From Sea to “Glorious” Sea

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).

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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.

 

 

8 thoughts on “From Sea to “Glorious” Sea

  1. I love the picture you picked for this. The environmental movement became very big (at least in the United States) during the 1970s and 80s, so I enjoyed reading a new topic in Soviet culture. Sustainability is really important to me and I’m sure to many in the class, so I’m glad that Russia took steps to protect its environment. I wonder what effect Stalin’s industrialization had on bigger cities in western Russia and how Russia protects itself today against pollution . . .

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  2. I really enjoyed how you related your blog on environmental changes to a specific lake, it made me feel like I was reading a story rather than just a wikipedia page with facts. Also while you were doing your research did you find anything on how the lake was doing now? The thing I found most interesting was how effective change was in the 1970s-80s. I think its common for a nation to try to change their environmental laws but not follow them out, it seemed like the Soviet Union really succeed with their plans. “Research surrounding the environment began to explode, and people consider environmentalists during this time in the Soviet Union to be pioneers.” Great Post!

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  3. I thought this was an awesome post, the description of the lake and its centrality to the Soviet economy and identity. The rise of neoliberalism in the US in the 1970’s led to a disregard for the environment, and this can similarly seen through Stalin’s regime. While I would NOT call Stalin a neoliberalist, I would argue he was very focused on economic development at any means necessary, even at the expense of the largest freshwater source in the world.

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  4. I thought this was an awesome post, the description of the lake and its centrality to the Soviet economy and identity. The rise of neoliberalism in the US in the 1970’s led to a disregard for the environment, and this can similarly seen through Stalin’s regime. While I would NOT call Stalin a neoliberalist, I would argue he was very focused on economic development at any means necessary, even at the expense of the largest freshwater source in the world.

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  5. Early policy surrounding Lake Baikal really highlighted Stalin’s agenda of industrialization that ignored the long-term impact on the environment. You do a nice job explaining how environmental reform changed under Brezhnev, and how cities and scholars aided the efforts.

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  6. I think this post carries a lot of weight nowadays with environmental movements worldwide attempting to improve industrialization so as to protect the world we live in. Certainly, in the late 1800s to early to mid-1900s, industrialization ravaged the environment in an unprecedented manor. I like how your article addressed the politics around Lake Baikal and I also thought your title was very creative. Well done!

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  7. The picture you used is an excellent representation of the industrialization during the Stalin era. The focus of Brezhnev and later leaders in the USSR on economic growth but not at the expense of the natural resources of the Soviet Union was an important step. The focus on the environment in the USSR was a key step to ensuring a future for later generations, that didn’t destroy the resources of the country.

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  8. You’ve got great questions here, so I’ll just second Caroline’s observation that Stalin was definitely not a neo-liberal! (ALso: please check the Current Digest citation — not sure you have the stable URL)

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