Nature Conservation and the Post-Soviet State
Robert J. Liebermann, for independent study in conservation biology, December, 1993, Central Michigan University.

     The rapid and dramatic changes which have taken place in the last several years in the territory of the former Soviet Union have not only major international implications, but also have consequences on absolutely all levels of society in the newly independent states.   The problems are certainly as serious as any ever faced by a country previously.   Furthermore, the continuing dynamic state of affairs in the area further exacerbates the situation and attempts at solutions.   Among the most pressing problems are economic depression, political instability, ethnic conflicts, and environmental crises, all of which are of utmost concern to the states themselves, and the world community.   It is with the last of these problems that we shall be concerned in this paper.


     The purpose of this paper is to draw attention to the environmental situation in the former USSR, and some of the underlying causes and current dynamics.   It is not in the scope of this study to give a complete account of the workings of Soviet conservation organs.   This has been covered reasonably in books by Pryde (1972) and Knystautas (1987), as well as in journal articles by DeBardeleben (1990) and others.   Nor is it the place of this writing to completely cover the depth of ecological crises in the Post-Soviet States, which is described  in publications by Komarov (1980), and Feshbach and Friendly (1992) especially well, as well as the constantly emerging flow of additional data on this subject.   The goal of this report is to give the reader, through the framework of both direct observations and literature research by the author, a case history of the effects on conservation and nature from the dissolution of the largest country on earth.   In addition, it shall be suggested what the failures and successes have been, what measures may be helpful, and what the future probabilities are.   Several important terms will be defined according to their Russian usage, to better understand their significance.

Research methods

     Research for this project consists of data gathered during three visits to the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine in 1991,1992, and 1993.   A total of approximately fourteen months were spent in these areas, and data collection consisted of the following methods: personal interviews and conversations with individuals involved in conservation methods, visits to sites such as nature reserves, research institutes, forests, and educational facilities, broadcast news reports, publications gathering, and personal cultural observations.   Materials used during the period in the United States, from August to December, 1993, were broadcast news reports and extensive literature survey.   Problems encountered include, as mentioned earlier, the perpetual dynamic condition of the former USSR, variability in data, and incomplete information in many areas.   The first problem is evidenced most recently by the December 12, 1993 election results in Russia, which apparently signal a "major change" in policy (BBC World Service radio program "Newshour," December, 17, 1993)   The second, by the widely disparate nature of data pertaining to, among other areas, pollution and health matters in the literature, both Soviet and Foreign.   The third problem, related to the previous, is a result of the long policy of secrecy by the Soviet Government and successors, especially in such areas critical to this subject as economic, health, and pollution statistics, which has only recently begun to ease (Pryde, 1972, Feshbach and Friendly, 1992, French, 1991).   Because the author's experiences are in the three Slavic states of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, and the overall domination of the Slavic culture on Soviet social and political processes,  the paper will show a focus mainly on those states.

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