previous chapter
Chapter Eleven— A Time to Build
next chapter

Chapter Eleven—
A Time to Build

Barely a year had passed since the Main Zapovednik Administration had been demoted unceremoniously in 1953 from an all-Union ministerial-level authority to a glavk (department) within the USSR Ministry of Agriculture and Supplies, with the added responsibility for hunting matters as meager compensation. Yet in the Russian Federation matters seemed to be moving in exactly the opposite direction.

In April 1954 I. K. Lebedev, a deputy premier of the RSFSR, wrote to Premier A. M. Puzanov, arguing that the inclusion of the Main Administration for Hunting of the RSFSR into the system of the RSFSR Ministry of Agriculture in early 1953, paralleling the reorganization on the all-Union level, "had an extremely deleterious effect on game management in the republic, as the experience of 1953 and 1954 has shown." (Almost 80 percent of the game wardens were let go.) With the support of another deputy premier, P. P. Lobanov, Lebedev suggested reattaching the Main Administration directly to the RSFSR Council of Ministers.[1] Nature protection and hunting were domains where the RSFSR was able to stake out a significant sphere of independence in policy, a sphere in which scientific public opinion had more than perfunctory input. This chapter will trace the emergence and early years of Glavokhota RSFSR, that republic's new agency for hunting and zapovedniki , as it rapidly tried to reconstitute the RSFSR's decimated network of nature reserves. Additionally, it will examine the activities of the Academy of Sciences Commission on Zapovedniki , reorganized in 1955 with a broader mandate as the Commission on Nature Protection. Together the two institutions contributed to an institutional renaissance for nature protection during the mid and late 1950s.


241

Glavokhota RSFSR

On May 26, 1954, the Bureau of the RSFSR Council of Ministers met to consider the question raised by Lebedev, with Premier Puzanov presiding. I. Kartsev, who had headed up the RSFSR Main Administration both before and after its incorporation into the republic's Ministry of Agriculture, was one of the most ardent supporters of reinstating the agency's (and his) former status, promising in response to one questioner that no new staff were needed and there would be no cost to the republic's fisc. With a green light from the Bureau, Kartsev was given a week to produce a workable draft proposal.[2]

Between May and December 18, when Puzanov signed a new decree de facto creating the new agency, one interesting emendation had occurred; the new agency was designated the Main Administration for Hunting Affairs and Zapovedniki of the RSFSR Council of Ministers, usually referred to by its acronym, Glavokhota RSFSR.[3]

Apart from serving as a symbolic rebuke to Malinovskii's Main Zapovednik and Hunting Affairs Administration of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture, Puzanov's action seemed to embody an implicit threat as well as a promise: to restore, recover, or create a network of zapovedniki in the Russian Republic so that the damage wrought in 1951—for which Malinovskii bore a share of responsibility—might be undone. This meaning was all the more striking in light of the fact that the Russian Republic was still bereft of its own zapovedniki at the time of the creation of the new agency.

As we know from the archives, however, Puzanov considered it expedient nevertheless to gain approval for the move from the Kremlin authorities, and on April 28, 1955, he wrote an extended justification of the decision to Soviet premier Nikolai Bulganin: "The RSFSR Council of Ministers considers it beneficial to restore the hunting affairs agencies to direct subordination to the RSFSR Council of Ministers and to the [analogous] executive committees at the oblast' , krai , and ASSR levels, simultaneously transferring control over the network of state zapovedniki to them, as the existing system of authority [i.e., Malinovskii] over these zapovedniki is leading to a severance of their work from practical concerns and from the needs of hunting."[4] This had an ironic twist, for Puzanov was using Malinovskii's rhetoric of "practical concerns." It was a clever gambit, for the forest-obsessed leadership of Stalin and Malenkov had yielded to the rule of hunting enthusiasts Bulganin and Khrushchëv, and Malinovskii's almost exclusive emphasis on forestry now appeared to be a narrow-minded deviation.

With Bulganin's blessing given on May 20, 1955, the RSFSR Council of Ministers on July 29 agreed to start up the new administration with a staff of twenty-seven: short of I. Kartsev's request of forty-four and RSFSR


242

Gosplan's recommendation of thirty-nine, but still enough for a credible kickoff.[5]

And so on August 9, 1955, not even a week before the founding Congress of the new VOOP, Glavokhota RSFSR officially opened for business. Its new head, Nikolai Vasil'evich Eliseev, was instructed to take over sixteen zapovedniki from the USSR Ministry of Agriculture, which would be directly supervised by an Administration for Zapovedniki and for Renewable Commercial Wildlife. That administration's director would be a deputy head of the Main Administration and would be supported by four staff members.[6] Although we do not yet have information on how the Russian Federation was able to pry loose the sixteen reserves of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture's network located on Russian territory, perhaps the transfer of Ivan A. Benediktov from minister of agriculture to minister of sovkhozy on March 2, 1955, the removal of A. I. Kozlov on that same date from all ministerial posts, and the removal of Kozlov's patron Malenkov as USSR premier six days later—all in the aftermath of the February Plenum of the Central Committee—dislodged Malinovskii's chief political protectors, who could have blocked the republic's plans.

To the extraordinary good fortune of the conservation movement, the person designated to head the zapovednik section of Glavokhota was Georgii Evgrafovich Burdin, who, for the veteran scientists, seemed a reincarnation of Makarov. Burdin's positive energy and Eliseev's seriousness were reflected in the agency's first months of operation.

In August 1955 Glavokhota had also inherited a game management system that had been gutted by the RSFSR Ministry of Agriculture during the three years in which that agency ran it. Of 362 local wardens and inspectors in 1953, only seventy remained on August 9, 1955.[7] On October 1, the USSR Ministry of Agriculture officially turned over the promised sixteen zapovedniki . With all their new units in place, Eliseev and his team immediately activated a surprisingly energetic campaign against poaching, efforts to control which were described as having been "invisible" in a number of oblasts prior to the transfer.[8] Aiding the republic's three-score plus game wardens and inspectors was a growing army of 38,800 deputized "citizens' inspectors," up from 34,700 the previous year.[9] Change was in the air.

