January 28, 2018

3252 POLAND (Podlaskie) - The Augustów Canal (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

The Augustów Canal (Kanał Augustowski) is a cross-border canal built in the 19th century in the present-day Podlaskie Voivodeship of northeastern Poland and the Grodno Region of north-western Belarus (then the Augustów Voivodeship of the Kingdom of Poland). From the time it was first built, the canal was described by experts as a technological marvel, with numerous sluices contributing to its aesthetic appeal. The completed part of the canal remained an inland waterway of local significance until rendered obsolete by the regional railway network.

It was the first summit level canal in Central Europe to provide a direct link between the two major rivers, Vistula River through the Biebrza River - a tributary of the Narew River, and the Neman River through its tributary - the Czarna Hancza River, and it provided a link with the Black Sea to the south through the Oginski Canal, Daugava River, Berezina Canal and Dnieper River. It uses a post-glacial channel depression, forming the chain of Augustów lakes, and the river valleys of the Biebrza, the Netta, the Czarna Hancza and the Neman. The reasons behind the construction of the Augustów Canal were both political and economic.

In 1821 Prussia introduced repressively high customs duties for transit of Polish and Lithuanian goods through its territory, which practically blocked the access of Polish traders to the Baltic Sea through the Vistula River. In 1822 the Kingdom of Poland was granted commercial autonomy from Russian Empire's customs area. In 1823-1839 a waterway designed by General Ignacy Prądzyński, French General and engineer Jan Chrzciciel de Grandville Malletski and General Jan Paweł Lelewel was constructed, including buildings and hydraulic engineering structures, intended to bypass Prussian territory

This goal was relinquished due to the 1830-1831 November Uprising against Russia and revised trade agreements with Prussia. During the latter half of the 19th century the rail network started to replace the canal, which gradually began to decline. From 1852 on it floated only forest products and from mid-1860s the canal channel was scored. The WWI and the Polish-Soviet War caused some damage to the canal, but it was rebuilt by the Second Polish Republic during the early 1920s. Between the World Wars the canal became a tourist attraction for the first time.

WWII saw the destruction of a number of locks and weirs of the canal. The post-war redrawing of the eastern Polish border, see Curzon Line had a significant impact upon the canal. The Polish part of the canal has been restored, but the USSR performed no repairs on the portion of the canal within the Belorussian SSR. The Belorussian part of the canal since the partition has become a unique ecosystem. The area proposed for inscription onto the World Heritage List of UNESCO covers the whole length of the historical Canal.

About the stamps
The stamps are part of the series issued to mark The 200th Anniversary of the Janów Podlaski Stud, about which I wrote here.

Augustów Canal - Wikipedia
The Augustów Canal (Kanal Augustowski) - UNESCO official website

Sender: Krystyna Betiuk (direct swap)
Sent from Słupsk (Pomerania / Poland), on 10.01.2018  

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