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Chapter Thirteen— More Trouble in Paradise: Crises of the Zapovedniki in the Khrushchëv Era
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Chapter Thirteen—
More Trouble in Paradise:
Crises of the Zapovedniki in the Khrushchëv Era

Few leaders have embodied as many contradictions as Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchëv. These are reflected in the leader's gravestone, composed of nearly equal quantities of black granite and white marble. Russians and the world remember him with gratitude as the man who courageously informed us of the crimes of the Stalin era, freed perhaps eight million prisoners from the labor camps, allowed the publication of Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich , and opened the USSR to the world community, even if only haltingly. On the other side of the ledger, it is impossible to recall Khrushchëv without a shuddering remembrance of the Cuban missile crisis, the Berlin Wall, the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution, his personal support of T. D. Lysenko, and his mismanagement of Soviet agriculture. Ironically, the man who liberated a terrorized nation from the legacy of Stalin's tyrannical "cult of personality" ended up imposing a less terroristic but palpably injurious cult of his own.

A product of the Stalin era and of Stalin's political machine, Khrushchëv carried over more than the cult of supreme leader from Stalinist political culture into his own period of rule. Among these continuities were a suspicion and, at times, active disdain for basic research, a hostility to protected territories "sequestered" from active economic use, and an inconsistent toleration (not unlike Stalin's) for the increasing reward of the nomenklatura (the Party elite) with privileges and perquisites. These trends came together in Khrushchëv's first years of power, when he turned a blind eye to the organization of illegal hunting in protected territories controlled by the USSR central government. Later, when his active diplomacy created a need for relaxed venues to host visiting dignitaries, Khrushchëv's own penchant for hunting suggested a solution: transform game preserves or even


zapovedniki into well-appointed hunting lodges, available only to the highest ranks of the Party and state leadership. Lower-level minions would have to content themselves with freer opportunities for poaching; only the top elite would go deluxe.

Like Stalin a mixture of the Communist romantic and cultural anticosmopolite with a profoundly bucolic view of the world, Khrushchëv held a ploddingly materialist vision of the Communist utopia. Much in the spirit of the American labor leader Samuel Gompers, Khrushchëv's vision of progress was driven chiefly by one idea: more. Communism would prove its superiority over capitalism by outproducing it. Communism would produce more milk, more meat, more wheat, more electricity. Its hydropower stations would be the biggest, and its rockets the heaviest. The idea of demonstrating Communism's qualitative superiority over capitalism had escaped the unimaginative Soviet leader. The closest he came was his belief that the Soviet people were morally superior to those of the West because they were prepared to endure privation in the present to guarantee plenty in the future.

Even Khrushchëv, however, recognized that there were limits to the Soviet people's capacity for sacrifice. His policies, therefore, combined continued heavy investments in industry and the military (though not as onerous as those under Stalin) with simultaneous attempts to establish decent living standards for the masses through frenetic housing construction and gargantuan agricultural campaigns. These attempts, however, were marked by what Brezhnev and Kosygin termed "adventurism" and "voluntarism," and by what Gorbachev described as "extensive," as opposed to intensive, development. What Khrushchëv's critics meant was that he made decisions without sufficient political and especially scientific consultation, that they involved a considerable (and, retrospectively, an unacceptable) element of risk, and that his policies were attempts to increase output on the cheap, by expanding existing patterns of production or sown areas instead of changing industrial or agricultural processes to make them less wasteful and more productive.

Additionally, the Soviet leader felt the need to appear on an equal footing with foreign leaders. The old Stalin-era tunics gave way to tailored suits and fedoras; Nina Khrushchëv, though usually well in the background, began to accompany her husband on his international forays. As we know from Iurii Zhdanov, colorful coffee-table books featuring the landscapes of the USSR became essential as presentation gifts to foreign guests or hosts, and, with the melting of Soviet isolation, attention began to be paid to suitable places to take important foreign visitors for a few days of relaxed conversation and recreation.

In addition to reopening the Soviet Union to the outside world, Khrushchëv's liberalization unleashed creative energies in high culture, popular culture, science, and everyday life. Khrushchëv returned to the traditions of


1917 and began to transfer some responsibilities for maintenance of public order and justice from the government bureaucracy to voluntary (but supervised) social organizations. In this spirit the offices of citizens' inspector for fishing, hunting, and nature protection were created in the 1950s, open to members of VOOP, and detachments of druzhinniki (ultimately numbering some seven million) were formed in factories and neighborhoods to maintain public order and safety.

Finally, Khrushchëv's tenure marked an expansion of a culture of Party corruption, although the Soviet leader himself displayed ambivalence about that development, at times even going so far as to prohibit the personal use of official vehicles and the like. Nevertheless, with the rare exceptions of a few highly visible chastisements (and a handful of executions) for crimes against state property, the Khrushchëv era was governed by the philosophy that in the forward march to Communism, the hard-working ranks of the Party-state nomenklatura should be well rewarded.[1] In the Khrushchëv era the enjoyment of perquisites was expected to be discreet and on a relatively modest scale, a standard that weakened under Brezhnev and later leaders. The boundaries that separated the condoned from the punishable were still being drawn, however, and were extremely fluid under Khrushchëv, a situation the almost total laxity of the Brezhnev era did much to clarify.

Stalin himself, as early as the late 1920s, had condoned the organization of a system of recreational perks for the Party hierarchy, as Vladimir Boreiko has uncovered. Pioneering the future system of spetsokhotkhoziaistva (restricted hunting grounds) for republic-level Party moguls was the one organized northwest of Moscow at Zavidovskoe by Klim Voroshilov for the Red Army's high command in 1929. In that same year Vechernii Kiev reported that illegal hunting and fishing outings were being organized for "the select few" at the Koncha-Zaspa and Askania-Nova zapovedniki . By 1934 the pretense, at least regarding Koncha-Zaspa, near Kiev, was dropped; the minuscule zapovednik was transformed into a special sovkhoz to accommodate the recreational desires of members of the elite.[2]

In the RSFSR a legal basis was laid for what Boreiko has labeled "special safaris" with the 1930 law on game management, in which article 5 allowed for the creation of "special hunting areas . . . set aside for the pursuit of model game management with the application of special measures for the protection and breeding of animals and birds and with restrictions on those permitted to carry out hunting."[3] Boreiko notes that in the first decade of this system, some discretion was employed; "palaces were not erected, lakes were not lighted with lamps, . . . concrete was not poured to create helicopter landing pads."[4] By 1940, though, in Ukraine there were already six hunting preserves, disguised by the designation of "republic-level zakazniki ." Working in the Ukrainian state archives, Boreiko unearthed "a document unique in its immorality," as he describes it: a decree of the Ukrainian


Council of People's Commissars of February 24, 1945, allocating funds for the restoration of staff and ancillary buildings in the state game preserves of that republic at a time when the war was still raging and the human suffering there was beyond expression.[5] A neat 250,000 rubles was earmarked for the immediate preparation of a few of these preserves for the hunting season that was due to start on August 1. Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchëv was Party secretary of Ukraine at the time.

