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Chapter Eight— Death and Purgatory
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Chapter Eight—
Death and Purgatory

When the plenary session of the Central Council of VOOP met on January 24, 1952, no one could remember when the last one was held. Inescapably the aktiv (active membership) had to be brought up to date on the recent developments and brought along on the cosmetic and other changes that VOOP was now forced to face. Many were struck by one thing above all else: V. N. Makarov was no longer at the helm. In his place as acting president was Georgii Petrovich Dement'ev (see figure 9), under whose name the invitations to the meeting were sent out. (Kuznetsov was removed as secretary as well but retained his seat on the Presidium, as did Makarov).

Even before any of the reports were read, the meeting agenda became an object of controversy. Protopopov, in his usual feisty style, proposed putting the recall of the entire Presidium up for a vote, while he and A. V. Mikheev both urged another vote to draft uncompromised authoritative figures for the Central Council as that body prepared the Society's general Congress. Geptner, also displaying early initiative and seeking to keep the meeting focused on the biggest strategic questions, succeeded in eliminating an unofficial report on the work of the Auditing Committee.[1]

First on the agenda was Dement'ev's report on VOOP's activities during 1950 and 1951, which included a public reading of the new decree. This was followed by a report from the Society's bookkeeper, who tried to explain VOOP's muddled finances. In view of the tense uncertainty among VOOP stalwarts, the conclusion of the formal presentations opened the floor to an unparalleled and passionate inquiry into the movement's body and soul.

Ushering in the debate was a flurry of hard questions for the presenters, particularly regarding the leadership's disregard for participatory democracy and grassroots opinion. Gladkov led off with the unstated concern on everybody's minds: "How did a change of leadership [suddenly] take place?


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Figure 9.
Georgii Petrovich Dement'ev (1898–1969).

We are all used to seeing the signature of V. N. Makarov," he said, referring to the meeting announcement letters. Another guardian of internal democracy, Susanna Fridman, wondered why the members of the Central Council were being "ignored" and why that body had not been convened in so long. Someone else pressed for an explanation of why today's meeting was declared a "closed" one; V. P. Galitskii of the Moscow oblast' branch even questioned whether there was a provision in the bylaws to hold a closed meeting, adding that the statutory authority of the officers elected by the


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1947 Congress had already run out, leaving the actions of any official body of the Society legally dubitable. A Congress had to be called immediately.[2]

After offering some clipped and guarded responses, Dement'ev threw open the floor for general comments. First to jump in, Varsonof'eva called for a recall of the entire Presidium. She was followed by Fridman, whose unaffected eloquence was often married to the most independent sentiments. "I have been a member of the Society for twenty-six years," she began. "In the recent past I have pulled away from the Society. The entire history of this Society has flowed through my very person," but now the Society's mood was unrecognizable to her. Fridman was particularly wounded by some of the leadership's unseemly readiness to jettison Makarov. "Why have only two members out of the whole leadership paid for the debacle?" she asked. "In the work of . . . Makarov there were some negative moments," but these were "owing to the gentleness of his character." She admonished the assembled group to remember "that he carried the entire cause of the Society on his shoulders and fought for the cause of nature protection. He is a historical figure. . . . [H]is health is ruined, and if there have been mistakes they were not 'Makarov's' but the entire Presidium's and Central Council's collectively." She reflected on the rights and obligations of civic activists:

Unquestionably, the Central Council was ignored; they didn't want to summon us. However, we ought to have summoned ourselves. Now, [only] at the insistence of a group of members of the Council we have been convened. The older members of the Presidium and the . . . Council ought to remember that the Society for the Protection of Nature has always held itself to the highest standards. . . . Now the Society is called a "pork barrel" [kormushka] and that is true, as there are people who have attached themselves like leeches onto the Society and are helping themselves to things. We have lived to see this picture of shame; it is essential that we replace the entire Presidium.[3]

Relaying comments she had recently heard from former members of the Council, Fridman tried to move the discussion from the technical matters of finances or political expedience to the fundamental question of values: could VOOP survive as the institutional guarantor of the demanding ethos of the scientific intelligentsia? One value Fridman held dear was integrity; another was loyalty. "We failed to shield Makarov," she charged; "they dragged his name in the mud." For that alone the Presidium should have resigned. Now, it was up to the Central Council "to proclaim that the character of V. N. Makarov is unblemished, and the Government will support us on that. We all must be held responsible, and not V. N. Makarov alone."[4]

From the other side of the spectrum, members more in tune with green plantings and pragmatic, if not Stalinist, ideals of transformation of nature were not moved by Fridman's concerns. Well represented in the Moscow oblast' branch organization, they had a very different set of complaints,


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in part directed exactly at the elitism of nauchnaia obshchestvennost'. Lakoshchënkov, a member of the Presidium of the Perovskoe branch, blamed VOOP's current troubles on its failure to become a mass organization. It could have done so in 1947, but it chose "to close in on itself."[5]

Even the apparat, bane of the scientist activists, had its defenders. Galitskii, a leader of the Moscow oblast' branch and firm member of the "transformist" camp, complained, "There is one line that is being promulgated here, to defend Makarov and to accuse the apparat .  .  .  . I recall how Makarov treated the Moscow branch completely improperly. In my view the reason there are no staffs or activity in the branches is that the Presidium and Makarov are at fault. . . . You can't pin the blame on the apparat ."[6] Galitskii's intervention immediately provoked an angry commotion.[7]

One of the most poignant rejoinders to Galitskii came from Bel'skii, editor of the nature almanac until secretly dismissed by Dement'ev and Kuznetsov in December. Kuznetsov, Bel'skii insisted, had not only threatened him on the phone and accused him of obstruction; Kuznetsov was leading a faction in the Society, concentrated among its paid staff. "Kuznetsov ran the entire Presidium," charged Bel'skii, calling to mind an analogous secretary and another collective leadership; "we must immediately replace the working apparat ."[8]