On January 27, 1956, still on the eve of the Twentieth Party Congress, an all-Union Conference of Directors of Zapovedniki and Game Preserves and Ranches opened in Moscow. Significantly, it was organized not by Malinovskii's Main Administration for Zapovedniki and Hunting of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture but by the RSFSR's Glavokhota, reasserting the leadership role in these matters once exercised by the old RSFSR Main Administration under Makarov.

The keynote speaker of the conference was the ardent new director of Glavokhota's zapovednik system, Burdin. In what must have been an electric


243

moment for the old-timers, Burdin asked the indulgence of the audience so that he could discuss the proper role of zapovedniki in light of their history. "This is even more necessary," he explained, "in connection with the transfer of the zapovedniki of the Russian Federation to the system of the Main Administration for Hunting and Zapovedniki of the RSFSR Council of Ministers, created anew [emphasis added]."[10]

Citing at great length the resolutions of the conservation congresses of 1929 and 1933 as well as resolutions of the USSR Academy of Sciences of 1944, Burdin presented an unprecedentedly rousing endorsement for zapovedniki as bases for fundamental, not applied, research into ecological and evolutionary dynamics in undisturbed nature. Linked with that was the maintenance of a regime of inviolability. Of the highest priority for zapovedniki was "the preservation in their natural state of protected parcels of living nature with all of their component plants and animals, barring the use of the latter for economic goals and creating the conditions that would guarantee the essential processes of natural development of natural complexes in order better to preserve them for scientific and cultural purposes for all time, for future generations of humanity."[11]

Burdin rhetorically asked how the USSR Ministry of Agriculture's former stewardship of the reserves met the goals for them that he just outlined, and his response was hardly a ringing endorsement. In the Caucasus zapovednik , before its transfer to his agency, Burdin noted that two European bison had died owing to the spread of hemorrhagic septicemia from domestic cattle illegally grazing inside the reserve, while the poor protection provided by the reduced warden staff accounted for the death of the purebred bison "Beliaka" at the hands of poachers. Similar examples of laxity and indifference characterized a host of other zapovedniki of Malinovskii's system. In the Sikhote-Alinskii zapovednik in the Far East the attention given to the ginseng plantations "eclipsed the basic tasks of protecting the territory of the reserve and promoting its scientific study." Because they were spending such a great amount of time on the ginseng gardens, the warden-observers were not attending to their patrols, with deplorably predictable consequences. "As strange as it may seem," noted Burdin, "the workers of the zapovednik were not the initiators of the recommendation to protect the not very numerous individuals of the Amur [Siberian] tiger and [snow] leopard species that inhabit the region."[12]

Burdin upbraided the previous administration for permitting the "reconstruction" of riparian woodland in the Voronezhskii zapovednik , eliminating strips of black aspen. "It is more than in the realm of possibility that this policy has had more than a little to do with the unsatisfactory hydrological regime in the zapovednik ," he offered. He also deplored the artificial maximizing of the numbers of protected animals—in the case of the Voronezh reserve, beaver—beyond the natural carrying capacity of the habitat itself


244

through "upgrading" the biological productivity of the reserve's vegetation. "This is not a task for the zapovedniki ," Burdin emphasized; "this must not characterize their methods of work." Zapovednik workers were "obliged to proceed first of all from the exigency of strict fulfillment of their duty to protect nature so that no harm is inflicted of the protected natural complex." This cardinal rule had been forgotten or deliberately denigrated by the previous administration. "These are all sad facts," contended Burdin, "but they exist in our zapovedniki and we are duty-bound to speak about them so that they may be eliminated in the nearest future."[13]

Citing the research done by zoologists, Burdin praised the fundamental research performed in the reserves and promised the full support of Glavokhota RSFSR. He also singled out the nature logs kept by the reserves—the letopisi prirodyas a valuable database whose continuity had been threatened or disrupted by unappreciative administrators and staff. Researchers also had obligations, noted Burdin, to keep current in their fields, which included staying abreast of foreign literature, and that presupposed a working knowledge of important foreign languages.[14]

Aware of the need to develop a larger constituency that would at least not be hostile to the reserves, Burdin encouraged developing limited, nondisruptive tourism (in closely controlled corridors) and building interpretive museums attached to the reserves. But, he repeated, that should be accommodated only if it did not disrupt the fundamental natural conditions of the reserves.[15]

Concluding with news that no one had dared to imagine they would hear so soon, Burdin revealed to the conference that, with the support of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Glavokhota RSFSR had already submitted plans for the consideration of the RSFSR Council of Ministers for the restoration of lost territory of the Caucasus, Sikhote-Alinskii, and Barguzinskii zapovedniki and for the restoration of the former Gorno-Altaiskii and Sudzukhinskii reserves. An astonished audience gave Burdin a stirring round of applause as the import of his presentation sank in. The day of the resurrection was dawning.[16]

When the conference resumed later that day, it was clear that Burdin's talk was on its way to becoming a watershed event in the history of nature protection in the Khrushchëv era. The first to identify the import of Burdin's presentation was Vsevolod Borisovich Dubinin, deputy chair of the Academy's commission, in the name of which he spoke. "This convocation," he began, "is a scientific form of linkage between those working in zapovedniki and scientific public opinion, and for that reason we greet this initiative of the new Main Administration. We hold out the hope that the Main Administration . . . will carry on the way things were before, that is, before Malinovskii, during the good old days when the Main Administration was linked with scientific forces and built its work on that basis."[17]


245

Going further than the diplomatic Burdin, Dubinin now sought to make explicit that the deficient state of reserve management was

the result of the harmful anti-state practices of the old leadership of the Main Administration . . . such as Malinovskii and his assistants. . . . It is no accident that in the hallways of the conference reverberated joyous voices with the message that "a fair breeze was blowing." I believe that I am expressing the general feeling if I say that we very much hope that this breeze will fan itself into a mighty gale to whisk away all of the rot that has accumulated during the past few years and that our future will be freshened by the wholesome breeze of positive initiatives, which we already sense in the activity of the new personnel of the [RSFSR] Main Administration.[18]

