The Project

Contemporary environmental history of the Soviet Union and the successor states, 1970-2000. Ecological globalization and regional dynamics

Contemporary environmental history of the Soviet Union and the successor states, 1970- 2000. Ecological globalization and regional dynamics
How can we explain that in the Soviet Union hundreds of thousands of people took the streets to protest the destruction of nature and of their living conditions in the years 1987-1990? Where did this protest come from, how did it form, and why has it not become a serious political force in the fifteen states that appeared on the USSR’s ruins?

Ecologization and de-ecologization
EcoGlobReg is devoted to understanding how ecological concerns shaped society and politics in the late Soviet Union and the post-Soviet space. We analyse the sometimes tumultuous processes associated with the ecologization and de-ecologization of politics and society in the last three decades of the 20th century. By “ecologization” we mean the social dissemination and deepening political use of scientific knowledge on the state of the environment. We isolate three main vectors for spreading ecological preoccupations in society and political discourse: social activism and protest for the protection of landscapes and life conditions; environmental disasters understood as catalysts of discontent and revealers of failed relationships between society and nature; and sensitization and popularization (in the media and education) of nature seen as threatened by economic development.

The apparent de-ecologization of public discourse in the post-Soviet era, marked by green activists withdrawing from the political scene, will be examined to see how environmental practices have evolved and taken on new forms.

Transnationalization and regionalization
The project takes ecologization and de-ecologization to be essentially globalized processes. It shows how environmental issues acquired a global character at the turn of the 1960s-1970s and what role Soviet citizens played in this process. From there the project moves to asking whether the Soviet Union entered an “environmental turn” comparable to the one identified for capitalist countries.

But transnational and globalizing trends are only one aspect of ecologization. The project pays attention to the regionalization of power dynamics: strengthened national and regional identities fired ecological mobilization in the perestroika years; well before that point in Soviet history, they played a major role in shaping environmental protest. Given this context, the project will test Jane Dawson’s eco-nationalist argument, that green activism during perestroika essentially a substitute for nationalist demands of independence for the Soviet republics.