Another relatively old timer, V. G. Geptner, returned to the question of Makarov, which for many was a point of honor. Echoing Fridman, Geptner averred that "the name of V. N. Makarov will be inscribed in the annals of the history of nature protection," while that of Galitskii, "whose remarks were tactless and impermissible," will nowhere appear in that history. Makarov, who worked "selflessly," though gravely ill, was let down by the Presidium, "while some paid staffer in the Society [Kuznetsov], a member of the Presidium, did not understand his duties. The support staff of the Society took on the contours of one-man rule. S. V. Kuznetsov came [to us] from the army [in which he served for twenty-eight years] and could not refit himself for civic work. . . . The apparat of the Society turned out not to have high standards; this applies equally to Kuznetsov himself and to his assistants. The Presidium stands guilty," charged Geptner, who repeated his call for the mass resignation of that body's members at that very meeting.[9]

Geptner's remarks throw an interesting light on the social attitudes of the old-line scientific intelligentsia. It was prepared to work with people of different social backgrounds so long as those others adopted the stringent behavioral and moral codes of the elite. It seems that Geptner and his colleagues always stood ready to suspect vulgar values and amorality in people from plainer social backgrounds. Sadly, the dishonest and vulgar Stalinist workers and retired military folk among the VOOP staff only confirmed these prejudices.


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Most sensed that the Society was in the midst of a cultural-ideological crisis. Who would win out—the old guard, the accomodators (like Dement'ev), the small minority of committed transformers of nature (like Molodchikov and Manteifel'), or the cynical apparatchiki who hid behind regime rhetoric to create cozy "cash cows" for themselves in the machinery of the Society? Would the Society survive this test?

At the end of the long session a compromise resolution was finally hammered out. Topping the list of items was the resolve to "devote particular attention to the need in every way to broaden the work of the Society on questions of the transformation of nature and rendering assistance to the great construction projects [of Communism]." Accordingly, the Society's official name was changed to the All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Transformation and Protection of Nature.

On the sensitive question of leadership, the resolution endorsed the removal of Makarov as acting president while retaining him on the Presidium and in the office of alternate deputy president. With admirable tact, especially in light of Dement'ev's less than total popularity (particularly among backers of Makarov), the resolution asked the academician N. V. Tsitsin to return to active leadership of the Society as president. Finally, Kuznetsov was to be replaced as scholarly secretary "by someone more qualified."[10] The resolution expressed readiness to use a legal suit to recover the difference on the "overpayment" Makarov's son and other publishing-related subcontractors received in 1949. Although politically there was probably no way to save Makarov's acting presidency, the revolt of the old guard aktiv had let the infirm old veteran retain a shred of his dignity. It had also sent a powerful message to the (largely Communist) apparat.

The final order of business was to revamp the leadership of the Society. After all nominations to the Central Council were approved unanimously, the meeting turned to reorganizing the Presidium. As an acting president was still needed, Krivoshapov proposed that Avetisian be named. And after that recommendation and the nomination to elect Chernenko to the Presidium were approved unanimously, the meeting finally ended. Even as Soviet meetings went, this one had been a marathon.[11]

Even as the activist core met to debate its future, the Society continued to preoccupy those in power. In the offices of the referenty of the Russian Republic's Council of Ministers, aides conducted analyses of VOOP's current situation and prospects. The membership total of 131,686 as of January 1, 1952 was superficially impressive until the number of adult members—22,718—was isolated. Some branches were unusually successful, such as the Voronezh branch with its 33,199 members or little Kabardinia with 5,825, but these were anomalies that reflected the presence of one or a number of particularly passionate patrons or organizers, often schoolteachers.


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But giant Stalingradskaia oblast' had only seventy members and Krasnoiarsk only thirty-two. "From this portrait," concluded referent N. I. Koz'iakov, "we may conclude that VOOP as a mass organization, resting on the support of a broad network of local chapters and branches, in fact does not exist."[12]

Koz'iakov's recommendations seemed to open the door once again to the Society's liquidation. He urged, first, rejecting VOOP's own proposals for reform; second, leaving open the question of convening a general Congress of the Society (basically a recommendation against holding one); and third, preparing a draft letter to the Central Committee and a draft decree of the RSFSR on the liquidation of VOOP and on the reorganization of its local chapters and branches into local societies for the transformation and protection of nature along the lines of the kraeved societies, which were not united into any central organization.[13]

Yet that same day Bessonov wrote in pencil on the bottom of Koz'iakov's memo: "The Society must solve one chief problem: how to create strong organizations at the grass roots and how best to structure them organizationally." Perhaps the RSFSR Council of Minister junior aides such as Koz'iakov believed that their superiors would accuse them of soft-headed liberalism unless they sought the "toughest" recommendations. However, the two most powerful leaders of the Russian Republic, Chernousov and Bessonov, were now protecting VOOP even from their own aides and referenty . Determining the motives of Chernousov and Bessonov would require an entire archival exploration of its own. However, one chance archival record indicates that their more solicitous attitudes toward the Society than those of the "center" extended to areas outside of the nature protection movement. On January 25, 1952, coterminous with many of the events just related, Georgii Malenkov received a letter from the Party secretary of the Novgorod obkom , A. Fëdorov. Fëdorov was describing a demographic upheaval in his province that was, we know with hindsight, only in its opening phase:

In connection with the difficult economic situation in the kolkhozy of our oblast' , a percentage of the kolkhozniki  .  .  . have left . . . and now are living in the cities and workers' settlements of the oblast ' According to approximate data collected by the Central Statistical Administration of the oblast ', in the cities . . . there live more than 35,000 who do not work. This constitutes up to 30 percent of the population of working age living in cities and settlements.