Dubinin voiced an additional hope for the restoration of a journal dedicated to the scientific publications of the zapovedniki , the Nauchnometodicheskie zapiski Glavnogo Upravleniia po zapovednikam , which had been published under Makarov from 1938 to 1950, enjoying wide recognition in scientific circles.[19]

Dubinin closed with rare praise for those who worked or researched in the zapovedniki :

I want to tell the Main Administration that a golden treasure has fallen into your hands: they are the golden cadres . . . under your direct leadership. It is my hope that you will protect them like the apple of our eye. These cadres work in diverse little corners of our nature and a nurturing attitude toward these people, love for them and worry about them, popularization of their works, all these things are needed not only for the zapovedniki , but for science itself. For in all of our major surveys and in all of our generalizations we rely on these protected people [zapovednye liudi ], who have done enormously much.[20]

For the long-suffering, much abused, and indescribably dedicated field biologists, this praise was balm for their wounds. To hear it from the influential Dubinin, the right hand of the great baron of Soviet zoology, General Evgenii Nikanorovich Pavlovskii, was especially sweet.

Echoing the general sentiments, a whole row of speakers acclaimed Burdin's talk. Tit Titovich Trofimov, who had worked with Stanchinskii in the now liquidated Tsentral'no-Lesnoi (Central Forest) zapovednik , admitted that during Burdin's remarks "I personally experienced some kind of unburdening, a feeling of breathing easier, like the feeling when you have been long walking through the forest and then come upon a bright open field," and urged the duplication and dissemination of Burdin's speech to all workers in the reserves and in the field of protection of nature. Spurred by Glavokhota's intention to restore the Altai and Sudzukhinskii reserves, Trofimov also made a strong case for the restoration of the Tsentral'noLesnoi. Although the Geographical Society had made a strong case for it as


246

the only reserve whose nature represented that of the typical mixed forest of central Russia, Trofimov observed that because it boasted no geological or other natural oddities or monuments "that could knock your socks off," it fell easy prey in 1951. However, he argued, "as an etalon of nature, this is one of the finest tracts of land, the more so since the zapovednik was located at the headwaters of our Western Dvina, Volga, and Oka rivers."[21]

One of the most poignant reactions to Burdin's speech was from Ivan Osipovich Chernenko, former director of the Laplandskii zapovednik and an old activist who served briefly as scholarly secretary of VOOP in the wake of Kuznetsov's removal before resigning in a quarrel with Avetisian.

We, the old workers of the system of zapovedniki  . . . took the reorganization of 1951 extremely hard. We similarly viewed the organization of the new Main Administration [Glavokhota RSFSR] guardedly, particularly because hunting was placed ahead of zapovedniki in the name of the agency. We feared that the new administration, grounded in hunting principles, was trying to steer the zapovedniki in a direction we did not wish to see them go. But after the talk of Comrade Burdin our wariness has dissipated. There is a feeling that the period of the laceration of the system has passed and a new period of restoration, recovery to health, and resurrection of all that was destroyed has now commenced.

Chernenko then touched on the human cost of the destruction of the reserves system, pointedly seeking to honor the man they had felt forced to renounce: "It is just terribly sad that one of the founders of this cause . . . , the most honest and most dedicated of them all—V. N. Makarov—did not live to witness this glorious day."[22]

And so with a mixture of joy and sadness, but most of all hope, the USSR's embattled conservation activists—scientific public opinion—noted an important milestone in their fight for social affirmation and for their beloved cause. When Khrushchëv's epochal denunciation of Stalin stunned the USSR and the world two weeks later, it also put some force behind that balmy breeze that blew through the conference on Burdin's welcome words.

Aleksandr Nikolaevich Formozov, who also spoke at the conference, remembered with pain how "in 1950 and 1951 we were often told: 'your work is no good, your work is of little value.' This we heard from people who neither understood anything about this cause or about [our] scientific work." With the accession of Malinovskii in 1950 people began to "flee" the zapovedniki , recounted Formozov. "You've got to wonder how representatives of such a tribe as V. P. Teplov, Zharkovskii, [Oleg Izmailovich] Semënovtian-shanskii, Mertts, Kozlov, and others were able to survive in such a system. These were literally protected bison [zapovednye zubry] who, somehow or other, managed to survive here."[23]

"How did public opinion react to the situation in which the zapovedniki found themselves?" asked Formozov. The answer was that it drew on its own


247

reserves of power. Scientists united, forging a "system of MOIP, VOOP, and the Geographical Society" that resulted in the 1954 zapovednik conference. "The stenogram of that conference was then replicated," which produced "a shocking impression." "Nevertheless," continued Formozov, "the leadership of the Main Administration at that time not only took no measures to correct its work but erected even higher walls between scientific public opinion and the Main Administration, especially its leadership: Malinovskii, Romanetskii, and [Korol'kov]."[24]

Formozov mentioned the feeling of shame evoked by A. A. Nasimovich's talk at a joint meeting of MOIP and the Geographical Society, where he outlined the status of nature protection and protected territories abroad. (Nasimovich would present his talk to the conference the next day.)[25] The Soviet Union among all major countries was in last place in terms of percentage of national territory under protection, against a backdrop of significant measures undertaken by "capitalist" countries, even after the war. Such shame was experienced by Formozov himself, for his remarks provide us with a rare anthropological glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of a sensitive Soviet participant at an international scientific congress abroad. He himself had recently participated in the eighteenth International Geographical Congress in Rio de Janeiro together with representatives of seventeen other countries, mainly capitalist. In talks "in the hallways," Formozov and his foreign colleagues discussed many of these issues.

