Park of Stones in MinskAn original museum of boulders in the open air was created attached to the Institute of Geological Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. A unique collection of glacial boulders named "Experimental base of studying glacial boulders" is located on the place of the former bog covering 16 acres between the Academic town and the microdistrict Yruchie. More than 2,130 glacial stones were collected and installed there. Boulders form several expositions according to the scientific topics eleborated previously during the several years' studies carried out by Belarusian scientists-enthusiasts headed by G.Goretsky, Academician of the National Academy of Sciences. Thanks to the efforts and encouragement of the governing body of the Institute and Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences, glacial boulders are protected and thoroughly studied since 1974.
Boulders (stones measuring from 10 cm and up to 3-5 m in diameter) are found everywhere on the territory of Belarus. They are accumulated sometimes as boulder belts, boulder flats, stony soils, or are found as individual blocks in forest border areas, ravine slopes, along roads and rivers giving an imitable beauty to the landscapes of our country. Long since they have attracted attention of the man by the solidity, hardness, sindgularity and mysteriousness of their origin. Their mysterious appearance on vast territories was attributed to various supernatural forces and gave rise to numerous hypotheses, some of which are preserved to ourdays as legends.
Boulders are formed by diverse rocks of magmatic, metamorphic and sedimentary origin. They were dragged by enormous sheet glaciers, which repeatedly covered the Northern hemisphere of the Earth for the last million years. All the boulders are strangers arrived from the other lands. They can tell many things to an inquisitive investigator: the place which they came from, how and by what ways did they do it. Boulders help scientists to solve problems concerning the quantity of glaciations, sites of the glacial stream origin, direction of their movement, places of their halts and many other questions related to the glacier dynamics, glacial sedimentation and palaeogeography. Boulders help in solving many questionable and obscure problems on the correlation of glacial events at present as well.
These permanent and unfailing companions of the Quaternary (Anthropogen or glacial) geology, works of the Nature, being an integral part of the landscapes have recently become disappearing from the face of the earth. The fight with stones hampering agricultural activities is developed extensively, so they are found under the threat of a complete disappearance. The beauty and a unique character of the landscapes of our country are vanished together with these boulders. Little time will pass, and glacial boulders - witness of geological, historical and cultural events of the past will become the greatest rarity preserved in museums and reserves only and protected by the State. The "Park of Stones" or Experimental base of glacial boulders is a similar monument of the nature (from 1989).
The central and largest part of the Park of stones is the exposition "The map of Belarus". The model of the map covers approx. 11 acres and includes more than 500 big boulders, the number of which will be doubled in the future. The map is oriented on the sides of the world, the main landforms of Belarus - elevations and ridges are represented as embankments. Food-paths imitate rivers, two small artificial basins show the Lakes Naroch and Zaslavl' (Minsk Sea). Three spruces are planted in the sites of location of Minsk and regional centres. The map is delimited by the food-path and short shrubs. The most numerous groups of boulders are confined to the places of glacial stream halts, which left elevations and ridges - the so-called "marginal glacial formations". Boulder associations of marginal glacial formations bear traces of a glacial stream being responsible for the appearence of these landforms. Boulders were placed on this man-made map according to the geographical principle, i. e. each boulder brought from various corners of Belarus is attached to its former land. The plains of the Republic formed during the movement of glacial streams were found to be covered with boulders too. These special features of the distribution of boulders were shown by the Pre-Bug and Central-Berezina plains. The composition is represented there by peculiar piles of boulders-"krushni". Horisontal scale 1:2500, vertical scale 1:100.
Boulders were delivered to the territory of Belarus by glacial streams from three main glacial centres: Swedish-Baltic, Finnish and Karelian ones, which were shown as well by the composition of boulders disposed on the map. Glaciers visited the territory of Belarus more than once, the two latters having been died there. Conventional boundaries of their maximum expansion are marked by small boulders (0.5-0.7 m), which divide the territory into three large palaeoglacioregions: Poozerje, Central Belarus and Palessie.
The created map is the largest model which allow every visitor not only to glance over the whole territory of the Republic, but also to walk along the paths-rivers, to see major topographic features and to get acquaint oneself with the composition and structure of glacial boulders came from different regions and from various glaciations.
The exposition "Distributive Provinces" is located in the northwestern part of the Experimental base. The so-called "guiding boulders", their original modes of occurence being discovered, are intended to be placed within a small "U"-shaped hollow covering 1.7 acres and representing the Baltic Sea with the Gulfs of Bothnia and Finland of the Fennoscanian area. All the peculiarities of the composition of rocks from the Swedish, Baltic, Finnish and Karelian zones of alimentation will be represented there.
The exposition "Petrographic collection" is disposed in the south-eastern area of the base and show various rocks of magmatic, metamorphic and sedimentary origin. The exposition represents a circle covering 0.5 acres delimited and divided by food-paths into four sectors with boulders arranged inside of them. The circle is a symbol of the interrelation and interdependency of all rocks in the nature. The texture and structure of boulders outside. the circle show complex geological processes.
Northwards of the area "Petrographic collection", the exposition "Shapes of glacial boulders", is located showing various forms of stones created by the nature. One can be convinced once more that the imagination of the Nature is fantastic indeed!
In the southern part of the Experimental base there is the exposition "The Stone in the life of man", where boulders and stonewares of historical and cultural importance for the Belarusian people are represented. One can be aquainted there with stones-tracers, stone crosses, millstones and stones with heathen symbols.
Along the food-path connecting the Academic town with the microregion Uruchie in the western border of the map, there is a continuous chain of giant boulders brought from various locality of the Republic and forming the Path of boulders. In the future it is supposed to create on the Path of boulders sculptural compositions to different topics: "Boulders - historical symbols of geological evolution of Belarus", "Alley of legends", "Stone zoological gardens", etc.
"Stone zoological gardens" represented by sculptures of extinct animals-mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, big-horn deer, ovibos, etc. - will give visitors an opportunity to see with their own eyes the inhabitants of glacial epochs. The "Alley of legends" with stone sculptures will tell the legends and true stories created by folklore.
The created Museum of boulders can not of course preserve all glacial stones found on the territory of the Republic. Numerous boulders are digged out from the ground when mining minerals, laying roads and water-development structures, building the Metro lines, etc. They are not utilized in any way and are more often buried or crushed. However, in similar cases boulders should not be crushed, but utilized, for creating stone compositions in parks and streets, for ornamental works, retaining walls, souvenirs, etc. Big boulders should be protected. Every boulder found in the north of Belarus and exceeding 3 m in diameter, 2 m - for central regions, and 1 m - for southern areas must be protected.
Besides that, all stones derived from sedimentary rocks with fossil flora and fauna, index-boulders and boulders with glacial striation need to be protected. Stones which are associated with legends, traditions and true stories, as well as boulders with inscriptions, signs and figures are of special interest. Such boulders should be declared natural monuments.
Glacial boulders are of great importance for science, applied arts, culture, education, etc. They form a unique component of the Byelorussian landscapes and are to be studied and protected as water, forests, as scientific, cultural and spiritual heritage of our people. We ask everybody, who is not indifferent to the future of our country, to take a part in collecting data of boulders and in their protecting.
The created Experimental base of boulders is an original scientific laboratory in the open air and a unique museum of boulders destined to acquaint visitors with natural works, to help in training of geologists, to popularize geological sciences. Scientific research are carried out in order to create additional expositions in the Museum, to reflect various sides of the scientific and cognitive value of glacial boulders.
Dr. Svetlana D. Astapova,
Valerii F. Vinokurov
THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF BELARUS