Preferred Citation: Weiner, Douglas R. A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachev. Berkeley, Calif:  University of California Press,  c1999 1999.


A Little Corner of Freedom

Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachëv

Douglas R. Weiner

Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford
© 1999 The Regents of the University of California

To my angels: 
Loren and Pat, Feliks and Nadia, Nikolai and Elena, 
Olga, Konstantin, and Dania

Preferred Citation: Weiner, Douglas R. A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachev. Berkeley, Calif:  University of California Press,  c1999 1999.

To my angels: 
Loren and Pat, Feliks and Nadia, Nikolai and Elena, 
Olga, Konstantin, and Dania


I have been fortunate to have been able to spend considerable amounts of time living and researching in the Soviet Union and its successor states. For that I am indebted to the generous support of a number of granting agencies and foundations that have had faith that this project would one day see the light of day. A trip to the USSR in 1986 was supported by the National Academy of Sciences. IREX and the National Council for Soviet and East European Studies (contract 806–28), a Title VIII program, generously funded a key second research trip for ten months in 1990–1991 plus summer support. From June to August 1991 I had the good fortune to be a fellow at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., allowing me to reflect on the materials I had just acquired and also to obtain other materials at the Library of Congress. To its director, Dr. Blair Ruble, to the administrative assistant, Monique Principi, to my research assistant, Jason Antevil, and to the Kennan's entire staff, my enduring thanks. The Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy under its former director, Helen Ingram, and its deputy director, Robert Varady, provided a warm and stimulating atmosphere where the writing continued. Finally, the Spencer Foundation (grant no. 9500933) generously provided the opportunity for me to complete the writing of this book during my sabbatical year, even as I began yet another book project with that foundation's kind support. Each of these funding sources has my deep and sincere gratitude.

As a result of liberalization within the Soviet Union and its successor states, I was able to use a vastly larger range of sources than I could have (and did) ten years ago. Owing to the kind efforts of the then Soviet minister for environmental protection, Dr. Nikolai Nikolaevich Vorontsov, I became the first foreigner to use the archives of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Republic, housed in the former TsGA RSFSR (Central State Archives of the


RSFSR). I am glad to report that the exceptionally warm atmosphere set by Tat'iana Gennadievna Baranchenko, Natal'a Petrovna Voronova, and Liudmila Gennadievna continues to this day. Additional archival sources include: GARF (State Archives of the Russian Federation, formerly TsGAOR), RGAE (State Archives of the Russian Economy, formerly TsGANKh, with special thanks to its deputy director, Valentina Ivanovna Ponomarëva), TsKhDMO (Center for the Preservation of Documents of Youth Organizations, formerly the Komsomol Archive), ARAN (Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, both the Moscow and St. Petersburg branches, and its photo lab LAFOKI), RTsKhIDNI (Center for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Recent History, formerly the CPSU Archives), TsKhSD (Center for the Preservation of Contemporary Documentation, formerly the Central Committee CPSU Archives), the Archives and Library of the Moscow Society of Naturalists (MOIP), The Ukrainian Central State Archives, the Library of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, the Russian State Library (Saltykov-Shchedrin), the Russian Federation Library (formerly the Lenin Library), and the Library of the Russian Geographical Society. The archival staffs have been generous and supportive far beyond the norms of professional courtesy. I am indebted to these women and men beyond words. To Nina Vladimirovna Dem'ianenko of the MOIP Library and Archives, my special thanks.

Documentation was supplemented by numerous interviews with veterans of the movement conducted in Russia, Ukraine, and Estonia. Some of these were conducted in zapovedniki , or nature reserves (Prioksko-Terrasnyi, Tsentral'no-Lesnoi, Askania-Nova). To my informants, Academy of Sciences vice president Aleksandr Leonidovich Ianshin, Ksenia Avilova, Tat'iana Leonidovna Borodulina, Galina Borisovna Chernousova, Nelia Efimovna Dragobych, Iurii (Georgii) Konstantinovich Efremov, Oleg Kirillovich Gusev, Dmitrii Nikolaevich Kavtaradze, Viktor Masing, the late Andrei Aleksandrovich Nasimovich, Vitalii Feodos'evich Parfënov, Evgenii Makarovich Podol'skii, Linda Poots, Evgenii Arkad'evich Shvarts, Vladimir Vladimirovich Stanchinskii Jr., Vadim Nikolaevich Tikhomirov, the late Mikhail Aleksandrovich Zablotskii, Iurii Andreevich Zhdanov, and Sergei Vladimirovich Zonn, I owe a huge debt of gratitude. Konstantin Mikhailovich Efron has given me encouragement and friendship as well as the gift of his inestimable knowledge and wisdom.

The wisdom and friendship of my colleagues in Eurasia greatly assisted me to a more sophisticated understanding of the materials I had collected. They have given me more than I can ever hope to repay. Daniil Aleksandrovich Aleksandrov has played an immense role in encouraging me, among other things, to distinguish clearly between civic and scientific activism. This advice has been invaluable. Feliks and Nadia Shtil'mark, as always, have been the truest friends and most knowing commentators on the history of Rus-


sian nature protection. For those who seek a definitive history of the zapovedniki as institutions, there is only one book, and that is by Feliks Robertovich Shtil'mark. Vladimir Evgen'evich Boreiko also deserves more than mere mention. A man of big vision, he has been a creative and encouraging coexplorer in these relatively uncharted waters who has unstintingly shared his findings with me. Owing to his selfless desire to get the truth out, he has given collegiality a new dimension. I salute him. Competing with Boreiko for top prize in collegiality is Oleg Nikolaevich Ianitskii, the foremost authority on the modern environmental movements of Eurasia, who has also enriched my understanding with his. Others who have actively helped with this project are my friends and colleagues Aleksei Enverovich Karimov, who provided camaraderie during my last archival blitz, Anton Iur'evich Struchkov, Eduard Nikolaevich Mirzoian, who more than once gave me an institutional home in Moscow, Eduard Izraelovich Kolchinskii, who did the same in St. Petersburg, Viktor Kuz'mich Abalakin, Nelia Drogobych, Elena Vsevolodovna Dubinina, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Formozov, Mikhail Vladimirovich Geptner, Tat'iana Gerasimenko and Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Volkov, Elena Kriukova, Aleksei Vladimirovich Iablokov, Elena Alekseevna Liapunova, Nikolai Daniilovich Kruglov, Nina Trofimovna Nechaeva, Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, Kirill Rossiianov, Ol'ga Leonidovna Rossolimo, Veronika Vladimirovna Stanchinskaia, Hain Tankler, Marshida Iunusovna Treus, Vladimir and Svetlana Zakharov, and countless other friends too numerous to mention. I owe special thanks to Aleksandr Sergeevich Rautian, who single-handedly saved the invaluable Viazhlinskii collection of photographs of conservation activists from the 1920s through the 1950s and who allowed me to reproduce them.

Colleagues on this side of the ocean also helped to clarify my thoughts and challenge dubious assertions. I am indebted to Valery N. Soyfer and to Stephen Kotkin for insisting as strongly as they did that the scientists' professions of Soviet patriotism might well be genuine and that it was impossible not to be, at least in small part, a "Soviet" person. The recommendations of Loren R. Graham, my lifelong friend and quondam mentor, have also found their way into this book. A conversation with Mike Urban led me to examine rhetoric as positioning, and even further incisions followed a generous critique of the introduction by my colleague Hermann Rebel. Upstairs in the sociology department, Elisabeth Clemens, truly a magician, read part of the manuscript and offered great recommendations for tightening it. Janet Rabinowitch valiantly read it twice, offering key suggestions, and Susan Solomon provided valuable guidelines for framing the story. To executive editor and publishing magician Howard Boyer go my heartfelt thanks for believing in this book and championing it. Erika Büky shepherded the manuscript through its production with a swift and sure hand, while Madeleine Adams's elegant copyediting made it infinitely more readable.


Finally, my thanks to those who have stood by me all these obsessive years—my wonderful friends, Mars (the world's leading cat), and my loving parents. Finally, I would like to thank you, the reader, who risked inguinal hernia and other bodily harm to pick up this too, too solid tome.



In those times scientific and other publics showed their various colors-more often than not straining to approve [the decisions of the regime]; on occasion, however, even during the most difficult years, some stood up to the arbitrary use of power and to ignorance. People were expected to praise the transformation of nature under Stalin and Khrushchëv, to fetishize those programs as ones that supposedly only brought improvements . . . But geographers cleverly devised ways to oppose these transformations even in the years of "The Great Stalin Plan. "Is it possible that there were people that brave?
Iurii Konstantinovich Efremov

When we speak about our public opinion, then it is necessary first of all to speak about scientific public opinion.
Sergei Pavlovich Zalygin

This book is an attempt to come to grips with some very surprising archival findings. As I continued my research on the Russian nature protection movement forward in time from the years of the Cultural Revolution and the First Five-Year Plan (1928–1932), I repeatedly came across documents that testified to the unlikely survival of an independent, critical-minded, scientist-led movement for nature protection clear through the Stalin years and beyond. Through a number of societies controlled by botanists, zoologists, and geographers, preeminently the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature (VOOP), the Moscow Society of Naturalists (MOIP), the Moscow branch of the Geographical Society of the USSR (MGO), and the All-Union Botanical Society, alternative visions of land use, resource exploitation, habitat protection, and development were sustained and even publicly put forward. In sharp contrast to general Soviet practices, these societies prided themselves on their traditions of contested elections for officers on the basis of the secret ballot, their foreign contacts, and their prerevolutionary heritage.

To gain a sense of the boldness of these activists consider that in June 1937 the leadership of VOOP drafted a letter to Central Committee secretary A. A. Andreev seeking a meeting to upgrade the Party's commitment to nature protection and requesting authorization to travel to an international conference on conservation in Vienna set for the following year.


That very week the high command of the Red Army had been arrested, accused of working for a foreign power. Two months earlier the Soviet government had written to the International Genetics Committee postponing the Sixth International Genetics Congress, scheduled for August 1937, to some unspecified time during the next year. Stalin was shutting down the country to the outside world, and foreign contacts in one's past left Soviet citizens open to the charge of treason. An atmosphere of terror was settling on the gigantic country. And yet these scientist-activists wanted to go to Vienna! Another VOOP document dating from July 1948 reveals that the society's leaders wrote directly to the USSR Ministry of State Security to question why secret police detachments were chopping down all of the cypress trees in the Crimea. And in May 1954, barely one year after Stalin's death, the scientists' societies organized a protest meeting demanding the restoration of nature reserves eliminated three years earlier by Stalin.

Just as eye-catching were telegrams from oblast' (provincial) Party and government leaders "categorically opposing" those 1951 "liquidations" of the reserves at the time. Also in the archives is evidence of a number of dramatic intercessions by a succession of Russian Republic (RSFSR) premiers to protect the nature protection society itself from elimination at the hands of Kremlin authorities. Ukrainian and other archives have confirmed that such patronage by republic–and oblast' -level authorities of the nature protection movement was not limited to the RSFSR.

This book describes a succession of independent social movements for nature protection that predated and survived Stalin and all of his Soviet successors.[1] With protection from republic–and provincial-level patrons, this movement was institutionalized in a number of scientific and voluntary societies and for a time was also able operationally to control a twelve million-hectare (thirty million-acre) network of zapovedniki (scientific nature reserves), which acquired symbolic importance as a unique "archipelago of freedom" within the GULAG-state.

The reader may well ask how it was possible that any such movement, its institutions, and the energetic protection of them by provincial–and republic-level politicians could have existed in Stalin's terror state. Indeed, historians and Soviet specialists overwhelmingly deny that such a movement and network of patrons could have existed. For example, the social historian Geoffrey Hosking asserts:

The Soviet Union . . . was a uniquely centralised polity, in which the Party-state apparatus governed not only the aspects of society normally associated with authority, but also the economy, culture, science, education, and the media. . . . Social interest groups had no identity separate from the nomenklatura hierarchy, so there was no question of their formulating their distinct interests, let alone of forming associations in order to defend them. That constituted the strength of the system.[2]


But Stalin and his successors did not root out all such autonomous social groups. Although we lack conclusive answers as to why the nature protection movement was not obliterated along with other institutional sources of political, cultural, and moral dissent or deviation, the following pages suggest some promising avenues of explanation. Perhaps as more archival materials become available and are examined we will find better answers. The very fact that independent social organizations continued to exist through the Stalin period and after raises fundamental questions about the Soviet system: Were there other areas of social organization besides nature protection that were able to survive as something more than naked transmission belts of regime values? Was it the regime's intention to extirpate every expression of divergent views and every manifestation of social autonomy? If so, then the persistence of various nature protection movements seems to indicate a certain lack of efficiency of Soviet rulers in the face of subjects determined to defend their autonomous selfhood. If not, we must come up with a more sophisticated picture of how Stalin and his colleagues expected to maintain effective control over society. Could the continued existence of this apparently autonomous nature protection movement actually have served the interests of the Party-state? More broadly, what changes in our picture of Soviet society and politics do these archival findings move us to consider?

In earlier works I have argued that the Soviet conservation movement in the 1920s and 1930s represented a means by which a section of educated society tried to moderate, or even halt, the juggernaut of Stalinist industrialization and social change.[3] Armed with unprovable holistic ecological doctrines that asserted that pristine nature was composed of geographically bounded closed systems ("biocenoses") that existed in states of equilibrium and harmony, conservationists warned of the dire consequences to the stability of those natural systems as a result of collectivization, industrialization, and other Stalin-era projects. They averred that only they, through their expert study of long-term ecological dynamics of pristine natural communities, could determine appropriate economic activities for specific natural regions of the USSR. They began to conduct this study in specialized protected territories—zapovedniki —which were off-limits to any uses except scientific research on ecological/evolutionary problems. Conservation activists, led by the foremost field biologists in the country, sought first to obtain, and then sustain, the right to a veto over unacceptable economic policies through the newly created Interagency State Committee for Nature Protection. At the same time they struggled to retain control of and to expand the network of zapovedniki .

As Stalin's revolution from above from 1928 to 1933 turned the country on its ear, nature protection emerged as a means of registering opposition


to aspects of industrial and agricultural policy while remaining outwardly apolitical; arguments were couched in the language of scientific ecology. The picture ecologists drew of fragile self-regulating biocenoses seemed to throw cold water over the Stalinists' plans for a successful total mastery and transformation of nature.

Unlike the situation under Lenin and during the NEP (New Economic Policy),[4] scientists now found their own professional freedom under mortal threat. Moreover, on some level they perhaps understood the linkage between Stalin's plans for shackling nature and the reenserfment of society. Prominent Soviet scientists responded by marshaling ecological arguments against collectivization, acclimatization, and the great earth-moving projects. When this scientific opposition to the Five-Year Plan failed, scientists retreated to their ultimate fall-back position: a defense of the inviolable zapovedniki under their control.

By their charters the zapovedniki were absolutely inviolable. They had become the symbolic embodiment of the harmony of communities, of natural (and human) diversity, and of the free and untutored flow of life (in Anton Struchkov's eloquent phrase, the "unquenchable hearths of the freedom of Being"). As long as the "pristine" zapovedniki could remain independent, what was denied to human society in Stalin's Russia could be preserved in symbolic, natural form in these reserves. They formed an archipelago of freedom, a geography of hope.

Particularly revealing in this regard are the comments of Sergei Zalygin, repentant hydrologist, conservation activist, and editor in chief of Novyi mir , Russia's leading cultural-literary monthly: "Here is the crux of the matter: the word 'zapovednik ' means 'a parcel of land or marine territory completely and eternally taken out of economic use and placed under the protection of the state."' But zapovedniki are much more than that: "A zapovednik is something sacred and indestructible, not only in nature but in the human being itself; it is also a commandment, a sacred vow [from its root, zapoved ']. And it is precisely around these meanings that the struggle over the zapovednik raged and indeed rages at the present time. . . . [T]he zapovedniki remained some kind of islands of freedom in that concentration-camp world which was later given the name 'the GULAG archipelago.'"[5]

If the defense of these inviolable institutions had become the paramount aim of Russia's elite natural scientists, such a defense required justification in biological theory. Of the two ecological paradigms available at the time the individualistic or continuum theory of species distribution, and the paradigm of discrete, bounded, fragile, highly ordered ecological communities in a homeostatic equilibrium—only the latter fit with the research agenda of the zapovedniki and could provide a justification for absolute inviolability. However, we are struck by the disparity, in Gerovitch and Struchkov's words, "between the rather weak 'scientific' arguments for absolute inviolability, on


the one hand, and the inspiration with which this idea was defended, on the other hand."[6] Even after a Stalinist campaign forced the Zapovednik Administration of the RSFSR to renounce "inviolability" in principle and to accept a new mission for the reserves—the transformation of their "pristine" nature into the more productive "Communist nature" of the future—the scientific establishment and its patrons in the Zapovednik Administration continued to defend the "sacred" reserves from their "profane" new tasks in practice. Indeed, the struggle over the defense and later the reestablishment of inviolable zapovedniki eclipsed all other environmental issues through the mid-1960s, and through the 1970s if we include Baikal, which was also a part of the geography of hope.[7]

This book confirms and develops these ideas. The early movement, which described itself as "nauchnaia obshchestvennost "' (scientific public opinion), a self-designation that connoted a social identity with its own values, traditions, interests, and ethical norms,[8] does not derive its sole historical importance from its accomplishments in the areas of species protection, landscape preservation, and support for multidisciplinary and unique ecological research in the zapovedniki . Perhaps its greatest significance for Soviet society resides in its role as an institutional "keeper of the flame" of civic involvement independent of the Party's dictates.

Activists maintained an atmosphere of internal democracy within the societies that they controlled: the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature (VOOP), the Moscow Society of Naturalists (MOIP), the All-Union Botanical Society, and the Moscow branch of the Geographical Society of the USSR (MGO). The epicenter of this movement was the Zoological Museum of Moscow State University, just down the block from the Manezh and Red Square, where MOIP and MGO were headquartered and where VOOP frequently held its meetings. Loren Graham, the historian of Russian science, once remarked that hundreds of Western scholars, diplomats, and journalists had long wondered whether there was any "island of freedom" in the Soviet Union, unknowingly driving right past it thousands of times!

This study underscores the resilience, courage, and determination of the nature protection activists, whose leading members were drawn mostly from the elite ranks of Soviet field biology (laboratory-based biologists and scientists from chemistry and physics were less well represented, although there was a fair contingent of geologists and soil scientists). In 1953—1955, when control over VOOP was wrested from them and placed in the hands of Party stalwarts, activists transferred their activity to MOIP, still under the control of their own people. This study also reveals their determined and creative efforts to pass on their ethos of nauchnaia obshchestvennost '—with its connotations of activism, service to Science, broad erudition, scientific autonomy, individual responsibility, and collective action—to succeeding generations. The most important vehicles for this were the instructional programs in field


biology for children and teenagers run by the Moscow Zoo (KIuBZ), VOOP, and MOIP. Not coincidentally, today's leading zoologists and botanists, who include some of the most prominent reformist politicians such as Nikolai Vorontsov and Aleksei Iablokov, were molded in these intellectual non-Party youth groups.

In Russia, MOIP took the leading role in the creation of the first student brigade for nature protection (druzhina po okhrane prirody ) in the Biological Faculty of Moscow State University in 1960, whose membership varied from 25 to 150 over the next thirty years.[9] Soon, almost all major universities and elite technical schools boasted druzhiny , which collectively reached a membership of about 5,000 by the 1980s.[10] These perpetuated at least some portion of the old prerevolutionary ethos of the "botanical-zoological-geographical intelligentsia." Members of the student brigades engaged in measuring point sources of air and water pollution, monitoring compliance with environmental laws, detaining poachers, and planning new nature reserves. Seeking idealistically at first to enforce laws that were already on the books, they soon discovered that the system was not interested in their "help"; indeed, their attempts to hold managers and hunters to the law was viewed by the authorities as oppositionist and slightly subversive. By and large, druzhinniki continued in the more Western–and global-oriented perspectives of their mentors.

At times, the movement served as a counterculture in that it provided for its members' most important social needs, which the larger society had failed to meet. Central were the needs felt by those who joined to be self-directed and autonomous of authority, to engage in genuinely creative work, and to serve the broader society—a variant of the old nobility's and intelligentsia's ideal of service.

"Self-sufficiency," emphasized Oleg Ianitskii, a leading social-movement sociologist, "lies at the core of the values embraced by environmentalists; they understand independence as a way of life, as a mode of everyday existence. . . . At the heart of the value-orientation described above is intelligent, creative activity." Ianitskii used the Marxian expression "unalienated labor" to describe the work of activists. Above all, this social identity was a path to a kind of "self-realization" as an individual. Activists, observed Ianitskii, "perceive independent activity as a search for meaning in life, as a testing of alternative possibilities for realizing their personal identity."[11]

The result of the efforts of the individuals examined in this study was the creation and perpetuation of significant communities that sustained their members—creative personalities who would otherwise have been ground down by the conformist, repressive Party-state system. As late as the early 1990s, Ianitskii could write:

Environmentalists remain a united community, above all in terms of their values and psychology. Whatever the future might hold, the great advantage en-


joyed by all those who make up the movement is that they have already found their place in life. They have discovered their goal and have linked up with fellow-thinkers. As a result, they have the inner calm and assurance of people who are aware of their path. . . . In these small circles people felt their strength, and realized that the System was not so monolithic after all. The members of the groups overcame their sense of inferiority, of their superfluity where the System was concerned. In a society without legal guarantees they acquired a real measure of social defense precisely because they became a community, that is, a genuine collective entity.[12]

Ianitskii points out the mutually reinforcing nature of the social movement and the professional background of its members. The process was iterative:

The resistance put up by the clubs to official dictates is not only the result of the general causes cited earlier, but also has professional and ethical origins. The first of these is the feeling of members that they are participating in serious scientific work that can benefit both nature and humanity. The young biologists' clubs have really been much more than clubs in the usual sense of this word. Their key activity has not been holding meetings but getting out into the field. Many of today's environmental activists have been accustomed from childhood to taking part in expeditions and to carrying on collective work in the midst of nature. The second reason behind the resilience of these clubs is the extremely powerful ethic of group loyalty that operates within them.[13]

The British historian Geoffrey Hosking extends this self-confident moral authority to writers: "Like scientists, writers had both the moral and the social standing to make their opinions felt even in a highly repressive system. The tradition of the writer as an 'alternative government' had been established already in tsarist Russia. The Soviet government had tried to prevent the resurgence of any such 'alternative' by creating its own literary monopoly through the Writers' Union. But even this was, paradoxically, a tribute to the power of the word."[14]

This study points to a crucial difference between writers and field biologists, however. Undeniably, a number of individuals—Akhmatova, Pasternak, Kaverin, perhaps Paustovskii, and later, Pomerants, Dudintsev, Ovechkin, and others—refused to cave in to the regime's demands that literature be put at its service. But if they were an "alternative government," they had no shadow cabinet, no meeting lodge, no debates or elections, no general assemblies. And they could not. Regime surveillance of writers was so overwhelming that there was only the testimony of lone, brave individuals. Certainly, they had their networks of friends and their literary "circles," but that social site was tiny. And with the high rates of arrest, exile, or transfers "on assignment," it was also discontinuous in time and space. Writers left a written legacy, but that was not the same as an organically functioning social movement.


Equally important, the proportion of writers from the high intelligentsia or those converted to its social identity dropped sharply during the Stalin years, swamped by an influx of vydvizhentsy —those promoted upward owing to their more humble social origins plus Party affiliation (those prerevolutionary writers who survived, such as Aleksei N. Tolstoi, did not faithfully represent the older intelligentsia's ethos). At least for the first generation of such parvenus, gratitude to the regime far outweighed any constraints of censorship they may have felt. Only later would these writers feel that their enthusiasm and loyalty were betrayed by the political leaders, particularly in connection with the Party's promotion of policies that seemed to threaten the Russian heartland from which the writers hailed. Consequently, their protest represented not so much an affirmation of the autonomy of creative individuals as a disillusioned turn from Soviet patriotism to Russian nationalism.

Patterns of literary participation in the nature protection cause support these conjectures. Very few littérateurs , even during the 1950s and 1960s, aligned with the scientific intelligentsia's nature protection movement. Konstantin Paustovskii, Oleg Pisarzhevskii, Natalia Il'ina, and Boris Riabinin come to mind. Perhaps Sergei Zalygin should be placed here as well. The majority of writers who have gotten involved in environmental causes are associated with the "Village Prose" school (pochvenniki, derevenshchiki ) and trace their genealogy back to Leonid Leonov and Vladimir Chivilikhin, themselves parvenu writers who began as grateful Soviet patriots and ended as disgruntled Russian nationalists.

"Scientific Public Opinion" in the Light of This Study

Like Russian lawyers after 1917 as depicted by Eugene Huskey,[15] "scientific public opinion" continued to view itself as a kind of professional soslovie , or closed guild. Owing to the corporativist, castelike, and somewhat elitist nature of "scientific public opinion," the scientists that constituted it may hardly be classed as thoroughgoing democrats, despite their observance of democratic norms within their own milieu (although the relationship of the provincial membership, particularly nonscientists, to the scientists who dominated VOOP, for example, is still unclear).

Defying simplistic understanding, the elitism of Soviet intellectuals generally and of scientific public opinion in particular derives from their claims to professional competence and moral vision. Living in a society that historically kept it in a condition of political tutelage, the intelligentsia's sense of moral superiority and purity was a form of psychological compensation for the real power and rights it lacked. While mistrusting the competence and judgment of the "dark masses," scientific public opinion was more resentful of the boorish Party leaders and bureaucratic bosses whom it regarded


as having "hijacked" scientists' rightful role as arbiters of policy. As the sociologist Vladimir Shlapentokh observed, "Being well aware of their high level of education and creative capacity, intellectuals hold elitist attitudes toward others, although in most cases they try to hide them. The elitism of the intellectuals is not, however, directed so much against the masses, but rather toward the ruling class, which is quite often perceived as incompetent and selfish."[16]

The Tightrope Walk of Scientific Public Opinion

Although the complex public behavior of the nature protection movement at times resembled a guerrilla war against the regime, it can also be compared to a tightrope walk. Clearly, scientific public opinion deplored the vulgar attitudes and policy choices of the Stalinist bureaucrats at the center. Nature protection leaders wanted to be invited to assume their rightful places at the policy-making table with responsibility for environmental matters. This was not simply a self-serving wish for power and status; it was part of their professional ethical impulse and sacred duty to serve Science. Once they defined nature protection as a matter for "scientific" rather than political adjudication, a claim accepted by the scientific community at large, protecting the environment also became a sacred duty in the name of Science. Consequently, ethical norms at the very core of scientists' social identity continually impelled scientific public opinion to critique or contest official regime policies toward the environment.

It is also possible that field biologists disproportionately consisted of those who were more intensely attracted to freedom and therefore were prepared to risk more in order to defend the wild.

On the other hand, what enabled the movement to survive in the Stalinist political environment, in addition to serious patronage and protection from enlightened and/or self-interested middle-level political figures, was its perceived harmless marginality. Doubtless Nikita Khrushchëv's depiction of zapovednik naturalists as oddballs (chudaki ) reflected the general views of regime leaders about these field biologists at those very rare times when they even noticed their existence. Despite occasional arrests and episodic characterizations of the movement as a hotbed of counterrevolutionary "bourgeois" professors, it was hard for the regime to perceive these ornithologists, entomologists, herpetologists, mammalogists, botanical ecologists, and biogeographers as sources of effective political speech. Marginality thus became a guarantor of the survival of scientific public opinion as a social identity.

That, however, created a dangerous contradiction for the movement, for its ethical norms demanded that it speak out when nature, and hence Science, was threatened. Too forceful a critique of policies to which the regime


was heavily committed, however, could create the impression that the nature protection movement was a nest of counterrevolutionary subversion. Accordingly, scientific public opinion had to walk a tightrope, negotiating between its ethical norms and its desire to survive.

Nature protection activists had made their peace with Bolshevik rule. They were Soviet patriots and had no pretensions to supreme power. Indeed, it can be argued that they had an investment in the perpetuation of an authoritarian, centralized state regime, for they sought to use the great power of the Leviathan-state to impose their "scientific" vision of environmental quality on the country as a whole. A democratically run government might not afford such possibilities. Yet, the actual Leviathan-state in which these scientists found themselves was controlled by boorish, vulgar bureaucrats who did not recognize the eminent rationality of the scientists' alternative vision of development. Because of their wish to participate in, and not destroy, the Leviathan-state, the scientists of the nature protection movement could only hope to persuade and enlighten these bureaucrats to invite them into the circles of power. Failing that, they could only wait for "better tsars."

This dilemma also expressed itself in the movement's perennial conflict over its lack of a "mass character." A multiply determined double bind, this question concentrated many of the conflicting pressures on the movement. When the regime turned its attention to the movement and its flagship society, VOOP, it invariably leveled the criticism that VOOP had failed to become a "mass society." By this, regime arbiters meant that the Society still had an elitist, corporativist spirit and had not yet become a reliable, Soviet-type society, that is, a transmission belt to mobilize large, organized segments of the population on behalf of the regime's objectives. That was precisely the kind of organization that VOOP's leaders sought to avoid allowing it to become.

But it was possible to construe a "mass-based voluntary society" differently. Such a society, if it were truly independent, could represent a real social force in support of the goals of nature protection. At times, a platonic desire of scientific public opinion to see itself as leading such a mass movement may be fleetingly perceived in the internal conversations of movement leaders. However, the reality of VOOP becoming a truly mass society under Soviet conditions was too frightening and risky for the scientific intelligentsia. An authentically mass society, if truly democratic, might throw off the tutelage of the scientific experts. Worse yet, a truly activist mass society would certainly elicit the harshest repression from a frightened Party-state, destroying scientific public opinion and all nature protection goals in the process. Consequently, the scientific intelligentsia could not permit VOOP to become a truly popular organization.

Nevertheless, the creative leaders of the movement were able to cobble


together a tolerable solution to their image problem. After World War II an aggressive effort was made to recruit teachers and schoolchildren as members. Additionally, and with somewhat greater reservations, the society began to enlist "juridical members," that is, whole ministries, factories, and other institutions that joined in the name of their workers and staffs. This, of course, made such employees' membership a formality—little more than a source of income from membership dues. However, by the early 1950s these measures boosted membership over the 100,000 mark. This solution was so inventive because it created the impression that the leaders of VOOP were building a "mass society" while ensuring that the new members—nonparticipating employees of "juridical members" and pliable schoolchildren—would not be in a position to challenge the dominance of scientific public opinion in the affairs of the Society. VOOP would only become a "mass voluntary society" in the Soviet sense after its takeover in 1955 by Communist Party bureaucrats, enforced by a decision of the Russian Republic leadership. Indeed, with twenty-nine million "members" by the 1980s, VOOP became the largest nature protection society on the planet, not to mention one of the largest nonstate businesses in the USSR.

Instrumental Shame, Protective Coloration, and Civic Honor

In January 1956 Aleksandr Formozov revealed to a large conference of Moscow conservationists his personal mortification at having to answer foreign colleagues' questions about the status of nature reserves and habitat protection in the USSR at an international gathering in Brazil the previous year. Similar statements by him and his colleagues at a variety of meetings also point to a general rhetorical strategy of using shame as an instrument to get the regime to adopt the scientists' nature protection policies.

In declaring that "we must think about all of the zapovedniki of the Soviet Union as we are all patriots of the Soviet Union," Formozov was not only proclaiming his authentic love of homeland. Patriotism was one thing, but being able to take pride in one's country was another, and that was at issue. Formozov and his scientist colleagues were telling the regime that they could not represent the USSR at international meetings with pride so long as the regime failed to restore the eliminated nature reserves and then move forward on that front. The high praise accorded to the new RSFSR Main Administration for Hunting and Zapovedniki (Glavokhota RSFSR) by Formozov ("the leadership of zapovedniki  .  .  . is now in hands we can trust") and others reflected not merely their genuine pleasure and relief but also the hope that the Russian republican government would salvage the situation and remove


the blot of shame where the All-Union government was mired in inaction. To point out the patriotism of scientific public opinion and of the druzhinniki is neither criticism nor praise; it is merely noting one more piece of evidence against a romanticized view that sees these people as antiregime dissenters.

Similarly, it would be a mistake to view the frequent premeditated professions by VOOP of loyalty to "socialist construction" and other regime goals and values (what I call "protective coloration") as simply hypocritical, tactical moves aimed at enhancing its image. A number of key leaders of the movement, most prominently V. V. Stanchinskii and V. N. Makarov, were socialists going back to 1905, albeit Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, while a good many of their colleagues shared a common mistrust of a private property–based economy. Although dissenting from the regime's specific vision of economic development and environmental policy, scientific public opinion sought to work through the state, bypassing real democratic control over resource use. The student movements also sought to change things from above by occupying responsible positions in the machinery of power. Opposition to policies does not a subjective enemy of the state make. Protective coloration was a complex and negotiated response, containing elements of both cunning and sincerity.

Scientific Activists versus Civic Activists

Of the extant speeches in the available archival record of VOOP, a handful stand out for their passion and their unapologetic, unwavering tone of conviction. Curiously, those who uttered them were some of the most prominent nonscientist members of the VOOP inner circle: Susanna Nikolaevna Fridman, Aleksandr Petrovich Protopopov, Ivan Stepanovich Krivoshapov, and I. E. Lukashevich

Through the early 1920s, conservation discourse had been not only scientific but ethical and aesthetic as well. Ethical and aesthetic positions had been frequently voiced by scientist activists alongside scientific rationales for nature protection. By the late 1920s, this integrated mixture of motives, probably shared by the bulk of scientist activists, could no longer be expressed without penalty. Over the course of the decade ethical and aesthetic arguments lost their legitimacy and were derided as nonmaterialist and sentimental. Consequently, the public redefinition of nature protection as an exclusively "scientific" problem of ecology was an adaptive response by movement leaders, who recognized that the Bolsheviks might heed those speaking in science's name but might persecute those who advanced "moral" arguments for policy. For scientists, internalizing this claim of nature protection as a sci-


entific question additionally allowed them to fight for nature with the same sacred determination with which they would fight to defend Science. For fifteen years the ethical and aesthetic sides of the issue disappeared from view.

Accordingly, Susanna Fridman's remarks at VOOP's 1947 Congress were all the more startling. The longtime recording secretary of the Society and a nonscientist who considered herself one of the last remaining independent citizen activists in the country, Fridman dared to question the cornerstone of her scientist colleagues' authority. "Is nature protection," she asked, "or more correctly, the survival of wild nature and its capacity to blossom, compatible or incompatible with our quickly changing culture and civilization?" What was the opinion of science on that question? "Science has answered that it is compatible"; but, she wondered, what if science was wrong? In that case, she concluded, "our science is worthless, empty, and, as theory, holds no water. We know a great deal, but if we cannot [make the survival of wild nature compatible with culture], then that which we know wasn't worth knowing." This comment revealed the concealed tension between science and ethics within the nature protection cause and the parallel tension between scientific public opinion and those few citizen activists for whom "the public good" as they construed it outweighed the interests of science. Fridman, who emphasized that nature protection was a "momentous" question "not only of international but of planetary importance," was one of those few in VOOP who wanted to build the Society into a genuinely powerful independent mass society. "I must declare that in our Union we must engage in nature protection with pure and burning hearts and with passion," she emphasized, because, among the masses, "no one has any conception of the sweeping scope of this cause or of its crucial importance for the whole world. We must enter the international arena. Life itself urges us that way." As a final heresy she as much as stated that capitalist societies had "successfully tackled" a number of specific environmental problems still unsolved in the USSR.[17]

Fridman intriguingly suggested in 1957, one year before her death, that nature protection would become the universal creed that would unite humankind. "I have always believed," she wrote to her old friend Vera Varsonof'eva, "and now especially believe that the idea of nature protection will triumph, that precisely that idea will become the basis on which friendship between peoples will be built, which will give rise to common interests and to a universal common culture."[18] These were the thoughts of a civic-minded activist, not a scientist.

The difference between the VOOP scientists and the citizen activists is that scientific public opinion fought fiercely to defend its institutions—zapovedniki —and nature as "science," but the citizen activists defended nature as "nature," their personal civic dignity, and a larger vision of citizenship.


One could say that citizen activists provided the backbone that allowed their scientist colleagues in the movement to act more bravely. Tragically, as we see from the final letters of Susanna Fridman, the citizen activists were also the most socially isolated of all.[19]

The Students

Russia's two student nature protection movements—the druzhiny and the Kedrograd experiment—are treated in this study as historically and sociologically distinct from each other as well as from the citizen activists and scientific activists of the older movement. They seemed to resurrect the old spirit of the prerevolutionary studenchestvo . The druzhiny , especially the flagship brigade of the Biology Faculty of Moscow State University, were godparented by MOIP and scientific public opinion in the hope of reproducing another generation of activists in their own image. Although the students continued their teachers' commitment to zapovedniki , to an elitist self-image—brigades consciously limited their membership and long concentrated on the problem of poaching—and to the hope of using the monumental levers of power of the state to implement and enforce their environmental vision, they did not become yet another generation of scientific public opinion. Students sought to enter the natural resource bureaucracies rather than to stay in academe and wait vainly to be called to advise the political leadership. They sought to capture the levers of power themselves—as fishing, hunting, or water quality inspectors or nature reserve directors, administrators, and staff scientists.

The student activists of the 1960s and later raised action, not pursuit of science, to the apex of their hierarchy of values. Where scientific public opinion located its authority to speak out in scientists' reputations and erudition, the students viewed their moral authority more as a matter of course, arising out of their educational status. Historically, average citizens and Russia's various regimes (Stalin's excepted) were more inclined to indulge students' "excesses" and protests. For their part, students were impatient to engage in concrete forms of nature protection planning, practice, and enforcement, and all the more if these entailed a certain degree of adventure or even danger. This mood of action grew out of the hopes of the reform era of the 1950s and defiantly sustained itself during the long period of "stagnation" of the mid-1960s through mid-1980s. It also grew out of an entirely different education, received in the Soviet era, and out of changes in science itself; for a number of reasons it was no longer easy for young field biologists to acquire the scientific authority of the previous two generations.

During the crucial Khrushchëv years, the students revived a tradition of activism combined with the aura of moral authority that idealistic students customarily enjoyed in Russia. This produced efforts at practical resource


management and nature protection that brought the students into conflict with the Soviet bureaucracy. The stifling of Kedrograd, for example, vividly illuminated the gap between broadly shared social values, highlighted by the students' idealistic efforts, and the Soviet system. It therefore constituted a critical "object lesson," which catalyzed the far larger Russian nationalist/nativist movement of the 1970s and 1980s.

Stalinism as a System

Inspired by Marxian traditions, a trio of Hungarian ex-Marxists, Ferenc Fehér, Agnes Heller, and György Márkus, argue that in Soviet-type systems all economic investments, no matter how profitable or sensible they might seem or how likely to contribute to the general well-being, are judged by their likely effect on the stability of the system in the short term. They argue that this is tantamount to generating as big a flow of resources as possible into the hands of the central bureaucrats. Moreover,

the social usefulness of the end-product is graded according to its propensity to remain during its process of utilization under the control of the same apparatus or to fall out of it. . . . From the viewpoint of . . . a pure economic rationality, Eastern European societies are strangely and strikingly ineffective; they consistently make wasteful economic choices. This is, however, the consequence of their own objective criterion of social effectivity, of their own logic of development.[20]

Actually, there is a bit more here than a simple passion for aggrandizement. From a political standpoint, investments that seemed likely to create or enhance autonomous pockets of power irrespective of their economic and social "merit" appeared to the system as threats and were not approved. Conversely, those that manifestly propped up, reproduced, or augmented the power of the central bureaucratic apparatus were most heavily favored. Where decentralized investments seemed unavoidable, the system compensated with an increase in the capacity of the bureaucracy to monitor those potential nodes of autonomy, thus undercutting the economies achieved in the first place. This need for oversight fed the inexorable expansion of the apparat :

In a society in which all exercise of power has the character of a trustee/fiduciary relation and where systematically organized control from below is at the same time excluded in principle, a constant reduplication of the systems of supervision is an inherent and irresistible tendency. Processes of decentralization dictated by demands for greater efficiency are therefore constantly counterbalanced with attempts to impose new checks (and hence new systems of control), lest any unit . . . become so effective as to be able to follow its own set of objectives. It is in this vicious circle that the apparatus as a whole continues to grow, against all (sometimes drastic) attempts at its reduction.[21]


The bottom line is that "while the increasing social costs of bureaucracy may well be considered as a specific form of exploitation inherent to this society, the numerical expansion of the whole managing-directing apparatus, which is its main cause, certainly is not in the material interests either of individual bureaucrats or of their collectivity—in fact it only enhances the competition between them. And this tendency actually prevails against the articulated will of the apparatus."[22]

Ianitskii adds, "For the System, which to serve its own interests had created an economy of extravagance and shortages, environmentally safe technology was an empty phrase, and resource-saving was actually a threat to its wellbeing."[23] Consequently, the commitment of all regimes from Stalin's through Chernenko's to colossal "projects of the century" becomes eminently explicable despite those projects' long-term potential to undermine the system's viability financially and environmentally; each was perceived by the regime as one of the few options for politically safe large-scale economic growth, seen as essential to the perpetuation of the system. It is likely that these projects—Stalin's "Plan for the Great Transformation of Nature," Khrushchëv's Virgin Lands campaign and opening of Siberia with the Bratsk-Angara Dam, and Brezhnev's River Diversion Project and Baikal-Amur Mainline Railroad—also were thought to contribute to the system's stability in another way, in the arena of popular legitimacy. By each promising to represent one last "great leap forward" to Communism, the various "projects of the century" propagandistically endeavored to overcome the people's ever-increasing suspicion that the regime was actually a parasitic dead-end; each Soviet ruler had a "signature" program to legitimize his claim on leadership.

The opposition by the environmental movement in Russia to these big projects and to Soviet economic development generally from the early 1930s to the 1990s could be considered a continuous record of political opposition to the regime, attacking it at its very political-economic foundations. However, such a conclusion would have to assume some understanding on the part of nature protection activists of the connection between "the great transformation of nature" and the patterns by which the regime continually reproduced itself. The evidence does not currently support such a conscious realization. For activists, what was objectionable were the visible consequences of these patterns of economic development—for "nature," for society, and for their own social identity.

The Russian nationalist-oriented activists associated with opposition to the river diversion project seem to have developed a more conscious sense of the subversive nature of their campaign. Nicolai Petro writes that the river diversion project led critics to examine some of the structural attributes of the system, and concludes: "This criticism of the bureaucracy extends far beyond Minvodkhoz to all those who will fully confuse their own narrow-


minded interests with the long-term national interest. Careerism is thus disguised as social need."[24] In fact, he continues,

It is scarcely too much to say then that many of the critics of the diversion projects, both writers and scientists, espouse an alternative worldview to the one currently inculcated by the present political system. . . . The essential components of this alternative worldview are that science is not the solution to human problems because it does not address the need for spiritual and moral values, and that proper morality should be based on patriotism as manifested in an individual's personal responsibility for his country, its history, and its culture.[25]

Still, no branch of the environmental movement was able to articulate a critique of the system rooted in political economy or to offer a clear picture of an alternative way of organizing economic life. True, there were times when the older scientists' movement and students subjected individual government officials to interrogation and even humiliation. One could even call the conferences of 1954, 1957, and 1968 (where activists demanded the resignation of USSR agriculture minister Matskevich) carnivalesque inversions of the Shakhty, Industrial Party, and other show trials of the late 1920s and early 1930s directed against the scientific and technical intelligentsia. Independent civic associations seizing such initiative would seem to constitute a prima facie case of subversion from the Party's standpoint.

Why then did the regime tolerate these implicitly subversive movements when it easily could have obliterated them just as it had so many others? Could it not see that nature protection discourse and the zapovedniki represented a last holdout of an alternative cultural and political resistance? Did the regime not understand the implications of the activities of VOOP, MOIP, the kruzhki (circles), and the druzhiny , that they challenged or undermined core values and policies of the leadership? Why did the activists not become object lessons regarding the transgression of the rules of permitted Soviet speech?

A conclusive, let alone unitary, answer to this problem probably will never emerge from available archival sources; we can only speculate. However, a number of explanations should be considered. First, the regime did not expect political speech from field biologists and geographers, whom it considered arcane eccentrics and whose economic relevance it barely acknowledged. They were at once too unimportant to worry about and too silly and strange to be perceived as serious political threats.

Second, an oppositional role was not the activists' default mode. For these individuals, nature protection was an absolute injunction or sacred duty. However, the rationality and the protective role of suppressing the political and social implications of what they were doing must be appreciated. Were their everyday agitation on behalf of nature less naively passionate and more


self-conscious, their presentation of self in the public arena would have been more characterized by "bad faith." Arguably, they would have then been more vulnerable to being "unmasked" as dissidents in Soviet society. As naive "nature lovers" they presented a convincing image of harmless and somewhat ridiculous cranks and oddballs —chudaki. The fact that the leadership of the movement consisted of world-class scientists—botanists, zoologists, geographers—made their nature protection appear from the regime's perspective to be an eccentric and low-cost hobby. Nature protection only appeared on the regime's radar screen when those in power decided that they had other uses for the resources and lands (zapovedniki ) used by the movement for its "hobby." At that point the activists' resistance potentially acquired a new, subversive cast . . . because someone was finally paying attention!

Third, the various movements were authentically patriotic, for the most part, and had no intention of overthrowing the system. Even when Malinovskii and Bochkarëv were publicly humiliated by activists, activists' criticisms were leveled at these men as individuals or even "bureaucratic types," not as representatives of a rotten system.

Fourth, the nature protection movement was assisted in its quest for survival and influence by high–and middle-level patronage and protection. Activists looked to institutional patrons and protectors of all kinds to give or secure them their little bit of social space, and so they were imbricated to some extent in the system. Without allies they never could have preserved and maintained their "archipelago of freedom." A series of premiers of the RSFSR and local, oblast' -level politicians proved to be true friends and protectors of both the reserves and the nature protection movement. Academy of Sciences president Nesmeianov had enough power to provide wiggle room for this politically aberrant group and let the Academy serve as a Noah's ark for displaced ecologists after 1951. Gosplan leaders Saburov and Zotov respectively tried to mitigate Stalin's and Khrushchëv's depredations against the zapovedniki. Lesser leaders had the power to give space as well. The druzhiny could not have existed long without the patronage of the Komsomol (the Young Communist League) and of local branches of VOOP.

The motives of the movement's patrons were not identical. Nesmeianov, it appears, was personally committed to the cause of nature protection. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the leaders of the Komsomol saw patronage of the druzhiny as a means of burnishing the image of the Komsomol as "liberal" while keeping tabs on the potentially disruptive druzhinniki. And although many of the RSFSR and oblast' politicians did not act out of ideologically conscious "liberal" sentiments, they did seek to protect "their own" scientists, territories, and jurisdictional portfolios from the grasp of the center. After Stalin's death the republican governments, often with the support of local authorities, took the lead in reconstituting the disbanded nature re-


serves. Did that patronage morally obligate the nature protection movement to restrain itself so as not to endanger their patrons? Unwritten understandings about the permissible limits of public speech doubtless played a role in framing policy dissent. This is not a story about "black hats" versus "white hats." All of these actors are located somewhere on the same spectrum. Even Aleksandr Vasil'evich Malinovskii emerges from this study not as an irredeemable "evil genius" but as a Soviet bureaucrat whose vision of a "souped up" nature was at once utopian and utterly pragmatic.

Although it might appear that my research has discovered currently sought-after seeds of "civil society," the story is not nearly that simple. Perhaps it is even a good deal more ironic than it seems, for the very conditions—tsarist and Soviet—that gave rise to the social identities explored here also made them largely self-limiting. They testify to the durability of corporativist or guildlike social identities in Russia. Such mutually uncomprehending guildlike social groups could achieve solidarity only during rare moments, such as 1905 and March 1917, but could not sustain it, allowing a Bolshevik autocracy to supplant the fallen tsarist one. The independent groups portrayed in this study do not seem to have transcended this pattern.

This study trains its sights on what James Scott has called "hidden transcripts,"[26] drawn from the worlds of documents, statements, and social practice, which testify to the existence of Soviet social sites where alternative values and visions of the world were affirmed, shared, and perpetuated. This it does not merely to find inspiring examples of resistance under dauntingly difficult circumstances but to shed light on the nature and evolution of the social identities of scientist-activists and other activists and the ways in which they experienced their world and accommodated to it. Such portraits must necessarily also point out the ways in which these individuals were integrated into their larger society and system; although near the margins of the officially sanctioned social order in some respects, they could not fully escape dependency on the system. Their activism never countenanced a frontal challenge to the supreme political authority of the Party-state. Nor were they equipped to join with other social groups to defend social interests alien to their own, owing to their insular, caste-based psychologies. In a word, they were not dissidents in the way we now understand that term and were not fully formed nodes of civil society. But that in no way diminishes their achievement of establishing autonomous social identities for themselves on the basis of their own internal compasses against the pressures and directives of a jealously authoritarian system.

