Since the early twentieth century, nations around the world have set aside protected areas for tourism, recreation, scenery, wildlife, and habitat conservation. In Russia, biologists and geographers had been intrigued with the idea of establishing national parks before the Revolution, but instead persuaded the government successfully to establish nature reserves (zapovedniki) for scientific research during the USSR's first decades. However, as the state pushed scientists to make zapovedniki more useful during the 1930s, some of the system's staunchest defenders started supporting tourism in them.
In Into Russian Nature, Alan D. Roe offers the first history of the Russian national park movement. In the decades after World War II, the USSR experienced a tourism boom and faced a chronic shortage of tourism facilities. During these years, Soviet scientists took active part in Western-dominated international environmental protection organizations and enthusiastically promoted parks for the USSR as a means to expand recreational opportunities and reconcile environmental protection and economic development goals. In turn, they hoped they would bring international respect to Soviet nature protection efforts and help instill in Russian/Soviet citizens a love for the country's nature and a desire to protect it. By the end of the millennium, Russia had established thirty-five parks to protect iconic landscapes in places such as Lake Baikal. Meanwhile, national park opponents presented them as an unaffordable luxury during a time of economic struggle, especially after the USSR's collapse. Despite unprecedented collaboration with international organizations, Russian national parks received little governmental support as they became mired in land-use conflicts with local populations.
Exploring parks from European Russia to Siberia and the Far East, Into Russian Nature narrates efforts, often frustrated by the state, to protect Russia's vast and unique physical landscape.
Chapter 1: For Science or Tourism? Protected Territories Before World War II
Chapter 2: Taking the "Best" from the West? The Beginnings of the Soviet National Park Movement
Chapter 3: Transformative Visions during the Brezhnev Era
Chapter 4: Disappointments and the Persistence of Grandiose Visions
Chapter 5: The "Shield" of the Sacred Sea: National Parks around Lake Baikal
Chapter 6: Paddling Upstream: Samara Bend National Park and the Transformation of Citizen "Environmentalism" from Soviet to Post-Soviet Society
Chapter 7: Protecting the Pechoran Alps? The Unmet Promise of Iugyd Va National Park in the Circumpolar Urals
Chapter 8: The Vision and the Reality in the Taiga of Karelia and the Arkhangelsk Oblast: Oleg Cherviakov and Vodlozero National Park
Chapter 9: The Crisis of National Parks in the 1990s
Conclusion: Russia's Forgotten Parks and the Crisis of Environmental Protection in the Russian Federation
Alan D. Roe is a lecturer in history at West Virginia University.