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date: 20 April 2018

The Environmental History of Russia

Summary and Keywords

Russian environmental history is a new field of inquiry, with the first archivally based monographs appearing only in the last years of the 20th century. Despite the field’s youth, scholars studying the topic have developed two distinct and contrasting approaches to its central question: How should the relationship between Russian culture and the natural world be characterized? Implicit in this question are two others: Is the Russian attitude toward the non-human world more sensitive than that which prevails in the West; and if so, is the Russian environment healthier or more stable than that of the United States and Western Europe? In other words, does Russia, because of its traditional suspicion of individualism and consumerism, have something to teach the West? Or, on the contrary, has the Russian historical tendency toward authoritarianism and collectivism facilitated predatory policies that have degraded the environment? Because environmentalism as a political movement and environmental history as an academic subject both emerged during the Cold War, at a time when the Western social, political, and economic system vied with the Soviet approach for support around the world, the comparative (and competitive) aspect of Russian environmental history has always been an important factor, although sometimes an implicit one. Accordingly, the existing scholarly works about Russian environmental history generally fall into one of two camps: one very critical of the Russian environmental record and the seeming disregard of the Russian government for environmental damage, and a somewhat newer group of works that draw attention to the fundamentally different concerns that motivate Russian environmental policies. The first group emphasizes Russian environmental catastrophes such as the desiccated Aral Sea, the eroded Virgin Lands, and the public health epidemics related to the severely polluted air of Soviet industrial cities. The environmental crises that the first group cites are, most often, problems once prevalent in the West, but successfully ameliorated by the environmental legislation of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The second group, in contrast, highlights Russian environmental policies that do not have strict Western analogues, suggesting that a thorough comparison of the Russian and Western environmental records requires, first of all, a careful examination of what constitutes environmental responsibility.

Keywords: Soviet Union, Russia, environment, conservation, nature, pollution

Russia occupies an enormously important place in global environmental history, for at least two reasons. The first is precisely its physical enormity. As every schoolchild is taught, Russia occupies more of the globe than any other country, nearly 11% of the world’s landmass. It stretches 11 time zones and more than 9 thousand miles from Kaliningrad in the west to the Chukotka Peninsula in the east, and more than 4,500 kilometers from north to south. At the time of its greatest expansion, the Soviet Union was larger still, encompassing within its boundaries what became 15 independent countries, including the world’s 9th largest country (Kazakhstan) and the largest country entirely within Europe (Ukraine). Put another way, Russia is larger than the world’s smallest 143 countries combined, 10 times the size of Alaska, 27 times the size of France, or very nearly the size of South America. This geographical immensity brings with it immense diversity. Russian lands include a broad swathe of permanently frozen tundra in the far north, an enormous coniferous forest called the taiga south of the tundra, high mountain peaks in the far south, the rolling Ural Mountains in the center, plus vast semi-arid steppes, active volcanic zones, wetlands, mighty rivers, and forests of all descriptions. Indeed, the only bioregion absent in Russia is the tropical rain forest. As a result, Russia is a treasure trove of natural and biotic wealth, and thus holds great interest for environmental historians.

The second reason for Russia’s environmental significance is related to its cultural and economic distinctiveness, and the persistent way in which Russians have defined themselves in contrast with the West. Especially during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union aggressively promoted communism, but also more generally, Russia has pursued a distinct socioeconomic model—perhaps not as different as desired by Russian leaders, but different enough to set up valuable comparisons with the industrial West. This difference is noteworthy because environmentalism, and the environmental history that grows out of it, is at heart a critique of the modern West. Although environmentalist thinking maintains a reliance on scientific ways of knowing pioneered in the West, environmentalists critique Western modernity for its reductionism, materialism, and capitalist pursuit of limitless economic growth. It recommends, instead, holism, romantic equality among species, and growth models that do not urge infinite economic expansion or maximized consumption patterns. It would be wholly false to say that Russian culture has at any time been driven by explicitly environmentalist ethics, but it would not mislead to say that Russian political and social leaders, both before and after the Bolshevik Revolution, have harbored deep suspicions about individualism, capitalism, and consumerism, and instead have usually pursued a social model based upon collectivism, either sobornost’ (Russian Orthodox communitarianism) in the tsarist period or communist collectivism in the Soviet era. In other words, Russia has historically had much in common with the modern West, including industrialism and scientism, and yet is nevertheless not entirely Western, either by design or in reality. Hence, Russia offers an intriguing case whose environmental record can be compared to that of the industrialized Western metropole and the West’s colonial periphery, because it belongs to neither.1

Such a comparison reveals that Russian environmental history strongly parallels Western environmental history, and in many cases differs, only because Russian environmental problems exceed their Western counterparts in severity, the result of headlong Russian efforts to catch up militarily and economically with the West. A proper accounting of the environmental costs of rapid Russian modernization, especially during the Soviet period, therefore occupies the central position in any analysis of Russian environmental history. At the same time, the differences between Western capitalist and Russian noncapitalist economic development have created Russian environmental conditions and attitudes that differ in significant ways, but in ways that Western observers have sometimes overlooked because of their unfamiliarity. A full picture of Russian environmental history includes both aspects.

The Russian Geographical Setting

Russian environmental history is shaped by the broad longitudinal geographical belts that cut across the Eurasian landmass. The northernmost belt, extending for 7 thousand kilometers and comprising about 11% of Russian territory, is the tundra. The tundra is a strategically important but ecologically fragile zone, rich in natural resources such as oil, natural gas, and valuable minerals, but easily disturbed because of its permafrost and low biological growth rates.2 This area supported no settled human habitation (as opposed to migrant bands of hunters and fishers) until the 20th century, but in the early 21st century is home to more than a million inhabitants, including those living in medium-sized, industrialized cities such as Murmansk (population 307,257) and Norilsk (population 175,365). To the south of the tundra is the taiga, an enormous coniferous boreal forest embracing nearly all of Siberia and most of the Russian Far East. Although in the popular imagination Siberia is a barren and inhospitable wasteland, in fact the taiga is partly arable, enormously rich in natural resources and wildlife, and home to several cities with a million or more inhabitants, including Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, and Krasnoyarsk. To the south and southwest of the taiga is a belt of mixed deciduous forest that served as the cradle of Russian culture, with the cities of Moscow, Kiev, St. Petersburg, and Novgorod inside its boundaries. The southernmost belt located largely within the boundaries of modern-day Russia, the steppe, lies to the south of the deciduous forest and is characterized by sweeping plains of almost entirely treeless grasslands. In the extreme southwest of Russia is a range of high mountains, the Caucasus, with peaks reaching higher than 5,500 meters, beyond which lie lands where Russian and Soviet political power reached but Russian culture never predominated. Crisscrossing these belts are a number of major rivers running north–south, including (from west to east) the Dniepr, Don, the Volga, the Ob-Irtysh, the Yenisei, and the Lena.