Although as early as 1951 a speaker at the Congress of the Ukrainian Society of Hunters and Fishers spoke out against "shameful doings in our system, when state zakazniki are organized and turned into places for hunting for certain individuals," demanding that this be ended and that his remarks be included in the stenogram for the edification of Party leaders, his words had absolutely no effect. Others complained of local Party bigwigs hunting with the aid of automobile headlights, but the Party nomenklatura did not break ranks. By 1956 the number of such special "zakazniki " in Ukraine had doubled to twelve.[6]

In the summer of 1955 Khrushchëv had made one of his most important early foreign ventures, to Yugoslavia to repair ties withJosip Broz Tito. Khrushchëv's gesture of reconciliation was marred by his attempt to cast Beria, and not Stalin, as the author of the rupture between the two countries. In his Secret Speech, though, Khrushchëv redeemed himself, graphically recounting Stalin's attempt to destroy Tito:

I recall the first days when the conflict between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia began. . . . Once, . . . I was invited to visit Stalin who, pointing to the copy of a letter lately sent to Tito, asked me: 'Have you read this?' Not waiting for my reply he answered, 'I will shake my little finger—and there will be no more Tito.' . . . We have dearly paid for this 'shaking of the little finger.' . . . Tito had behind him a state and a people who have gone through a severe school of fighting for liberty and independence, a people that gave support to its leaders.[7]

In the summer of 1956 a second trip by Khrushchëv and Mikoian followed. Tito, who was now far more cordial than a year earlier, took the Soviet leaders hunting on the island of Brioni, where he had a residence. The Soviet leaders reciprocated in the fall, playing host to a delegation of Yugoslav leaders headed by Tito.

On the eve of Tito's visit, Khrushchëv's thoughts turned to finding a suitably impressive place where the two leaders could enjoy their common passion, hunting, while continuing the delicate work of political bonding. As Khrushchëv tells it in his memoirs: "Once we invited him to the Crimea for a few days of rest and for a hunting trip. The hunt, of course, had been used for centuries as an opportunity for leaders of two or three different countries to get together and discuss issues of mutual interest and importance.


The atmosphere of my discussions with Tito during our hunt together was warm and friendly."[8] Khrushchëv failed to disclose in his memoirs that the solution he hit on for hosting Tito was to organize a hunting vacation in the Crimean zapovednik , "a crude violation of nature protection legislation," in the words of Vladimir Boreiko. Almost coterminously, on September 27, 1956, "on Mikoian's initiative or, more likely than not, that of Khrushchëv himself, the Central Committee of the Party directed the USSR Ministry of Agriculture to prepare a plan for the organization of first-class 'aristocratic-style hunting opportunities' [barskie okhoty] ." Boreiko further informs us that while the Moscow authorities now began to weigh various zapovedniki for that purpose (those originally proposed included the Crimean, the Caucasus, Kyzyl-Agach, and the Belovezhskaia pushcha ), the Ukrainian premier, Kal'chenko, losing no time, issued a technically illegal directive on January 10, 1957, "On the Organization of Game Management Facilities in the Crimean State Zapovednik ."[9] The directive ordered the construction within six months of an electrical generating station, hotel, restaurant, and roads in the heart of the reserve.[10]

There is another prehistory to the conversion of the Crimean zapovednik into the Crimean international hunting lodge. Immediately after the 1951 events, local political leaders in the Crimea, eager to use the zapovednik's land for logging, urged a severe culling of the local Crimean red deer, which were allegedly impeding forest growth and regrowth. Although permission was granted, the issue of exploiting the reserve's territory lingered.

On April 8, 1955, F. Krest'ianinov, deputy head of the Agricultural Section of the Central Committee with responsibility for the Union republics except Russia, issued a long memo on the "Improvement of Forest Management in the Crimean State Zapovednik ." The memo documented that an investigative commission on this question had been organized, consisting of an instruktor of the Central Committee's Agricultural Department, Alisov, an inspector of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture's Inspections Bureau, and representatives of both the Crimean obkom and the Ukrainian Party's Central Committee.[11] The memo supported the conclusion that the drying up of some of Crimea's mountain rivers was linked to deforestation of the upland watershed (110,000 hectares or 33 percent of all woodlands) over seventy-five years, an assertion that heartened conservation activists who hoped to put a damper on logging in the reserve. But the solution proposed was a drastic cutback—through shooting and capture—in the population of Crimean red deer and roe deer, "preserving them only as representatives of a species." After clearing overmature growth and eliminating the ungulate threat, replanting of 1,500 hectares of the 30,200-hectare zapovednik could begin in the next fiscal year. "Fortuitously," this plan provided the "scientific" justification for converting the Crimean zapovednik into a hunter's paradise.[12]


Thanks to its rather remarkable network of informants—that thousand-eyed army of kraevedy and local activists, in Efremov's words—those at the center of the nature protection movement almost immediately learned of the ominous plans being cooked up at the USSR Ministry of Agriculture. Turning to one of its biggest political guns, Lieutenant General Evgenii Nikanorovich Pavlovskii, the Academy's Commission on the Protection of Nature had the zoologist send a letter, cosigned by commission deputy chair Vsevolod Dubinin, directly to First Secretary Khrushchëv: "The Commission . . . has received evidence of a proposal to organize special hunting management facilities of special designation . . . some of which will be sited on the territories of four existing zapovedniki .  .  .  . [T] he Commission for the Protection of Nature . . . considers [their] organization unthinkable [nevozmozhnym] on the territory of these or other zapovedniki , with the organization of regular hunting expeditions on these protected territories all the more unthinkable."[13]

An urgent state telegram from the USSR Academy's and the Belorussian Academy's Commissions on the Protection of Nature to Khrushchëv followed on October 27, 1956, and was equally direct: "The collective of scientific researchers of the Belovezhskaia pushcha zapovednik consider it impermissible to organize a game management facility on the base of the oldest internationally known zapovedni .  .  .  . The decision about the organization was taken without discussion and without the approval of the collective of scientific researchers and the scientific forces of the country. We ask you to intervene and to stop this."[14] Ironically, appeals to history in this case were on the side of those seeking to convert the reserve to a giant hunting ground; for hundreds of years before it was declared inviolable, the Belovezhskaia pushcha had been a tsarskaia okhota (royal hunting preserve) for the Lithuanian grand dukes and their successors, the Russian tsars.

The authors of the letter were notified by the Agricultural Department of the Central Committee, its director P. Doroshenko informed the Central Committee Secretariat in a memo of December 6, that the draft legislation for organizing fifteen special state hunting management facilities, including five zapovedno-okhotnich'ia khoziaistva (on the basis of existing zapovedniki ), had already been submitted for consideration to the USSR Council of Ministers with the approval of the Agricultural Department. Doroshenko assured the worried letter writers that "the regime of inviolability would be preserved with the exception of an entirely limited amount of hunting."[15]

Finally, on the heels of the historic Conference on Valuable, Rare, and Endangered Species of Plants and Animals of March 1957, a long letter to Khrushchëv was sent on April 24, 1957 in the name of the conference and of MOIP by Fëdor Nikolaevich Petrov (see figure 19), the conference's chairman. Much of the letter was a political reminder from Petrov, who served under Lenin, that Khrushchëv, who claimed to be restoring the


Figure 19.
Fëdor Nikolaevich Petrov (1876–1973).

authentic Leninist legacy, needed to study that entire legacy, including the Lenin-era decrees on the protection of nature and on zapovedniki .