These ex -kolkhozniki , noted the Novgorod Party chief, once they receive passports, were no longer subject to mobilization for obligatory agricultural duty, were exempted from the tax on agriculturalists, and enjoyed benefits on the same level as workers, such as rations of meat and other agricultural products. "We consider the situation as it has evolved to be abnormal," wrote Fëdorov, "when this blabbering do-nothing part of the able-bodied population cannot be sent off to cut timber, mine peat, or work in the col-


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lective farms. . . . Instead, we often have to siphon off our best workers to join the logging brigades," he complained. Fëdorov sought Malenkov's help in changing the law so that oblast' and raion authorities would be empowered to mobilize not only agriculturalists but also the urban nonworking population.[14]

The next day Malenkov appointed a committee made up of P. K. Ponomarëv, M. A. Suslov, and N. S. Khrushchëv to examine the question together, a sign of the problem's importance. In the meantime, he assigned the head of the Central Committee's Agricultural Section, A. I. Kozlov, to independently analyze the issues. Finally, he sent copies of the letter to Central Committee secretaries Shvernik, who routinely handled labor matters, and Gorkin, and to Premier Chernousov.[15]

We do not know the opinions of the others, but we do have Chernousov's direct response to Malenkov, sent on February 20, 1952: "The RSFSR Council of Ministers believes that at the present time it is inadvisable to extend the law on labor duties to the nonworking population of cities and workers' settlements. It is possible to attract the population of cities and settlements to logging projects and . . . other work without resorting to changing the existing legislation," the premier concluded. This pronouncement seems to have influenced Kozlov, who on April 4 wrote to Malenkov to express his agreement.[16] On the face of it Chernousov appeared to favor a contractual framework for dealing with ordinary citizens and with organized social groups such as VOOP. Fëdorov's proposal may be regarded as an attempt to extend Stalin's reenserfment of the peasantry according to the old Russian model enshrined in the Law Code of 1649: that there was no statute of limitations for runaway serfs. Accordingly, we may view Chernousov's position as an attempt to halt enserfment of the entire Soviet population, championing instead the old German medieval principle: "City air makes you a free person."

That same week, Malenkov and Kozlov were sorting out a new problem. A group of disgruntled leaders of the Moscow oblast' branch of VOOP, led by Central Council members V. Galitskii, N. Podlesnykh, and V. Lakoshchënkov, had sent a denunciatory letter to Malenkov in his capacity as Party secretary. In the usual pattern, Malenkov typed in the margin: "Comrade Kozlov: Please figure this all out and report to me." Although not unusual to Kozlov, such letters were rare within the Russian nature protection movement. Such a thing had happened only once before, when Kuznetsov wrote his notorious letter about Makarov. This latest letter was written by provincial Party members who were not part of the intellectual tradition and social world of the old guard.

At the heart of the letter was a political attack on the old guard. "Over a long period of time," the six signatories wrote,


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the Central Executive Council of VOOP has consisted of one and the same faces. V. N. Makarov has been acting president now for twenty-eight years. . . . There are no representatives of the raion -level organizations of Moscow blast '. . . . The Central Executive Committee is a closed group of scientists and those whom they approve. They consider themselves specialists on questions of nature protection. However, over the existence of the Society, they have failed to publish one article . . . in Izvestiia , Pravda , Moskovskaia Pravda , Komsomol'skaia pravda , etc. . . . Until 1947 only a small circle of people, numbering in the hundreds, knew about the existence of VOOP.[17]

In a twist, the old guard was accused of turning VOOP into its own private "cash cow" (kormushka ); "under Makarov's wing there emerged a group of lovers of the good life." The letter writers resurrected the charges of "gross violations in disbursements" stated, but not specified, in the report of the RSFSR Ministry of State Control of October 31, 1951.

In a series of vignettes attacking individual members of the Central Council, the authors revived the charges of nepotism against Makarov in connection with his son's contract with the Society for art work. Protopopov was accused of spending 13,500 rubles on the Crimean Commission of the Society, which he headed, without the commission having once ever discussed shelter belts in the Crimea or the Northern Crimean Canal. "Pursuing vain self-promoting aims to make himself personally more popular, he spent 3,000 rubles of common monies on making a newsreel in which he is the central figure."[18]

Referring to the meeting of January 25 just past, the complainants described it as "an unsightly picture of a cliquish family circle. . . . Instead of severe Bolshevik condemnation . . . we heard how members of the Central Executive Council tried to blur the essence of the case and to vindicate . . . Makarov," they charged. The authors of the letter had particularly harsh words for Susanna Fridman, who had had the temerity to assert that whereas in the USSR "nature protection was not on the high level [it should be]," in America, conservation had been led by a president, Theodore Roosevelt. "This slavish groveling before America seemed to us to be, at the least, out of place and strange," they proclaimed. Capping Fridman's errors was her reproach of the Presidium and her defense of Makarov's honor and his position in the Society. Her line of exculpating Makarov was followed by the majority: Geptner, Varsonof'eva, Protopopov, Avetisian, Krivoshapov, Molodchikov, Gladkov, Bel'skii, Mikheev, and others. For that reason, although the Central Council "in words supports the transformation of nature, in actual fact, as before, it clings to nature protection, which has outlived its time and enjoys no popularity among the broad masses of toilers."[19]

"We activists appeal to you with a request," the letter concluded, "to order the Central Executive Council to convene a Congress without delay." At


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such a Congress, the petitioners hoped, the Society could be cleansed of its "obsolete" leadership and name, to become the All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Transformation of Nature.[20]

Placed with this letter in the Party archives was a copy of Romanetskii's report of August 1951 to Chernousov recommending liquidation of the Society. The report's presence strongly implies that Malenkov and Kozlov were beginning to follow the misadventures of VOOP with greater interest.[21] Apropos of the denunciation itself, Malenkov received a report from one of Kozlov's aides in the Agricultural Department of the Central Committee on March 22, 1952. Recommending no new action, the aide's memo simply relayed RSFSR deputy premier Bessonov's communication to the aide that Makarov had been removed for unsatisfactory leadership of the Society and noted that the letter writers had been duly informed.[22] Once again, Bessonov to all appearances had massaged the Party secretariat with assurances that VOOP was on the road to institutional and ideological recovery and that extraordinary steps, especially by the center, were not needed.