The east–west orientation of these belts holds immense importance for Russian environmental history, because Russian political expansion and Russian cultural development followed the contours of these natural features. The founders of the first Russian state, Kievan Rus’, were Viking traders who sailed the Dniepr and the Don from north to south, from their Scandinavian homeland to the markets of the Near East. After the formation of Kievan Rus’ in 862, the boundaries of Kiev and its successor states remained within the confines of the mixed forest zone until the collapse of the Mongol khanates, who until the 14th century dominated the steppe with their advanced cavalry tactics. Once the Mongols no longer presented an obstacle to expansion, the Muscovite princes expanded eastward, directly across the taiga, in pursuit of furs. Thus was formed Russia’s familiar east–west shape. The steppe, better suited to transhumance, remained unsettled by Russians until the very late 18th century, when the adoption of European technology and statecraft allowed Russian agriculturalists and their military allies to gain the upper hand in the southern grasslands. However, by that late date, the forest had already shaped the Russian psyche. So important was the forest in Russian cultural development that the great Russian historian Vasilii Kliuchevskii argued that it formed Russian consciousness:

Life in isolated villages did not teach [the Russian] to work in large groups; he fought with nature by himself, in the depths of the forest, with an axe in his hand. This is why the Great Russian works better alone, and why it is dangerous to hem him in, why he is eternally unsociable, introspective and lost in his own mind.3

Beyond this, Kliuchevskii argued that the struggle between the forest and the steppe defined the Russian empire, and that Russia only accomplished imperial greatness when the hostile steppe to the south of the Russian homeland had been subdued.4 The many subsequent attempts to afforest the steppe represent a manifestation of this historical memory.5

Russia’s geography also exerted a strong influence upon its political and cultural development for another reason. Because Russia’s geography and climate do not favor agriculture as strongly as the environments of Western Europe, China, or North America, chronic agricultural shortages encouraged political centralization, and thus indirectly the institution of serfdom. Generally speaking, the two northern belts, the tundra and taiga, are plentifully watered but have thin soil and receive less sunshine than is optimal for good harvests, while the southern tier, the steppe, has fertile soil and is sunny but the rainfall is unpredictable. Put more simply, the Russian south is warm and dry with rich soils, while the Russian north is damp and cold with poor soils. Between the taiga and steppe is a fertile area, the Central Black Earth Region, which usually gets sufficient sun and rain, and which has accordingly served as the Russian breadbasket for centuries, but because of its northern latitude yields harvests much smaller than those of France or Germany. According to a frequently encountered commonplace of Russian history, low agricultural productivity engendered an exploitative attitude toward the peasantry among the landlord class, who herded the peasants into communes to control their labor, and ultimately convinced the tsars to endorse serfdom.6 Adherents of this point of view contend that the serfs responded to their oppression by adopting a fatalistic attitude and retaining outmoded agricultural methods, which in turn provoked more coercive and restrictive policies, thereby perpetuating a vicious cycle that endured for centuries. Russian reformers examining rural life, beginning in the 19th century, discerned and condemned the resulting passive, self-limiting attitude among the peasantry, characterized by an exaggerated aversion to risk and experimentation, and also lamented the inefficient but reliable practices preferred by the Russian commune.7 Thus an intractable struggle emerged between liberal reformers on the one hand and a conservative alliance of risk-averse peasants and recalcitrant nobility on the other, setting the stage for the explosive revolutionary movements of the late tsarist era—ultimately traceable, perhaps, to Russian soil and climate conditions.8

One additional cultural consequence of Russian geography deserves mention: the negative impact of Russian enormity upon the Russian psyche and Russian environmental values. The boundless taiga, it has been contended, both required and rewarded extensive land use among the early Slavs, with slash-and-burn methods of forest removal fertilizing the soil for a few seasons of crops before yields declined and farmers felt compelled to move on. This attitude persisted so long as Russian imperial expansion continued and vast spaces facilitated expansive and profligate use of land, rather than careful and intensive use. A modern example of this behavioral pattern can be found in the Soviet period, when Nikita Khrushchev sought to remedy chronic agricultural shortages with his “Virgin Lands Project,” a plan to plow under 40 million hectares of semi-arid steppe in the Russian south. After initial success, the Virgin Lands project resulted in ecological catastrophe; millions of hectares of topsoil were lost when the fierce steppe wind bore down upon the denuded earth.9 With these events in mind, many authors have advanced a very persuasive theory tying unconscientious Russian land use patterns derived from difficult natural conditions to an abusive environmental ethic informed by a sense of poverty, a perception of abundant but underutilized natural resources, and a desire to keep pace with other countries.10 However, other Russian land use patterns, especially urban planning, are rather too complex to support this interpretation fully.11 Furthermore, the emergence of a distinctly Russian environmental ethic among scientists and writers in the 19th century prevents overly broad generalizations about an essentialized “Russian” attitude. Instead, Russian environmental thought and practice are varied phenomena whose many significant shortcomings have been widely discussed, sometimes for political reasons, but whose virtues, especially their anti-consumerist aspects, have been disregarded.