I must confess with complete honesty that I was pained and extraordinarily ashamed for our country because it was embarrassing for me to talk about the status of zapovedniki in our country. I tried to keep from talking about it, and all the while [my colleagues] tried to question me about the state of our zapovedniki and what the situation is with nature protection here. It was like being roasted on a spit trying to avoid answering that question. . . . For that reason you'll understand me when I tell you it was extremely unpleasant for me to speak about that, since I could not tell people the truth and tried to put the ball back in their court by saying that there are wonderful data available about that matter.[26]

Formozov concluded by affirming that "now the leadership of zapovedniki is in secure hands, this leadership is now in hands we can trust. This brings us great joy today because today we need a good and strong line in this cause. . . . We must think about all of the zapovedniki of the Soviet Union as we are all patriots of the Soviet Union."[27]

Formozov's remarks provide an example of the often frustrated and unrequited sense of patriotic loyalty among the scientific intelligentsia. Prevented from making a contribution to their country's healthy development, as they saw it, and rebuffed in their efforts to salvage the country's international honor, patriotic scientists such as Formozov and Nasimovich nevertheless did not wish to pass into active dissent. They expressed one of


248

the double binds of scientific public opinion. If their remarks were a cri de coeur to the kindred souls in the immediate audience, there are grounds to posit that there were other, more powerful audiences to which they were simultaneously addressing themselves: the leadership of the RSFSR and the Khrushchëv regime itself. Seeing his only recourse in a public washing of "dirty linen," Formozov's story was a warning to the central regime that authentic Soviet scientists could represent the USSR effectively, productively, comfortably, and in good faith at gatherings with foreign colleagues only if their homeland's policies genuinely inspired pride, not shame. But it was also an appeal to the government of the Russian Republic to step into the breach with unilateral action on nature protection that could compensate for the inaction at the all-Union level. At the beginning of the thaw, this was one way scientists sought to negotiate with the not completely monolithic Party-state regime.

In its discussion of the scientific research of the zapovedniki , Glavokhota's annual report—a variation of the speech presented by Burdin—immediately departed from the tone set by Malinovskii. "A series of investigations carried out in 1955," the report advertised, "were of great importance for the development of theory, particularly in the area of wildlife ecology." The report hailed the letopisi prirody (nature logs) as valuable innovations.

On the other hand, pragmatic practices that conflicted with scientists' strict understanding of inviolability of zapovedniki continued in force: predator control, habitat improvement, acclimatization, fire prevention, and other forestry measures. In addition, many research themes, although scientifically sound, still reflected outside pressures for economic relevance: the study of the natural fertility of the Barguzin sable, "the basis of the correct exploitation of the forest marten in the Krasnodar krai ," "results of the acclimatization of the Altai squirrel in the Caucasus zapovednik ," and a study on the natural renewal and stimulated growth of the Siberian Stone pine or "cedar" (Pinus sibirica ), to name just a few.[28] Yet none of these pragmatic concerns disrupted the new tone of respect for scientific researchers, for fundamental research, and for the inviolability of zapovedniki .

Early in 1956 Glavokhota was asked to draft its operations plans for the next five-year period, through 1960. Although N. Krutorogov, Eliseev's deputy for hunting affairs, bore responsibility for compiling the draft as a whole, in the section on zapovedniki the hand of Burdin and the spirit of nauchnaia obshchestvennost' were now fully in evidence. In that section the "liquidation" of 1951 was unflinchingly confronted. "Until 1951 there were . . . forty-six zapovedniki on the territory of the RSFSR with an overall area of 9,955,300 hectares, of which thirty-seven with an area of 9,917,300 were under the aegis of the RSFSR Council of Ministers," it stated. And "[a]s the experience of the past few years has shown," it went on, "the elimination of a number of zapovedniki and the significant reduction of their


249

overall area . . . inflicted great harm to the cause of the protection of the richest, most typical natural complexes in the various landscape zones [of the country] and to the ability of science to conduct scientific investigations directly under natural conditions, which is a matter of great practical and theoretical importance for science."[29]

Invoking feelings of shame, the report reminded the leadership of the RSFSR that the Soviet Union currently had a negligible 0.06 percent of its national territory under protection as zapovedniki , whereas analogous institutions represented far greater proportions of the national territories of many foreign countries, including the USA (1.0 percent), Japan (4.3 percent), Canada (0.74 percent), New Zealand (4.5 percent), and even Switzerland (0.39 percent).[30] Evidently speeches and counsel such as those of Formozov and Nasimovich were having an effect.

The report did not rely solely on shaming, however. In a real break with the past, it listed the civic groups, scientific institutions, and political bodies that had raised their voices for the restoration and expansion of the zapovedniki as justification for a fast-track mobilization of Glavokhota's efforts in this area.[31]

Burdin and company proposed the creation of eighteen additional zapovedniki in five years to take a major step toward representing the totality of "geographical zones" of the RSFSR, plus the expansion of those reserves whose areas had been slashed in 1951, in some cases restoring them fully to the status quo ante.[32] As Glavokhota director Eliseev told the Presidium of VOOP on May 11, 1956, the RSFSR "was not going to stand in the way," although the USSR Ministries of Agriculture and Fishing were being obstructionist. However, Eliseev added, the USSR Academy of Sciences had supported Glavokhota "in every way" and he was now seeking to mobilize the support of other bases of scientific public opinion. Even VOOP vice president, horticulturist, and Party stalwart A. N. Volkov, who admitted that "in my work I am far from any involvement with zapovedniki ," endorsed VOOP's resolution of support for Glavokhota, although the Society would never again be on the front lines of the fight for protected territories.[33]

From 850,100 hectares in sixteen zapovedniki inherited in 1955, by January 1, 1960 the network had expanded to twenty-two reserves (still short of the thirty-four proposed) with an aggregate area of 4,256,350 hectares.[34] The centerpiece of the efforts was the reopening of Kronotskii, with 964,000 hectares, and of Zhigulëvskii, with 16,700 hectares, long the object of petitioning by Sukachëv and Tiurin. In one year alone the system grew by over one million hectares.[35] No less impressive was the revival of scientific research and publications in the Glavokhota system, which, as in the Makarov days, again became a Mecca for leading scientists.[36] On thorny hunting problems Glavokhota moved equally resolutely, announcing on February 10, 1956, a prohibition against the hunting of all game birds in the


