Lake Baikal is the world’s largest and oldest freshwater lake. It lies in the indentation where Asia is splitting apart from Siberia, the beginning formation of a new sea. Lake Baikal has had mixed emotions surrounding it- some believed in conservation, while others were simply concerned with the economic advances surround Baikal. Laws and regulations are now in place in regards to Lake Baikal because people realized it truly is a “pearl,” but that wasn’t always the case.
As we know, Stalin focused on industrialization, which took a toll on the environment during his reign. With factories and mills nearby, the pollution was too great for the Lake, but it didn’t matter much to Stalin because industrialization was “good.” After his reign ended, though, Brezhnev recognized that the economy can grow with industrialization, as long as it doesn’t affect the largest supply of freshwater in the world. So, he closed down the mills responsible for the pollution, and began to put a greater focus on the environment as a whole, not just surrounding Lake Baikal. While this came as an economic hardship in some areas, I believe it was ultimately beneficial for the Soviet Union (Freeze, 442).
This image portrays what environmental life was like during Stalin’s rule, and why it was so important to change the view of industrialization as it pertains to the environment. Stalin was destroying the very thing that was necessary for prosperity.
On a more local level, environmental protection became a very big deal in the 1970s-1980s. Cities invested millions of rubles for environmental protection, anything from planting greenery to control air pollution, to creating sewage-treatment plants in order to prohibit sewage spills. Environmentalists and scientists’ voices were finally heard during this time as well. Research surrounding the environment began to explode, and people consider environmentalists during this time in the Soviet Union to be pioneers. Not only that, but USSR Ministers of Construction and Metallurgy began to notice the need for “clean” building, and revitalized the way they when about their professions. This was part of yet another “five year plan” and thankfully, the focus was to build the very foundations of the Soviet Union rather than tear them down.
Freeze, Gregory. “Russia A History” 3rd Edition.