Russian Environmental History as a Narrative of Destruction

The first indications that the Russian environment suffered from serious problems emerged in the 1970s. Until that time, the Soviets frequently claimed that state control of the economy precluded ecological damage.12 Perhaps the most succinct condemnation of Russia’s seriously degraded environmental conditions appeared in 1978 when Boris Komarov (true name: Ze’ev Wolfson) published The Destruction of Nature in the Soviet Union.13 Wolfson, a graduate of Moscow State University’s Department of Geography and an employee of the Soviet Department of Nature Preserves, declared in the book that he intended to “discuss only one side of the matter, the ravaging of nature,” a side that by the late 1970s had a wealth of material to support it but nevertheless not been yet been discussed.14 Wolfson’s book followed by a few years Marshall Goldman’s The Spoils of Progress, which cited Soviet news reports to paint a picture very similar to Wolfson’s insider view.15 Both Wolfson and Goldman described a wide array of frightening ecological problems, each one serious enough to deserve its own detailed treatment. A central focus in both books was the widespread mismanagement of water resources across the Soviet Union.16 For instance, Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest fresh water lake and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with crystal clear water and home to hundreds of species that live nowhere else on earth, had been turned into a dump site for a pulp and paper mill.17 Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the resulting pollution was that it was totally unnecessary; the plant was placed at Lake Baikal because its pristine water was needed to manufacture a kind of fiber used in airplane tires that became obsolete before the factory produced its first delivery.18 Equally alarming was the destruction of the Aral Sea, an inland lake on the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Although the Aral Sea had once been an important fishery and generated one-sixth of the Soviet Union’s catch in the 1930s, its feeder rivers were diverted to irrigate cotton beginning in the late 1940s, and the sea began to evaporate. By the time that Wolfson wrote The Destruction of Nature in the Soviet Union, the salinity of the lake had risen from 10% to 12–14%; and by the time that Wolfson wrote his follow-up volume The Geography of Survival in 1994, to more than 25%. An estimated 800 species of endemic wildlife disappeared as the ecology of the lake changed. The trend only continued in the 21st century, as the rivers remain diverted and the lake has shrunk to 10% of its former size, the exposed soil saturated with toxic agricultural chemicals. In addition to these dramatic instances of systematic mismanagement, Goldman and Wolfson documented the more prosaic but widespread problem of water pollution near population centers throughout the Soviet Union, the result of suitable environmental laws that were not enforced because the Soviet state could not effectively police itself. Put another way, Goldman and Wolfson identified as the cause of Soviet environmental problems a fundamental conflict of interest that derived from the state’s duty to enforce environmental laws and also to expand economic growth. They therefore laid the foundation for the first Western diagnosis of Russian environmental conditions: that Russian ecology had been disturbed significantly as a result of structural political faults in the Soviet system.19

Over the next 15 years, during which time the Soviet Union collapsed and previously inaccessible documents became available, a number of monographs appeared that explored many of the same topics examined by Wolfson and Goldman, but reached even more dire conclusions about pollution in Russia as well as its deeper causes. Books such as Murray Feshbach and Alfred Friendly’s Ecocide in the USSR, Murray Feshbach’s Ecological Disaster?, and D. J. Peterson’s Troubled Lands tended to go beyond the contention that the Soviet government was unable to enforce its own environmental laws, and argued instead that Soviet-style communism contained within it an ideological imperative to conquer the world militarily, including the natural world.20 Drawing upon newly declassified documents and tapping the wave of anti-Soviet sentiment in Russia at the time, these books highlighted the frighteningly toxic environment that Soviet militarism and industrialism had produced, and the enormous impact that pollution, especially the 200 million tons of air pollution produced per year in the 1980s, had on the well-being of the average Soviet citizen. For instance, bronchial asthma among children, to choose but one representative statistic reported by Feshbach and Friendly, rose sevenfold in the relatively rich and privileged city of Moscow from 1949 to 1981.21 Infant mortality rates, after a steady decline during the first decades of Soviet power, began to climb steeply in the 1950s and 1960s, even among the elite; and birth defects in industrialized Soviet cities occurred 50 to 70% more frequently than in nonindustrialized areas.

Books that saw intentionality in Russian environmental problems also used the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to advance the argument that the Soviets had not only produced a uniquely degraded environment, but had no remorse about doing so because of an intentional drive to destroy nature. On April 26, 1986, Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, sending four hundred times more radioactive material into the atmosphere than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. However, the Soviets did not sound the alarm until radioactivity was detected in Scandinavia, during which time they tried to contain the damage without ordering a general evacuation. Soon, the scale of the catastrophe became clear. The surrounding area was rendered uninhabitable, as it is to this day, and a public health crisis (whose full scope has not yet been determined) developed. Birth defects in nearby Belarus, for example, increased by 40% over the next six years, making the Chernobyl accident the leading cause of infant mortality in that country in the 1990s.22 For Feshbach and Friendly, Chernobyl fits into a pattern with other nuclear accidents of the Soviet era, including the even-more effectively concealed Mayak accident of 1957, wherein the Soviets acted not only negligently, but with a blatant disregard for living things in general.23 (On the other hand, Kate Brown’s recent book Plutopia compares Soviet and American nuclear development and finds many commonalities, suggesting that nuclear contamination is connected to technological choices more than social choices.24) As such, nuclear accidents and befouled urban landscapes together serve as evidence that the Soviets intentionally committed environmental crimes in the pursuit of a desire to conquer nature—hence the use of the word “ecocide.”25 If Goldman and Wolfson blamed a political conflict of interest for Soviet environmental problems, then the next wave of authors pointed to ideological causes: Marxism and Soviet communism, at a fundamental level, were inherently aggressive, militaristic, and hostile to other people and nature alike.26

The accusation that Russian environmental policy did specifically target nature as an enemy combatant received corroboration in 2008, when a Russian marine biologist named Alfred Berzin produced an article documenting the senseless slaughter of whales carried out by the Soviets at the height of the Cold War.27 Although the Soviet Union joined the International Whaling Commission in 1946 and agreed to cooperate with its conservation measures, Berzin showed that Soviet whalers intentionally falsified their records so as to harvest greater numbers of whales, leading not only to overharvesting, but also to incorrect estimates of whale populations in the Pacific that facilitated unsustainable harvests by other countries.28 Worse still, the Soviet economy had very little use for the whale meat or oil, and most went to waste.29 As Kurk Dorsey observes in Whales and Nations: Environmental Diplomacy on the High Seas, treaties that institute conservation measures function only with an effective enforcement mechanism; if one party aims to intentionally deceive the others for illogical reasons, it is unlikely that anyone will detect the subterfuge, much less take effective action against the offending party.30 In the instance of Soviet whaling, any motivation other than the Feshbach and Friendly’s ecocide is difficult to discern.