250

RSFSR during the spring season of that year with the exception of eight far northern and Siberian oblasts .[37]

Perhaps the strongest indication of how much things had changed—or rather had returned to historic patterns—was the response of N. Masterov, a deputy premier of the RSFSR, to V. A. Karlov, deputy head of the Agricultural Section of the Central Committee (in the division of RSFSR affairs) concerning the request of the Voronezh obkom and oblispolkom to increase the amount of timber cut in the Voronezh zapovednik . With the backing of his own Gosplan RSFSR, who instructed that "in zapovedniki the entire natural complex must be preserved," and the unflinching insistence of Eliseev's Glavokhota and a number of Academy institutes, Masterov sent Karlov a terse rejection.[38]

Although Glavokhota was unable to restore the defunct Nauchno-metodicheskie zapiski (Scientific and Methodological Papers of the Main Zapovednik Administration ), from 1955 on it began to publish jointly with Malinovskii's Main Administration an attractive monthly, Okhota i okhotnich'e khoziaistvo (Hunting and Game Management ), which became another powerful voice for nature. Despite the fact that Malinovskii occupied the editor in chief's chair at the journal, which gave the journal a dual personality, many articles hewed to the Russian Republic's more preservation-oriented and ecological line. One article of 1957, for example, condemned the use of DDT, arsenic-based compounds, fluorine-based organics, and other toxic pesticides for inflicting "great harm on wildlife and bird populations." It approvingly noted the passage of a special resolution of the RSFSR Council of Ministers of September 15, 1956, requiring the republic's Ministry of Agriculture within a four-month period to develop a strategy to apply these agents without loss to wildlife.[39] This was implicitly breaking ranks with Malinovskii's USSR Ministry of Agriculture, which was 100 percent behind the use of pesticides. Even more of a polemical challenge to Malinovskii was a provocative article by longtime VOOP activist P. Bel'skii entitled "Zapovedniki and Game Management," which also appeared in 1957.[40]

An unbroken united front against the Kremlin's depredations once again stretched from scientific public opinion to the RSFSR Main Administration (Glavokhota) to Gosplan RSFSR to their patrons and protectors on the RSFSR Council of Ministers. Scientific public opinion now used the Academy of Sciences' commission to broaden that united front across republican frontiers.

The Academy of Sciences' Commission Takes Off

With the blessing of Academy president Nesmeianov and, some say, on his initiative, on March 11, 1955 the Academy's Commission on Zapovedniki was


251

suddenly transformed into a major player in the USSR's debate over resource use and environmental quality.[41] With the commission's transformation into the Commission on the Protection of Nature, the Presidium of the Academy restated its claim as "scientific advisor" to the regime, noting that the "solution to problems of protection of nature requires the active participation of scientists in developing the scientific bases for that goal, in preparing recommendations for government agencies regarding the protection of animals, plants, forests, water bodies, and soils, and for assuring the protection of nature in regions undergoing extensive development (reservoirs, hydroelectric stations, factories, etc.)."[42] Although certainly not slighting the importance of zapovedniki and other protected territories, the reorganization was a recognition that "the growing . . . use of natural resources, however, demands even greater participation by the USSR Academy of Sciences and the Academies of the Union republics in activities to promote the protection of nature in the USSR."[43]

Accordingly, the commission was charged with developing the scientific bases for nature protection and the renewal of natural resources, preparing recommendations for the government, coordinating activities of bodies of both the Biology and Geology-Geography Divisions of the Academy as well as those of the Union republics on issues relevant to nature protection, developing recommendations for new zapovedniki and other protected territories, and providing scientific guidance and oversight for research in the reserves. It was given the authority to publish up to three issues a year of its new journal, Okhrana prirody i zapovednoe delo v SSSR , with Dement'ev, who became acting chair of the commission, also serving as editor in chief.[44]

The fifteen members of the Presidium of the commission and the forty-six additional members read like a who's who in Soviet biology, geology, and geography. The parasitologist Vsevolod Borisovich Dubinin of the Leningrad-based Zoological Institute of the Academy served as deputy chair. Two geographers who were full members of the academy, A. A. Grigor'ev and Innokentii Petrovich Gerasimov, the new director of the Geographical Institute of the Academy, together with the historical biogeographer S. V. Kirikov, who was given refuge in that institute, gave that branch strong representation in the Presidium. Botany was also well represented, with Sukachëv staying on as the senior representative of the Academy's Biology Division. In addition to the zoologists Dement'ev and Dubinin, the Presidium included ichthyologist G. V. Nikol'skii and Dubinin's mentor, Evgenii Nikanorovich Pavlovskii, director of the Academy's Zoological Institute. A fascinating and complex individual, Pavlovskii, in addition to being an outstanding parasitologist, probably had the most political clout of anyone on the Presidium, owing to his directorship of the Military Medical Academy, also in Leningrad, where he investigated the control of epidemics among troops. Lev Konstantinovich Shaposhnikov, a lackluster zoologist but an


252

honest and energetic individual, found a niche for himself as the commission's scholarly secretary.

Among the distinguished regular members of the commission were geographer David L'vovich Armand, zoologists Geptner, Formozov, and N. E. Kabanov, botanist N. V. Dylis, and soil scientist A. A. Rode. Seeking to be inclusive, the commission counted representatives of almost all of the Academies of the Union republics as well as of the Academies of Pedagogical and Medical Sciences.[45]

Perhaps seasoned by his difficult experience as vice president of VOOP, Dement'ev came into his own as acting chair of the Academy commission. At a plenary session held on April 5 and 6, 1956, Dement'ev presented a one-year retrospective as well as a guide to the future.[46] Nobody hearing it could doubt that once again Russia's scientific community was on the move.