As official attention to VOOP waned in the spring and summer of 1952, the resignation of Makarov from the Presidium seemed to mark the end of an era for the Society and the movement. Makarov's resignation letter of March 14, read to the entire Presidium on June 3, was formally motivated by reasons of failing health. Additionally, Makarov was named to the newly organized Committee on Zapovedniki of the USSR Academy of Sciences and was also serving as scholarly secretary of the Main Expedition for the Establishment of Shelter Belts, even leading a philosophy seminar organized by the Expedition's Party chapter. Here we see the compassionate hand of the academician Vladimir Nikolaevich Sukachëv, who headed the Expedition and provided many a scientist and activist with employment and a safe haven in those years. However, weariness, disillusionment, and a need to vindicate himself could be discerned in Makarov's diplomatic leave-taking:

The course of my life has been lived within that of the Society, and so this announcement for me was not easy to make. However, there was no other way. Over the course of more than a quarter century in my activity within the Society I have been governed by its interests alone. No one can produce, unless one stoops to conscious distortion, a single fact to substantiate that during my entire period of service to the Society I ever used it to promote any kind of personal interests, much less material ones. I never counted on receiving recognition or encouragement, for I was compensated with a feeling of moral satisfaction, convinced as I was of the usefulness of a rational approach to the natural resources of the Motherland and of the protection of its nature for the people.[23]

It is probably fitting that at that same Presidium meeting, the tradition of "protective coloration" designed by Makarov was reaffirmed with the creation in VOOP of a Section for the Transformation of Nature.[24] Even


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Geptner, Protopopov, and Fridman did not stand in the way, but rather greeted the new unit as a necessary evil.[25] To the Society's credit, a warm message to Makarov was composed in the form of an official resolution: "deep regret" was expressed regarding his illness and overworked condition, but there was also a request—that "Comrade Makarov take part in the resolution of particularly important questions and make himself available for consultations . . . in light of his profound and encyclopedic knowledge of questions on the protection and transformation of nature." And there was also "the hope that with the improvement of Comrade Makarov's health, he will again take active part in the activities of the Society."[26] The old sense of honor had not yet completely given way to politics.

Yet the Society knew that it had to take care of politics. By late June, Avetisian and Varsonof'eva had delivered the Society's draft resolution on its internal reform to the Council of Ministers, where it was examined by Koz'iakov and then sent on to Deputy Premier A. M. Safronov. Its main points paralleled the Central Council resolution of January 25:

1. The Society was to be renamed the All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Transformation and Protection of Nature.

2. Accordingly, a new charter was to be drafted.

3. A Congress was to be set for September 1952.

4. The Society's publishing house and operations were to be restored.

5. VOOP should be exempt from taxation as a nonprofit organization.

6. The Society claimed that its debt had been reduced to 114,000 rubles from 406,000.

7. A suit was brought against Z. A. Fridman, B. V. Makarov, and a third artist for recovery of overpayments.

8. V. N. Makarov and S. V. Kuznetsov were both removed from their positions.

9. A Section on Green Plantings was organized.[27]

Because VOOP had in effect only been given a reprieve on its survival, Koz'iakov's memo also reflected his charge to solicit the opinions of other important agencies in this matter. Chadaev of RSFSR Gosplan expressed the assent of his agency to the change of the Society's name but opposed any independent publishing rights as contradicting the resolution passed on October 31, 1951. Chadaev also demurred on tax exemption and increased staff levels in the central apparatus.[28]

Koz'iakov's own recommendations included postponing any Congress until an investigation could be conducted on the status of the branches and chapters of VOOP. "In order to bring clarity to this matter," he recommended that the commission be headed up by V. Liudinovskii of RSFSR Gosplan, with Zhukov, Shinev, Kutuzov, Dubrovina, Leont'eva, Denisov, and


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Avetisian as members, to report to the RSFSR Council of Ministers after three months.[29] The RSFSR Council of Ministers enacted these recommendations the same week.[30]

By September 6, the Liudinovskii Commission had completed most of its investigation, and Avetisian was invited to respond or to send other relevant materials within the week.[31] The report, sent to Chernousov, had been based on a study of nineteen oblast' and krai branches of VOOP.[32] The conclusions it reached were seriously damaging:

1. The Society "to date has not transformed itself into a mass organization." Of the claimed 150,000 members, 110,000 were in the youth section, and many from the first group failed to pay dues. One glaring but not atypical example was the Moscow oblast' organization, with 20,400 youths and 7,900 adult members. Yet dues collected for the first half of 1952 amounted to only 570 rubles.[33]

2. The Central Council, with forty-one members, was elected in 1947 but had only met three times since, with poor attendance. The Presidium, distracted by publishing activities, completely neglected organizational activities in the oblasts and krais . Moreover, "in its publishing activities the Presidium . . . allowed major errors of an ideological nature" and produced published materials of "low quality," all of which, along with "the grossest financial violations," led the RSFSR Council of Ministers in the decree of October 31, 1951, to prohibit the Society from publishing anything independently.

3. The provincial branches had been run out of provincial capitals or cities by a small group of individuals. What activities they did organize, such as planting a fruit orchard and nursery in Moscow oblast' , "do not have a mass character." Mostly, activities boiled down to episodic lectures in natural science.