Russia’s military and economic resurgence under Vladimir Putin is perhaps responsible for the emergence of a new explanation of Russian and Soviet environmental failures: that Russian culture itself contains an anti-environmental component. Recent environmental histories of Russia describe a continuity between Soviet and post-Soviet environmental policies, implying that Russian attitudes toward nature and development patterns, and not communist ideology or Soviet politics, are the operative factors for environmental degradation in Russia. This approach is most clearly discernable in the environmental histories written by Paul Josephson, including The Conquest of the Russian Arctic and a volume edited by Josephson and a group of Russian scientists, An Environmental History of Russia.31 In The Conquest of the Russian Arctic, Josephson sees in the Russian north many of the phenomena observed by Goldman and Wolfson, as well as Feshbach and Friendly, and detects a familiar and callous disregard for nature in the relentless Soviet effort to exploit the resources of the Arctic. However, he continues his narrative beyond the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and traces many continuities. For instance, when considering Russian plans to expand oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, he worries that “in the Russian system … it is difficult to imagine circumstance where environmental issues will trump break-neck resource development.”32 Likewise, in An Environmental History of Russia, Josephson notes that post-Soviet industry is scarcely cleaner than Soviet industry; the nickel smelters in just one Russian city, Nikel, for instance, by itself “emits five to six times the entire annual Norwegian output of sulfur dioxide.”33 Air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, and inadequate wildlife protection are mentioned in turn as continuing problems. Accordingly, if Russian environmental conditions remain grim in comparison with other industrialized countries after the fall of the Soviet Union, but neither the Soviet political system nor Soviet ideology are to blame, then by default, a deeper influence must be at work. Is this careless and exploitative attitude toward the natural world simply a characteristic of Russian culture—the logical response of a country forever a few steps behind its neighbors, always struggling to catch up, and willing to cut corners to do so?

Russian Environmental History as a Narrative of Difference

Parallel with the very critical line of inquiry contained in the narrative of destruction, a different approach to Russian environmental history has emerged over the last 25 years, one that highlights a distinctively Russian version of environmentalism built upon values that differ from Western forms in significant ways. The first author to provide such an analysis was Douglas Weiner, in his books Models of Nature and A Little Corner of Freedom.34 In the first of these books, Weiner traces the origins and development of the zapovedniki, nature preserves proposed and founded before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and then greatly expanded in the decade thereafter. Zapovedniki, unlike wilderness areas or wildlife preserves in the West, were inspired by holistic Russian ideas about ecology, which in the early years of the 20th century were among the most advanced in the world. Accordingly, zapovedniki were designed to test those theories, and hence were organized not for aesthetic or romantic purposes, but for purely a scientific rationale: to study landscapes as ecological wholes, on territories set off-limits to human activity—to study nature for its own sake. In the mid-1920s, ecologists succeeded in convincing the Soviet Union’s Commissariat of Enlightenment that a thorough study of the nation’s ecological function could render important educational and economic benefits, but the system came under attack in the Stalin era because advocates of industrial expansion argued (correctly) that the zapovednik concept held within it an assumption that nature imposed hard limits on economic activity. In A Little Corner of Freedom, Weiner recounts the efforts of ecologists to find some expression for their ideas about the importance of ecological integrity, and blames their failure on an ideological incompatibility between environmentalism and heedless, rapacious Stalinism. Thus, Weiner simultaneously pointed the way toward a new understanding of Russian environmental thought while also endorsing the “ecocide” approach. It is worth noting, however, that the zapovednik system, although much more modest than its proponents had hoped, still grew throughout the Stalin period, from 7 in 1920 to 9 in 1929, to 15 in 1933, to 37 in 1937, to 91 in 1947, and to 128 in 1951.35 After a sharp reduction in the early 1950s, the system began to grow again starting in 1957; they survived despite Nikita Khrushchev’s personal dislike of them, and at the start of the 21st century there were 101, embracing about 1.4% of Russia’s total area. They constitute the world’s largest network of reserves established purely for scientific purposes. Russian zapovedniki do not aim to protect awe-inspiring vistas or encourage love for nature among the general public, and hence differ significantly from Western protected areas that their significance is easy to minimize or even disregard.

After Weiner pointed the way to a Russian environmental ethic that followed its own contours rather than those of the West, a number of authors followed his lead and described Russian environmentalist endeavors that lack exact Western analogues, some of which have deep roots in Russian cultural history. For example, the English scholars Jonathan Oldfield and Denis Shaw have recently provided a thorough evaluation of Russian geographical science from 1880 to the 1960s in a book entitled The Development of Russian Environmental Thought, and in it they claim that “the Russian geographical tradition draws attention to a range of themes which remain rather muted in the Anglo-North American tradition.”36 Specifically, Oldfield and Shaw limn the influence of Vasilii Dokuchaev, the founder of modern soil science, and the continuing focus on holistic natural systems, rather than ecological systems conceptualized as interconnected individual parts. According to Oldfield and Shaw (whose analysis of geography parallels Weiner’s reflections about Russian ecology), Dokuchaev’s resoundingly influential ideas about soil lent themselves to “holistic interpretations of the natural world whereby emphasis is placed on the cumulative and emergent character of linkages and connections between different natural phenomena rather than the functioning of individual elements in isolation.”37 For Oldfield and Shaw, Dokuchaev is not the originator of a holistic tendency in Russian culture, but rather a transmitter of deeper cultural currents into scientific forms. The connections they find between Russian geographic science and Russian holistic approaches to the world are so pervasive that they conclude that “there is a strong case to be made for arguing that holistic understandings of the physical environment form a key element of Russian geographical thought.”38 The Russian penchant for holism can, these authors warn, bleed over into reductionism, which can in turn facilitate a hubristic variety of Prometheanism. Russian holism thus becomes a double-edged sword, helping to justify careless schemes to transform nature (as will be described below) just as well as working toward a more all-encompassing vision of the non-human world.

Scholars adopting this newer approach to Russian environmental history have found evidence of this Russian predilection for holism in sometimes unexpected places. For instance, David Moon, in The Plough That Broke The Steppes, discusses the history of Russian agronomy and the implicit environmental ideas that motivated Russian agronomists, state officials, and farmers to act as they did.39 In the first part of Moon’s narrative, Russian settlers migrate to the southern steppes and interact with the landscape carelessly, disregarding ecological differences between the semi-arid steppe and the moist, cool lands they had left behind, applying the same agronomical measures to both, and damaging the steppe ecosystem significantly. When agriculturalists removed the vegetative cover to prepare the steppe for sowing crops, they removed the indigenous grasses that had long held the soil in place. The result was a crisis of erosion. In drier places, the prairie winds whipped the soil into dust storms; in wetter places, running water washed the soil away and formed deep gullies. In short, Moon describes how Russian farmers moved into a new biome in the 19th century, and thoughtlessly abused the land. But whereas earlier investigations of Russian agricultural history might have nodded toward geographical determinism and ended there, Moon goes on to show that Russian experts devised two responses to the perceived problem, one of which proved unavailing and the other more promising, but both centered on seeing the steppe as an integrated whole rather than a group of parts. For most of the second half of the 19th century, Russian agronomists pursued the option Moon discusses first; they sought to ameliorate the erosion crisis by increasing the forest cover of lands where settlers farmed. This effort represented the negative side of holism—scientific experts diagnosed a systemic problem, but sought a solution in transforming an unfamiliar landscape into a familiar one. At the very end of Moon’s analysis, however, Russian agronomists come to realize that they have conceptualized the steppe incorrectly, and must adapt their methods to the environment, rather than the environment to their methods. They begin to recommend practices better attuned to the steppe, and harvests stabilized, such that the eastern steppes “became a major grain-growing region over the twentieth century.”40 Jenny Smith, in her book Works in Progress, reaches somewhat similar conclusions when investigating Russian agriculture of the 20th century, arguing that Soviet agronomists “succeeded in the face of overwhelming odds,” an assessment that departs from the customarily negative assessments of Soviet agriculture.41