This book is organized chronologically, although the story is not entirely genealogical. After a discussion in chapter 1 of the various social identities


adopted by members of the Soviet nature protection movement and a brief synopsis of the movement's background through the early 1930s, chapters 2 through 8 trace the history of the field naturalist–dominated nature protection movement during the remaining and most repressive portion of Stalin's rule. That section culminates with an extended exploration of the circumstances surrounding Stalin's decision to "liquidate" the great bulk of the nature preserves and the concurrent investigations into the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature, which only narrowly escaped being shut down itself.

Chapters 9 through 13 cover the decade following the death of Stalin in 1953. They focus on the remarkable and almost single-minded efforts of this scientists' movement to pressure the authorities to restore the eliminated zapovedniki , efforts that included the convening of mass scientific conferences involving hundreds of participants to protest the closings. These chapters also show the adaptive flexibility of the movement, which was able to relocate its institutional site to the Moscow Society of Naturalists and to the Moscow branch of the Geographical Society of the USSR when in 1955 the RSFSR authorities quashed the independence of the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature.

Chapters 14 through 19 cover the period from the emergence of the university student movements of the late 1950s to early 1960s through perestroika , although the latter deserves more space than I have allotted here. In this last portion of the book focus on the old field naturalists' nature protection yields to a portrayal of new social actors: the student druzhina and "Kedrograd" groups, the emergence of a Russian cultural-patriotic nature protection movement, and the larger coalition of all of these groups in opposition to the industrial pollution of Lake Baikal and the project to divert northward-flowing Siberian and European rivers to the drier south. The book ends by noting the emergence of mass protests by ordinary Soviet citizens. The Conclusion distills new insights into Soviet history and environmental history from the story of the nature protection movements told here.

This study's focus is elusive: charting the role of organized participation in nature protection advocacy as a unique arena for affirming and perpetuating self-generated social identities, ipso facto a subversive undertaking in the eyes of the Stalinist state. Complicating this task is that nature protection provided the symbols and rhetoric around which more than one distinct, autonomous subculture was organized in Russia. Consequently, this is a study of how "nature protection" as an aesthetic, moral, and scientific concern and as a source of symbols and rhetoric was used creatively by Soviet people to forge or affirm various independent, unofficial, but defining social identities for themselves.


One who noticed this role for environmental activism is Oleg Ianitskii, who called attention to ecological protest as the formal banner under which any kind of political expression originally marched at the dawn of perestroika :

The struggle against the dictatorship of the Center, for national autonomy and for the preservation of national culture, for civil rights and freedom, against the arbitrary rule of the local bureaucracy, for self-government and the right to participate in the taking of decisions—all of these social actions marched either partially or wholly under ecological slogans. One way or another, ecological protest during the period 1987–1989 became the USSR's first legal form of democratic protest and of solidarity among the citizenry as a whole  .  .  . [although] the motivations and goals of this "ecological uprising" were quite divergent for different participants in this struggle.[27]

Was it purely accidental that emerging Soviet citizens first chose to march "under ecological slogans"? Certainly, the April 1986 Chernobyl disaster played a large role, graphically demonstrating the consequences of the system's wanton and decades-old disregard for the health and environmental safety of the population, and moving people to notice and speak out about environmental threats in their own localities.[28] But also Soviet people knew that historically, unlike political, religious, ethnonationalist, labor, or even cultural dissidents, environmental protesters were not greeted by billy clubs, water cannons, imprisonment, deportation, or exile. A host of compelling problems angered Soviet people in the early days of glasnost'. Any one of those could have served as the focal point of their initial public protests. People almost universally chose environmental issues, however, because they were aware of the low risk historically associated with speaking out in that area. This study reveals that environmental protest and activism served as a surrogate or even a vehicle for political speech continuously throughout the Soviet period. In Ianitskii's words, "Nothing arises out of a vacuum. Perestroika and reform measures do not represent isolated actions but an extended process, which has its prehistory."[29] That prehistory is the central subject of this book.


Chapter One—
Environmental Activism and Social Identity

Some who have reflected on the prehistory of Russian environmentalism, such as the geologist Pavel Vasil'evich Florenskii, a former member of KIuBZ (the Young Biologists' Circle of the Moscow Zoo), believe that the environmentalist ethos draws its source far back in time, from the traditions of brotherhood that flourished in Pushkin's day at the Tsarskoe Selo Lycée, which then were revived in the traditions of the St. Petersburg University studenchestvo (radical student subculture).[1] These traditions somehow survived in the kruzhki (circles) that the Soviet-era nature protection movement created to ensure the perpetuation of its values and social identity:

In the children's circle a collective was forged of like-thinking individuals with their democratic structures, independent self-governance, continuity over the generations, here were molded principles of morality, traditions of friendship, an awareness of our unity with nature and of the need for an eternal dialog with it. The free Young Naturalist life was a life-filled alternative to the dry and bureaucratized school and the decayed Pioneer and Komsomol organizations. Having been members ourselves in our childhood and adolescence of this noisy youthful community, we continue to feel to this very day that back then we swore our loyalty in friendship and our loyalty to nature. KIuBZ and its spin-off, the VOOP circle, were the nurseries where the future leaders of the nature protection organizations were lovingly cultivated and where the principles were honed that later would provide the basis for the charters of environmental organizations. . . . [S]ince [the 1950s] the nature protection movement has irrepressibly grown, realizing an "ecological niche" in all age and social groups. Its schools were the student druzhiny for nature protection—as well as "Kedrograd" in the Altai. Those were the milieux where the country's future "green" movement's leaders were molded.[2]

We cannot say for sure whether the continuity of the ethos of the tsarist-era studenchestvo was unbroken before it reemerged within the university brigades for nature protection in the 1960s. However, Florenskii and Shutova


are right to point to the linkages between a decades-old nature protection movement, that movement's youth organizations (especially from the 1940s onward), and the university student nature protection brigades (druzhiny ) of the 1960s through 1980s to which the older movement gave rise.

Tempting as it may be, however, it would be an error to conflate the distinctive groups of Russian activists into a unified "environmental movement." The earlier nature protection movement of the field naturalists and activists, the later movements of university students and of engineering and technical students, the Russian national-patriotic movement for the protection of nature, and the mass protests of the late 1980s all must be distinguished from each other sociologically despite the links between them. Although all these currents enlisted the rhetoric of nature protection, they drew inspiration from sometimes quite distinct cultural, professional, and ideological traditions. For example, the druzhiny echoed the hoary traditions of the Russian studenchestvo , whereas the "scientific public opinion" of their professor-mentors was rooted in the prerevolutionary ideology of the old academic intelligentsia. Those divergences reflected underlying social differences among the members of these various environmental activist movements: levels and kinds of professional training, professional or career status, social origin, and generational cohort. Admittedly, the distinctions made here are overschematized; nevertheless, our insight is better served in this case by splitting than by lumping.[3]

If environmental activism served as an unauthorized form of public speech, what were the "speakers" trying to say? They were not all saying the same thing. Only by understanding what anthropologist Walter Goldschmidt has called the various "human careers" of members of these distinct groups may we begin to grasp the part played by environmental activism in their struggles for self-definition and self-affirmation under evolving Soviet conditions.[4]

Scientific Public Opinion as a Social Category

To understand one of the most important social meanings of environmental activism in the Soviet period, it is first of all necessary to appreciate its connection to a Russian ideology of science and learning that emerged during the tumultuous years of the late 1850s and early 1860s.[5] In those years a "mystique of nauka " (science, learning), in James McClelland's phrase, gripped an entire generation of Russian educated youth. Whereas the tsar and the political system proved limited and flawed, science held out the promise of nothing less than the secular redemption of the world. Its adepts were characterized by "an enthusiasm that elevates and enthralls a person, a conviction that he is doing something that is capable of absorbing all of his intellectual inclinations and moral energies—something which . . . enters as


a necessary constituent part of the much broader general movement that will guarantee the eventual elevation of the intellectual and material well-being of the public as a whole."[6] Russian scientists and academics retained this faith in the redemptive power of science up to and through the Bolshevik Revolution.

One corollary of this ideology was that a life in scholarship conferred moral superiority. A scholar not only became a knight in the army of enlightenment but also acquired through learning a superior moral vision. As a rule, liberal politics—including opposition to tsarism, support for some kind of representative democracy, belief in intellectual freedom, and commitment to civil and human rights—formed part of this vision of an enlightened future. Among professors, this "mystique of science" was colored by a shared "caste" or "corporate" sensibility.[7] They embraced a social identity that McClelland has called an "academic intelligentsia," which,

while subscribing to the general outlook of the larger liberal intelligentsia as a whole . . . developed an additional and distinctive viewpoint of their own, which stressed the vital importance of university autonomy and the role of nauka in Russia's future social and cultural development. The majority of Russia's professors, in short, were more than just scholars and scientists. They formed a closely knit and articulate sociocultural group which sought to embody in its academic activities a moral commitment to progress and reform.[8]

A further component of this ideology, at least among many academics, was a high regard for basic or fundamental research, what the Russians called "pure science" (chistaia nauka ). If science and learning were a secular religion then pure science was its most sacred precinct, undefiled by outside political, commercial, or social pressures. Pure science embodied the principle that true academics answered only to the ethical injunctions of their priestly calling.

By the first decade of the twentieth century, nauka became a more contested issue. Certainly not all educated Russians endorsed the ideology described above. Progressive but loyal tsarist bureaucrats, seeking to modernize the country, had an obvious stake in denying that the march of knowledge would inevitably lead to the downfall of the autocratic order. On the one hand, they lobbied for greater regime support for academic institutions; on the other, they tried to convince academics of the need to dissociate learning from antiregime politics.

At the other end of the spectrum, radicals, especially students, demanded that academics actively subordinate learning and science to the struggle against autocracy. In its later incarnation in the postrevolutionary period, this view denied the possibility of science and learning independent of socioeconomic and ideological interests and consequently came to challenge the notion of an autonomous, value-free realm of "pure science."[9]


Insensitive and repressive policies, including a pattern of disregard for academic freedom and university autonomy, characterized tsarist education policy. Although by nature basically unrevolutionary and staid, the academic professoriate gradually concluded that to defend or attain academic freedom it needed to change the political structures of the land. Motivated by its ideology of nauka (not by a passionate interest in politics per se) the academic intelligentsia in 1905 crossed the political Rubicon, joining the "all-nation struggle" against the autocracy. Several thousand professors even signed a declaration proclaiming that "academic freedom is incompatible with the present system of government in Russia."[10]

For Russians, therefore, science was not simply a form of employment. It was a calling, a unique form of "human career" that endowed the lives of its adepts with a transcendent moral significance. Writing in the Imperial Academy of Sciences' monthly, Priroda (Nature), the physicist V.A. Mikhal'son captured the precise flavor of this Russian ideology of science:

The average German pursues nauka as a profitable trade—profitable not only for himself personally, but also for the people and the state. Many Englishmen and Frenchmen pursue nauka as an interesting and noble sport, not giving a thought to its utility. But one often finds Russians, and Slavs in general, to be motivated by a sacred enthusiasm which regards the pursuit of nauka as the only way to achieve a tolerable if incomplete worldview, and the search for truth as both an irresistible personal need and a moral duty before the fatherland and all of mankind.[11]

Many went beyond that to claim for members of the academic intelligentsia a generally superior vision of life, gained on the basis of their scholarly training and erudition. One of the classic expressions of this understanding of scientific public opinion was voiced by the great biogeochemist Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadskii, who in 1892 wrote:

A society is strong to the extent that its processes are consciously determined. . . . Let us imagine a series of human societies and states. In some of them, people are given broad freedom to speak their minds, to expound and discuss opinions. In the others, this possibility is reduced to a minimum. Societies of the first kind will be much stronger and happier than those of the second. If in societies of the first category necessary collective actions are, moreover, performed on the basis of the correctly established views of the best people, and in societies of the second type these actions are performed on the basis of arbitrary decisions by chance individuals, the strength of the former societies will steadily increase. Meanwhile, the question of the existence of societies of the latter type will inevitably be placed in question, and life in them will become more squalid and difficult. . . . Russia is in just such a situation.[12]

Of course, everything hinged on who were considered "the best people" and who "chance individuals." After the Bolshevik seizure of power, leaders of the Party considered themselves to be the "best people," who, thanks


to their Marxism, enjoyed a privileged view of human society and its problems. Not surprisingly, many non-Bolshevik scientists and academics continued, like Vernadskii, to view themselves as the "best people" and Bolsheviks as "chance individuals," and to treat the Party's claims to privileged knowledge with condescension. The Bolsheviks, like the tsarist regime before them, returned the compliment, resisting the efforts of scientists to press their claims to decision-making power. The authorities almost always prevailed; academics did not have much of an independent power base. But that did not mean that academics entirely ceded their claims to technocratic expertise.

Yet, alongside academics' pretensions to independence and power was a poignant cognizance of their ultimate dependence on the state: "Russian professors could hope for academic freedom, but they could not forget that they were state employees," the historian Samuel Kassow has observed.[13] Unlike other professionals, academics could not retreat into private practice. They preferred to cultivate the state's confidence and trust; they entered into overt political opposition only after the regime posed a threat to nauka .[14]

These attitudes and contingencies carried over into the Soviet period. But the Soviet drive to demolish scientific autonomy was far more thorough-going than anything attempted by the tsars, placing a tremendous strain on the ideology of nauka . Both the tsarist regime and radicals often viewed science and learning in purely utilitarian terms, as a means to achieve national sufficiency or a better material life, and disparaged what they called "science for science's sake." The Bolsheviks inherited these attitudes in double measure.

With all of the human and social sciences under the most relentless scrutiny as class-based from both the Bolshevik authorities and freelance ideological vigilantes, an overt political defense of learning in general was too dangerous. The natural sciences, however, were best able to retain a remnant of intellectual and institutional autonomy. Disciplines and approaches that could convincingly be gathered under the umbrella of the natural sciences stood better chances of survival, for Lenin and his immediate coterie still regarded the natural and exact sciences as relatively more objective than the patently ideology-ridden social sciences (although later, for a time, natural sciences too would lose their "value-free" exemption).

By the end of the 1920s astute leaders of the nature protection movement had succeeded in redefining nature protection as a branch of scientific ecology. Although the scientists who led the movement viewed nature protection as a matter of ethical and aesthetic concern on a personal level, their public discourse was almost exclusively framed in scientific terms to provide legitimacy for their cause. More important, they almost certainly believed their own contentions.

Like American Progressives such as Gifford Pinchot, the Russian field biologists who led the nature protection movement tried to make the case that


questions of land use and resource exploitation were scientific and technical, best resolved through scientific study and evaluation by experts—themselves.

These scientists had convinced themselves that ecological science would sooner or later reveal to them the precise limits of permissible human incursion into natural systems. That conviction rested on their view that individual ecological communities formed the building blocks of the biosphere, earth's envelope of life. Each of these communities (biocenoses), the field biologists and ecological theorists believed, was largely self-contained and bounded, and existed in relative equilibrium. That is, within these putative natural systems, all constituent elements balanced each other; fluctuations in the numbers of one or another species would soon be followed by a return to the norm. Scientists assumed that humans were extraneous to these "natural" systems and could only harm them. In their judgment, the task of ecology and field biology was to determine for each ecological system the kinds and levels of human economic activity that could be pursued without catastrophically damaging the biocenosis.

As a vision of nature, the idea of the ecological community was static. Taken to its logical conclusion, it implied that perfect natural balance on earth could be attained only in a world without humans. It was hardly demonstrable. Nonetheless, this picture of nature—later assailed by Bolshevik critics as reactionary—retained a deep hold on Russian naturalists and ecologists for decades, largely because it served as the "scientific" justification for an entire edifice of claims and institutions connected with the role in Russian public life these scientists sought.

Thanks largely to the contributions of Grigorii Aleksandrovich Kozhevnikov, a Moscow entomologist, a strategy for allegedly determining ecologically acceptable levels of economic development had been put forward in the decade before the Revolution. Kozhevnikov envisaged a vast network of inviolable nature reserves—zapovedniki—dedicated exclusively to the long-term study of the ecological dynamics of the biocenoses they were supposed to incorporate. Managed and staffed by scientists, zapovedniki , created on tracts believed to be both pristine, intact ecological systems and representatives of even larger landscapes, would serve as etalony , or baseline models of "healthy" nature. Kozhevnikov proposed that these tracts be compared with areas, once similar, that had undergone human economic transformation in order to assess how much damage was caused by which kinds of economic activity. With the endorsement in the mid-1920s of this strategic vision by the leaders of the RSFSR People's Commissariat of Education and its science-management department, Glavnauka, just such a network of zapovedniki came into being.

Such views and strategies neatly fit within the larger ideology of the cult of Science (nauka ), once nature protection was defined as within the realm of "science." In this spirit, scientists' opposition to elements of the First Five-


Year Plan and later Stalin-era and post-Stalin-era projects on ecological grounds was doubtless motivated by their understanding of the sacred duty of responsible scientists before nauka . Ditto their claims to veto power over the resource policies of the regime. However, although activists may not always have consciously understood such claims to be "political" (viewing them rather as "scientific"), they were political nonetheless, for the Party had already claimed a monopoly on all decision-making authority.[15]

Similarly, protecting and expanding the system of zapovedniki was not simply an instrument for assuring the adequate protection of objects of scientific interest and venues for their professional study. In the Soviet context it also represented an expansion of the realm of autonomous scientific institutions within the Soviet polity and more. Symbolically, the reserves constituted a counter-GULAG, territories that remained inviolable and hence undefiled by the kinds of social and nature transformations that characterized the social sea that surrounded them. In the words of Sergei Zalygin, they were "islands of freedom in that concentration-camp world that people would later call the GULAG archipelago."[16] That made the scientists' fight to defend and extend them a fight to extend a realm of extraterritoriality where at least nature could develop without fetters. In other words, zapovedniki also functioned as a geography of hope.

Caught up in these heady theories, scientists failed to ask themselves whether the theory of the biocenosis was the best model for understanding the distribution and structure of life on earth. They did not question whether they were buying into a delusional construct of "healthy" versus "pathological" nature. Indeed, it did not occur to them that they might be sacrificing science to the cult of nauka (Science).

With the demise of an overarching "academic intelligentsia" during the first decade and a half of Soviet rule—so-called "bourgeois" professors were thoroughly expunged from the humanities and social sciences—the survival of the ideology of nauka was now mainly dependent on natural scientists. However, because so many of the corporate institutions of even these academics were policed, terrorized, reorganized, or eliminated, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, after 1932 there were practically no venues for the active expression and vocal affirmation of academics' prerevolutionary social identity.[17] Some few, such as Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadskii and Pëtr Kapitsa, valued by the Soviets for their strategic importance to the economy or national security, were allowed as individual exceptions to continue to profess the old academic creed unrepressed. Most who dared to defend science or to oppose regime policies in the name of science, such as the geneticists Nikolai Konstantinovich Kol'tsov and Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov, met tragic fates.[18]

Social identities are subject to radical mutation if they fall into desuetude—witness the Judaism of the conversos during the Spanish Inquisition.


They cannot survive indefinitely in the individual imagination; rather, they need a social setting with real human interactions in order to maintain a full-blooded existence. Like the conversos , individual academics kept their felt social identities a secret, publicly professing loyalty instead to regime values and largely acting out the public roles prescribed for them. After a while, though, many isolated and terrorized academics lost touch with their original values and perspectives. Some even came to adopt their prescribed public roles as new social identities.

Against that backdrop, then, the continued existence and independence of a few voluntary societies of field naturalists assumed a crucial importance for the survival of the old social identity. Like the zubr (European bison), they became a relict population. The institutions, praxis, and speech of nature protection formed the basis for the continued expression and affirmation of an unauthorized, suspect social identity.

Given Soviet conditions, the field naturalists needed to be creative in order to survive. They perfected a strategy that I call "protective coloration," which involved promoting their own aims while rhetorically professing loyalty to the regime's. Accordingly, they took up a new designation for themselves, rhetorically in keeping with new Soviet social categories. They called themselves "nauchnaia obshchestvennost '" (scientific public opinion). Outwardly this term had the virtue of sounding eminently "Soviet"; in the media one never ceased to hear about the support or participation of sovetskaia obshchestvennost ' (Soviet public opinion) for one or another regime campaign. Accordingly, nauchnaia obshchestvennost ' seemed to constitute one small subgroup of the loyal cheering section—that of scientists. Yet, for the members of the field naturalists' societies in the nature protection movement the term had another, internal meaning. En famille it was a self-description in which they recognized themselves as representing the last organized bastion of the old ideology of the prerevolutionary academic intelligentsia. Not that the scientists were disloyal; they were simply presumptuous and critical. For them, "scientific public opinion" was the only truly credentialed public opinion, credentialed because it was "scientific." That, they believed, entitled them to critique the policies and strategies of the regime in areas where "scientific public opinion" had determined that the regime was acting at odds with the interests of "science."

The cult of nauka contained important elitist elements, reflected in the ambiguous nature of the term nauchnaia obshchestvennost '. Despite the fact that it seemed to fit into a larger, official, choreographed group of "broad Soviet public opinion," nauchnaia obshchestvennost ' still had at its core the prerevolutionary understanding of obshchestvennost '—the voice of educated, responsible public opinion. In the absence of comparably independent organizations of scientists and educated society, nature protection activists spoke as though the burden of representing scientific public opinion fell on


them alone. It was unclear, however, how much of a public they really represented as the decades of Soviet power wore on. At times it seemed that they represented a constituency of historical memory, the residue of the dreams and hopes of a bygone era.

Another aspect of the nature protection activists keeps us from romanticizing them as complete democrats. Although priding themselves on their own independent initiatives, such as the VOOP-sponsored expeditions to chart and propose new zapovedniki , their ultimate hope was to be invited by enlightened leaders of the state to take their rightful places as the expert arbiters of resource decisions. Fearing the acquisitiveness and dark ignorance of the masses, scientific public opinion hoped to realize its nature protection programs through the mighty fiat of the Leviathan-state. Each small liberalizing shift in the political winds lofted activists' hopes that they would receive the Kremlin's call to serve. As things turned out, they spent many decades in fruitless waiting and had to content themselves with the occasional—though sometimes enthusiastic—patronage of local and republic-level politicians.

One caveat must be included here. Nestled within scientific public opinion's All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature were a number of individuals who can be better be described as "citizen activists" representing the broader prerevolutionary ideal of obshchestvennost ' (educated lay public opinion) rather than the narrower one of nauchnaia obshchestvennost '. For such truly rare relicts as VOOP secretary Susanna Fridman or longtime activist Aleksandr Petrovich Protopopov, there were few if any other independent voluntary societies where their civic concerns could find an outlet. Partly because they were not invested in defending a cult of Science, partly because they were not as dependent on the system for their perquisites and careers, and partly because they still nourished the nearly extinct ideal of the dignity of the citizen qua citizen (not scientist), Fridman and Protopopov were consistently on the front lines of the Society, holding the most militant positions. They must be regarded as admirable but tragic curiosities in the tale this book will tell.

The Tradition of the Studenchestvo

Another prerevolutionary social identity that reappeared in the Soviet period as environmental activism was the studenchestvo , or membership in the student movement. This social identity, possibly born in Pushkin's lycée as Florenskii suggests but certainly flourishing from the 1860s on, was based on students' perception that they constituted "a unique and distinct subgroup in Russian society . . . with its own history, traditions, institutions, code of ethics, and responsibilities."[19] Reflecting their intrepid, impatient psychology was the students' penchant for skhodki , or mass meetings, as well as


street demonstrations. However, they were also capable of sustaining long-term institutions that reflected their intense in-group solidarity: mutual aid societies, independent banks, libraries, cafeterias, and even dormitories.[20]

Reaching its height during the final two decades of tsarism, to outward appearances the ideal of the studenchestvo seemed to be dead among Soviet college students by the 1970s; Solzhenitsyn had even unflatteringly rechristened them an obrazovanshchina , or "educated rabble."[21] Soviet students had lost their nineteenth-century corporativist traditions of solidarity; groups independent of the Komsomol (Young Communist League) were seen as potential nodes of subversion and were at times ruthlessly snuffed out.[22] From the 1960s, however, there was one exception: the druzhiny po okhrane prirody (student nature protection brigades), which grew out of the particular esprit de corps preserved at Moscow State University's Biology Faculty. Here again, nature protection served as a protected locus for the preservation (or resurrection) of a prerevolutionary-style group identity, in this case that of the studenchestvo , with its characteristic attributes of impatience, direct action, group loyalty, moral absolutism, independence, and bravado. Students were also protected by a long tradition of indulgent attitudes toward them throughout society. Without asking the permission of higher authorities, the druzhiny organized independent efforts to enforce environmental laws: roundups of poachers, checkpoints to ensure that New Year's trees were procured legally, and the monitoring and testing of factory discharges. Because they studied under professors who were central figures of scientific public opinion, the druzhinniki could not help imbibing many of their teachers' scientific ideas and liberal, internationalist, and statist ideological biases. Nevertheless, unlike their teachers, the ardent students put adventure and direct action ahead of the ideal of nauka in their own civic activism. They also tried to penetrate the state's bureaucracy, so as to get their hands directly on the levers of power and policy.

If druzhiny , spreading from Moscow University's Biological Faculty to most other important universities of Russia and the USSR, represented the studenchestvo tradition in its elite form, then the "Kedrograd" movement expressed the corporate student identity of those in less prestigious technical and engineering schools. By contrast with the druzhinniki , many of whose parents were members of the intelligentsia, these technical school students (kedrogradtsy ) were largely first-generation college-educated and were mostly from the provinces. Arising from the vision of a group of Leningrad forestry academy students in the late 1950s, "Kedrograd" was a quixotic attempt to manage Siberian stone pine forests in the Altai so as to harvest the forest's secondary production—sables, squirrels, pine nuts, and so on—without logging the trees themselves. Fired by the optimism generated by Khrushchëv's thaw, these ardent Soviet patriots wanted to build Communism. They wanted


to make the system work more efficiently by applying their expertise to the problem of resource management.

Like the druzhinniki , the kedrogradtsy used environmental activism as a means of asserting their own independent status as experts in the area of resource management, particularly forestry, and to build a special feeling of fraternity and identity. As the idealistic graduates saw their dreams dashed by cold bureaucrats, a number of the Kedrograd movement's key organizers as well as a prominent journalist who covered the story traded tarnished feelings of Soviet patriotism for a strong Russian nativism. Environmentalist images and rhetoric were as central to this shift in political/social identification as they had been to the forging of the original Kedrograd movement.

National-Patriotic Nature Protection

From such beginnings as the Kedrograd experiment, the rhetoric of nature protection mobilized a considerable number of Russians by the 1970s. They were led by prominent writers and other public figures to affirm a social identity whose highest value was ethnic Russian cultural patriotism. While individual beliefs among this group ran the gamut from a benign antiquarianism to extreme xenophobia, members shared the premise that Russian culture could not be preserved in its integrity without preserving integral Russian landscapes and the Russian village. Although members of this movement, united in such large organizations as the All-Russian Society for the Preservation of Monuments of History and Culture, frequently fought side by side with those of the scientist-led movement against the pollution of Lake Baikal or for other causes, the cultural patriots were far removed from the social identity of nauchnaia obshchestvennost '. Whereas scientific public opinion prided itself on its membership in an international confraternity of science, a "universal" global civilization, the cultural patriots, composed of Soviet-era writers and Soviet-trained engineers, technicians, and even scientists, did not worship at the altar of the old-style cult of Science. Rather, they claimed to speak for an equally grandiose "public," the Russian nation. The rhetoric of nature protection proved equally serviceable to both movements.

Middle-Level Officialdom

One of the curious facets of Soviet politics this study brings to light is the highly supportive role, including active patronage and protection, that Soviet republic-level and oblast' -level leaders accorded the nature protection movement. Unable to counter decisions of the USSR Council of Ministers and the Politburo on a whole range of more important matters, local-level


leaders were able to demonstrate their independence and authority in the realm of nature protection. Precisely because of nature protection's marginality, republic-level leaders and oblast' first secretaries dared to oppose the center's plan to "liquidate" the zapovedniki in 1951, counting on the relatively low risk of such dissenting political speech. A series of Russian Republic premiers gave significant material and political support to both VOOP and the zapovedniki , and directly intervened to save the Society from the Central Committee's repeated attempts to eliminate it. This was one of the few policy areas where these middle-level politicians could express their independence from the center, pursue policies strictly on their own initiative, and demonstrate the "dignity" of their offices by protesting attempts by the center to confiscate or eliminate territories and organizations lodged within local bureaucratic portfolios. Nature protection, consequently, also provided the policy arena for middle-level politicians to express political identities other than simply cogs in a larger, centrally driven Party machine.

Ordinary Soviet People

Finally, beginning in 1987 when Soviet people began to test the sincerity of glasnost , the plazas, parks, and boulevards of Soviet cities became the locations for a remarkable series of public protests, involving hundreds of thousands of people who rallied under environmentalist—mostly public health-related—slogans. Mass environmental protest made its mark on Soviet history only to give way first to explicitly economic protests, then to overtly political protests, and finally to apathy, all largely before the official collapse of the Soviet Union. Although the period of mass environmental protests, brief as it was, is important in its own right, it marks the end of the special role of nature protection in pre-glasnost' Soviet society. For these ordinary people, nature protection was not an arcane exercise in identity politics (with the exception of environmental protests in the non-Russian republics, where it was often a stand-in for an expression of the local ethnonationalism).[23] Their spouses, parents, children, coworkers, and friends were slowly or quickly being poisoned by Soviet industrial and agricultural development.

By 1987 the day of scientific public opinion had nearly passed. Its successors, the student druzhiny , were left partly on the sidelines through their continued focus on the protection of sacred space and on the campaign against poaching, which led them to ignore the environmental public health and safety issues that troubled the population at large. Similarly, the appeal of a Russian nationalist nature protection proved limited against the backdrop of the life-and-death environmental concerns of the broader public. The closed, castelike nature of scientific public opinion and the druzhiny



and the abstruse and self-limiting nostalgia of the cultural nationalists prevented them from assuming leadership in building a civil society.

Additionally, Gorbachëv's reforms made it possible to assert almost any kind of independent social identity openly for the first time in many decades, and people had other vehicles besides environmental advocacy to express dissatisfaction with the regime's policies and visions. Environmental advocacy had to compete for attention in a completely changed political environment. Doubtless involvement in nature protection will continue to serve as a nucleus around which groups build special identities in post-Soviet Russia and elsewhere. But it will no longer have the special—in Iurii Efremov's words, "brave"—role it had in the highly repressive Soviet polity of decades past. And its potential for the creation of an inclusive, full-blooded civil society is still to be tested.


Chapter Two—
Archipelago of Freedom

At a Soviet-American conference on the history of environmentalism, the historian Leo Marx voiced his surprise at the degree to which Russians, especially scientists, equated conservation in general with zapovedniki , inviolable nature reserves.[1] For Russians zapovedniki have a significance far transcending their ostensible functions as centers for ecological research and the protection of rare species and habitats, because they were central to the social identity and mission of Russia's leading field biologists, who doubled as the leaders of that country's nature protection movement. This was particularly true from the late 1920s and early 1930s, when zapovedniki and the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature were nearly the only scientific institutions that escaped elimination or stultifying Party control.

Protected territories first appeared in Russia about a century ago, the efforts of scientists attached to the Imperial Academy of Sciences, the Russian Geographical Society, and teaching institutions, as well as of private landowners such as Baron Friedrich-Eduard Falz-Fein (Fal'ts-Fein) of the southern Ukrainian estate Askania-Nova. Later, during World War I and into the Bolshevik period the state emerged as the chief patron of a growing network of nature reserves.[2]

Although some of these reserves, those established by the tsarist regime or by the People's Commissariat of Agriculture in the Soviet period, resembled American national forests in their open dedication to the propagation of commercially valuable resources, the remainder had no U.S. analogs. Organized by scientists, especially Russia's pioneers in plant and animal ecology and other field naturalists, and coming under the patronage of the RSFSR People's Commissariat of Education and its Scientific Administration (Glavnauka), the inviolable zapovedniki were aimed at the protection and long-term study of what were believed to be pristine, intact ecological commu-


nities. Such study, it was hoped, would reveal the ecological dynamics of "healthy" natural systems and could serve as a baseline (etalon ) against which "degraded" communities, that is, those under economic exploitation, that had allegedly shared the same natural conditions, could be compared. The end result would be that scientists would not only gain knowledge about biological processes but would be able to use such knowledge to make expert recommendations regarding the most appropriate economic use for a given natural complex.

An array of assumptions was built into this model of the ecological community and consequently into that of the zapovedniki as well: that discrete natural communities existed, that they normally maintained themselves in a state of balance, that they represented "healthy" pristine nature, and, correspondingly, that humans existed outside nature as a "pathological" force. These beliefs represented unprovable assumptions about how to map nature. Although few would deny that nature is highly ramified—every life form is linked by myriad threads directly or indirectly to other life forms as well as to the inanimate environment—the idea of a tightly bounded natural community is a speculative leap. Nevertheless, Russian field naturalists heavily favored it over rival theories of how nature was put together.

Since the 1910s in America, France, and Russia, another view of nature had been advanced that, while accepting the interconnectedness of species in food chains and other relationships, denied the existence of bounded, self-regulating natural communities. However, field naturalists needed to believe in the existence of fragile, holistic ecological communities to justify their magnificent research project, based in the zapovedniki , that would decode those alleged pristine communities and ultimately allow the scientists, as experts, to make the key judgments about land and resource use that would prevent catastrophic injury to those systems. Although both models of nature were unprovable, most scientists opted for the one that best supported their attempt to present themselves as the expert arbiters of resource and land use.[3]

Zapovedniki were valued for a more prosaic reason as well. Those who became field naturalists were drawn to studying life forms free in their natural habitats, rather than as caged, dried, or dissected specimens in the lab. Zapovedniki , as undisturbed wild habitats, were indispensable to field naturalists as the last bastions where they could securely pursue their distinctive kind of scientific observations of "free," living nature. Such a role made the reserves valuable not merely to community ecologists but to a wide range of naturalists, including plant and animal taxonomists and physiologists, ethologists (experts on animal behavior), soil scientists, and geologists.

The 1920s were good years for the Russian nature protection movement. In 1924 an All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature (VOOP) was established under the leadership of eminent field biologists and successfully initiated the expansion of the network of zapovedniki , based on expeditions


organized by the Society. As a result of activists' lobbying and the support of a sympathetic leadership of the People's Commissariat of Education, in 1926 a unique Interagency State Committee for the Protection of Nature was established and given the power to examine all resource-related government decisions and to veto those it found excessively damaging to nature. This forerunner of the environmental impact process existed nowhere else in the world. By 1932, moreover, VOOP had 15,000 members and was supported in its program by the 60,000-plus-member Central Bureau for the Study of Local Lore (Tsentral'noe biuro kraevedeniia ), which was led by many of the same naturalists and their supporters. A national conference on nature protection was organized in September 1929, arguably the high point of the movement's efficacy.[4]

By the end of the 1920s, though, with the onset of Stalin's triple revolution—collectivization, frenetic industrialization, and the attempted elimination of any effective form of civic autonomyzapovedniki and the nature protection movement began to acquire another layer of meaning: they were among the rare physical and social spaces in the Soviet Union that had largely escaped the juggernaut of Stalin's "Great Break." As such, they came to constitute an "archipelago of freedom," unique islands in the scientific intelligentsia's geography of hope.

To understand why scientists and their allies defended the inviolability of zapovedniki with dogged tenacity, we must understand the cultural meaning and the political and social implications of the landscape that Stalin and his regime sought to create. The writer Maxim Gorky wrote that poets must champion "the struggle of collectively organized reason against the elemental forces of nature and against everything 'elemental' . . . in the formation of man."[5] Stalinists viewed the wild with repulsion, seeing in it the embodiment of everything outside the rational control of humans or, more correctly, of the Party's leadership. Nothing characterized the Stalinist worldview better than its unquenchable craving for total, conscious control over nature, society, and events. This phobia of spontaneity and obsession with conscious control permeated Stalin's policies toward the land and society both. Gorky's euphemistic motto for the "Belomor" White Sea Canal slave-labor project, "Man, in changing Nature, changes himself," summarizes this connection, even as the canal embodied the linkage in real life.

Faced with this overwhelming threat to their own professional freedom and perhaps comprehending on some level the linkage between Stalin's plans for a great transformation of the landscape and the reenserfment of society, Soviet scientists responded by marshaling ecological arguments against collectivization and the great earth-moving projects. When this scientific opposition to the Five-Year Plan failed, scientists retreated to a defense of the inviolable zapovedniki under their control.[6]


By their charters the reserves were absolutely inviolable. As Vyacheslav Gerovitch and Anton Struchkov have noted,

the idea of the "absolute inviolability" of zapovedniki has been disclosed as an allegory of the age-old Russian theme of "The City of Kitezh." According to their old Russian legend, when the country had become the Kingdom of Evil and Falsehood embracing both the State and the church authorities, the Kingdom of Good and Righteousness—the City of Kitezh—sank to the bottom of a lake. Hence [it] is the idea of withdrawal from surrounding vicious life, the idea of wandering elsewhere in search of this "ideal City."[7]

Nikolai Vorontsov has corroborated that one major reason for the unique scientific milieu in the reserves stemmed from the continuing policy of repression directed at the intelligentsia, which drove leading scientists to seek physical refuge in those territories.[8] But the zapovedniki were more than tangible sanctuaries for the "endangered species of bourgeois scientists."[9] They had become the symbolic embodiment of the harmony of communities, of natural and human diversity, and of the free and untutored flow of life (in Struchkov's eloquent phrase, the "unquenchable hearths of the freedom of Being"). As long as the "pristine" zapovedniki could remain independent, what was denied to human society in Stalin's Russia could be preserved in symbolic, natural form in these reserves. Indeed, the struggle over the defense and, later, the reestablishment of inviolable zapovedniki eclipsed all other environmental issues through the 1960s or even 1970s, if we include Lake Baikal in the sacral geography of the academic intelligentsia.

To protect its own fragile institutions as it continued to defend the prerevolutionary ideal of "science" (nauka ), the nature protection movement labored to present a public face of loyalty to the regime in a strategy the movement's critics termed "protective coloration." Somehow outlasting the critics, the effective leader of VOOP and of the RSFSR Main Administration for Zapovedniki from the early thirties, Vasilii Nikitich Makarov, raised protective coloration to an art form.[10]

Vasilii Nikitich Makarov

Born August 5 (New Style), 1887, in Lunëvo, a village not far from the provincial town of Vladimir, northeast of Moscow, Vasilii Nikitich Makarov came from peasant stock, although both his father and paternal grandfather were workers (see figure 1). After excelling in his rural school, he was recommended by his teacher for a zemstvo scholarship to complete his higher grades in town.[11] For two years after graduating, Makarov worked in agriculture, entering the Moscow Teachers' Institute in the fall of 1905. Soon he



Figure 1.
Vasilii Nikitich Makarov (1887–1953) at age sixty.

was drawn into the vortex of protest during that revolutionary year. A member of revolutionary student circles (kruzhki ), Makarov joined a strike committee and distributed illegal literature among workers. With the restoration of order the following year, Makarov was arrested, but he was released after three months for lack of conclusive evidence and was allowed to resume his studies, graduating in 1908.[12]

Trained as a science teacher, Makarov was posted to a school in the Volga town of Kostroma, north of Moscow, but returned to Moscow in 1911 to attend night school at the Moscow Commercial Institute to upgrade his qualifications, teaching fourth grade during the day at a school attached to the Moscow Teachers' Institute. Apparently, the punishing schedule did not


diminish his effectiveness as a teacher; indeed, he seems to have had a talent for teaching In bidding him farewell, his students in both Kostroma and Moscow emphasized not only his kindness and empathy, but also his ability to inspire them to strive for a life "in science."[13]

In 1916, after meeting a physician who was a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, Makarov joined the SRs as well. With the overthrow of the tsar, Makarov was elected the uezd (county) commissar of Makar'ev uezd and chair of the democratic rural assembly. But his growing misgivings about the irresolute policies of the SR party led him to decline the nomination by the local Provincial Peasant Congress to stand as a deputy for the Constituent Assembly in the fall of 1917. He officially resigned from the party on January 1 1918.

In September 1918 he was tapped to serve as the principal for a middle-grade school for workers in Moscow province and later for a number of schools in the capital itself. Rising through the educational bureaucracy, Makarov was named head of the Moscow's Bauman School District but apparently continued to teach science. This relatively placid existence ended in June 1930, when he was appointed academic specialist in the Science Sector of the RSFSR People's Commissariat of Education, almost immediately thereafter rising to deputy head and then head of the sector (which he remained until February 16, 1937). Simultaneously, he was appointed the director of the Zoological Museum of Moscow State University, to replace Grigorii Aleksandrovich Kozhevnikov, who had been forced to resign as a "bourgeois" professor. By the beginning of 1931 Makarov was also president of the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature, and with the reorganization of the zapovedniki in September 1933 became the deputy director of the Main Administration. Makarov could have achieved none of this had he not been accepted into the Communist Party in April 1928.[14]

When Makarov assumed leadership of the nature protection movement, hostile critics were already identifying the "counterrevolutionary" implications of the movement's ecologically based objections to elements of the First Five-Year Plan. To deflect these accusations, Makarov instituted a policy of "protective coloration," muting criticism of regime resource policies, pledging verbal loyalty to "socialist construction," and renouncing a commitment to the absolute inviolability of the zapovedniki . At the same time, however, the strategy sought to preserve the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature as a place where alternative visions of development could be freely discussed and to preserve the zapovedniki as factually inviolable, although no longer officially so.[15]

Both the movement and the regime at times revealed an awareness of discord between Soviet environmentalism and Stalinist policies and values. Recent finds in Russian archives throw dramatic new light on just how courageously "out of step" leading conservationists were with the Five-Year Plan


for "socialist construction." Of course, not every ecologist always evinced courageous behavior, nor did every occasion elicit it. With the exception of ichthyologist Mikhail Nikolaevich Knipovich, the nerve of almost all prominent ecologists and zoologists withered under the ferocious attacks of Isaak Izrailovich Prezent at the All-Union Faunistics Conference in February 1932.[16] Yet, surprisingly frequently ecologists sketched out an alternative vision of land use, the use of scientists, and even civic speech. Perhaps unmatched in its time as a call for norms of decency in political discussions was a letter sent in 1931 by Makarov, now the de facto leader of the Russian conservation movement, to the Scientific Sector of People's Commissariat of Education (where he was deputy head) and to its Communist Party cell.

Only recently having become president of VOOP, Makarov in early 1931 inherited a precarious situation. VOOP had undergone a high-level audit the previous year that revealed numerous deficiencies in the work of the Society from the perspective of the regime, including "undisguised apoliticism" and ecological "alarmism."[17] Press articles ridiculed scientific societies, including VOOP, as an "All-Union zapovednik for the endangered species of bourgeois scientists," coming dangerously close to the truth.[18] Makarov's letter combined a surprisingly forthright objection to an excessively rough, denunciatory style of polemics with protestations of loyalty to the regime's strategies of development, "socialist construction." Because the nature protectionists' visions of development clashed with those of the regime, their averring loyalty was either conscious dissembling or self-delusion in pursuit of "protective coloration."

Makarov's letter was one of his first serious attempts to counter the ominous assaults directed at the movement he now headed. While he conceded that "Marxist-Leninist criticism" prodded "many stagnant areas of science to come alive" and succeeded in getting academics to descend from their ivory towers and to begin to meet society's "legitimate expectations" of them (sotsial'nyi zakaz ), Makarov observed that "that was not so in all cases." Sometimes, he contended, "comrades offering critical comments have acted too hastily and made superficial judgments, not possessing the requisite erudition for a proper consideration of the problems addressed." At times, "Bolshevik" critics behaved even more irresponsibly, driven by "the preconceived aim—whatever it takesto identify an enemy, reveal a [political] deviation, and to unmask sabotage and counterrevolution in science; they have 'twisted and distorted' critical material, turning healthy Bolshevik criticism into the dubious weapon of polemics and even denunciation. This unfortunate criticism, purveyed in the mass media and distracting the masses from the substance of the issue, has been harmful."[19]

Amazingly, the concrete example Makarov chose to exemplify, his charges was the recent article "Sabotage in Science" published by Arnosht Kol'man


in the Party's theoretical journal Bolshevik . Kol'man was one of the Party's key curators of science, even serving as watchdog over such illustrious figures as Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov and Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin during their 1931 visit to Great Britain. In strong language Makarov contested what he argued were Kol'man's false claims—that the conservation movement sought to "undermine our socialist construction and engineer a restoration of capitalism."[20] "Pointing out to Comrade Kol'man the error of his views in the given case elicited no effect." He evidently continued to remain convinced that the protection of woodlands in "sparsely wooded areas and on nonarable lands is a land mine under socialist agriculture." Similarly, Makarov accused Kol'man of failing to understand the value of the protection of unplowed steppe as a reservoir for genetic material, especially in developing drought-resistant varieties of agricultural plants, as demonstrated by Vavilov.

Additionally, the conservation leader cited an equally vicious article by two other authors also directed against his movement, and concluded:

These [articles] also force us to consider the following questions: Is THIS KIND OF defense of the great cause of socialist construction of the Five-Year Plan from putative sabotage useful? Is it permissible to purvey gross distortions, as Comrade Kol'man and others have done, in full public voice? Doesn't this gladden the genuine enemies of socialist construction both here and abroad, enemies who will snatch at any opportunity to demonstrate, on the basis of isolated examples, how science is profaned in the USSR and how thoughtlessly and wantonly scientific ideas and the people selflessly serving science are trashed? . . . The Council of the [All-Russian] Society [for the Protection of Nature] insists that the Scientific Sector and the Party cell . . . rap the knuckles and head of those adepts of "leftist" witchhunting and "distortion" of the authentic character of the activity of our Society and the content of its journal. Criticism, merciless Bolshevik criticism of the entire press is an essential fact of life, but, in the opinion of the Council of the Society, the "obfuscating" tactics of [our] critics has nothing in common with that.[21]

The conservation movement's defense not only of "free" nature but of "free" science and, to an extent, of prerevolutionary norms of public communication, was fraught with risk.[22] As mentioned in my previous work and now confirmed by a host of newly available archival documents, repression did indeed strike Russian environmentalists hard during the early to mid-1930s.[23] Some few lucky ones like movement founder Grigorii Aleksandrovich Kozhevnikov were merely fired from their positions or, like A. V. Fediushin, were able to flee to distant regions. Others, like geographer V P. Semënov-tian-shanskii, were placed on blacklists but somehow were never picked up. Many others, though, were less fortunate, and the roster of those arrested during that period abounds with important names.[24] Although not all environmentalist victims of Stalinist repression suffered because they were


environmentalists, and a majority of committed activists emerged relatively unscathed from the terror, a climate of intimidation enveloped the conservation cause during the dark decades of the 1930s and 1940s.

The Purge at Askania-Nova

The episode that was most traumatic to the conservation movement was the devastating purge of Askania-Nova, engineered by Trofim Denisovich Lysenko and Isaak Izrailovich Prezent during the fall of 1933.[25] The newly available archival documents and oral testimonies do not permit us irrefutably to determine the cause or causes of the purge;[26] however, it is likely that the mass arrests of Vladimir Vladimirovich Stanchinskii and his colleagues at the Ukrainian nature reserve flowed in good measure from their resistance to Stalinists' plans for a "great transformation" of Soviet nature.

In the hope that he would bring coherence and cutting-edge research to Askania-Nova, V. V. Stanchinskii, a professor of zoology at the Smolensk State University, had been hired by the troubled reserve in 1929 as deputy reserve director for science, simultaneously joining the zoology faculty of Khar'kov State University. Losing little time, Stanchinskii organized the measurement of energy budgets by groups of organisms arranged by trophic levels and pioneered the first attempt anywhere to measure the amount of solar energy captured by plants and then subsequently passed along to herbivores, carnivores, and decomposers. While pursuing that audacious program in trophic dynamics, in 1931 Stanchinskii assumed responsibility as the principal editor of the USSR's first scientific journal of ecology, the Zhurnal ekologii i biotsenologii , and began to develop scientific arguments against one of the favorite nature-transforming schemes of Stalinist academics and politicians, the acclimatization of exotic plants and animals.

