) and Central Sikhote-Alin (mosaic structure). Also the New Land.
5. The possibility of nominating some trans-boundary PNAs to the World
Natural Heritage List should be explored. Only through combined efforts
can these natural monuments straddling two or three national borders be
properly protected. Examples include the Green Belt of Fennoscandia (Russia/Norway/Finland)
and Ubsunursk Cavin (Russia/Mongolia).
In conclusion, we would note that as more Russian cultural heritage and natural monuments are nominated for inclusion in the World Heritage List, their effective management will be paramount. This means the sites' financing and protection, the promotion and development of eco-tourism, the creation of information centers, personnel training, etc. Providing a legal basis for WNH is of crucial importance for Russia. Developing uniform management plans, especially for cluster, trans-boundary or large-scale WNH sites, is another problem.
Russia’s unique nature sites of global value would be better protected under UNESCO’s Convention Concerning the Protection of World Natural and Cultural Heritage.
The author wishes to thank Alexei A. Butorin (GREENPEACE in Russia) for valuable recommendations and additional information concerning Russia's World Natural Heritage.
N. V. Maxakovsky, Ph.D.,
Russian Cultural and Natural Heritage Research Institute
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