Scholars have also described environmental projects informed by holism in the 20th century, both before and after the Bolshevik Revolution. For instance, many Russian foresters began to suspect in the early decades of the 20th century that the dominant forestry practices of the day, largely imported from Germany, did not take the Russian environment into account and thus produced adverse ecological effects.42 This critique, first voiced by the forestry professor Georgii Morozov, centered on a perception of a landscape as an organic whole, rather than as a collection of parts that could be manipulated individually without harming the larger system.43 Morozov allowed that German clearcutting methods might have been suitable for other landscapes, but Russian forests had different emergent properties and required measures specially attuned to their requirements. Morozov’s ideas gained traction before the revolution, but after the chaos of the civil war subsided, the Bolsheviks returned to the clearcut as their preferred forestry technique, and from 1929 to 1931 persecuted those foresters who opposed clearcutting. Yet the Russian penchant for holism reasserted itself soon thereafter. Beginning in 1931, Russian foresters were able to persuade the Soviet government that clearcutting forests harmed the hydrology of the country, and were able to reintroduce Morozov’s procedures in a newly created forest preserve that sprawled along the river courses of central Russia. This enormous protected zone did not include the main forest exploitation regions in Siberia and the Russian far north, but it did encompass an area larger than any other forest preserve in the world, and it did so until after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Andy Bruno has likewise found signs of Russian ecological holism in the unlikely locale of Soviet industrial sites. Although Bruno acknowledges the ecological damage wrought by Russian industrial development in his book The Nature of Soviet Power, conceding that the Russian North’s “tainted chemistry of soil, air, and water killed off aquatic species and threatened human health.”44 However, Bruno asserts that the antagonistic relationship that wrecked such ecological havoc was balanced by an accommodating, holistic view that “drew on a variety of imperial, militaristic, modernist, and socialist worldviews.”45 Russian planners inspired by this point of view, which Bruno most often calls “assimilationist,” attempted to fashion an economic model that harmonized the human and natural worlds to the betterment of both. Perhaps the archetypal proponent of this approach was the geochemist Aleksandr Fersman, who foresaw a form of mining that could process 100% of raw materials without producing pollution, such that “polar nature would be improved through human activities.”46 Fersman, however, was not alone among Soviet ideologues who sincerely believed that economic development, properly designed and thoughtfully applied, could improve not only standards of living for humans, but also nature itself. Bruno argues that this approach was nearly ubiquitous among Soviet officials in the far north, and it was precisely the combination of Russian antagonism toward nature with a Russian aspiration for harmony with nature, operating in the context of Soviet rapid industrialization, which unleashed more damage than either belief could have alone.

Over the past few years, the study of Russian environmental history has gained adherents in Russia itself, creating the foundation for new approaches to the subject to emerge. This is not to say that Russian scholars only became interested in environmental matters recently; some of the foundational works about Russian environmental history were written by Russian observers, including the aforementioned The Destruction of Nature in the Soviet Union. However, many of these works accompanied the brief burst of Soviet environmentalism in the 1970s and 1980s—a movement faded and largely disappeared in the 1990s and early 21st century—and as such were anti-Soviet protests as much as historical inquiries into the causes of Russian environmental problems.47 As was apparently true for Wolfson’s work, the impetus behind the extremely insightful environmental analyses produced by Vladimir Boreiko, for instance, appears to be a frustration with the way that Soviet government disregarded the interests of minority groups in pursuit of economic growth.48 However, as the heavy-handed tactics of the Soviet Union recede into the past, a new generation of historians has emerged that approaches the topic in new ways. It should go without saying that the methodological and philosophical tendencies of a heterogeneous cohort cannot be easily or uniformly classified, but the new Russian work so far has been distinguished by a desire to look into deeper into the past to find complex explanations for Russian environmental abuses, as well as by an understandable desire to find positive stories to tell. Julia Lajus has formed an environmental history research center in St. Petersburg with an emphasis on the intersection of environmental history and the history of science, and she and her colleagues have published works looking at foreign influences on Russian environmental practices, including fishing and forestry techniques, thereby placing Russian environmental history in a transnational context.49 Following her lead have been other Russian scholars establishing research centers and new lines of inquiry. At Kazan State University’s Elabuga Institute, Andrei Vinogradov and Aidar Kalimullin have founded a Center for Environmental History and have produced studies of the chemical industry of Russia’s Autonomous Tatar Republic and the urban history of the Tatarstan, and have identified a specifically Russian interaction with the landscape based upon a false perception of inexhaustible resources. Galina Liubimova, from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has tied Russian environmental ethics to the Orthodox religious tradition, a move that few other Western scholars have made.50 More specifically, Liubimova argues that religious movements in 21st-century Siberia are drawing inspiration from old peasant practices and the belief that traditional Russian culture respected nature more than the new Russia created when Peter the Great moved the country toward Europe. As time goes by, Russian scholars producing the fine-grained investigations allowed by proximity to historical sources will very likely result in the emergence of new interpretations of Russian environmental history like Liubimova’s and the deeper causes behind the observed phenomena.


Russia’s environmental history provides an excellent contrast to those of other, more thoroughly researched countries, because Russia is simultaneously similar to the Western countries where environmental history originated—industrialized, modernized, militarized, and imperialistic—and yet significantly different because of its distinct historical and cultural trajectory. Western scholars have tended to apply Western standards when analyzing Russian environmental conditions and often found the results wanting. Scholars taking this approach, especially when drawing attention to public health conditions and wildlife management, have revealed serious ecological problems in Russia, and have attributed them to Soviet political choices, to communist ideology, or sometimes to Russian culture itself. However, one could argue that the application of Western environmentalist values to Russian conditions is, to some degree, an ethnocentric exercise, especially if other aspects of the relationship between humans and the natural world are left aside.51 The Russian tendency to create environmentalist structures that have no analogues in the West—forest preserves, industrial/residential complexes, or protected zones of ecological study—suggest that Russian environmentalism is not more or less effective than its Western cousin but instead different in important ways. As Russians develop their own version of environmental history, they may discover, as some Western scholars have, different assumptions about the natural world that produced the modern Russian environment.


