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A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachëv

By: Douglas R Weiner(Author)

556 pages, b/w photos

University of California Press

Paperback | Jul 2002 | #121184 | ISBN: 0520232135
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £29.99 $39/€34 approx
Hardback | Dec 1999 | #95039 | ISBN: 0520213971
Out of Print Details

About this book

While researching Russia's historical efforts to protect nature, Douglas Weiner unearthed unexpected findings: a trail of documents that raised fundamental questions about the Soviet political system. These surprising documents attested to the unlikely survival of a critical-minded, scientist-led movement through the Stalin years and beyond. It appeared that, within scientific societies, alternative visions of land use, resrouce exploitation, habitat protection, and development were sustained and even publicly advocated. In sharp contrast to known Soviet practices, these scientific societies prided themselves on their traditions of free elections, foreign contacts, and a pre-revolutionary heritage.

Weiner portrays nature protection activists not as do-or-die resisters to the system, nor as inoffensive do-gooders. Rather, they took advantage of an unpoliced realm of speech and activity and of the patronage by middle-level Soviet officials to struggle for a softer path to development. In the process, they defended independent social and professional identities in the face of a system that sought to impose official models of behavior, ethics, and identity for all. Written in a lively style, this absorbing story tells for the first time how organized participation in nature protection provided an arena for affirming and perpetuating self-generated social identities in the USSR and preserving a counterculture whose legacy survives today.

"The finest, most provocative, most scholarly, and most important study on Russia I have read in a long time. But it is much more significant than just a contribution to Russian studies; it is a major addition to the burgeoning field of environmental studies worldwide, one that adds whole new dimensions to our understanding of ecology and environmentalism."
– Loren Graham, author of Science and the Soviet Social Order

"Weiner's divination and analysis of the archival materials of not only academic institutions and conservation organizations but also of the Communist Party and governments of Russia and the Soviet Union is extensive. His material brings to light activists affirming divergent opinions and fighting for personal and professional interests within the Soviet system, even during the Stalin era."
– D.J. Peterson, Environmental History

"A provocative study."
– Paul R. Josephson, American Historical Review



1. Environmental Activism and Social Identity
2. Archipelago of Freedom
3. The Road to "Liquidation": Conservation in the Postwar Years
4. Zapovedniki in Peril, 1948-1950
5. Liquidation: The Second Phase, 1950
6. The Deluge, 1951
7. In the Throes of Crisis: VOOP in Stalin's Last Years
8. Death and Purgatory
9. VOOP after Stalin: Survival and Decay
10. Resurrection
11. A Time to Build
12. A Time to Meet
13. More Trouble in Paradise: Crises of Zapovedniki in teh Krushchev Era
14. Student Movements: Catalysts for New Activism
15. Three Men in a Boat: VOOP in the early 1960s
16. Storm over Baikal
17. Science Doesn’t Stand Still
18. Environmental Struggles in the Era of Stagnation
19. Enviromental Activism under Gorbachev

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Douglas R. Weiner is Associate Professor of History at the University of Arizona. He is the author of Models of Nature: Ecology, Conservation and Cultural Revolution in Soviet Russia (1988).

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