Funded by a Leverhulme International Network grant for £123,000, for three years from July 2013, a network of specialists at British, American and Russian institutions is conducting multidisciplinary research into key aspects of the environmental history and natural resources of lands that have come under Russian rule over a long time period and in a global comparative perspective.
The network activities revolve around workshops and field trips in St Petersburg, the Solovetskii islands in the White Sea, the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine, and Lake Baikal in Siberia, culminating in a final conference in York.
By adding field work to conventional historical research we will enhance our understanding of the history of Russian scientific research, exploitation of natural resources, environmental disasters, and nature conservation.
Lead investigator: David Moon, Anniversary Professor, Dept of History, University of York.
Members of the network team after a preliminary meeting and workshop on the historic icebreaker Krasin (which was built on the river Tyne in 1916) in St Petersburg in March 2013.
York is a research-led university and member of the Russell group. Its ambitious Development Plan includes investment in ‘Anniversary Professors’. High on the agenda are interdisciplinary research, facilitated by such units as the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI), and internationalisation: producing research of worldwide significance and creating links with top institutions internationally.
The History Dept at York was ranked 2nd for the quality, significance and impact of its research in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, the most authoritative assessment of research quality in the UK. This confirms York’s reputation as one of the best history departments in the UK and the world. Ranked 8th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide subject league table for 2015, it is also one of the top departments in the world for the advanced study of History and related disciplines (QS world subject rankings 2014), combining groundbreaking research with degree programmes that offer incredible chronological breadth and geographical scope.
PI Moon has been ‘Anniversary Professor’ in History at York University since 1 October 2012. The History Department has a Research Cluster on ‘Science, technology, environment, medicine’ http://www.york.ac.uk/history/research/researchclusters/stem/. YESI can contribute scientific expertise. Specialists at York will participate fully in the Network’s activities and the final conference will take advantage of York University’s facilities. York University, where PI Moon will work closely with the Network Facilitator based in the HRC, will also serve as the organizational hub of the network.
Glasgow is an ancient Scottish university, founded in 1451, and is a leading international research centre. It is a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, and a founder member of Universitas 21, an international grouping dedicated to setting worldwide standards for higher education. It has a reputation for research that benefits industry, society, and the environment. It has a long history of leading scientific research. It is also one of the major international centres for research on Russia, Central and Eastern Europe and has one of the best libraries in the field in the UK.
Glasgow University has a centre of excellence for Central and East European Studies (CEES), which is the hub of the inter-university Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies (CRCEES). The University/CEES has extensive links in the region. Thus, Glasgow will provide expertise in Area Studies with specialists on environmental/geographical thought (CI Oldfield) and energy policy (Butler), who, together with their postgraduates, will play a full role in the network. Glasgow's extensive links in the region include a formal agreement with the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Ukraine, which will assist in organizing the Workshop/Field Trip to Chernobyl.
Established in 1789 as a Jesuit institution, Georgetown University is one of the world’s leading academic and research institutions dedicated to real-world applications of our research, scholarship, and service. Georgetown is internationally known for its School of Foreign Service, and attracts students from all over the world. Georgetown offers MA and Ph.D. programs through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Law Center, School of Medicine, and School of Continuing Studies. The university’s location in Washington, DC, provides unparalleled opportunities for research in libraries and archives, contacts with leading scientific centers and institutes, and top policy think tanks.
Georgetown University has a strong reputation in Russian history and Environmental studies. Feshbach’s pathbreaking work (1993) established Georgetown as a major presence in Russian environmental history. Georgetown’s Environment Initiative is bringing together researchers in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and policy studies. Thus, Georgetown will provide expertise in Russian history and culture, in particular its regions and environment (CI Evtuhov), Soviet history (David- Fox) and global environmental history (McNeill), who, together with their graduate students, will play a full role in the network. Georgetown’s Environment Initiative has awarded $7000 for a workshop in St. Petersburg before the network’s formal start.