Acclimatization was being promoted as a means of enhancing economically exploitable biological productivity and was predicated on the idea that natural conditions were being underutilized by the existing mix of organisms. New nonnative organisms could be "inserted" into nature's "empty places" to provide new sources of ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables, game and pelts. Stanchinskii argued that there was no guarantee that the genotype (genetic make-up) of the introduced plants and animals would enable them to survive in a new habitat, making these widespread experiments a potential loss of lots of money. Even if they did have such adaptive fitness, Stanchinskii warned, their successful acclimatization could entail equally heavy costs. That was because in real life there usually were no "ecologically empty places"; introduced animals and plants, to survive, would need to outcompete endemic or native forms that subsisted on roughly the same mix of resources. Thus, the addition of a nonnative species would



 Figure 2.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Stanchinskii (1882–1942) in the
Balitskii Penal Kolkhoz.

probably be at the cost of the elimination or even possibly the extinction of a native one. Moreover, there was the further possibility that the introduced species could serve as a vector for the introduction of new parasites and also become an unchecked pest. Underscoring the need for caution, Stanchinskii's objections threw cold water on the grandiose hopes of Stalinists for an unprecedented rearrangement or "transformation" of nature.

Following a first visit to the reserve by Lysenko and Prezent, a decision was taken in December 1932 by the Ukrainian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and supported by the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Moscow to shut down Stanchinskii's Steppe Research Institute as "not having any real importance for socialist agriculture."[27] Although the institute had been eliminated, the zapovednik formally still remained, but with the arrests of Stanchinskii, Gunali, Fortunatov, and the other members of his research team in the autumn of 1933, that too fell into the hands of the sheep breeders and the "barefoot agronomists."

Sentenced to a prison-kolkhoz run by the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs, where he worked as a veterinarian from 1934 through 1936, Stanchinskii was released two years before his term was up. A photograph from his incarceration shows how much he aged in the two years after his arrest (see figure 2 ). Yet, at the Balitskii penal kolkhoz (named after Ukraine's


secret police chief) he enjoyed surprisingly liberal conditions of detention. He was permitted visits from his family, and he was even permitted to accept an invitation to spend New Year's Day, 1936, at the home of the great evolutionary geneticist Ivan Ivanovich Shmal'gauzen in Kiev. Under the circumstances, the invitation was a courageous act of friendship on the part of Shmal'gauzen.

After his early release, however, Stanchinskii was unable to pick up where he had left off. Forever barred from teaching, he had to rely on the loyalty and generosity of old friends to secure employment again as a research biologist. Returning to the region of his roots, Stanchinskii accepted the invitation by G. L. Grave, director of the Tsentral'no-Lesnoi (Central Forest) zapovednik north of Smolensk, to become deputy director for scientific research.

Olga Borisovna Lepeshinskaia's Investigation

Not long after the purge of Askania, the conservation movement lost its most devoted patron from among high-ranking members of the regime. In April 1935 Pëtr Germogenovich Smidovich died under questionable circumstances at the age of sixty-five. The year before, Smidovich had saved the zapovedniki from falling into the hostile hands of the economic commissariats, bringing them instead under his direct care as head of the newly established Committee for Zapovedniki of the Presidium of the RSFSR Central Executive Committee (VTsIK). After the trauma of the Askania purge and the conservation movement's near annihilation, the movement had slowly recovered during 1934.[28] Moderate Bolsheviks—the protectors and patrons of the conservation movement—seemed in the ascendant at the Seventeenth Party Conference; the horrors of the First Five-Year Plan, the famine, and the "left-wing" extremism of the Cultural Revolution all seemed past.

The clear skies of 1934, however, were suddenly darkened by the events of December 1; Stalin's arranged assassination of leading Bolshevik Sergei Mironovich Kirov served as the prelude to a terror that cast its pall over the whole nation. The conservation movement's horizons clouded over as well, particularly after Smidovich's death.

On April 25, nine days after Smidovich's passing, Frants Frantsevich Shillinger was fired from his position at the Committee for Zapovedniki without explanation, and the Science Department of the Central Committee of the Party ordered another audit of the reserves and of the conservation movement.[29]

It is unclear whether the conservation movement was aware of just how close to the edge of danger it had strayed. An ominous official report of more than one hundred pages assembled the case against the nature pre-


serves and the conservation movement. Entitled "Report to the Science Department of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Communist Party on the Results of an Investigation of the Zapovedniki of the RSFSR," this document was still in the form of Ol'ga Borisovna Lepeshinskaia's notes intended for circulation among the other members of the investigation team.[30] Feliks Robertovich Shtil'mark has recently unearthed the final version of the report, countersigned by Makarov, and dated December 19, 1935.[31]

Reflecting what movement scientists told the investigators about the distinctive purposes of Soviet reserves, Lepeshinskaia noted that although foreign protected territories were directed toward tourism and other forms of profit-making activities, Soviet reserves were created to "preserve gene pools [sokhranenie geno-fondovl,   for scientific study, to enable humans to master nature, and for educational purposes." However, it would have been awkward to include this dubious claim to superiority on the basis of a largely traditional program defined by scientists—the Party sympathized more with the capitalists' approach of exploiting the reserves for revenue—and this section was crossed out.[32]

What remained in the report was an almost unrelieved portrait of the reserves as refuges for anti-Soviet politics, values, ideas, and scientists. The reserves, Lepeshinskaia held, were pervaded by "anarchy and lack of supervision and planning." It was bad enough that nature reserves were established on the basis of private or citizens' initiative; worse was that some of these activists, for example, longtime movement leader Frants Frantsevich Shillinger, "son of an emigre White Guard," deviously arranged for the creation of zapovedniki (e.g., Altaiskii, Crimean) on the very frontiers of the Soviet republic, the better to facilitate hostile subversion, she alleged.[33] Shillinger was additionally faulted for the alleged emigration of his son in 1924 (the family claimed that he had died) and for Shillinger's himself becoming a German citizen in 1935.[34]

Commenting first on the personnel of the zapovedniki, Lepeshinskaia remarked on the "absence of a firm Communist nucleus" and offered that, in general, the "SELECTION OF PERSONNEL HAS BEEN UNHEALTHY. IN THE MAJORITY OF CASES, THEY HAVE BEEN POLITICALLY UNRELIABLE TYPES, RECOMMENDED BY THE OLD-LINE PROFESSORS. AS A RESULT ALMOST IN EVERY ZAPOVEDNIK THERE IS A GREAT INFESTATION [zasorënnost '] BYANTI-SOVIET ELEMENTS, those exiled by the Soviet regime, those arrested previously, those [class enemies] deprived of their civil rights, and even disguised bandits."[35] Partly at fault were those in the Party elite that afforded the conservation movement patronage and protection. Lepeshinskaia even fingered Lenin's science adviser N. P. Gorbunov and prosecutor-general Krylenko for their support in the hiring of class enemies (byvshie liudi ) for the nature reserve system.

The investigation revealed the penury of the zapovedniki better than any


scientists' petition; there were only two cars for the entire thirty-one-reserve, 8,457,436-hectare network, an absence of furniture, tableware, scientific instruments, work clothing, and shoes. There were no radios or telephones, and no electricity. One reserve staffer, Vvedenskii, even died of hunger. Security was deficient; abandoned mud or wooden shelters testified to the trespassing of poachers or even smugglers.[36] Although such conditions could well be regarded as evidence of the central government's neglect of conservation, the report implied that they were the result of negligent and deficient leadership by the Committee for Zapovedniki of VTsIK, an agency with no independent funding source.

More weighty were arguments against the scientific research conducted by the reserves. At once eclectic and unsystematic, overly descriptive and unrealistic, and without links to the world of practice or to outside institutions, the reserves' scientific work was also ideologically highly suspect. The crucial problem of acclimatization, for example, was largely neglected, with the exception of work on beavers and muskrats at the Laplandskii zapovednik and on raccoon dogs at Buzulukskii bor. Lepeshinskaia cited information provided by Pëtr Aleksandrovich Manteifel' in denouncing a number of Committee and zapovednik staffers as believing in "the existence of harmony and equilibrium" in nature and in the idea of "nonintervention by humans in the life of nature." Specifically named were Buturlin, Zhitkov, and Alëkhin, although these names seem to reflect more the quirks of Manteifel"s personal animus than an exhaustive list of unreformed "bourgeois professors." As Manteifel' emphasized, all was not well on the ideological front.[37]

Indeed, in addition to the ideological heresies of the nature protectors there was the implication of political unreliability, if not outright disloyalty. Lepeshinskaia saw a political cover-up in the decision of the conservationist community, including Communists, to delete the names of individuals from a conference resolution condemning erroneous "class positions."[38]

Within the Committee for Zapovedniki , the staff of thirty-one was named by Pëtr Smidovich on the recommendation of Vasilii Nikitich Makarov. Lepeshinskaia was clearly unimpressed. Half were "dead souls," while some, such as Alëkhin, Zhitkov, and Buturlin, were active, but were philosophical "idealists," holding "reactionary" views on nature reserves. Buturlin, a prominent ornithologist, was additionally mocked as a "walking encyclopedia" and a positivist (how that was reconciled with his idealism remains a puzzle).[39] On the ground in the zapovedniki themselves there seemed to be a veritable swarm of suspect "elements." I. I. Puzanov's dedication to conservation won him the label of "fanatic."[40] The deputy director of the Pechorollychskii zapovednik , one Pirogov, was a non-Party member of noble origin with-higher education! Another was the wife of a colonel in one of the White armies who had emigrated abroad. A third was exiled from Moscow in 1933 for his harmful ideological influence on students.[41]


The director of the Tsentral'no-Lesnoi zapovednik , Grigorii Leonidovich Grave, was of the landowner class and had attended classical gymnasium. Now, complained Lepeshinskaia, Grave's hereditary class instincts led him to treat the reserve as his own baronial estate. More ominously, she noted Grave's friendly association with Stanchinskii, who had been arrested as a counterrevolutionary in the autumn of 1933; indeed, it was to Stanchinskii that Grave owed his own appointment to Smolensk University's zoology department.

Foreigners visited the Committee for Zapovedniki , which maintained ties overseas, ipso facto a sign of unreliability. The zapovednik system was aswarm with "alien elements" and alien values.

For Lepeshinskaia, it was not surprising that the Committee was such a swamp. After all, Makarov was a former Socialist Revolutionary, and although "personally honest and devoted to his cause," he was also a "rotten liberal who makes a show of party loyalty" and a "man of weak character, without principles, and too mild."[42] An example of Makarov's weakness was his failure to press the accusation of extortion against the Caucasus zapovednik director, Krasnobryzhev, to its logical conclusion. Makarov also failed to achieve a "firm Bolshevik line" in the literature of his committee.[43] The "Bolshevik spirit was undetectable" in the training of new staff members.[44] Although Lepeshinskaia's conclusions did not call for the elimination of the nature reserves, "which give us nothing at the present time," and although she did not call for the removal of Makarov, indeed giving him credit for being selfless and informed, she did demand a strict housecleaning.[45] The bottom line was her recommendation that the reserves be turned over to the USSR People's Commissariat of Agriculture.[46]

Lepeshinskaia's conclusions contained more than a grain of truth; from the "Stalinist" Soviet standpoint the whole nature protection movement together with its institutions was an island of subversion. Why then was it spared during that terrible year? Frants Shillinger revealed in his 1937 letter to Nikolai Mikhailovich Kulagin that, in a mood of terminal despair, Shillinger had decided to take a big risk. On January 20, 1936, telling no one, he wrote a twenty-page letter to Stalin. Seemingly miraculously, the transfer of the reserves to the Commissariat of Agriculture was called off. Not only that, state allocations for the reserves were dramatically increased. Shillinger's other suggestions—to create a Main Administration for Hunting and Animal Breeding within the USSR People's Commissariat of Agriculture and a Main Administration for Forest Protection and Afforestation under the USSR Council of People's Commissars directly—were enacted as well. Ironically, Shillinger himself remained without work until his arrest on April 14, 1938, thence to be devoured in the maws of the terror machine.[47]

Why did Stalin or his immediate subordinates indulge the doomed Shillinger? Why were the serious accusations leveled by Lepeshinskaia against the


movement set aside? So far the archives have failed to provide any definite answers. One plausible reason is that those at the top regarded these field biologists as too impractical, too "nerdy," and far too marginal to pose a recognizable political threat. Teachers were threatening because they shaped young minds. Historians were threatening because they could subtly undermine the Party's legitimacy by constructing other ways to explain the past and the present. Writers were threatening because they might try to smuggle into their novels, poems, and short stories encoded messages of opposition. But a zoologist who studied the effect of snow cover on the foraging habits of hoofed mammals? Or a botanist who sought to explain whether or not the steppe was a result of some sort of grazing or pasturing? Such figures, if the Party elite thought about them at all, must have been objects of gentle ridicule. Ultimately, as a "class," they were not serious enough to be worth liquidating.

Despite the unwanted scrutiny of the Central Committee, the conservation movement did not rush headlong for the cyclone shelters. Here and there VOOP managed even to expand its network. In Gor'kii (Nizhnyi Novgorod) in 1935, the energetic activist Professor Ivan Ivanovich Puzanov, a well-respected zoologist, emerged as the organizer of that city's branch of the Society. (He would play equally central roles in the Crimea and in Odessa, where he later resided, testifying to the importance of specific individuals in the life of the Society.) Nevertheless, despite isolated successes, the movement's leaders looked to the future with apprehension. Owing to a paper shortage and rising electricity costs, the monthly, and later bimonthly, journal of the Society—Okhrana prirody to 1931, Priroda i sotsialisticheskoe khoziaistvo through 1932—became an annual anthology in 1933 and ceased publication altogether in 1935.[48] Deprived of its old lodgings at 38 Sofiiskaia naberezhnaia by the Moscow Soviet, which aimed to "renovate" the building, VOOP was forced to be taken in by the Committee on Zapovedniki , which itself was cramped for space. Then there was the general political situation in the country.

As Stalin built his paranoid case against much of the elite of the Bolshevik party, the atmosphere of terror and suspicion took on a life of its own. Political vigilantism and denunciations were incontestable; those who tried to mitigate the terror were ipso facto guilty of protecting counterrevolutionaries, and were themselves carted off. In the deep of the night, every night, thousands were dragged from their apartments to the dungeons of Stalin's secret police. Even the army general staff was not immune from this seeming madness and was liquidated in June 1937. Recent figures suggest that it is likely that as many as two million people were arrested in 1937–1938 alone.

Against this backdrop the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature on June 10, 1937, drafted a letter to Andrei Andreevich Andreev, one


of Stalin's colleagues among the Secretaries of the Central Committee. If the great purge then raging was madness, this letter could only be described as lunacy—or great courage. Noting that "progressive minds of all eras and peoples, alarmed at the impoverishment of natural resources . . . they have noticed, began seriously to occupy themselves with the problem of protection of the entire complex of natural treasures," the drafters of the letter then used contemporary international efforts in that area to buttress their case for more Party support for conservation. "Both in lands large and small, on the basis of weighty scientific work governmental and nongovernmental movements for conservation have expanded. Everywhere there are hundreds of scientific and citizen's mass societies, state committees, and entire departments attached to ministries, as well as special legislation, tens of nature preserves [zapovedniki] and a rich literature (especially in the USA)."[49] The All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature's Executive Council, they wrote, had assembled a delegation that included the president of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Leontievich Komarov, academician N. M. Kulagin, the deputy president of VOOP, A. P. Protopopov, Presidium member V. N. Makarov, the VOOP secretary, S. N. Fridman, and VOOP Council member V. N. Fofanov, which, they proposed, should meet with Andreev. They sought to raise four issues: (1) the expansion of the Society from all-Russian to all-Soviet status, with direct patronage from the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR; (2) the nomination of Andrei Matveevich Lezhava as president of this all-Union society; (3) permission to enter the International Center for Conservation and to attend the 1938 Vienna conference; and (4) assistance from the Party in the cause of conservation, including issuance of directives. The typed draft of the letter was then emended in pencil. Deleted was the nomination of Lezhava, a former USSR minister of domestic trade who had just been arrested and would be shot in October, but added were requests for permission for VOOP to resume publication activities and for an incremental increase in governmental subsidies to the Society. One has to know what Moscow was like in those bone-chilling days of June 1937 in order to appreciate the considerable courage involved even in drafting this letter. Regrettably, the relatively disorganized and incomplete condition of the Central Committee archives do not permit us to confirm whether this letter was sent or received. But this draft nevertheless testifies to the endurance of the conservation community in its defense of its vision of the entitlements of scientific public opinion.

In 1937 the Society also started up its second commission devoted to the study of regional environmental problems. On the model of the Crimean Commission, the Caucasus Commission convened for the first time on February 26 with veteran Society leader Aleksandr Petrovich Protopopov presiding. The growing political chill did not seem to cool the fervor of the Commission members. Still at liberty, Frants Frantsevich Shillinger, a founder of


the Society, urged that the Commission not restrict its purview to the zapovedniki of the Caucasus. "The question [of conservation] must be posed more broadly," he continued. And while nature transformer Kh. S. Veitsman tried, circuitously, to deflect such a broad mandate as beyond the Commission's capacities, Protopopov quickly injected that "the Commission has nothing to fear by conceiving its tasks broadly. V. M. Fofanov [another Commission member] is absolutely right when he states that the Commission must not restrict itself only to collecting facts, but must evaluate the economy of the Caucasus region as well." The lionhearts carried the day, and the resolution of the meeting pledged to address conservation problems "in their entirety," although work would begin immediately on the more limited problems of forest depletion and water quality.[50]

The Conservation Congress of 1938

On April 20, 1938, the First Congress of the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature opened in Moscow. Although a previous all-Russian conservation congress had been held in 1929 and an all-Union one in 1933, neither had been convened under the exclusive auspices of the Society. Nor had the Society's leadership previously had to give an accounting of its activities to representatives of the membership at large. And although such stalwarts as Makarov and the Society's secretary, Susanna Fridman, still held center stage, gone were Grigorii Aleksandrovich Kozhevnikov, who had died at the previous congress, Pëtr Germogenovich Smidovich, and Shillinger, who had been arrested five days earlier.

Formally vice president but really in charge, Makarov presented the first major substantive address. One striking note repeated by Makarov (recall his letter to A. A. Andreev) was his assertion that the Soviet conservation movement remained a part of "a larger international movement" at a time when Stalin's regime was slamming shut all the windows between the Soviet arts and sciences and the outside world. He was, however, mindful enough (and probably sincere in this) to emphasize that capitalism and private property were systemically bound to plunder the environment. "If capitalists could assert a right to the air, they would," he said. "Luckily, air cannot be appropriated as private property by individual entrepreneurs" because of its ambient nature.[51] Nevertheless, great enough damage to the environment had already been done, he argued; by the late eighteenth century most of Western Europe had already become deforested, and "with every passing year the faunal web has become thinner and thinner." As recently as in the seventeenth century Eurasia experienced the extinction of the aurochs, in the eighteenth, the Steller's sea cow, and in the nineteenth, the tarpan. The


North American bison and the European bison had been driven to the edge of extinction more recently, and the situation of marine mammals had become catastrophic. Of the three groups positioned to notice this alarming turn of events—commercial hunters, sport hunters, and scientists—"only the latter could adopt a reasonably objective view rising above self-interest."[52]

Interestingly, Makarov, in his thumbnail sketch of the emergence of conservationism worldwide, reserved his strongest praise for Americans, who regarded conservation as "a national ideal."[53] Indeed, he noted, "the Americans were right when they advanced the rule of thumb that a nation's culture may be judged by its treatment of natural resources," although he was quick to add that "it must be said in advance that capitalist countries will scarcely be able to resolve their internal contradictions that flow from the nature of the capitalist system."[54]

Invoking the names of the founders of the movement in Russia—Kozhevnikov, Semënov-tian-shanskii, Borodin, Taliev, and others—Makarov chronicled the often rocky path for nature protection both before and after the Revolution. In one revealing comment, he recounted how Mikhail Petrovich Potëmkin, the onetime president of the Society, had been subjected to a long interrogation by the president of one of the Party purge commissions, who demanded of Potëmkin in consternation: "How can you, a member of the Party, have gotten involved in a cause like conservation?!"[55]

Although Makarov had little good to say about the last years of Narkompros's stewardship of VOOP after its patron, former People's Commissar of Education Anatolii Vasil'evich Lunacharskii, had been replaced by A. S. Bubnov, who was hostile to conservation, he did note that with the Society's transfer to the jurisdiction of the Presidium of VTsIK, it had experienced a revival. For the first time "juridical members," including the Academy of Sciences, the Committee for Zapovedniki , and the Main Administration for Forestry and Afforestation, affiliated as institutions."[56] Additionally, the number of thematic sections of the Society continued to expand, with an ornithological section formed in 1936 and a mammalogical one added in 1938, exemplifying what Makarov categorized as "academism in the good sense of the word"—linking research with practical problems.[57] Academism it was; of the 150 members of the ornithological section, forty-one were professors and an additional thirty-six were docents and senior scientific workers.[58]

Despite the purges and disruptions of the mid-1930s, VOOP refused to allow itself to be frightened or diverted from pursuing its bold goals. In conjunction with the Committee it continued to sponsor expeditions to promote the creation of new zapovedniki (Barents Sea, Teberda, Kazakhstan) and persisted in its studies of the ecology of endangered species such as dolphins in the Black Sea. VOOP's submission to the government of a huge amount of research data on deforestation led to a law on headwaters protection,


and the Society's special study of the Crimea, long a focus of special interest among conservationists, although failing to elicit comprehensive governmental action, did result in a disbursement of 400,000 rubles for some improvements. VOOP's far eastern branch asked the State Committee on Procurements to cut target quotas on sea lions by half, which was done, remarkably, and VOOP also successfully secured the creation of a twenty-five-kilometer-wide green belt around Moscow (which was eventually built over in the 1950s).[59]

Despite the Party's refusal to allow VOOP delegates to attend the international conference in Vienna, Makarov emphasized that ties with similar foreign organizations were continuing to be maintained. With 5,000 volumes in sixteen foreign languages, all acquired through exchanges with foreign conservation societies, VOOP's library was one of the best in the world and was unique within the USSR. Sadly, the volumes were languishing in boxes; the Moscow Soviet had dispossessed VOOP of its office space, and the Society's operations were hanging by a hair, its paperwork processed on one desk in a corner of the office of the Committee for Zapovedniki . Komarov, the Society's president-designee, had even called on the president of the Moscow Soviet to try to straighten out the matter, but was also unsuccessful. "If the Society is acting improperly, then it must be eliminated," Makarov stoutly challenged; "if not, and it contributes to the general good, then it is to the shame of the Moscow Soviet that the Society lacks its own office space."[60] The Moscow Soviet "should think about its outrageous attitude toward social organizations," he admonished bitterly.[61]

Because a reregistration of members had not been conducted in some years, it was unknown how many of the 16,000 putative members were real and how many were "dead souls."[62] Negligent in collecting membership dues, the Society's financial situation continued to be precarious.[63] At the evening session on April 22 , 1938, the Society elected its Executive Council. V. L. Komarov was elected president, while Makarov continued as vice president and de facto leader. The inveterate secretary of the Society, Susanna Fridman, was reelected overwhelmingly as well. In addition, Konstantin Matveevich Shvedchikov, official head of the Committee for Zapovedniki , was confirmed in his virtually ex-officio council seat. Not surprisingly, academic biologists and biology students represented the single largest bloc on the council. Testifying to the continuing fiercely independent spirit of this Society, members rejected the candidacy of S. V. Turshu, considered more friendly to Stalinist tempos of resource exploitation, giving him only seven votes.[64] Perhaps Turshu's criticism of the Congress as too dominated by academics also had something to do with the result.[65]

Even the election of the honorary presidium, comprising prominent members of the Soviet scientific and cultural elite, became an occasion for a dis-


play of nonconformity. A number of academicians as well as Ivan Dmitrievich Papanin, whose aviatorial efforts rescued the crew of the icebreaker Cheliuskin, all received unanimous support. Otto Iul'evich Shmidt, a cosmologist and one of those whom Papanin rescued, was elected with the surprisingly large number of eight abstentions, however. Noting that the election of honorary members was "a serious political act," one member asked that those who abstained justify their positions. One who abstained, Lukashevich, then explained that his abstention was not occasioned by a lack of respect for Otto Iul'evich, but rather because he thought that others were closer to the movement's ideals: "Why was it necessary precisely for our society precisely now to advance the name of Otto Iul'evich?" Lukashevich earlier had exhibited the same fierce spirit of independence regarding the question of press access; the press had shut out issues involving conservation. "We must not view ourselves as poor relations," he thundered; "rather, we are Soviet citizens . . . imbued with passion to assist our government and people. And since that is the case, we can certainly demand space in the pages of the press and not simply timidly beg for it through intermediaries."[66] It was not always easy for VOOP to walk the fine line between political accommodation and its own robust grassroots traditions of fierce scientific and political autonomy.[67] That tradition of autonomy, however, was inextricably linked with a desire to be a fully accepted, valued, and heeded part of the power structure.

Although after mid-1938 the "Black Maria" police sedans no longer swarmed as frequently through Russia's cities in their terrifying early-morning feeding frenzies, it is inappropriate, to say the least, to speak of a return to "normalcy," let alone liberalization. Nevertheless, until the Nazi invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941, Soviet society began a slow recovery from the trauma of the Great Purge. VOOP, too, reflected this upsurge of civic energy. It resumed its propaganda activities with a booth and lectures in Gorky Park, and successfully gained protection for polar bears from Glavsevmorput', the administration that organized expeditions, transport, and supply for the Soviet Arctic Ocean and its coastal zone.[68] In the spring of 1941 a section of the Society devoted to marine and waterway protection was inaugurated under Professor Lev Zenkevich of Moscow University.[69]

Records of the Society's activities during 1939 support this picture of heightened activity. While membership stood at only 2,553 on January 1, 1940, that figure did reflect a growth by 696 new members over the real figure for 1938.[70] Significantly, there were almost as many members of the Academy of Sciences (7) as peasants (10), and more than half as many professors and docents (55) as workers (95). Communists (127) and Komsomol members (97) were still underrepresented in this largely non-Party milieu.[71]

A new branch was organized in Astrakhan, which quickly attracted 300


new members, while in Moscow a new section on protection of the earth's crust was established by the noted geologist A. E. Fersman, a close colleague of Vernadskii. A seed bank, an herbarium for rare steppe plants, and a photo gallery of conservation figures were all established, too. The mammalogical and ornithological sections compiled lists of endangered species, which were delivered to the Main Administration for Zapovedniki , along with a proposal to publish a series of monographs of these interesting and threatened life forms.[72] Indeed, a special Species Commission was organized within the mammalogical section to organize this initiative.

Linked with the above efforts was an intensive lobbying campaign to stop hunting of the desman, a rare aquatic shrew. Based on field observations subsidized by the Committee for Zapovedniki ,[73] VOOP sent the SNK RSFSR a memorandum "illustrating the real state of affairs and directly clashing with the data presented by SOIUZZAGOTPUSHNINA," the state's fur procurement agency. The result was a big victory for the conservationists; the SNK's decree No. 673 extended the ban on trapping desman to January 1, 1943, continuing a policy first set (at VOOP's initiative) in 1935. Lobbying continued for an all-Union structure for conservation as well as for the removal of responsibility for hunting matters from Narkomzem's Main Administration for Hunting and Breeding to an interministerial body.[74]

The Society cleverly called for adoption of the "newer methods" propounded by Academician Lysenko as a desirable replacement for the use of arsenic-based pesticides by the People's Commissariat of Agriculture. Such use had resulted in a massive die-off of birds, and a special trip was planned for 1940 to study the question in greater depth. Meanwhile, Iu. A. Isakov, a member of the ornithological section, conducted a study into the death of Black Sea waterfowl as a result of pollution by petroleum products.[75] Other research sponsored by VOOP included investigations of the decline of willow ptarmigan in Kalinin oblast' despite protection and of ways in which the Moscow-Volga canal affected avian life. The Society was heavily represented at conferences, symposia, and meetings of governmental advisory agencies.[76] Additional commissions on endangered species—walrus, sable, beaver, otter, tiger, polar bear, and others—were organized to influence public policy. New nature reserves were called for, and extensive areas were carefully surveyed and drafts were meticulously prepared.[77]

As Europe edged toward war in 1939, the Hitler-Stalin pact bought the Soviet Union a dual cushion of extra time and extra territory. The partition of Poland with Soviet absorption of its eastern half had tragic consequences for that country, not the least of which was the cold-blooded massacre by Stalin's secret police of almost 15,000 Polish Army officers in the Katyn forest of Belorussia. One zoological footnote to that terrible political drama, however, loomed large for Soviet field biologists: for the first time since 1923, wild pure-line European bison were living at liberty within the political


boundaries of the USSR, in the newly acquired Belovezhskaia pushcha reserve, formerly run by the Poles.

VOOP's membership continued its slow growth right up until the war. In January 1941 it stood at 2,960, although a major setback came when the People's Commissariat of Finance prohibited financial contributions to the Society by state or economic organizations in their capacity as "juridical members."[78]

Although the Society recognized that its small membership affected its public image and effectiveness, this was not viewed as a catastrophic problem. The Society's old guard instead put a premium on the individual, the amateur, and the enthusiast. "Their role is very great," the VOOP activities report emphasized, "and it may boldly be stated that wherever there are even one or two such enthusiasts the cause of conservation successfully develops."[79] Put in less sentimentalized terms, the nature protection movement, because it was a sanctuary for individuals of a certain social type, not only was uninterested in converting VOOP into a truly mass society; its raison d'être was to preserve the Society's clublike atmosphere, which guaranteed a safe and comfortable haven for "scientific public opinion."

World War II

The World War was an unparalleled cataclysm for the USSR. War ravaged not only the Soviet Union's vegetation and wildlife, but especially its people.[80] Among the tens of millions who perished were many conservation activists; some died at the front, while others, such as professors Andrei Petrovich Semënov-tian-shanskii, his brother Veniamin, and Daniil Nikolaevich Kashkarov, were claimed by the Leningrad siege and famine. Despite the hardships, nature reserve staff scientists and other conservation workers tried to save what they could while contributing to the war effort; work on natural substitutes for rubber and on vegetation cover suitable for airfields was vigorously pursued in the zapovedniki .

Even wartime conditions, which relegated conservation concerns to nearly last place in the national agenda, could not stop VOOP activists from finding ways to press their programs. V. M. Bortkevich, a longtime member, wrote a brief that sought to use the commemoration of battle and massacre sites as a means of expanding protected territories. The flagship of this system would be the Central Park of the Patriotic War, to be built near Kuntsevo, just west of Moscow. Other parks would commemorate the struggles of Rus' with the steppe peoples and the like. "The cult of our forbears ancient and recent, the recognition of their valor and great heroic deeds, that is the slogan for new zapovedniki  .  .  . of national honor and glory . . . and as a lesson and a warning to our enemies," he floridly concluded.[81]


Amid the mass evacuation of millions of citizens, institutes, whole factories, and ministries to the east, the war prompted another, unlikely evacuation. As Moscow fell prey to German air raids, zoologists worried about the denizens of the Moscow Zoo, some of which represented highly rare and endangered species. At the time, the RSFSR Main Zapovednik Administration held responsibility for the zoos of the Russian Republic in addition to the nature reserves, and so an agitated Nikolai Sergeevich Dorovatovskii, director of the Administration's Zoo Division, went hat in hand to RSFSR deputy premier Aleksei Kosygin, pleading for allocation of vehicles to transport the animals to safety. Ultimately, many were shipped out on rafts and other transport, but Kosygin could find no trucks or train cars that could accommodate the giraffes, which had to be left at the zoo. Sadly, they were soon killed by a bomb during a German air raid.

More than one hundred caretakers and scientists remained at the zoo to care for the 1,400 other, less valuable animals that were not chosen for "Dorovatovskii's Ark," and because Moscow, unlike Leningrad, still had decent food supplies, none of the animals starved. An elephant even gave birth to a calf in 1944, which prompted another visit to now-Premier Kosygin by Dorovatovskii, who suggested that the premier publicize the event to boost morale. (By contrast, the Leningrad Zoo's elephant died of starvation.)[82]

A little victory garden for the animals—mostly carrots and potatoes—was planted by the staff with an assist from prominent zoology professors V. G. Geptner, B. M. Zhitkov, Sergei Ivanovich Ognëv, and S. S. Turov, all of whom also tended to the animals themselves. Miraculously, there were no significant losses to cold, even in the monkey house, despite the zoo's low priority for fuel. Even the tropical birds survived.[83]

Other zoos were not so lucky. The Leningrad Zoo, understandably, suffered from the blockade of the city. The situation was much worse, though, in Ukraine, where in Kiev and Khar'kov the Nazis intentionally shot the zoo animals. Luckily for the European bison (zubry ), Hermann Goering was a sometime hunter with a Gothic sensibility. He ordered twelve of the beasts shipped off to his personal estate in Bavaria, which is how they alone escaped the general bloodbath; they were sent back after the war to the Polish side of the Bialowieza[*] Puszcza (Belovezhskaia pushcha) reserve and some of them ultimately were given to the USSR by Poland as gifts (see chapter 3).[84]

Wherever the Germans came across zapovedniki , they inflicted sadistic carnage. Happily, the hoofed mammals of Askania-Nova were successfully herded into the steppes of Kazakhstan, but the birds of that reserve were not so lucky: they all died by firing squad. By a bit of good luck, the Germans were never able to penetrate the Kavkazskii zapovednik in the North Caucasus, only reaching as far as the reserve's borders.[85]

On a less lurid note, VOOP was able to print up two large print runs


of posters urging care to prevent forest fires and some assorted brochures. Beekeeping courses continued to be offered by leading specialists; evidently, it had its appeal. There were sixteen on-site classes with a total of 879 students, not counting three advanced groups with 126 and five correspondence classes with 364. Next most popular was a class in poultry-raising and the breeding of small-sized stock with 315 enrollees, in third place were the orchard and vegetable-growing classes with 295 each, and pisciculture was last with 31 students. However, the Moscow Soviet—which bore serious food-supply responsibilities during the war—was dissatisfied with the low numbers in the vegetable-growing classes, and by an order of January 13, 1943, sixteen new vegetable-growing groups were organized and one new group of stock-raisers, which were completed by 484 enlistees. Altogether, 2,236 students took these victory-garden classes, learning to keep up supplies of honey, cabbage, chickens, and potatoes for the hard-pressed Soviet capital. In addition, classes to help citizens identify medicinal and other important wild-growing plants were organized in Moscow, Gor'kii (Nizhnyi Novgorod), and other cities.[86]

The Achievements of the Zapovedniki

Although the network of ecological zapovedniki prospered during the 1920s, by the mid-1930s their unique status as inviolate ecological research centers was critically impaired. Economic ministries, notably the People's Commissariat of Agriculture, derided the ecological reserves for pursuing "science for science's sake" and sought to incorporate them into their own networks of zapovedniki , which pursued the more narrowly utilitarian goals of maximizing the propagation of selected, economically valuable species of wild animals. Cultural revolutionaries denounced the reserves as "havens" for the despised species of "bourgeois academics." Isaak Izrailevich Prezent, a close collaborator of the notorious charlatan agronomist T. D. Lysenko, accused the zapovedniki of leading a counterrevolutionary resistance to such key economic programs as collectivization and acclimatization (introduction of exotic animals and plants) under the cover of scientific argument. Although we may deplore Prezent's political thuggery, we must acknowledge that there was more than a grain of truth to his charges.

Owing perhaps to Prezent's potent political connections as well as to Stalin's desire now to favor only those scientific findings that supported his economic and social policies, Prezent's attacks proved the most telling. Through his direct involvement, the highly innovative work in trophic dynamics of Stanchinskii at the Askania-Nova zapovednik was abruptly ended (after which the ecologist was arrested in 1934), and Prezent served notice


that holistic ecological doctrines that asserted limits to humans' ability safely to transform nature were now to be regarded not only as flawed but as devised by the "class enemies" of Soviet socialism. For an unrelated reason (discomfiture with mathematics), Prezent also announced the unsuitability of attempts at the formal, mathematical description of biological phenomena. Both of these measures, in the words of two of Stanchinskii's students, had the effect that "theoretical research in biology, including ecology and biocenology, was excluded from the work plans not only of Askania-Nova but also of all scientific institutions for two decades at the very least."[87] Although this assessment seems exaggerated, especially for the period after World War II, there is no doubt that severe damage was done. With the exception of the bold interdisciplinary studies of the fir forest directed by Stanchinskii in the Central-Forest zapovednik until his final arrest in late June 1941, community ecology, particularly its theoretical side, was indeed stunted by Prezent's attacks.

Ironically, just before theoretical ecology's development became subject to attack, there was a growing tendency among a few ecological thinkers to emancipate themselves from a priori judgments about the nature of the ecological community. Indeed, it can be argued that such seminal thinkers as Stanchinskii and the geobotanist Leontii Grigor'evich Ramenskii were approaching the sophisticated view that the biocenosis was just another useful category we impose on nature to make it comprehensible and manipulable. At first, Ramenskii waged total war on what he believed to be the idealistic conception of the natural community. In his earliest view, vegetation was an unbroken continuuim, whose patterns of species distribution could be explained on the basis of environmental gradients rather than on the basis of the structure of some mystical community.[88] Ramenskii admitted the conditional utility of the community concept, but only so long as its arbitrary nature was clearly recognized: "In connection with the multifaceted inexhaustibility of phenomena there does not exist nor can there be a single all-embracing classification of them, fitting for all times and situations. In fact, such a classification system is not desirable. We need taxonomies firmly linked to specific objectives, helping to solve definite scientific and economic tasks."[89] Stanchinskii, for his part, in the years just prior to his arrest, had been moving strongly away from the view of the biocenosis as "closed." Migratory animals and birds participate in multiple systems, he pointed out, precluding absolute closure. Rather, his trophic pyramids (food webs) were only "loosely ordered systems," to use R. H. Whittaker's term.

Neither ecologist's colleagues were receptive to these de-idealized views of nature, however.[90] And these views were too sophisticated for induction in the service of the regime's crude nature-transformism. Consequently, for more than a decade a theoretical vacuum surrounded a sullen and silenced camp of holists and a tiny, ignored band of antiholists. The policing of bi-


ology by Prezent and Lysenko, combined with the pervasive fear among scientists and editors, all conspired to impose an unnatural silence over ecology, so recently brimming with discussion. This meant that members of the conservation movement continued to take on faith the scientific-ecological justifications for zapovedniki , just as nature protection's adversaries took on faith transformist beliefs.

The zapovedniki , while continuing to increase in number, were in some cases unable to avoid becoming bases for the very radical transformation of nature that their establishment originally had sought to prevent. As the price of the reserves' survival, Makarov felt that he had no choice but to renounce their prior official policy of inviolability. As concessions to Prezent and other critics, acclimatization of exotic fauna and flora proceeded apace together with such other aggressive management techniques ("biotechnics") as predator and pest elimination, winter feeding of select species, and measures designed to change the mixes of tree and shrub species in some reserves to more economically advantageous ones. Incidentally, the biological concepts of conservation's critics, despite their utilitarian and commonsensical ring, were just as speculative and politically motivated as those of the movement scientists.

Despite the crippling political ravages, the 1930s and 1940s were years of solid and occasionally brilliant achievement for Soviet field biology. Much of the best work was done in the zapovedniki . Although that work is not the subject of this book, we may note the contributions of Nasimovich and Formozov on the role of snow cover in animal ecology, that of Kashkarov on the ways in which burrowing mammals influence soil development and, consequently, vegetational cover, and that of Stanchinskii, Rode, and their colleagues on the influence of decomposers on the specific development of soil microenvironments, to name just a few examples.

It is sometimes said that the practitioners of many trades and disciplines are self-selecting. There is a strong suggestion that those who commit themselves to biological field research have a deep and abiding love for the outdoors and an attraction to studying life in its unfettered state—"in the wild." This may be an indicator of an even broader stance toward freedom: the aversion to seeing any life forms—including humans-enchained or oppressed.[91] The entomologist Andrei Petrovich Semënov-tian-shanskii reflected this set of values, as Anton Struchkov reminds us, when he said that "freedom is necessary for nature as it is for humans."[92] Perhaps no one has made this point as strongly as Feliks Robertovich Shtil'mark, when he critiqued me for making too crisp a distinction between "scientific-ecological" and "aesthetic-ethical" camps of nature protectors:


I am convinced that the aesthetic (ethical or emotional) approach somehow invisibly is present in all matters linked with nature protection, even if arguments of a completely different cast are uttered or written. The crux of the matter is how any given individual relates to the world around him or her and what their personal attitudes about nature are. It seems to me that Soviet (and, perhaps, international) scholarship completely underestimates the emotional-personal factor. But numerous examples may be held up to show its decisive significance—examples of how particular problems in the sphere of nature protection were solved not on a strictly scientific basis but precisely on an emotional one, conditioned by the concrete attitudes on the part of specific individuals to natural objects. There can be no doubt that the productive activity of such prominent biologists as G. A. Kozhevnikov, I. P. Borodin, V. N. Sukachëv, and many others, including N. I. Vavilov and V. I. Vernadskii, drew their inspiration from feelings of deep love for the nature of their birthplace, from that 'emotional-ethical factor' over which our author [D. Weiner] as an objective historian feels duty-bound to pronounce a harsh sentence. . . . And here too, officials of the agencies concerned with zapovedniki such as V. N. Makarov or F. F. Shillinger fought to create new zapovedniki not only owing to the requirements of their jobs, not only out of bureaucratic calculations, but from their own convictions, their purely emotional strivings to save protected [zapovednye] corners of Russia.[93]

I now strongly agree. Not by chance did the field biologists, in their litanies of justifications for setting aside inviolable tracts in zapovedniki , frequently smuggle in the "aesthetic" justification, despite the fact that such an argument was unlikely to win any points with the regime. As for Makarov, who tried mightily (and successfully) to acquire a high level of biological literacy, there is no longer any doubt about his deep emotional attachment to nature. A letter of his to the ornithologist Georgii Petrovich Dement'ev from his home village, Lunëvo, where he was vacationing in the summer of 1934, reveals some of this: "How am I relaxing? I take walks in the forest, gather strawberries, blackberries, and wild raspberries. I go fishing more rarely because the rods are not too good. And I read some in biology. . . . I'm feeling well, I'm relaxing, and I must confess that I have not fretted the absence of more serious work or other distractions of an urban variety. Twelve days have passed by like a breeze."[94] For its later inductees such as Makarov no less than for its adepts, field biology was a "calling" in the fullest sense of that word. As a corporate social identity it was tailor-made for those whose inner selves did not fully subscribe to the modernist impulse to completely control the world around us and who clung to ideals of professional mission and status in a society whose rulers sought to obliterate them.


Chapter Three—
The Road to "Liquidation":
Conservation in the Postwar Years

One of the few bright spots for the scientific intelligentsia in the USSR's desperate struggle against Nazism was the internal liberalization of society, owing partly to the government's need to regain popular support and partly to its need to solidify its alliance with Great Britain and the United States. VOOP tried to consolidate the authority of "scientific public opinion" after the war and eagerly looked forward to celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its founding with a slightly belated congress. In April 1947, when the congress convened, and even in late October, when the Society and the movement celebrated V. N. Makarov's sixtieth birthday, VOOP's members still held hope for the cause and for the larger world. Few suspected that these brief years would be viewed in retrospect as a golden age.

With the end of the war in view, VOOP began to redirect its energies toward its prewar concerns and jettison the activities for the war effort that had dominated the previous four years. In January 1945 the Executive Council of the Society had requested that A. S. Shcherbakov, a Stalin associate of the USSR State Committee for Defense, take off VOOP's hands the Experimental Institute for the Rehabilitation of Wounded Veterans of the Great Patriotic War.[1] Reflecting the Soviet intelligentsia's expectations that the postwar period would bring the long-desired cultural and political relaxation seemingly augured by the regime's wartime policies, VOOP's vice president Makarov in March reported on nature protection groups in Great Britain, which provoked lively discussion and a request for an analogous report about the United States. Continuing his push for a reestablishment of international links, Makarov in June opened a discussion about the invitation of foreign guests to the Society's planned twentieth anniversary jubilee.[2]

Here, VOOP's leaders were again caught between hope and caution. The


most ambitious program, suggested by V. G. Geptner, included visits by foreigners to the Seven Islands (Barents Sea/Arctic Ocean) and Voronezh zapovedniki plus Kiëvo Lake. V. V. Alëkhin was more realistic, observing that a simpler excursion program within the Moscow area would place less strain on the Society's treasury and would not require the elaborate travel permits necessary to follow Geptner's plan.[3] Holding a congress of the Society, however, required express government permission, and bureaucratic delays frustrated the activists' hopes for a speedy convocation. Indeed, when the congress was finally held in April 1947, the invitation of foreign guests had become a moot point. The Cold War had already chilled the international atmosphere and dashed the hopes of educated Russians for the long-awaited liberalization.

A more immediate problem was filling the Society's presidency, left vacant with the death of the Academy of Sciences' president, V. L. Komarov, in December 1945. Because the Society's first two candidates—academician Nikolai A. Semashko, the People's Commissar of Health under Lenin, and academician Leon A. Orbeli, a prominent physiologist—declined for reasons still unclear, Makarov continued effectively to lead VOOP from his new position of acting president.[4]

VOOP's postwar activities were defined by continuing attempts to restore the autonomous, civilian ethos of the Society in the face of fiscal and political obstacles. When the Society's annual budget was examined by the Presidium in January 1946, it turned out that there was no budget line for "nature protection" per se. This motivated Aleksandr Petrovich Protopopov to raise the politically sensitive question of whether it was essential for the Society to continue to involve itself in tree plantings and forest management when "it should be occupied only with issues of nature protection," by which Protopopov meant protection of biota and the creation of nature reserves. Here, however, the Society was caught on the horns of a dilemma. Agreeing with Protopopov in principle, Makarov questioned where the bulk of the Society's income would come from if not from contracts with interested agencies and enterprises for landscaping and arboriculture. Was it not better, he asked, that the Society earn its funds by performing socially useful afforestation work rather than depending on "charity" from the government (which would also decrease the Society's autonomy)? Geptner added that if the Society refused contract work, its membership dues would not cover expenses, and the Society would run the risk of losing the contracting enterprises and agencies as "juridical" (institutional) members, whose dues represented significant income.[5] Maintaining the Society's viability, not to mention civic autonomy, seemed to entail a never-ending series of painful trade-offs, particularly when the choices pitted nature protection activism against the survival of the Society as an institution.

Undeterred by budgetary woes and formalities, however, the Society re-


sumed its energetic and independent-minded defense of nature. It energetically opposed specific assaults on natural objects, such as plans to drain historic Lake Glubokoe; in that instance, the Society won a big victory, saving the lake and even securing its inclusion in the new Moskovskii zapovednik .[6] Remarkably, considering the aura surrounding the recent veterans of the world war, the Society won its appeals to the RSFSR Council of Ministers and the Iaroslavl' oblast' government to impose an 80,000-ruble fine on members of the Military Hunting Society for illegal moose hunting.[7] The Society won other, less dramatic victories as well, including thwarting the attempt by the head of a game-procurement sovkhoz (state farm) to wipe out an ancient colony of beavers and saving patches of forest in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR).[8]

Saving the Zubr

Also at the initiative of the conservation movement one of the USSR's most strikingly successful efforts to rescue an endangered species was begun at the close of the war. The zubr , or European bison (Bison bonasus bonasus ), had been the Russian Empire's largest land mammal, its range limited to two widely separated, and geographically disparate, protected tsarist game preserves: the Belovezhskaia pushcha in western Belorussia and the Kubanskaia tsarskaia okhota (Kuban Imperial Hunting Preserve) in the north Caucasus. Winter forage had become inadequate for the herds in both ranges, however, and from the mid-nineteenth century special winter feeding by game wardens had become the rule. Even so, by spring the animals were thin and breeding rates were low: the animals were able to bear calves in the best case every two years, and often only once every five.[9] After birthing in May, calves nursed on mother's milk until the following June; winter feeding was critical to the survival of mother and calf.