4. The commission did acknowledge that the provincial branches were inadequately staffed. Yet the Society's functions had increasingly been subsumed under official governmental activities. "As concerns the inculcation of properly understood love for nature in children and youth, that, without a doubt, must rest fully and totally in the hands of the organs of public education and such social organizations as the Komsomol and the Pioneers, with their linked system of measures for socializing the new person into Communist society. Protection of monuments of nature and history must be concentrated in kraeved organizations and in state zapovedniki ."

Like Romanetskii's report of the previous year, Liudinovskii's conclusions were unsparing. "Basing its judgment on all of the above," began the last paragraph, "the commission has been unable to identify functions that may


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be assigned to the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature and for that reason does not consider the Society's continued existence into the future to be advisable. The liquidation of this society, according to the charter now in effect, may be achieved either through a resolution of a Congress of the Society or by a decision of the government."[34]

Only Avetisian dissented from this death penalty. In his dissenting opinion he countered with facts of his own about the participation of almost the entire memberships of the provincial branches in "Day of Forests" and "Bird Day." His most powerful argument, however, spoke to the contention by the Liudinovskii commission that the Society's functions were already being performed by existing government, administrative, and scientific research institutions and agencies. In fact, he said,

it's exactly the other way around. The unprecedented scope of projects on the transformation of nature carried out by governmental organizations requires that we attract to their side broad groups of the population (scientists, specialists, kolkhozniki , workers, and youth) performing volunteer civilian work [emphasis in the original] in the cause of the promotion of the transformation of nature and a protective attitude toward existing natural wealth and that which we create. And no state or scientific organization can fulfill the functions of civic activism and public opinion [obshchestvennost' ][35]

Avetisian cleverly cited the directives of the Nineteenth Party Congress, held earlier in the year, which "obliged [the Party] to mobilize the broad masses of toilers to fulfill and overfulfill the Five-Year Plan." In light of the drastic reduction in area of the zapovedniki , argued Avetisian, VOOP was essential to take up the slack in efforts to protect the flora and fauna of the country. "The Society for the Protection of Nature over twenty-eight years of its activity has, without any expenditure of money by the state, conducted work that was beneficial and needed by the country," he concluded. "It is necessary to preserve the Society and to assist it in reorganizing its work in connection with the new tasks that flow from the Plan for the Great Transformation of Nature."[36]

More bad news emerged, however, in mid-September, when a parallel investigation by the State Trading Inspection of the RSFSR Ministry of Trade into the stores run by VOOP uncovered numerous infractions and even outright criminal activity. "In individual stores, as a result of the absence of oversight on the part of the Presidium of . . . the Society, dishonest people wormed their way in, forging links with speculators and using the Society's outlets for personal gain. Many goods were sold at prices higher than normal, . . . with the proceeds of the sale bypassing the coffers of the Society."[37]

By November 3, when the RSFSR Council of Ministers once again prepared to assess VOOP's viability, there were ample grounds available to shut


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down the Society if that seemed politically inescapable. Inside the Soviet Union, meanwhile, the political climate had chilled. A new memo of November 3 sent by Koz'iakov to Deputy Premier Maslov summarized both Liudinovskii's conclusions and those of Avetisian, adding that in light of VOOP's failure to become a mass organization Koz'iakov considered "the conclusions of the commission of Comrade Liudinovskii in the main to be correct." However, he recognized that the question was of a "fundamental" nature and therefore asked Maslov to review the materials personally and to summon the members of the commission together with representatives of VOOP to a meeting at the Council of Ministers.[38]

In the meantime, at the VOOP Presidium meeting of October 7, 1952, there was yet another attempt to discover who prevented the publication of the ill-fated nature almanac. An extended report by the chair of the Society's Auditing Committee, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Zablotskii, on the Society's affairs, especially finances, from 1950 to 1952, failed to answer that question, leading Vera Varsonof'eva incredulously to repeat, "Who, contrary to the decision of the Presidium and contrary to common sense, acted . . . to squelch the [almanac]?" Although Zablotskii at first responded that there were still "no clear causes," under questioning from Varsonof'eva, Kuznetsov's explanation, which Zablotskii had dismissed as self-exonerating, emerged as the most compelling. The former secretary had averred that Tsyriul'nikov, a censor, had intervened.[39]

Support for Kuznetsov's story came from an unexpected quarter. Bel'skii, the almanac's original editor, confirmed that the censor had in fact called and approved publication on April 30, 1951, after what he described as a long series of obstacles strewn in the path of publication by Kuznetsov within VOOP. Accordingly, after making some last-minute changes, Bel'skii received official permission to publish and submitted the almanac to the typesetter. However, on May 12 there was another call from Tsyriul'nikov with the instruction: "Temporarily delay the printing of the almanac." On learning of the delay Makarov, according to Bel'skii, went personally to Tsyriul'nikov and then wrote a special letter to the Moscow oblast' and City Censors Board (oblgorlit ) protesting the action of the censor and noting that such an action placed VOOP in critical financial condition.[40]

As far as Bel'skii knew, Makarov never received a reply to his letter. However, the issue was discussed in the Presidium. "Why they banned [the almanac], I don't know in detail," stated Bel'skii. "However, I assume that there was meddling here by the apparat of the USSR Council of Ministers. . . . Why they were interested up there in this case" Bel'skii did not know; he only recalled that at the time the authorities were reviewing a good deal of the Society's literature, not just the almanac.[41]

Kuznetsov noted that the oblgorlit responded to his inquiries with the


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abrupt reply: "You are not going to receive any explanation." And with that the investigation of the affair came to another dead end.[42] One thing was clear. At the highest levels of power, the Society had finally appeared on the radar screen.