Noting that the conference, "having heard and discussed a whole series of reports from all corners of the Soviet Union, with the very greatest feeling of alarm went on record as declaring that the situation with the protection of nature . . . is extremely grave," and that "existing laws, rules, and directives are not being carried out," Petrov called on the political leadership of the country to pay attention to the voices of scientific public opinion. The ancient revolutionary closed by invoking the interests not just of "today's needs, but those of future generations." Copies of the letter were sent by Petrov to Voroshilov, Molotov, Bulganin, and D. T. Shepilov.[16]


Despite these high-level and vigorous protests, the needs of the new diplomacy and of the nomenklatura for appropriate recreational facilities took precedence, and on August 9, 1957, just in time for the fall hunting season, the USSR Council of Ministers under Premier Nikolai Bulganin's signature approved the establishment of twelve elite hunting facilities, of which three (Belovezhskaia pushcha , the Crimean, and the Azovo-Sivashskii) were zapovedniki converted to the new status. Perhaps the protests reduced the number of affected zapovedniki from five to three, but that is still a matter of conjecture.[17] Understandably, provincial leaders of the Ukraine and Belorussia were more than willing to disregard the petitions of their local scientists with the prospect of attracting to their republics important visitors (including the first secretary and his entourage) at venues where they, too, could play host. That explains in part the haste with which Kal'chenko ordered the conversion of the Crimean zapovednik months before the all-Union decree was published. Four new facilities were created on the territory of the RSFSR, but none of the Glavokhota RSFSR zapovedniki were touched, perhaps because of expected resistance. The four new hunting reserves had a combined staff of 243, a combined area of 227,000 hectares, and five hotels among them.[18]

The reorganizations of 1957 were still a relatively minor setback against the backdrop of the energetic efforts of Glavokhota RSFSR and of other republics to restore the reserves eliminated in 1951 and to create new ones. However, the 1957 reorganizations were an augury of a much larger crisis for the reserves.

The Squirrel that Destroyed Thirty Nature Reserves

The morning of Tuesday, January 17, 1961, was an ordinary workday for Moscow. Aside from an eight-day Central Committee plenary meeting and a cultural agreement between the "USSR-Japan Society" and its Japanese counterpart, not much of particular interest was going on that day. Two days earlier, there had been big news from scientists in Siberia—linguists and anthropologists—who convened in Novosibirsk to explain how they had broken the mystery of the Mayan hieroglyphs with the aid of computers. But on that Tuesday, Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchëv, speaking to the Plenum, had other Siberian scientists on his mind.

The first secretary evidently was in a jocular mood. First, he turned his wit on the partisans of historical preservation, who were engaged in a battle to save some of the most remarkable architectural monuments from his antireligion campaign.[19] "Now let's say you are a cultured individual," Khrushchëv began, warming up the delegates with an immediate figure of fun and a swipe at the Russian non-Communist intelligentsia's continuing


pretensions to privileged knowledge: "You know and understand the importance of this monument of antiquity. You, and only you, can evaluate this historical monument. You are the one who understands and can assess the importance of the fact that such-and-such a famous person strolled in this spot; you can tell us that this is where he sat and thought up his projects, and this is the place where, in a fit of anger, he spat on the ground." Khrushchëv's humorous anti-intellectualism brought the otherwise dull-faced Party bosses to life, and a ripple of laughter rolled through the Kremlin hall. Khrushchev continued: "I am not exaggerating, comrades. These kinds of outrages indeed exist."[20] The first secretary milked the rich theme of historical preservation for several minutes more before turning to another tribe of chudaki , the nature protection activists (many of whom were also historical preservationists). "And now about one more thing," the Soviet chief began. "There are a great many zapovedniki that are being organized all around. I, and no doubt you, saw the documentary film on the zapovednik in the Altai Mountains. The film was made very well. The film showed how this person exuding good health, most probably a scientist,—if it's a zapovednik , then they all must be scientists there [the jocund clucking and chuckling in the hall temporarily interrupted Khrushchëv's anecdote]—lying on a rock and observing through his binoculars how a squirrel is gnawing an acorn. Then he shifts his gaze to watch a bear moving along." Khrushchëv now came to the punch line:

What is this thing called a zapovednik? It is a zapovednik for those who live there. They also graze there, graze and browse better than the bears and the squirrels. Isn't it a fact that even if those people weren't there, the squirrel would still be gnawing on that acorn? It's all the same to the squirrel whether there's a scientist around or not. But the difference is in the fact that now it is gnawing acorns under the observation of a scientific researcher, and that researcher is receiving money for that, and good money to boot!

The ridiculous picture of field biological research painted by the first secretary provoked another round of chuckling in the hall, as Khrushchëv finally zeroed in on his more serious conclusions:

What is this thing called a zapovednik? It is the nation's wealth, which we must preserve. But in our country it frequently happens that zapovedniki are organized in places that do not represent anything of serious value. We must impose order on this business. Zapovedniki should be located where it is essential to preserve valuable corners of nature and to conduct authentically scientific observations. Certainly our country has these kinds of zapovedniki already. But a significant proportion of the zapovedniki currently in existence represents—a contrived operation.

"What will happen in the forests if zapovedniki won't be established in them?" Khrushchëv asked rhetorically. "Nothing. It is necessary, of course,


to protect nature and care for it," he concluded, "but not by organizing zapovedniki everywhere with large staffs."[21]

Vladimir Boreiko comments:

Knowing the explosive, irrepressible character of Khrushchëv and his not terribly great intellect, it is entirely possible to hypothesize that the film Zolotoe ozero [orAltyn kol '—"golden lake"—in Altaic, apparently the actual name of the film] about the Altai zapovednik and Lake Teletskoe, accompanied by appropriate commentary by [Khrushchëv's] cronies was in fact the thing that provoked the new disaster. Adding to that, Nikita Sergeevich already had acquired some good experience, having participated in the pogrom of the zapovedniki in 1951.[22]

Boreiko could also have mentioned Khrushchëv's personal involvement in the conversion of the Crimean zapovednik , which helped to keep the issue alive in his mind. Whatever the mix of precipitating causes, the first secretary's seemingly spontaneous remarks at the January 1961 Plenum were already planned one month before. Exploring the archives of the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers, Boreiko found the following decision taken on December 31, 1960: "Assign to Gosplan USSR (Comrade Zotov) together with the USSR Ministry of Agriculture, the USSR Ministry of Finances, the USSR Academy of Sciences, and the councils of ministers of the Union republics to investigate the network of existing zapovedniki and state game management facilities [okhotnich'ia khoziaistva] and within one month submit a report and suggestions to the USSR Council of Ministers, keeping in mind the need to eliminate the excess in this area of activity."[23] The order was signed by Khrushchëv himself, who had recently also assumed the post of USSR premier. Could he have forgotten that only two months earlier he had authorized the final passage of the RSFSR law on nature protection?[24] On the other hand, the fact that the item "On Setting Right the Situation in the Zapovedniki " ranked as that day's twenty-sixth order of business reveals just how marginal the Kremlin leadership considered the zapovedniki and nature protection generally.