Under this regime, the population of bison in the pushcha remained largely stagnant until World War I, when hostilities, a devastating epidemic, and poaching snuffed out the entire herd there. The Caucasus bison lingered until 1927, when the general climate of weak respect for the law in NEP Russia contributed to its extinction. Thus, on January 1, 1927, there were forty-eight European bison left in the world, in Swedish, Polish, German, Austrian, and Belgian zoos. The Duke of Bedford kept a small herd at Woburn Abbey, but these animals were hybrids with the North American bison. The most intensive efforts at breeding were led by the Polish professor Jan Sztolcman, who worked at the Bialowieza[*] Puszcza, which was then entirely in Polish territory, but his herd of thirty in 1929 had dwindled to nineteen in 1939, when Poland was partitioned; miraculously, only two died during the war.[10]


One of the largely unnoticed footnotes of the Hitler-Stalin pact was that it placed the largely coniferous forest in Soviet hands.[11] Perhaps at the urging of Geptner, Makarov quickly wrote to Kliment Efremovich Voroshilov, the Soviet defense minister, asking him to place the nineteen bison in a special breeding farm (pitomnik ) under special military protection. Likely owing to his passion for hunting, Voroshilov had become a patron of the nature protection movement. Here, those interests seemed to coincide, and Voroshilov dispatched a special commandant and a cavalry guard detachment to guard the woodland giants. (By contrast, Air Marshal Vershinin did not lift a finger to save the bison in the Ruminten pitomnik in Kaliningrad oblast' from extermination by Soviet airmen-hunters. All were killed.)[12]

The pushcha itself, an area of almost 130,000 hectares, was almost immediately added to the zapovednik system in June 1940, but with war imminent even the decree of the USSR Council of Ministers was no guarantee of the reserve's inviolability. American readers will recall the attempts of loggers to cut timber in the Olympic National Park during World War II. Analogously, the legendary aircraft designer Sergei Vladimirovich Il'iushin had written to the authorities asking to cut wood in the Belovezhskaia pushcha for aviation veneer. Voroshilov, no supporter of mechanized warfare, refused to grant Il'iushin's request. Perhaps Stalin should have appointed Voroshilov to be head of the Main Administration instead of defense minister![13]

The vagaries of politics now worked at odds with the aims of Soviet nature protection activists and scientists. Barely had the reserve celebrated its first anniversary when the German blitzkrieg ravaged the reserve and everything else in its path. Ironically, the huge losses of the initial weeks of the war, including the loss of the reserve, were a consequence of Stalin's arrest of leading military aircraft designers during the late 1930s, including Il'iushin, and of the dictator's and Voroshilov's idiosyncratic and fatally wrongheaded prejudices in the areas of military strategy and engineering.[14]

Of the bison hardest hit were the hybrid (European-American) bison mixtures in the Askania-Nova hybridization institute and Crimean reserve; all seventy bison died during the first two years of German occupation. Although the worldwide European bison population actually increased through 1944 to 146, the brutal last year and a half of war ravaged many of the breeding areas (many maintained by the Germans), and with peacetime the bison's numbers fell back to the 1937 level of eighty-four animals.[15]

Unlike the smaller American bison, which subsisted on huge quantities of grass, the European bison required forest nutrients: bark, oak twigs, and aspen. Curiously, two generations could survive on a diet of grass, but the third would die from nutritional deficiencies. Owing to their rarity as well as to the survival requirements of these colossal bovines, captive breeding seemed the most prudent first step toward a recovery of their numbers, despite the disappointing prewar Polish experience. Eventually, Soviet zoolo-


gists hoped to restore 1,500 zubry to the wild. For Makarov's Main Administration, supported by VOOP, this became a mission of the highest priority, heavily charged with symbolism. Not by coincidence were "bourgeois" professors of science ridiculed as zubry in their scientific zapovedniki during the Cultural Revolution. In the same vein, Daniil Granin's biography of Nikolai Vladimirovich Timofeev-Resovskii, a giant of Russian field biology (population ecology and population genetics), was entitled Zubr , for that relict mammal symbolized the fate of the Russian prerevolutionary scientific intelligentsia for both its friends and its enemies.

Makarov entrusted zoologist Mikhail Aleksandrovich Zablotskii with overall leadership of the rescue operation (see figure 3). If anyone were to rescue the bison, a knowledge of their genetics would be essential. Zablotskii not only knew genetics; he had studied with the famous Nikolai Petrovich Dubinin.[16] He was also a diplomat by nature and worked well with people, although he never shirked from speaking out if the situation required it.

With Zablotskii on board, Makarov sent a note to Molotov, now foreign minister, alerting him to the urgency of restoring the European bison to viability. With the establishment of a new frontier with Poland, the USSR would recover half of the Belovezhskaia pushcha nature reserve. On November 12, 1946, at a meeting of the Central Council of VOOP, Zablotskii laid out his proposal to establish a breeding farm for zubry near Serpukhov, south of Moscow on the Oka, and gained the Society's support for a newly-created Bison Commission to approach the Russian Republic's Council of Ministers for funding and support.[17]

While trying to coordinate support from both the all-Union and the republic levels of government, Zablotskii had been conducting his own private diplomacy, involving officials of the Belorussian foreign ministry, Polish zoologists, and Makarov in his capacity as deputy director of the RSFSR Committee for Zapovedniki .[18] Thanks largely to his efforts, five pure-line bison—three males and two females—were donated by the Polish government to the Soviet half of the Belovezhskaia reserve in July 1946. A calf born to one of the females that September was an encouraging augury,[19] yet the experience of the war, including new epizootic infestations among the bison, and the need for genetic monitoring of such a small population both recommended a more controlled venue close to Moscow. Zablotskii continued to press for his plan for a breeding station near Serpukhov.

Finally, on April 11, 1947 the Bureau of the RSFSR Council of Ministers met to consider the bison situation. Both Shvedchikov, the official head of the Main Administration, and Makarov attended. Geptner, who was unable to attend, sent a written argument against keeping rare species in border reserves as too risky, and he supported Zablotskii's plan for a Moscow-area reserve with captive-breeding facilities. These arguments had swayed Makarov, who was unusually literate scientifically for a layman, and he asked that all



Figure 3.
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Zablotskii (1912–1996).

five pedigree bison constituting an additional new gift from the Polish government be transferred to the Prioksko-Terrasnyi zapovednik , site of the proposed breeding station. With the usual strong support of Deputy Premier Aleksandr Vasil'evich Gritsenko this package was approved by the Russian Republic leaders, and Zablotskii was soon on his way to Poland to see Zabinski, president of the Polish Bison Society, to nail down Polish approval for the transfer of these animals to the RSFSR.

Not one to simply take without giving, despite the USSR's overwhelming ability to dictate terms to its "allies," Makarov proposed a shipment of beav-


ers, Bactrian camels, moose, and other animals, including polar bears, to Poland in exchange. The Poles were very gracious and the new bison—three females and two males—were sent to their new home in 1948. Indeed, there seemed no end to Polish generosity: three pedigreed descendants of the Belovezhskaia line were delivered to Prioksko-Terrasnyi in 1951. In all the USSR received nineteen pedigreed European bison from Poland between 1946 and 1951, which represented no small contribution; on January 1, 1947, there were only forty-four such bison in Poland and ninety-three throughout the entire world.[20] By the 1970s, Zablotskii's labors had borne fruit for all to see: through 1980, 170 animals had been reintroduced into appropriate environments to start independent herds of their own.[21] Significant for us is the unusual initiative demonstrated by Makarov and the scientist-cum-diplomat Zablotskii as well as the independent diplomatic support they received from the leaders of the Russian Federation.

Conservation activists also had their share of disappointments. A Moscow region zapovednik first proposed in 1940 to be composed of eight separate tracts with an area of 50,000 hectares had been approved by the Moscow oblast' authorities that same year. The war delayed confirmation by the republic-level authorities, however, and only a letter to Kosygin signed, among others, by VOOP's president, Komarov, got matters moving again in mid-May 1944. In 1945 an "Oka River Interdisciplinary Commission" headed by Sukachëv delineated the exact territories to be protected. However, a last-minute objection by the Main Administration of Forest Protection and Afforestation to the inclusion of Pogono-Losinii ostrov, a patch of undeveloped forest to the northeast of the capital whose tongue extended into Moscow proper, impelled RSFSR deputy premier Aleksandr Pavlovich Starotorzhskii to remove the tract from the proposal; Losinii ostrov remained under the control of the objecting agency. Makarov and Protopopov wrote a memo to the RSFSR government on February 24, 1945, calling the forestry agency's objections "unfathomable and unacceptable" and arguing that only zapovednik status could guarantee the integrity of the largest forest in the vicinity of Moscow; if the tract were not included, the value of the zapovednik would be significantly reduced, they added.[22] Nevertheless, the exclusion of Losinii ostrov was not reversed.

Contrasting with the indifferent attitude of the central authorities in the Kremlin toward nature protection was the active support and patronage accorded conservation by the government of the Russian Federation and by individual oblasts. A local initiative, supported by a resolution of the Primorskii krai Executive Committee on October 23, 1945, sought to expand the Sudzukhinskii zapovednik from 138,000 to 32,000 hectares, allowing the


inclusion of the southern portion of the Sikhote-Alin mountains. This request was forwarded by Konstantin Shvedchikov to Russian premier Aleksei Kosygin, who speedily signed the change into law on January 4, 1946. Instructively, the letter two days earlier to Shvedchikov from Starotorzhskii announcing the decision revealed that Russia's leaders apparently endorsed the "etalon " rationale for zapovedniki ; the expansion was approved "in light of the fact that the existing territory does not represent fully the natural conditions of the southern part of the Primorskii region."[23] Kosygin also signed on to the creation of two completely new reserves, the Visim and Denezhkin kamen' zapovedniki .[24]

More dramatic support by the Russian Federation for its Main Administration for Zapovedniki came three months later, following a letter of April 30, 1946, from Ivan P. Bardin, a prominent metallurgical engineer and leading member of the Academy of Sciences, to Lavrentii P. Beria. In his note, Bardin sought the return of the Il'menskii zapovednik , hard by the crucial Cheliabinsk-Kyshtym facilities of Beria's nuclear empire, to the Academy, even though it had been under that institution's aegis for all of one year, 1935. The request for transfer worked its way through the USSR Council of Ministers and back to the Russian Republic, where Mikhail I. Rodionov had just succeeded Kosygin as premier. In his response to A. A. Andreev, Rodionov agreeably offered any assistance to the Academy in its research in the zapovednik , but firmly refused to approve the transfer. Perhaps because the dispute was between a scientific institution, albeit an all-USSR one, on the one hand, and a lower level of administration, on the other, the central authorities did not feel particularly invested in the outcome, and did not seek to overturn Rodionov's decision.[25]

Behind the modest gains of the postwar period was the cultivation of personal ties between the leadership of the conservation movement and that of the RSFSR and other republics, and more local politicians. Links between the political patrons of the movement and VOOP had been especially strong when Lunacharskii and Smidovich were in office, but had weakened with Lunacharskii's retirement and Smidovich's death, the subsequent great purge, and the war. Rebuilding them was a top priority for VOOP.

An important opportunity for conservationists to present their case in person to the RSFSR leadership arose with the decision by the Russian Republic to issue a decree on nature protection. A draft was solicited from VOOP and was discussed at a meeting of the Operativnoe biuro (Operations Desk) of the RSFSR Council of Ministers on August 9, 1946.[26] The draft, incorporated into a longer brief, was another attempt by activists to educate the political leadership. A short history of the conservation movement in Russia underscored the great promise of the late tsarist and Lenin periods left unfulfilled in the Stalin era. Rodionov and his colleagues were reminded that tsarist Russia was a participant in the first international con-


servation congress in 1913 and that the cause had been endorsed by such luminaries of Bolshevism as N. K. Krupskaia (Lenin's wife) and Lunacharskii in their day. But "not only among the population at large but among the leaders of the economic apparat as well attitudes toward nature here at best are based on primitive utilitarian positions." VOOP had succeeded in uniting within its ranks "all of the leading naturalists of the USSR," but their scientific understanding of the issues had not penetrated the general public and political leadership, whose "superficial and untutored observation" continued to regard natural resources as limitless.[27]

Three days later Makarov addressed a session of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Republic, making a strong case for increased political and financial support for VOOP, the zapovedniki , and conservation generally.[28] Claiming only 5,183 members in VOOP, Makarov urged the Council of Ministers to require local governments to provide support to VOOP branches. Additionally, he requested that conservation matters be raised routinely at all levels of government in the RSFSR as well as in the press, that an institute for the study of problems of conservation and nature protection be established, that a new RSFSR statute on nature protection be enacted, and that conservation be included at all educational levels in all programs of study. More specifically, Makarov requested permission to resume publication of Okhrana prirody , the release by Gosplan RSFSR of two tons of paper, a subvention of 150,000 rubles from the RSFSR Council of Ministers' reserve fund, a dependable printing plant from the system controlled by the State Publishers (OGIZ), and the convocation of a congress of the Society in December 1946. Perhaps Makarov's most controversial proposal, which, along with that to resume publication of VOOP's journal elicited a question mark in the margins by the premier's aide, was to replace the Main Administration for Zapovedniki with one that would also be responsible for broader questions of nature protection generally.[29]

One result of Makarov's appearance was the promulgation of a decree on September 25, that among other things, called for more scrupulous observance of conservation laws and principles, awarded VOOP a 100,000 ruble subsidy for expenses, and delegated to the Society together with the Main Administration for Zapovedniki the responsibility of drafting a law for nature protection in the RSFSR to be submitted to the Council of Ministers in January 1947.[30] Despite this recognition, militant members of the Society were dissatisfied with the decree. Geptner wanted to know why the decree made no mention of reviving the Society's journal, Okhrana prirody , which had already been approved in principle, while Giller deplored the decree's silence on the issue of paper supply, which was controlled by Gosplan of the RSFSR, concerns that had been included in the draft resolutions submitted by Makarov to the Council of Ministers at their meeting.[31]

Pursuant to these instructions the RSFSR Council of Ministers was soon


presented with two draft decrees on conservation, one from VOOP and the other from the Main Administration for Zapovedniki . Where the VOOP draft was broad, reflecting the scientific intelligentsia's pretensions to veto power over resource use, Shvedchikov's Main Administration's draft sought to limit the scope of the law to the territory of the zapovedniki , considering a broader bill unrealistic.[32]

This narrower bill, however, was rejected as well by the Bureau of the RSFSR Council of Ministers on June 3, 1947, and VOOP was asked to report back in a month with another draft law text. But as the slow wheels of the Soviet bureaucracy turned, changes in high politics raced on ahead, rendering moot the hopes of the immediate postwar period.[33] The RSFSR law was enacted only in 1960.

Among the greatest sources of frustration for the activists was the absence of a monthly journal. A journal was confirmation of the Society's social importance as well as an important vehicle for communication and bonding both domestically and with nature defenders abroad. In late 1946, Makarov and VOOP secretary Zaretskii wrote to the Press Department of the Central Committee about this. Coming after Winston Churchill's Fulton, Missouri address and a general souring of the international atmosphere, Makarov's letter could have been a serious tactical error, stressing as it did the importance of foreign models and foreign ties. In the absence of overt repression, however, those were concerns that Makarov and his colleagues were unlikely to disavow; international standing and a feeling of belonging to the world's scientific community were important mainstays of the self-image of these Russian scientists.[34]

Because it went so heavily against their hopes and their own sense of self, the nature protection activists were among the last to come to terms with the new isolationism of the Stalin regime. Although their request for a journal with a circulation of 50,000 to appear four times a year beginning April 1947 did not elicit an immediate response, by the following year, miraculously, Okhrana prirody (Protection of Nature) was off and running, albeit as an irregular anthology with a more modest print run—3,000 copies. Although any kind of approval might strike us as surprising, the Press Department of the Central Committee's decision reveals a capacity on the part of high Party bureaucrats to avoid "surplus repression"; perhaps, the Party censors thought, there was no harm in allowing these quaint activists a minor concession or two.

During these years of transition VOOP continued to be dogged by the pull of contrary aims: retaining its ethos as perhaps the country's sole remaining, intact defender of nauchnaia obshchestvennost ', or corporate scientific autonomy, and becoming an influential mass organization that would be well connected within the system. The ideal of nauchnaia obshchestvennost ',


it must be emphasized, was not a fully democratic one, for it regarded the educated—especially scientific—elite as the truly authentic and enlightened representative of all of society. Nor was it an all-out oppositional stance toward the regime; the scientist-leaders of VOOP tried to stay within the bounds of acceptable dissent, a threshold in continual flux. Dissent, then, became transformed into an elaborate theater of identity, where scientists could defend the ideal of nauchnaia obshchestvennost ' symbolically while avoiding the GULAG.

Yet, the scientist-leaders of VOOP also cared about nature, saw nature protection as a preeminently scientific problem within the realm of their expertise, and wanted to be effective. A draft of a letter from Makarov and Zaretskii to Andrei A. Zhdanov in 1947 illuminates this quandary. In it, Makarov and Zaretskii announced that VOOP was embarking on a new stage in its history, becoming a truly mass organization "while conserving its scientific base." For this, they sought a candidate for the Society's presidency who would enjoy broad public authority. Three political figures had been proposed as candidates: I. A. Vlasov, chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR; S. V. Kaftanov, RSFSR minister of higher education and prominent supporter of Lysenko; and A. V. Gritsenko, a deputy premier of the RSFSR and movement patron. However, all three candidates refused to allow their names to be considered without express agreement from the Central Committee of the Party. Hence the letter to Central Committee secretary Zhdanov.[35]

The choice for president ultimately settled on academician Nikolai V. Tsitsin, an early apparent supporter of T. D. Lysenko and sometime personal acquaintance of Stalin whose political reliability gained him membership in the Academy of Sciences and the directorship of the Academy's Main Botanical Garden in Moscow. Like Lysenko, Tsitsin was a botanist specializing in hybrids; on the surface he sometimes appeared to be more charlatan than scientist, a regime toady, and a Lysenkoist. Unlike Lysenko, however, Tsitsin was not a hopeless biological illiterate; consequently as Valery Soyfer has noted, his "attitude toward Lysenko shifted with the political winds."[36]

The choice of Tsitsin, which seemed to go against the overwhelmingly anti-Lysenkoist sentiments of the VOOP board and executive council, in fact followed both logic and tradition. The scientist-activists of the conservation movement had always turned to prominent and loyal public figures to serve as the nominal leaders of VOOP and the Main Administration for Zapovedniki , posts Makarov was unable to assume personally, in part because of his Socialist Revolutionary past.

Tsitsin turned out to have a few surprises up his sleeve. Competing with Lysenko for leadership in biology, Tsitsin attempted to exploit what in 1947 and early 1948 seemed to be a withdrawal of regime support for his rival. In


a letter of February 5, 1948 to Stalin, Tsitsin daringly revealed his opposition to Trofim Lysenko, writing apparently in response to a note from Lysenko that Stalin had asked to be sent to Tsitsin:

Many representatives of biological science in recent years have been living in an atmosphere in which they feel shut in, an atmosphere of fear of one-sided criticism and of biased exposition of many questions that have already been solved by them.

An organized discussion could identify much that is new and of value both for theory and for practice and could enable us to assess what is of value, to discard that which is not or which is actively harmful. A discussion might allow us to find a common line in tackling the problems of our agriculture.

That is why I consider Lysenko's formulation incorrect in principle as it has been presented in his letter. To demand acceptance by all scientists of our country of his scientific point of view as if it were a command to be obeyed, I would even believe, from the point of view of Comrade Lysenko's interests, is simply awkward and tactless.

I ask you, Comrade Stalin, to permit us to hold such a discussion at the nearest future time.


The same day, Tsitsin sent an extended scientific critique of Lysenko to A. A. Zhdanov, with a copy to A. A. Kuznetsov, in which he assumed an even more urgent tone:[38] "I may boldly state not fearing to exaggerate matters that the situation now is such that the normal development of biological and agricultural sciences . . . has become impossible without the intervention and serious assistance of our Party and government."[39] Tsitsin rejected Lysenko's characterization of his opponents as "reactionary scientists" and added dramatically: "If they agree with Comrade Lysenko, the Soviet people should then . . . deport to the camps such reactionary individuals, whose hands created our best . . . plant varieties, and, on the other hand, recognize as 'progressive' . . . the theory of Lysenko, on the basis of which, by the way, during the course of twenty years, not one acceptable variety has been produced, notwithstanding the numerous promises and loud assurances."[40] Wondering how Lysenko could be president of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the Academy of Sciences' Institute of Genetics, the Siberian Research Institute for Cereals in Omsk, and the Institute of Genetics and Selection in Odessa, as well as editor of Agrobiologiia , all while holding grossly erroneous views, Tsitsin accused his rival of "surrounding himself with a claque of unscrupulous individuals" and charged that Lysenko had transformed Vaskhnil into "a vacuous bureaucracy, excluding all scientists except his own loyalists."[41]



Figure 4.
Delegates to the VOOP Congress, 1947.

Tsitsin then debunked Lysenko's vague and primitive Lamarckism and stated: "Such 'dialectical materialism' as exemplified by Comrade Lysenko, in philosophical language, has to be called metaphysics."[42] From the standpoint of scientific argument, Tsitsin's extended critique of Lysenko was passably coherent, reflecting a far greater ability to cope with questions of genetics and developmental biology than his intellectually stunted rival, who excelled only in deviousness, theatrics, and imagination. To his credit, Tsitsin also protected a limited number of plant geneticists at the Botanical Garden. The VOOP scientists hoped, no doubt, that he would play the same role for them. All in all, the chudaki of the nature protection movement proved surprisingly adept at this high-stakes chess game of survival and social identity.

The VOOP Congress of 1947

The long-awaited delegate congress—nine years after the previous one—was brought to order by Makarov on April 26, 1947 (see figure 4). Delegates elected a working presidium and an honorary one (the Politburo) and, after a greeting by Old Bolshevik F. N. Petrov, commenced its real work. One of the more memorable addresses was that of Susanna N. Fridman, the longtime secretary of VOOP from its founding through the war, who voiced the feelings of the founders' generation: "We are the generation already exiting from life." She had not come to the tribune, however, simply to pass the baton. A bigger question was on her mind: "Is nature protection, or, more


correctly, the survival of wild nature and its blossoming, compatible or incompatible with our quickly changing culture and civilization?" "Science," she continued, "has answered that it is compatible, and, I would go further, that if that is not the case our science is worthless, empty, and, as theory, holds no water. We know a great deal, but if we cannot [make the survival of wild nature compatible with culture], then that which we know wasn't worth knowing."[43] With these remarks Fridman had exposed—for a remarkable instant—the submerged tension between ethics and science within the nature protection cause. Because nature was held to have a normative, healthy state that was identifiable by scientific experts, the scientists who led the nature protection movement promoted the view that nature protection was a fundamentally scientific problem. But Fridman was suggesting that nature protection was fundamentally a problem of values and ethics; science as a system of social knowledge and organization could be fundamentally flawed in its ethical vision, in which case it was important openly to defend more compelling alternative ethical positions. Taken to its logical conclusion, Fridman's talk raised the question of whether the Russian nature protection movement wished to represent scientific opinion or a broader public opinion in the spirit of Russian moral and political activism from Radishchev to Tolstoi to the Marxists and other socialists. Although outweighed in the leadership by scientists, nonscientists such as Fridman, Krivoshapov, Protopopov, and, to a certain closeted extent, Makarov always represented a minority within the movement who viewed nature protection as a civic and ethical imperative rather than as a defense of part of the empire of science, however sacred. It was rare, though, to hear this explicitly; the scientists' hegemony within the movement was nearly total. That was not surprising: openly ethical speech was far more dangerous under the Soviets than scientific speech, which tended to submerge its ethical positions.

In line with her wider conception of nature protection as the problem of protecting life itself, Fridman—as Makarov had done earlier—raised the call for replacing the Main Administration for Zapovedniki , which she characterized as just another economic agency, with something broader and more authoritative to handle conservation policy questions. "Nature protection is a momentous question," she averred, "not only of international but of planetary importance," but it has become "not only unpopular, but, in fact, odious. And that is our failure." Challenging all sorts of narrow orthodoxies and emphasizing the moral poignancy of the issue, Fridman called for a new educational offensive by activists fueled by an independent moral vision. "I must declare that in our Union we must engage in nature protection with pure and burning hearts and with passion," she proclaimed, for, among the broad masses, "no one has any conception of the sweeping scope of this cause or its crucial importance for the whole world. We must enter the international arena. Life itself urges us that way." In perhaps the


ultimate heresy, she concluded that "it is not necessary for us to wage a struggle with the world of private property over those specific problems which those societies have already successfully tackled."[44]

Perhaps inspired by Fridman, Krivoshapov was equally blunt in his critique of Soviet economic and ideological rigidity: "We have a planned economic system, but there is no sense to it. We write laws, focus our attention on delineated issues, but things never get further than producing a document." The only way out, he said, was to raise VOOP's status to the all-Union level and generally to elevate the level of culture of young adults, focusing on the middle schools.[45]

On the morning of April 28, the congress held its final session to hear the concluding remarks of the Society's acting president. Remarkably, Makarov tentatively engaged the difficult questions raised by Fridman and Krivoshapov. Addressing the questions of education and youth, he urged the adoption of a prewar Estonian statute that required those seeking certification as teachers to pass a special exam in problems of nature protection and natural history. "We, of course, have had nothing like this in memory," he lamented, courageously holding up a "bourgeois" legal precedent as a model. Perhaps his courage, like Fridman's, was stimulated by the realization that "the old guard is little by little leaving its posts . . . and our ranks are thinning."[46] Would there be a new generation to which the founders could pass the torch? The Society's demographics were far from encouraging, for there had been no appreciable influx of young people into the Society in the two years following the war.

Last, Makarov touched on aesthetic questions of nature protection, which were ideologically among the most sensitive for Soviet conservation. "I here would like to fully associate myself with the comments of Comrade Bogdanov of the Bashkirian ASSR and consider that the aesthetic importance of nature protection must not be sidelined from VOOP's field of action. We must care for and protect not only the paintings of Kuindzhi, Shishkin, and Levitan, which we treasure as works of great aesthetic value, but those natural scapes that inspired Kuindzhi, Shishkin, and Levitan."[47] "I have always been amazed," he continued, "that people are conscious of the value of these products of human creativity but find it impossible to perceive the beauty of nature and protect the actual nature [that inspired these paintings]."[48]

Makarov then shared a personal recollection:

I sometimes recall a particular time in my life when I was in the Crimea; there I used to be terribly struck and upset by the following picture: a few lonely pines standing on a high precipice. That scene had always upset me, and I was traveling once with a friend with whom I would frequently talk about things, and he was perplexed by the power of a devastated forest to upset me. "Why does that scene touch you so?" he asked. "It would be nice to build a beautiful palace where those pines now stand." I answered him that the palace


might indeed be beautiful and that it might captivate me for the moment, but that I might not pay it any attention the next time. But I could see pines ten times and they would still stir me, because they tell much . . . because they are more valuable to me than a palace built in their place. It seems to me that we love nature through its specific examples, and, loving nature, we also love our homeland. For that reason, it is in the interests of the homeland and of cultivating love for it that we must care for the preservation of the most ancient examples of our own land's nature.[49]

During a final question and answer session, a number of delegates asked about past and future press coverage of the movement. Makarov and other organizers assured the delegates that the entire domestic press, as well as overseas press representatives, had been informed about the congress. Makarov admitted that there were no articles in Pravda or Izvestiia , and promised to find out the reason for that. "Perhaps they are covering more important questions now than the work of our congress," he wryly observed.[50]

Tsitsin chaired the first meeting of the new Central Executive Committee, which met on May 15 to elect a presidium.[51] The scholarly secretary, Zaretskii, offered a list of eleven, which was immediately amended by M. A. Zablotskii to include V. G. Geptner, and by N. A. Gladkov to include S. N. Fridman and K. N. Blagosklonov. A proposal by Tsitsin to limit the nominees to the original eleven with an option to expand later was put to a vote, and passed over surprisingly strong opposition, sixteen to eight, with one abstention. Ratification of the eleven as a group then proceeded smoothly, with twenty-three in favor and only two abstentions.[52]

Under the new president, Tsitsin, and his first deputy, Makarov, the new Presidium of VOOP included a founder of the Society, F. N. Petrov, and long-time activists A. P. Protopopov, a retired agronomist, and ornithologist G. P. Dement'ev, who became second deputy president. D. V. Zaretskii was elected scholarly secretary, and the remaining members included I. S. Krivoshapov of the Main Spa Administration of the USSR Ministry of Public Health; the USSR minister of higher education, S. V. Kaftanov; the USSR minister of the timber industry, G. P. Motovilov; G. A. Avetisian, an expert on bees at the Academy of Science's Institute of Evolutionary Morphology; and the Moscow University geology professor Vera Aleksandrovna Varsonof'eva.[53]

Although VOOP was not given the opportunity by the regime to celebrate either its twentieth or twenty-fifth anniversaries, one anniversary was warmly marked: V. N. Makarov's sixtieth birthday on October 20, 1947.[54] The presence of 285 people at the Executive Council meeting, a record crowd, testified to the genuine affection Makarov inspired. More than fifty greetings from agencies and societies were read, with an additional hundred messages from individuals and private groups. Makarov was truly in his prime, bathed in the appreciation and devotion of his colleagues and followers. A motion


was presented to make Vasilii Nikitich an honorary member of VOOP, a high honor in Russian academic culture. It passed unanimously.[55] And a handsome photograph of Makarov was included in the second fascicle of Okhrana prirody , which appeared in 1948.

Finally, 1947 was remarkable for the appearance of the first major popular work on nature protection in the USSR, Makarov's sixty-page soft-covered book, Okhrana prirody v SSSR . With its attractive cover showing bison peaceably grazing in an alpine meadow of the Caucasus zapovednik , where they were being reintroduced, the message of Nature Protection in the USSR was serious: if we continue destroying habitat we could put an end to evolution itself. To make this point as strongly as possible, Makarov cited a letter from Russia's great paleontologist V. O. Kovalevskii to his brother, dated December 27, 1871, in which Kovalevskii wrote: "The vertebrate kingdom, especially Ungulata [hoofed mammals] now is simply in flight, seeking refuge anywhere they may find it. There will be no place for them to develop and to evolve into new forms; for this they will need thousands of years of a free and unfettered existence."[56]

From the end of the war until the summer of 1948 was a transitional period, in which the dying embers of hope for a postwar liberalization could still occasionally be fanned. The new realities of the Cold War and of an almost airtight and militantly anti-intellectual isolationism began to be felt with the onset of the Zhdanovshchina (the Party's new campaign for culural orthodoxy, led by Central Committee secretary for ideology Andrei A. Zhdanov) in 1947 and, in the natural sciences, with the final battle over genetics that took shape during 1948.

Leonid Leonov and the Green Plantings Society

During the 1930s, under the banner of the "Green Cities" movement, groups of citizens focused their efforts on the cosmetic improvement of factories and urban neighborhoods through the planting of trees, shrubs, and flowers.[57] This was a far cry from the radical antiurbanism of Leonid Sabsovich and the original utopian theorists of "Green Cities" during the late 1920s and very early 1930s, but with monstrously dehumanizing industrial landscapes emerging out of the Russian mud, it was better than nothing.

The constituency for such a tame meliorist movement had grown by the end of the war. More important, the movement had found a spokesperson in Leonid Maksimovich Leonov, the author of some of the more memorable epic novels of the First Five-Year Plan. In 1947 Leonov published a long article in Izvestiia , "In Defense of a Friend." The friend was nature, specifically the Russian forest. He took to task municipal administrations that invested billions of rubles in urban greening but had nothing to show for it. "It


would be nice . . . more often to grab [these officials] by the buttonhole and take them on foot on a tour of their imaginary groves," he wrote sarcastically. "Let them admire . . . the pitiful remnants of their courageous armchair leadership." He issued a challenge to Moscow's authorities: "We must start this great crusade in defense of our Green Friend in Moscow."[58] Evidently, it worked.

In 1947, with the Moscow city government's support, the Main Botanical Garden, the Timiriazev Agricultural Academy, and other prominent institutions had joined together as the All-Russian Society for the Promotion and Protection of Urban Green Plantings, which, Leonov noted, had also gained the crucial support of the leadership of the Russian Federation. To help "our green friend" was not simply a matter of aesthetics or utilitarian self-interest, Leonov emphasized. It was a question of patriotism: "We took a collective vow in '17 making it our duty to transform our fatherland into a place more beautiful than all the Floridas and other capitalist Edens." Now, he wrote, "we have placed the issue before an all-national veche ," using the archaic term for the town meeting of medieval Rus'. Leonov's article is interesting on a number of levels, perhaps most because it foreshadows the attraction of Soviet patriots—later to become Russian nationalists—to that unparalleled symbol of the Russian land, the Russian forest.

By 1948 the first stage of Leonov's vision was a material fact. The chairman of the RSFSR Council of Ministers, Mikhail Rodionov, approved the charter of the urban greening society on June 23, 1948 and sent the materials to A. A. Kuznetsov of the Central Committee for final approval.[59] The president of the organizational bureau was Nikolai Aleksandrovich Maksimov, director of the Academy's Institute of Plant Physiology, and Leonov, who was also a deputy to the USSR Supreme Soviet, became vice president.[60] A local Moscow society, DOSOM (the Voluntary Society for the Greening of the City of Moscow), was formed as well.

DOSOM and the All-Russian Society for the Promotion and Protection of Urban Green Plantings (VOSSOGZN) would be curious footnotes to the great sweep of Russian and Soviet conservation history were it not for just those qualities that made them seem platitudinous and banal. When the heavy hand of state repression once again was raised against VOOP, Makarov's strategy of protective coloration called for a merger with those conformist societies: the subversive VOOP core would be shielded and disguised by the patriotic and trivial veneer of urban greening.

The Alma-Atinskii Zapovednik Problem

On June 12, 1948, the Main Administration for Zapovedniki of the Kazakh SSR sent a plea to the Expediter of the USSR Council of Ministers to stop


the Kazakh Ministry of Forestry from seizing a majority of the woodland belonging to the Alma-Atinskii zapovednik . A similar threat faced the Borovoe reserve, whose forests served to sustain natural climate and bathing water conditions at the nearby elite spa, Borovoe, which had housed much of the Academy of Sciences during World War II. To make matters worse, the forest ministry's plan, hatched in late 1947, redefined an additional large tract of steppe as "forest" to justify the seizure of that parcel as well.[61] In a letter supporting the plea of their Kazakh counterparts, the Presidium of VOOP concluded that the forestry's plan would constitute a "liquidation" of the two zapovedniki .[62]

Although it was unclear whether this was simply another of the numerous opportunistic depredations by "economic commissariats" on the reserves that were so common in the 1920s and early 1930s, or reflected the postwar crisis in fuel supplies, or represented something even larger and more ominous, the Kazakh forestry plan was the conservation movement's first serious challenge from a regime agency in more than a decade. An ominous sign was that the plan, an addendum to a Union-wide forestry decree, was passed by the USSR Council of Ministers on May 17. The last-minute protests by the head of the Kazakh Main Administration for Zapovedniki and of VOOP hinged on being able to engineer a rare emendation of existing legislation. They were not successful.

Another disruptive development was a decision by the Department of Agitation and Propaganda of the Central Committee to close down all small publishing houses attached to agencies and voluntary societies. VOOP's own facilities were closed on August 2, 1948 on order of the Moscow oblast' pub lishing authorities. In an impassioned letter to the Agitprop Department head Suntsov, Makarov protested that such a move "is tantamount to liquidating the activity of the All-Russian Society for Nature Protection, which has been in existence since 1924." Makarov argued that the Society was not receiving any publication subsidies and that the publication plan for 1948 had already been approved by the Central Committee's Press Department.[63]

A further disappointment came in December when Central Committee secretary and USSR deputy premier Georgii Malenkov turned down a request by Makarov and Aleksei Vasil'evich Mikheev, secretary of the Communist Party organization among the staff of the Main Administration for Zapovedniki , seeking to establish a scientific research institute for problems of zapovedniki and nature protection.[64] The proposal for such an institute had been kicking around since 1940, and had gained the important support of the Academy president, Sergei I. Vavilov, in November 1945.[65] Academician V. N. Sukachëv, Professor A. N. Formozov, and others moved it along in May 1948 in a letter to the chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, Ivan Andreevich Vlasov.[66] They even included as one of the research aims the study of the inheritance of characters acquired by wild animals and plants as a


result of "the actions of their conditions of existence (of the external environment)," which could be construed as at least rhetorical acceptance of a Lysenkoist view of heredity.[67] Such an institute, however, was clearly not a top priority for the Soviet regime, whose cities were still piles of rubble three years after the war. A deputy chairman of Gosplan of the USSR, A. Lavrishchev, one of those delegated by Malenkov to sort through this question and recommend a course of action, provided a terse justification for his negative conclusions: the zapovedniki already have perhaps 180 permanent scientists among them, with an additional eight attached to the Moscow-based Main Administration. Any scientific problems that they could not handle should be passed to the Academy of Sciences or institutes of the Ministry of Agriculture.[68] D. Shepilov and F. Golovchenko of the Central Committee's Department of Agitation and Propaganda, similarly asked by Malenkov to perform an analysis, contacted two Academy institute directors and the secretary of the Academy's Biology Division, Aleksandr Ivanovich Oparin. Their conclusion was equally blunt: "The creation . . . of a special institute will only lead to parallelism in the organization of the study of living and nonliving nature and will encumber an unnecessary expenditure of state funds."[69]

Amid these disappointments were a few hopeful signs. By November 1948, after persistent lobbying, VOOP obtained a larger, permanent suite of offices, a move that required official approval of the USSR Council of Ministers.[70] Happily, the approval for the issuance of an official VOOP insignia pin (nagrudnyi znak, znachok ) was somewhat simpler, resting only with the more sympathetic Council of Ministers of the RSFSR.[71] Membership, too, seemed to be on the rise. The Sverdlovsk branch had about 2,000 members, the Kabardinian ASSR branch 500 plus another 1,500 in the youth section; there were 500 members in Saratov, more than 2,000 in Kazan', and 10,000 schoolchildren in Gor'kii.[72] And in 1948 the Society was finally able to restart publication of its journal, Okhrana prirody .

Yet the Society was suffering from an unmistakable malaise. In his report on the affairs of the Society from the 1947 congress to September 1949, Makarov struck an uncharacteristically doleful note. The number of branches had stagnated, Presidium attendance had fallen on average to only three or four, and the December 1948 Plenum of the Central Executive Council drew a meager eighteen on the first day and sixteen on the second. Only half of those council members present in Moscow bothered to come to hear Makarov's report.[73] Was it inertia, fatigue, or something else? To answer this, we turn to events unfolding in the larger society.


Chapter Four—
Zapovedniki in Peril, 1948–1950

We cannot wait for kindnesses from nature; our task is to wrest them from her:

One of the first whiffs of trouble for the nature protection cause appeared in the East, in the Alatau of Kazakhstan, with an attempt by that republic's forestry authorities to wrest control of the Alma-Atinskii zapovednik in order to open that area to logging. The ideological and political climate of the Soviet Union, set by Lysenko's triumph at the notorious August 1948 session of the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences and by the deepening of the Cold War, gave a new edge to the resource-motivated attacks on the conservation movement by economic ministries.

The Lysenko victory and the outlawing of classical genetics that followed did not have much immediate effect on the zapovedniki aside from requiring each reserve director to conduct discussions about "the situation in the biological sciences."[1] Lysenko and Prezent's purges of the major university biology departments and academies, however, cut deeply into the ranks of supporters of the movement. The purges extended beyond the confines of genetics and cytology to field biologists—botanists and zoologists; they even became a vehicle for settling scores with such convinced Lamarckians as Boris Evgen'evich Raikov, who still held aloft the banner of scientific autonomy and the spirit of nauchnaia obshchestvennost' .[2] Although the nature-transformation enthusiast Pëtr Aleksandrovich Manteifel' managed to get Aleksandr Nikolaevich Formozov fired from the Scientific Council of the All-Union Institute of Game Management and from the editorial board of the Zoologicheskii zhurnal (Zoological Journal) after Formozov, D. A. Sabinin, I. I. Shmal'gauzen, and M. M. Zavadovskii came out against Lysenko at Moscow State University, that was small potatoes compared to the damage inflicted by Isaak Izrailevich Prezent alone. In a dual calamity for professional biologists, in 1948 Prezent was named dean of the biology faculties of Moscow State and Leningrad State universities concurrently. As Lysenko's ideologue,


Prezent had no peers in his ability to "unmask" bearers of the ethos of scientific public opinion.[3] In short order Formozov, Shmal'gauzen, Zavadovskii, and Sabinin were expelled from the university (Sabinin shot himself as a result). When the tidal wave of firings had subsided, 3,000 instructors and professors had lost their jobs. Nor was the USSR Academy of Sciences system spared.[4] The human costs incurred, not to speak of the pedagogical ones, were incalculable.

With the university biology departments captured by Lysenko's minions and the USSR Academy of Sciences on a very short leash, the conservation movement was under greater pressure to defend the last institutions still under the control of the scientific intelligentsia, the zapovedniki plus a handful of scientific societies including VOOP, MOIP, and the Botanical and the Geographical Societies of the USSR.

Now the zapovedniki unexpectedly came under siege as well. Had the Kazakh Forestry Ministry's claim on a nature reserve in that republic been an isolated incident, perhaps the threats to the integrity of the reserve system would have stopped there. Ominously, though, there were parallel developments at the center.

As early as April 19, 1947, RSFSR premier Rodionov was warned by the ailing Konstantin Shvedchikov, head of the RSFSR Main Administration for Zapovedniki , that a draft law on the management of forests inside the zapovedniki was being prepared at the request of the USSR Council of Ministers, which had met on April 4.[5] Republican authorities were given three months to provide their input into the draft; responsibility for the major portion of it rested with German Petrovich Motovilov, who was named USSR minister of forestry at that meeting. Shvedchikov insisted that "it was indispensable to include basic provisions that would guarantee the inviolability of the zapovedniki , strict observance of the regime of inviolability which allows for the successful fulfillment of [their] tasks and goals." This paragraph was underscored by Rodionov when he read Shvedchikov's note, and the Russian Republic leader penned in the margins the significant phrase: "the zapovedniki are not to be handed over to the USSR Ministry of Forestry."[6]

Shvedchikov kept up the pressure on Rodionov, insisting on the need to defend the RSFSR Main Zapovednik Administration "as an independent agency, autonomous of the USSR Ministry of Forestry," as well as to resist the forestry ministry's newly announced claim on the Buzulukskii bor zapovednik near Samara.[7] He need not have worried. Tellingly, when Rodionov's deputy premier, A. V. Gritsenko, and Motovilov jointly sent USSR deputy premier Georgii Malenkov a memorandum outlining elements of the new draft law, they pledged their continuing commitment to the inviolability of the reserves.[8] Doubtless this was the result of the strong position taken by Rodionov and Gritsenko, who had the backing of Andrei Zhdanov, Malenkov's major rival for Stalin's favor.


No doubt hidden political maneuvering, perhaps by Malenkov, soon allowed Motovilov's ministry to backtrack and to advance claims to manage zapovednik forests independent of the republic-level zapovednik administrations. The new text of the draft law reflected this changed position; this was a direct rebuke to the Russian leaders. Responding to this development, one hot-blooded referent (junior advisor) of the RSFSR Council of Ministers in a memo to Rodionov called for strong resistance by the Russian Republic. "It is not difficult to notice," he wrote, "that the Ministry [of Forestry] does not understand the role of the state reserves and their basic tasks. . . . For that reason their proposals either partially or completely ignore the need for a regime of inviolability in the zapovedniki . Moreover," he continued, "the Ministry of Forestry feels that forestry . . . should be under their control despite the fact that the Main Administration for Zapovedniki is subordinated to the RSFSR Council of Ministers, which sets its tasks and provides its funding. In light of the above," he concluded, "I consider it essential to support the proposals of the Main Administration . . . and make them the bases for the draft decree of the USSR Council of Ministers."[9] The referent's memo, which made the republic/center conflict explicit, apparently was seen by Deputy Premier Gritsenko first, for only on September 6 did the latter send Rodionov his own note repeating the advisor's positions and calling for Rodionov to write to Malenkov personally.[10]

Rodionov did indeed write to Malenkov on September 18, noting that

the regime of inviolability is ignored in the draft law of the Ministry . . . and the chief role of the state zapovedniki is likewise not taken into account there as well. . . . In light of the fact that the previous experience of ministerial control over nature reserves has been shown to be a failure and is in contradiction with the Fundamental Law on Zapovedniki , it is necessary to transfer all [remaining] nature reserves on the territory of the RSFSR belonging to ministries to the control of the RSFSR Main Zapovednik Administration.[11]

The next month, on October 23, 1947, Aleksandr Vasil'evich Romanetskii, a functionary from the RSFSR Ministry of State Control's Working Group on Forests (but sympathizing if not in league with the central USSR forestry authorities), wrote to Gritsenko, outlining a "compromise" text for the decree. "Taking into consideration that the zapovedniki include more than 5 million hectares of woodlands as well as the necessity to establish forestry policies for each reserve, plus the insignificant number of qualified forestry specialists in the zapovedniki , we must agree to the indispensable oversight of forestry measures in the reserves on the part of the Ministry of Forestry. . . . In light of the above, it is necessary to reject the positions of Comrade Shvedchikov."[12]

Trying to find a solution that would satisfy both sides, Rodionov responded to A. A. Andreev, a secretary of the Central Committee, who had


asked Rodionov to review the "USSR Council of Ministers' draft" once again. Although he now granted the USSR Ministry of Forestry the right to over-fly the reserves, Rodionov held firm on the question of republican sovereignty.[13] In particular, Rodionov rejected any condition enjoining the Main Zapovednik Administration to submit annual reports to the USSR Ministry of Forestry. One concession Rodionov did make was to agree to turn over the entire 10,500-hectare zapovednik Buzulukskii bor to the USSR Ministry of Forestry's Borovaia experimental forestry station.[14] However, that was a small territorial price to pay in order to secure the integrity of the system as a whole.

The archives yielded a final note from Rodionov to Andreev, dated November 4, 1947. Over the previous week or so Rodionov apparently decided to stiffen his resistance and now rejected the center's latest draft outright. Although that draft explicitly prohibited only mowing and pasturing in the reserves, he explained, his RSFSR Council of Ministers insisted on a much broader ban on economic activities consistent with the traditional regime within zapovedniki . Rodionov also backtracked on his earlier agreement to hand over the entire Buzulukskii bor reserve to the USSR Ministry of Forestry. "The RSFSR Council of Ministers," he explained, "likewise cannot assent to the transfer of 3,500 hectares of the Buzulukskii zapovednik to the Borovaia . . . station, because this would deprive [the reserve] of a valuable forested tract rich in fauna as well as a significant number of residential buildings, although the remaining territory is of little value to the reserve."[15] All in all, it was a remarkable and plucky political display.

One is tempted to ask why men as busy and highly placed as Gritsenko and Rodionov sank as much time and political capital into defending nature preserves as they did. Certainly most important was the fact that the reserves fell under the direct administrative responsibility of the Russian Republic; the Russian leaders were protecting their turf, their portfolio of responsibilities, and their scientists from encroachment by outsiders, in this case the Kremlin. Second, the nature protection activists had established personal contacts with the republic-level leadership and had the opportunity to explain their scientific program to that leadership face to face; to a certain extent, as is evident from the archival correspondence, the republican leaders even came to identify the scientific program of the activists as their program as well. Third, it is possible that Russia's leaders felt patriotic pride in their protected territories, much as they may have felt for the European bison whose restoration they supported. Finally, there was the sense that nature preserves were an issue over which dissent or even resistance would not lead to a final tour of the Lubianka's basement. The political marginality of the zapovedniki in the eyes of the Kremlin made it possible for their local patrons to defend them—and their own bureaucratic "honor" and "turf" besides—without becoming, ipso facto, dangerous reactionaries.


Matters remained quiescent through the late spring of 1948, during which time the staff of the Main Zapovednik Administration compiled its annual report on the status of the reserves and their work.[16] Now expanded to thirty-one reserves with a total area of 9.2 million hectares, the Main Administration saw its nonsalary budget, particularly for scientific research, decline in absolute terms from 1947 levels. Correspondingly, the amount of funds ear-marked for forestry measures continued to rise.

