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Kherson, Ukraine

The nature reserve was established in 1898 by Friedrich-Jacob Eduardovych Falz-Fein (1863–1920) around the German colony of Askania-Nova, which only in 1890 became an organized settlement, Khutir.

In March 1919, Askania-Nova was confiscated from the Falz-Fein family by the Red Army as part of the state nationalization programme. The last owner refused to evacuate to Germany. She was Sofia-Louise Bohdanivna (Gottlieb) Knauff (1835–1919), the mother of Friedrich Falz-Fein. Her refusal resulted in her summary execution by two Red Army guardsmen who shot her for failing to surrender her estate in Khorly (today a port in Kherson Oblast). On April 1, 1919, Askania-Nova was declared a People's Sanctuary Park by a decree of the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR; while on February 8, 1921, it was reorganized into a State Steppe Reserve of the Ukrainian SSR. The main purposes of the reserve was to preserve and study the environment of the virgin steppe as well as possibly to acclimatize and study a larger number of animal and plant types. Askania-Nova became a scientific-steppe station, a zoo-technical station with breeding farms, a phyto-technical station, and included various other scientific institutions. Notably, the zoo and botanical garden were greatly expanded. Part of the reserve included portions of steppe reserve, an acclimatization zoo, and an arboretum. From 1932 to 1956, the reserve was transformed into the All-Union scientific-research institute for the hybridization and acclimatization of animals of M. Ivanov. It consisted of 12 departments (including the botanical garden, steppe reserve steppe, and zoo), nine laboratories, conducting experimental farming, and four breeding centres for agricultural animals. The institute became the centre of scientific-researching works in the field of breed creation and the major hub for breeding farms. During both World War I and World War II, the reserve was devastated.

In 1983, Askania-Nova was reorganized into a biosphere reserve and the following year it was designated as the Soviet member of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO. After the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1993, Ukraine confirmed the status of the biosphere reserve Askania-Nova.

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