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Models Of Nature

Models Of Nature: Ecology, Conservation, and Cultural Revolution in Soviet Russia

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  • Book Info
    Models Of Nature
    Book Description:

    Models of Naturestudies the early and turbulent years of the Soviet conservation movement from the October Revolution to the mid-1930s-Lenin's rule to the rise of Stalin. This new edition includes an afterword by the author that reflects upon the study's impact and discusses advances in the field since the book was first published.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7215-0
    Subjects: History, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    How could a society that prided itself on its scientific underpinnings have enshrined Trofim Denisovich Lysenko as a virtual czar in the biological sciences? Why did a system that made a cult of rationality turn its back on environmental planning? What was the role of distinctly Russian and Soviet cultural and economic factors in shaping an equally distinctive conservation movement?

    Behind these questions lies the intricate and neglected story of how some segments of the Russian scientific community confronted the wrenching process of economic modernization and social change. One response central to our study was the desire to protect nature....

  2. ONE Monuments of Nature
    (pp. 7-18)

    The extinction of life forms has always been a part of natural processes. Vast changes of climate and habitat hastened countless species of prehistoric fauna to their doom. More recently, however, an increasing number of extinctions are attributable to human activity. The extension of settled agriculture and urban civilization have wrought such large-scale changes as desertification, the flooding of large areas, erosion, reclamation, the evaporation of lakes, and a general elimination of primordial areas.

    We now have come to realize that the amount of available natural resources is finite. We have also come to recognize as desirable the preservation of...

  3. TWO Conservation and Revolution
    (pp. 19-30)

    The abdication of Tsar Nicholas II opened the way for a new epoch in Russian history. A Provisional Government was appointed by the Provisional Committee of the State Duma, which, from its inception on 15 March 1917 until its fall on 7 November, would speak in the name of the peoples of Russia.

    Among the most enthusiastic celebrants of this sea change were Russia’s conservation activists. “Long live the new, free Russia!” proclaimed V. I. Taliev in an editorial of the first issue of theBulletin of the Khar’ kov Society of Naturalistsfor 1917. “From a nation of masked...

  4. THREE Conservation under the NEP
    (pp. 31-39)

    Between 1920 and 1922 the State Committee for the Protection of Monuments of Nature under Narkompros became the indisputable clearinghouse for conservation affairs, linking the far-flung provincial groups into an information network flowing into Moscow. When reports filtered in about the need to initiate or enhance protection of a site, the State Committee promptly made the appropriate representations, as it did to Narkomzem when that commissariat’s Vorskla Forest site was threatened with logging.

    When necessary, the State Committee took matters into its own hands, as when it mobilized the defense of the woods belonging to the Kosino Biological Station (a...

  5. FOUR The Limits to Growth
    (pp. 40-52)

    The years 1925 through 1929 held great hope for the young Soviet conservation movement. The recovery of the economy and the patching together of the rent social fabric made society more receptive to the message of conservation than at any time before. That very economic recovery, however, also represented an increased capacity to despoil nature and to wear down stocks of renewable resources. The condition of the most important biotic resources of the USSR—forests and game—became a matter of debate and concern for resource users and conservationists alike.

    When the State Planning Commission (Gosplan) and the USSR Council...

  6. FIVE The Goskomitet and the Zapovedniki
    (pp. 53-63)

    Almost one year after the founding of the All-Russian Society for Conservation, a new governmental agency for nature protection made its debut. On 5 October 1925 Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK), signed into law a new bill which, while basically updating the 1921 Lenin-era decree on protected territories, also contained some novel features. The most striking directed Glavnauka, Narkompros’s Main Administration handling conservation affairs, to organize under its auspices a wholly new agency to “unify and regulate the policies of the various commissariats and governmental agencies involving questions of conservation.”¹ This body was to...

  7. SIX Models of Nature: The Zapovedniki and Community Ecology
    (pp. 64-84)

    Ecological studies, especially of ecological communities, had been gaining ground in Russia from well before the beginning of the century.¹ Writing in 1924, V. V. Alekhin could justly claim that a central role in the development of the “brand new twentieth-century science [of] phytosociology” was played by Russians. In his view, this was “entirely understandable, since Russian nature, comparatively unaltered by humans, . . . calls straight out for the study of its communities.”²

    The community-oriented tenets of Linnaeus, whose “economy of nature” was given short shrift in early nineteenth-century Western science,³ found a vibrant echo among Russian agronomists and...

  8. SEVEN The Conservation Congress of 1929
    (pp. 85-100)

    In September 1929 a long-planned congress convened in Moscow to chart the future course for the conservation movement. Originally, it had been set by Glavnauka to meet in the spring and was projected to be not much more than a round table of the leading activists of the RSFSR. Word of the forthcoming meeting spread, however, generating such a grounds well of enthusiasm, particularly in the provinces, that the original plans were scrapped and a full-blown congress was scheduled for the fall.¹ It was a tumultuous time; the First Five-Year Plan, a comprehensive economic strategy to industrialize the Soviet Union,...

  9. Photographs and Illustrations
    (pp. 101-120)
  10. EIGHT The Cultural Revolution Comes to Biology
    (pp. 121-133)

    Although the conservationists strove during the 1929 congress to project an image of themselves as supporters of socialist construction, the congress had scarcely ended when events overtook their efforts to reconcile their positions with the new economic direction. Of particular concern to conservationists was the breakneck pace of the collectivization campaign. Stalin, Iakovlev,* and, later, the All-Union Central Executive Committee called upon Soviet agriculture to increase the grain harvest over the period of the Five-Year Plan by 35 percent.¹ Much of the official rationale for collectivization, , it seemed, was to meet this target.

