The largest lake group in Belarus, including more than 50 lakes spanning 130 square kilometres, is located around Braslav. The lakes are connected by numerous, but mostly shallow, rivers and streams with a length of more than 300 km.
The most famous of the Braslav lakes are the Drivyaty, Tsno, Nespish, Nedrovo, Potsekh, Voyso, Boloyso, Strusto, Snudy, Lake Osveyskoye, Volos Severny and Volos Yuzhny. The outskirts of Braslav are one of the few regions of Belarus where there were once inhabited lake islands.
Since ancient times, the water has represented a mysterious and magical environment for Belarusians, where mighty creatures other than humans lived. It is not surprising that the lakes of Braslav are shrouded in famous legends and myths.
The lake on the lake
Surrounded by pines, Strusto is a tent paradise. Here you’ll find campsites to suit every taste and wallet, from ascetic student campsites to fully equipped campsites, that can be booked in advance from the tourism department in the national park.
Strusto lake and Shovo island
Strusto’s main attraction is Chaichin Island, the largest in the Braslav district. The name comes from the word “seagull”, as all this land, since the destruction of the last village, is now occupied by birds. The island has a unique nature, for example, the Karelian birch grows here by a miracle which has absolutely nothing to do in Belarus. Deep bays hide the cleanest beaches, isthmus, peninsulas and even an inner lake. It is not easy to find, being carefully hidden by lush thickets. But the tireless seeker is rewarded by an amazing spectacle: the forest ends and a perfectly round mirror of water opens in front of the eyes.
One legend of the Braslav region is associated with the unusual origin of Lake Strusto. The deep clean reservoir provides good fishing opportunities. Legend has it that once in a marriage of famous girl, named Strusto, she loved a man with an unusual name, Shovo. Probably this legend has Bulgarian roots, evidenced by the fact that the Slavs started a war and Shovo went to defend his homeland from enemy forces. He promised to Strusto that he would return alive and unharmed, and his beloved was waiting for him. The whole war was coming to its end, but Shovo was still gone and nobody knew what had happened to him. The girl cried inconsolably and cried to form the whole lake. In the end she realised that her fiancé was no longer alive, went out to the lakeshore, looked at the sky for the last time, and rushed into the water. There, where her body rested, and a small island appeared.
St. Teresa Bay
This bay of the holy crystal-clear water, hosts an abundance of fish and crustaceans besides its shores – there is everything you need for recreation. One of the bays of Lake Nedrovo is named after St. Teresa, although almost no local residents can explain why. There is a legend, according to which a beautiful girl named Teresa once lived on the lakeshore. She was known not only for her fairy tale beauty with her blue eyes, snow-white skin, and golden hair, but also for her kind character: she helped everybody in trouble, was wise and treated the locals with spells and herbs. For all this, she was called a saint. One day Teresa went to the lake to wash her laundry. The sun was very strong and very warm. Teresa wanted to take a swim. She fainted in the middle of the lake and went to the bottom like a stone. The locals said then that God takes the bright people early. Since then, this bay has been named after St. Teresa.
The Deepest Lakes:
South Voloso & North Voloso
Pagan Vladimir Svyatoslavovich (Krasna Solnishko) and his henchmen wishing to strengthen their position in society and to centralise authority, baptised Russia by fire and a sword. The Belarusian principalities of that time fell under the influence of Kiev, abandoned their traditional beliefs and accepted Christianity. Nevertheless, pagan traditions live in Belarus to this day. For example, in Minsk – the largest city of the country – the last pagan temple was destroyed by the Bolsheviks only in the twenties. Since Belarus is a lake country, pagan hydroniums are common here. Such as the South Volos and the North Volos. After a stone – the altar of a pagan deity – was discovered on the shore of one of the lakes, the theory emerged that the name of the reservoir came from the pagan god Veles, the owner of the dead kingdom, the patron of animal husbandry, ritual poetry and wealth.
Braslav itself contains some 300 lakes. The word Brasl itself is translated from Latvian as “ford”, so the local waters have never been famous for their depth. One of the fords even had a road to the Polotsk lands, between the lakes Drivyaty and Novyaty. The lakes of Braslav are the best visited on foot in spring and summer when the whole area becomes a botanical garden. It is advisable to take a guide for a walk to get the most out of the history and legends as well as being able to point out the healing herbs and plants that can be found amongst these marvelous lands and waters.
Text by Olena Andreieva
Fiction writer, author of course books for Russian and English learners, professional ESL teacher, OR
(Operation Respect) coach, psychologist
and motivational coach.