Notably, a special section of the report was devoted to the forests of the reserves, including an update on the status of the inventory of the reserves' total forested area, as well as a table showing the progress of such measures as sanitary logging, hiring of forest fire fighters, afforestation, and prophylactic clearing.[17] This was almost certainly a reaction to the pressures put on the reserves by the USSR Ministry of Forestry. Specifically rejected, however, was the aerial spraying or broadcast application of pesticides and other chemicals; biological methods were the only permissible means of controlling pests. So far the reserves and their patrons had kept the faith.[18]

Some of the more interesting scientific research themes listed in the report included biological pest control methods, including the control of fungi; causes of pest outbreaks, especially insects; the process of change of quaternary landscapes; the "forest vegetation and the soil" system and its role in the cycling of materials in the layer subject to wind erosion; the natural restoration of disturbed biocenoses of zapovedniki —for example, at charred sites—and the formation of new ones on newly emerging sand bars, islands, and so on; the protective role of various types of vegetation relative to the hydrological regime and erosion; the most important species of protected animals and plants; the natural change of biocenoses in zapovedniki and its causes; and changes in biocenoses as a result of human activity.[19] The report admitted that despite the successes and the great amount of factual material gleaned through direct year-round observation in nature over various geographical zones, "the zapovedniki have still not been able to solve one of their most important scientific problems, namely studying the regularities that  . . .  determine their natural productivity."[20]

Although a serious admission of mission failure, this was not as immediately worrying as the observations made in a June 1948 report about the Main Zapovednik Administration's personnel and research staff, addressed to Premier Rodionov.[21] The report, probably compiled with the participation of Romanetskii, pointed to the frequent replacements of chief bookkeepers of the reserves as signs of poor management. Worse, it impugned the Main Administration for its laxity in selecting staff; in effect, Shvedchikov, who was described as "too old, often ill," and a "weak" administrator, and Makarov were operating refuges for politically unwholesome elements in addition to refuges for plants and animals: "In a number of zapovedniki ," charged the report, "there are ethnic German senior researchers (Griumer, Knorre)


who were seized and exiled to distant parts of the USSR by the MVD [the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs, which controlled the camps and exile regime]; when the war ended the Main Administration went and invited these same Germans to conduct scientific work in the zapovedniki ." Other staff members were identified as relatives of those repressed for anti-Soviet activity or for coming from suspect social backgrounds.[22]

The efforts of Rodionov and Gritsenko to deflect the center's attention from the forests of the zapovedniki were themselves sidelined by the continuing urgent demand for lumber. Pressed by a decree of the USSR Council of Ministers of May 17, 1948, the RSFSR cabinet eight days later issued its own directive under the signature of Gritsenko. Under apparent political duress, the Russian republic's government surrendered to the USSR Ministry of Forestry the right to scrutinize and approve the forestry management plans of the zapovedniki , to oversee their execution, and to subpoena any materials from zapovedniki in connection with any investigations it might conduct, and obliged the Main Administration to provide the ministry with annual reports of plan fulfillment. The conservationists and their patrons had lost across the board.[23]

With this first battle lost, Makarov again resorted to protective coloration. In a major article in the Main Zapovednik Administration's Nauchnometodicheskie zapiski (Scientific and Methodological Notes), he noted that the reserves from 1940 had already been engaged in forest management, including fire control and prevention, and maintained that "all of this shows that the idea of absolute human noninterference in nature is alien to Soviet zapovedniki ."[24]

This was partly true. One of the early forest management schemes was in the Voronezh zapovednik , where the forester Mitrofan Petrovich Skriabin thought that management could hasten succession from aspen, ash, and birch to oak, where he then hoped to freeze succession. The forest had been cut down under Peter I, and second growth had slowly taken hold. Skriabin wanted to quicken the arrival of the oak stage. His efforts were pursued during the 1930s and 1940s. But this was the rhetoric of political coloration; nothing would have made Makarov and his scientist allies happier than being able to abandon all these forestry, predator-control, and pest-control diversions in favor of fundamental research.

The Stalin Plan for the Great Transformation of Nature

To the misfortune of the conservation movement, however, the wood procurement question, which had driven events thus far, was now supplemented by a vast ideological campaign that evoked the heroic rhetoric of the Great Break and the First Five-Year Plan. Hard on the heels of Stalin's endorse-


ment of Lysenko's monopoly in biology, on October 20, 1948, the party and state jointly announced a "Plan for Shelter Belt Plantings, Grass Crop Rotation, and the Construction of Ponds and Reservoirs to Secure High Yields and Stable Harvests in Steppe and Forest-Steppe Regions of the European Part of the USSR."[25] In conjunction with this massive program of afforestation of the southern steppes, a Main Shelter Belt Administration was created under the USSR Council of Ministers, with a Main Expedition led by Vladimir Nikolaevich Sukachëv as its operational arm. Authorities on all levels had to provide progress reports before the year was out.[26]

Although the practical goals of increasing cereal crops in those famine years were salient, the symbolic importance of the plan was immense. Here was the renewed offensive on "counterrevolutionary," anarchic first nature and its replacement by a "planned" second nature. The iconic power of the image of thousands of kilometers of sturdy oaks breaking the strength of the parched eastern winds (sukhovei ) was endlessly exploited in films and news clips of the era and resonated with the revived image of the "Fortress USSR" withstanding capitalist encirclement.

Hundreds of authors tried to outdo each other in celebrating the power of Soviet science to transform the planet. In the words of Zhores Medvedev, "Lysenko's cult in these years was blown up to fabulous proportions. . . . His portrait hung in all scientific institutions. Art stores sold busts and basreliefs of Lysenko. . . . In some cities monuments were erected to him."[27] Only the adulatory Stalin cult, then at its apogee, overshadowed the cult of "Michurinist biology" and of Lysenko himself. At least in the realm of propaganda the Stalin Plan for the Great Transformation of Nature represented the triumphal fusion of Stalin's great political and social vision with the unsurpassed biological "know-how" of Lysenko and Michurinist biology.

Amid the torrent of schlock that found its way into print was Prezent's authoritative article "The Refashioning of Living Nature," which better than most captured the spirit of the campaign. Although "bourgeois professors assure us that nature will not tolerate human interference and will avenge itself with natural disasters for intrusion into its regularities," Prezent began, "[miraculous] possibilities are opening up before Soviet Michurinist biologists!" Now, Lysenko has proposed to defend the grain fields with squadrons of trees, he continued. But Lysenko has also noticed that the grain protects the trees against their common enemies; so wheat should be planted among stands of trees in the forest-steppe, just as trees should be planted among the wheat:

Field–and forest-protecting plantings—trees and bread—what a wonderful idea about cooperation and struggle in the green kingdom of plants. And what about the construction of ponds and reservoirs! Truly, never in the history of the world was there ever and could there ever be such a huge scale of hydroconstruction! . . . Bourgeois degenerates assert the idea that it is impossible to


create new natural forms of animals and plants through training under new conditions. . . . Western philosophers and biologists dejectedly repeat their refrains of the "decline of culture," "nature's revenge," and "the protection of nature from humans."

However, he concluded, "Soviet biologists are joyously creating new kinds of life, are renewing and enriching living nature, and together with our entire people are building Communism."[28]

Among the key goals of the "Stalin Plan" were "overcoming the lethal influence of sukhoveis on agricultural crops" as well as implementing soil conservation in the Povolzh'e, North Caucasus, and Black Earth regions. Over a fifteen-year period ending in 1965, it was intended to establish seven large-scale shelter belts, some of which were almost 1,000 kilometers long.[29] Responsibility rested with the USSR Ministry of Forestry. By 1965 the area under shelter belts was projected to be 5,709,000 hectares.

Sukachëv's Main Expedition was divided into three smaller ones, each responsible for a major geographical region; Sukachëv's close colleague Sergei Vladimirovich Zonn was named to head one of them, rescuing him after he lost his academic position following the Lysenko victory. In fact, Sukachëv turned the whole Expedition into a "refuge for Weismannist-Morganists" and tried to save as many persecuted biologists as circumstances would allow.[30] Academy president Sergei Ivanovich Vavilov, who was secretly intervening on all fronts to save genetics, himself gave recommendations to Sukachëv about whom to hire for the project. Tellingly, the first was the country's most outspoken defender of genetics and Lysenko's sworn enemy, Nikolai Petrovich Dubinin.[31]

After two years of work, the Expedition was investigated by a commission from the Central Committee. Zonn told Sukachëv that he would serve as the latter's front man; the academician should stay in the background and plot strategy. Much was at stake, for the Expedition's importance now transcended the practical question of the shelter belt; it had become a kind of Noah's ark for geneticists and field biologists, including a large contingent of ecologists—conservation activists. The first commission's report was generally positive, but the shadow of Lysenko's animus toward Sukachëv and the genetics and conservation communities continued to hover over the Expedition.[32]

Luckily, there were intelligent individuals even in the bowels of Stalin's Kremlin. One was Iurii Andreevich Zhdanov, son of the late Party secretary, who had studied organic chemistry at Moscow State University and had done a "brief internship in genetics under V. V. Sakharov, [becoming] convinced of the validity of Mendel's laws." Later, he studied philosophy of science with the highly regarded Bonifatii Kedrov.[33] Not long after the first commission, a second was named by the Central Committee, this time by Iurii Zhda-


nov's Science Department. The Commission had to investigate, among other things, all the work of the Expedition on the ground (the actual plantings). Zhdanov, who was married to Stalin's daughter, Svetlana, and therefore had some degree of political protection, called Zonn to his office before the expedition set out again and told him to give him only the facts; Zhdanov would handle the political defense of the selection of cadres and of the scientific approach to the plantings.

Vastly complicating the situation was the Lysenko-style "scientific" framework in which the Expedition was supposed to work. "Oak" (Quercus ) was the only genus of tree permitted to be planted. That already tied one hand behind Sukachëv's back. To this day, no one knows who was the author of that order. The Stalin Plan, it is thought, was prepared at the former Kamennaia Steppe Experimental Station, which later became the Agricultural Institute for the Central Black Earth Belt. At that time at the institute, it seems, were foresters of a pro-Lysenko cast. Ironically, the experimental station was established by Georgii Fëdorovich Morozov, the founder of Russian holistic forest ecology and Sukachëv's mentor. Sukachëv understood, first, that not all local ecological conditions were suitable for the planting of oak trees. Second, and more important, the primitive conception that created the oak tree fetish was erroneous. The Lysenkoists believed that the shelter belts would function by physically impeding the dry winds from the east. For that reason they favored a physically bulky tree such as the oak. The scientific leaders of the Expedition, however, understood that the shelter belts would aid agriculture not so much as windbreaks but by holding soil moisture in the ground after the melting of the snow, preventing soil erosion and making for a much more gradual release of moisture through the soil to the growing crops. Not the sheer size of the tree but rather its root structure and its ability to thrive within the climatic and ecological conditions of the region were the most important variables. Zhdanov helped the scientists to fight against the "dictatorship of the oak monoculture."[34]

Aside from the selection of tree species, another technical question soon posed ideological difficulties for Sukachëv and his colleagues. Over centuries of trial and error, farmers in various parts of the world have developed a reasonable sense of how densely crops can be sown or seedlings planted. Of course, desperation has sometimes overruled common sense, but in the main farmers have come to understand that each individual plant of whatever species needed to have a certain minimum area from which it could extract water and nutrients without debilitating competition from other members of its species. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries plant physiologists and ecologists have recast this agronomic folk wisdom in scientific terms: the physiological requirements, mechanisms, and structures of each species. The appearance of Darwin's Origin of Species placed these


physiological investigations within a framework of intraspecific competition. Those having traits better adapted to a given environment were better able to extract resources than their less fit cousins and therefore survived in greater numbers to reproduce their own kind. Although there were dissenters from this model, such as Prince Pëtr Kropotkin, who countered that animals, at least, were just as prone to cooperate to get food and resources as to compete for them, by the 1940s (except in official Soviet biology after the August 1948 session) Darwin's competition-oriented theory, now united with genetics, generally carried the day.

Sukachëv's entire scientific opus was based on an acceptance of natural selection, although it coexisted uneasily with his concept of the relatively harmonious, static biogeocenosis—in which intraspecific competition only increased the efficiency of resource extraction within species, never rocking the foundations of the community, all of whose species components were more or less coadapted to one another. This Darwinian commitment to intraspecific competition led Sukachëv vehemently to reject Lysenko's new idea that "overpopulation has never existed, does not now exist, and never will exist in nature," which was accompanied by Lysenko's denial of intraspecific competition.[35]

Even Zhdanov, however, was powerless to silence the Michurinist chorus led by Lysenko that criticized the ecological approach of the Expedition. Professor N. P. Anuchin, Leonid Leonov's "tutor" in forestry, was particularly vehement in asserting that "Afforestation in the Steppe Does Not Need Scientific-Sounding Teachings and the Biogeocenosis," as one of his articles was titled.[36] Once again, as in the 1930s, ecology, genetics, and the nature protection movement found themselves on the same front lines, under attack for daring to assert that there were natural barriers to rearranging nature according to political whims. From the standpoint of science proper, the spearhead of resistance to Lysenko was a triad of journals, most notably Sukachëv's Bulletin of the Moscow Society of Naturalists (the other two were the Zoological Journal and the Botanical Journal ).

The Stalin Plan cannot be characterized simply as "good" or "bad." The project did much for erosion control in localities where the scientists were allowed to use their best judgment. Many influential scientists and conservation activists, such as ex-USSR minister for environmental protection Nikolai Nikolaevich Vorontsov, consider its abandonment to be one of Khrushchëv's bigger mistakes. Moreover, under Sukachëv the Expedition was an institutional zapovednik , sheltering those who had been persecuted in the wake of the "August session."

On the other hand, it amplified the campaign for the great transformation of nature, which worked heavily against nature protection and community ecology and reinvigorated the pharaonic GULAG-managed canal, hydroelectric dam, and reservoir construction projects. An offshoot was a


renewed attack on the scientific bases of community ecology (or biogeocenology, to use Sukachëv's widely accepted locution).

1949–1950: A Darkening Sky

Attempts by the RSFSR leadership to provide political cover for the Main Administration and the conservation movement ran up against an increasingly charged political atmosphere, which put that leadership itself in mortal peril. In this climate, regime vigilantes rediscovered that the conservation movement and zapovedniki were out of step with the regime's ethos. On February 21, 1949 Romanetskii wrote to warn Gritsenko that Makarov was planning to hold a conference on zoological research in the zapovedniki with more than 100 participants from February 22 through 26, even though permission had not been obtained from the Central Committee of the Party. Fadeev of the RSFSR Ministry of Finances had evidently provided 10,000 rubles for the event, but Romanetskii recommended last-minute cancellation, noting that the theses had not been politically reviewed and that the meeting was to be held in an inappropriate venue, a basement area without natural light. It was unclear whether Romanetskii was more worried about electricity bills or about the "underground" nature of the gathering.[37]

Romanetskii's second complaint to Gritsenko, on March 29, 1949, came after the fact and placed the spotlight on the subversive nature of the movement's ideology of nauchnaia obshchestvennost '. By going ahead with the full-scale conference, Romanetskii charged, Makarov had overstepped his bounds; Gritsenko, Romanetskii reminded the deputy premier, had only authorized an "expanded plenum of the Executive Council." Makarov needed to account for this personally in Romanetskii's and Gritsenko's presence.[38]

As it happened, Makarov had written to Gritsenko on January 26 asking permission to hold two meetings. He pointed out that no similar conferences had been held since 1933.[39] A program was outlined that included mostly technical talks by A. N. Formozov, Vsevolod Borisovich Dubinin (the director of the Academy of Science's Zoological Museum and a leading parasitologist), L. L. Rossolimo, S. V. Kirikov, and E. M. Vorontsov (Stanchinskii's relative and student). His own speech, "Tasks of Zoological Research in Light of Michurinist Biology," written later, on February 10, was intended to provide maximum political cover for the gathering. In it Makarov made the requisite perfunctory bow to the doctrine of the inheritance of acquired characteristics and the staged theory of development, and praised regime philosopher V. M. Iudin and Michurinist acolytes M. F. Ivanov and L. K. Greben', who had played such regressive roles in Askania-Nova. He also included attacks on M. M. Zavadovskii, N. K. Kol'tsov, A. S. Serebrovskii, and I. I. Shmal'gauzen, old supporters of the movement, by name. Finally,


he noted that the first page of the latest issue of Nauchno-metodicheskie zapiski included a quotation from Stalin, which, incidentally, was the only time that the great leader appeared in such an honored spot in a Soviet conservation publication. For the greater good, much like the legendary princes of Rus', Makarov sinned against his own civic conscience and his personal values. By contrast with others who denounced to save their own skins, Makarov was motivated by a painful burden of responsibility to the movement as he understood it. He had reached the limits of protective coloration, pushed there by an extremist politics. If anything else could be said in his defense, it is worth noting that all those he denounced had already been singled out in the violent, orchestrated campaign and had already lost their jobs.[40]

Another blow landed almost immediately afterward. On March 13, 1949 Rodionov was removed from office and arrested, and he was later executed in connection with the so-called Leningrad Affair. (Gritsenko was replaced slightly later.) Coincident with Rodionov's fall was an April 25 report by A. Safronov, state councillor of finance, first rank, to the new Russian premier, Boris Nikolaevich Chernousov (see figure 5), and his deputy, Mikhail Mikhailovich Bessonov.[41] In it, Safronov charged that "the Main Administration had not exercised the necessary leadership over the financial activity of the zapovedniki " and that in a number of cases even "abetted the violation of financial-budgetary discipline."[42] The agency was accused of overspending to the amount of 285,000 rubles, including 40,000 for salaries of personnel above the number officially permitted for the system and 196,000 on purchases of equipment "from private persons and in stores on personal account." These budget overruns, Safronov alleged, "were illegally concealed" through credits from the salary accounts of scientific workers who did not exist; the Main Administration claimed that there were 174, although on January 1, 1949 there were in fact only 142 in place.[43] Thus, Pechoro-Ilychskii zapovednik received salary credits of 228,000 rubles despite an actual need for only 180,000.[44] Particularly galling was the cost overrun on research even when the thematic plan was "significantly underfulfilled."[45]

Each new development brought the conservation movement closer to the brink. By late 1949, the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Party had become involved. Its Agricultural Department had requested an investigation of the Main Administration, to be jointly conducted with the RSFSR Council of Ministers. The findings, not surprisingly, revealed a festering alien colony in the Soviet body politic. Only four of twenty-six scientific directors of reserves were Party members or candidates, and only twenty of 111 scientific researchers; most of the 207 party members and candidates in the 890-person system were reserve directors, workers, or bookkeeping personnel.[46] Five scientific workers were found to be moonlighting. Decrees of the center, it was further charged, never reached the grass roots.[47] The Main Administration was derelict in its financial manage-



Figure 5.
Boris Nikolaevich Chernousov (1908–1978).

ment, scientific research activities, and in its "selection, appointment, . . . and training of cadres." Research "did not respond to the demands of the economy for the quickest possible expansion of economically valuable wild animals and plants." The bottom line seemed unsparing: "The methods of leadership over the reserves have fallen behind the times."[48]

Yet the appendix to the report that contained the inquest committee's


recommendations reveals the protecting hand of the RSFSR government. The highest priority was to find a new head to replace Shvedchikov, who had finally succumbed to a long and debilitating illness. Second, the report recommended increasing the numbers of scientific staff and forest wardens, reviewing the possibility of salary increases for the scientific staff of the reserves, allotting the Main Administration another, more convenient set of offices, and reviewing the statute on the Main Zapovednik Administration and its structure.[49]

In response to the impending report, on November 14, 1949 Makarov sent to Bessonov a seventy-three-page memorandum "On Essential Measures for Improving the Work of the State Zapovedniki of the RSFSR," requesting a budget of 20 million rubles as well as motor vehicles of various types.[50]

However, the official appointment of Aleksandr Vasil'evich Malinovskii (see figure 6) as the new head of the Main Administration on December 28, 1949 effectively ended Makarov's de facto leadership of the system during the interregnum.[51] Among Russian scientists, conservationists, foresters, and game specialists, Malinovskii remains enigmatic and controversial, and the degree to which he exercised initiative in the drama of the next two years is still a riddle.

Born in 1900 in the town of Kirzhach, Vladimirskaia guberniia, Malinovskii's roots were modest; his father was an engraver. As did many children of workers who sought upward mobility, upon graduation from the Kirzhach gymnasium in 1918 Malinovskii began his working career as a teacher in a rural school. He spent the years 1919–1920 in the Red Army. Upon graduating from the Petrograd Forestry Institute in 1923 with a specialty in forest engineering he began work as a stumpage assessor, later directing forest management teams and procurement assessment expeditions to Moscow and Gor'kii oblasts and to the Udmurt ASSR and the Transbaikal and Far Eastern regions for the People's Commissariats of Agriculture, Transport, and Communication, and VSNKh. From 1934 through 1942 he worked in the USSR People's Commissariat of Forests and then the Department of Forest Management of the Main Forest Protection Administration of the USSR Council of People's Commissars. From 1942 to March 1944 he directed the Briansk Technical Forestry Institute, which had been evacuated to Kirovsk oblast' , joining the Party in June 1943. In March 1944 he was named chief inspector of the State Forest Inspection Service under Motovilov; in three years the agency would be elevated to the USSR Ministry of Forestry.[52]

His official biographies do not mention his activities between 1945 and his appointment as head of the Main Zapovednik Administration. However, Malinovskii served as director of forests of the Soviet Military Administra-



Figure 6.
Aleksandr Vasil'evich Malinovskii (1900–1981).

tion in Germany (SVAG) during that period, a post that may have recommended him to the attention of Beria and others in the Politburo.[53] Described in his nomenklatura dossier as "an energetic and experienced worker," Malinovskii's record was clear of administrative or Party reprimands except for one rebuke from the Agricultural and Forestry Administration of SVAG for publishing an article in a German forestry journal about the theme of shelter belts, evidently in late 1948 or 1949. With no relatives abroad or fallen victim to Stalin's repression, and with two medals for Valorous Labor (one for his wartime services), Malinovskii had little personal cause to doubt


the progressive and constructive nature of Stalin's revolution. For someone like him, the Stalinist view of the world corresponded to his personal one; it echoed his own ideas about "common sense."[54]

The circumstances of Malinovskii's appointment are unclear. Officially, a commission of three representatives of republic ministries was involved in the formal ceremony of leadership transition.[55] However, archival sources imply that the whole operation was overseen by the Central Committee, whose Agricultural Department had initiated the investigation of the Main Administration in December 1949.[56] On January 23, 1950 Chernousov received a memo from one of his aides, A. Prokof'ev, who argued that insofar as the Agricultural Department of the Central Committee had investigated the Main Administration itself and had come up with measures for the improvement of the agency's work, it was wiser for the RSFSR government to confine itself simply to formally issuing the decree certifying the new appointment (rather than acting on the proposals submitted in November by Makarov).[57] We know that in the postwar period the Central Committee's Cadres Department increasingly bypassed Shvedchikov with its appointments of retired military officers and security police as directors of zapovedniki .[58] Moreover, the head of the Main Zapovednik Administration was a nomenklatura position, subject to Party approval. Consequently, it is entirely likely that the Agricultural Department of the Central Committee had played a guiding role in Malinovskii's selection as well.

The first glimpse the old guard activists got of their new head was at a special meeting on January 10.[59] The activists, still behaving as if it were old times, presented Malinovskii with a list of issues they wanted him to raise with the RSFSR Council of Ministers. They included reviewing the statute on the Main Administration, extending to administrators and scientists holding academic degrees the same salary scale and benefits as all other degree holders,[60] increasing funding for work-related travel between the reserves and the center, and finally, providing the Main Administration with offices that met "hygienic norms."

At the meeting, before Malinovskii presented his own vision of affairs, Makarov alluded to the new, less secure political environment in which the movement and the Main Administration now found themselves. "I believe," he said diplomatically, referring to the RSFSR/Central Committee investigatory commission, "that the commission, owing to an insufficient amount of time, was truly unable to examine all of our work, our manuscripts, published works, etc., the work of our colleagues who actively conduct their research in the zapovedniki. But the facts are that around the zapovedniki through mighty efforts we have succeeded in creating a large circle of active, committed researchers—among the most prominent scientists of our country."[61] Shtil'mark and Geptner's commentary on this seems right: "the


commission was interested least of all in scientific work, manuscripts, and even the true state of affairs. The question of the radical reorganization of the zapovedniki had been decided ahead of time, and the new head's task was to put it into effect concretely."[62] But was Malinovskii's idea of "reform" identical with that of the Kremlin bosses? Meanwhile, an embattled Makarov signed over control of the agency at the meeting in the presence of the three RSFSR transition commissioners, an act that inaugurated a period of unprecedented turmoil, loss, and confusion for the agency and the movement.

An early preview of things to come involved the fate of the Seven Islands reserve's branch outposts on the southern island of Novaia Zemlia in the Arctic Ocean. Since 1947, protection of these territories had dramatically helped the recovery of eider duck populations, and their scientific director, S. Uspenskii, wrote to Makarov in early December 1949 to lobby for an expansion of that territory from the narrow littoral of Novaia Zemlia inland to include all representative landscapes of the island.[63] Most crucially, the Novaia Zemlia lands needed to be incorporated as a separate zapovednik , argued Uspenskii, as their financing, administration, and supplies were complicated by the great distance separating them from the main reserve, located in the Barents Sea. Complicating management tasks further was the existence of another branch of the reserve near Murmansk on the northern coast of the Kola Peninsula. Important populations of seals, walruses, reindeer, arctic fox, and other life forms would benefit from the creation of a separate reserve.[64] Uspenskii also appealed to Makarov to persuade the RSFSR Main Administration for Hunting to stop the "rapacious destruction of reindeer, polar bears, walruses, geese, swans," and colonial birds, and to impose a complete ban on killing fauna and taking birds' eggs.[65] Responding to this letter constituted Malinovskii's first official act as system director.

Malinovskii noted that the birds are present on the islands of Seven Islands reserve only four or five months out of the year, from late April to the end of August, and researchers visit the islands only during that time. The remainder of the year they work in labs and offices in Leningrad and Moscow, he wrote. The absence of suitable winter domiciles, equipment, and a library pose a barrier to year-round work there. Because the Kandalaksha zapovednik , also in Murmansk province, shares the same general research profile as the Seven Islands reserve, Malinovskii proposed integrating the administration and scientific research with headquarters at Kandalaksha. The merged reserve would be called the "State Zapovednik for Eider and Colonial Birds." Research expeditions to the Barents Sea islands would take


place only between April and September and would be based in Kandalaksha as well. Malinovskii also endorsed the creation of an independent zapovednik on Novaia Zemlia, generally according to the boundaries proposed by Uspenskii and supported by the Arkhangel'sk oblast' Soviet in its letter of January 19 to the RSFSR Council of Ministers supporting the move. Finally, Malinovskii proposed transferring the existing staff of Seven Islands to Novaia Zemlia.[66]

We can see from this episode that, first, Malinovskii's inclination from the start was to streamline the system, eliminating all units that seemed to duplicate others' functions. Second, he was pragmatic. He could be persuaded by images and arguments that appealed to his common sense, such as the need to protect the breeding stocks of commercially valuable birds and sea mammals, but he could hardly be expected to support the protection of fuzzily defined biogeocenoses, particularly if they seemed to be a research indulgence of terminally impractical field biologists. Yet his support for a new, independent Novaia Zemlia zapovednik should deter us from accusing him of seeking to obliterate the system from the start, much less of having initiated those plans.

Meanwhile, the forestry situation as viewed from the Kremlin had become urgent if not critical.[67] A worried Presidium of the USSR Ministry for the Forest and Paper Industry met on March 16, 1950 to discuss huge shortfalls in planned production even as Stalin was preparing a draft decree "On the Unsatisfactory Underfulfilment by the USSR Ministry of the Forest and Paper Industry of a Plan for Timber Cuts and Delivery of Wood-Based Products to the Economy during the First Quarter of 1950."[68] This decree followed on the heels of an earlier one of January 11. With production of commercially usable timber at only 57.6 percent of targeted quantities for the quarter, hundreds of key ministry staffers, including the minister G. I. Orlov and his deputy, were out in the key lumber-supply regions, trying to ensure that on-site machinery breakdowns were promptly fixed.[69]

Orlov promised to make up the shortfall by intensifying summer logging and increasing efficiency. However, he noted, targets had grown so great that additional help from the state would be essential to meet them: a minimum of 90,000 more workers, more housing and supplies for workers on site, and additional tracts provided by the USSR Ministry of Forestry on which coniferous trees could be harvested, particularly if they were located near railroad lines.[70] Although Orlov did not mention the forested areas of zapovedniki specifically, his pressure on the USSR Ministry of Forestry doubtless stimulated forestry minister Bovin's efforts to gain control of those 8 million additional hectares of forests with already existing, if rudimentary, infrastructure.

About that time a draft law was sent by Malinovskii to the USSR Council


of Ministers.[71] "State reserves fulfill an important economic function in preserving, restoring, and increasing supplies of game and other commercially valuable plants and animals," as well as pursuing the great work of studying the natural conditions of the Soviet Union, the opening paragraph granted. However, the text alleged, the organization of zapovedniki did not always take account of whether a given area required protection or was appropriate for the purposes pursued by reserves. "The experience of the zapovedniki has shown," the text continued, "that the imposition of a regime of inviolability in some cases did not permit us to use the accumulated reserves of game and in other cases hindered the solution of tasks . . . involving the restoration of basic types of vegetation and the implementation of active measures that would promote the increase and improvement of protected life forms."[72] This echoed Malinovskii's remarks to the January 10 staff meeting, where he announced that "the zapovednik must be that laboratory that will actually demonstrate, in nature, what can be accomplished under human influence, under the influence of goal-directedness." He went on to challenge the old-line activists' fixation on inviolability: "I am interested to know why, if a forest zapovednik , say, occupied an area of 15,000 hectares, all 15,000 must be inviolable. Why can't we organize it so that 5,000 are inviolable, 5,000 are used for other purposes, and 5,000 are dedicated to the transformation of nature? Nobody has spoken along these lines. . . . We must obtain results that are of interest to the economy."[73]

It is no exaggeration, though, to describe Malinovskii's draft decree as a radical, even epic departure from even the most "protectively colored" rhetoric and recommendations of Makarov. In the name of the USSR Council of Ministers and its chairman, Stalin, the draft called upon the RSFSR government to eliminate an entire slew of reserves: Verkhne-Kliazminskii, Gluboko-Istrinskii, Privolzhsko-Dubninskii, all in Moscow oblast' ; Visim in Sverdlovsk oblast' ; Kliaz'minskii in Vladimir oblast' ; Kuibyshevskii in Kuibyshevskaia oblast' ; Sredne-Sakhalinskii in Sakhalinskaia oblast' ; and the Tsentral'no-Lesnoi in Velikoluzhskaia oblast' . Seven Islands in Murmansk and Arkhangel'sk oblasts was included as well, although Malinovskii envisaged its partial reincarnation as a colonial sea birds reserve. The liquidation of the zapovedniki was to be completed by October 1, 1950 and their territory distributed to ministries and agencies according to an appendix included with the draft legislation.[74] Another list of zapovedniki were identified for reduction in area: Altaiskii, Barguzinskii, Caucasus, Kondo-Sosvinskii, Kronotskii, Pechero-Ilychskii, Saianskii, Sikhote-Alinskii, Sudzukhinskii, and Chitinskii. The remainder were to retain their current boundaries.

Second, the RSFSR Council of Ministers was urged to revise its statute on zapovedniki and their Main Administration, recognizing the value of exploiting the stock of commercial and game animals inside the reserves and


the need for active measures to restore and "improve" the condition of typical vegetation and other objects of protection.[75]

Interestingly, the draft supported extending the wage scales and benefits of those with academic degrees working in agriculture and covered by the legislation of 1946 and 1947 to degree holders in the reserves.[76] Finally, it recommended that the State Staffing Commission increase the staff allotments for both the Main Administration and for the reserves themselves, especially for scientists, forest experts, and wardens, and that the RSFSR guarantee the publication of the scientific proceedings of the reserves as well as popular scientific literature about them.[77]

Was this a preemptive strike by Malinovskii to offset what he believed were potentially worse initiatives from the Kremlin? That is, was this the ultimate in protective coloration? Or was Malinovskii fulfilling a decision already taken at a much higher level? Was it the first stage of a more far-reaching plan to dismember the reserves, or did policy in this area develop on an ad hoc basis? Or was Malinovskii a true believer in utilitarian values, whose own quite specific understanding of the appropriate role for nature reserves (as laboratories for the transformation of nature and the increase of commercially valuable species) was manipulated by officials high above to carry out a massive land grab? The available archival record does not permit us definitively to answer these questions.[78] Although the policy conclusions are in keeping with Malinovskii's own management philosophy, that in itself is no proof that he initiated the proposal to eliminate or radically reduce more than half the system; had Malinovskii written the proposal on his own, he would have had to conduct an in-depth analysis of the reserve system in a scant two and a half months.[79] This would have been possible, but we also know that the Central Committee Agricultural Department had just concluded an investigation of its own.

One clue to the riddle is contained in the appendixes 1 and 2, entitled "List of Zapovedniki to Be Liquidated" and "List of Zapovedniki of the RSFSR Subject to Reduction of Area." Of the nine reserves with a total of 332,800 hectares, 2,600 hectares were to be turned over to the Kandalaksha zapovednik , and the remainder (with the exception of fewer than 10,000 hectares that were to be handed over to local governments) was designated to be ceded to the USSR Ministry of Forestry.[80] Of the ten reserves slated to be reduced in size, their aggregate area was to go from 8,784,800 to 5,591,200 hectares , a reduction of 3,183,600. Taken together, the RSFSR reserve system would decline from 9,117,600 to 5,591,200 hectares, or by 39 percent. Of the total, all but 115,000 hectares was allocated to the USSR Ministry of Forestry.[81] In the light of later developments, such a plan would appear positively liberal.

It therefore seems plausible, even likely, that Malinovskii had been given powerful cues, if not explicit instructions, to produce such a draft at the


behest of his erstwhile colleagues in the USSR Ministry of Forestry, who from 1947 had been coveting the forests of the nature preserves, with their roads, domiciles, and other infrastructure. Nevertheless, Malinovskii's vision of a reformed system was colored by his own genuine concern not to vitiate the practical scientific research in the reserves. As it turned out, however, that did not go far enough. To what extent all this had already come to the direct attention of the great barons of the Politburo in mid to late 1950 is still far from clear.


Chapter Five—
The Second Phase, 1950

In all likelihood Malinovskii was not acting particularly cynically when he promoted reduction of the reserves of his system; in his opinion, his scientists did not need all of those good woodlands for their research, and they did not have the right to lock up the resources of the Soviet state. Only if we understand Malinovskii's vision of his new post in this way can we make sense of his support of both the reduction of the system and the upgrading of the salaries and conditions for the scientific researchers in it. Malinovskii was not a villain but a Soviet bureaucrat whose visionary plans for a reconstructed, "souped-up" nature were utterly pragmatic. He had a hard time comprehending the abstruse and murky doctrine of the biogeocenosis, and could hardly be expected to agree that this doctrine, which seemed to him an unproven scientific fetish, should constitute the justification for the whole regime of inviolability in the zapovedniki . Nor could he be expected to sympathize with the symbolic meaning of that inviolability for the scientific intelligentsia: that an "archipelago of freedom," a tangible geography of hope saved from the profane clutches of Stalinist transformation, still persisted in the Soviet state.

Although Malinovskii apparently prepared the draft legislation in secret and consulted with none of the old guard, by early February 1950 they were acquainted with some of its elements and by late spring the veteran activists had premonitions of a crisis.[1] One confirmation came in April, when provisional approval for a projected zapovednik near Nal'chik in the Kabardinian ASSR of the North Caucasus by the RSFSR Council of Ministers March 1, 1949 was abruptly rescinded by that same body on April 6, 1950.


The reason given was that the alpine landscapes to be protected in Karbardinia too much resembled those already protected in the Caucasus zapovednik .[2]

Only on March 4 did Malinovskii deliver his plan for "eliminating the shortcomings" of the Main Administration to the RSFSR government itself, which was where he should have sent the draft in the first place. The note to Bessonov advised the Russian deputy premier that "for a radical improvement of the work of the zapovedniki we need a certain change in the principles that govern the management [khoziaistvo] of the zapovedniki , improvement of the material conditions and amenities of their scientific workers, and an increase of funding for scientific work."[3]

The plan was divided into four sections, addressing scientific research, the territorial extent of the system, finances, and general measures. Part 1 proposed a more rigorous selection process for research projects and deadlines for their completion, as well as a review of the quality of the scientific research staff, which was to be conducted before July. The plan also provided for a reorganization of the membership on the Scientific Advisory Council and the Scientific-Methodological Bureau of the Main Administration. These measures were delegated to the deputy head, Makarov, and to A. V. Mikheev, the head of the Scientific Department of the Main Administration. On the crucial point about an alteration of the principles of reserve management (as well as on the territorial issue) Malinovskii informed Bessonov that he had already reached an agreement with the USSR Ministry of Forestry, before whose governing collegium he was to personally present his plan in three short weeks.[4]

By this time, RSFSR premier Chernousov must have wondered whether Malinovskii was a stalking horse, at least inadvertently, for the Kremlin, particularly the USSR Ministry of Forestry; it appeared that Malinovskii's primarily loyalties lay there and not with the RSFSR government. In the byzantine intrigue that superficially controverted the politics of bureaucratic institutions, the Russian cabinet chief now became the agency's chief defender while the agency head continued to act as the sometimes willing agent of its executioners.

Chernousov fired the first shot of resistance on May 26, 1950 in a long letter to the USSR Council of Ministers protesting a decree by that body of April 28 inspired by Aleksandr Ivanovich Bovin, USSR minister of forestry (since November 20, 1948), that mandated the geographical relocation of the Central Sakhalin zapovednik to the northern portion of the island. Justification for the relocation was found in the USSR Council of Ministers decree of June 16, 1948, which permitted the USSR Ministry of Forestry to assert authority over the forests of that reserve, founded one month before.[5]


Chernousov based his arguments on a memo of May 13, 1950 from his deputy, Bessonov, who wrote, "I consider it essential to petition the USSR Council of Ministers for the preservation of the Central Sakhalin zapovednik within its current boundaries." Bessonov asked his chief to write a letter to Stalin personally once Chernousov was able to forge a common position with the Main Administration. Notably, in his protest Chernousov overturned the conclusions of his "own" bureaucrat, Malinovskii, who had included the Central Sakhalin zapovednik on his list for elimination. Malinovskii, still obedient to his nominal chief, sent a memo on May 9, 1950 supporting the retention of the reserve.[6]

Arguing that the "territory of the zapovednik had great value for science because it was representative of Sakhalin's natural conditions as a whole," Chernousov pointed out that the tundra where the Kremlin sought to relocate the reserves had "no scientific value . . . whatsoever." He added that the RSFSR had invested one million rubles on the reserve's organization, money that would now be thrown away. Finally, he observed that the forested areas coveted by the ministry were located in scarcely accessible alpine areas far from any rivers along which cut timber could be floated. "It is not expedient" (netselosoobrazno ) to move the reserve, stated Chernousov in the accepted formula, concluding his note with an appeal to preserve it in its current boundaries.[7] For the time being Chernousov managed to hold back the tide.[8]

To mitigate the larger threat to the system as a whole, namely, the audit of the system ordered and conducted (jointly with the RSFSR) by the Central Committee's Agricultural Department, Chernousov held a meeting of his cabinet's Bureau on May 24 with Malinovskii present, and prepared an official decree to address the revealed deficiencies of the Main Administration. Published on June 8, its most stringent provision was that the Main Administration repay its debts and remain debt-free. Its thrust was to address the damaging charges against the reserves and thus disarm them.[9]

The assault on the institutions of nauchnaia obshchestvennost'in the area of nature protection emanated not only from behind the forbidding Kremlin walls but also from inside. Malinovskii was rapidly remaking the Main Administration along the lines of his pragmatic, even anti-intellectual inclinations. Scientists turned to Bessonov and Chernousov, their political defenders. In one agitated letter of June 16, 1950, the academician A. A. Grigor'ev, director of the Academy's Institute of Geography, claimed to have information that the Main Administration had eliminated its position of director of publications and had virtually done in (svernulo ) its publications activity. After arguing that the kind of interdisciplinary field research done in zapovedniki was unique, Grigor'ev wound up with an appeal that was at once pragmatic, patriotic, and based on a defense of science as an unquestionable good:


In the interests of the further development of geography here in our homeland we consider it essential to continue regular publication of the works submitted by the scientific researchers of the zapovedniki , who work in difficult, often dangerous conditions in sparsely settled arctic, taiga, and high mountain regions far removed from the cultural centers of the country. . . . The liquidation of publication activity by the Zapovednik Administration will elicit unfavorable conditions for the development of the detailed geographical study of our country. It is urgent that this question be reconsidered.[10]

After Bessonov sent on the letter to the Main Administration to ascertain the veracity of the charges, Makarov, who reviewed the letter, cleverly tried to turn the issue from intellectual norms to finances. Presumably before sending it on up to Malinovskii, the lame-duck deputy head penned in the margins that the Main Administration should raise the question of a subvention of 500,000 rubles with the RSFSR Council of Ministers and also be permitted to restructure publishing activity on a self-financing basis. Such a request from the Main Administration, however, is nowhere to be found in the archival record. Malinovskii sat on his hands, digging in for a long siege against Makarov, the entrenched field biologists of his agency, their allies, and their alien culture. Chernousov, evidently, had little operational control over Malinovskii's management of the Main Administration itself and was certainly powerless to remove him; presumably Malinovskii answered to higher authorities.

Sensing the limitations of Chernousov's political reach, Makarov now sought new patrons, this time at the all-Union level. In June 1950 he composed a letter to the head of Gosplan USSR, Maksim Z. Saburov, explaining why zapovedniki had become "a fully equal and essential link in the system of scientific research institutes of the Union." He emphasized their role as "a marvelous school for the training of young new researchers of nature" and mentioned that in the Il'menskii zapovednik alone three hundred university students did their summer practice. Makarov repeated the old arguments about the need for undisturbed etalony (baselines of natural processes) and, while admitting the existence of many deficiencies, argued that they resulted more from a lack of adequate support for the reserves system and official limitations on its freedom of action than from any shortcomings of the system itself. High turnover of staff, he explained, was the almost inevitable result of miserably low salaries and indescribably primitive living conditions. Moreover, the administrative fragmentation of the reserves among republican systems was "abnormal, as they all pursue common goals and share the same methods of work, . . . require a single set of goals and conditions, . . . and they interact more with ministries and agencies on an all-Union level than they do with those on the republican level."[11]

Makarov requested that the reserves be designated scientific research institutes and be placed under the Department of Education and Culture of


the USSR Council of Ministers. Additionally, he petitioned for the creation of a State All-Union Committee for Zapovedniki and Protection of Nature with a Central Research Institute for Zapovedniki and Protection of Nature subordinated to it. "Carrying out these measures," he concluded, "will make our zapovedniki institutions worthy of the great Stalin epoch." Malinovskii signed the draft letter, although it is impossible to say with what degree of enthusiasm.[12]

Sensing an opening, USSR forestry minister Bovin in July sent a detailed letter to the USSR Council of Ministers as a whole, requesting a full review of the principle of inviolability of the reserves across the Soviet Union.[13] Vladimir Boreiko, who has also investigated this episode, explains that Georgii Malenkov was then in charge of forestry in the USSR and it was "apparently at his initiative that as early as July 20, 1950 the USSR Council of Ministers asked the republican councils of ministers and Gosplan of the USSR to submit proposals on . . . measures to improve the activity of the zapovedniki ."[14]

As a result of Bovin's lobbying, an all-Union committee to investigate the reserves was created, headed by Gosplan USSR chairman Saburov.[15] Saburov attempted to provide a fair hearing for a wide range of constituencies, in particular the republics and oblast ' levels of government. In six months the plan to truncate the reserve system progressed from the draft decree of Malinovskii to the constitution of a Union-wide committee.

Disturbed by the turn of events, RSFSR deputy premier Bessonov asked Malinovskii to convene a meeting of leading staff members of the Main Administration who were also Party members to discuss the fate of the reserves. This meeting took place in early August and was attended by the shadowy figure of A. V. Romanetskii, a functionary of the RSFSR Ministry of State Control, who was almost certainly also colluding with the Kremlin authorities.[16] At first glance, Malinovskii's report to Bessonov that the leading staff had no objections to the reduction of territory of a number of reserves seems incredible. However, here again we see the hand of "protective coloration" and Aesopian language at work. Instead of voicing overt opposition to the plan, particularly with Romanetskii present, the majority offered the opinion that final territorial boundaries of the reserves should be set by the local oblast' governments. They counted, probably correctly, on the sympathies of local Party and government machines; these were people to whom they had ties and who felt proud to have these scientific research bases in their bailiwicks. Makarov, Bel'skii, and Mikheev did voice their opposition to the transfer of zapovednik territory to game farms, however, and once again raised the question of creating an all-Union administration for the reserves. Doubtless the old-line activists were convinced that to save the zapovedniki they would have to go over Malinovskii's head.[17]

With trembling hand, on August 3, 1950 a horrified Makarov scribbled


out a note to the VOOP scholarly secretary Sergei Vasil'evich Kuznetsov. "The Society [VOOP] cannot stand on the sidelines on this question," he wrote, "for many of these zapovedniki (Moskovskii, Tsentral'no-Lesnoi) were established at the initiative of the Society. I ask you urgently to retype my rough draft, to collect signatures, and to send them off to the addressees."[18]

Makarov's letter, officially signed by Kuznetsov and G. P. Dement'ev, Makarov's co–vice president, was sent to Saburov the following day in the name of the entire VOOP Presidium.[19] "VOOP has received information," the letter opened, "that under your leadership a commission to review the network of zapovedniki  .  .  . has begun work, and that, in particular, the question of the complete liquidation of the following zapovedniki  .  .  . has been posed."

The marked zapovedniki were defended case by case. Arguments were drawn from history as well as from science. The authors reminded Saburov that many of the reserves were deeply connected with the general history of Russian science, such as the Verkhne-Kliazminskii reserve, where the Academy of Sciences' Hydrobiological Station, Russia's first, was established in 1891. The Visim reserve, created on the initiative of Sverdlovsk University and approved by the USSR Council of Ministers, contained the west-slope Urals landscapes depicted by Mamin-Sibiriak. The Tsentral'no-Lesnoi zapovednik's forests "served as a secure haven for partisans" during World War II. The letter concluded with a plea to spare the reserves: "To destroy them is easy, to resurrect them will be impossible."[20]

Makarov's mobilization of scientific public opinion was successful. First to speak up was the Far Eastern branch of the Academy of Sciences in distant Vladivostok, with a telegram from the acting chair of its Presidium addressed to VOOP: "The Far Eastern Branch of the Academy . . . considers the closing of the Sikhote-Alinskii and Sudzukhinskii zapovedniki inexpedient and impermissible. We insistently ask you to take all measures in your power to block this liquidation. We are sending a detailed justification in a longer official letter."[21] The telegram was promptly sent to Saburov with a cover letter in the name of the VOOP Presidium.[22] Across the country scientists and their allies were closing ranks to defend these scientific institutions.

Meanwhile the all-Union authorities were speaking through their deeds. A decree of the USSR Council of Ministers of July 24 ordered the Main Administration to have the Caucasus zapovednik make available alpine pastures to local kolkhozy (collective farms) of the Adler raion .[23] Even when their actions seemed outwardly beneficent, as when the USSR Council of Ministers ordered the Main Administration and the Council of Ministers of the Iakut ASSR to create three special reserves in that huge region by 1953, they portended deep changes in the functions, management, and meaning of the reserve system. Significantly, the three Iakut reserves bore the strange


designation "zapovedniki/rezervaty ," reminiscent of the old "okhotnich'i zapovedniki " of the People's Commissariat of Agriculture system in the 1920s. Their chief function was to serve as preserves for valuable commercial fur-bearing mammals, notably sable and arctic fox.[24] This shift infuriated the nature protection activists, who had spent thirty years battling against any kind of utilitarian profile for zapovedniki . (Interestingly, Malinovskii felt that the overtly commercial purposes of these Iakut reserves warranted their subordination to the RSFSR Main Hunting Affairs Administration rather than to his unit, since for him, "zapovedniki " connoted bases for scientific research, even if they were not inviolable.)[25]

Taking advantage of Malinovskii's temporary absence from Moscow, Makarov, as acting director of the Main Administration, sent a letter to Bessonov on October 24 requesting a general meeting of the various staff of the zapovedniki in Moscow for February 1951. Makarov anticipated an attendance of fifty and requested 36,500 rubles for expenses. All the pressing questions were to be on the table, and eight directors were lined up to speak.[26] Three days later, the deputy expediting secretary of the RSFSR Council sent a terse reply: "the Council . . . deems it inadvisable to convene the active staffers of the zapovedniki at this time."[27] Evidently Bessonov and Chernousov believed that speaking out could only worsen matters at this point.

Saburov and his committee completed their work on November 18, when the report "On Rectifying the Work of Zapovedniki " was sent to the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers. Boreiko has justifiably characterized Saburov's recommendations as "quite liberal," particularly when they are compared with the decree Stalin eventually signed. In Boreiko's judgment, Saburov had "attentively studied the opinions of the republics, the USSR Academy of Sciences, and the major oblast 'executive committees," most of which rallied to the defense of the reserves with greater or lesser forcefulness.[28] The Gosplan systems had historically been havens for all sorts of specialists and as a result they exuded more liberalism and intelligentnost' (intellectual gentility) than most of the other bureaucracies. This relative liberalism was also made possible by Gosplan's relatively low importance in the Kremlin hierarchy.

Concretely, Saburov proposed the elimination of only three zapovedniki in the RSFSR (instead of the twenty-six that ultimately were abolished) and in Ukraine only the reduction of the area of the Chernomorskii zapovednik (as against the elimination of nineteen). Although Saburov proposed to eliminate eleven reserves, they represented a minuscule portion of the systems' total area: only 341,000 hectares out of a total area of 11,596,100 hectares for all reserves subordinated to the various republics' councils of ministers.[29] However, fourteen of the surviving zapovedniki , stood to lose 3,860,000


hectares, leaving all USSR zapovedniki with a total area of 7,395,000 hectares. (Saburov did not mention how many of the 1,864 employees of the various republican zapovednik systems would be dismissed.)[30] Saburov's ax cut most sharply into the giant Siberian reserves, but even here no reserve was fatally debilitated.