The Ohio State University (OSU) is one of America’s largest and most comprehensive universities. It is a top-20 public university and a Tier-I research center in the USA. The History Department is in the top 10 of public universities according to US News and World Report. OSU is one of the leading locations in the USA for research and education in Russian Area Studies, with an excellent library. The Center for Slavic Studies at OSU has consistently received prestigious Title VI Area Studies Funding from the US Department of Education.
OSU has considerable expertise in Russian, Eurasian, and global environmental history. It is home to a US-government funded Center in Slavic Studies, research centers interested in environmental questions, and links with institutions near Lake Baikal. The history Department has a very strong presence in Russian, East European, and Eurasian history and in the history of Environment, Technology, and Science. Thus, OSU will provide expertise in areas central to the network. CI Breyfogle has extensive experience of research and field work in Eurasia and expertise in the environmental history of Lake Baikal and the global history of water. He will be fully involved; his colleagues and graduate students with relevant expertise will also take part. Breyfogle will assist in organizing the Baikal workshop/field trip.
The National Research University - Higher School of Economics (NRU-HSE), founded by the Russian government in 1992, is one of Russia’s major research universities. In October 2009, it received the status of National Research University. It has four branches: Moscow, St Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Perm. The HSE and its academic staff have a high international profile and partners around the world, including the London School of Economics, the Sorbonne in Paris, and Humboldt University in Germany. The academic range of the HSE extends from the social sciences andhumanities to business, management and software engineering.
The History Department of the St Petersburg campus of the NRU-HSE has considerable expertise in Russian, global, and transnational history. The main foci of its Centre for Historical Research (director CI Selin) include environmental and technological history, the comparative history of empires, the history of frontiers in Northern Europe, migration and transport. Thus, the NRU-HSE-St Petersburg can offer wideranging expertise crucial to the research of the network. CI Selin, and appropriate colleagues and graduate students, will be fully involved. NRU-HSE-St Petersburg will host the initial workshop and facilitate contacts in Russia to assist in organizing the field trips.
The European University at St Petersburg (EUSP) was founded in 1994 to advance training and research in economics, anthropology, history, political science, sociology, and history of the arts. Its mission is to satisfy societal needs in training specialists and developing their potential on the basis of achievements of Russian and international experience and cooperation. It has quickly established itself as a major centre for research in the former imperial capital and has forged contacts with universities and researchers around the world. Researchers also benefit from the rich library and archival resources and links with other research institutions in St Petersburg.
Professor David Moon has been Anniversary Professor in History at York University since 1 October 2012. His research in Russian and transnational environmental history has an international reputation. He has considerable experience of research and field work in Russia and Ukraine, and has extensive international contacts. He was awarded the 2007 publication prize by the European Society for Environmental History and German Historical Institute for an article on the environmental history of the steppe region of Russia.His latest book, The Plough that Broke the Steppes: Agriculture and Environment on Russia’s Grasslands, 1700-1914, is published by Oxford University Press.
David's essay on Solovki david-moon-solovki-essay (PDF , 74kb)
Victoria Beale brings both her environmental training and experience of environmental networks, events adminstration, logistics and communications to the team. She studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge and holds a Masters degree in Wildlife Management and Control from the University of Reading. She has experience of website design and development and was webeditor and member of the planning committee for the European Christian Environmental Network for several years. Victoria has lived and worked in various countries and brings experience of logistical organisation overseas.
Dr Butler is a Lecturer in the Department of Central and East European Studies at the University of Glasgow. He also lectures on and coordinates the University’s Global Security MSc programme. His PhD was entitled, "The European Union and Eastern Enlargement: Hungary and the Security Lens", which adopted a multi-lens approach to understanding EU enlargement and recognized the relevance of environmental security as a possible driver for integration. His recent work examines energy relations in the Central and East European Region and he has published on energy sector relations between corporations, the EU and its member states, and third parties, including Russia. Working with colleagues across Europe, he plays an active role in the Research Network, Assessing Accession - Central and Eastern Europe in the EU, which aims to undertake and enhance evaluative research on the 2004 and 2007 EU enlargements and how these enlargements have impacted the wider region, including the former Soviet Republics.