What the Auditing Committee's report (and ensuing discussion) did bring to light was a whole series of infractions, losses, and malfeasance committed by Kuznetsov and his associates over the previous two-year period: a 141,000-ruble honorarium paid to an author without the essential preliminary review process; the illegal sale of more than seventeen tons of paper to a typographer; overpayments to others, including Dement'ev; the systematic deception of the Presidium and the Central Council regarding the true financial status of the Society; and, despite the presence of a librarian, a severe deterioration of the holdings.[43]

On this last issue Susanna Fridman grew passionate. She recalled a unique giant colored map of the world with all of the protected territories of all countries marked. There was also Ruzskii's enormous prerevolutionary illustrated history of the Belovezhskaia pushcha , which had been published in lavish style at the turn of the century, and Zablotskii's works on the reestablishment of the European bison population. Ten boxes of slides—support materials for lectures—had been meticulously collected, as had rare publications of the Chinese Nature Protection Society and the Italian society, of which last VOOP's library had 144 publications. Now, all were missing. "They reflected the activities of the Society," Fridman said, "historical junctures in the work of the Society. Take, for example, the reestablishment of the European bison in the Soviet Union. This accomplishment is unique in the entire world! Where could [Zablotskii's works] have absconded?"[44]

Krivoshapov was unsparing:

The attempt of Comrade Kuznetsov once again today to present himself as innocent of all these dealings and matters at the very least seems like a ruse to avoid responsibility. . . . This could have happened only because the Presidium and first of all the Auditing Committee did not check up on the work of the apparat , entrusting supervision of all matters of the Society to Comrade Kuznetsov. I propose in the interests of bring the work of VOOP back to health to remove . . . Kuznetsov from his position and to hand over the findings of the Auditing Committee with all appropriate materials to the investigative authorities so that they may bring the guilty to justice.[45]

Varsonof'eva was also incensed that the Presidium's trust in Kuznetsov had been betrayed, and, as a result, the existence of the organization was at stake. "I always have a hard time believing in the bad acts committed by people," she said. "One tries in every way to find some [saving] justification for the person, but we cannot do that now because a great cause is going under." With that she called for an abandonment of the "liberal, sentimen-


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tal" approach that she and the old guard historically professed toward human foibles and seconded Krivoshapov's call to turn over the evidence of wrongdoing to prosecutorial authority.[46] Protopopov strongly endorsed this move, advocating expunging Kuznetsov from VOOP. So did Geptner, who turned to Kuznetsov and said point-blank: "Sergei Vasil'evich, you must remove yourself from the Society. Your doings have finally caught up with you today." However, Geptner also had some harsh words for the Presidium members, whose absenteeism often left important matters to be settled by a few persons or, worse, by the apparat .[47]

"Howsoever strange it may seem," interjected Susanna Fridman, "I will now speak as S. V. Kuznetsov's defense lawyer." For her the fault lay in the Presidium's appointment of him—"a military quartermaster or a line officer, I don't know"—in the first place. "Wasn't it at all possible to find someone else to run the affairs of the Society who was even slightly acquainted with the complicated idea of nature protection?" she asked. Kuznetsov simply wanted a cushy position. But the Presidium knew beforehand that he was "illiterate" on the protection of nature, she charged: "What he knows about nature he sees through a window." And now the Society was on the ropes. "That is the way it always is, when the shoemaker bakes pies and the baker stitches shoes." Almost as an afterthought she asked, rhetorically:

And are the individuals heading up the Main Zapovednik Administration really any better? We prided ourselves on the successes in the cause of nature protection, we developed Soviet methods as well as a whole series of special directions [of research], our successes have been noted in the press of many nations and even in the press of our adversaries. But in spite of all that, with one sweep of the pen, without the participation of scientific public opinion [bez uchastiia nauchnoi obshchestvennosti ], the network of zapovedniki was destroyed, and what is left amounts to crumbs.[48]

Fridman was interrupted by Avetisian, who felt that her sudden digression on the zapovedniki had sidetracked the meeting from the Auditing Committee's report. But Fridman returned to her main point, which was about appointments, propriety—and the ethos of scientific public opinion:

I am not speaking as a heartsick woman but am logically assessing matters at hand. A crime was committed when people appointed a person foreign to the idea of the protection of nature and to any form of scientific activity, a simple economic bureaucrat, and now he [emphasis added] must answer for that. In my opinion, however, that is not just. I know that I won't achieve anything with my remarks and that I will not rehabilitate Kuznetsov. Even as an administrator he was shoddy; the office was in a bad state and the archive even worse and the librar, even worse than that![49]

As Fridman saw it, the scientists and activists of VOOP had relinquished control over their own movement, and that was the crime. Nevertheless, it


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was not completely clear how much freedom VOOP or the Scientific Advisory Council of the Main Administration had really had in naming their secretary or director in late 1949 and early 1950.

Following Avetisian's endorsement of the Auditing Committee report, a unanimous vote approved Kuznetsov's exclusion from the Society, and it was agreed that the audit was to be turned over to the state's investigative bodies.[50] This matter was put to rest in January 1953 when Acting President Avetisian compiled a devastating four-page bill of charges against Kuznetsov.[51]

Only one more immediate threat to the Society remained: the newly constituted state investigative commission on the activities of VOOP chapters and branches in the oblasts and krais . Avetisian proposed electing a committee of himself, Chaianov, Krivoshapov, Motovilov, Varsonof'eva, Geptner, and Protopopov to draft a detailed memo to the office of the chairman of the RSFSR Council of Ministers, Premier Chernousov. That motion, too, was approved, and the meeting adjourned.[52]

Contrary to appearances, the flurry of investigations was driven not by any desire of the RSFSR government to harass VOOP, but by something far more sinister: the unwanted attentions of the Party's Central Committee. As may be seen in a memo from Deputy Premier Vasilii Alekseevich Maslov to the new Russian premier, Aleksandr Mikhailovich Puzanov, who replaced Chernousov on October 20, 1952,[53] the investigations of VOOP and a parallel one of the Green Plantings Society conducted by the RSFSR Ministry of Municipal Services, which similarly called for the liquidation of that society, were conducted on the orders of the Central Committee, stimulated by the denunciations received from Kuznetsov and G. I. Lebedev of the Green Plantings Society (VOSSOGZN).[54] Although the Ministry of Municipal Services report had already called for the liquidation of the Green Plantings Society, Chernousov at an August 27 meeting of the RSFSR Council of Ministers Bureau urged postponing any conclusive action. As a patron of his republic's own voluntary societies, Chernousov's only weapon against the Central Committee was delay. And he (and his successors) used this weapon with consummate skill.