Saburov's plan was friendly to conservationists in other respects. First, Saburov unequivocally recommended supplanting the republic-level agencies with an all-Union Main Administration for zapovedniki , directly attached to the USSR Council of Ministers. Second, he supported activists' insistent demands for their own publishing house to disseminate the scientific findings of research in the reserves. Finally, sensitive to the conservationists' concern for the autonomy of science, Saburov recommended that the USSR Academy of Sciences maintain supervision over the reserves' research programs; as Saburov doubtless understood, the alternative was direct political oversight or technical supervision by the USSR Ministry of Forestry.[31]

Unhappily for the nature protection activists, Saburov's proposals fell victim to new political developments in the Kremlin. For reasons still obscure, on November 24, 1950 the matter was abruptly transferred by the Bureau of the USSR Council of Ministers from Saburov, a Malenkov ally, to the newly appointed minister of state control V. N. Merkulov, Beria's right-hand man, who was charged with developing final recommendations for the reserves.[32] Merkulov, formerly Beria's deputy in the NKVD, was, to put it mildly, a man with a past. On October 27, he finally gained command in what had evolved into a rough Soviet equivalent of the FBI. As Boreiko has written, one month into his tenure the "Case of the Zapovedniki " landed in his lap, a made-to-order vehicle for proving himself in his new job.[33]

Serving on the committee alongside Merkulov were Nikita Khrushchëv, then head of the Moscow Committee of the Party, I. A. Benediktov, the USSR minister of agriculture; A. I. Kozlov, deputy chair of the USSR Supreme Soviet, head of the Agriculture Department of the Central Committee, and Benediktov's successor in Agriculture after Stalin's death; N. Skvortsov, who became first deputy minister of state farms; as well as USSR deputy minister of forestry V. Ia. Koldanov and A. Safronov, who had both served on an earlier commission investigating the reserves. After close examination of the archival documents, Boreiko identified Merkulov's deputy, Pavel'ev, the ministry's chief state investigator, A. Kalashnikov, and his aide Fetisov as the ones who ran the case day to day. Fetisov organized a working group that included various apparatchiki , including Malinovskii.[34] Malinovskii may not have known about this ahead of time; he sent a note to Bessonov on November 27 abruptly canceling his month-long vacation until the following year on account of the new investigation.[35]

Merkulov wasted little time. Two hundred investigators (kontrollëry ) from


the USSR and republican ministries of State Control were assigned to the campaign. By the end of the investigation in mid-December, more than sixty zapovedniki , including some of the most remote ones, had been visited by State Control agents.[36] Nature protection had finally made it onto the radar screen of the Kremlin's most powerful politicians.

An eleven-point guide to the investigation had already been generated by Kalashnikov on November 24 for Merkulov's final approval.[37] In addition to compiling histories and profiles of all zapovedniki , the "Program of Investigation" prodded the State Control agents to learn whether kolkhoz land had ever been transferred to the reserves and taken out of use, whether zapovedniki were illegally renting out land or resources for private exploitation, and whether there was excessive turnover or "infiltration" (presumably by anti-Soviet elements) of reserve staff; every employee's background was to be checked. Agents were to try to clarify the absolute minimum amount of territory necessary for the zapovednik to fulfill its function. Investigators were to find out how subjects of research were chosen and who approved them. They were to scrutinize finances and look for wasteful spending. They were also to determine whether the reserves had fulfilled the logging and forest management goals set since 1948 by the USSR Ministry of Forestry. Finally, investigators were to elicit and record the opinions of local, oblast' , and republic-level leaders about the reserves.[38]

A number of individual documents survive from this campaign. One extant "akt " or bill of findings and accusations shows how one reserve, the Verkhne-Kliaz'minskii zapovednik of Moscow oblast, was investigated. A team of three agents from the RSFSR Ministry of State Control, two relatively senior, began work on November 28, the day after their ministry was mobilized.[39] Over the next ten days, they learned that while the reserve exceeded its 1949 quotas for sanitary cutting, it fell more than 50 percent short of its quota of construction-grade timber.[40] Even more serious, reserve director G. P. Kornilov and his bookkeeping and forestry staff were accused of illegal sales of cut timber to local kolkhozy and lespromkhozy (logging enterprises) and other actions to the detriment of the state's coffers. Finally, the inspectors seemed to hold the reserve responsible for the seventeen recorded incidents of poaching and other injury to zapovednik property; more troubling yet was that the perpetrators in only ten of the incidents had been caught and brought to justice.[41]

On December 9, the day after the inspectors had written up their findings, Director Kornilov responded with his own letter. He pleaded ignorance of the admittedly complicated fee schedules for sales of timber (he sold the reserve's timber to kolkhozy at a lower rate than he should have, based on the stumpage values) and took immediate steps to restitute the state for the lost income. As for the poaching incidents, Kornilov explained that


because his reserve was located in a densely populated region, the overall number of such incidents was in fact relatively small. It was ironic, he implied, to be accused of indifference when he had written an article about this very problem in a Moscow newspaper six months earlier. The exemplary record of his reserve in preventing forest fires for three years running had been ignored, he charged. Mistakes connected with the sales of wood were largely the work of the zapovednik 's undertrained forester, who had been dismissed in March. Last, Kornilov complained that the investigators said not a word about the scientific, cultural, or educational work being done by the reserve; "evidently," he noted with cynicism, "[those things] did not warrant mention in your evaluation."[42]

Resistance to the investigation also was voiced by political patrons of the nature protection movement. Responding to a Central Committee request to familiarize themselves with the results of a damaging series of charges against deputy director Basalaev of the Altaiskii zapovednik , the RSFSR premier's office agreed with some of the charges but refuted others. Most significant, the RSFSR letter flatly contested Basalaev's countercharges (an attempt by the reserve deputy director to exculpate himself) that the scientific workers of the reserve were "anti-Michurinists." "The director of scientific research . . . Comrade Dul'keit/candidate of science/himself works on the problem of 'Animal Ecology . . . in Connection with Snow Cover.' The very title of his research theme is already proof positive that Dul'keit does not detach life from its environment," the letter argued. Interestingly, it then appealed to the scientific authority of A. A. Nasimovich, "who assessed [Dul'keit's] work as satisfactory" and who "did not identify any Weismannist orientation" in it. The letter's authors accepted the charge that the scientific findings of the reserves were not leading to practical applications but pointed to a sharp shift in research themes in the RSFSR zapovednik system since 1950 to address this objection. By refuting accusations, strategically acknowledging some shortcomings, and promising improvement, the RSFSR government hoped to soften and blur the image of failure painted by the State Control investigation and thereby save the system.[43] Even more notable is that the RSFSR leaders turned to leading scientist-activists such as A. A. Nasimovich to muster scientific arguments in defense of the reserves.[44]

By far the most dramatic attempt to halt the evisceration of the reserves system was made by the core group of activists themselves. Led by Moscow zoologists A. N. Formozov, S. I. Ognëv, G. P. Dement'ev, G. V. Nikol'skii, and others, activists requested a meeting with Merkulov to present their case. Astonishingly, Merkulov agreed to the encounter, which took place in the early afternoon of December 28. However, he was careful to balance the presence of activists Formozov, Dement'ev, Nikol'skii, E. S. Smirnov,


A. A. Rode, N. E. Kabanov, and P. A. Manteifel' with foes of the reserves: academician A. I. Oparin, USSR minister of forestry A. I. Bovin, and USSR deputy minister of agriculture S. V. Potapov.[45]

No record of the meeting has survived except some brief notes of Formozov's. Nonetheless, these convey the activists' realization of how little they could influence events. "I know for a fact," wrote Formozov, "having participated in that meeting personally and having personally argued with Merkulov (Prof. Nikol'skii can substantiate this), that our conclusions were not even considered. We know precisely and can find witnesses to the fact that the decision was taken before the findings of the 200 investigators were received. . . . What role the Main Administration played in this is unclear. History will sort it out, and each will receive according to his just deserts."[46]

Precipitating the meeting with Merkulov was a convocation of an expanded plenary session of the Main Administration's Scientific Council three days earlier, almost exactly one year from the day Malinovskii took the helm of the agency. Malinovskii, as chair, opened with the understated observation that "the Main Zapovednik Administration is living through a rather interesting moment." According to him, the first historical phase of the Main Administration's activity was devoted to the "preservation of parcels of land, of fauna, and of flora," which he characterized as a "passive stage" whose time had already come and gone. "The zapovedniki may no longer continue along that path." The very survival of the Main Administration, he explained, depended on joining the movement for the "active intervention in nature" now sweeping the land. In particular the direction of scientific work would have to change. In fact, Malinovskii himself had prepared a new scientific work plan for 1951. This was a direct challenge to the old intelligentsia's ideal of scientific autonomy, to which Smidovich, Makarov, and Shvedchikov had always deferred.[47]

Until now, Malinovskii acknowledged, scientific plans had been developed by the reserves themselves:

The directors of zapovedniki in most cases, devoted perhaps little or, at the very least, insufficient attention to science. . . . Each scientific worker . . . drew up a plan for him/herself in accordance with his/her wishes or inclinations, and sometimes the sum of themes pursued . . . did not accord with the profile of the zapovednik .  .  .  . In this . . . lurked a basic and fundamental mistake, namely, that plans drawn up by the zapovedniki were thought to reflect local needs. . . . [T]his, regrettably, was not always the case and for that reason this year we have tried to compose the plan from the top down.[48]

Malinkovskii also criticized the overly "descriptive" and insufficiently applicable character of previous research. In some cases, he charged, researchers had not even developed reliable instructions for counting some


commercially valuable species of mammals. True, this information might be contained in articles, but practical folks in the economy needed accessible instructions as such .[49]

Malinovskii raised another drawback to allowing scientists to draw up their research plans independently of a controlling, coordinating center: "harmful parallelism" of research conducted by other institutions.[50] And if the zapovedniki are distinguished from all other classes of institutions by the multi– or even interdisciplinary nature of their study of nature, should that quality not be assured by central planning?[51] From Malinovskii's perspective, a logical corollary of eliminating anarchic independence in the development of research themes would be the elimination of the scourge of "mnogotemnost "' (too many different and uncoordinated themes); he had already reduced that number from 192 themes in 1949 to 85 in his first year on the job.[52]

Malinovskii, an outsider who had not adopted the values and perspectives of the old-line conservation activists, subjected many of the scientific claims of the activists to stringent, unsentimental scrutiny and saw what he considered fuzzy concepts, self-indulgence, and internal contradictions. He applied his own standard of "common sense" to the reserves and their work and found them wanting. But to the activists he could appear only as a scheming, evil hangman of their cause; Makarov was reported to have described Malinovskii as "the evil genius of the zapovedniki ."[53]

So far, the question on everybody's mind had not yet been uttered or addressed. Sergei Ivanovich Ognëv, a doyen of the old zoologists, finally broke the silence by asking whether the system would expand, contract, or stay the same. Malinovskii did not shrink from responding. "I don't have any connection with this particular question, but fully share the alarm of many of you present about the future development of this cause."[54] He explained that he had no information about which reserves would be made smaller, but added that the question of "whether it makes sense to retain all the zapovedniki that have been organized" in the past was indeed on the table.[55] Malinovskii argued that the regime regularly approved new proposals for zapovedniki on the basis of individual cases; at no time, however, did the principled questions emerge of whether the network as a whole made sense or whether the principle of inviolability was valid and justifiable. Now, however, "Life has gone forward and everything has changed."[56]

As an example of inviolability as a dysfunctional regime Malinovskii pointed to the experience of the Tul'skie zaseki and the Tsentral'no-Lesnoi zapovednik . In both, lack of forest renewal led to steep decline in the moose population. "Tul'skie zaseki must be characterized by high-productivity oak stands, and only then will the reserve fulfill its designated task, if all of our wishes were bent on restoring these stands. But a regime that is established for the


good of forestry would not permit a rapid accompaniment of aspen and lime trees along with the oak stands."[57] Malinovskii was right; everything depended on one's definition of the ultimate goal of the reserves and on one's time horizon.

For Malinovskii the Tsentral'no-Lesnoi reserve was an example of redundancy. When in 1936 the State Forest Protection Service was created, protected forests of the first category were created in all of the surrounding woodlands. The question naturally arose: Is the Tsentral'no-Lesnoi zapovednik still necessary? This was not a cause for despair:

The question of the zapovedniki is being resolved in a positive way. Everything will be preserved, but the network of zapovedniki will be reexamined to make sure that there is no parallelism, there are no superfluous units, and . . . the issue of the improvement of the future work of the zapovedniki will be addressed. . . . [A] certain portion of the zapovedniki  .  .  . will be liquidated. Which ones, I simply am not able to say, but I must state directly that, as director, I personally believe that a number of zapovedniki are indeed superfluous.[58]

Malinovskii implied that the decision was not entirely his.


Chapter Six—
The Deluge, 1951

The research agenda promoted by Soviet ecologists was not readily comprehensible to ordinary folk or to Soviet bureaucrats. In an anthropological sense, we may speak of the biologist-activists and the bureaucrats as belonging to two separate cultures, trying to communicate across a wide gulf of language and values.

The conservation movement's marginal social position created two distinct political problems and dilemmas. In "normal" times the movement's obscurity had helped to save it from destruction, but that status remained a challenge to the scientists' own sense of their social identity and mission; their civic conscience and sense of entitlement to help shape public policy drove them to speak out, to try to become visible, like moths attracted to a flame. Yet their marginality left these scientist activists open to the charge of "irrelevance" and of being "cut off from life" at times of political and rhetorical-ideological mobilization. The movement activists, however, had developed an exquisite dance—flying close enough to the flame to feel the heat, yet being able to sense that threshold beyond which they would be incinerated and thus to turn back just in time. Flying close enabled them to feel as though they had risked, they had dared, they had satisfied the demands of their scientific—civic ethos and had preserved their professional dignity. Turning back was the triumph of common sense.

In the Kremlin, Merkulov and his team were busy sifting through the thousands of pages of descriptions, financial information, and denunciations regarding the Main Administrations of the various republics as well as the


sixty-odd zapovedniki personally visited by the agents of State Control. "Absurd, dreamt-up facts were collected by [the agents]," writes Boreiko, "designed to besmirch the zapovedniki . Thus, in the Khomutovskaia steppe zapovednik the administration, it turns out, did not take 'adequate steps to combat agricultural pests and weeds that represent a great threat both to the zapovednik as well as to the fields of [neighboring] kolkhozy .'"[1] Askania-Nova had an excess of "unreliable" workers. The Moscow oblast ' reserves were assessed as "superfluous" because they were located in the existing green-belt around Moscow.[2]

Some of the most lurid incriminations were contained in an eight-page report, "Notes on the Work of the State Zapovedniki for Comrade Stalin," which Merkulov sent off to the dictator immediately after everyone had recovered from the New Year's holiday.[3] Testifying to Stalin's personal involvement in the matter by the fall of 1950 is the notation from Merkulov at the head of the document of the copy preserved in the Party Archives: "In fulfillment of your order to investigate the work of the state zapovedniki ." (A second copy was sent to Malenkov.)[4] In Georgia, Merkulov charged, local authorities had improperly transferred to the Khevskii and Telavo-Kvarel'skii reserves 9,800 hectares of farmland and pasture that had been "eternally granted to kolkhozy ."[5] In fact, explained Merkulov, this was indicative of a more serious violation of Soviet law. According to the 1939 statute on zapovedniki , only Union republics had the right to organize reserves. However, noted Merkulov, "many zapovedniki have been organized by decisions of oblast' executive committees." One extreme example was the Dargan-Atinskii State zapovednik in Turkmenia, which had not even been organized by the oblast' authorities but by those in the raion![6] This was local political autonomy out of control.

Another of Merkulov's arguments was that some zapovedniki were too large for their staffs to manage effectively. In the giant Sikhote-Alinskii reserve in the Far East, for example, each ranger had to patrol an area of 1,800 square kilometers. For Merkulov it followed that the area of the reserve should be slashed.[7]

Other reserves, such as the Alma-Atinskii zapovednik , should be abolished because they had "lost their value for science" through illegal grazing of flocks.[8] Still others supported frivolous or "accidental" research topics "that flowed from the personal whims of the scientific researchers." "Contrived" (nadumannaia ) and "useless" themes included the Denezhkin kamen' reserve's study of "the feeding strategies of quail in Ural alpine-taiga habitats in a year of complete harvest failure for berries" and the Caucasus reserve's study of "the feeding habits of the lynx as a means of understanding its role of predator in the zapovednik ." One research project of the Tul'skie zaseki reserve tried to incorporate Lysenko's theory of staged plant


development and was included by Merkulov presumably as an example of a "contrived" theme.[9] Additional arguments included the alleged lack of economic application of research done in the reserves ("since 1945 the zapovedniki of the RSFSR have spent 20.9 million rubles on science but have not come up with one practical recommendation for the economy"), forest fires (207 in 1949 and 1950 with losses of 675,000 rubles of timber), poaching of timber by individuals (515,000 rubles stolen in Georgia from 1948–1950 alone), and timber simply going to waste because the reserves permitted no logging.[10]

Finally, reviving the charges heard during the First Five-Year Plan period and in Lepeshinskaia's report, Merkulov charged that the zapovedniki were havens for politically unreliable elements. This was particularly true of the deputy directors of the reserves for scientific research: those of the Altaiskii and Il'menskii zapovedniki served in institutions of the White regime during the Civil War, while the head of the Darvinskii (Darwin) reserve was a former noble had who served time for "counterrevolutionary agitation." The deputy director of the Main Administration itself, Makarov, the report charged, "is a former SR [Socialist Revolutionary]," while a senior scientific staff member, Georgii Gustavovich Bosse, was not only an SR but a member of the government of Kaledin (a White general in the Don Cossack Region). Of ten workers of the Main Administration and twenty leading administrators and scientists of the Ukrainian system, no fewer than twelve had been either prisoners of war or living in territory occupied by the Nazis.[11] Given the existing obligation of the Ministry of Forestry to protect Soviet forests and of hunting administration authorities to protect wildlife, Merkulov concluded that there was little reason to maintain the current elaborate network of nature reserves.[12]

Accompanying these notes in the archive is an extended memo, written partly in pencil, recording the results of consultations with the leaders of the Union republics about the proposed changes in the reserve system. On December 30, Kalashnikov met with Chernousov, who saw no choice but to go along with the recommendations.[13] On January 2 he spoke by phone with Secretary Mel'nikov of the Ukrainian Central Committee, who responded to Kalashnikov by hot line ("VCh") the next day. The Ukrainians wanted to save Askania-Nova, proposing to turn it over to the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, but otherwise went along. The Belorussian premier, Kleshchev, also on the hot line, tried to trade the life of one zapovednik for another. Betting all his chips on an effort to save the large Berezina zapovednik , which, he argued, held "great importance for our republic," Kleshchev only weakly defended the Vialovskii reserve, although he explained that it was one of the few places in the USSR where the rare, acclimatized Père Daniel's deer (originally from Manchuria) bred in the wild. In Georgia, Party secretary


Charkviani requested that the Lagodekhskii and Teberdinskii reserves be transferred to the Agricultural Division of Georgia's Academy of Sciences, the same stratagem used by the Ukrainian Party leader.[14]

Although hobbled by the presence of Lysenko and his allies in the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences, President Sergei Ivanovich Vavilov and his scholarly secretary, A. V. Topchiev, were the first to protest officially, writing on January 15, 1951 to Malenkov in his capacity as a secretary of the Central Committee. Commenting on Merkulov's conclusions, the Academy leadership reported that its Presidium "considers the question of the reduction of the network of state zapovedniki to be insufficiently studied at the present time," an acceptable way of stating that it was a poor idea.[15]

Science leaders were more outspoken in Ukraine, where forces quickly mobilized to repel Merkulov's attack. On January 13, the Ukrainian republic's Council of Ministers convened a conference on the problem of zapovedniki . Ukrainian Academy vice president P. S. Pogrebniak spoke out sharply against the plans to cut the system, particularly in Ukraine. The conference had made such an impression on local leaders that premier D. Korotchenko sent a request to the Kremlin to leave the majority of Ukrainian reserves in place. As Boreiko demonstrates, despite the pressure exerted by Merkulov in response, Korotchenko and First Secretary Mel'nikov dragged their feet, haggled, and tried to save even small parcels of protected land.[16]

In desperation, conservation activists played their last card—their personal connections to Politburo of the Party. When Ivan Dmitrievich Papanin (see figure 7), hero of the Cheliuskin rescue, retired from the directorship of the Main Administration for the Northern Sea Route (Glavsevmorput') at the end of the war, the Central Committee department of cadres was challenged to find a suitable sinecure for the amiable but not intellectually stellar aviator. Someone hit on the idea of placing him at the head of the Moscow branch of the Geographical Society of the USSR. After all, Arctic aviation and exploration were only a step apart.

Papanin settled in to his new position with his customary conviviality and quickly became part of the circle of activists. The Moscow Society of Naturalists rented half its suite of four rooms in the Moscow State University Zoological Museum on Herzen Street to the Geographical Society's Moscow branch. The Zoological Museum (see figure 8) was one of the Moscow headquarters of the conservation movement, and the mainstays of MOIP and of VOOP were mostly the same people. Geptner, Formozov, and a whole series of others were even on the staff of the museum. Until Papanin and his secretary found a new building for the Geographical Society in the early 1960s opposite the Historical-Archival Institute, by force of geographical proximity Papanin became a member of the activists' social network.

Thus, when news about the Merkulov plan was received, Andrei Alek-



Figure 7.
Ivan Dmitrievich Papanin (1894–1986).

sandrovich Nasimovich and Eduard Makarovich Murzaev, nature protection activists in the Academy's Geographical Institute (having been fired by Malinovskii), went to Papanin in alarm. Papanin, who had come to understand some of their perspectives, agreed to use his political capital in a last attempt to prevent this donnybrook for the zapovedniki . He called his friend Kliment E. Voroshilov, a member of the Politburo. According to Nasimovich, Papanin "drew a vivid picture of the alarm experienced by scientific



Figure 8.
The Zoological Museum of Moscow State University.

public opinion." A longtime ally of nature protection as well, Voroshilov promised to help and indeed actually tried to intercede with Stalin. However, he was unable to achieve more than a reprieve of a few months. The scientists' last hopes evaporated.

The fate of the reserves was almost certainly sealed. One of Stalin's aides, Sukhanov, had written on the cover sheet of Merkulov's report: "The zapovednik question has been decided." The note was dated January 24, 1951.[17] Voroshilov, who, though a nominal member, had not been invited to a Politburo meeting in years, was not the person to stop this avalanche.

The spring of 1951 was a time of deceptive quiet. True, the Korean War was raging and tensions in Europe were still high following the end of the Berlin blockade. However, Beria's fall from favor, the Mingrelian Case, and the arrest of the Czech Communist leadership would not take place until the fall, and the Doctors' Plot and Stalin's final orgy of paranoia were still to come. Malinovskii sent Premier Chernousov a progress report in early May, setting out in reasonable detail his new, more practical initiatives in the zapovedniki . In the Astrakhan reserve, for instance, scientists determined the seasonal feeding patterns of predatory fish and then informed the Northern Caspian Fisheries Administration of the best time to release commercial stocks of fish fry. To the northeast, in the Il'menskii zapovednik , scientists designed a wind-powered aerator to mix oxygen in frozen lakes to prevent mas-


sive fish-kills from anoxia. In the European Russian Arctic, at the Pechoro-Ilych reserve, an instruktor of Military Unit no. 74390 attempted to train moose for use in military transport.

The number of European bison, Malinovskii reported, had risen to forty-one from thirty the year before, and six were transferred to zoos. The Main Administration's debt had been nearly eliminated; it was only 21,000 rubles, 18 percent of what it had been the year before. Finally, Malinovskii reported that he had addressed "a major shortcoming . . . the infiltration of our cadre by [previously] repressed individuals and by insufficiently qualified workers." No fewer than forty-four employees of the Main Administration had been replaced. Malinovskii's report was decidedly upbeat.[18]

The director chose not to make explicit his own view that the zapovednik system also needed to be pared drastically to become an optimally useful part of Soviet economy and society. Ironically, this was at odds with the position of his nominal superiors in the RSFSR government. Indeed, an independent audit conducted by the RSFSR Gosplan and Ministry of Finance revealed that Malinovskii had failed to spend 5.7 percent of the monies allocated to the Main Administration for capital construction in 1950. Reporting this information to Premier Chernousov on May 25, Deputy Premier Bessonov editorialized that this occurred "at the same time that many zapovedniki are experiencing an acute lack of residential housing" and other needs. However, as Bessonov pointed out, the whole question "is under review in the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers."[19] Actually, the "zapovednik affair" had made its way to the desk of Stalin's much-feared secretary, Poskrëbyshev.[20] Neither the RSFSR leaders nor Malinovskii would be able to exercise much influence on the final decision. Bessonov recommended that Chernousov not approve Malinovskii's report, as the situation was still not fully clear. However, he did suggest that the findings of the RSFSR Gosplan and Ministry of Finance report be sent to Malinovskii "so that he might take action to eliminate the existing deficiencies in the work of the zapovedniki " (in other words, that he should spend the monies allocated by his superiors to the reserves and not make policy on his own).[21] Up to the last, the RSFSR leaders were determined to try to act as much as possible like masters in their own house.

In the shadow of the months-long silence of the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers, which now had to act on the conclusions of the Merkulov report, the Main Administration's Scientific Council reconvened on May 21, 1951. Once again, Malinovskii attempted to tackle the big question first. "Before discussing [other] questions," the director began, "I wanted to remind those present that during 1950 the Main Administration went through a not exactly everyday experience," referring to the Ministry of State Control investigation.[22] "I consider it essential to briefly present the recommendations reached by the State Control commissions," he continued.


In the name of political realism, he argued, "the Main Administration, analyzing the past, considered it necessary to amend the statute on zapovedniki ," readily conceding that this was "an incredibly ticklish subject." With some justification, Malinovskii alluded to "a whole series of contradictions between separate classes of protected entities in the zapovedniki ." In the Crimean reserve, for example, there was the conflict between the ungulate population (mainly deer) and the goal of forest regeneration. In the Voronezh reserve, forests needed to be actively managed if they were to continue to support a growing beaver population.

"All of this taken together," he suggested, "demands a decisive shift from any fixation on inviolability to a concept of zapovednik management [zapovednoe khoziaistvo]– . . . the rational activity of humans aimed at the attainment of the basic goals set for the zapovedniki."[23] Although failing to inform the activists and council members of his own active role in truncating the system, Malinovskii displayed an unexpected forthrightness in setting out his positions and the logic behind them. In light of his closing appeal–"I ask you to pose your questions as sharply as possible, since by bringing them out into the open we enable ourselves to resolve them"[24] –we are left wondering about this Soviet bureaucrat: was he a consummate cynic or a straight-shooter who genuinely believed that his vision brought greater benefit to society? I suspect that the latter is closer to the truth.

In closing the conference Malinovskii made another revelation about the current crisis and his role in it. There were some, he recounted, who made the following argument during the sessions of the Ministry of State Control investigatory commission: "Let the Ministry of Forestry handle forest administration and the Ministry of the Fishing Industry handle fish stocking and breeding; let's turn all the zapovedniki over to them and there will be greater benefit that way." However, "After long debates I was able to demonstrate that no, that is not the case. . . . [T]he zapovedniki have their own job to do. And I must say that it was really shown to be the case and it is within this framework that we continue to do our work."[25]

Indicative of Malinovskii's pragmatic, task-based understanding of the functions of zapovedniki , so alien to the visions of the old field biologists, was his enthusiasm about the number of wolves shot in the reserves during his first year as director.[26] Other projects that reflected his personal sense of purpose included game censuses, the provision of salt licks and winter feeding stations for game animals, and the construction of artificial bird houses and refuges for wildlife during periods of river flooding. He considered bird banding and the nature log (letopis' pirody ) useful as well.[27] His was a rather commonplace conception of the general good; tangible, material, and attainable in a short period. In fact, it was much more a Soviet philistine (meshchanskii ) outlook than a heroic Stalinist vision of the massive transformation and transfiguration of the world. However, because it re-


quired the intrusion of the "profane" world of Soviet economics and power relations into the "sacral" realm of the zapovedniki , no meeting of minds was possible between Malinovskii and the old activist scientific intelligentsia.

Like Makarov twenty years earlier, Malinovskii pleaded for the chance to let the zapovedniki become bases for the transformation of nature in their own way, as research institutes for acclimatization, predator and pest control, and managed forest succession. The only difference between the two men was that Makarov was engaging in protective coloration. Malinovskii meant every word.

1951: Summer and Fall

As a decision about the fate of the system seemed to approach, malcontents in the reserves sensed opportunities to engage in denunciations against resident scientists while reserves' defenders made last-ditch appeals to political patrons and potential intercessors. In June, one disgruntled worker of the Lapland zapovednik sent up a donos (denunciation) of the reserve's director, Ivan Osipovich Chernenko, its scientific director, Oleg Izmailovich Semënov-tian-shanskii, and his wife, Maria Ivanovna Vladimirskaia.[28] Chernenko, it was alleged, was so "panicked by the State Control investigation" that he overworked the reindeer hauling the "guests" from Moscow and Leningrad. The Semënov-tian-shanskiis, after the reserve was cut off from the outside world for two months in late spring owing to the floods, used government nets to fish daily for food for their table, where they also fed the director and the bookkeeper and her husband. Oleg Izmailovich was further impugned with shooting "an unlimited amount of game birds" for the same purpose.[29]

There was no mistaking the class antagonism that pervaded this sullen letter. "Instead of sharing some of the fish with the hungry workers, the scientific director fed his three dogs until they were full," the writer complained. "It's time to put an end to this extended family [semeistvo ] of scientific idlers who receive government monies and live at the expense of the workers of the zapovednik ," the author protested. "Chernenko fires all those who try to introduce the Soviet way of doing things to the zapovednik , "concluded the writer, "and the Main Administration doesn't take any action."[30]

As the letter was sent to the RSFSR Council of Ministers for disposition, Malinovskii was asked to respond. That he was not opposed to scientists per se is reflected in his response of September 14 to Bessonov, following an investigation of the reserve in the interim. The charges, declared Malinovskii, were "utterly baseless." Indeed, he countered, there was no food deficit in the reserve, only "the absence of a full assortment of products," and the right to fish for personal need extended not only to the scientific staff


but to all workers of the reserve, including the complainant.[31] The new Main Administration head was not interested in inflicting surplus repression, especially at the instigation of freelance informers and vigilantes. But he was certainly not going to stand in the way of Stalin and Merkulov. Increasingly, his association with the liquidation of the reserves completely overshadowed his acts of decency toward individual scientists in the minds of the vast majority of conservation activists and field biologists of the USSR. Probably by fall 1951 a demonized perception of him had taken hold, which would persist in the scientific community until his death.

"Scientific public opinion" was expressed in unusually strong terms. For example, in the name of the Presidium of the Moscow Society of Naturalists (MOIP), president Nikolai Dmitrievich Zelinskii, a leading Academy chemist, and vice president Vera Aleksandrovna Varsonof'eva, professor of geology at MGU, sent an angry letter to the Main Administration regarding the threat to eliminate the Visim zapovednik . "The draft plan for liquidation . . . is eliciting the righteous protest of scientific public opinion in Sverdlovsk," they wrote, "which the Presidium of MOIP shares."[32]

Government authorities on various levels protested as well. One of the most interesting and emphatic protests was sent to Chernousov from the Executive Committee of Velikie Luki oblast' .[33] Pointing out the great importance of the scientific research done in the Tsentral'no-Lesnoi zapovednik of his oblast' , G. Kharin, chairman of the oblast' Executive Committee, added that there were a great many other scientific institutions that had a big stake in its continued existence, including the Academy of Sciences and Moscow University. "For some unknown reason the head of the Main Administration . . . Malinovskii has introduced a recommendation to the Council of Ministers about the liquidation of the zapovednik ," wrote Kharin, who may not have been aware of which Council of Ministers (the USSR's) was really making this decision. "Meanwhile," he indignantly complained, "this recommendation was not cleared" either with the relevant oblast' organi zations or with other oblast' organizations that had an interest in the continued existence of the zapovednik . "In light of the above," Kharin concluded, "the Velikie Luki oblast' Executive Committee . . . decisively voices its opposition to the recommendation of the Main Administration to liquidate the zapovednik and asks that it be rejected, for the Tsentral'no-Lesnoi zapovednik is the only scientific research institution not only in Velikie Luki oblast' , but in a whole number of oblasts of the northwestern region of the RSFSR, not to speak of its importance in regulating water flow."[34]

Another oblast ' chief who weighed in was V. Ivanov, chair of the Khabarovsk krai Executive Committee, whose letter spoke on behalf of the Kamchatka oblast' committee as well. "[Our committees] categorically oppose the liquidation of the Kronotskii zapovednik , the only one in the region, . . . and


call upon the RSFSR Council of Ministers to obligate the Main Zapovednik Administration to restore appropriate scientific research staff levels there."[35]

In Belorussia, the Party and government leadership collectively sent an urgent letter to no less than Malenkov, Stalin's first deputy on the USSR Council of Ministers. While agreeing to the elimination of the Vialovskii reserve, the Belorussian premier, A. Kleshchev, and that republic's first secretary, N. Patolichev, deemed it "beneficial to preserve the Berezinskii State zapovednik ." Not surprisingly, they opened with technical rather than cultural arguments to bolster their case, noting that the surrounding kolkhozy (to whom the forests would presumably be transferred) were already well enough endowed with woodlands and arguing that plowing the former woodlands would cause a catastrophic drop in ground-water levels over a large area, while the sandy-crumbly soils would not support crop cultivation. Navigable rivers would be placed in jeopardy, and the water regime of the fi-agile overworked soils of the farms surrounding the zapovednik would be disrupted.[36] Further, the elimination of the reserve would "deprive the republic of the possibility of the field station–based study of natural flora and fauna" in an area representative of most of the republic's natural features.[37]

Finally, a letter to the RSFSR Council of Ministers from M. Gorbunov, deputy chair of the Sverdlovsk oblast' Executive Committee, illuminates the patron-client relationship that the scientist activists succeeded in cementing over a period of years, if not decades. Championing the continued existence of the Denezhkin kamen' reserve, Gorbunov wrote:

There are no kolkhozy or sovkhozy [collective farms or state farms] that have any interest in obtaining lands of . . . Denezhkin kamen'. There are also no logging organizations with claims on the forests of the zapovednik . Even if such were the case, the status of the forests as watershed forests for the Volga basin would prohibit exploitation. If any part of the zapovednik should be turned over to the Ministry of Forestry, no savings or economic gains will result. . . . The entire territory is valuable for scientific research and the scientific societies and scientists of our oblast' have spoken out against any violation of the integrity of the territory of this zapovednik .[38]

The same arguments applied, continued Gorbunov, to preserving the Visim reserve. Having defended his dignity as a local political leader and the interests of his clients, Gorbunov was also realistic enough to know that his protest would carry little weight with those making the decisions Thus he concluded that "if, despite our opinion, the liquidation goes through," the Executive Committee requests that the Ministry of Forestry convert the entire area into a game preserve (zakaznik ) for beaver, which would at least minimize the disruption to the natural complex.[39]

It would be a mistake, though, to conclude that the opinions of the


republics and the localities counted for nothing in this substantial land transfer. Elaborate tables detailing the responses and reactions to all of the individual "liquidations" and truncations of reserves were compiled for Merkulov (and, ultimately, for the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers) on the eve of the issuance of the official decree.[40] Those dissenting were in the minority at the oblast' level, but the above examples were joined by the Central Committee of the Azerbaijan SSR (which sought to save both of its marked zapovedniki ), Turkmenia (which sought to spare most of the Dargan-Atin reserve), and Ukraine. The leaders of the RSFSR were silent this time.[41]

Had the regime not additionally employed strategies of deception, the number of protesting oblasts might have been greater yet. Five years later, at a conference of zapovednik directors and staff, Ivan Osipovich Chernenko related how a potential protest about the liquidation of the Laplandskii zapovednik was derailed. In August 1951, Chernenko recalled, he and Oleg Izmailovich Semënov-tian-shanskii, who were on the scientific staff of that reserve, made a trip to Murmansk, the oblast 'seat, to settle some questions about future projects and to raise the issue of the decline of fur-bearing game animals in the oblast' . When they arrived at the offices of the oblast' Executive Committee—the regional government—they were unexpectedly told that their zapovednik was slated to be liquidated. Immediately they sent a telegram to Malinovskii and quickly received a reply: "No one is intending to liquidate your zapovednik ." Chernenko and Semënov-tian-shanskii showed the telegram to the local authorities, correcting the rumors that they had heard, and, their anxiety put to rest, returned to the reserve. "A month had not passed," Chernenko continued, "when we received another telegram, in September, decreeing the liquidation of the zapovednik . . . . If it weren't for the [first] telegram, we could have raised this issue at the obkom [the regional Party headquarters] and in the oblispolkom [the regional government], presented our point of view, and without a doubt the Laplandskii zapovednik would have been saved. But we received notification of the liquidation when we already had no opportunity for appealing it."[42]

Stalin personally reviewed Merkulov's recommendations on July 25 and signed order no. 12535-r, which authorized a final drafting commission consisting of Khrushchëv, A. I. Kozlov, Benediktov, Skvortsov, Bovin, and Safronov (a deputy premier of the RSFSR) to prepare the final draft legislation. Stalin's order had two stipulations: that the materials be ready for presentation to the USSR Council of Ministers in two weeks, and that the rump zapovednik system be left with an aggregate area of no greater than 1.5 million hectares.[43] Cognizant, no doubt, of Malinovskii's sincere support for moderate cuts in the system, Stalin's secretary Poskrëbyshev called the Main Administration chief to remind him that Stalin, not he, called the shots.[44] The Kremlin was covering all possible contingencies.


The decree was published on August 29, 1951, one of the darkest days for nature protection in Soviet history. Simply called "O zapovednikakh" ("On Zapovedniki "), decree no. 3192 obliterated 88 of the 128 extant reserves, while the aggregate area of the reserves fell from 12.6 million hectares, or 0.6 percent of the overall area of the USSR, to 1.384 million hectares, or 0.06 percent. Of the forty reserves that survived, most were smaller–in some cases, unrecognizably smaller—versions of their former selves. Two provisions of the decree were on the activists' wish list: the unification, at long last, of all of the disparate republican systems into a centralized all-Union one, the USSR State Committee for Zapovedniki , with the status of a minor ministry; and the extension of pay scales of scientific researchers in agriculture holding degrees to research scientists in the zapovedniki . The Academy of Sciences was assigned methodological and scientific oversight and leadership of the new reserves system.[45]

Some local politicians such as P. I. Titov, secretary of the Crimean obkom , saw the decree as authorizing an open season on his oblast's Crimean zapovednik .[46] Writing to Malenkov, Titov posed as a defender of the reserve's forests, which were critical to erosion control on the southern slopes of the Crimean uplands. That worthy environmental goal, however, was being undermined by the protection of some 2,500 European red deer and 1,500 roe deer in the zapovednik itself, not to mention 6,500 of the assorted ungulates in the surrounding forests, which, he claimed, were eating the new forest growth. Although Titov had repeatedly raised the problem with the Main Administration, it was always deflected. Now, he sought Malenkov's sanction for a thinning of the herds as well as a provision for continual culling. He also asked Malenkov to initiate a review of the staff breakdowns in the reserve to insure that the reserve fulfilled its responsibilities in this area.[47] Further examination of the documents points to Titov's concern over surrounding forests' economic losses as the primary motivation for his letter.[48]

Malinovskii responded to Titov on September 20, reassuring him that the culling of the herd would begin shortly, subject to approval of the USSR Council of Ministers. A note of November 3, 1951 from Malinovskii to A. I. Kozlov, head of the Central Committee's agricultural department, confirmed that Malinovskii had given the zapovednik's director orders to organize the deer hunt. The final document of this episode was a note to Malenkov from the agricultural department informing him that a representative of the Main Administration was on his way to the Crimea to make sure Malinovskii's order was carried out and to determine the main direction for the scientific research of the zapovednik .[49] Malinovskii's solicitude for the Crimean forests was a harbinger of things to come.

With the elevation of the RSFSR Main Zapovednik Administration to all-Union status came a parting of the ways with the RSFSR administration. This was marked by a letter of Malinovskii to Chernousov in which, among


other things, Malinovskii informed the premier that the entire staff of the previous Main Administration, with the exception of two bookkeepers, had been let go. Makarov, who had served officially as deputy head of the system for seventeen years and had factually led it for twenty, was another casualty of the "restructuring."[50] Of the twenty-eight zapovednik directors of Malinovskii's new all-Union system, seven were fired as well.[51]

Like Russia, all of the other Union republics were forced to issue independent decrees abolishing their former systems of reserves and turning those territories and property over to the new Main Administration and the USSR Ministry of Forestry. Another decree of October 29, 1951 regulated the relatively small transfers of land to sovkhozy and kolkhozy .[52] Ukraine lost nineteen reserves, Georgia sixteen, Lithuania thirteen, Turkmenia four, and the other republics ten altogether. In Askania-Nova, where even the Lysenkoists had not touched 24,000 hectares of relatively undisturbed feathergrass steppe, 2,800 hectares were immediately sown to crops and an additional 20,600 passed to local farms.[53]

Protests were of no use at this point, but the republics began to look for ways to mitigate the damage. Lithuania cleverly managed to organize game preserves within its thirteen liquidated zapovedniki , with the former reserves' forests declared category 1, that is, exempt from commercial cutting.[54]

To understand the emotional impact of these decrees on the activist biologists of the Soviet nature protection movement, it is necessary to recall how bound up zapovedniki were with the scientists' sense of identity and mission. They were the priests, the interpreters, and ultimately the keepers of these sacred territories, which they thought they had saved from the profane Stalinist mire. Zapovedniki were the last tangible remains of prerevolutionary civil society, the ideal of obshchestvennost' . Now, that mire had burst through the invisible gates of the reserves and would cover them too. The activists' own "archipelago of freedom" was being wiped off the map. "In scientific and educated circles this truncation [of the reserves] is regarded as a catastrophe," wrote longtime VOOP Presidium member A. P. Protopopov to I. I. Puzanov, zoologist activist and friend. "Personally, I cannot reconcile myself to this state of affairs," he averred.[55]

Protopopov called attention to the exquisite irony that the "Geografgiz" Publishing House had just issued the "marvelous two-volume Zapovedniki SSSR " (Zapovedniki of the USSR ), a beautifully illustrated and richly detailed guidebook to the reserve system as it existed on the eve of its destruction. Its poetic and inspiring introductory chapter was written by the tragic standard-bearer of the reserves' cause, V. N. Makarov; it was to be his last publication. "In Moscow," Protopopov continued, "they are already impossible to get a hold of; they sold out in three days. I look upon this publication as a literary monument on the grave of the zapovedniki described in its pages. But I do


not intend to weep over this grave because the monument upon it is calling us to battle."[56]

Death and Rebirth

Now equivalent to an all-Union minister, Malinovskii spent the autumn months of 1951 preparing the new statute that would govern the operations of the reserves. It was approved by the USSR Council of Ministers on October 27.[57] On March 19, 1952, it was finally published in a brochure whose copies were numbered in a restricted print run to insure security.[58] What was new was the emphasis: the first priority of scientific research in the zapovedniki was "the solution of practical tasks of agriculture and forestry, the fishing industry, and commercial hunting" (3.b). A number of separate articles reiterated the control over logging and the oversight of forest management by the USSR Ministry of Forestry.

Also by October 1951 Malinovskii had prepared for the forestry ministry totals of the amount of forested land area projected to be under active management in 1952 in the reserves. Of a total area of 1,307,750 hectares, managed lands already accounted for 853,600 hectares; only 257,400 hectares, mostly in steppe or arid regions, were exempted, but of this territory, 163,800 hectares were to be under other kinds of management. In other words, fewer than 100,000 hectares were to be left "wild."[59]

If the zapovedniki were stripped of almost all of the economically attractive lands and therefore were no longer objects of predation by the economic ministries, Malinovskii's presence did little to stop the almost constant stream of security checks and investigations that the "organs" continued to carry out. On February 12, 1952, Beria himself ordered Deputy Minister Pavel'ev of the USSR Ministry of State Control to investigate a denunciation made on New Year's Day by Darvinskii zapovednik director P. A. Petrov and to report back to him and to the Bureau of the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers no later than February 25. For emphasis, perhaps, Beria signed his instructions in red ink.[60]

Petrov's denunciation opened with a general critique of the zapovednik system, using much the same language as Merkulov and even Malinovskii had done. Even after Malinovskii's cuts, claimed Petrov, the system was still grossly overstaffed; in his own reserve the deputy director, head of warden patrol, three heads of laboratories, and one of the two hydrologist-technicians should all be fired. The two chauffeurs should also be let go, since there were no roads to drive on; the cars should go to neighboring collective farms. By far the most sensational accusations were directed against Malinovskii. The new chief had prevented Petrov from firing four crew


members of the reserve's motorized launches whom Petrov described as "malingerers." "For your information," Petrov wrote, "the majority of these people are under the little roof of the head of the Main Administration, Comrade Malinovskii." Malinovskii was protecting those who had served time for violations of Article 58, those who had allegedly been translators for the Germans, and other politically reprehensible types. "As strange as it seems," Petrov continued, "such people are in Malinovskii's immediate working entourage." Petrov singled out Iu. A. Isakov, who had served from 1934 to 1937 on the Baltic–White Sea Canal complex. Not only did Malinovskii keep him on, he even wrote in support of Isakov's petition to have his conviction reversed. Similarly, Malinovskii repeatedly attempted to have senior researcher E. N. Preobrazhenskaia released from her eight-year sentence and was ultimately successful. Malinovskii gave her work in another zapovednik . Other former political prisoners and ethnic Germans were named in this ugly irruption of envy and resentment.[61]

"Knowing Comrade Malinovskii well as someone who is politically illiterate, who has never worked in positions of responsibility, uninformed in his field, a careerist and a vengeful person (irrespective of the fact that he himself brought me over with him to work)," concluded Petrov, "I with all my Bolshevik vigilance and straightforwardness decided to inform you and the Vologda oblast 'executive committee. . . . The improper attitude of Comrade Malinovskii toward our zapovednik as well as his firing of . . . administrative workers who were members of the VKP(b) [the Communist Party], while at the same time surrounding himself with people who do not inspire trust, all this raises questions about his future tenure as head of the Administration."[62]

By February 13 an on-site investigation was carried out by the USSR Ministry of State Control. The team of three, the now familiar Kalashnikov plus K. P. Ivanov and V. A. Vinogradov, found Malinovskii's letter on Isakov to be "objective; we cannot find anything reprehensible."[63] More than that, they were able to turn the tables on Petrov, learning that "in his official forms Comrade Petrov hid the fact that he was excluded from the VKP(b) in 1938. With an education of only two grades of primary school, he also wrote on his official forms that he graduated from the Leningrad Technical Forestry Institute. . . . In his attempts to explain all this before the bureau of the raikom of the Party, Comrade Petrov announced that he had done these things by mistake."[64] Malinovskii retained his position, and the matter apparently ended there.