    Writing in the preface to a...

  11. NINE Protective Coloration
    (pp. 134-148)

    Pressure on Soviet conservationists, and especially on the old “bourgeois” professors who made up such a large proportion of conservation’s cadre, continued to mount through 1930. After the Shakhty Trial of 1928 and that of the Promparty group two years later,* the goateed figure of the professor with his pince-nez and homburg was considered fair game for the most unrestrained vilification. While this situation eased somewhat after Stalin’s famous speech of February 1931 and particularly after his pronouncements in the summer of that year,¹ “bourgeois” professors continued to participate in academic life only at the sufferance of university, government, and...

  12. TEN Conservation and the Five-Year Plan
    (pp. 149-163)

    As the Five-Year Plan stormed into its third year, its “planned” aspect increasingly yielded to over-optimistic, impromptu upward revisions of plan targets. Resources were exploited with an intensity never before seen in Russia.

    Troubled as the conservationists had been about the state of Russia’s forests, a 25 February 1930 decree of the RSFSR Council of People’s Commissars (SNK) gave them even more cause for concern: all aspects of forest administration and exploitation were officially transferred from the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture (Narkomzem RSFSR) to the Supreme Council of the National Economy (VSNKh RSFSR).¹ This decree was soon followed by a...

  13. ELEVEN The Great Transformation of Nature
    (pp. 164-177)

    By a cruel coincidence theoretical ecology in the Soviet Union was making its greatest strides precisely at the time that the social and philosophical climate became increasingly unpropitious for its further development.¹ As early as the Third All-Russian Congress of Zoologists in 1928 scientists were aware of the importance of that frontier of biology, and even voted to organize a commission to standardize “biosociological nomenclature” to report back to the next congress.²

    Although the commission was never constituted, the matter was raised again at the Fourth Congress of Zoologists (now All-Union) meeting in Kiev in May 1930. Recognizing V. V....

  14. TWELVE Engineers of Nature
    (pp. 178-193)

    Although the new schemes to alter the face of Russian nature filled Soviet conservationists with considerable apprehension, most upsetting were the increasing suggestions that thezapovednikithemselves be co-opted into this campaign. Specifically, spokespersons from the People’s Commissariats of Agriculture and Foreign Trade (Narkomzem and Narkomvneshtorg), as well as would-be arbiters of biology, intensified their pressure on the People’s Commissariat of Education (Narkompros) and itszapovednikidecisively to abandon their traditional emphasis on holistic ecological studies under inviolable conditions. Instead, Narkompros’s critics sought to refashion thezapovednikiinto staging areas not merely for the acclimatization of exotic flora and fauna,...

  15. THIRTEEN The First All-Union Conservation Congress
    (pp. 194-210)

    The First All-Union Conservation Congress, which was really the second great congress for the movement, convened in the depths of the Moscow winter. On 25 January 1933 its 190 voting and nonvoting delegates were called to order by V. T. Ter-Oganesov, who was now secretary of the USSR Central Executive Committee’s Committee on Academic Institutions and a leader of its Science Section.

    A brief comparison with the 1929 congress discloses the vast journey traversed by Soviet society injust four years. The presidium of the congress, numbering more than twenty, still had some familiar faces, including P. G. Smidovich, V. N....

  16. FOURTEEN Conservation without Ecology: Nature Protection in the Age of Lysenko
    (pp. 211-228)

    To the increasing apprehension of established naturalists, I. I. Prezent had carved himself a handsome niche indeed, beating the drum for what he saw as a creative, activist biology. According to his understanding of science and society, the development of science under capitalism was necessarily impeded by restricted research opportunities and by the cloistered autonomy of theory, untested by practice. During the Tsarist period, for example, such eminent researchers as plant physiologist K. A. Timiriazev were forced to conduct their experiments on crimped, inadequate plots. Particularly backward were the sciences that studied what Prezent referred to as “so-called wild nature”:...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 229-238)

    Ecological conservation’s moment in the Soviet sun was tragically brief. Changes in the cultural and political atmosphere, which favored that approach during the New Economic Policy, worked strongly against it by the late 1920s and early 1930s. By analyzing first the success and then the subsequent collapse of ecological conservation in the Soviet Union we are led to examine Soviet culture through an important new prism; crucial linkages of professional groups, institutions, agencies, and values come into view.

    When the Bolsheviks took power in late 1917 a modest conservation movement was already established in Russia. United by journals, societies, a...

  18. Afterword to the Paperback Edition
    (pp. 239-250)

    Every book has its life story, its secrets. Owing to the changed international circumstances of the past two decades, much of that story may now be told. Truth to tell, this book, whose perspectives were so deeply enriched by my first research trip to the Soviet Union in 1979–1980, almost failed to see the light of day in the form it now exists in. Then at Columbia University, I had been accepted by IREX (International Research and Exchanges Board) for a nine-month dissertation research fellowship in the Soviet Union, along with forty-nine other graduate students. As was the custom,...

  19. Appendix 1. Soviet Zapovedniki: Affiliation, Area, and Administrative Status, 1925–1933
    (pp. 251-254)
  20. Map of Soviet Zapovedniki circa 1933
    (pp. 255-255)
  21. Appendix 2. Zapovedniki of the USSR in 1933
    (pp. 256-260)
    (pp. 264-265)