Geopolitics in the Forest: A Border of Wilderness

Jakub Grygar


Based on ethnographic sketches from the Białowieża National Park (Poland, Belarus) between 2005 – 2009, the paper explores the EU external border in this region focusing on the mutual interconnection between the process of the Europeanization of Poland and its eastern border and the simultaneous othering of Belarus and the exotization of its local population. Belarus and its present political regime stand in juxtaposition with the image of Białowieża as the last European natural forest. In the eyes and practices of visitors of the Białowieża National Park, the forest is not only an area of pristine nature, but it is also an important witness of the recent political history of Poland. The juxtaposition of the political regime in Belarus and the ancient character of the locality is dynamically used by local population for establishing alliance with, or subversion of, the state. Th e paper discusses different ways in which international borders are established through controversies and negotiations that concern the Białowieża National Park, including the politics of park entry, material barriers,
EU standards, global and local arguments about how to protect nature, political tensions between Poland and Belarus, and divergent political interests. Thus, the paper explores the international border as a conservation border involving diff erent schemes of protection within the Polish side of the forest.

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