A complicated figure, Georgii Petrovich Dement'ev was born in the St. Petersburg suburb of Petergof on July 5, 1898. His father was a middle-class physician. Dement'ev spoke German and French and acquired the vast erudition typical of the better-educated youth of his generation. From the age of ten he loved birds. After a move to Moscow in 1920 to study at Moscow University he became an authority on the ornithological collection of the Zoological Museum there. A bent toward systematics led him to collaborate with his teacher, S. A. Buturlin, on The Complete Identification Book for the Birds of the USSR , which appeared in 1928. Hired on to the staff of the Zoological Museum, he earned advanced degrees in 1936 and 1940 and was brought into the vertebrate zoology department, where from 1956 he headed the Ornithological Laboratory. After completing a monograph on falcons (1951) and one on the birds of Turkmenistan (1952) and directing the six-volume Birds of the Soviet Union (1951–1954), his interests shifted increasingly toward the protection of nature.

Although his professional life had been shaped by the valiant "zoological intelligentsia" centered on the Moscow University Zoological Museum, Dement'ev did not have the stomach for a fight. Unlike the quietly courageous Makarov or the fiery Protopopov, he was prone to compromise or even acquiescence (although he was not a tool of the authorities, as were Andrei Grigor'evich Bannikov and Nikolai Gladkov). But in that wonderful springtime of hope that followed Stalin's death and Khrushchëv's secret speech, Dement'ev was able to lead, and, in leading, to help write one of the brightest chapters of postwar Russian conservation history.

Dement'ev parted company with the other old-timers in one other respect. Because he was more loyal to the Soviet regime than the old guard, he was not as fixated on the issue of inviolable zapovedniki , which had, for his colleagues, a transcendent significance. Dement'ev was able to approach nature protection more pragmatically and could recognize important emerging new issues and solutions. In this he found crucial support


253

from his deputy on the commission, Party member Vsevolod Borisovich Dubinin, despite Dubinin's long and intimate association with the Astrakhanskii zapovednik .

Striving to reorient the wasteful Stalinist economy to sustainability, Dement'ev highlighted the rhetoric of economic self-interest, cautioning that "it is erroneous to suppose that under conditions of the Soviet social system and the presence of a planned economy . . . the necessity for organizing a special system for the protection of nature is excluded." On the contrary, he insisted, "protection of nature is an inseparable and essential part of the planned economy," whose proper pursuit would guarantee expanding quantities of pelts, game, fish, lumber, and agricultural crop production.[47]

Public health issues were also intimately connected with nature protection, asserted Dement'ev. Did not M. D. Kovrigina, USSR Minister of Public Health, state as much in her speech to the Twentieth Party Congress just two months prior, pointing to the health threats of water and air pollution? Because the regime had not yet placed a ban on discussing the subject, Dement'ev also daringly raised the "new and fundamental problem. . . . developing ways of protecting living organisms from the harmful consequences of exposure to radiation."[48] "In that way," he continued,

the contemporary tasks of nature protection extend far beyond the limits of the passive preservation of existing natural resources—animals, plants, and individual parcels of nature—as it was understood in the historically first phase of the movement for nature protection, particularly in our own country; the more so since the goal of preserving the status quo ante in this case is not only practically inexpedient but also technically impossible. For that reason the view that the basic task of nature protection is to promote the creation of zapovednikithat this [emphasis] is the most complete and developed, "highest" . . . form of nature protection—is also an incorrect one. The organization of zapovedniki and the improvement of their work is an important and necessary cause, but it is only a small part of the whole problem. What deserves fundamental attention is nature protection in its broader sense—in sites where resources are being exploited and on developing the scientific and economic basis for regulating the use of natural resources.[49]

Dement'ev had no intention of marginalizing the struggle for protected territories, and he returned to the question toward the end of his speech, if only to reassure the partisans of the zapovednik cause that he was still a friend. Even so, he reiterated that "it is high time for a decisive repudiation of that view that holds the zapovedniki as the 'highest' form of nature protection." Although zapovedniki were valuable as etalony (baselines of nature), they represented areas that were spared only the "decisive intervention by humans." He called the reserves "conditionally natural" (uslovnoestestvennye ) parcels, a state that could still be compared meaningfully with that of overtly exploited areas. However, he implied that they should not be


254

idealized as either "pristine" or "harmoniously perfect." Nevertheless, he supported efforts to expand the network of the reserves:

Changes and growth in the economy constantly push to the fore the question of establishing new etalony of unexploited, unused nature and of the study of its changes as compared with those . . . in exploited areas. There is neither geographical correspondence nor one of scale in the existing network of zapovedniki to the natural geographical regions or zones [of the country]. For that reason the commission holds that the question of developing a rational, scientifically grounded network of zapovedniki, taking into account a broad understanding of nature protection, is a major and important task.[50]

On the organizational front, a working group headed by Evgenii Mikhailovich Lavrenko, veteran botanist and former researcher at Askania-Nova in the 1920s, was created to develop just such a network. Dement'ev had raised some issues that had been swept under the carpet as the scientific community attempted to resurrect exactly that status quo ante to which Dement'ev had alluded in his critical remarks. It remained for the political "ecology" of the Soviet Union as well as ecological theory generally to change enough to give these important questions a proper hearing. That would not happen soon.

Decrying the balkanized way in which resource issues were still addressed in the Soviet Union, with each ministry responsible for the slice of nature that provided its raw materials, Dement'ev called for a more integrated, ecological approach, but here too biocenology and population ecology had fallen short, he conceded. As Sukachëv had reminded ecological thinkers, in order to sustain living systems one also had to sustain their habitats, which included nonliving natural features and qualities.[51] That truism was all well and good, but ecological science still had only the sketchiest of road maps.

