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In the European part of the Russian boreal zone the dynamics of pristine forests (taiga) has been studied by several generations of researchers. Many studies have examined the patterns and role of fire, windthrow, insect outbreaks and other natural disturbances. An attempt is made to provide a brief review of these studies. The reviewed studies show that lightning strikes were the only natural source of fires in taiga. The frequency of fires varied in various types of pristine landscape from 1–2 per century to 1–2 per millennium. Fires maintained a dynamic equilibrium between compositionally different forest communities or their certain ratio and areal occurrence. Fires favored the regeneration and recovery of pine forests and prevented the replacement of shade-intolerant species (e.g. pine) by shade-tolerant ones (e.g. spruce). Taiga forests generally displayed a mosaic pattern that varied from pioneer plant communities, growing in open burns, to climax communities that were extremely seldom affected by fire. The reviewed studies suggest that fires were a powerful ecological factor in pristine taiga, being largely responsible for the structure and spontaneous dynamics of forest communities. Windfalls were also common in pristine taiga landscapes and they regulated spontaneous dynamics in a gap-mosaic regime, which is most characteristic of spruce forests.