Pinsk Marshes
The Pinsk Marshes or Pripyat Marshes (Pripet Marshes) are a vast territory of wetlands along the Pripyat River
Pripyat River
The Pripyat River or Prypiat River is a river in Eastern Europe, approximately long. It flows east through Ukraine, Belarus, and Ukraine again, draining into the Dnieper....

 and its tributaries from Brest, Belarus
Brest, Belarus
Brest , formerly also Brest-on-the-Bug and Brest-Litovsk , is a city in Belarus at the border with Poland opposite the city of Terespol, where the Bug River and Mukhavets rivers meet...

 (west) to Mogilev
Mogilev is a city in eastern Belarus, about 76 km from the border with Russia's Smolensk Oblast and 105 km from the border with Russia's Bryansk Oblast. It has more than 367,788 inhabitants...

 (northeast) and Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....


The Pinsk Marshes mostly lie within the Polesian Lowland and occupy most of the southern part of Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 and the north-west of Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. They cover roughly 38000 square miles (98,419.5 km²) surrounding the Pripyat River on both sides. Dense woods are interspersed with numerous swamp
A swamp is a wetland with some flooding of large areas of land by shallow bodies of water. A swamp generally has a large number of hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodical inundation. The two main types of swamp are "true" or swamp...

s, moors, pond
A pond is a body of standing water, either natural or man-made, that is usually smaller than a lake. A wide variety of man-made bodies of water are classified as ponds, including water gardens, water features and koi ponds; all designed for aesthetic ornamentation as landscape or architectural...

s and stream
A stream is a body of water with a current, confined within a bed and stream banks. Depending on its locale or certain characteristics, a stream may be referred to as a branch, brook, beck, burn, creek, "crick", gill , kill, lick, rill, river, syke, bayou, rivulet, streamage, wash, run or...

s extending 300 miles (482.8 km) west to east and 140 miles (225 km) north to south. The marshes undergo substantial changes in size during the year, with melting snows in springtime and autumn rainfall causing extensive flooding as the river overflows. Drainage of the eastern portion began in 1870, and significant areas have been cleared for pasture and farmland.

There is a story that the early Slavs hid out from predators in the Pripet Marshes by breathing through reeds.

During most of the year, the marshes are virtually impassable to major military forces, thus influencing strategic planning of all military operations in the region. The few roads that traverse the region are narrow and largely unimproved. At the start of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 the marshes separated the Austro-Hungarian fourth army from the XII corps. This left a wide gap open, and the Russian third army poured in before the Austro-Hungarian second army's transfer from Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 was complete. The Russians soon captured the valuable railhead
The word railhead is a railway term with two distinct meanings, depending upon its context.Sometimes, particularly in the context of modern freight terminals, the word is used to denote a terminus of a railway line, especially if the line is not yet finished, or if the terminus interfaces with...

 at Lemberg
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

, in the far east of then Austro-Hungary (now part of the western Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

), as a result. Throughout the following years of the war it remained one of the principal geographic features on the Eastern Front (World War I)
Eastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern Front was a theatre of war during World War I in Central and, primarily, Eastern Europe. The term is in contrast to the Western Front. Despite the geographical separation, the events in the two theatres strongly influenced each other...

The marshes divided the central and southern theatres of operation during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and served as a hideout for Soviet
Soviet partisans
The Soviet partisans were members of a resistance movement which fought a guerrilla war against the Axis occupation of the Soviet Union during World War II....

 and Polish partisans. At one stage during the war the German administration planned to drain the marshes, 'cleanse' them of their 'degenerate' inhabitants, and repopulate the area with German colonists. Konrad Meyer was the leader in charge of 'The Pripet plan'. Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 scuttled the project late in 1941, as he believed that it might entail dustbowl
Dust Bowl
The Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936...

 (Versteppung) conditions. Ironically, German
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 racial anthropologist Theodor Poesche proposed, in the late 19th century, that the Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

 race evolved in the marshes due to the prevalence of albinism
Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin...


The relative sparsity of human population in the area, combined with the ready availability of water, was a key factor in the decision to build the ill-fated Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant or Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant is a decommissioned nuclear power station near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine, northwest of the city of Chernobyl, from the Ukraine–Belarus border, and about north of Kiev. Reactor 4 was the site of the Chernobyl disaster in...

 in the marshes in 1970. The city of Pripyat
Prypiat, Ukraine
Pripyat is a ghost town near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Kiev Oblast of northern Ukraine, near the border with Belarus....

 was constructed nearby to house the plant's workers. The Chernobyl disaster
Chernobyl disaster
The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine , which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities in Moscow...

spread radioactive contamination across a wide swathe of the marshlands, large areas of which are restricted due to the pollution.
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