Environment – Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Climate Change in the Arctic Resources

Global Teacher Seminar Presentations

  1. The Passing of the White Silence: Climate Change in the Arctic by Leonid Polyak

Other Resources

  1. Mark C. Serreze. Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting North. Princeton Univ. Press, 2018, 279 p.
  2. Peter Wadhams. A farewell to ice: A report from the Arctic. London: Penguin, 2016, 240 p.
  3. Stephanie Sammartino McPherson. Arctic Thaw: Climate Change and the Global Race for Energy Resources. Twenty-First Century Books, Minneapolis, 2014, 64 p.

Russian Environmental Issues: A Resource Guide

Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union encompass nearly one-sixth of the earth’s land surface, equaling roughly 8.6 million square miles. It is an enormous and diverse territory, one that contains, among other things, the world’s largest boreal forest, its largest swamp, its largest lake (by volume), and enormous expanses of steppe (prairie), tundra, and mountains. These vast spaces are also home to a wide range of plant and animal species. Along with natural abundance, however, the countries of the Soviet Union also face many environmental problems. Some of these problems are a legacy of the Soviet era, while some emerged after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.

This annotated bibliography provides a set of resources in support of the 2019 Global Teaching Seminar. It outlines resources addressing 1) environmental challenges experienced throughout Russia and other post-Soviet states, and 2) case studies addressing particularly notable environmental issues in the region.

Topics to be covered:

  1. General environmental issues in Russia and other post-Soviet states
    1. Pollution and health
    2. Water: Dams and diversions
    3. Biodiversity and conservation
    4. Climate change
  2. Case studies
    1. Chernobyl
    2. The Aral Sea
    3. Lake Baikal
    4. The Amur Tiger

I. General environmental issues in Russia and other post-Soviet states

A. Pollution and Human Health

  1. National Intelligence Council, and DCI Environmental Center. “The Environmental Outlook in Russia,” January 1999. https://fas.org/irp/nic/environmental_outlook_russia.html.
    • Provides a general overview of environmental issues at the end of the 1990s in Russia and the other post-Soviet states. Indicative of the environmental legacies of the Soviet era and the new challenges that followed the Soviet collapse. Length: approx. 20 pages.
  2. Stephens, Sharon. “Canaries in the Mines: Children in the Former Soviet Union.” Journal of the International Institute 3, no. 3 (Summer 1996). http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.4750978.0003.307.
    • Addresses the health impacts of industrial pollution in Russia during the early 1990s. Length: approx. 4 pages
  3. Davydova, Angelina. “There’s Something in the Air in Russia.” openDemocracy, November 20, 2015. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/theres-something-in-air-in-russia/.
    • An article on recent problems with urban air pollution in several Russian cities and the problems with state air quality monitoring organizations. Length: approx. 6 pages.
  4. “‘We Struggle to Breathe in This City.’” [Video]. BBC News. December 8, 2016. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-38247455/pollution-devastating-industrial-russian-city.
    • A BBC report on the health effects of pollution in the central Russian city of Chelyabinsk. Length: 00:04:20.

B. Water: Dams and Diversions

  1. Josephson, Paul. Industrialized Nature: Brute Force Technology and the Transformation of the Natural World. Washington, DC: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2002. Prologue and Ch. 1. Available at: http://www.environmentandsociety.org/sites/default/files/key_docs/industrialized-nature-prol-chap-1_0.pdf
    • A historical comparison of the construction of large dams in the United States and Soviet Union. This chapter focuses on the shared belief in the capacity of “brute force” technologies to transform nature and society. Length: 70 pages.
  2. Micklin, Philip. “The Siberian Water Transfer Scheme.” In The Aral Sea: The Devastation and Partial Rehabilitation of a Great Lake, edited by Philip Micklin, N. V. Aladin, and I. Plotnikov, 381–404. Springer Earth System Sciences. Berlin & Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2014. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/302888269_The_Siberian_Water_Transfer_Scheme.
    • Details the history of plans to re-engineer Siberian rivers so that they flowed southward, toward Central Asia, to alleviate water deficits. Length: 24 pages.
  3. Linn, Johannes F. “Water-Energy Links in Central Asia: A Long-Term Opportunity and Challenge.” Brookings Institute, June 30, 2008. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/water-energy-links-in-central-asia-a-long-term-opportunity-and-challenge/.
    • An article on water supply issues in Central Asia, especially with regard to hydropower, agriculture, and resource-sharing. Length: approx. 10 pages.

