Semyon Ustinov: an Enthusiast of Reserve Management
© Photo: Key To Baikal
October, 14

Semyon Ustinov: an Enthusiast of Reserve Management

Our new article from the section “Lives of Great People” is dedicated to “the shaggiest employee of the reserve system”. That is what Semyon Ustinov called himself.

The tradition to celebrate those working in the field specially protected natural areas on October 14 originated in 1999; although this holiday, the Day of Reserves of Russia, is still not legalized at the official level. What a pity! Because the most part of employees and volunteers working in reserves are enthusiasts and devotees who are involved in the objective of preserving the natural state of the Earth’s surface, its flora and fauna, exciting curiosity of the residents of their regions in environmental activities, attracting them to the protection of natural

Semyon Klimovich Ustinov (1933 - 2017) was exactly a person of this kind and a universally recognized expert on the nature of the Baikal region. The list of his merits, titles and awards will probably take more than one page. He spent his entire life in the reserves of the Baikal region.

“The Shaggiest Employee of the Reserve System”

That is exactly what Semyon Klimovich ironically called himself, alluding to his enormous work experience in an extremely complicated field; he understood that there was a need for a balanced attitude to this field already in his early childhood.

Growing up in a family of Old Believers where they were engaged in hunting and farming inevitably affected the worldview of little Semyon: his father fully shared his knowledge of nature with the boy, teaching him to love and understand it not only from books. The hikes with his father to the forest, to the river formed the character of the future expert of the Siberian taiga, a real taiga and field worker, who learned his father’s lesson – to respect all living things. So the choice of his future occupation was quite logical. In 1956, Semyon Ustinov graduated from the Irkutsk Agricultural Institute with a diploma of a Biologist-Game Manager.

 All entries in his employment record are the evidence of the permanent interest of its holder in various aspects of environmental protection: Barguzinsky State Reserve, Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Siberian Branch of the All-Union Hunting and Animal Breeding Institute, Baikal-Lena Reserve. Moreover, Semyon Klimovich participated in the creation of the reserve, moreover, his careful observation of the habitat of wild ungulates in places of their migrations made it possible to determine the boundaries of the protected area. He was the Head of the Scientific Department, Environmental Education Department, Deputy Director of the Baikal-Lena Nature Reserve. He devoted almost 30 years of his life to this institution and worked at the Environmental Education Department of the “Reserved Pribaikalye (Baikal Region)” until his death.

The candidate thesis of Semyon Klimovich titled “Ecology and Hunting of Musk Deer” was evaluated by experts as the best research work on this small representative of Siberian cloven-hoofed mammals already then, in late 1960s. This work alone would be enough for scientific recognition, but Ustinov continued to persistently study the taiga mammals of Eastern Siberia, gradually turning into one of the most highly authoritative experts. The evidence of this fact is already shown by the very names of his popular science books: “A Year and the Whole Life of a Bear”, “Wolf Song”, “Hunt the Animal”, “Mysterious Trails of Musk Deer”, “In the Forests around Lake Baikal”, “The News of the Blue Mountains”...

The Temple of Nature, according to Semyon Ustinov

The concrete boxes of city houses were too small and stuffy for Semyon Klimovich. Therefore, he spent the last ten years on the coast of his beloved Baikal, continuing to unravel its mysteries.

Since his childhood Semyon Klimovich has spent almost a fifth of his whole life outside of civilization, in the wild taiga, traveling far and wide, plunging into the exciting world of its inhabitants, watching his favorite musk deer, moose, bears, wolverines... Semyon Klimovich could spend several months in the taiga on his own, claiming that taiga had taught him accuracy, attentiveness, and observation. Above all, this involved taiga researcher preferred solitude in the forest, which enabled him to notice everything happening around.

The way this mature experienced man managed to keep a sense of childish, joyful admiration for what he saw in the forest was truly amazing. This, as well as his reverent, thrifty, respectful attitude towards the Earth and creatures living on it can best be represented by the words and stories of Semyon Klimovich himself:

 Semyon Ustinov: an Enthusiast of Reserve Management

 - My father said: “When in the taiga, you must walk so quietly that you are not able to hear your own steps. Then you will not offend or hurt anyone, but will see everything and understand everything”;

- I don’t like this conqueror’s spirit: “The conquerors have descended from the Chomolungma!” What kind of conquerors are you? You should thank the creator who revealed all this beauty to you! And they think that nature resources are unlimited and you can take them, grab them;

- Winter is the best time to observe nature. You can go in the trails of an animal from its first night shelter to another. And you can find answers to difficult questions;

- I saw bears pretty often. First they can make you laugh, and then scare you almost to death. Once I watched two bear cubs skating from an ice waterfall. Then I noticed two medium-sized bears heading the frozen waterfall at a distance of about four hundred meters from me. And as if agreed, they jumped up the hill, sat on their bottoms, and slid down the ice! Then they stopped and climbed up there once again. They entertained themselves this way for forty-five minutes.

Semyon Klimovich was an excellent promoter of environmental issues, possessing an ability to speak about them even in front of children in kindergartens. “A small bear”, “a tiny musk deer”, “sweet burbot”, “small pike”... These words of Ustinov are not childish lisping, but a sincere, almost fairy-tale attitude to the wild world: one should spare and protect it.

A memorial plaque on the wall of the library named after him in the village of Utulik where Semyon Klimovich Ustinov lived reminds us of this outstanding person today.

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