The pine is typical representative of the Slobod forests

The green garment on the territory of present day Kharkov region has been changing in the course of the centuries. A few hundred years ago the whole of Ukraine was covered with woods. The woods were the source of food, clothes, shelter for numerous nomadic tribes and the Slavs.

During the times of Holy Russia, fortifications were erected over a vast territory, that became known as Free Settlement (Slobod) Ukraine. In the XVII century, Kharkivskaya, Tsareborisovskaya (Chervony Oskol) and other castles were built, the Ukrainian fortified line was put up - a powerful defensive belt.The main building material in all times was oak timber. Fortifications such as walls, towers, stockade were made of oak too. All utility and dwelling buildings in castles and localities were made of wood. Pokrovsky cathedral that was built in 1689, long remained the only stonework building in Kharkiv.

Tillage took enormous territories from woods. Up until XIX century in Ukraine was practised an agricultural method in which portions of forests were burnt down and the cleared areas were sown with rye, oat, and other crops. After two or three years the exhausted land would be dropped, new areas of forest would be burnt down. A lot of forests were destroyed by fires. As a result of the disappearing forests, the grassland zone advanced further northwards.There appeared drifting sand dunes, ravines.

The time has come when some people in Kharkiv region wholly realised the importance of protective afforestation. Thanks to them the Kharkiv area is rightfully regarded to be the cradle of grassland afforestation. The first attempt at artificial forest developing in South Russia was made by I. Y. Danilevsky - the well-known author and historian G. P. Danilevsky's grandfather.

In 1802, an ex-Cossack from Zaporozhje Antip Legkostup who served as a gamekeeper in Danilevsky's estate brought in several carts of pine cones over from the woods in Briansk region. Together with other peasants he planted cuttings of pussy-willow and red osier in the furrowed sandy rough ground and ravines near the Donets river and in between the furrows he sowed pine seeds. In ten years over two and a half thousand acres of land was covered with umbrageous pine forest. And the neighbours' initial derision had been to no purpose: their arable lands were no longer overwhelmed with sand, the pine forest filled up with birds' singing and wildlife of various kinds, and the enthusiastic arboriculturist himself was healed of asthma by the curative effect of the pine forest.

In 1808-1809, I. N. Karazin established the acclimatisation park of Osnova (which is known at present as the dendrology park of Krasnokutsk). In 1903 the owners of Sharovka estate were involved in afforestation in Bogodukhov region.

However, the efforts at reafforestation could not undo the damages inflicted on the barbarously destroyed forests. Invaluable parts of planted pine forests in forest steppe zone and forest area were destroyed during the booming development of capitalism, hundreds of thousands of acres of forests were cut down during the Civil war.

During World War II, Hitlerites sent high quality timber from Kharkiv region over to Germany, burned down forests, in order to smoke out guerrillas hiding there. The aggressors are responsible for 400 thousand acres of land where the forests were cut or burnt down. The scars of war - shell craters, trenches, traces of blindages and fire points, bits of rusty barbed wire in the tree trunks - are still visible today, one can see them just walking in the forest and collecting mushrooms.

It was only after the war that the people of Kharkiv region could start reforestation activities on a large scale. It was a great campaign directed at restoration of the natural environment in the native land, a period of persistent efforts to increase productivity and quality of the forests, to plant forests in washes, ravines, sand areas, to create forest protection structures.

The forests in Kharkiv region have become much younger as a whole, at present their average age is 50 years. The forest agencies keep planting forests - for those who will be living in XXI century. The aggregate territory of forest nurseries in Kharkiv region is 1500  acres. Kupyanskoye, Krasnogradskoye, Izyumskoye forest agencies annually cover 1200 - 2200  acres of land with newly planted forests, with a considerable germination rate.

At present, forests take up 785 thousand acres. In the forests and parks in Kharkiv region, there are over 1000 species and classes of trees and shrubs. The dominant forest classes are English oak and common pine. Spruce is widespread too. Among the attendant tree species often found lime trees, maple trees, ash trees. On the relatively damp soils grow birch, alder, willow, asp, poplar. There are quite a number of wild fruit trees - apple trees and pear trees.

Such shrubs as filbert, spindle-tree (envonymus), guelder rose, hawthorn, elder, blackthorn freely grow in the undergrowth and in the outer wood. The variety of the forests in Kharkiv region has been increasing owing to cultivating various exotic plants - eastern white pine, Amur corc, quince, red oak.

The power to develop forests is vested in eight forest agencies, two forest agencies for training and research, forest reclamation station, and two game preserves. The forests of the region are distributed among 62 forest agencies. The agencies receive a considerable amount of help in their work of restoring the forests from the scientists of the afforestation and amelioration research institute.

Under the supervision of the selection department of the institute in Gotvaldovsky (Zmiyevskoy) forest agency was established a selection and seed germination complex, which is supposed to supply all forest agencies with excellent seeds. Classes and types of oak and pine from almost every continent are gathered in Chemuzhovskoye and Yuzhnoye forest agencies. This is the parent matter for grand and hardy forests of the third millennium.