Thirteen days after the Plenum, an expanded session of the Commission for the Protection of Nature of the Academy of Sciences met to deal with the unexpected blow. The commission was not going to give in without a fight. Cleverly, on the model of the response of the Baltic republics to the 1951 liquidation, the commission proposed converting the Altaiskii (named in Khrushchëv's speech), Teberdinskii, "Stolby," and Mariiskii zapovedniki into national (narodnye ) or natural (prirodnye ) parks, to be run by the trade union central organization. Under the new management, care would be taken not to destroy the natural amenities and research could still be conducted by visiting researchers; there would be no permanent scientific staff.[25]

The Commission tried to save other reserves such as Denezhkin Kamen'


by supporting their transfer to universities as research and teaching bases for their students. They needed the help of Gosplan USSR and the USSR Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education, to whom they appealed. Further, they tried to save yet other zapovedniki by merging them as "branches" with others less under threat. Accordingly, the Commission recommended that the Lapland become a filial (branch) of the Kandalakshskii zapovednik and the Khopërskii a branch of the Voronezhskii zapovednik . C onceding the possibility of reducing the area of the Kronotskii reserve, the commission nonetheless drew the line on twenty-six zapovedniki listed in the document, whose preservation was "essential." It also drew the line on making the reserves self-financing (khozraschët ) and even criticized the overly accommodating staff cutbacks proposed by Glavokhota RSFSR. Finally, the commission noted, against the tide, that the existing network of reserves was still inadequate and that it was necessary to create new zapovedniki in the tundra, southern taiga, steppes, and semidesert regions.[26]

Word of these changes ignited a firestorm of protest from scientists. Hundreds of impassioned letters arrived at the offices of V. P. Zotov, deputy chairman of Gosplan USSR and Stalin's minister of the food industry for a decade (1939–1949). Letters were also sent to the councils of ministers of the individual republics and to Nesmeianov at the Academy. In the RSFSR, Deputy Premier Aleksandr Semënovich Bukharov was given responsibility over the zapovednik question and he, too, was the recipient of numerous letters. A letter to him and to Zotov by the acting dean of the Biology and Soil Science Faculty of Moscow University, V. F. Riabov, set out in great detail the importance of the zapovedniki for research and especially for the training of specialists of a broad range of disciplines. Many letters repeated the argument that the Soviet zapovedniki were conceptually unique.[27]

While conceding that the reserves might indeed harbor a few malingerers, a letter from Moscow University professors emphasized that they were only a few bad apples. The rest were "enthusiasts, without exaggeration selflessly working in extremely hard conditions such as the taiga and the desert." What made the first secretary's attacks even more unfair were the "completely insubstantial funds" that the network absorbed, less even than the game management facilities of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture.[28]

Some local activists and scientists tried to save individual reserves, such as a group from Kuibyshev (Samara) that included representatives of the local branches of VOOP, the Botanical Society, the Geographical Society, the Union of Hunters, and the Pedagogical Institute.[29] Other letters came from the zapovedniki staffs, including one from V. V. Krinitskii, the director of the Altaiskii, which had been specifically mentioned by Khrushchëv in his sarcastic remarks.[30] Most of these tried to make the case that although other zapovedniki perhaps might corroborate the accusations made by the first secretary, their own clearly was beyond reproach. As in 1951, local authorities


occasionally intervened to protect (as well as to destroy) the reserves; the most vivid of these came from the deputy chairman of the Stavropol' kraiispolkom , V. Chumakov, who, in a letter to Academy president Nesmeianov called the liquidation of Teberdinskii zapovednik "unacceptable in the eyes of our province [krai ]."[31]

Primed by the preceding five years of activism, scientific public opinion quickly mobilized to combat Khrushchëv's New Year's surprise. I. D. Papanin of MGO asked the RSFSR government to include representatives of his society in any discussion about the reserves system.[32] When the Presidium of MOIP met on February 14, the issue was right there on the agenda. Konstantin Mikhailovich Efron, as rapporteur, read a draft of the letter to Khrushchëv to be sent in the name of the society, though he suggested a meeting with Academy president Nesmeianov prior to sending it to insure that MOIP and the Academy had coordinated positions and strategy. Accordingly, the Presidium decided to constitute a delegation of Varsonof'eva, lanshin, and botanist B. A. Tikhomirov to meet with Nesmeianov, while approving pro tem Efron's draft, which would undergo a final editing by Varsonof'eva and F. N. Petrov.[33]

When the Executive Council of MOIP met three days later with Varsonof'eva chairing, the MOIP Presidium thought it wise to marshal the support of that larger body. Varsonof'eva herself asked A. L. Ianshin, another vice president of the society, to read the draft letter aloud. Following a discussion in which some politic editing changes were suggested, the Council voted its approval of the Presidium's decision to send the letter to the first secretary.[34] It went out eight days later over the signatures of Varsonof'eva and Fëdor Nikolaevich Petrov.[35]

This letter informed Khrushchëv that only thanks to the zapovedniki was the sable rescued as a commercially exploitable species. Now the annual take was about 100,000 skins, each fetching 70 rubles (for a total of approximately $7,770,000 per year). The same situation held for the beaver. Additionally, zapovedniki were responsible for introducing more than twenty practical recommendations for the improvement of forestry and agriculture, including pioneering the introduction of pasture crops in high alpine regions and the successful acclimatization of ginseng. The scientific research conducted in the reserves was so highly regarded that zapovednik studies were widely used in dozens of the best regarded handbooks and textbooks.[36] Varsonof'eva and Petrov reminded Khrushchëv that "the great successes of the USSR in the area of nature protection and zapovedniki helped to elevate the international authority of [the country]." These benefits loomed large, they argued, against the paltry sums of money spent on their upkeep (two million [new] rubles annually for the twenty-nine RSFSR zapovedniki in 1960) and the minuscule percentage of the territory of the country they occupied (0.26 percent).[37]


The MOIP letter closed with a set of recommendations: First, any elimination or creation of zapovedniki should be implemented only if it fit the master plan for zapovednik development proposed by the Lavrenko commission and adopted by the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences on September 13, 1957 (and reaffirmed by the March 1958 conference on zapovedniki ). Second, better qualified scientific staffs needed to be hired and the budgets for science in the reserves needed to be increased. Third, the authors called for the creation of a single, authoritative Committee for Nature Protection attached to the USSR Council of Ministers as well as for "the participation of broad scientific public opinion in the discussions concerning critical issues of zapovednik activity." Finally, the authors pointed to the need "to fortify international links in this area, gaining a leading role for the USSR in international nature protection organizations" despite the good start made by entry into the International Union for the Protection of Nature in 1956 and subsequent participation in a number of conferences.[38]