With the Liudinovskii and Ministry of Municipal Services reports in hand and Avetisian's minority report strongly urging reconsideration, Chernousov once again convened the leaders of VOOP, their investigators, and other interested parties. With the Russian premier's guidance a clever compromise was found that fit with VOOP's long-term intentions: both societies would be liquidated but then reincarnated in a merged, new All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Transformation and Protection of Nature.[55] In a memo from Koz'iakov to Maslov of December 20, the aide now not only urged the deputy premier to accelerate the formal process of merger but to en-


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sure that the local branches of the new society would be provided with adequate staff levels, "since the absence of staff was one of the major reasons for the weak organizational activity" of VOOP and the Green Plantings Society. To assist this process, Koz'iakov attached his draft of a letter to be sent from the new premier Puzanov to Georgii Malenkov explaining the changes to be undertaken.[56]

On the basis of the preparatory work of his aide Koz'iakov, Maslov now sent Puzanov the draft for an official RSFSR Council of Ministers resolution creating the new society,[57] and at a meeting of that body's Bureau on March 4, 1953, Puzanov authorized Avetisian and Lebedev of the two societies to quickly deliver reviews of their societies' activities. At the same time he officially designated Maslov to head a committee (which included Liudinovskii, Chadroshvili, and Avetisian plus three others) to propose an appropriate timetable and course of action.[58]

A merger between VOOP and the Green Plantings Society had been advocated by the leadership of the former because such a merger seemed to provide the endangered nature protection community with a cloak of "protective coloration"; the Green Plantings Society from the first had a more pronounced ideology of transformation of nature. Besides, the Green Plantings Society would bring in, at least on paper, hundreds of thousands of new members—representatives of the "masses"—which would lift the stigma of elitism from the conservation movement. Yet the VOOP leadership counted on remaining the brains of the new organization, whereas the former Green Plantings Society would provide the strong back, muscled arms, and padded pockets, in a relationship not unlike that of the Menshevik Party to the Socialist Revolutionaries in 1917. However, that was a political gamble.

For their part, convinced nature transformers, Stalinists, and opportunists in both organizations were also supporting a merger, betting that they would be able to oust the old guard and inherit the movement's infrastructure. Writing to Maslov, Vasilii Pavlovich Galitskii of the leadership of the conservative Moscow oblast' branch of VOOP already on December 30, 1952 presented his wish list for the Presidium of the new organization.[59] Not surprisingly, he called for the retirement of Makarov, Protopopov, Avetisian, Geptner, Krivoshapov, Molodchikov, Varsonof'eva, Fridman, Preobrazhenskii, and others of the old guard.

Although Maslov was receiving input both from the Stalinists and from the old guard,[60] the most important input derived from the Kremlin, for on November 29, 1952, at the behest of the Agricultural Section of the Central Committee, the Party's Central Committee ordered yet another investigation into the societies. This time the Party announced that it would conduct it jointly with the RSFSR Council of Ministers. In other words, there would be oversight from the center.[61]


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A new investigation of VOOP was ordered by Maslov on April 16, 1953. The results, presented by his aide Kostoglodov the next day, were highly negative. The Society's Central Council had not yet met once since January 24, 1952, and the decisions taken concerning reregistration of members and convening a conference of representatives of the branches of the Society were not followed up with action. Presidium meetings continued to attract only a disappointing percentage of its members. Of sixteen staff members who were supposed to be at work on April 16, only seven were present. According to the chief bookkeeper, two staffers made appearances only to claim their paychecks.[62]

Kostoglodov also provided Maslov with thumbnail biographies of some of the key members of the Presidium, turning up, in the case of scholarly secretary Ivan Osipovich Chernenko, both a kulak background and a Party reprimand in 1935 for hiding it. Repeating the notion that the Society's emphasis on publishing was motivated by financial rewards to individuals for their written output, Kostoglodov saw no justification for the Society's continued operation. Instead, he recommended that the Central Council meet in plenary session to abolish the Society—"self-liquidation."[63]

The other side continued to lobby Maslov, with Avetisian informing the deputy premier that "an organized scientific-citizen-based movement for nature protection has a long history and enjoys widespread participation both here and abroad. At the same moment that the Council of Ministers is deliberating on whether or not our society should continue to exist, in Kiev the Congress of the Ukrainian Society for Nature Protection is opening." Not only were there analogous societies in even more republics, but also in fifty-four nations around the globe, united in the International Union for the Protection of Nature, "which, through VOKS, has invited our society to become a member as well."[64]

For the RSFSR leadership, getting the Central Committee off their backs was the top priority. This they did by soliciting the opinions of the oblast' , krai , and autonomous republic leaderships within the RSFSR as to whether they supported the continued existence of the two voluntary societies, albeit in merged form. The majority voiced such support.[65] Representative of the responses received was the letter sent by the chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Kabardinian ASSR, who wrote, "In light of the fruitful quality of the work of the Kabardinian branch of VOOP, [our] Council of Ministers considers that under any circumstances it must be preserved."[66]

