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Making nature modern: economic transformation and the environment in the Soviet north

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Title: Making nature modern: economic transformation and the environment in the Soviet north
Author(s): Bruno, Andy R.
Director of Research: Steinberg, Mark D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Steinberg, Mark D.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Koenker, Diane P.; Randolph, John; Gille, Zsuzsa
Department / Program: History
Discipline: History
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Soviet Union Russia Environment Kola Peninsula Modernization
Abstract: How should we understand the economic relationship of the Soviet Union to the natural environment? This dissertation explores this broad question through a fine-grained study of the environmental history of one particular Russian region in the far north throughout the entire twentieth century. It emphasizes the commonalities embedded in different political economies that existed in Russia: the state capitalism of the late imperial era, Soviet communism, and post-Soviet neo-liberalism. It suggests that a unified, but deeply political, process of seeking to make the natural world modern belongs at the center of an account of Soviet environmental history. It also highlights the significant role of the physical environment itself in shaping the trajectories of Soviet economic development. The study focuses on the Arctic territory of the Kola Peninsula or the Murmansk region and considers five different economic branches that emerged there during the twentieth century. A discussion of efforts to use a railroad line to enliven a desolate periphery and of the difficult experiences of wartime construction elaborates some of the overarching methods and visions of modernization. An examination of phosphate mining and processing in the Khibiny Mountains stresses the place of the environment in the Stalinist system and the anthropocentric holism of many Soviet planners. The campaigns to transform reindeer herding into a productive socialist industry and to protect wild caribou reveal how diverse ways of knowing nature influenced the behavior of elite and marginal actors. An investigation into the development of the Kola nickel industry suggests that excessive pollution in the Soviet Union is best accounted for by specific historical contexts instead of by structural factors. Finally, a review of the energy economy of the Kola Peninsula points to the tremendous transformation of human relations with the environment during modernization, while also exposing abiding, though reconfigured, connections between nature and society.
Issue Date: 2011-08-25
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/26073
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Andy Richard Bruno
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-08-25
Date Deposited: 2011-08
 

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