Berezina water system

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The water system on the Berezina is one of the main historical attractions of Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve. It was built in the years 1797-1805 following the ancient trade route so-called «from Varangians to Greeks». Water construction, crossing many rivers and lakes, allowed to connect the Black sea and the Baltic sea.

For many years they had tried to construct a water canal that would cross the territory of Belarus. But it was done only during the reign of the All-Russian Emperor Paul I. In 1797 he issued an edict with the request to establish water communication between the Western Dvina and the Dnieper through the Berezina river - a right tributary of the Dnieper that starts its flow within a kilometer from the village Dokshitsi and crosses the territories of Vitebsk, Mogilev and Gomel regions.

The construction of the Berezina water system required the expansion and straightening of banks of different rivers, laying 6 channels, the construction of 14 locks and 6 dams. The works had being done under difficult conditions among dense forests and impassable swamps. In order to lay tracks they specially chose the areas where marshes alternated with sand ridges and hills. As the result the Berezina water system had been built: the width of the cannel of the Berezina in the upper steam was about 15-20 m, and in the middle course could reach 100-300 m.

Agricultural products, raw materials and timber from Mogilev and Minsk regions were rafted through the cannel to the Port of Riga. The navigation through the waterway was carried out until 1817. Then railways appered and their role in trade was gradually increasing. Nevertheless timber had being floated through the Berezina until 1941. During World War II the locks were blown up, and the canal was damaged. Today once popular trade water route has completely lost its role in timber floating and people transportation. The wooden waterworks gradually collapsed. Today only stone slopes of lock chambers and dams are left there, as well as the remains of wooden structures that still can be seen on the bottom of the cannel. Nowadays the part of water system is used by tourists for unforgettable trips.

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Republic of Belarus, Vitebsk region, Lepel district