With the shadow of Stalin's Central Committee looming, the RSFSR leadership's designation of a largely Stalinist, "safe" organizing committee for the new, merged society becomes more readily understandable. The organizing committee for the new society looked more like Galitskii's wish list than the old guard's. Tsitsin, Avetisian, and Krivoshapov represented what was left of the old Presidium, but the strongest and most articulate champi-


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ons of the intelligentsia's ethos—Varsonof'eva, Fridman, Protopopov, Geptner, and Makarov—were absent. Ranged against them was a potent lineup of Stalinist bureaucrats and convinced nature-transformers: Galitskii, Chadroshvili, Lotsmanov, Gusev, Melekhov, Malinovskii, G. I. Lebedev, Mel'nikov, Manteifel', and three more government figures.[67] With Chernousov gone, VOOP's personal ties to the Russian Republic leadership were again disrupted, and Puzanov took the politically safer route of naming figures who were ideologically compatible with the Stalin Plan for the Great Transformation of Nature. Even including Avetisian in the orgburo had become risky: a letter denouncing him and his supporters to the RSFSR Council of Ministers, written by Galitskii in late August 1953, reminded the Russian Republic leaders of accusations against Avetisian in the press in late 1948 for "distorting" the Lysenko line in Soviet biology and the satire directed against him in Krokodil in June 1952.[68]

Perhaps delayed by the monumental political events of the spring and summer as well as by the desire to allow the Central Committee's attention to stray from its preoccupation with the fate of such "marginal" organizations, Puzanov took official action on the merger only on July 15, with a decision to postpone any Congress of the new society at least until June 1954.[69] The decree was published only on September 5, 1953, under Puzanov's signature, one day after receiving a letter from Avetisian asking about the cause of the delay and urging haste.[70] Maslov and Puzanov were still writing letters to Khrushchëv and Pospelov in the Central Committee asking permission for the new society to hold its opening congress as late as September 1954. These letters were rebuffed as well. With good reason the Russian Republic leaders did not wish to pester the authorities excessively on this account.[71]

At one of the last meetings of the Presidium of VOOP qua VOOP, on June 2,1953, an announcement, shocking yet not totally unexpected, opened the gathering: Vasilii Nikitich Makarov had died that very day. Perhaps no other figure better embodied the tragic predicament of the nature protection movement. For a long time, against the odds, Makarov had succeeded in creating, preserving, and sometimes even expanding the institutional home base for Russia's lost tribe of prerevolutionary scientific intellectuals. Though not of that caste by birth or education, he made himself into a member through his contact with "better credentialed" scientific activists in the Soviet period, particularly since he took the helm of VOOP and the zapovednik administration in 1930. Though gentle by nature, he also displayed great courage and acumen in making space in Stalin's hostile world for his little countercultural social zapovednik . A master of protective coloration, he knew when to engage in it and understood which principles could be temporarily sacrificed for the sake of even more important ones. He compromised in order to protect the last symbolic islands of "purity." His death was


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tragic because he died thinking that his achievements were being "liquidated." Even his own institutional "children," the Main Zapovednik Administration and VOOP, either actively cast him aside or were forced to do so at the risk of their own survival.

No doubt deeply ashamed of its recent betrayal of its longtime chief, the Presidium of VOOP now paid its respects to Makarov's wife, Klavdiia Arsen'evna, and decided to pay for the funeral and corporately to take part in it.[72] In September, at VOOP's last Presidium meeting, the Society made plans to honor Makarov's memory in a more lasting way: a portrait of him was commissioned to hang in the Society's headquarters, and a committee was formed to posthumously publish another edition of his 1947 book Okhrana prirody v SSSR (Nature Protection in the USSR ).[73]

In a letter to Vera Varsonof'eva shortly after Makarov's death, Susanna Fridman struggled to provide a final assessment of her boss and colleague of so many years: "I saw that his trusting nature, his soft character, . . . and even his personal modesty got in his own way and that of the cause. He always was in the shadows, and dragged the Society into the shadows as well, when what was needed was to create a big hubbub."[74] With this observation she came close to identifying the fatal contradiction of the nature protection movement as a voice of scientific public opinion in Stalinist Russia: it wanted to stand for an alternative vision of development but wanted support and acceptance from the system at the same time. Yet even the astute Fridman could not openly say that the problem was at base structural, not a result of less capable movement leaders. "Where are the Borodins, the Talievs, Kozhevnikovs, Komarovs, Smidoviches, Fersmans, and Makarovs [now]?" she wrote to Varsonof'eva in the same letter, complaining of an ongoing degeneration in the quality of movement activists since the days of the founders.[75] Perhaps what isolated Fridman was that for the majority of her fellow movement activists–representatives of scientific public opinion-the modus vivendi worked out by Makarov was "good enough," even if it fell short of her high standards of civic activism.

The All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Protection of Nature and the Greening of Population Centers

With a new name, the All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Protection of Nature and the Greening of Population Centers began to order its affairs by the late autumn of 1953. A Presidium of the Organizing Committee was elected with a majority drawn from the old guard—by some miraculous coup—with Avetisian assuming leadership of both the plenary Organizing Committee and its Presidium.[76] Of note was the exclusion from


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the Organizing Committee and the Presidium of G. I. Lebedev, one of the former officers of the Green Plantings Society, probably because of his letter denouncing a number of his opponents in that society and VOOP.[77]

With Galitskii removed, Manteifel' rebuked, and the transformist-oriented Moscow oblast ' branch of the newly merged society placed in a kind of receivership, the new hybrid society started exploring the political opportunities that were slowly opening up in the Soviet Union.[78] Just as the violent storms of Stalin's last years seemed on the verge of washing all the achievements and "safe houses" of the movement to sea, the tyrant died, and a new weather system, not without its own dangerous irruptions of turbulence, blew in. Some pockets of blue could now be spied amidst the thunderheads.


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