Through internal memoranda prepared by aides, the Presidium of the RSFSR Council of Ministers was kept abreast of the scope of the public outcry.[39] Even before the main mass of letters of concern began to pour in, the Presidium of the RSFSR Council of Ministers met on February 11. At that meeting Gosplan RSFSR and Glavokhota RSFSR presented their plans for "rectifying" the reserve network. Terrified by Khrushchëv's barbed attack and desiring to propitiate the mercurial supreme leader, Eliseev, the head of Glavokhota RSFSR, proposed the outright elimination of eleven of the twenty-five zapovedniki in his system and the truncation of three additional ones. That would reduce the overall area of zapovedniki in the Glavokhota system by 72 percent, to 1,329,400 hectares. Overall staff would be reduced from 1,749 to l,062, with scientific researchers reduced from 202 to 163. Taken together, aggregate savings would amount to 867,000 rubles a year, almost half the current budget of 1,898,000 rubles.[40]

The Presidium of the RSFSR cabinet approved Eliseev's proposal and sent if off to Gosplan USSR's Zotov. V. P. Zotov, an old Stalin-era politico, was a savvy political survivor who had taken kindly to the nature protection cause. In early March he called a meeting and invited everyone who had any serious connection with the nature reserves. By contrast with Merkulov's meeting with the nature protection activists, this was a huge affair that drew representatives of the Academy of Sciences, higher educational institutions, institutes connected with various ministries, the various zapovednik systems, MOIP, the Geographical Society, and other interested civic organizations.[41]

Zotov, who chaired the meeting, allowed all who wished to speak to do so, and the atmosphere he created was surprisingly respectful toward scientific public opinion. By this time the proposals by N. V. Eliseev, who had lost his nerve, were already reasonably known by this audience, and this provided Zotov with a springboard for his remarks. "Of course," said the politically


wise Zotov, "the remarks of Nikita Sergeevich oblige us to close down the Altaiskii zapovednik , but which other ten or so should we include as well?" he asked. Eliseev in his panic had proposed eliminating eleven in the RSFSR for starters and twenty-four more in the other republics. As Iurii Konstantinovich Efremov, a participant, vividly recalled, the wily old Stalin-era veteran Zotov "chided [the Glavokhota chief] as one would a small child" for buckling too fast under political pressure. He really "shamed him," added Efremov.[42]

Zotov began to "instruct" the packed auditorium on how to salvage as many zapovedniki as possible, making as few concessions as feasible to Khrushchëv's fit of pique. He brought up the case of the Teberdinskii zapovednik , located in the North Caucasus. How could Gosplan USSR keep the reserve on Eliseev's list of those slated for elimination, he asked, in light of the 400-odd letters of protest received, including those of the kraiispolkom (which implied support from the kraikom of the Party)? The case for saving the gargantuan Kronotskii zapovednik was more problematic, however, despite the very large number of signatures collected on petitions to save that great reserve of active volcanoes, geysers, and boiling mud springs; many letters were collective expressions of protest, and therefore Gosplan had received only ninety separate envelopes. The Central Committee looked at the pile of envelopes, not the number of signatures, so individual letters were more effective than petitions.[43]

Efremov and his colleagues understood that what counted in the Gosplan bureaucracy was the number of envelopes and whether or not the local Party and state authorities sent protests as well. As scholarly secretary of MGO, Efremov was well positioned to begin a new emergency campaign. Wasting no time, he sent out instructions to each of the 2,000-odd members of the branch to send a postcard to Zotov at Gosplan. On the basis of this strategy Zotov was able to save many of the reserves. This episode also showed that there were some intelligent people in the bowels of the apparatus who knew how to assess and circumvent disruptive orders from above.[44]

Zotov's ultimate proposal in the Russian Republic eliminated the giant Altaiskii and Kronotskii zapovedniki as well as the smaller Denezhkin Kamen', Mariiskii, the ill-fated Zhigulëvskii/Middle Volga/Kuibyshevskii, and the tiny Khostinskii. Spared outright were the Volzhsko-Kamskii and Bashkirskii reserves, which the frightened Eliseev had included on his list, as well as the Sudzukhinskii, Khopërskii, and Laplandskii zapovedniki , which were each "eliminated" as separate units but then merged with relatively nearby reserves left untouched. Zotov's intermediate proposals for reductions in area of three additional reserves—the Darvinskii, the Pechoro-Ilychskii, and the Sikhote-Alinskii—came to 727,500 hectares as opposed to Eliseev's proposed 868,000-hectare reduction; Zotov later reduced the cuts to 313,200 hectares. In the other Union republics, Zotov selected an impressive number


of relatively small reserves to eliminate but remerged many of those into reserves still standing, particularly in Ukraine. On paper, the number eliminated—thirty-two—looked significant, but of these ten continued under assumed identities"—a cunning bureaucratic sleight-of-hand. Taken together, the reserves systems declined from 6,360,000 hectares on the eve of this "reorganization" to 4,046,700 hectares in late 1961, largely a result of the elimination of the two huge Siberian reserves.[45]

In his letter to the USSR Council of Ministers, Zotov justified his limited cuts with a deft display of "toughness," noting that Gosplan firmly rejected the requests of the USSR Academy of Sciences and professors Formozov, Bannikov, and G. V. Nikol'skii to preserve the Altaiskii and Kronotskii reserves. On the other hand, Zotov averred that "the materials at hand and the information we have heard at the conference in Gosplan USSR from representatives of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the academies of the Union republics testifies to the fact that the zapovedniki have accomplished a great deal in preserving sites, in studying them, and in pursuing specific problems that have significance for practice and science both."[46] Even more exceptional is his mention of the "fundamental works" (kapital'nye raboty ) written on the basis of research conducted in the zapovedniki , "which have made a great contribution to the development of Soviet ecology, a science that now occupies a prominent place in the system of the biological sciences not only in our own country but abroad."[47]

Gosplan USSR had always been a haven for bright, civic-minded staffers, and for reasons still largely unstudied remained an oasis of relative liberalism, despite episodic purges such as that of Groman and Bazarov and their associates in the notorious Menshevik Trial of 1930–1931. Soviet environmental history reveals this clearly; during both zapovedniki "liquidation" crises, the leaders of Gosplan, Saburov and Zotov, tried to mitigate the blow.

