Monday, May 11, 2020

Rewilding: Lessons from the Medieval Baltic Crusades by Aleks Pluskowski

Bison in Bialowieza Photo by Magnus Elander 
"The Forest of Białowieża, which straddles the border of Poland and Belarus, is unique in Europe: it is incredibly ancient. Woodland has been continuously present there for some 12,000 years. With the protection of 6059 hectares from human disturbance within the Polish national park, as well as the return of its iconic European bison herds from the brink of extinction, the forest is widely regarded as a model for restoring biodiversity or “rewilding”, which areas across Europe are trying to emulate

From the end of the 12th century, the pagan tribal societies of the eastern Baltic (today Estonia, Latvia, western Lithuania, north-east Poland and the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast), became the targets of relentless crusades from the West. The conquered tribal territories were reorganised as Catholic polities called Livonia and Prussia and the native aristocracy was replaced by a theocracy, dominated by the Teutonic Order. They built impressive castles, the largest of which were effectively fortified monasteries.

The sustainability of the new regime depended on the exploitation of natural resources, particularly for food, fuel and building materials. To this end, the theocracy encouraged Catholic migrants from neighbouring German and Polish regions to settle the conquered territories.

Here we found the pollen record showed a drop in human activity and reforestation. This became known as the “Great Wilderness”. Fragments are still visible today, particularly in north-eastern Poland. Written sources and animal bones recovered from frontier castles indicate diverse wildlife: it is here that the last wild European aurochs and bison took refuge. Noticeable human impact on vegetation in the Great Wilderness largely dates from the 17th century."

Full story here


  1. Helllo,

    On May 13th Poland celebrated 119th anniversary of birth of Captain Witold Pilecki.

  2. Yes, and Pilecki found that Poles were also gassed at Auschwitz, along with Russians, and not only Jews.

    1. Later whole trains of Jews were gassed at Birkenau.

    2. Yes, and how the gassed Jews are endlessly remembered, and the gassed Poles are all but forgotten. That's the difference.

    3. Jan, let's be precize, the Poles were rather shot than gassed.

    4. Yes, Poles were shot rather than gassed, but the shot Poles are almost as forgotten as the gassed Poles.

  3. I have not seen the series, but Polish media praise it. A serious film about the Holocaust. Polish actress Magdalena Cielecka among stars.

  4. Hello again,

    On May 18th Poland celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Saint John Paul II.

  5. The title says "Europe" but the article criticizes mostly Poland. Germany was guilty but Poland seemed to be coresponsible more than German allies Italy, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia and Bulgaria.

  6. ANNOUNCEMENT: Today (May 25th) is the International Day of Heroes of the Fight Against Totalitarianism.

  7. Hello again,

    72 years ago on May 25th Captain Witold Pilecki was murdered in communist prison with a shot to the back of the head.
    His remains still await to be found.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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