(1.) Some environmental historians have conceptualized the recent era characterized by Western industrial expansion as the “Anglocene,” because the economic growth after the Industrial Revolution has followed the path established by Anglophone countries: first the United Kingdom in the 19th century and then by the United States in the 20th.

(2.) For in-depth discussions of the peculiarities of the Arctic, see McCannon, J. (1988), Red Arctic: Polar exploration and the myth of the North in the Soviet Union, 1932–1939 (New York: Oxford University Press); and McCannon, J. (2012), A History of the Arctic: Nature, exploration and exploitation (London: Reaktion Books). See also the works of P. Josephson, mentioned below.

(3.) Les i step’ v russkoi istorii po V. Kliuchevskomu, (1905), Lesnoi zhurnal 3 (March), 681.

(4.) V. O. Kliuchevskii, (1993), Russkaia istoriia: polnii kurs v trekh knigakh. 3 vols. (Moscow): 1, 19–20. See also McNeill, W. H. (1964), Europe’s steppe frontier (Chicago: University of Chicago Press); Wieczinski, J. L. (1976), The Russian frontier: The impact of the borderlands upon the course of early Russian history (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia); Shaw, D. J. B. (1983), Southern frontiers of Muscovy, 1550–1700. In J. H. Bater & R. A. French (Eds.), Studies in Russian historical geography (vol. 1, pp. 118–142) (London: Academic Press); Pallot, J., & Shaw, D. J. B. (1990), Landscape and settlement in Romanov Russia, 1613–1917 (Oxford: Clarendon); Shaw, D. J. B. Settlement and landholding on Russia’s southern frontier in the early seventeenth century. Slavonic and East European Review, LXIX (1991), 232–256; Hellie, R. (Ed.). The frontier in Russian history (Special Issue of Russian History), XIX(1992); Bassin, M. Turner, Solov’ev, and the ‘frontier hypothesis’: The nationalist significance of open spaces. Journal of Modern History, LXV (1993), 473–511; Gattrell, P. Ethnicity and empire in Russia’s borderland history. The Historical Journal, XXXVIII (1995), 715–727; Moon, D. (1997), Peasant migration and the settlement of Russia’s frontiers. The Historical Journal, 40(4) (December), 859–893.

(5.) For more information about the group that first settled the steppe on the behalf of Russian Empire, see O’Rourke, S. (2007), From region to nation: The Don Cossacks 1870–1920. In J. Burbank, M. Von Hagen, and A. V. Remnev (Eds.), Russian empire: Space, people, power, 1700–1930 (p. 218) (Bloomington: Indiana University Press); O’Rourke, S. (2000), Warriors and peasants: The Don Cossacks in late Imperial Russia (New York: St. Martin’s Press); Holquist, P. (1989), From estate to ethnos: The changing nature of Cossack identity in the twentieth century. In N. Schliefman (Ed.), Russia at a crossroads? Historical memory and political practice (pp. 89–123) (Portland, OR: Frank Cass); Barrett, T. (1999), At the edge of empire: The Terek Cossacks and the North Caucasus frontier, 1700–1860 (Boulder, CO: Westview); Boeck, B. J. (2009), Imperial boundaries: Cossack communities and empire-building in the age of Peter the Great (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press); Khodarkovsky, M. (2002), Russia’s steppe frontier: The making of a colonial empire, 1500–1800 (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press).

(6.) See Pipes, R. (1974), Russia under the old regime (New York: Scribner); and Robinson, G. T. (1949), Rural Russia under the old regime (New York: Macmillan).

(7.) See Mironov, B. (1985), The peasant commune after the reforms of the 1860s. Slavic Review, 44(3) (Autumn), 438–467; Kerans, D. (2001), Mind and labor on the farm in black-earth Russia, 1861–1914 (Budapest, Hungary: Central European Press).

(8.) For just one example of this trend, see Kotsonis, Y. (1999), Making peasants backward: Agricultural cooperatives and the agrarian question in Russia, 1861–1914 (New York: St. Martin’s).

(9.) See Khrushchev, N. (1954). O dal’neishem uvelichenii proizvodstva zerna v strane i ob osvoenii tselinnykh zemel’ (On the further increase in producion of grain in the country and about the development of the virgin lands), (Moscow: Gosizdatpolit); Jasny, N. (1965), Khrushchev’s crop policy (Glasgow, Scotland: G. Ouram); McCauley, M. (1976), Khrushchev and the development of Soviet agriculture: The virgin land programme 1953–1964 (London: Macmillan); Dronin, N., & Bellinger, E. (2005), Climate dependence and food problems in Russia, 1900–1990 (Budapest, Hungary: CEU Press).

(10.) For one such example, see Rosenholm, A., & Autio-Sarasmo, S. (Eds.). (4/2005), Understanding Russian nature: Representations, values, and concepts. Aleksanteri Papers 4/2005.

(11.) See DeHaan, H. (2013), Stalinist city planning: Professionals, performance, and power in 1930s Nizhnii Novgorod (Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press); and Bater, J. (1980), The soviet city: Ideal and reality (Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE).

(12.) The Soviets argued that the abolition of private property had made environmental degradation impossible, and often cited a story in which Lenin punished a state worker harshly for chopping down a tree in 1918 without authorization to suggest that environmentalist concerns formed the foundation of the Soviet legal system. For an analysis of this episode, see Zile, Z. L. (1971), Lenin’s contribution to law: The case of protection and preservation of the natural environment. In B. Eissentstat (Ed.), Lenin and Leninism (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books). Among the first Soviet works that linked Lenin to environmentalism include Slakon, V. N. (1957), Okraniaite prirodu (Let’s protect nature) (Irkutsk: Irkutsk knizhnoe izdatelstvo); and Shaposhnikov, L. K., & and Borisov, V. A. Pervye meropriiatiia sovetskogo gosudarstva po okhrane prirody (The first measures of the Soviet government for the protection of nature), Okhrana prirody i zapovednoe delo v SSSR (The Protection of Nature and the Zapovednik Matter in the USSR), 2 (1958), 4–12. Many of these Soviet claims stretched the truth significantly. For a highly representative and seemingly reliable example of the misleading environmental claims that Soviet propagandists often made, see Izmerov, N. F. (1973), Control of air pollution in the USSR (Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization), in which it is piously claimed, after noting the air pollution problems in London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, and New York, that the USSR was ‘the first country in the world to lay down maximum permissible concentrations for atmospheric pollutants,’ “and that the approaches adopted in the USSR … to solve the air-pollution problem may also prove acceptable and useful governments.” Accessed November 22, 2013.