The Question of Causality

According to Aleksandr Leonidovich Ianshin, who was an active member of MOIP at the time, Lysenko was central to the process of the liquida-


tion. First, he emphasizes, the actual liquidation was planned after the August 1948 Session. Many of those whom Lysenko persecuted had been extended a welcome to work in the zapovedniki , which gave him one reason to exact revenge on those institutions. Second, the slogan Lysenko loved to repeat, allegedly drawn from the writings of the plant breeder Ivan Michurin ("We cannot wait for kindnesses from nature; our task is to wrest them from her"), ran exactly counter to the continued existence of zapovedniki , with their regime of inviolability and their celebration of "pristine" nature. Third, Lysenko and I. I. Prezent, his close associate, had had their start in the early 1930s with attacks on the zapovedniki and their "contemplative" approach to transforming nature. The fight against genetics had distracted Lysenko and Prezent before they could wipe out this nest of enemies of socialist construction, so the argument goes, and unfortunately no one else noticed it until Lysenko returned to finish the task after the mop-up of the geneticists in late 1948. Ianshin believes that the initiative rested with Stalin himself, probably as a result of discussions with Lysenko, who then had relatively easy access to the dictator.[65]

Nasimovich, who was more of an insider in the Main Administration than Ianshin, believed that Beria's hand guided the whole process of liquidation. Reputedly the secret police chief saw the heavily wooded zapovedniki near the borders of the USSR as hideouts for foreign spies. Moreover, he allegedly served with Khrushchëv on a Party commission charged with increasing the area of arable land and commercial logging.[66] Nasimovich regards the appointment of Malinovskii as heavily influenced by Beria, who employed the forester as his hatchet man.[67]

Shtil'mark and Heptner, although they remain formally agnostic about the ultimate initiator, find no difference between the positions of Malinovskii and those of Bovin or Stalin. There is considerable merit in their judgment that, although "we have no knowledge about the details of the appointment of A. V. Malinovskii to his new post, there is no doubt that the recommendation came specifically from the forestry organs where he formerly worked and was well known." Contacts between Malinovskii and Bovin and other forestry leaders, they speculate, could have been strengthened in the realm of leisure, where interest in hunting was an attribute of being socialized into forestry.[68] Taking issue with Boreiko's reticence to characterize Malinovskii as a full supporter of the evisceration of the system at the outset, Shtil'mark and Heptner argue that

he was nevertheless hardly an accidental and unwilling executor. . . . A professional economic-oriented forester and lumberman, . . . he had already also been "anointed" with an academic degree and a previous directorship of an institute . . . This gave him the opportunity to present himself not as a primitive liquidator of the zapovednik system, but as a kind of "theoretician,"


which carried great weight with his superiors, often men with only average education. For that reason the opinions held by Malinovskii, "our own scientist," carried particular weight for them in disputes with professors, members of the Scientific Council of the Main Administration, and scientific public opinion. Malinovskii came out against these groups with the slogan of "zapovednik economic management" [zapovednoe khoziaistvo] , an "alternative" of sorts, but in actual fact a prospectus for a pogrom against the zapovedniki , which suited the administrative-party elite just fine, disguising its chiefly consumerist goals. Not by chance during the next phase of his career, already in the USSR Ministry of Agriculture, . . . did Malinovskii arrange the transformation of the best of the remaining zapovedniki  .  .  . into so-called "zapovednikgame management economies" [zapovedno -okhotnich'ia khoziaistva ]—factually, into imperial hunting preserves.[69]

Suggesting at least some complicity on Malinovskii's part in the evolving plans for the liquidation is evidence that Merkulov entrusted him, together with Koz'iakov, with the task of composing the memorandum outlining the proposed future use of the territories of those zapovedniki slated to be liquidated. (Curiously, Malinovskii sought the permission of his nominal superiors in the Russian Republic premier's office to release his memorandum back to Merkulov for use the next day, August 18, 1951, at the meeting of the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers, which was to ratify the liquidation decree.)[70]

On the other hand, Shtil'mark and Heptner do acknowledge features of Malinovskii's public persona—his "drive" and his "complete conviction in the rightness of his own positions"—that accord with a less cynical assessment of his activity, an assessment that Vladimir (Volodymyr) Boreiko seems to prefer. It is to this more nuanced view of Malinovskii as a sincere believer in voluntarist, experimental forestry schemes to enhance and augment nature's own productivity and utility—as contrasted with the cynicism of the Party apex by the late 1940s—that I now lean. At this point nothing can be proved. However, one piece of indirect evidence from the archives makes this view more plausible.

A little over one year after the truncation of the reserve network, Party secretary Malenkov passed along to A. I. Bovin, still USSR forestry minister, a very long complaint against Bovin he had received from . . . A. V. Malinovskii. At issue were Malinovskii's objections to the forest management instructions issued by Bovin's ministry, which Malinovskii had set out in a thirty-six-page treatise with a twelve-page addendum, entitled "On the Basic Principles of Forest Management." Malenkov additionally signaled A. I. Kozlov, head of the Central Committee's agricultural department, and asked him to figure out what the disputation was about and take appropriate measures.[71]

Malinovskii castigated Bovin's 1952 forest management instructions pre-


cisely for their "conservative character," for acting "as a brake on the development of forest management." Specifically, Malinovskii had two major objections to Bovin's approach. First, Bovin continued to employ the old system of bonitet , whereby trees were classified by quality and features of the wood as a basis for managing forested tracts. Thus, underwatered and over-watered pine groves would be managed similarly because they were in the same bonitet, and therefore management, category. Malinovskii sought instead a transition to Georgii F. Morozov's idea of "forest types" (tipy lesa ).

Second, Malinovskii reproached Bovin with using an incorrect—capitalist—model in the practice of the engineering of forest plantations:

The history of forest engineering tells us that when they composed their plans, forest planners took as a point of departure the idea of a normal forest, that is, they directed the entire force of their activities to bringing the forest to a normal condition. . . . They understood the term normal forest to mean that condition in which all planting must, as a rule, be of purely the same [species] composition, meet a certain density of plantings, and maintain a uniform area for specified age groups of trees. On this idea of the normal forest the capitalist theory of continual and uninterrupted income [from uninterrupted cropping] was based.[72]

However, argued Malinovskii, the idea of the "normal forest" completely failed to correspond to conditions of Soviet forestry and, "quite naturally, was thrown overboard." Regrettably, though, "neither forestry engineers nor workers in forestry have determined the character and structure of the forest that best suits the corresponding purposes and utilities that should determine each category of forest. In the new instructions . . . there are no indications of how to solve this problem." Malinovskii himself had hoped that the regeneration and/or engineering of commercially desirable "forest types" would be one of the central new objectives of research in his zapovednik system, but he was dismayed to see that there was no echo of support of this from Bovin and the ministry.

Additionally, Malinovskii sought to base logging strategy on waiting for trees to achieve their maximum growth rates before being logged, which would be adjusted by taking into account information about size requirements of logs in demand.[73] Malinovskii asked that "forest types" be officially instituted as a framework of thinking about forests, and that the Institute of Forests of the Academy be involved along with institutes of Bovin's ministry in developing these profiles for different regions.[74] He believed that science could optimize forestry: "for each forest type establish the desired composition, optimal density, and age distribution of the plantation depending on the purpose of the forest and the forest group to which it belongs."[75]

Bovin sent a reply to Malenkov on January 5, 1953, defending his instructions as approved at a conference of 150 experts on February 14–17,


1951, and later approved by the Collegium of his ministry. However, he promised to call a conference in two to three months to discuss, again before experts, Malinovskii's proposals. Thwarting later historians, the conference was postponed, with Malinovskii's concurrence, to December 1953 owing to the reorganization of the USSR Ministry of Forestry in early April 1953, and thereafter the issue apparently faded.[76]

This not terribly coherent exchange on forest structure and exploitation, although by no means conclusive, strongly suggests that Malinovskii held strong ideas and convictions about forest management—strong enough to compel him to take on a higher-ranking minister and even to take his case to Malenkov, the second most powerful politician in the country. If he had been Bovin's creature completely in 1950–1951, why were his original proposals rejected as insufficiently far–reaching and the matter turned over to Merkulov in State Control? If he had been Lysenko's or Stalin's creature entirely, then how do we explain his protection of "formerly repressed" scientists, such as Iu. A. Isakov, or his support of the RSFSR Council of Ministers' defense of the Sredne-Sakhalinskii zapovednik in April 1950, then individually threatened with elimination?[77] Indeed, Malinovskii took science seriously, and he is credited by none other than his bitter political foe Nasimovich with developing an important method of conducting censuses of fauna under snow cover.[78] We must take him seriously as well. Following Boreiko's line of thinking, it makes more sense to regard Malinovskii as an authentic forestry visionary, an idealistic utilitarian, particularly when viewed against cynical politicians such as the land-grabber Bovin, the faux visionary Lysenko, the evidence-manufacturer Merkulov, or the supreme boss, Stalin. This picture is strengthened by Malinovskii's decent behavior toward such scientists as Isakov, Preobrazhenskaia, and others.

Amid conjecture and disagreement about the personal responsibility borne by various individuals in this episode, Shtil'mark and Heptner have advanced an indisputable conclusion:

The tragedy of Soviet zapovedniki depended not only on who was the hangman, who held the ax; it is more important to understand . . . who handed down the sentence and why such punishment was inevitable. There is a paradox in the fact that the zapovedniki were the creations and pride of Soviet power and were sentenced by that very power to their demise. The inevitability of their purge was sealed by the vulgar materialist principles that inescapably shaped the destructive consumerist attitudes toward nature [of the regime], sugarcoated in a demagogic ideology about its transformation in the interests of people (in its next phase, they became slogans about the enrichment and improvement of nature).[79]

It is this Soviet-style production orientation (it is difficult to call it consumerist except with respect to natural resources) that conservation activists rightly understood was at the core of the system's values and vision.


Chapter Seven—
In the Throes of Crisis:
VOOP in Stalin 's Last Years

Nature protection's high-water mark in the postwar period was 1947 and the first few months of 1948, when the network of reserves was still expanding, republic and local governments were reasonably supportive, and the "center" had not yet begun to covet the forests of the reserve network or to view nature protection societies as political centers of infection.

A letter written just days before the August Session of 1948 from Makarov and VOOP secretary Zaretskii to the RSFSR Council of Ministers reflects VOOP's valor during its heyday.[1] Not long before, activists of the Crimean branch of the Society had reported with alarm to the VOOP Presidium in Moscow that units of the Ministry of State Security's Defense Administration (Upravlenie okhrany ) were leveling the distinctive, spirelike cypress trees on the southern coast of the Crimea. Although this paramilitary "campaign" is one of the most inscrutable expressions of Stalin's arbitrary rule, an anecdotal explanation soon made the rounds. Apparently—perhaps after a sojourn in the south—Stalin was said to have complained that "the cypress tree is the tree of death; it belongs only in a cemetery."[2] The dictator's offhand remark was construed by his entourage as a policy injunction, and soon detachments of blue-epauletted state security troops were scouring the resort towns of the Crimea with chain saws, on the lookout for the dendrological threat.

"To try to clarify the cause for this mass logging, we sent inquiries to the Defense Administration of the Ministry of State Security and to the Main Resort Administration," wrote the VOOP officers. However, as they informed the Russian Republic leadership, their letter was not dignified with a response, which is why the Society now sought the help of the RSFSR government:


The Presidium of the Central Council of the Society asks you to issue instructions to the Crimean oblispolkom [regional government] to create a special Commission to find out the causes and extent of the logging of cypress trees. Included in the work of this Commission should be the president of the Crimean branch of the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature, Comrade Studenkov, the director of the Crimean zapovednik , Comrade Rvbal'chik, and the director of the Nikitskii Botanical Garden, Comrade Kaverg.[3]

The archival paper trail vanishes at this point, making it impossible to trace what happened afterward. Nevertheless, even this short document lights up, if only dimly, the mental and social worlds of the nature protection activists. We see them challenging the prerogatives of the dreaded secret police, acting on the dictates of personal and collective honor and of civic duty. Perhaps on some level they realized that their social marginality, the authorities' view of them as chudaki , provided some modicum of political protection. It even seems reasonable that their presentation of self, when it rose to the level of consciousness, sought to accentuate this harmlessly eccentric public image. Yet writing the letter above, not to mention lodging a direct "inquiry" with the secret police, took unimaginable courage in 1948. For the activists, saving those trees was not a trivial question, but precisely the kind of public-policy question they felt entitled, even obligated, to address as scientific experts and citizen activists.

Previous support by the RSFSR Council of Ministers and the fading pre-August 1948 hopes for a renewed cultural liberalization also promoted an attempt by Makarov in early April 1948 to gain approval for a merger of VOOP with the newly reconstituted kraeved societies (voluntary societies for the study of local lore, crafts, folkways, and nature), its old and "natural" allies. The Bureau of the Council of Ministers met April 2 but decided to put off their decision for a week. Although Deputy Premier Gritsenko supported Makarov's proposal for the merger, his recommendation, presented as a report, was turned down. Makarov was urged to re-edit the draft. The activists were reminded that they were still operating within the constraints of the decree on kraevedenie of June 10, 1937, which forbade any unification of their forces.[4]

The rebuffs to the merger proved to be precursors to even worse news for the conservation society. On July 2, 1949, the first of a series of investigations into VOOP's activities was launched by the RSFSR Ministry of State Control following reports that VOOP had exceeded its statutory authority to conclude contracts.[5] Twenty days later Makarov, Dement'ev, Nikolai Borisovich Golovenkov (the senior editor of VOOP publications), Mikhail Petrovich Beliaev (the senior bookkeeper), and Sergei Vasil'evich Kuznetsov (the


scholarly secretary) were all brought in to meet with N. V. Savitskii, the deputy minister.[6] What most disturbed the investigators was the alleged "overstepping by VOOP of its publishing rights and the payment of significant sums of money to nonmembers for the completion of work not sanctioned by the charter of the Society."[7] The recommendation to RSFSR premier Chernousov was mild by Soviet standards: that "the Bureau of the RSFSR Council of Ministers hear out the leaders of VOOP and give them appropriate directives on putting their publishing activities in order."[8] The conclusions of the republic-level authorities reached the desk of acting USSR minister of state control A. S. Pavel'ev on August 10, 1949: "VOOP factually overstepped . . . its rights and, with the aim of increasing its own funds, completed work that was not sanctioned by its Charter and did not have any direct link with the goals and tasks of the Society. "[9]

Seeking to explain the circumstances under which the Society was driven to violate its charter, Makarov argued that "experiencing great difficulties with funds and having weighed its options, the Society for the Protection of Nature agreed to the proposal by the All-Union Military-Hunting Society to do a rush publication of brochures. . . . The Society was materially interested in taking this order because the All-Union Military-Hunting Society promised to pay the bill immediately; the Society was experiencing extreme fiscal difficulties."[10] Makarov further admitted that the Society had identified "the possibility of a quick turnaround on printing postcards." This led the Presidium to "approve the printing of postcards with flowers, even though that had no direct connection with the Society's tasks."[11] Regarding the payment of outside jobbers, Makarov argued that the "diversity of publications of the Society, the large print-runs, the absence of our own printing facilities, . . . the urgent deadlines for some of the publications (nature calendars, literature for Tree Day, for Bird Day, etc.) of necessity forced us to use some workers . . . and to pay them, in the opinion of the Society itself, higher fees than would have been the case during the normal course of publishing."[12]

After receiving "an appropriate oral directive," the Society reported to Savitskii on December 30 that all extraneous publishing activities by the Society had ended, with the exception of work contracted for before the July investigation.[13] In August 1950 the VOOP Presidium decided to stop the printing of sixteen postcards of the series "Michurinist fruits" with an attempt to recover the paper purchased by VOOP for that purpose.[14]

In a letter to Premier Chernousov of September 16, Bessonov reported that he had reexamined the question of VOOP's publishing activities at Chernousov's request. After meeting with Makarov, Dement'ev, and Kuznetsov, he decided to permit the Society to publish materials already prepared, some of which were already at the printers, on condition that the


work would be done by staff released by the Society. Simultaneously, he ordered the Main Administration for the Printing Industry, Publishing, and the Book Trade to examine the question of allowing the Society to continue publication. His final request was that Chernousov remove this issue from the scrutiny of the Ministry of State Control.[15]

With this reprieve VOOP leaders intended to use 1950 to put their house in order. According to a report sent by Makarov and his colleagues to the Central Committee Department of Propaganda and Agitation in April 1950, VOOP listed sixty-five regional organizations (thirty-six chartered and twenty-nine organizational bureaus) with a total membership of more than 30,000, with an additional 40,000 in its youth section. Active members, as identified by Makarov, numbered 2,265, mostly in Moscow and Sverdlovsk.[16] Attached was a list of all Presidium and Central Council members, their places of work, and their Party membership. Significantly, six of twelve members of the Presidium were non-Party; indeed, they had now become a majority with the exit of VOOP secretary Kuznetsov from the Presidium.[17]

At the plenary meeting of the Central Council, Dement'ev noted "a positive shift" in the general operations of the Society. In particular, he welcomed the appearance of so many provincial branches and expressed the belief that "the periphery has been created."[18] Nevertheless, the larger Soviet reality could not but intrude on this hopeful assessment. The incremental expansion of the Society was a tactical victory, but the Society was still sustaining strategic losses.[19]

Makarov told the group that he had been trying to convene another congress of the Society for April 1950 but that the question required permission from the Central Committee of the Party. "When I was called by Central Committee secretary Comrade [P. K.] Ponomarenko and I described to him the tasks of the Society and its work, he recommended not to rush but to postpone the congress to a more propitious time. In March, he noted, were the elections, and in April was already the spring sowing campaign. However, he offered help with the organization, providing the Society could supply him with the agenda, written summaries of the Society's activities, etc."[20] Makarov resolved to try for September.[21] Protopopov, who, like others, was doubtless surprised to hear any reports of Central Committee support for the Society, had this to say: "Of course this news is to be welcomed, . . . but if they want to really be helpful to us, [let them recognize the creation of] an All-Union Society."[22] It was not the attitude of grateful, cowering subjects.

A letter of July 1950 to Kliment Efremovich Voroshilov, one of the deputy chairs of the USSR Council of Ministers, appealed to him to help with a curious and infuriating problem. Although local governments, such as the Kalinin oblast' Executive Committee and the Kabardinskii ASSR Council of Ministers, had agreed to help the Society by funding staff positions for the


Society's new branches, "for purely formal reasons" the State Staff Commission repeatedly rejected their requests on VOOP's behalf.[23] Where adequate staffing had been approved, as in Moscow and Sverdlovsk, the Society prospered, argued the VOOP leaders; where permission for a permanent staff had been denied, as in Stalingrad oblast' , work went poorly. Even the oblast' Executive Committee's deputy chairman, who served as the president of the branch's organizational bureau (in existence since December 1946) did not have an effect. It was calculated that each oblast' branch would require about two or three paid staffers. If it did not receive permission to maintain such salaried staff, VOOP warned that it might have to close down its local initiatives. "The Society is not asking for any money from the state budget nor from local budgets," they underscored. "All this will be constructed on the basis of the funds of the Society itself."[24] If the Society chafed under the Party-state's tutorial strictures that hemmed in citizen activism, it used every available opportunity to mount a challenge to them.


One of the most interesting aspects of VOOP's increasingly besieged institutional existence was the fate of its ties with similar foreign organizations. Ties with the Poles had been maintained since 1930, when the Lódz[*] Center for Natural Science had publicized Soviet nature protection activities in its Czasopismo Przyrodnicze . During World War II, much of Poland was transformed into a killing field, and, as far as can be judged from the archives, all contacts with the Russians were severed for several years. With the conclusion of the war, though, Polish civil society began slowly to rebuild. Again Lódz[*] became a center for the nature protection movement, and it was there that the Polish League for Nature Protection was founded.

In June 1950 this league now sought updated information about the Russian society. Its president, E. M. Potega[*] , was particularly keen to know about the organizational character of the society and what its relationships were to the kraeved and natural science societies of Russia as well as to the trade unions. The Poles also requested information on whether conservation was being taught or promoted in educational institutions, and asked for a package of available literature.[25] VOOP did not directly receive Potega's letter; rather, it was sent to Makarov from the East European countries division of VOKS, the Soviet agency that supervised all cultural contacts with foreigners.[26] Maintaining the impersonal remove that the times demanded, Makarov obligingly prepared a package of recent numbers of the VOOP journal, the Society's charter, and other materials for the Poles, but sent them all back through VOKS without a personal reply.

Such was the climate of suspicion that even contacts with a like-minded


organization of a fraternal ally needed to be kept at arm's length. It goes without saying that contacts with nature protection organizations of neutrals, let alone those of the "Western" bloc were fraught with even greater dangers and complexities. These were well illustrated by the example of the tortuous attempts by Austrian nature protection activists to make contact with the Russians. On January 23, 195 , a package arrived for Makarov from L. Kislova, a member of the board of VOKS. In addition to some German-language journals there was a Russian translation, dated December 11, 1950, of a letter originally in German from the Austro-Soviet Friendship Society. This letter, addressed to VOKS, was itself a reworking of an antecedent letter from the Austrian Nature Protection Movement, which apparently was filed in the Vienna offices of the Austro-Soviet Friendship Society. "In Austria," the Friendship Society's letter began,

there exists a large and popular movement of a nonpartisan character . . . supported by a significant fraction of teachers, the so-called "Austrian Nature Protection Movement." They forwarded to us four copies of their journal Thierpost for re-forwarding to you and expressed the desire to receive information . . . on wildlife in the Soviet Union for publication in this journal. We assume that a similar nature protection movement does not exist in the USSR; however, your representative has made mention of such organizations as "Friends of Birds," embracing mostly schoolchildren. On their advice we ask you, at the first opportunity, to send us photographs . . . and other materials. This could have great significance, not least because American and English propaganda targeted at the Austrian schools has quite diligently and skillfully used such innocent and guileless formats as information about protection of wildlife in their countries.

For this reason, wrote Dr. Otto Langbein, secretary of the Austro-Soviet Friendship League, it would be useful to obtain analogous information about the Soviet Union, "which would be a desirable counterweight to the lying propaganda of the capitalist countries."[27] Aside from herself urging Makarov to send Langbein the desired materials, VOKS's Kislova included the following admonition: the materials were to be sent via VOKS and should be of the kind "not to raise objections."[28]

In contrast with VOOP's response to the Poles, in which the Society—via VOKS—provided (and continued to provide) their Polish counterparts with information and materials though eschewing the political risks of attempting or encouraging direct communication,[29] VOOP sat on its hands respecting VOKS's request that VOOP lend its efforts to Cold War propaganda efforts in Austria. This dawdling—or noncooperation—did not go unnoticed. In a note to Makarov dated June 30, 1951, the acting director of the Central European division of VOKS, T. Solov'eva, reminded Makarov that six months had gone by since the initial request.[30]


Revealingly, VOOP leaders in October 1951 evinced a completely different response to the Austro-Soviet Friendship Society upon receipt of an entirely different kind of communication from them. Through VOKS, the Society received a letter from Helmut Gams, a botanist who was also on the board of the friendship society. Active in the newly created International Union for the Protection of Nature (IUPN), Gams sought Soviet participation in the society, even hinting that there was sentiment for electing the Soviet representative a vice president of the international organization.[31] VOOP had sent in a membership application in July 1948, but lack of permission from the Party had stalled its attempt to join. Now the VOOP leaders hoped that they could turn the Cold War to their advantage. After all, didn't the renewed invitation come from a leader of the Austro-Soviet Friendship Society?[32]

Hobbled by the treacherous international atmosphere and the requirement that all contacts with foreign scientific and activist organizations be handled through VOKS, the VOOP leaders adroitly pursued a nuanced strategy of keeping international links open while remaining aloof from Cold War campaigns to demonize the West. Nature protection, as they tried to present it, was an ideal that transcended class struggle and the rivalry of international blocs; for Soviet scientists it was another instance of their credo that the "International" of world science had moral injunctions that transcended everyday politics.

"On the Sidelines Where Important Tasks Are Concerned"

On August 31, 1950, an article about VOOP, "On the Sidelines Where Important Tasks Are Concerned," appeared in Kul'tura i zhizn' . The main charges leveled at the Society were that it had been slow to provide practical help for the "Stalin Plan for the Great Transformation of Nature," that it lacked a "mass character," and that its scientific sections suffered from "academism." The Society's Presidium decided to acknowledge the essential validity of the charges. However, they cunningly blamed these shortcomings on lack of funds, lack of space, their continued frustration in gaining permission to merge with the Green Plantings Society (discussed below), and the refusal of the State Staff Commission of the USSR Council of Ministers to allow VOOP to fund central and local staff positions using its own funds, a right possessed by other voluntary societies.[33] Gauging the real attitudes of the core scientist activists to the prospect of converting VOOP into an authentically "mass" society is difficult. Doubtless the activists were torn between actually becoming effective, which necessitated transforming the Society into a broad-based mass movement, and maintaining the comfortable,


clubby haven for the "lost tribe" of the prerevolutionary intelligentsia. Each choice had drawbacks. Even were the scientific activist elite to retain control over a mass organization, should it become too effective, that effectiveness could change the regime's perceptions, dislodging activists from the "safe" category of chudaki into the more dangerous one of political malcontents. On the other hand, maintaining a smaller membership continually laid the Society open to charges that it had lost its links with "the masses" and with "life itself." True, those charges tended to be raised only at annual review time (otchët ), but no one knew when such an accusation might be used against the organization. VOOP's solution was to try to keep membership high but heavily stacked with schoolchildren and "juridical members," who could be counted on not to involve themselves in the Society and therefore would not alter the organizational culture.

Even in this time of crisis for nature protection, some of the old spunk of the Society was evident. Unfortunately, the old activism did not issue in "activity" that could endear the Society to its critics. Recalling the similar letter of 1948, the Society sent a letter to the RSFSR Council of Ministers in February 1951, under the signatures of Dement'ev and Kuznetsov, informing the republic's leaders about reports coming from the Society's members in the Kolyma GULAG of northeast Iakutiia, the northeast part of Siberia. There, in a huge part of the USSR under virtual direct rule by the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs (the secret police), suppliers of the Dal'stroi and Kolymtorg GULAG empires had been destroying huge numbers of waterfowl annually every year since the end of the war.

These hunters, without any kind of controls on them, are taking tens of thousands of molting ducks on contract with kolkhozy . [However], the shooting of molting wildfowl is prohibited by law. . . . The organs of the Ministry of Supplies and the MVD [the Ministry of Internal Affairs] pay no attention to such rapacious and barbaric slaughter of wildfowl. As the citizen hunting inspectors—members of VOOP—tell us, the representatives of the MVD, on business trips to places where game is procured, failed to bring a single charge against anyone for poaching and failed to bring the malefactors to justice.

The Society demanded a ban on the hunting of geese in the Kolyma River delta, where the birds nest and gather for migrations, calling the practice both "predatory" and "illegal." Supplementing the charges of barbarism and poaching, the Society's argument came down to people: if these practices continue, they warned, they could undermine the food base for some of the small peoples of the far northeast, precipitating an ethno-demographic catastrophe.[34]


A Question of Merger

Despite the Society's risky critiques of the environmental practices of the state security system, it had no death wish. Especially after finding itself the target of investigation in July 1949, VOOP's leaders turned to the tried and true strategy of protective coloration. In particular, VOOP leaders intensified their efforts to merge with the All-Russian Society for the Promotion and Protection of Urban Green Plantings (VOSSOGZN), founded in 1947 under the auspices of the RSFSR Ministry of Municipal Services. At least twice in 1950, in January and in September, VOOP tried to revive the merger plans.[35] Deputy Premier Bessonov, who seems to have been given responsibility for VOOP as well as the Main Zapovednik Administration, turned out to be maximally supportive. Urging Premier Chernousov to write to the Central Committee in support of VOOP's request, Bessonov in an October 5, 1950 note reminded his chief that in January a decision had been taken by the RSFSR government to do so and that the appearance of the critical newspaper article had made the situation more exigent.[36] Bessonov even prepared a draft of such a letter to the Central Committee for Chernousov's approval and sent a follow-up note with the encouraging data that VOOP's membership as of November 1 had grown to 54,000 adults and 72,000 in the youth section, while the Green Plantings Society included 60,000 members.[37]

In the meantime Chernousov had, through his aides in the "Forestry Group" attached to the RSFSR Council of Ministers, solicited additional opinions and information on the question. From the president of the Green Plantings Society, G. I. Lebedev, who was also director of the horticulture pavilion of the All-Union Agricultural Exposition, he received a brief history and status report on the Green Plantings Society.

The critical juncture in the emergence of that society was Leonid M. Leonov's article in Izvestiia in December 1947 "Vzashchitu druga " (In defense of a friend), which elicited "an unprecedented lively response both in the local press as well as in letters to the editor of Izvestiia ."[38] Local organizational committees of the Green Plantings Society sprouted everywhere: Kuibyshev, Novosibirsk, Sverdlovsk, Ivanovo, Tula, Kislovodsk, and other places.[39] Like VOOP, the Green Plantings Society ran up against the unyielding barrier of the State Staff Commission, which allowed the society to retain just two paid full-time employees, a deputy president of the organizational bureau and a secretary-typist.[40]

Such a paltry staff could not cope with the massive enrollment into the ranks of the society. In Leningrad, tens of thousands of adults and children joined up, and more than seventy enterprises enrolled as "juridical members" in a three-month span. The dues potential alone was enormous.


However, not having a single full-time paid staff member, the Leningrad organizing committee was forced to cut off the processing of new members. After a "categorical" denial by the State Staff Commission of its request for at least one such worker, the Leningrad organizing committee shut down. In Kuibyshev, the local branch of the State Bank refused to pay out deposited membership dues to the organizing committee on the legal technicality that the committee had no bookkeeper, because the State Staff Commission refused to allow the organizing committee to create such a position. On similar technical grounds financial authorities in Kislovodsk shut down gardening classes run and paid for by the local branch of the society.[41] Only where powerful local politicians ran interference, such as in Northern Ossetia, where the president of the organizing committee was the chair of the Presidium of the Autonomous Republic's Supreme Soviet, was there even a chance of successful operations.[42]

Where allied organizations and affiliates had staff, Lebedev argued, they blossomed. The Society for the Promotion of the Greening of Moscow counted more than 100,000 adult and junior members; it also had twenty-six full-time administrative units. The All-Georgian Society "Friend of the Forest," led by that republic's chair of its Supreme Soviet, V. B. Gogua, and with eleven full-time staff, had more than 800,000 individual members and 4,000 "juridical members."[43] Although Lebedev did not comment on the proposed merger, his report could only strengthen the argument that the mass character of the membership of the Green Plantings Society would be an excellent tonic for that chronic VOOP deficiency, and that the intellectual resources embodied in VOOP's membership would provide a splendid complement to the enthusiasm and numbers of the Green Plantings Society.

A radically different note was struck by A. V. Malinovskii, who was asked by Bessonov to provide an evaluation of VOOP. Not only was he against the merger, he was against the very existence of the Society: "My negative attitude to this Society flows from the fact that, judging by the draft charter, it will not have real possibilities to participate actively in carrying out measures for transforming nature." Conservation, he argued, was already built into the Soviet system, and therefore no special societies or institutions were needed. In the best case, the Society on the initiative of individual members will send up plans for the transformation and protection of nature to agencies and ministries. However, individual Soviet citizens already had that right, and so there was no need for a middleman.[44]

Worse, VOOP's charter "awards many far-fetched and unrealizable functions to the Society." Singled out among these by Malinovskii was VOOP's self-appointed mission to attract broad sectors of the population in support of organizing zapovedniki "when that is the prerogative of the Main Zapovednik Administration."[45] Another was the Society's declared aim of organizing scientific expeditions studying natural resources in order to iden-


tify rational uses for them.[46] A third was VOOP's intention to enlist citizens to check permits for culling of populations of protected species; again, argued Malinovskii, such goals presumptuously usurped the functions of existing state institutions.[47] Malinovskii's bottom line was that VOOP was "distracting a number of specialists away from active participation in measures for the transformation of nature in line with fulfilling the state's economic plan."[48] He opposed the continuation of the Society in any form, merged or not. In that opposition Malinovskii perceptively identified VOOP's insubordinate role in defending and expanding the domain of scientific autonomy from the Party-state. Meanwhile the merger plans remained on hold.

The Nature Almanac of 1951

The continuing crisis of VOOP's publishing operations, however, overshadowed all other matters. On December 23, 1950, at a small meeting in Makarov's apartment, it was revealed that Kuznetsov's story that the almanac had been delayed by Dement'ev (who, Kuznetsov alleged, still had the manuscript), was a brazen lie. Dement'ev stunned the small group by saying he had never laid eyes on the manuscript until now, in Makarov's apartment, where a carbon copy was brought. "I was forced to bother Comrade V. N. Makarov, who was dangerously ill, three times during this whole period," Bel'skii said in despair. "It is my opinion," he concluded, "that the question of this deliberate . . . undermining [of the will of the Society] must be investigated."[49]

S. M. Preobrazhenskii added that "as soon as . . . Makarov got sick, one arbitrary act followed another by S. V. Kuznetsov. . . . [He] refused to take anyone else into account. Such shenanigans are impermissible in a civic organization!"[50] This sentiment was strongly held in the democratically oriented society, as evidenced also by Krivoshapov's admonition to Kuznetsov that "the question of publication . . . is one to be decided by the Presidium and not by a single individual."[51]

The tension between the two ideological camps had become so intense that personal relations even among Presidium members were strained to the breaking point. Kuznetsov was detested by a good percentage of the Presidium. And Molodchikov, whose politics had already alienated him from the Society's mainstream, felt the need to correct a misimpression that he was involved in the sabotage while conceding that his review of the prospective issue was indeed negative. After his review, Molodchikov complained, "Comrade S. M. Preobrazhenskii pretended not to know me and turned away when we ran into each other." This was doubtless only a small portion of the human fallout of the Society's protracted crisis.

In addition to demonstrating that VOOP could keep its commitments


to a production plan—thereby deserving to retain and gain expanded publishing rights—publishing was also a matter of honor for the old-guard activists. However, the Society's bookkeeper reminded his colleagues that publishing entailed risks that were at least equally weighty: 46,000 rubles had already been spent on the almanac, and printing and paper costs would run another 125,000 rubles. Moreover, given its tardiness, its distribution and sales might founder; poor sales of the 1948 almanac caused massive losses and served as grist for the investigative mills of the Ministry of State Control.[52]

Using some imagination, Krivoshapov proposed a limited almanac, to cover a half year beginning in June, but the Presidium voted to nullify all editorial changes and print the volume in full as it had been constituted in September. Kuznetsov was isolated with his lone abstention against eight ayes (although Krivoshapov's approval was qualified, calling for a reduced print run).[53] The Presidium had voted to uphold the honor of scientific public opinion.

A meeting of the Presidium in May reopened the thorny question of renaming the Society. A veteran master of "protective coloration," Makarov himself initiated the discussion, suggesting that "the Society may not stand on the sidelines regarding the tasks of transforming nature," and that consequently the Society should be renamed the All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Transformation and Protection of Nature. (Makarov neglected to say that he had promoted almost the same name change in 1930, but permitted a reversion to "the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature" in the late 1930s once scrutiny of the Society's affairs diminished.)

Two old veterans, Protopopov and Preobrazhenskii, had no objections, as they were aware of political and rhetorical expediencies. Others, like the younger Gladkov, objected that whereas many organizations were involved with transforming nature, only VOOP was dedicated to protecting it. "'Protection of nature' should occupy the leading position in the Society's name," he said, supported in this by Krivoshapov.[54]

Sincere transformers of nature, such as Molodchikov, also spoke out in favor of the name change, but not as an exercise in protective coloration. If the Society "cannot move in step with the new demands [of the times]," he warned, "it should be liquidated." P. A. Manteifel' had a slightly different understanding of the matter: "Transformation and preservation are one and the same thing." That is, the only "nature" that will be preserved under Communism is that which has been transformed. Makarov tried to remind Manteifel' that to transform nature intelligently one needed to have a broad base of protected raw materials. If all the vegetation were destroyed, we would use up our original raw materials.[55]

Ultimately, two variants were considered by the Presidium: the All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Protection and Transformation of Nature,


and the All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Transformation and Protection of Nature. Predictably, the first—putting "protection" ahead of "transformation"—received seven votes to the latter's four.[56] It was around such symbolic and semantic questions that the old-guard activists, frustrated in the real world of politics and public affairs, reaffirmed their values and social identities. In these minor battles they could experience surrogate victories for the success that eluded them in the fights for the zapovedniki and the protection of the Moscow green belt. Their rhetorical concessions were always reluctant and ultimately revocable, measured out word by word.

Events, though, continued to outstrip the anxious activists' fears and responses. Perhaps driven beyond the threshold of decency in part by the violent polemics, Kuznetsov, who was also secretary of the Party organization within VOOP, and P. V. Ostashevskii, his deputy, wrote what can only be described as an out-and-out denunciation of Makarov and the old-timers to RSFSR deputy premier Arsenii Mikhailovich Safronov, who was also then occupied in the investigation of the zapovedniki . In four typewritten pages, the denunciation raised the most serious political accusations against the guardians of scientific public opinion. Singled out as "undeserving of trust and meriting dismissal" were longtime VOOP recording secretary Susanna Fridman and a former director of publications.[57]

The literature published by the Society was "apolitical," charged Kuznetsoy and Ostashevskii, "particularly the nature almanacs." Despite the severe criticism of the almanacs in the press since 1948, Makarov not only "failed to understand the essence of the criticism" but "even defended the . . . almanacs."[58]

From the perspective of Party spirit (partiinost '), Makarov, although formally a Party member, was glaringly deficient as well. Although the Party organization numerous times asked him to present a report on the Society's activities to a meeting of the Party organization, he declined to do so, using every excuse in the book and considered such reports . . ."unnecessary."[59] Similarly, despite repeated entreaties both oral and written to call meetings of the Party members of the Presidium in advance of full Presidium meetings so that key issues could be discussed and positions set, Makarov likewise refused to accommodate the Party group.[60]

Kuznetsov exploited Makarov's difficult decision in the late 1940s to have the Society design and produce postcards as an example of how Makarov had turned VOOP into a commercial operation.[61] The age of the leaders of the Presidium and Central Council also testified to Makarov's preference for those "who had fallen behind contemporary realities" and who were unfit for hard work. All of this boiled down to one conclusion: "V. N. Makarov has irrevocably lost his political face. . . . All of the activity of the Society is contained within the narrow confines of nature protection measures, but nothing is done to promote the practical realization of the Stalin Plan for


the Great Transformation of Nature."[62] The letter writers sought Safronov's help to reorient the goals of the Society and to remove their opponents.[63]

The political pressures began to mount. That summer in closed session the Party organization of the RSFSR Main Zapovednik Administration examined charges against Makarov for his introductory article to the anthology Zapovedniki Sovetskogo Soiuza .[64] Makarov's article, it was alleged, failed to outline clearly the basic tasks of the zapovednikieconomic and scientific—while it raised esthetic issues, which should be "secondary," to the same level of significance. Other accusations asserted that Makarov went on at "too great a length about the history of the question of nature protection . . . in Tsarist Russia and in capitalist countries" and that his article was pernicious "from the perspective of the Marxist-Leninist worldview"; by highlighting some of the environmental achievements of prerevolutionary and capitalist societies it would "mislead the public."

Those charges were sent to the Party organization by Malinovskii in the form of a written denunciation. This was particularly bad faith in light of Malinovskii's fulsome public praise of Makarov just two months later, in September 1951, when he wrote on Makarov's official employee evaluation (kharakteristika ):

Comrade Makarov is a genuine enthusiast in the cause of zapovedniki . He enjoys great authority among employees of the system . . .  and in scientific public opinion. A number of published works of Comrade Makarov illuminate the tasks and content of the scientific work of zapovedniki  .  .  . Comrade Makarov is politically literate, ideologically solid, and works on raising his intellectual and political level. He takes an active part in the work of the Party organization and for a number of years has served as an unpaid propagandist, leading a discussion circle on the history of the VKP(b) [Communist Party] and is currently leading a circle on the study of dialectical and historical materialism.[65]

Bravely, the Party organization, while slapping Makarov on the wrist, rejected Malinovskii's harshest and most damaging accusations.[66]

Most ominous of all, Romanetskii, who formally was attached to the RSFSR Council of Ministers as head of the group attached to the Expediters' Desk, and Svetlakov, another aide, in late spring had provided a nineteen-page report on the history and current status of VOOP for the RSFSR leadership.[67] The report could not have been more ruinous in its charges and implications of political unreliability. An analysis of the nature almanac for 1950 yielded a verdict that "extreme apoliticism characterized all the articles. . . . Nowhere do we see mentioned the fact that capitalism is incapable not only of organizing planned activity in the transformation of nature but of preventing the rapacious abuse of its resources."[68] The report also discerned a lack of Soviet patriotism.[69]

The nature almanac for 1951 was no better. Authors' attempts to be po-


litically correct landed them in trouble anyway. Thus, when one contributor placed Stalinist science charlatan Ol'ga Borisovna Lepeshinskaia at the head of a list of scientists that also included Lomonosov, Mendeleev, and Miklukho-Maklai, the authors of the report described such a ranking as "incomprehensible." [70]

Each journal/anthology (sbornik ) issued by the Society was scrutinized for stylistic and political lapses and errors of emphasis. Makarov was savaged for his article in the first anthology, "Nature Protection in the USSR and the Tasks of the Society." "From this article," wrote the investigators, "we may come to the conclusion that [international] priority in the field of nature protection belongs not to Russian scientists and to the Soviet state but to scientific figures of Western Europe and, in the first instance, America"; they concluded that there was a "need immediately to prohibit this society from engaging in the publication of such 'scientific' works."[71]

Capping the charges was their observation that Makarov and VOOP cited the work of I. I. Shmal'gauzen (whom Makarov was forced publicly to denounce in late 1948), the great genetics theorist whose career was virtually ended by Lysenko.[72] It is hardly astonishing that Romanetskii and Svetlakov saw no future for the Society. Their conclusion, to recommend "liquidation" of VOOP, flowed seamlessly from their litany of the Society's political errors and transgressions.

VOOP's leadership was informed about the Romanetskii report by Makarov himself, who had attended the recent meeting chaired by Bessonov at which Romanetskii presented his conclusions. It was not an easy task for the VOOP chief, whose health was beginning seriously to decline. Makarov was, as usual, diplomatic. "The speaker did not mention the positive aspects of our society's activities," he said, "only noting [its] shortcomings and mistakes. The report was tendentious and [I] alone was blamed for everything." [73]

Makarov explained that he did not speak in rebuttal because he was caught unprepared by the vehemence of the attacks and could not speak without supporting materials. Kuznetsov, who was also present, likewise declined to respond. Bessonov as chair was left no choice but to pass along Romanetskii's conclusions: "The Society was not capable of real work [and] did not contribute anything of benefit. . . . The need for the Society for the Protection of Nature has passed and for those reasons the Society must be liquidated."[74] By sometime in July, RSFSR deputy premier Safronov had already drafted a memorandum to Malenkov entitled "On the Liquidation of VOOP."[75]

With the fate of the Society hanging by a thread, Makarov wrote a long memorandum to Premier Chernousov, defending the Society and asking for an opportunity to argue its case before the RSFSR Council of Ministers.[76] At a meeting of the Bureau of the RSFSR Council of Ministers on July 27, with


Bessonov chairing, two decisions were taken: to accommodate Makarov's request for a large meeting and to initiate an investigation into VOOP's finances by the RSFSR Ministry of State Control.[77]

At 1:00 P.M. on August 2, 1951, twenty-five individuals gathered in the offices of Deputy Premier Bessonov. Thirteen represented VOOP, although Kuznetsov, Molodchikov, and Manteifel' could hardly be called "friendly witnesses." The remaining twelve included not only Bessonov, but also P. S. Melikhov of the USSR Ministry of Forestry, Malinovskii, and Romanetskii, no friends of VOOP.[78]

Manteifel' was only partly damaging, on the one hand conceding that Makarov was "not a bad person" and that "the Society was needed," but on the other, repeating his accusation that the Society was out of step with the times. "There is a respectable number of people whom I would call preservationists [konservatory] ," he said. "But it is time to replace these people, and it is not necessary to close down the Society on their account. That reconstruction . . . the Stalin Plan . . . can never succeed without input from the Society."[79]Zapovedniki , analogously, were also needed, but they had to be transformed from "passive" institutions to "laboratories of living nature, in which we study ways of reconstructing nature," he insisted.[80]

Romanetskii again presented his arguments for shutting down the Society: apoliticism, obsolescence, uselessness. This time, however, the activists were not caught off guard. The feisty Krivoshapov immediately responded with a lecture on the importance of an activist public: "In our country the decrees of the Party and government are carried out by attracting the participation of the broad mass of the people. To ignore the existing . . . voluntary societies would be a mistake."[81] Boldly Krivoshapov interrogated the hostile functionary: "You say, Comrade Romanetskii, that the Nature Almanac is apolitical. I do not comprehend [your accusation]. In what does its apoliticism consist? Could it only be in the fact that the names of naturalists are set on a par with those of political figures? . . . The question, in the form that Comrade Romanetskii has posed it," he concluded, "should be swept aside."[82]

Dement'ev mounted a surprisingly strong defense of the word protection . "This term shouldn't frighten us," he explained, "because there are things in nature that we are unable to produce. We need to protect them."[83] Reminding the government leaders of the practical benefits contributed by voluntary scientific activism, Dement'ev pointedly recalled that the commercial viability of the beaver, moose, and sable was attained only with the central participation of VOOP. In a decree of 1946 there were instructions to carry out systematic censuses of the basic commercial species in the republic. However, the decree did not specify who was to carry them out. VOOP processed the data and provided the crucial recommendations for


the Main Hunting Administration. If anything, concluded Dement'ev, the Society should be upgraded to all-Union status in appreciation.[84]

Perhaps the most dramatic expression of civic conscience among the defenders of VOOP was uttered by the seventy-year-old Aleksandr Petrovich Protopopov. A manifesto of the ethos of obshchestvennost , its particular power was that it was delivered in the halls of power. "I am a member of the Presidium of the Society," Protopopov began. "This civic position [eto obshchestvennoe polozhenie] compels me to speak out with candor before the [government] leadership to which we have been called to give an accounting. I . . . listened to the talk of Comrade Romanetskii with a great feeling of pain. . . . It was written with an intention to smear Comrade Makarov, who is the founder of this cause, and to present . . . fundamental accusations."[85] Protopopov had only derision for the accusation that personal material interests motivated leaders of the Society:

There are interests, but not of that kind. I have worked for more than twenty-five years. I have an interest only in organizing the public for constructive tasks [obshchestvennoe stroitel 'stvo ], in helping our state to create a well-run econom. . . . You have cut to the quick of the honor of a public activist [obshchestvennik ]. And I will not permit anyone to smear either myself personally or other members of the Presidium, who have been working honestly for many years, by alleging that we have been bearing all of the burdens of work simply in order to see our names in print. All of our publishing activity . . . is a great cause and our backs are straining under the heavy burden we carry.[86]

For the first time, noted Protopopov, VOOP was being investigated by the Council of Ministers. However, he offered, this was not "an in-depth" effort but a superficial one, "unworthy of the Council of Ministers apparat ."[87] Protopopov finally tackled the issue of political unreliability among the activists. "There are no conservative elements among us," he declared, perhaps intentionally "misunderstanding" the epithet konservator , which was used by VOOP's accusers to denote preservationists. "All of us are people of Soviet ideology, with Marxist training. . . . We do not accept conservatives in our midst and if we discover them, then we remove them ourselves."[88] This was more than a diversionary half-truth. Of course there were konservatoryin the sense of nature preservationists—in VOOP, and Protopopov himself was among their leaders. Yet all of these scientists and activists were more or less loyal Soviet citizens (or at least reconciled to Soviet power) and many were even patriots. None overtly promoted political ideologies antagonistic to "Soviet ideology" and a few, including Makarov, were perhaps even sincere Marxists. Nevertheless, Protopopov's statement was objectively subversive, for it claimed for citizen activists a sphere of honor, dignity, and autonomy of action that transgressed all boundaries set by the regime.


The deputy premier had the last word. Although a stenogram was recorded, it was Bessonov's prerogative to interpret the consensus of the meeting. Stretching the truth somewhat, he asserted that "all of those comrades who spoke expressed support for the preservation of the Society, proposing a reorganization of [its] work . . . and a change of its name, in order to orient the activity of the Society to serving the interests of the state, and to serving the interests of those measures pursued by the Party and the state with respect to the transformation of nature."[89]

Although most of the comments were "correct and incontestable," Bessonov, particularly in the presence of such operatives as Romanetskii, Shcherbakov, Koz'iakov, Malinovskii, and Melikhov, who either worked directly for Kremlin agencies or whose ultimate loyalties might lie with the Kremlin rather than with the RSFSR government, needed to single out Protopopov's intervention as "incorrect" and even "having an insulting quality." Addressing the aging activist, Bessonov prodded:

You consider all of the work of the Society to be completely faultless, crystal pure. That is not so. . . . There were scoundrels in the Society who pilfered money. . . . You heaped praise on Comrade Makarov; you said that he was worthy, businesslike. But don't you see? Comrade Makarov also suffers from a whole series of fundamental errors. Comrade Makarov knows what they are and must correct them. I personally regard your observation in connection with this as not completely correct.[90]

Bessonov admonished the Society to take seriously the errors revealed at the meeting and "take very severe steps to avoid repeating them, particularly in the publishing sphere." Closing with self-criticism, Bessonov admitted that he had given the Society too loose a tether and did not press the Presidium to confront some of the "fundamental questions." The next move, he indicated, was the Presidium's, for it would have to develop a plan for the reorganization of the Society and its work.[91] That would give Bessonov political room to help to save the Society.