Vladimir Boreiko was able to discover equally interesting information about the reception of Khrushchëv's speech in Ukraine. When the Ukrainian Council of Ministers received the December 31, 1960 instructions from Moscow to examine the network of reserves and to identity where cuts could be made, the Ukrainian government turned to the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences for advice. The Academy's vice president, N. Semënenko, on January 21, 1961 responded that there was no fat in the system: the Ukrainian reserves were all small and injured no economic interests. Despite this, Ukrainian deputy premier Grechukha decided to convene a conference to decide—just in case—which reserves to place on the chopping block. On February 1 the conference was held in Kiev; noted Ukrainian nature defenders Ivan Grigor'evich Pidoplichko, Pëtr Stepanovich Pogrebniak, M. A. Voinstvenskii, and G. N. Bilyk were in attendance.[48]

Looking for somewhere to start, Deputy Premier Grechukha proposed


the Chernomorskii zapovednik for elimination. "I am not against keeping the wardens," he said, "but there are four scientists there and the director makes five. What are they all doing?" Professor Voinstvenskii responded that the four scientists should be transferred to his institute, but that the wardens and some sort of administrator should remain in place. Grechukha seemed content with that. "Let the wardens stay, and make the senior one among them responsible. From January through March, to insure that five or ten are students present, let them organize practicums there; from April, instead of five, let there be fifty students. All these questions are practical ones and may be solved, while in principle we can raise the question of liquidating the Chernomorskii zapovednik [at least in name]." To that someone at the meeting shouted out, "Not under any circumstances!"

As Boreiko explains, Grechukha, sensing resistance, now turned the discussion to a smaller reserve, the Strel'tsovskaia steppe, where he proposed a more acceptable course of action: to liquidate the reserve as an independent unit but to turn it over to the Ukrainian Academy to be preserved as a zapovednik under the Academy's auspices. The scientists put up an unyielding resistance to any de facto elimination of any of the Ukrainian reserves. Evidently, their solidarity had an effect on the deputy premier, who wrote back to Zotov:

In response to your telegram . . . of January 10, 1961, the Ukrainian Council of Ministers informs me that we have five zapovedniki [sic ; the correct number was four] with an aggregate area of 13,000 hectares and a staff of forty-four, whose funding runs to 65,500 rubles a year. . . . The zapovedniki  .  .  . listed are very important to the protection and restoration of natural resources of the republic and owing to their size and the expenses they incur do not represent superfluous items in Ukraine's economy.[49]

The ultimate resolution followed the lines suggested by Grechukha: the small steppe reserves were combined into one unified Ukrainian steppe zapovednik, while in the Chërnomorskii reserve staff and budget were reduced by 10 percent. This gave the appearance of cutbacks without vitiating the system.[50] The all-Union decree, signed by Kosygin and issued on June 10, 1961, despite having been softened by the protests of scientific public opinion and some local authorities and by the helpful maneuvers of Zotov, nevertheless did impose one new and serious limitation: in the future, all new zapovedniki of whatever system had to be approved by Gosplan of the USSR. Unfortunately, there was no guarantee that enlightened and vigorous individuals would always be found in that institution's leadership. As Boreiko notes, Ukraine had to wait seventeen years to be able to establish any new reserves.[51]

Sensing political benefit, some quickly tried to make hay by targeting the


zapovedniki in the press. A particularly objectionable satire, "Zapovednye pni" (Protected Tree Stumps), was featured in Komsomol'skaia pravda on February 2, 1961 and was directed against the Teberdinskii zapovednik . That was followed on March 10 in the humor weekly Krokodil by a piece of similar sarcastic slant, "Redkii ekzempliar" (Rare Specimen), and finally by a satirical essay "Chik-chirik" in the newspaper Sel 'skaia zhizn ', directed against the Tsentral'no-Chernozëmnyi zapovednik .

What the enraged representatives of scientific public opinion could not write to Khrushchëv himself they permitted themselves in letters to the editors in chief of the offending publications. Because the articles subjected their very social identity to ridicule, the response of the scientist activists verged on fury. For example, Geptner wrote to the editor in chief of Komsomol'skaia pravda :

I read the satirical essay "Zapovednye pni " .  .  . with a feeling not only of revulsion but also of deep sorrow. Regrettably, as we see, in our midst are still some "journalists" who are prepared, for a modest reward, to besmirch [oplevat '] anything at all, especially if they think they can "get into the good graces" of higher-ups. . . . In the last analysis, to write or not to write such . . . vulgar and stupid caricatures is the personal decision of such petty and talentless little people as Voinov and Oganov [the authors]. But how could you , the leader of one of the largest and most popular Soviet newspapers, allow this not only stupid and ignorant but, worse yet, harmful drivel into print?[52]

Assuming that the editor's lapse was ultimately explicable by his lack of familiarity with nature protection issues, Geptner gave him a crash course in the rationale for and status of protected territories in the USSR. After noting that, shamefully, the Soviet Union occupied nearly last place among all major nations—including Burma, Chile, and Ceylon—in the percentage of its territory under protection, Geptner explained that now it had become "a very delicate question." "To come crashing into this [debate over zapovedniki] with farcical ridicule," Geptner remonstrated, "showed extremely bad timing."[53]

Articles of this kind, Geptner cautioned, could wreak additional harm on a cause already under siege: "Among short-sighted administrators and economic bureaucrats . . . are many of our enemies. As one who has been familiar with our . . . cause for forty years already, I can assure you that with the publication of the satire . . . these people will spring to life and that attacks on our zapovedniki —which as it is do not have it easy—will intensify everywhere."[54]

Geptner was particularly pained by the satirical targeting of "good people, honestly carrying out their considerably arduous work," referring to the scientists of the Teberdinskii zapovednik . Despite Komsomol'skaia pravda's past years of support for nature protection, which merited praise, the pub-


lication of the satire, said Geptner, had wiped the slate clean. "I would even go further," said he. "Komsomol'skaia pravda has positively compromised itself and, believe me, not just in the eyes of a few but in the eyes of very, very many. It will be a long time until you live down that stream of filth which poured down from the pages of your newspaper on this pure cause."[55]

Geptner concluded by stating that his purpose was not to vent his emotions but to prevent a similar mistake from being committed in the future. "I hope that the publication of 'Zapovednye pni' was an accidental and thoughtless misstep," he offered, holding out an olive branch.

But if this signifies a change in the line of the newspaper regarding the cause of nature protection, wouldn't it have been better initially to invite knowledgeable people to the editorial offices and quietly discuss [this issue] with them? I am sure that none of those who hold our nature and its future dear would have refused to take part in such a discussion. For the staff of your newspaper this would doubtless be beneficial and perhaps could prevent future such "disruptions" as the publication of "Zapovednye pni."[56]

No less infuriated by the articles, Professor Aleksandr Nikolaevich Formozov wrote to the MOIP Presidium and to N. V. Eliseev, demanding "a decisive and serious rebuttal," and going straight to the top—to the press and science departments of the Central Committee. Formozov chose to delve deeply into the issues of biology raised by the satirical piece of E. Andreev, "Chik-chirik" (Cheep-Cheep) in Sel'skaia zhizn' . Noting that the author relied for his "ignorant attacks" on a textbook (Brehm) that was decades out of date, "thereby revealing the primitive middlebrow level of his biological knowledge," Formozov defended the study of the competition for prime nesting sites between sparrows and other insectivorous birds being pursued in the Tsentral'no-Chernozëmnyi zapovednik . In no other country, complained the noted zoologist, were researchers of ornithological stations subjected to such mockery.[57]

The question of how to attract and keep insectivorous bird populations from attenuating, asserted Formozov, was becoming particularly poignant in light of recent disturbing trends linked with the massive application of pesticides. That means of controlling insect pests "had crucial drawbacks," the scientist explained. Pesticides also killed off many beneficial predators, songbirds, and smaller insects that preyed on crop pests themselves, wiping out a potent array of natural pest controls. More than that, the poisonous agricultural chemicals ran off into the subsoil water regime, flowing into rivers and accumulating ultimately in the organs of many fish and animals. All over the globe, he went on, heavy application of pesticides was more and more frequently accompanied by the irruption of pest populations immune to the agent's toxins and exhibiting even higher fertility than the initial population. The problem had become so serious that it was the subject


of discussion already at a number of international congresses such as those of the entomological society, IUPN, and other bodies.