(13.) Komarov, B. (Ze’ev Wolfson). (1980), The destruction of nature in the Soviet Union (White Plains, NY: M. E. Sharpe); published first in Germany as Obostrenie ekologicheskogo krizisa v SSSR (Frankfurt: Possev Verlag, 1978),

(14.) Komarov, The destruction of nature in the Soviet Union, p. 19.

(15.) Goldman, M. (1972), The spoils of progress (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). Other works from this period that took an early look at Soviet environmental politics include Powell, D. E. (1971), The social costs of modernization: Ecological problems in the USSR. World Politics, 23(4) (July), 618–624; Bush, K. (1972), Environmental problems in the USSR. Problems of Communism, 21 (July–August), 21–31; Pryde, P. (1972), Conservation in the Soviet Union (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press); Volyges, I. (1974), Environmental deterioration in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (New York: Praeger); Singleton, F. (1976), Environmental misuse in the Soviet Union (New York: Praeger).

(16.) Klaus Gestwa’s book Die “Stalinschen Großbauten des Kommunismus” deserves mention here as a work that addresses Soviet megamaniacal hydrological projects, in that Gestwa analyzes five Soviet hydrological engineering and discerns in them a disregard for environmental consequences. However, although the final projects themselves tended to inflict environmental harm, Gestwa shows that the planning process allowed for environmental discussions to take place, thereby providing a venue for environmental thought. See Gestwa, L. (2010), Die“Stalinschen Großbauten des Kommunismus.”Sowjetische Technik- und Umweltgeschichte 1948–1967 (München: R. Oldenbourg).

(17.) See Weiner, D. (1999), A little corner of freedom (Berkeley: University of California Press).

(18.) The plant shut down in 2008 and again in 2013, but not before dumping millions of tons of toxic waste into the lake.

(19.) Later works adopted this approach as well, including Darst, R. (2001), Smokestack diplomacy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press); Filtzer, D. (2011), The hazards of urban life in late Stalinist Russia: Health, hygiene, and living standards, 1943–1953 (New York: Cambridge University Press); and the essays in a special issue of The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review edited by Mark Elie and Laurent Coumel in 2013, dedicated to late Soviet environmentalism.

(20.) Feschbach, M., & Friendly, A. (1992), Ecocide in the USSR: Health and nature under siege (New York: Basic Books); Peterson, D. J. (1993), Troubled lands: The legacy of Soviet environmental destruction (Boulder, CO: Westview); Feshbach, M. (1995), Ecological disaster: Cleaning up the hidden legacy of the Soviet regime (New York: The Twentieth Century Fund Press). Other books of this era, including Ziegler, C. (1987), Environmental policy in the USSR (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press); and Sätre Åhlander, A.-M. (1994), Environmental problems in the shortage economy: The legacy of Soviet environmental policy (Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar). This book examined many of the same topics and arrived at many of the same conclusions, although without a polemical tone.

(21.) Feshbach & Friendly, Ecocide in the USSR, p. 184.

(22.) Marples, D. R. (1996), Belarus: From Soviet rule to nuclear catastrophe (Basingstoke, U.K.: Macmillan Press).

(23.) The Mayak accident took place in the town of Ozyorsk in the southern Ural Mountains, a closed city whose name was unknown in the West until the fall of the Soviet Union. As a result, the accident is also known as the Kyshtym accident, after the nearest city whose name was known outside the Soviet Union. The explosion there, the result of an overheated tank of radioactive waste, was so severe that radiation levels are still 50 times higher than normal. The Mayak facility is often called the most polluted place on Earth. The Mayak reactors have been shut down but not dismantled, and the facility disposes of nuclear waste for Bulgaria and Ukraine. For discussions of the Kyshtym incident, see Medvedev, Z. (1980), Nuclear disaster in the Urals (New York: Vintage Books); Josephson, P. (2000), Red atom (New York: W. H. Freeman); Soran, D., & Stillman, D. B. (1982), An analysis of the alleged Kyshtym disaster (Los Alamos, NM, Los Alamos National Laboratory); Larin, V. (2005), Russkie atomnye akuly: razmyshleniia s elementami sistemizatskii i analiza (Moscow: KMK); Edelstein, M. R., Tysiachniouk, M., & Smimova, L. V. (2007), Cultures of contamination: Legacies of pollution in Russia and the U.S. (Amsterdam: Elsevier); Kellerer, A. M. (2002), The Southern Urals radiation studies: A reappraisal of the current status. Radiation and Environmental Biophysics, 41(4), 307–316.

(24.) Brown, K. (2013), Plutopia: Nuclear families, atomic cities, and the great Soviet and American plutonium disasters (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

(25.) Other works fitting into this framework are Richter, B. S. (1997), Nature mastered by man: Ideology and water in the Soviet Union. Environment and History, 3(1) (February), 69–96; and Stevenson, S. (2012), Stalin’s legacy (Edinburgh: Birlinn). Like the works mentioned above, William Husband’s article ‘Correcting nature’s mistakes’: Transforming the environment and Soviet children’s literature, 1928–1941, implicitly argues that the Stalinist government approached the environment in a hostile way by contending that the works of children’s literature that portrayed nature in a sympathetic light managed to be published only due to a failure of censorship. See Husband, W. (2006), ‘Correcting nature’s mistakes’: Transforming the environment and Soviet children’s literature, 1928–1941. Environmental History, 11(2) (April), 300–318.

(26.) This question of whether Marxism itself is hostile to nature is examined by the political scientist Debardeleben, J. (1985), The environment and Marxism-Leninism: The Soviet and East German experience (Boulder, CO: Westview). Debardeleben argues that Marxist economic concepts such as the labor theory of value and productive and unproductive labor possess, by themselves, neither negative nor positive environmental meaning, but only gain an environmental valence when set into a specific political and historical context. In the particular instance of Soviet-style Marxism, Debardeleben suspects that adopting meaningful environmentalist priorities would have required a very thorough reordering of social values, and was therefore unlikely. Many Marxists contend that Marxism, although not the Soviet variant, could remedy capitalist environmental excess, including Gare, A. (1996), Soviet environmentalism: The path not taken. In Benton, T. (Ed.). The greening of Marxism (New York: The Guilford Press).