Professor Catherine Evtuhov has been teaching in the History Department at Georgetown since 1992. Her interests include the history of Russian thought in European context, material culture and local history, and the history of the Black Sea region and Russian-Ottoman relations. She has written on topics ranging broadly over the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. She has been Director of Graduate Studies in the History Department, and convenor (with Eric Lohr, American University) of the D.C. Russian History Workshop sponsored by the Georgetown Institute for Global History. She has been visiting professor at the Alexander Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Helsinki, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and Bogazici University in Istanbul. She teaches courses in Russian history, the history of ideas, and the Black Sea in history and politics.
Nicholas Breyfogle is Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University. He is currently completing the book: Baikal: the Great Lake and its People, supported by fellowships from NEH, ACLS, NCEEER, American Philosophical Society, Kennan Institute, Davis Center at Harvard University, Mershon Center, and Ohio State University. He is also working on the project Water: A Human History. He is the author of Heretics and Colonizers: Forging Russia’s Empire in the South Caucasus (Cornell University Press, 2005, pbk 2011); and is editor or co-editor of Peopling the Russian Periphery: Borderland Colonization in Eurasian History (Routledge, 2007, pbk and ebook 2009); Health, Disease, and Environment in Global History, Guest Co-Editor of Journal of World History (volume 24, issue 4 (December 2013)); Eurasian Environments: Nature and Ecology in Russian and Soviet History (forthcoming, University of Pittsburgh Press); and the online magazine Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective http://origins.osu.edu.
Environment–Water–History: Explorations in Ecological History from Ohio State historian Nicholas Breyfogle. A series of blog posts resulting from the Solovki trip. https://u.osu.edu/breyfogle.1/
Professor Adrian Selin is Director of The Center for Historical Research at the Higher School of Economics. He has considerable expertise in the history and historical geography of northwestern Russia in a wider comparative perspective dating back to medieval times. His experience includes research and field work in the region. In August 2012, he took part in the European Society for Environmental History Summer School, which was hosted jointly by the history department of the NRU-HSE-St Petersburg and the European University at St Petersburg. His reseach focuses on the medieval and early modern periods.
Professor Alexandra Bekasova is a Professor in the History department of the European University at St Petersburg. Her reseach interests include the sociocultural history of science and technology; environmental history; history of mobility and transportation; and the history of noble families in Russia in the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries.
Dr Julia Lajus is Associate Professor of Faculty of History and Senior Researcher at the Center for Historical Research at National Research University Higher School of Economics (St. Petersburg). She is also a Director of the Center for Environmental and Technological History at the European University at St Petersburg. Her main rearch interests are the environmental history of Russia, marine and Arctic environmental history, history of marine and polar science.
Read more about her on Julia Lajus's National Research University profile and Julia Lajus's European University profile.
Dr Jonathan Oldfield is a Reader in Russian Environmental Studies. His research interests include: Soviet/post-Soviet understandings of climate change; Russian geographical thought; History of geographical sciences (Russia); and Sustainable development and related concepts. He will contribute his considerable expertise and experience in the fields of Russian environmental and geographical thought, including the international reception of Russian ideas, on which he has built up a significant record of publication. In addition, his initial training as a geographer will complement the intellectual backgrounds of other members of the network, and assist in facilitating cross-disciplinary approaches to the network’s research foci.
Jonathan's essay on Solovki solovki-essay-oldfield (PDF , 320kb)
Prof Alexei Kraikovsky is Assistant Professor at the Department of History and Research Fellow at the Center for Environmental and Technological History at the European University at St Petersburg. His research interests include the Ecological history of Russia, history of fisheries, ecological history of the Arctic Region and the history and source studies of the Russian economy XVI-XVIII. He has been a researcher at the EUSP since 2000 and teaches a course on historical geography and another on Museum Studies. He is an experienced guest lecturer, having spoken at many Russian and foreign universities. He is also a qualified guide.