Further, there was the question of whether field sparrows were in fact inferior to other songbirds in their ability to control insect pests. Years of observation in an apple orchard, where birdhouses that were put up were primarily settled by permanent families of field sparrows, showed that they were highly effective in controlling the insects that infest the fruit trees, said Formozov. "It is curious that Sel'skaia zhizn' [Agricultural Life] , a newspaper duty-bound to be aware of and assess the experience of the most progressive pioneers in production, allowed itself to publish the illiterate article of Andreev," he concluded.[58]

Following Formozov's recommendation, the leadership of MOIP drafted a letter that it sent to the Central Committee's departments of science and the press on May 16, 1961. It was signed by the F. N. Petrov, still chairing MOIP's Section on Nature Protection, and by Vice President Varsonof'eva. In surprisingly strong language, they reproved the editors of the newspapers that published the offending satires for misleading the trusting Soviet public. Constructive criticism was always welcome, they emphasized. "But if under the pretense of criticism there are really attempts at totally baseless blanket smears, then this is already not help but rather the commission of enormous harm verging on criminality," they wrote. Additionally, Petrov and Varsonof'eva in the most powerful way they could tried to explain that the zapovedniki were not "warm little spots" where researchers lived the good life but were places that mostly suffered great material privation; working there was a sacrifice endured for the sake of service to nature and to the Motherland by those who dedicated their lives to research in zapovedniki . Sometimes they even lost their lives, noted Petrov and Varsonof'eva, and they added:

Dear comrades! You only have to think about this to realize that before you in all its nakedness is the tragedy of their situation. What must it mean for a human being who is honestly giving his or her whole self to a chosen, constructive cause, when he or she is globally painted a malingerer, when the label "parasite" or "sponger" is pinned on him or her? . . . Is it any wonder that as a result there has been a colossal flood of letters to our leading authorities and to the editors of newspapers and journals protesting these unheard of accusations against workers in the cause of nature protection and against the state zapovedniki themselves?[59]

Petrov and Varsonof'eva informed the Central Committee departments that the editor in chief of Komsomol'skaia pravda responded to Geptner's and other letters only after a month, and then merely announced that the editorial board would "conduct a supplementary review of the facts" and would convey to the letter writers its "final opinion" in short order. "How


is it possible to talk of any kind of review" in such a clear-cut case where "from the beginning to the end there was not one word of truth in the whole article?" asked the MOIP leaders. "Evidently the editors of the newspapers and of the journal Krokodil have forgotten Lenin's injunction about the need for a caring, sympathetic, and attentive attitude to the human person if they allow filth to be poured on totally innocent people in the pages of their publications." They concluded: "Deeply upset and insulted by the behavior of the editorial boards . . . the Bureau of the Section on Nature Protection of MOIP decisively protests against this blanket slandering in the press of the work of the state zapovedniki  .  .  . and requests that you give appropriate instructions to the editors and oblige them to respond to the letters of workers."[60]

The aftershocks of Khrushchëv's speech and the second "liquidation" continued to be felt throughout the year. Movement leaders were kept busy fighting holding actions, such as the letter of MOIP president Sukachëv, vice president Ianshin, and secretary Efron of November 27 protesting the Kazakh republic's intention to transfer the northern half of the Aksu-Dzhabagly reserve to a collective farm, or that of M. A. Lavrent'ev, president of the Siberian branch of the Academy of Sciences, which forcefully urged canceling the elimination of Kamchatka's Kronotskii zapovednik.[61] The events were a paradoxical reminder of both how much and how little things had changed since Stalin's time.

The Fate of the Academy of Sciences Commission on Nature Protection

One aftershock that altered the administrative lineup of nature protection was a decree of the Central Committee and of the USSR Council of Ministers no. 299 of April 3, 1961, transferring the Commission on Nature Protection from the USSR Academy of Sciences to Gosplan USSR. The new president of the USSR Academy, M. V. Keldysh, agreed to the move.[62] Although we do not yet have archival evidence to explain why this happened, one plausible hypothesis is that V. P. Zotov initiated the transfer in the hope of providing his personal support and patronage to the cause of nature protection in the wake of Khrushchëv's January outburst.

By February 1962 a new charter had been drafted as well as a new roster of members. While Dement'ev was still left as chairman and L. K. Shaposhnikov as scholarly secretary, a Gosplan functionary, A. D. Ponomarëv, deputy head of that agency's forestry division, was made deputy chairman (initially, botanist E. M. Lavrenko was asked). Compared with the previous membership, specialists in energy, public health, and air and water pollution were better represented on the Gosplan commission. On the other hand,


only a handful of the old elite of the movement—Sukachëv, Efron, Lavrenko, and Voronov—were left, isolated in a sea of sixty-four other "new" people.[63] Nevertheless, the commission was impressive: eleven full or corresponding members of the Academy, sixteen doctors of science, and sixteen candidates of science.[64]

Testament to the supportive circumstances that the commission encountered within the all-Union Gosplan is a letter from Shaposhnikov to botanist Evgenii Mikhailovich Lavrenko written on December 24, 1961. Shaposhnikov first alluded to the months and months of delay waiting for the official issuance of a new charter for the reorganized commission. This was no trifle, he explained,

for, without a charter it is impossible to bring to life the work of the Plenum and the Bureau of the Commission. Georgii Petrovich [Dement'ev] and I have invested a huge amount of sweat and time to speed up the time when this charter sees the "light of day. "Just recently we have had some important successes. Besides that, the current business of the Commission is going ahead full steam. As far as the functionaries at Gosplan are concerned, we are exclusively encountering attitudes of good will and great—I would even say generous—assistance as far as material and technical support of our work is concerned. The possibilities here are incomparably greater than within the Academy. Come visit us. We will all be happy to see you and to consult with you.[65]

Lavrenko, though, was apparently less interested in continuing his central involvement, and in a note to Shaposhnikov of April 17, 1962 asked to be removed as deputy chairman of the commission and made an ordinary member "because I am otherwise occupied and owing to the condition of my health. "[66]