Dement'ev observed with satisfaction that the Presidium of the Academy had already moved ahead with initiatives designed to support the commission's work. On May 4, 1955, it issued a directive requiring all institutions affiliated with the Academy to identify specific natural sites or living species that required special protection, limitations on use, or measures to restore and increase their stock. Union republic Academies were requested to do the same. Already valuable data and reports had streamed in to the commission.[52]

Another great triumph of 1955 was the organization of analogous commissions in each of the Union republic Academies; the Uzbek commission even managed to organize a conference as early as October 3.[53] Other conferences were held in Tbilisi, Stalinabad, and Ashkhabad, while representatives of the commissions participated in the Congress of VOOP and the


255

All-Union Ornithological Congress in Leningrad and addressed meetings of the Geographical Society (in both Moscow and Leningrad) and MOIP.[54]

Khrushchëv's overtures to the international community had decisive and heartening consequences for nature protection as well. Conservation activists were among the most vociferous Soviet scientists in demanding access to their foreign colleagues and to the broader international scientific community. Dement'ev put it well when he stated, "The solution of the problem of nature protection in a number of ways requires going beyond the state frontiers of the USSR and requires forging international contacts. As an illustration we may point to problems of an epidemiological nature, questions concerning the pollution of extraterritorial waters, fishing issues and the hunting of marine mammals outside territorial waters, and the question of the protection of birds and fish whose migratory paths take them beyond the USSR, among others."[55] Respecting the protection of the Arctic environment, the 1954 meeting of the International Union for the Protection of Nature's General Assembly in Copenhagen made it clear that "it was not possible for the USSR not to respond to this initiative."[56]

There were other reasons, too, for reaching out to foreign colleagues. With Stalin not only dead but also the subject of unprecedented criticism by the new leader, the old sin of "kowtowing to the West" was quietly dropped as a heinous intellectual crime. It was now possible to acknowledge that useful things could be borrowed from "over there." The commission had lost no time in establishing ties with many foreign counterparts.[57] Literature exchange was begun with conservation organizations in Switzerland and Finland, and the commission even sent an inquiry to the Ornithological Society of the Netherlands about the danger to birds that migrate to Soviet sites from Dutch landfill efforts. Of particular importance was gaining approval, finally, for Soviet representation on the International Union for the Preservation of Nature; the personal invitation by that organization's president to the commission during his visit to Moscow was an altogether promising start.[58]

The commission was also moving on other fronts. In the Far East it had initiated efforts to protect the highly endangered sea otter and sea lions. To protect Arctic fauna, the commission had recommended a total ban on the killing of polar bears and a ban on harvesting walrus for all but indigenous peoples of the North. A zapovednik was urged for Novaia Zemlia, reviving the plans of 1949. In light of the deteriorating water quality in the USSR, the commission joined with Glavrybvod (the Main Inspectorate for the Protection of Fisheries of the RSFSR Council of Ministers) and the Ministry of Public Health to monitor untreated waste-water discharges and to recommend ameliorative measures. Dement'ev noted that the Volga basin was particularly polluted, as were those of the Don, Tom', and Northern Dvina


256

Rivers, the Caspian and Azov seas, and a number of reservoirs. Of particular concern was the crisis situation of Lake Imandra, which was the recipient of naphthalene wastes from the huge Apatit plant.[59]

A few victories had already been won. The Khabarovsk and Primorskii kraiispolkomy enacted bans on the hunting of the Siberian tiger at the commission's request. Similarly, Glavokhota had banned the culling of reindeer on the Kola Peninsula. An ornithological station on the Baltic coast, earlier eliminated, was restored after a petition by the commission and the Zoological Institute. Even the RSFSR Ministry of Sovkhozy relented and halted the sowing of the Poperechenskaia steppe, a tiny parcel of 280 hectares in Penza oblast' that was of great botanical interest. Dement'ev could justifiably conclude that "the initiative of the USSR Academy of Sciences in creating our only general organ for nature protection thus far has facilitated a cardinal mobilization of work in this area."[60]

If 1955 was a good beginning, 1956 and 1957 were years of triumph for the Academy's commission. Its new, broader focus led it to train its sights on air and water pollution, especially in cities. And again, it took the lead in sounding the alarm about radioactivity as a new environmental danger to both people and other living organisms as well as an agricultural threat. Probably owing to Dubinin's forward-looking scientific interests, the crucial importance of radioecology in tracing the pathways of radioactive substances through living nature was given high billing.[61]

Ties with the international nature protection community were finally established in the summer of 1956 when Dement'ev, Shaposhnikov, and A. V. Malinovskii went to Edinburgh for the Fifth General Assembly and the Sixth Technical Meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, where the delegates unanimously voted to include the Academy's Commission on Nature Protection as a full member. The novelty of Soviet participation was tremendous. The special exhibit set up by the Soviets (photographs of zapovedniki plus a copy of the first number of the Commission's new Bulletin ) attracted a good deal of interest and a special plenary session was organized to hear the Soviet delegates on June 26 . Whereas Dement'ev spoke on protection of fauna and Shaposhnikov discussed the role of zapovedniki in nature protection overall, Malinovskii's talk was fittingly titled "The Use of the Protective (Pest-Control) Properties of Forests of the USSR."[62] Doubtless Malinovskii's inclusion in the delegation was the price the Academy commission had to pay to gain Party approval to attend at all, but the awkwardness of the situation must have been all but unbearable to Dement'ev and Shaposhnikov.