Professor Michael David-Fox is a historian of modern Russian and Soviet history. He has published widely on the political, cultural, and intellectual history of late imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. He has strong interests in transnational and comparative history and in the history of Russian-German relations, broadly conceived. David-Fox is now working on the history of the Nazi occupation of the USSR during World War II and the history of Stalinism and German occupational rule in one region, Smolensk. He is a founding and executive editor of the journal Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian Studies, based at Georgetown.
Michael's essay on Solovki solovki-essay-dmf (PDF , 300kb)
Prof Boris Gasparov is professor of Russian, co-chair and founder of the University Seminar on Romanticism, and a member of the Seminars on Linguistics and on Slavic History and Culture. His research interests include Slavic and general linguistics, Russian and European Romanticism, Russian literature and culture of the 20th century, and music.
Prof Kate Brown is an Associate Professor of History at UMBC. She is the author of A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland (Harvard 2004) which won a handful of prizes including the American Historical Association’s George Louis Beer Prize for the Best Book in International European History. Brown’s Plutopia: Nuclear Families in Atomic Cities and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters appeared in 2013 with Oxford University Press.
Abi Sutton is a PhD student in the Environment Department in the University of York whose research focuses on the routes to successfully managed inshore fisheries. Previous work on this topic looked at policy dialogue mechanisms for successful implementation of co-management in Scotland’s inshore fishing sector. Of great interest to her current PhD research is the interaction between natural resources, social actors and their knowledge systems, economics and culture, and how this impacts on the effectiveness of fisheries management. She is currently working on an in depth analysis of the role of leadership in fisheries management and how the influence of a leader can impact fishing policy. The next step in her PhD is to continue research on the Qualitative Comparative Analysis methodology, that allows study and comparison of complex qualitative case studies.
Abi's essay on Solovki
Dr Jack Sharples is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Sociology at the European University of St Petersburg. His post also includes being a Lecturer in Energy Politics on the MA in Energy Politics in Eurasia (ENERPO) and Academic Director of the International MA in Russian and Eurasian Studies (IMARES) in the Department of International Studies. In 2014 Jack successfully completed his Ph.D. at the University of Glasgow on “A critical exploration of Russian state and expert conceptions of Russia’s gas exports to the EU during the Medvedev Presidency (2008-2012)”. His research interests include Russian external energy policy, Russian domestic energy policy, Russia-EU energy relations, Russian foreign policy and relations with the EU, Energy security, and Climate Change
Ion Voicu Sucala is a Ph.D. student whose subject is “The selection of the organisational elite in Communist Romania”. His research interests include organisation studies, Euro-Asian comparative studies and organisational elites.
Voicu's essay on Solovki solovki-essay-sucala (PDF , 312kb)
Alan Roe is a Ph.D. student of Russian Environmental History at Georgetown University. He is fascinated by the use of rivers for energy, the development of Siberian cities in the late 20th century, human views of the natural world, and environmental protection efforts.
He is currently working on his dissertation on tourism and the environment in the late Soviet Union. The dissertation works in two directions that are inextricably intertwined. First, he examines the state’s promotion of tourism as a means to cultivate a love for the varied natural landscapes of the USSR as well as the attitudes of tourists to the “natural” world. Secondly, his dissertation focuses on how preserving some of the Soviet Union’s most beautiful natural landscapes for tourists became the justification for a new form of nature preservation for the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation--national parks--from the 1960s through the 1990s. In addition to visiting over 25 archives in different parts of the Russian Federation, he has conducted many interviews. When he gets the chance, he enjoys seeking a little inspiration in some of Russia's magnificent landscapes.
Alan's essay on visiting Russia's National Parks national-park-essay-roe (PDF , 74kb)
Mark Sokolsky is a Ph.D. student studying Russian, environmental, and European history. His current research examines the relationships between colonization, environmental change, and ethno-national conflict in the Maritime Province of the Russian Far East. He is especially interested in questions of human-nature interactions, modernization, nationalism, and global comparative history.