C. Biodiversity and Conservation

  1. NDR Naturfilm/Studio and National Geographic. Wild Russia [Documentary Series]. 2018. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/wild-russia/
    • A series of nature documentaries on remote areas of the Russia. Length: approx. 45 minutes each. (Additional episodes of Wild Russia are available on YouTube.)
  2. Traffic Europe. “A Survey of Wildlife Trade in Russia.” Traffic.org, 1998. https://www.traffic.org/site/assets/files/10023/wildlife-trade-in-russia-and-central-asia.pdf.
    • A survey of wildlife trafficking in Russia and the other post-Soviet states following the collapse of the USSR. The report surveys the threat that trafficking poses to biodiversity in the region. Length: 14 pages.
  3. Conant, Eve. “A Look Inside Russia’s Wildest Nature Reserves—Now Turning 100.” National Geographic News, January 10, 2017. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/russia-nature-reserves-year-ecology/.
    • An article outlining the history of Russia’s inviolable nature reserves (zapovedniki) and national parks. Includes photographs from several zapovedniki and parks. Length: approx. 8 pages
  4. Center for Russian Nature Conservation. Russian Zapovedniks and National Parks. http://www.wild-russia.org/html/tour.htm
    • A list and description of protected areas (zapovedniki) across the Russian federation. Includes facts, maps, pictures, and contact information for many of the protected areas. Length: Links to brief (approx. 1 page) descriptions.
  5. Bellamy Foster, John. “Late Soviet Ecology and the Planetary Crisis.” Monthly Review 67, no. 2 (June 1, 2015). https://monthlyreview.org/2015/06/01/late-soviet-ecology-and-the-planetary-crisis/.
    • An essay that summarizes the history of conservation and ecological science in the Soviet Union. The author integrates a range of works on Soviet environmental history, writing from a Marxist perspective. Length: approx. 15 pages.

D. Climate Change

  1. Climate Action Tracker. “Russian Federation,” 2019. https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/russian-federation/.
    • A visual evaluation of Russia’s climate change policy. Assesses the country’s greenhouse gas reduction targets (or lack thereof) and progress toward reaching them. Includes graphs, data, and relevant news items. Length: Links to pages comprised primarily of graphic illustrations plus 250-500 words of text.
  2. Antonova, Maria. “Russia Warming ‘2.5 Times Quicker’ than Global Average: Ministry.” Phys.org, December 25, 2015. https://phys.org/news/2015-12-russia-quicker-global-average-ministry.html.
    • A brief article outlining the impact of climate change on Russia. The author addresses the recent uptick in catastrophic fires and floods. Length: 3 pages.
  3. History Talk, a production of Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective. “Climate Change, Russia, and the Race for the Arctic.” February 2013. http://origins.osu.edu/historytalk/climate-change-russia-and-race-arctic.
    • A discussion with historian Nicholas Breyfogle about the race for the arctic and the implications of climate change on arctic environments and the political actors in the circumpolar north. Length: 00:30:00.

II. Case Studies

A. Chernobyl

  1. Johnson, Thomas. The Battle of Chernobyl. Documentary. Play Film, 2006. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjOJlHULsaM.
    • A documentary about the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in 1986. Includes original footage and interviews. Length: 1:28:43.
  2. World Health Organization. “Chernobyl: The True Scale of the Accident.” World Health Organization, September 5, 2005. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/.
    • A WHO press release outlining the health effects of the Chernobyl disaster 20 years later. Length: 7 pages. This page includes a link to an update on this report, “1986-2016: Chernobyl at 30” (length: 7 pages).
  3. Galustyan, Artyom, and et al. “The Land of Exclusion: Chernobyl and Its Surroundings Today.” Kommersant, April 21, 2016. https://www.kommersant.ru/projects/chernobyl/en.
    • A special report by the Russian newspaper, Kommersant. Provides a tour through the “exclusion zone” surrounding Chernobyl. Includes text on the disaster and aftermath, a timeline of events, current health data, images, and short videos (including interviews with current residents). Length: approx. 15 pages.
  4. “Chernobyl: 20 Years On.” BBC News, June 12, 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/europe/2006/chernobyl/default.stm.
    • A BBC special report on the Chernobyl disaster and its aftermath. Includes an explanation of the catastrophe, interviews with witnesses and current residents, a Q&A, and images. Length: Links to various articles, most 1-pages in length.
  5. Brown, Kate. “Eating at You: Food and Chernobyl.” Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, April 2016. https://origins.osu.edu/milestones/april-2016-eating-you-food-and-chernobyl.
    • A brief article on the long-term impact of the Chernobyl disaster on food, soils, and agriculture in Ukraine and Belarus. Includes photographs by the author. Length: 4 pages.
  6. Feichtenberger, Klaus. “Radioactive Wolves.” Nature. PBS, October 18, 2011. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/radioactive-wolves-introduction/7108/.
    • A documentary examining the impact of radioactive fallout on wildlife in the area around the Chernobyl nuclear station. Length: 30 minutes.