An brisk tempo of work continued through the fall, with a major report by Dubinin on the drastic hydrographic and ecological changes of the Volga delta, which again called into question the Astrakhanskii zapovednik's


257

status as a representative, baseline tract (etalon ). A month later, on October 16, a conference on nature protection in Central Asia was held in Tashkent with Dement'ev and Shaposhnikov again in attendance. Interestingly, the report on the conference notes that "particular attention was paid . . . to the question of the pollution of the water bodies of Uzbekistan and the problems of fishing associated with hydroelectric construction" in the region. Had the Khrushchëv regime allowed the Academy commissions to have a real say in development, perhaps the catastrophes of the Aral Sea, the Amu-Dar'ia and Syr-Dar'ia Rivers, and the Ili River basin could have been avoided.[63] Meanwhile, on the legislative front a major victory was achieved with the enactment of the commission's draft law "On Measures to Protect the Animals of the Arctic" by the RSFSR Council of Ministers in November.[64]

With the new year the commission intensified its work on the threat of radioactivity. "Atomic industry is growing at a furious pace in our country and abroad," wrote Shaposhnikov,

and . . . the ever-widening scale of prospecting for and processing uranium ore, construction of atomic reactors, and the experimental explosions of atomic and hydrogen bombs are leading to the rapid increase of the radioactive background levels over the whole planet and to the pollution by radioactive substances of particular areas of the globe. The question of protecting animals and plants from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation are acquiring ever greater importance. The Commission is collecting evidence on the influence of ionizing radiation on the animal and plant kingdoms, is studying the literature published here and abroad, and is actively trying to attract specialists to work on solving these problems.[65]

In April 1957 a large Transcaucasian conference in Baku was organized by G. A. Aliev, chair of the Azerbaijan Academy's Commission on the Protection of Nature. To the Azerbaijani capital came large Armenian, Georgian, and Dagestani delegations as well as the Russians Dubinin and Shaposhnikov, who represented the USSR Academy. Owing to the somewhat deceptive yet impressively effective pax Sovietica, these often feuding groups were able to sit down together amicably and reach common positions on a whole range of problems. Some photographs of the meeting saved by Vsevolod Dubinin and his family provide a sense of that optimistic season that now seems to us like a distant warp of time.[66]

In Georgia, a major victory was won when that republic's Council of Ministers on April 10, 1957 adopted the local commission's proposal to restore eight zapovedniki liquidated in 1951. Not to fall behind, the Latvian government followed exactly two weeks later with its own decree creating four new zapovedniki . However, the fruits of the Estonian commission's efforts were particularly impressive. On June 7, the Supreme Soviet of that republic discussed and approved the first republican law on nature protection


258

generally, drafted by zoologist Erik Kumari and the Estonian Academy's commission. With its provisions for a regular procedure for the establishment of zapovedniki , for protection of rare species of plants and animals, for the creation of parks, and for the establishment of an Administration for the Protection of Nature to function under the immediate aegis of the Estonian Council of Ministers, the Estonian law led the way for the entire USSR. In November the RSFSR Council of Ministers came through with the first installment on the restoration of the lost zapovedniki of that republic, with legislation that reestablished the Altaiskii, Laplandskii, Bashkirskii, and Sudzukhinskii reserves—over a million hectares altogether.[67] This was against the immediately preceding backdrop of the approval of the Lavrenko plan for "a rational network of zapovedniki for the USSR" by the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences with strong endorsements by biology division chief V. A. Engel'gardt and Nesmeianov.[68]

In addition to writing a highly influential article in Pravda of July 13, 1957, "The Protection of Nature Is a Matter of State Importance," in which he propagandized the work of the Academy commission but also trained attention on the problems of industrial air and water pollution, soil erosion, and the zapovedniki ,[69] Nesmeianov took the lead in calling for an authoritative all-Union State Committee for Nature Protection with an Academy of Sciences resolution of March 15, 1957. That having failed, Nesmeianov wrote personally to RSFSR premier Frol R. Kozlov on January 28, 1958 to request the creation of such a committee on the RSFSR level, pointing to Lithuania and Estonia as precedents.[70]

Despite the failure on the all-Union level of 1957, Nesmeianov continued to back the commission's efforts to enact all-Union nature protection legislation and create an all-Union conservation service. A proposal for draft legislation to that effect was submitted to the USSR Council of Ministers again on October 16, 1958. Unfortunately, the bill was handed over to a commission of the Presidium of the Soviet cabinet apparently headed by V. V. Matskevich, USSR Minister of Agriculture, who let it die quietly.[71] Not one to give up, Nesmeianov again tried the route of the RSFSR with yet another letter of January 8, 1960.[72]

After Gosplan of the USSR organized a special commission on December 31, 1957 to prepare recommendations for the long-term development of individual branches of the economy in connection with the prospective seven-year plan, the Academy's Commission on Nature Protection petitioned Gosplan to create another special commission to deal with the challenge of protecting and replenishing natural resources. Historically friendly, Gosplan on February 1, 1958, created such a commission with Academy president Nesmeianov at its head.[73] Parallel to the work of Nesmeianov's commission, the USSR Academy commission together with those of the re-


259

publics drafted a twenty-year plan for the protection and restoration of natural resources, which they submitted to Gosplan USSR in 1960.[74]

Finally, the Commission for the Protection of Nature organized three large all-Union Conferences on Nature Protection held in 1958 in Tbilisi, in 1959 in Vilnius, and in 1960 in Stalinabad/Dushanbe, in addition to a host of republican and regional conferences. From a staff of four in 1955 the central commission had grown to thirty-seven by 1961, and its budget had grown correspondingly from 79,500 rubles to 660,500 rubles. Dement'ev in 1960 had been elected to the Executive Committee of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Shaposhnikov was chair of that organization's committee on education.[75]

Thus, although Nesmeianov's conversation with Aleksandr Ianshin and Vera Varsonof'eva in 1952 had not seemed to augur well for his support of the cause of nature protection and especially for that of the zapovedniki , he was perhaps as good a friend to the movement as anyone who had ever sat in the Academy president's chair.

With Glavokhota and the Academy of Sciences system as invaluable active allies and patrons, the scientific community now accelerated its organizing efforts during this golden period of political relaxation. However, the stalwarts of the movement were not growing any younger; many did not live to see Stalin's body removed from Lenin's tomb or the publication of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich . It was only natural that the activists would begin to pay greater attention to the question of who would carry on their struggle. Would the lost tribe of scientific activists die with them, or would they succeed in instilling their values and their social identity in a new generation?


260

previous chapter
Chapter Eleven— A Time to Build
next chapter