Mark's essay on Solovki solovki-essay-sokolsky (PDF , 81kb)
Russia’s environmental history has been generally misunderstood. The words ‘Russia’ or ‘Soviet Union’ and ‘environment’ conjure up images of gargantuan schemes to conquer nature by diverting rivers, ruthless exploitation of natural resources, in particular oil and gas, and disasters on the scale of the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. The undeniable damage caused to the environment, which has pervaded much academic literature (Feshbach), is only one side of the story. There has also been a long-standing emphasis in scholarly writing on ‘environmental determinism’: the notion that Russia’s harsh environment has created the conditions for the development of authoritarian political systems (Pipes). Such views have been challenged (Bassin), but there is a need to reassess the relationship between the human and natural worlds in this vast part of the northern hemisphere.
- the development and exploitation of natural resources (e.g. oil, gas, diamonds and nickel, but also timber from the forests and fish from seas and lakes)
- identifying the causes and addressing the consequences of pollution; and oxygen production by Russia’s vast forests as ‘reverse greenhouse gases’
The significance of the network lies in two areas:
1. Transnational and multidisciplinary approaches to Russia’s environmental history
The network has been carefully constructed to bring together specialists from a variety national and disciplinary backgrounds to collaborate in investigating important, and under-researched, aspects of Russia’s environmental history over a long time period and in a comparative perspective.
The network will develop an original methodology for environmental history by combining conventional historical research and academic discussions with field work in specific places in ‘the environment’. Thus, members of the network will carry out research in documentary sources and discuss papers at the network workshops. In addition, they will participate in field trips at particular places which will serve as case studies, thus providing
further material for research. The field trips will also stimulate new perspectives and additional questions. While exploring each ‘place’, the partners will engage with specialists who work in and manage them, and the local communities. Thus, the network’s methodology will enable it to provide new answers to older questions, and also to formulate new questions and approaches to answering them.
We aim to produce the following outputs:
St Petersburg and Volkhov Hydroelectric Power Station, March 2013
St Petersburg and the Solovetskii Islands, the White Sea. 11-20 August 2013
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine. Summer 2014
Update 25th April 2014. Unfortunately, due to the current situation in Ukraine, we feel it is inappropriate for the Network to visit Ukraine and hence we have postponed the Network's field trip to Kiev and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. We hope to be able to carry out this fieldtrip at a future date
Lake Baikal in Siberia. 25 July - 4 August 2015
Final Conference at York University. Summer 2016
David Moon (Lead Investigator)
Victoria Beale (Network Facilitator)
Exploring Russia's Environmental History and Natural Resources
Department of History
University of York
For regular reports on the field trips, workshops and research, and for other Network news, read our Network blog. You can choose to Follow by Email to be notified whenever a new article is posted.
Environmental History vs. Palaeoenvironmental Science : Two disciplines. Two cultures. The same questions? - Richard Payne environmental_history_vs_Palaeoenvironmental_Science (PDF , 269kb)
An American Environmental Historian visits Russia's National Parks - Alan Roe national-park-essay-roe (PDF , 74kb)
The outline itinerary for the network field trip to Lake Baikal 25 July - 4 August 2015 baikal_itinerary (MS Word , 15kb)
Nick Breyfogle has compiled a brief Bibliography for the Lake Baikal fieldtrip baikal_bibliography (MS Word , 19kb)
Order of the Ministry of Emergencies of Ukraine on November 2, 2011 № 1157 approving the visiting of the [Chernobyl] exclusion zone and zone of unconditional (mandatory) resettlement. official-rules (MS Word , 69kb)
Health and Safety Briefing for the Network trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in July 2014, prepared by Victoria Beale in conjunction with Health and Safety specialists. health-and-safety-briefing (MS Word , 17kb)
