World Heritage Russian sites of WH

The Curonian Spit

КThe Curonian Spit  
Status of Property: National Park

Area: 31 200 ha

Situation: Inscribed on the World heritage List in 2000

Criteria: (v)

The following organizations took part in preparation of the nomination: Geography Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Natural Heritage Protection Fund, Lithuanian Ministry of Environment, Lithuanian Center of Cultural Heritage, Greenpeace Russia, Dresden University of Technology


View of the Curonian Spit  Any movement over the sand is restricted to special tracks

Some dunes can be several dozen meters high  Illusion of a sand desert


The narrow (400-3800 km) sandy peninsula stretches for 98 km across the south-eastern part of the Baltic Sea. Its southern part is located within the Russian boundary (Kaliningrad Region) where in 1987 has been established the "Curonian Spit" National Park (6 600 ha). The northern part belongs to Lithuania. Here since 1991 functions the "Kursiu-Nerija" National Park (26 500 ha).

The Curonian Spit is of great value as a natural monument. It is one of the European largest wind-borne formations of this kind. A line of sandy dunes reaching almost 70 m high stretches continuously for tens of kilometers. Located along the White Sea-Baltic bird migration route the Spit is widely known among ornithologists: each year in spring and autumn from 10 to 20 millions of birds pass over the Spit, the significant part of which stop here for rest and feeding. Among large number of birds which accumulate in this area are found representatives of rare and endangered species inscribed into the Red Books of Russia, Lithuania and the world.

At the same time the Curonian Spit is of great significance from historic, cultural and archaeological points of view. On the UNESCO World Heritage List the Spit appears exactly as the cultural heritage site, to be more precise, as the unique cultural landscape (a special category of World Heritage introduced in 1992).

It is known that humans have appeared at the peninsula in prehistoric period already when the Spit has been fully covered with forests. However, by XVII - XVIII centuries forests have been significantly cut down - only 10% of forests was left. This led to intensive wind erosion. Moving sands scattered villages, roads and the remaining forests. The situation was truly catastrophic and European scientists started working up projects for saving of the unique landscape. In the middle of XIX century the intensive reforestation works have started: both local and introduced species from North America, Far East, Central and Southern Europe have been planted here (in total some 100 species of trees and shrubs have been introduced). As the result, long and intricate work made it possible to stabilize the dunes. At present days forests of Curonian Spit (both natural and planted) cover about 2/3 of the area, of them some 3/4 are pine forests.

Fishing was the major occupation of local population (curshiaj tribe) in the past. This is testified by relic historical landscape: under a layer of sand were found fishermen villages scattered by sand in XVIII - XIX centuries already. To cultural heritage properties also relate the unique engineer protective constructions which are of great value from scientific and historical points of view, and also archeological monuments and worship architecture..