The Gosplan commission was able to hold on through 1962, but by the late spring 1963 it, too, had attracted the suspicious eye of the increasingly arbitrary Khrushchëv. Rumors of a new "reorganization" began to flow. Although exhausted from the seemingly continuous defensive campaigns to save its modest scientific and civic world, scientific public opinion once again rallied to the cause. On May 25, 1963, three heavyweights, F. N. Petrov, Sukachëv, and the eminent chemist and defender of genetics N. N. Semënov, along with Dement'ev, wrote to USSR deputy premier K. N. Rudnëv asking for a final transformation of the beleaguered commission into the long sought-after State Committee for Nature Protection attached to the USSR Council of Ministers. They cited foreign examples. They cited the examples of Estonia, Lithuania, and Belorussia. They referred to the resolutions of the all-Union conferences of 1958 (Tbilisi), 1959 (Vil'nius), 1961 (Novosibirsk), and 1962 (Kishinëv). And they got nowhere.[67]

Two weeks before the publication of the decree eliminating the Gosplan commission, which was signed by Khrushchêv on October 2, 1963, a new


wave of desperate letters began to flow to Kremlin addressees. One letter interesting for its emphasis on the image of the USSR abroad was from V. S. Pokrovskii, deputy secretary of the Commission and the head of its Laboratory for Nature Protection, to the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers with a copy to Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.[68] "From the moment of itconomic Assistance) countries in the area of environmental protection.[69] With the aid of the ministry, the Commission had been able to obtain valuable information from Soviet embassies abroad on nature protection activities around the globe; already, the card file of the Commission contained the addresses of 350 organizations and scientists who regularly exchanged literature. The Commission, noted Pokrovskii, had recently submitted the findings of the National Academy of Sciences' report to President Kennedy to the Academy's Siberis creation in 1955 the Commission . . . has been making great efforts to enhance the influence of Soviet scientists in international [conservation] organizations," he began. Two Soviet initiatives on economic development and nature protection were adopted unanimously by the XVIII session of the General Assembly of the UN and by UNESCO. Further, the Commission, with the support of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had been devising strategies of cooperation with the COMECON (Council of Mutual Ean division head, M. A. Lavrent'ev, to review what might be relevant in the USSR. Not only was the Commission a source of goodwill and a positive image of the USSR abroad, argued Pokrovskii, it was also a source of information about the outside world. For instance, its analysis of international legal norms in the area of resource conservation enabled the Soviet delegation to be more effective in the talks surrounding the study and use of Antarctica.

It is clear that the proposal, advanced recently, to eliminate the Commission may negatively affect the position attained through such hard work of the USSR among the progressive international movement for the rational use of natural resources of the earth, and could lead to the weakening of ties between Soviet scientific specialists in nature protection and their foreign colleagues. There is the danger that such a step would be greeted with incomprehension in the IUPN and among scientific public opinion of foreign countries.[70]

Another letter, one of F. N. Petrov's last (he retired as head of MOIP's Section on Nature Protection in 1964), was addressed to the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Party. Despite his age, Petrov showed that he was still following public affairs. Raising the argument that both socialist and capitalist countries alike had seen the need for authoritative agencies for the protection of nature, Petrov chose a highly unusual example to make his case: "Particularly great attention to developing the scientific bases for the protection of nature is being paid in the United States of America where,


for example, on the request of President J. Kennedy to the Congress, the National Academy of Sciences began special studies by the most eminent scientists in America on the condition of natural resources in the U.S."[71] With the contemplated dismantling of the Gosplan commission, warned Petrov, the contrast with the Soviet Union's archrival would be striking and not to the USSR's advantage. At the end of his life, Petrov decided that he could afford to dispense with niceties:

In the Soviet Union as a result of the liquidation of the Commission for the Protection of Nature of Gosplan USSR and the transfer of its Laboratory, the development of scientific bases for the rational exploitation of natural resources will be brought to an end. The Soviet Union will lose official representation and will be deprived of any links in the international arena in the area of nature protection. Active state oversight over the rational use and reproduction of the entire complex of resources of the USSR will be liquidated. On the basis of the above I ask you to reexamine the draft decision of the USSR Council of Ministers prepared by the State Committee for the Coordination of Scientific Research of the USSR.[72]

The letter ends with no attempt at cordiality or propitiation. It was Petrov's last big campaign, although he lived for nearly another decade. As for the liquidation, it went ahead on schedule, and the Commission's Laboratory of Nature Protection Research was transferred to the USSR Ministry of Agriculture's Glavpriroda, Malinovskii's old outfit.[73] The Party chose not to heed one of its last links to Lenin.

Beaten down just when they had allowed themselves to regain hope, the older activists now perceived the extents of their social weakness and isolation. No longer in their prime of life, and unable to influence social events to their satisfaction, they clung to one of their few tangible achievements: the preservation of MOIP as the independent institutional locus of their social group.

A poignant series of letters from Boris Evgen'evich Raikov, longtime member of MOIP, to Vera Aleksandrovna Varsonof'eva, the society's vice president, a conservation activist, and Raikov's close friend, suggest that at least some members of the pre-perestroika nature protection movement were aware of its importance as a hidden site of opposition to the dominant official social and economic vision. Written on July 17 and November 18, 1903, the letters from the eighty-one-year-old historian of science reveal Raikov's fear that Varsonof'eva's care for her ailing sister could fatally interrupt her scientific and, especially, her civic work. "Your last letter devastated me," wrote Raikov.

It is positively tragic. That your relative has died is, of course, sad; but we all die sooner or later. But the situation with your sister is worse than anyone could have imagined. Worse for you, because she scarcely is aware of her own con-


dition, and remembers still less. But for you to spend time with her several times a week . . . is to doom yourself. I beg you straight out to stop this. . . . You do not have the right to sacrifice yourself in the name of a relative. . . . I am in complete sympathy with your views and feelings about the desecration of the Volga. But I do not have merely a feeling of sadness about these "refashionings" [peredelki ] of nature, but a sharp feeling of anger [negodovanie ]. Anyway, there is no sense writing about that! [emphasis in the original][74]

In his next letter, Raikov renewed his admonitions:

You have surrounded yourself with several sick charges . . . but surely there are others who could and even, perhaps, must take on part of your load. I have not even come to the question of MOIP, which is doing work of enormous importance, because this is the only scientific institution that has maintained its civic dignity not only in Moscow, but in the entire [Soviet] Union, and which by some kind of miracle has so far retained its integrity amid all the other statedominated ones. And you are so needed there, even indispensable, precisely as a guarantor of scientific public opinion.[75]

Ask any of the veteran members of MOIP about its golden age in the 1950s and 1960s, and they will tell you the same thing: politically insulated by its loose subordination to Moscow State University and by its physical location within the Moscow University Zoological Museum—the citadel of old guard nature protection activism—MOIP remained virtually the only "voluntary society" in the land that could claim scientific, intellectual, and even political autonomy. This was because MOIP, like the elite conservation movement as a whole, existed at the distant margins of Soviet life. Perhaps the high hopes engendered by Khrushchëv himself set the stage for the feelings of disillusionment and extreme social isolation experienced by this lonely outpost of the scientific intelligentsia. However, the double bind of serving the ideal of "science" as the activists defined it and trying to be loyal and patriotic state servitors remained; the scientists were not ready to join the still invisible, sparse ranks of dissenters from the system.


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