B. The Aral Sea

  1. NASA Earth Observatory. “World of Change: Shrinking Aral Sea.” National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2018. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/aral_sea.php.
    • A succession of satellite images (from 2000 to 2018) showing changes in the size of the Aral Sea. Includes a brief discussion of the causes of the Aral Sea’s reduction, along with links to other relevant sites. Length: approx. 2 pages.
  2. Synnott, Mark, and Carolyn Drake. “Sins of the Aral Sea.” National Geographic, June 2015. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2015/06/vanishing-aral-sea-kazakhstan-uzbekistan/.
    • A magazine article outlining the history of the Aral Sea disaster and the resulting environmental and health effects. Includes images and interviews with locals. Length: approx. 6 pages.
  3. “Degradation of the Aral Sea.” CAWater-Info: Portal of Knowledge for Water and Environmental Issues in Central Asia, n. d. http://www.cawater-info.net/aral/aral3_e.htm.
    • A history of the degradation of the Aral Sea. Reader can also link to a detailed ecological history of the sea before degradation began, along with current data and other information. Length: approx. 5 pages.

C. Lake Baikal

  1. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “Lake Baikal.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 2019. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/754
    • UNESCO’s official site for Lake Baikal, which the organization designated as a World Heritage Site in 1996. Includes basic information on the lake and its environs, as well as photographs. Length: approx. 2 pages.
  2. “The Battle for Lake Baikal.” Washington Post, August 18, 1987. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1987/08/18/the-battle-for-lake-baikal/de6018e2-18d4-4bf3-8452-193c598f8fdd/.
    • An article addressing Soviet-era environmental protests against industrial development around Lake Baikal. Length: approx. 5 pages.
  3. Doug Weiner, A Little Corner of Freedom – 16: Storm over Baikal: https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft1m3nb0zw&chunk.id=d0e11895&toc.depth=1&toc.id=&brand=ucpress
    • Excerpts from a book by a leading scholar of Russian environmental history. This chapter outlines a conflict between scientists, intellectuals, and government officials over industrial development around Lake Baikal during the 1950s. Length: 18 pages.
  4. Coalson, Robert, and Yulia Starinova. “Friends of Russia’s Lake Baikal Mark Small Victory Over Dam Project, Vow To Fight On.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, October 19, 2017. https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-mongolia-baikal-dam-project-activists-environment-/28804304.html.
    • Coverage of a successful effort to halt the damming of the Selenga River, one of Lake Baikal’s main tributaries. Length: approx. 4 pages.
  5. Agence France-Presse. “World’s Deepest Lake Crippled by Putrid Algae, Poaching and Pollution.” The Guardian, October 19, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/19/lake-baikal-russia-crippled-algae-fish-poaching-pollution.
    • A discussion of current ecological problems in Lake Baikal and the failure of state conservation regulations to address them. Length: approx. 3 pages.

D. The Amur Tiger

  1. Brown, Chris. “Russia’s ‘Fairy Tale’ Siberian Tigers Beating Long Odds for a Comeback.” CBC News, March 21, 2019. https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/siberian-tigers-comeback-1.5041469.
    • A news article on recent growth in the Amur tiger populations of the Russian Far East. Length: approx. 5 pages.
  2. “The True Story Of A Man-Eating Tiger’s ‘Vengeance.’” Morning Edition. NPR, September 14, 2010. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129551459.
    • Discussion of the book Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival (New York: Vintage, 2010), by John Vaillant, originally broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition. Includes an interview with the author, an excerpt from the book, and the broadcast’s original audio recording. Length: Audio – 00:07:46; text article approx. 10 pages.
  3. Pikunov, D. G., I. V. Seryodkin, and V. A. Solkin. The Amur Tiger: History, Distribution, Population Dynamics, Ecology, and Conservation Strategies. Vladivostok: Dal’nauka, 2010. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273758365_The_Amur_Tiger_history_distribution_population_dynamics_ecology_and_conservation_strategies
    • A book addressing Amur tiger ecology and conservation written by leading tiger biologists in the Russian Far East. Length: 104 pages.