(27.) Berzin, A. A. (2008), The truth about Soviet whaling. Marine Fisheries Review, 70(2), 4–55.

(28.) Ivashchenko, Y. V., Clapham, P. J., & Brownell, R. L. (2007), Scientific reports of Soviet whaling expeditions in the North Pacific, 1977–1978. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-AFSC-175 (Washington, DC).

(29.) For more context about Russian whaling, see Jones, R. T. (2013), Running into whales: The history of the North Pacific from below the waves. American Historical Review, 118(2) (April), 349–377; and Jones, R. T. (2014), Cetus Soveticus: Exotic and collective cultures within Soviet whaling in the 1960s. In J. E. Ringstad (Ed.), Whaling and history IV (pp. 93–101) (Sandefjord: Kommander Chr. Christensen Hvalfangstmuseum).

(30.) Dorsey, K. (2013), Whales and nations: Environmental diplomacy on the high seas (Seattle: University of Washington Press).

(31.) Josephson, P. (2014), The conquest of the Russian Arctic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press); Josephson, P., Dronin, N., Mnatsakanian, R., Cherp, A., Efremenko, D., & Larin, V. (2013), An environmental history of Russia (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press).

(32.) Josephson, The conquest of the Russian Arctic, p. 380.

(33.) Josephson et al., An environmental history, p. 308.

(34.) Weiner, D. (1988), Models of Nature (Bloomington: Indiana University Press); and the aforementioned A little corner of freedom.

(35.) Pryde, Conservation in the Soviet Union, 51. See also Shtil’mark, F. R. (2003), History of the Russian Zapovedniks 1895–1995 (Edinburgh: Russian Nature Press).

(36.) Oldfield, J., & Shaw, D. (2016), The development of Russian environmental thought (New York: Routledge Press).

(37.) Oldfield & Shaw, The development of Russian environmental thought, p. 165. Italics in original.

(38.) Oldfield & Shaw, The development of Russian environmental thought, p. 165.

(39.) Moon, D. (2013), The plough that broke the steppes (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

(40.) Moon, The plough that broke the steppes, p. 285.

(41.) Smith, J. L. (2015), Works in progress: Plans and realities on Soviet farms, 1930–1963 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).

(42.) See Brain, S. (2011), Song of the forest (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press).

(43.) Morozov’s ideas gained inspiration from a larger Russian nationalist romantic movement in art, literature, and music, whose connection with environmental matters is discussed in Ely, C. (2002), This meager nature (DeKalb: Northern Illinois Press); and Bassin, M. (2003), The greening of utopia: Nature, social vision, and landscape art in Stalinist Russia. In J. Cracraft & D. Rowland (Eds.), Architectures of Russian identity: 1500 to present (pp. 150–171) (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press). The centrality of the forest in Russian national identity, perhaps a partial explanation for Soviet forest protection, is the focus of Costlow, J. (2013), Heart-pine Russia: Walking and writing in nineteenth century Russia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).

(44.) Bruno, A. (2016), The nature of Soviet power: An Arctic environmental history (New York: Cambridge University Press).

(45.) Bruno, The nature of Soviet power, p. 12.

(46.) Bruno, The nature of Soviet power, p. 75.

(47.) Other works reinforcing the impression that the environmentalist effloresence of the late Soviet period was not primarily concerned with ecological function, but served as a proxy for other forms of discontent, include Dawson, J. (1996), Eco-nationalism: Anti-nuclear activism and national identity in Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine (Durham, NC: Duke University Press); and Henry, L. (2010), Red to green (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).

(48.) For examples of Boreiko’s prolific output, see Boreiko, V. E. (1997), Istoriia okhrany prirody Ukrainy: X vek—1980. Izdanie vtoroe (Kiev, Russia: Kievskii ekologo-kul’turnyi tsentr); Boreiko, V. E. (1996), Zapiski prirodookhrannika (Kiev, Russia: Kievskii ekologo-kul’turnyi tsentr); and Boreiko, V. E. (1996), Ocherki o pionerakh okhrany prirody. (2 vols.) (Kiev, Russia: Kievskii ekologo-kul’turnyi tsentr: Tsentr okhrany dikoi prirody SoES).

(49.) See Aleksandrov, D., Brüggemeier, F.-J., & Lajus, J. (Eds.) (2008), Chelovek i priroda: ekologicheskoe istoriia (Man and nature: Ecological history) (St. Petersburg, Russia: Aleteiiia); Oldfield, J., Lajus, J., & and Shaw, D. J. B. (Eds.). (2015), Conceptualizing and utilizing the nature environment: Critical reflections from imperial and Soviet Russia (London: School of Slavonic and East European Studies); Lajus, J. (2014), Linking people through fish: Science and Barents Sea fish resources in the context of Russian-Scandinavian relations. In S. Sörlin (Ed.), Science, geopolitics and culture in the polar regions: Norden beyond Borders (Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate); Loskutova, M., & Fedotova, A. (2014), Stanovlenie prikladnykh biologichekikh issledovanii v Rossii: vzaimodeistviie nauki i praktiki v XIX—nachale XX vv (The founding of applied biological research in Russia: The interaction of scholarship and practice in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries) (St. Petersburg, Russia: Nestor-Istoriia).

(50.) See Liubimova, G. Ekologicheskoe aspekty religioznykh vozzrenii i obriadovykh praktik sel’skogo naseleniia Siberi (1920-e gg.–nachalo XXI v.) (The environmental aspects of religious beliefs and ritual practices of the rural population of Siberia [from the 1920s to the beginning of the 21st century]) The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review, 43(1), 98–138; Sibirskaia traditsiia pochitaniia sviatykh mest v kontekste narodnoi istoricheskoi pamiati (The Siberian folk tradition of veneration of sacred places in the context of popular historical memory) Studia Mythologica Slavica, 16 (2013), 27–45 Also see Brain, S. (2011), The Christian environmental ethic of the Russian pomor. Ecozona, 2(2), 60–82.

(51.) For a related critique of scholarship about Russian environmental history, see Oldfield, J. D. (2005), Russian nature: Exploring the environmental consequences of societal change (Burlington, U.K.: Ashgate).