David Moon has compiled a brief bibliography for the Chernobyl fieldtrip chernobyl-bibliography (PDF , 123kb)
Professor Chris D Thomas, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist of the Department of Biology, University of York, has prepared some notes on the controversial work of Anders Pape Møller and Timothy A Mousseau on the biological consequences of the Chernobyl explosion. chernobyl-ecology (MS Word , 15kb)
International Atomic Energy Agency webpage on Chernobyl. http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/chernobyl/
The 2006 BBC News Special Report "Chernobyl: 20 years on" - a series of articles and interviews. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/europe/2006/chernobyl/default.stm
Chernobyl: A field trip to no man's land - a BBC Nature Feature looking at the work of Canadian Scientist Tim Mousseau and his team. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/14250489
'Radioactive Wolves', a documentary first shown on the US Public Broadcasting Service on October 19, 2011 http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/radioactive-wolves/introduction/7108/ The film can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0wuc8SsMMI
'Chernobyl Uncensored', a documentary published by EleninNWO on 20the April 2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dS3WvKKSpKI
'Fukushima Radiation Not Safe!' a documentary by Gofman, a scientist who started out in the AEC and has tussled with the nuclear industry for decades. He lays out how the problem with many of the estimates of nuclear-related fatalities in the Chernobyl zone is that they rely on data from the Atomic Bomb Casualty studies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywKv0dj3UuY&list=PLcp63Rw5m_QcohHCu3jEFSFuEF4Va2HHh&feature=c4-overview-vl
Blog: Environment–Water–History: Explorations in Ecological History from Ohio State historian Nicholas Breyfogle. A series of blog posts resulting from the trip. https://u.osu.edu/breyfogle.1/
Papers presented at St Petersburg meeting - Jon Oldfield solovki-essay-oldfield (PDF , 320kb)
Field Work - David Moon david-moon-solovki-essay (PDF , 74kb)
On “Being There” and Spatial Dimension to History - Michael David-Fox solovki-essay-dmf (PDF , 300kb)
Reflections - Mark Sokolksy solovki-essay-sokolsky (PDF , 81kb)
My trip to Solovki - Abi Sutton solovki-essay-sutton (PDF , 941kb)
Solovetsky – from spirituality to coercion. And back... - a photo essay by Ion Von Sucala solovki-essay-sucala (PDF , 312kb)
Official website of Solovetskii Archipelago
Tourist Information Centre Website
UNESCO World Heritage Site Website
St. Petersburg and its backbone: The Neva River as gateway to Europe and the sword of Damocles - an article by Alexei Kraikovski http://www.environmentandsociety.org/arcadia/st-petersburg-and-its-backbone-neva-river-gateway-europe-and-sword-damocles
1 April 2015 - The History Department at the Higher School of Economics in St Petersburg has posted an announcement (in Russian) about the network on its website http://sh.spb.hse.ru/history/news/146823159.html
4 March 2014 - Network Poster now available (see image at the bottom of the page) network-poster-pdf (PDF , 2,155kb)
8 January 2014 - Interactions in environmental history - (Presentation showcasing the Network by David Moon at 'York Talks'). Talk handout: York-talk (MS Word , 28kb) Programme http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/events/public-lectures/spring-2014/york-talk/
6 November 2013 - Exploring Russia’s Environmental History (Article on University of York website) http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/features/russian-environmental-history/
14 October 2013 - Breaking Fresh Ground: Environmental History Takes to the Field (Article on Ohio State University Website) http://artsandsciences.osu.edu/news/breaking-fresh-ground-environmental-history-takes-to-the-field
7 October 2013 - Major Russian Environmental History project website goes live (Article on University of York website) http://www.york.ac.uk/history/news/news/russianenvironmentalhistory/
30 April 2013 - Breaking Fresh Ground: Environmental History Takes a New Direction (Article on Ohio State University Website) http://artsandsciences.osu.edu/news/breaking-fresh-ground-environmental-history-takes-a-new-direction
12 April 2013 - Leverhulme Trust awards International Network Grant for £123,000 for a project led by Professor David Moon (Article on University of York website) http://www.york.ac.uk/history/news/news/archive/moonwinsleverhulmenetworkgrant/