Five days later, Bessonov summarized the meeting for his colleague A. M. Safronov, another deputy premier. On the archival copy, the key sentence of this document was underlined in red pen, presumably by Safronov: "All who spoke at the meeting . . . spoke out against the liquidation of the Society." Further, Bessonov reported on his instructions to the Presidium of VOOP to submit a reorganization plan to the RSFSR Council of Ministers by August 20, 1951. Finally, he noted that on orders of the Bureau of the RSFSR Council of Ministers, the financial activities of VOOP were still under investigation by the RSFSR Ministry of State Control.[92]

Many of VOOP's fiscal travails had their roots in the unreliable commercial environment in which the Society was forced to operate. As of October 1, 1951, thirty-two prepared manuscripts were awaiting printing, twenty-


two of which were physically at the typographers, some of them since 1948. The system provided no consumer protection from the lethally irresponsible sluggishness of the printing houses or the corruption of the State Arbitration Bureau, which ruled against the Society in an important case.[93] Precisely 494,027 rubles and 39 kopecks had been spent on the publications, most of which was unrecoverable. To revive attempts to publish these works, which included two sborniki (the journal-anthology Okhrana prirody ), R. Gekker and V. Varsonof'eva's work on the protection of inanimate nature, works on forest and garden insect pests, gardening tips, and the notorious postcard series, would involve additional expenditures of 200,000–300,000 rubles. Altogether, the works currently stalled could have produced an income of 2,000,000 rubles; even discounted 25 percent, they could have netted the Society 500,000 rubles after taxes. However, the Society had current bank assets of only 110 rubles, with further expected expenditures through the end of the year of 345,000 rubles.[94] P. S. Bel'skii summed up everyone's gloom: "The collapse of the Society is at hand."[95]

Unanticipated and legally dubious taxes levied by the state also contributed to the debacle. Reinforcing the Alice-in-Wonderland nature of the situation, the state had imposed the taxes precisely because the literature of the Society was not for sale: because of printing delays, VOOP had lost its tax exemption.

Desperation pushed VOOP's leaders to take some decisive steps. They would petition the USSR Ministry of Finances to return the 25 percent of all profits seized as "taxes," which would net 151,000 rubles. They would temporarily stop all new publication activity. They would ask the branches to eliminate their debt to the Central Executive Council. They would temporarily end payments to lecturers for the organization of exhibits, conferences, meetings, and scientific expeditions. And they would call a plenary meeting to report to the Society's activists in mid-November.[96]

VOOP was reviewed again by the Bureau of the RSFSR Council of Ministers on September 5, this time with the RSFSR minister of state control, N. Vasil'ev, and Premier Chernousov present along with Bessonov. Bessonov and Vasil'ev were charged with preparing a draft resolution for putting VOOP's affairs in order," as Chernousov's order had it.[97]

Soon afterward, Chernousov sent Georgii Malenkov a substantial letter on the situation with VOOP.[98] Although VOOP had failed to attract the masses to its society and had neglected to reorient its work to the transformation of nature, wrote Chernousov, "these shortcomings . . . do not serve as a basis for labeling VOOP a useless and obsolete organization." Indeed, the Russian premier continued, "the RSFSR Council of Ministers considers that the existence of a mass citizens' organization that could render assistance in solving the imposing tasks of the transformation and protection of nature is exceedingly valuable and desirable." Chernousov closed with a


request that the Central Committee permit the RSFSR Council of Ministers to continue to oversee the reorganization of VOOP and to allow a congress of the Society to be held in Moscow in October 1951 for that purpose.[99]

Chernousov was again occupied by VOOP's problems when the Bureau of the RSFSR Council of Ministers held its fifty-fourth session of the year on October 10. With Makarov present as well as Deputy Premier Safronov, N. Savitskii from the RSFSR Ministry of State Control presented the report on VOOP's fiscal troubles. State Control, working with Safronov, was to prepare a draft decree for action by the government within a five-day period.[100] By October 13, the draft, "On the Illegal and Fiscally Improvident Disbursements of Funds in VOOP," was prepared, undergoing a slight change to replace the Main Zapovednik Administration, now upgraded to all-Union status, with the RSFSR Ministry of Forestry as the agency charged with supervising the Society.[101]

On October 26, the Bureau of the RSFSR Council of Ministers considered the draft decree. Still running interference for the Society, Chernousov, it appears, made the final changes himself. Stricken from the text of the decree at that meeting were clauses that called for Makarov's removal as the acting president of the Society (although he was blamed for its plight) and assigning the future supervision of VOOP to the RSFSR Ministry of Forestry. A last instruction to the Society was to identify those culpable for mismanagement and to take appropriate measures against them.[102]

Published on October 31,[103] the decree was discussed at a meeting of VOOP's Presidium on November 13 and again on December 19, as members sought to gird the Society for another year of trial. Gurgen Artashesovich Avetisian, appointed to chair the commission to investigate the "failings" of the Society, was now again thrust into the limelight. Makarov, in declining health, urgently appealed to the Presidium to select a second deputy president of the Society. Nominated by Dement'ev, seconded by Makarov, and supported by the unlikely duo of Protopopov and Kuznetsov, Avetisian was elected unanimously.[104]

A litany of the Society's mistakes and oversights with a generous dollop of contrived self-accusations, Avetisian's report was a long one. Its length assured that it would satisfy the recondite requirements of the Soviet political game of self-criticism. All the Society's dirty linen was aired: the nonparticipation of Presidium members; the feud between Makarov and Kuznetsov over the past year, which interfered with normal activity; the choice of some authors and artists on the basis of nepotism; an oblique reference to an overpayment to one of Makarov's sons for some artwork; and a problem with the formal office of president (Tsitsin temporarily resigned in 1950–1951 owing to illness, and had not been active before and after his temporary resignation). The main problem, though, was the failure of the Society to involve itself with the great transformation of nature.


The showdown came at the Presidium meeting of December 19, chaired by Varsonof'eva. First to speak was Avetisian, who presented the VOOP commission's report. Although Makarov had seconded Avetisian's nomination for deputy president at the previous meeting, the entomologist hardly returned the favor. His recommendations included suing Makarov's son, among others, for the overpayment made to him, and removing Makarov as deputy president. They also included changing the name of the Society, asking Tsitsin to return to an active role as president, appointing Dement'ev acting president, assigning greater personal responsibility to individual Presidium members for specific functions, and petitioning the USSR and RSFSR governments for renewal of the Society's tax exemption, a change in staffing rules, and other pressing needs. Miraculously, Kuznetsov emerged almost unscathed.[105]

Vera Aleksandrovna Varsonof'eva was among those stunned by the singling out of Makarov. "How did it happen," she asked, "that only Makarov has ended up bearing the full responsibility?" She called for the entire Presidium to shoulder the burden of responsibility. However, someone else immediately rejoined that "the entire Presidium cannot be permitted to step down, because that would be seen as a [political] demonstration against the Council of Ministers."[106]

The Society was caught on the horns of a dilemma. To remove Makarov from the leadership would be a surrender of the treasured autonomy of their citizens' movement. Worse, it constituted an affront to the central values of the activists' fiercely defended independent social identity: honor and loyalty to friends and colleagues even under the pressure of regime threats or blandishments. Not to remove Makarov, conversely, seemed to the activists to imperil the very survival of the Society, one of the handful of institutions remaining in the Soviet Union in which these values of civic activism and autonomy could be affirmed, expressed, nurtured, and propagated.

The ever-cautious Dement'ev counseled that "the Council of Ministers is not interested in subjective reasons [for what happened]. We must furnish a solution for putting our future work in order." P. P. Smolin added that "to acknowledge that we were not up to the job and to resign en masse is not an option. . . . We have to go the path of sacrificing individual members."[107]

Clearly upset by these options, Krivoshapov, who was on the commission, tried to find a way to reconcile the moral imperatives of obshchestvennost ' with the Society's survival: "The government has entrusted [our] organization itself with finding the people responsible for allowing the violations and to put forward its own recommendations." Agreeing with Makarov, he noted that "the Society cannot rely on membership dues alone for its survival." For that reason, Makarov's emphasis on developing sales of publications as a source of income was fully understandable. Moreover, Kuznetsov kept the Presidium in the dark as to the actual mechanics of the contracts that were


concluded with the artists and compositors, so that even if Makarov's son had been overpaid it was the responsibility of the staff to place the issue before the Presidium in a timely way. "The apparat let us down. They undermined the whole Presidium." Therefore, he announced,

It is impermissible to single out only one person to walk the plank. The great work done by V. N. Makarov for the Society is a matter of common knowledge. Yet, we are bound to carry out the decree of the Government. V. N. Makarov should not remain as president; we need to name a fresh face to that office. But the Presidium and the apparat are also responsible [for the Society's problems]. V. N. Makarov's reputation remains untarnished. The entire Presidium should accept flll responsibility for everything and S. V. Kuznetsov . . . bears no less responsibility.

Now recommending that the Society attempt to salvage its sense of honor by spreading the responsibility broadly, even while removing Makarov as acting president, Krivoshapov more than anyone personally embodied the tortured contradictions experienced by the old guard.

If removing Makarov was a political human sacrifice to save the Society, removing Kuznetsov was a fully deserved punishment for betrayal and ethical malfeasance. Noting that "the moral responsibility of a civic activist is different from that of a white-collar worker receiving a salary for his work," contrasting the cases of Makarov and Kuznetsov, respectively, Krivoshapov had no trouble concluding that the paid secretary, Kuznetsov, was guilty at least of gross negligence and ought to be removed without regret.[108] Where Makarov's blunders were committed out of his sense of dedication to the Society, Kuznetsov's were the result of khalatnost' (total irresponsibility) and ignorance, if not active ill will toward the movement that paid his salary.

Another old-timer who was distraught at the choices confronting the Society was Protopopov. He proposed what he believed was another, marginally adequate moral compromise. Because three officers handled the finances of the Society, those three—Makarov, Kuznetsov, and Dement'ev— should pay the political price demanded by the authorities: removal from their positions as officers. Clearly pained, Protopopov apologetically concluded: "We have all said our piece and we must come to some resolution. We feel extremely awkward regarding Vasilii Nikitich Makarov. But I believe that the three . . . should resign their offices." Seeking to retain a shred of honor, Protopopov proposed retaining Makarov as deputy president, even while removing him as acting president.[109] Curiously, Avetisian was able to impose his own resolution of the problem over the attempts by Protopopov and Krivoshapov to spread the blame more broadly. This was likely a consequence of his recent election as the Society's deputy president.

Betraying his completely different mentality, Kuznetsov bluntly offered that "our society is not a parliament. We are not required to put in our res-


ignations. We need to identify concretely those responsible. . . . I do not reject my responsibility. You propose to fire Kuznetsov as a person ignorant of nature. But I am really unsuitable in your eyes because I helped to uncover deficiencies in the work of the Society."[110] Both views were correct, and they overlapped more than Kuznetsov realized. Kuznetsov's inability to empathize with the ethos of the Society, which included a love of nature, led him to uncover "deficiencies" in the Society's work. These "deficiencies" stemmed from VOOP's desperate attempts to protect and promote its members' own vision of human society and of environmental responsibility. And that represented an active divergence from the Stalinist vision of utilitarian transformation of nature and society, a vision that Kuznetsov fully shared, and which led him to blow the whistle on this tribe of academics and activists so out of step with official values.

A. V. Mikheev brought in one more discordant element of Kuznetsov's style: in contrast with the Society's openness, Kuznetsov created a climate of fear among the salaried workers. "They fear Kuznetsov like the fire," charged the old activist, "and are afraid to speak out against him."[111] Kuznetsov proved the point by charging that Mikheev was not officially a member in good standing of VOOP any longer, having failed to pay his three-ruble membership dues.[112]

Long silent, Makarov now confronted the awkward and ethically difficult task of responding to his friends and colleagues. "I know," he began, "that I permitted a number of mistakes to be made, but I do not intend to be the scapegoat. We have mixed up the principles of an official state institution with those of a citizens' organization," he continued, referring to what he believed was the unfair demand by the government that he take "political" responsibility for contracts that were concluded by the entire Presidium, and not by him alone. "It is terribly sad that, after fifty years of service, I have come to this end. Morally it is not right to heap all the blame onto one person. The Council of Ministers instructed the Presidium to find others responsible as well, and on this account I am not in agreement with the conclusions of the commission."[113]

Rising to support Makarov was Varsonof'eva who, inter alia, criticized "the formulation of P. P. Smolin that there had to be [human] sacrifices." "We, the entire Presidium, all of us, must bear the responsibility for the work of the Society," she insisted. Acknowledging that Varsonof'eva was right, Smolin quickly qualified his prior statement by adding that he had not intended his words to mean that Makarov alone should shoulder the blame. Indeed, Smolin supported the idea that he should remain deputy president, even while giving up the acting presidency of the Society. But neither should the whole Presidium resign. Smolin felt that the difficult choice of naming a few names was essential in order to save the Society.[114]

Sensing moral censure from the old guard, Dement'ev unexpectedly now


offered to resign as first deputy (and currently acting) president. Protopopov wanted to summon a plenary meeting of the Central Council to resolve these thorny problems. The meeting threatened to stall in the quicksand of moral confusion and helpless paralysis.

At this juncture Avetisian revealed his tough and pragmatic political will: "We cannot elect a new Presidium. . . . Our tasks are great and our resources and opportunities are meager. The Council of Ministers insists on the removal of V. N. Makarov and we must submit."[115]

The commission's recommendations were adopted with only one change, but it was a significant one: the additional recommendation that S. V. Kuznetsov be removed as the Society's secretary. It was also decided to call a full meeting of the Central Council and to confirm Dement'ev as acting president. Makarov, who was removed as deputy president, remained on the Presidium and in the Central Council. Nevertheless, with Makarov's release from the post of acting president, the Society's sense of honor had been wounded. Was sacrificing its leader of twenty-two years really the price the Society had to pay to stay in business? Was there a price that might be too great? An authentic crisis of the spirit was gripping VOOP.


Chapter Eight—
Death and Purgatory

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Kuznetsov noted that the oblgorlit responded to his inquiries with the


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

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

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

Krivoshapov was unsparing:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Chapter Nine—
VOOP after Stalin:
Survival and Decay

In their efforts to engineer a merger with the Green Plantings Society, the new leaders of VOOP were still employing the politics of protective coloration. Stalin's "Plan for the Great Transformation of Nature" was still a watchword in June 1953, and the Society sought to link itself to a political agenda endorsed by the state power. However, protective coloration was a strategy fraught with peril for the integrity of a social movement. It required a convincing outward display of loyalty in some key areas so that a certain internal freedom as well as political freedom of action could be maintained in other areas. It required that the movement project the appearance of a group of quaint, even slightly irrelevant (from a utilitarian Soviet perspective) old-line scientists, more interested in discussing questions of faunal distribution than challenging economic or political decisions, while it quietly defended and expanded its "state within a state"—the zapovedniki —or took aim at select individual policies. Such a strategy was effective enough during times of "normal" Stalinism, but even its greatest practitioner, Makarov, had been powerless in the climate of terror of Stalin's last years. If it took a mastermind such as the late Makarov to make protective coloration work in the best of times, what could be expected of his far less gifted successors? Under Avetisian, the strategy inexorably began to overwhelm what it was supposed to protect.

Gurgen Artashesovich Avetisian's (see figure 10) finest hour was bracketed by his valiant defense of VOOP as the lone dissenting voice on the RSFSR Gosplan Commission of 1952, on the one hand, and the triumphant convocation of the "three societies" zapovednik conference of May 1954, on the



Figure 10.
Gurgen Artashesovich Avetisian (1905–1984).

other. The influx of pragmatic planters, foresters, and horticulturists into the reorganized VOOP through its merger with the Green Plantings Society, combined with closer monitoring of the Society's activities by the RSFSR Council of Ministers, however, created the preconditions for major shifts in the Society's direction and operations. In an ominous departure from the Society's traditions, even Avetisian himself began to behave in a highhanded manner.[1]

The period 1953–1955 was an interregnum for VOOP as well as for Soviet society as a whole. In contrast to the thrust of the liberalizing changes in Soviet society, however, the interregnum in VOOP ultimately led to the


suppression of the autonomous ethos of scientific public opinion within the Society and to its takeover by corrupt Communist time-servers. This new period posed an even greater challenge to the old-timers. Indications mounted that the old traditions were being supplanted by a new approach to doing business. Lush, secretive bureaucratization quickly created a barrier between the new bosses and the old stalwarts. Emblematic of these developments was the way that the All-Union Congress of VOOP was convened in August 1955.

After long delays, a decree of September 5, 1954 of the RSFSR Council of Ministers marked the official inauguration of the new All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Protection of Nature and the Greening of Population Centers, VOSOPiONP (although I will continue to refer to the Society as VOOP, to which name it reverted in 1959) The old Organizing Committee, composed of members elected to the Presidium of VOOP in 1947 and to the Presidium of the Green Plantings Society in 195 , was replaced by a lean new committee of seven: Avetisian, Dement'ev, Motovilov, Krivoshapov, V. I. Egorov, an agronomist, A. N. Volkov, and N. B. Golovenkov.[2] A new charter was prepared under the guidance of Avetisian, who remained chair of the Society's Organizing Committee pending the convocation of the founding Congress, set for 1955. In the meantime the Society hobbled along in a state of organizational limbo. Eight years had passed since the previous Congress, and VOOP was in severe violation of its charter. The Society had repeatedly petitioned the Party for permission to hold a Congress, which was repeatedly denied. This then served as fodder for Party accusations that the Society was delinquent in upholding its charter provisions.

On June 20, 1955, the Organizing Committee met at last to set the agenda for the Congress, which needed to be submitted not only to the RSFSR Council of Ministers but to the Central Committee of the Party as well. Although activists had proposed focusing on two questions, the ratification of the charter and elections of an official leadership, the Central Committee, which had been consulted beforehand this time, recommended adding speeches concerning fundamental principles and positions that would guide the Society's work. This delicate task was entrusted to the Party group within the Organizing Committee. Reports and talks were provisionally scheduled from Tsitsin, Formozov, Kozhin, the botanist Bazilevskaia, and Egorov.[3]

On July 29 the Organizing Committee finally got word that six days earlier, the RSFSR Council of Ministers had been given permission by the Party to allow VOOP to convene its first conference. At the new campus of Moscow State University on Lenin Hills the government had set aside 100 dorm rooms for visiting delegates. The main event was to be held in the university club. After waiting for the better part of a decade to hold such a meeting, the nature protection activists were given a scant two weeks to get the word out and make their preparations.


Almost furtively, without publicity, the VOOP Congress was convened on August 15. The old-timers were not invited. One remarkable document illuminating the episode is a pained letter from Susanna Fridman, VOOP secretary from the Society's inception until 1947, to interim VOOP president Avetisian: "I was completely shocked by your totally accidental mention of the convocation of the Congress," she opened, charging that she most likely never would have heard about it at all were it not for her unrelated request for other information from Avetisian. Fridman was as much saddened as she was outraged by the slight: "We old veterans of the conservation cause have been waiting for some years now impatiently for just this Congress. We dreamed of meeting one more time, discussing many issues of concern to us, summing things up, and perhaps clasping each other's hands for one last time. Most important, we hoped to pass on our passionate commitment to conservation to the young generation."[4]

However, the Congress was called in mid-August, observed Fridman, exactly at the time when "all scientific researchers are on vacation or on expeditions." To Avetisian's excuse (in his letter to her) that it had been decided not to invite many activists so as to keep costs down, Fridman replied that it was wrong to have slighted veterans and even founders of the Society, many of whom would have paid their own way in any case. Fridman reminded Avetisian of her own decision to turn down a 1,000-ruble award from the Presidium for her work organizing the Society's archive, a decision motivated by her concern for the Society's rickety finances.

Now, five founding members found themselves "thrown overboard" after thirty years of passionate service to the cause. Fridman was especially concerned that her exclusion from the Society's Executive Council would deprive her of an indispensable credential in her continuing efforts to propagandize on behalf of conservation in the media and in society; understandably, she feared that she would be called on to explain why she was no longer a member of the Society's governing body. "Of course," she reproached Avetisian, "had the old guard been present at the Congress, none of this would have happened. Neither Smidovich nor Komarov nor Makarov would have allowed anything like this." On the contrary, they would have proposed that the five living founding members be granted lifetime honorary membership on the Executive Council.

The snubbing of Fridman and the old guard was cause for yet another disappointment. Urged on the previous year by Professor G. G. Bosse, Fridman was at work on a major history of conservation, support of which she had hoped the Congress would provide. She had counted on the official endorsement of VOOP, but now, "to her great sorrow and humiliation," she felt abandoned. Unbowed, she vowed that she and a group of veterans would continue the project, and implicitly raised the prospect of unflattering portrayals of such recent scandals as the Kuznetsov affair and the 1955


Congress. Further, Fridman promised to write to others returning from field trips to let them know of these developments.[5]

The 1955 Congress and Its Aftermath

Russian conservation history is awash in first Congresses. In 1929 there was the First All-Russian Congress of Nature Protection Activists and in 1933 the First All-Union Congress for the Protection of Nature in the USSR. In 1938 the First Congress of the All-Russian Society for Nature Protection (VOOP) was held. And on August 15–17, 1955, the First Congress of the All-Russian Society for the Promotion of Nature Protection and the Greening of Population Centers convened in Moscow. (In June 1995, I might add, the First Russian Congress for Nature Protection was held.)

With its 130 voting delegates and 201 guests, it was a decent-sized affair, overshadowing the intimate 1947 Congress with its fifty-three delegates. Yet, confirming Susanna Fridman's worst fears, its atmosphere was alien to all previous Congresses. Only three of the eleven members of the Presidium—Avetisian, Dement'ev, and Professor P. A. Polozhentsev of Voronezh—could be called old-timers; the recognizable hearts and souls of the movement—Varsonof'eva, Formozov, Geptner, Fridman, Nasimovich, Zablotskii, Protopopov, Gekker—were all absent. Their places were taken by gardeners, selectioners, and presidents of provincial chapters.

Making the keynote address was Nikolai Nikolaevich Bespalov, one of Puzanov's deputy premiers who now, it seemed, bore principal responsibility for the fate of the movement. Bespalov's remarks seemed to be a continuation of the generally supportive attitude of the Russian Federation leadership toward nature protection: "Our people rightfully demand not only comfortable and attractive housing but beautifully laid out parks and gardens, and residential quarters, streets, and courtyards luxuriating in greenery and flowers. . . . Thus far we have only a handful of cities and population centers that meet these demands," and despite the annual investment of 500,000,000 rubles in urban landscaping and greening, ultimate success would depend on mobilizing the army of citizen amateur gardeners and nature lovers.

That is why the Congress . . . is so important. We must hope that it will facilitate the transformation of nature protection and . . . greening into a truly mass movement. In this cause we must not limit ourselves to government decrees although they are, of course, necessary. Agitation and propaganda are of paramount importance, as is upbringing and explanatory work, particularly among youths and schoolchildren. This is one of the principal tasks of the Society. . . . [Despite the fact] that nature protection and greening have been engaged in here for a long time, we cannot describe the existing situation as


favorable. Rapacious attitudes toward nature and green plantings are not rarities at the present time. . . . We must say bluntly that the local soviets until now have paid little attention to nature protection and green plantings. Especially here is where citizens' organizations must mobilize the attention of the population. Citizens' oversight over the proper use of natural resources must occupy a great place in the work of the Society and its branches. . . . We should also recall that nature protection and greening pursue a variety of aims, not only economic but also cultural and esthetic.

Bespalov concluded by noting that eight years had passed since the 1947 Congress, during which time "the economic and cultural needs of the country had greatly increased." That, in turn, demanded "a decisive mobilization in the area of nature protection and greening, and, in particular, a mobilization of the work of the Society."[6]

The most arresting and disquieting moment came near the close of the gathering, when one of the few old-timers present, Professor Pëtr Artem'evich Polozhentsev of Voronezh, took the floor. "It is awkward to express [my] feelings and impressions," he reflected, at first talking around the subject. "I have in mind the absence at this Congress of the distinguished activist for the protection of nature Comrade Makarov, who has left us forever."[7] Echoing Susanna Fridman's letter to Avetisian, Polozhentsev now alluded to the other "absent presence" at the Congress—the living activists from among the generation of founders who were not in attendance. Polozhentsev's remarks revealed an incipient perception that an era in the life of the Society had ended and that VOOP, now VOSOPiONP, had fallen into the hands of "new people":

I wanted to recall the enthusiasts of nature protection, by force of whose efforts our society not only managed to survive but also to have the opportunity to convene this present Congress. Are those present here aware that our Society was on the brink of obliteration? It is with a feeling of gratitude that I now recognize the following comrades: [F. N.] Petrov, Avetisian, Dement'ev, Motovilov, Varsonof'eva, Bazilevskaia, Krivoshapov, Protopopov, and others. It is also necessary to name those comrades who, working in the [Society's] paid staff, also maintained their support, such as Golovenkov and others.

Polozhentsev made a point of thanking some of the "newer" defenders of VOOP—Avetisian, Dement'ev, Golovenkov—in recognition that political realities would never again permit the control of VOOP by the Society's founders. With those thanks came the tenuous hope that the Avetisians and Dement'evs would be able to hold the line against the Volkovs, Egorovs, Manteifel's, Malinovskiis, and other convinced or cynical transformers of nature. "There are those who are trying to accuse the Organizing Committee of poor preparation for the Congress," Polozhentsev concluded, in a final attempt to lend support to Avetisian. Implicitly he seemed to recognize that


the convocation on short notice, the unpropitious selection of the season in which to hold it, and the disturbing omissions of the founders may well have been out of Avetisian's hands, the decisions of a higher authority:

Many of the biggest defects of the Congress, though, were scarcely in the competence of the Organizing Committee. But [even so] our Congress is taking place in a marvelous building and those of us who traveled here [from afar] were able to find housing with no difficulty. And that is all the work of the Organizing Committee, . . . [work performed] particularly under those conditions, when our voice is barely heard by those who should be encouraging us in our work. [Instead], they should say "Thank you, comrades, for your love of nature, for your efforts to enrich and to beautify our Motherland."[8]

An indication of the new order within the Society was quickly revealed in the report of the Charter Editing Commission, headed by Vasilii Vasil'evich Prokof'ev of the "Znanie" society. Noting that there had been a number of suggestions for the best possible name of the new society, including "Society of Friends of Nature" and "Society for the Transformation of Nature," Prokof'ev explained that the name was already a moot point insofar as the RSFSR Council of Ministers insisted on the existing cumbersome formulation "because it believes that the Society must chiefly orient itself toward population centers." Their view, he continued, was that "the Society must not take upon itself broad responsibility for the fulfillment of governmental measures," perhaps an allusion to the former VOOP's energetic and autonomous initiatives in the creation of zapovedniki and in the enforcement of anti-poaching laws.[9]

With dues set at three rubles for full adult members and fifty kopecks for youths, the Congress completed its work by electing a new Central Council of thirty members through secret ballot. Of the core group of old-timers, only Krivoshapo, Polozhentsev, and Formozov, elected in his absence, were now represented, along with second-generation members Avetisian and Dement'ev. With a clear majority, the "new people" were in the driver's seat.[10]

The first session of the Society's newly elected Executive Committee, which met on August 19 at the conclusion of the Congress, is one of the defining moments in the history of the merged society. The presiding officer of the August 19 session was not a member of the movement at all, but the same N. N. Bespalov, a deputy prime minister of the RSFSR, who had given the keynote address at the Congress. That in itself was highly unusual at a meeting of a voluntary society with VOOP's traditions. Then, announcing the order of business, which was the election of the Society's new president and vice presidents, Bespalov let it be known that the Society's pretensions to autonomy were a thing of the past. "Having weighed the various possible candidates," Bespalov Solomonically pronounced, "we have inescapably decided to recommend as president of the Central Executive


Council of the Society G. P. Motovilov," the former USSR minister of forestry. The vote was unanimous.

Nikolai Vasil'evich Eliseev, a veterinarian and head of the Russian Federation's new Main Administration for Hunting and Zapovedniki , was unanimously elected first vice president. Aleksandr Nikolaevich Volkov, head of the Moscow Plant Protection Station and president of the Moscow oblast' branch of the Society, was elected as the other vice president. In this coronation of bureaucrats there was one small jarring note when Ivan Stepanovich Krivoshapov, one of the few old-timers left on the new council, proposed the candidacy of Nina Aleksandrovna Bazilevskaia instead of Volkov, offering that there should be at least one biologist on the Presidium. However, these were new times, and objections from the new claque of careerists forced a hasty withdrawal of the botanist's candidacy. Only Nikolai Borisovich Golovenkov, the scholarly secretary of the Society, was reelected.

Elections to the remaining five slots on the Presidium were similarly conducted under conditions of guided democracy. Avetisian was left on, presumably as a courtesy, and Krivoshapov, Tsitsin, and Dement'ev were named as well; their appointment gave the Presidium a veneer of legitimacy. The remaining choice was the hack Vasilii Ivanovich Egorov, deputy inspector of the RSFSR Ministry of Agriculture's Division of Gardens, Viticulture, Subtropical Crops, and Teas. However, this compromise did not please the extreme anti-academic utilitarian wing, which demanded expansion of the Presidium to include at least one representative of the urban greening group. Another compromise was struck; the Presidium was expanded by two, and the "greener" Aleksandr Filippovich Lukash was elected together with Professor Nikolai Ivanovich Kozhin, a representative of the fishing industry. Two Executive Council members abstained from the vote on Lukash, but they, too, were clearly out of step.[11]

As we seek to understand episodes like these in the absence of full archival documentation, we must always keep in mind the temper of the times. When the republics were faced with repeated assaults on their authority and raids on their portfolios of responsibilities, they tried to defend as much as they could. To a great extent this stance explains the patronage and solicitude of the Russian Republic's government toward the Russian conservation movement and the Russian zapovedniki when they fell under attack. Although far from liberal, the leadership of the RSFSR played a crucial role in protecting Russia's version of civil society from obliteration. That the RSFSR leadership was willing to defend VOOP in the first place no doubt had something to do with its perception of nature protection as a low-risk issue. It could take a stand, implicitly defending its sense of its own importance in the bargain, without the likelihood of being purged.

With Stalin's death, though, the pressure on the republics from the center eased. It was time to frame new compromises and to blunt the edges of


conflict. Patronage of even a remotely dissident conservation movement became counterproductive under the new conditions of rapprochement with Khrushchëv's team. Although the Russian Republic never gave up the goal of restoring its zapovedniki and even maintained a certain respect for the old-line elite biologists who had led the conservation movement, it could not allow them to remain in control of a growing organization such as VOOP. Elite biologists could work in subsidiary roles in the RSFSR's Main Administration for Hunting and Zapovedniki under politically reliable bureaucrats, but they would never again be allowed to occupy highly visible positions, which only attracted the near-fatal attention of the center to them and to their patrons in the republic's leadership.

The Lakoshchënkov Affair

History occasionally is the story of surprising reversals. Romanetskii, the police bureaucrat who participated centrally in the persecution of the conservation movement, emerged four years later as a naive idealist whose outrage at the Party's abuse of power in the environmental area led him to confront Khrushchëv himself. Another example of how one man's behavior evolved from craven denunciation under Stalin to outspoken resistance under Khrushchëv is the case of Vsevolod Georgievich Lakoshchënkov.

In 1950 Lakoshchënkov was one of several members of the Moscow oblast' branch of VOOP who signed a letter denouncing the Society's old guard for promoting corruption and stagnation. The charges were wildly exaggerated and distorted—part of a campaign to remove the independent-minded leadership of the Society and to replace it with a more pliant and loyal Stalinist cadre. Nonetheless, these tactics were partially successful, resulting in the forced resignation of Makarov in 1952 and the eventual takeover of VOOP by Party hacks between 1953 and 1956. Although they failed to eliminate the autonomous, oppositional conservation movement, which migrated to the protection of the Moscow Society of Naturalists, the Party loyalists inherited the expanding machinery of the conservation society.

Lakoshchënkov was a local activist whose star initially rose with the ouster of the Makarov group. Beginning in 1948 he had served on the Presidium and as secretary of the VOOP branch of the town of Perovo, a Moscow suburb. From January 1954 through December 1956 he was a member of the Auditing Commission of the Moscow Regional branch of VOOP, along with V. S. Iukhno, director of the Prioksko-Terrasnyi zapovednik and president of the Serpukhov branch, and I. P. Kosinets, secretary of the Leninskii regional branch.

The commission met in October 1954, but the extreme disorganization of the financial records moved the commission to declare that it could not


conduct a coherent audit. Although Moscow VOOP branch president A. N. Volkov and the branch's bookkeeper proposed that the commission return in April 1955, by which time the documents were to be put in order the commission resolved instead to conduct an immediate investigation into possible malfeasance.[12]

The scholarly secretary, S. V. Butygin, had been wearing not one hat, but five, dispersing credits, serving as cashier, and acting as bookkeeper and safekeeper besides. The cash transactions that crossed his desk bypassed the Society's bank account and were therefore never officially recorded. Chaos also reigned in other matters. No membership lists were kept by the regional branches. A close associate of Volkov's, one Korshunova, had been hired as bookkeeper; she simply sat in the office and took the work home to her husband, who was a bookkeeper.

All of this impropriety, Lakoshchënkov alleged in his letter to V. M. Molotov (now USSR minister of state control), was intentional. Preying on Butygin's weakness for alcohol and his illness, as well as his dedication to the Society, Volkov had put the scholarly secretary in an untenable position. Deprived of honest, skilled bookkeeping support staff, Butygin soon was over his head as he struggled to take over those functions in addition to his normal organizational ones. In order to balance the available cash with receipts Butygin at one point had pitched in 2,800 rubles of his own money.

Complications multiplied at a meeting of the VOOP Executive Council on November 12, 1954. Despite the absence of a report from the Auditing Commission, Volkov blamed the messy books on Butygin, whose removal he now demanded. He also demanded the exclusion from the council of P. P. Smolin for his "bungling" of "Bird Day," of M. G. Groshikov for "inactivity," and of P. A. Manteifel' on account of his overcommitted work calendar. Volkov's agenda was not simply to rout the old-line professors and field naturalists. He wanted the field cleared for an even more radical conversion of the Society. Volkov sought to remake VOOP into a profitable business.[13] True, the Society would promote a little greening here and there, but that was all beside the point. The point was profit, and that is why Volkov needed to retire even such personally honest philosophical supporters of the "transformation of nature" as Manteifel'.

As early as mid 1954 Volkov began to assemble his confederacy of wheeler-dealers. P. A. Petriaev was brought on board as scholarly secretary, with two contracts for 5,250 rubles total for "research" and an additional payment of 2,850 rubles for undocumented "lectures" on behalf of VOOP to sweeten the deal. Other Volkov allies, such as P. V. Tsibin, V. S. Iukhno, I. P. Kosinets, and Zemering, head of the Mytishchi regional branch, were also brought into the Presidium.

Commercial activity immediately assumed two lines of action. One was the purchase and resale of DDT for profit by the Moscow regional branch.


Apparently, no financial documents were kept of the transactions within the Society; information and documents bearing on the purchase did turn up in a search of other agencies' files. Nevertheless, testimony was received that the VOOP branch in Mytishchi sold the DDT at more than 200 percent of the average price. Perhaps more shocking was the second commercial operation, which got under way in October 1954. More than any other scandal, it exemplified the ethical rot that accompanied the ouster of the old-timers by the new group. Tsibin and Iukhno were the ringleaders in a scam to uproot 12,000 eight– to ten-year-old linden trees from the Prioksko-Terrasnyi zapovednik and resell them for huge sums to interested parties, including the Moscow Telephone Construction Trust. Not only were the trees being illegally pillaged, on the sly, from a nature reserve, but the operation was being masterminded by the reserve's own director, Viacheslav Stepanovich Iukhno.[14] Volkov and his people managed to combine Stalin and Lysenko's development philosophy with the moral vision of the Mafia.

Other unsavory characters were brought in to round out the commercial operation, which by 1955 involved the "sale" of 8,223 trees fetching hundreds of thousands of rubles.[15] Whereas the tree removals commenced in April 1955, official permission for the operation was retroactively provided in May and October by the Main Administration for Zapovedniki . Malinovskii himself signed on to the scam. On August 13, the Presidium of the Moscow branch of VOOP awarded V. S. Iukhno 1,000 rubles as a bonus for his successful commercial transaction.

Two more audits were held in 1955, the first conducted by Lakoshchënkov and the auditing bookkeeper, F. K. Alëkhin. Its results, published December 31, 1955, were described as "slanderous" by Volkov, deputy president V. K. Alekseev, and the other regional Presidium members. Then the Moscow oblast' Party Committee's Agricultural Sector ordered a second audit. Gagarin, deputy head of the sector, even went so far as to recommend that branch president Volkov not remain involved in the linden tree business, speaking at the Second Moscow oblast 'Conference of VOOP in 1956.[16] However, the composition of the auditing commission gave one pause; Iukhno, Alekseev, Kosinets, and Butorin (of the All-Union VOOP)—precisely those under the cloud of suspicion—formed its majority.[17] Seeking to explain Lakoshchënkov's absence from the commission, its members asserted that he "declined to serve, giving the excuse that he would be away on business . . . until April 12, 1956." According to Lakoshchënkov's own letter to Molotov, he refused to serve because of his strong objections to the participation of the officials responsible for the alleged abuses.

At the Second Moscow oblast' Conference of VOOP where the Party official warned regional VOOP leaders to abandon the tree sales, Lakoshchënkov and Alëkhin were expelled from the Moscow Regional branch of VOOP


"for slanderous activities within the Society."[18] The vote was a disheartening 146 to 2.[19]

Repeating essentially the same charges in a letter to Soviet premier Nikolai A. Bulganin written in early July 1957, Lakoshchënkov added an arresting note of emotionality to his appeal for vindication.[20] "You know perfectly well," it opened, "that there is a limit to the amount of pressure that a person can tolerate, and a limit to the social and personal sufferings that the heart is able to bear, especially the heart of a seventy-five-year-old man." Referring to his letter to Molotov, which he enclosed, Lakoshchënkov pointedly accused "the Communists A. N. Volkov. . . , V. K. Alekseev, and G. P. Motovilov, president of VOOP," of a massive cover-up, "denying everything" and "declaring war on all who criticized their improper actions." For Lakoshchënkov, the issue had now expanded from financial and resourcerelated abuses to the highly political question of Communists' abuses of power:

They are using their experience and their bureaucratic positions in their struggle against me. . . . Most troubling is that no one has stood up to their attempt to quash criticism. In their actions they, as Communists, have ceased to relate to [us] in a personal, individual, and human way; decency is a basic law of human culture. Are we not Soviet people, even if that fact is unpleasant for Volkov, Alekseev, and Motovilov? As such, we too have the right to a certain amount of respect and the right to defend our dignity. They just do not seem to understand that elementary rule, and, despite my appeals, no one else has yet pointed out their errors to them, either.[21]

The fate of Lakoshchënkov's appeals closely parallels those of other naive missives of the Khrushchëv and Brezhnev periods. Molotov himself probably never saw the first letter, which was forwarded by his Bureau of Complaints to G. P. Motovilov, president of VOOP. Maintaining the stonewalling, the May 15, 1957 reply drafted by VOOP secretary V. V. Strokov was scathingly dismissive and reaffirmed the decision of the Second Moscow oblast' Conference of VOOP of 1956 expelling Lakoshchënkov and three others for "defaming Communist citizen activists."[22]

Lakoshchënkov appealed to Molotov and Bulganin for reinstatement and declared his readiness to submit to a trial over whether his accusations constituted slander. Instead, a hearing was held by the Presidium of the national VOOP, now incensed that Lakoshchënkov would turn whistle-blower. In a confrontation with the N. V. Eliseev, vice president of VOOP and head of the RSFSR's Main Administration for Hunting and Zapovedniki , Lakoshchënkov reaffirmed his readiness for a slander trial. Eliseev rebuked Lakoshchënkov for turning to outsiders "with misinformation" instead of to the national Society's Executive Council; apparently, at Lakoshchënkov's prompting, reporters from Literaturnaia gazeta even called VOOP and asked why an old and


dedicated member of the Society was unjustly expelled and why his complaints were being shunted aside. It was all exceedingly embarrassing and nasty.

VOOP's vigilant trustees in the Russian Republic felt obliged to respond. On November 19, 1957, Motovilov and Eliseev were called in to the office of Deputy Premier Bespalov to discuss the fate of the Society. Although tightening trusteeship over the Society represented an additional burden for the Republic's leadership, no alternative was seen. Bespalov would take overall responsibility for VOOP himself, while an aide, Semikoz, of the Agricultural Section of the RSFSR Council of Ministers, would handle day-to-day affairs.[23]

With time, however, there was a broad "normalization" of the internal workings of the Society; nothing remotely resembling an internal critique against the new line was to be heard within VOOP, and the state trusteeship was lifted after a few months. For its part, the RSFSR was glad to get this responsibility off its hands. Nikita Khrushchëv was implementing his notorious plan to create putatively self-contained economic regions to replace the system of branch ministries, and the republics had few bureaucratic resources to spare for such low-priority items as voluntary societies. Accordingly, VOOP was now free to pursue its new agenda unhindered, or so it seemed. The lush bureaucratization and commercialization of VOOP swung into full gear. The Lakoshchënkov flap highlighted the degree to which VOOP had become unrecognizably different from what it had been only five years earlier.


Of all the indicators that a new ethos had taken hold in VOOP none was more vivid than the proliferation of a network of profit–oriented commercial outlets—the Priroda (Nature) stores. This chain of stores required a large amount of start-up capital from the parent society, as provincial conservation-entrepreneurs all tried to get in on the act. In July 1956, the Leningrad City branch of VOOP asked the central leadership for a loan of 100,000 rubles to be repaid by January 1, 1957. It was approved.[24]

Another emblem of the new approach was an indiscriminate campaign to recruit new members. This increasingly involved the induction of so-called "juridical members," entire factories or schools, for example, that joined as institutions. During the discussions of the budget for VOOP for the coming year at a Presidium meeting of January 19, 1956, Vice President Volkov proposed a cut in the publishing expenditures of the Society and a revved-up membership drive instead. Egorov, seconding this, proposed no less than


a 50 percent increase in membership, to 300,000.[25] President Motovilov concurred, adding only that the Society should further recruit 200,000 additional Young Naturalists, for a grand total of 500,000.

The new line also demanded leadership even more in tune with its bureaucratic-entrepreneurial goals. Only a year and a half after the imposition of a new leadership, Motovilov was complaining that, of all the Presidium members, only Volkov, Krivoshapov, and V. V. Strokov, the new secretary who replaced Golovenkov, were satisfactory.[26] Kozhin and Avetisian were denounced as ineffectual deadbeats, and they soon left the leadership.[27] The interregnum was over.

The Annual Report on VOOP Activities for 1957

In his presentation of the annual report, A. N. Volkov, deputy president, made the customary complaints about insufficient funds and organizational shortcomings. But internal factors were not the only impediments to the Society's meeting its goals. Despite the relatively small number of individuals involved, the defection of the old-timers to the Moscow Society of Naturalists (MOIP) posed a perceptible threat to VOOP's claim to represent nature protection.

Susanna Fridman, in a letter to Vera Varsonof'eva written late in 1958, again throws light on the deep wound this loss of a social "home" caused her and the old guard. Commenting on the departure of the "exiles," as she termed the old-timers, Fridman ventured that they should not have left so quietly: "It was absolutely necessary to have written an 'acerbic' letter to the new Presidium concerning our departure. . . . Our whole group should have signed such a letter; let the document remain as testimony in the Society's archives. It is too easy simply to beat a retreat. I would have typed up a letter and sent it to the newspapers."[28] Fridman also informed Varsonof'eva that she had saved an old postcard from Grigorii Aleksandrovich Kozhevnikov recommending her for membership in MOIP. In asking Varsonof'eva to admit her to membership, Fridman confessed that she "could not bring anything useful to the Society." Nevertheless, in her last months she only "wanted to be alongside you [Varsonof'eva] and Aleksandr Petrovich [Protopopov]."[29] Better evidence for the poignant place of their societies in the hearts and souls of nature protection activists would be hard to come by.

Although the defection of the Makarov-era activists was almost inevitable, given the changes in VOOP from 1952 on, Volkov had underestimated their mettle; it was difficult for hacks to grasp the intensity of the old-timers' commitment to their values and their capacity for autonomous organization.


"It is entirely incomprehensible to me," admitted Volkov, "how conservation work has been going recently. I don't like the intrusions of MOIP [into our area]," he continued.

The Moscow Society of Naturalists is a respected organization, but MOIP is convening a conference on zapovednik problems, has called a conference on conservation problems generally, that is, MOIP has gotten involved in those issues which are the province of our Society. And we are not concerning ourselves with those issues that we should concern ourselves with. [Conservation] is not the prerogative of MOIP, but a group of activists has appeared there and they are not performing badly.

At that point, a voice from the hall dared to state the obvious: "Those are our former activists!" "Right you are!" concurred Volkov, who added wistfully that "they are moving ahead while we are standing on the sidelines . . . not only not initiating [these conferences] but not even taking part." That left the field open to the elite biologists, who, "at these conferences, dump on us, as a Society, without compunction."[30]

Cleansed of nauchnaia obshchestvennost' , the Society now sought to rejoin the international conservation movement. This time, domestic obstacles were significantly reduced. Khrushchëv's foreign policy emphasized reintegrating the Soviet Union—in a managed way—into the world's economic and diplomatic systems. And the VOOP leadership was now composed exclusively of dependable Communists or those close to the Party. Accordingly, on August 11, 1958, the Presidium sent a memorandum to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) asking permission to join the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which was affiliated with UNESCO, and to attend its conference in Athens and Delphi. Professor N. A. Gladkov of MGU, a Stalin Prize laureate, would represent the Society.[31] A delegation of three, headed by Gladkov, had attended the Twelfth International Ornithological Congress in Helsinki in March 1958.[32]

The new leadership had put particular emphasis on building membership. By 1958 membership was up to 242,624, an increase over the previous year of 100,000; still, it included only 80,261 adults.[33] In response a number of strategies were advanced. One emphasis was to attract more juridical members, which now numbered 1,106: another was to lure individual members with contests and prizes.[34]

By 1959, when the Society's Second Congress convened in Moscow, one year late, membership had swelled to 916,000.[35] The staffs (including both the center and the affiliates) had grown commensurately from 24 paid staffers in 1956 to 306 in 1959, and consisted of bookkeepers, scholarly secretaries, clerks, typists, and instructors/lecturers.[36] If disbursements, including staff salaries, climbed in this four-year period, income also rose, from


1,559,500 rubles in 1956 to 3,584,900 in the first nine months of 1959.[37] Of this, membership dues accounted for only 245,294 rubles, or 7 percent of all income. Despite this impressive growth, it was calculated that to break even the Society would need 9 million members (3 million adults and 6 million youths); even the lucrative Priroda stores and the postcard, album, and literature sales could not generate enough profit to keep the operation growing.[38]

A breakdown of the delegates by age, length of membership in the Society, education, and Party membership told the story of the restructuring of VOOP. Of the 316 voting delegates, plus 37 with consultatory status who attended, three-quarters were Party members (243), Komsomols (8), or Pioneers, with only 101 non-Party delegates. The loss of the old guard was even more dramatically highlighted in the tiny number (14) of scientists with degrees of kandidat nauki or higher or with the title of professor. Finally, those who had been in VOOP prior to 1954, when it merged with the Green Plantings Society, constituted less than 25 percent of the delegation (81 in all).[39]

Much of the discussion at the Congress, therefore, was tame or even trite. There was much talk of gardening techniques, which pesticide to use on orchards, new hybrid flower varieties, and other horticultural issues. Some of the livelier moments concerned how to make VOOP a financially viable operation. Nature protection was almost an afterthought. Nevertheless, a few voices still reminded the Society of its ostensible mission. One of them was that of Vera Aleksandrovna Varsonof'eva (see figure 11), one of the Society's oldest members and vice president of the "competition," the Moscow Society of Naturalists (MOIP).

As one who "began working in the Society . . . in the first years of Soviet power," Varsonof'eva sought to claim Lenin's endorsement for a stouthearted stance for nature protection. "V. I. Lenin understood well," she asserted, "that with the development of the young socialist state a colossal exploitation of natural resources would be required," but he also knew that "for proper exploitation it was essential to understand all the complicated interrelationships that exist among elements of the landscape. . . . On this realization was based that grand scientific program . . . that was pursued in the zapovedniki . VOOP, in its original form, participated broadly in the scientific work." she continued, in an implicit rebuke to the new direction of the Society.[40]

However, now was hardly the time to slacken one's vigilance. She noted that in ten years almost 21 percent of the Carpathian forests of Ukraine had been cut, and the woodlands would last only another ten to fifteen years at that pace. In Siberia, the Siberian stone pine (Pinus sibirica-kedr, or "cedar," in the Russian vernacular) was disappearing, while pollution was engulfing more and more formerly pristine rivers and lakes, such as the Chusovaia



Figure 11.
Vera Aleksandrovna Varsonof'eva (1889–1976) . 
Vladimir Nikolaevich Sukachëv (1880–1967) is seated at right.

River in the Urals. Part of the problem was that planners and bureaucrats failed to consult with scientists, and the results were not only pollution but disastrous agronomic-engineering schemes such as that which was leading to the desiccation of Lake Sevan. "One would think," she remonstrated, "that the Conservation Society would put precisely this kind of problem at the top of its list of priorities. For this reason it is wrong to view the two questions—of nature protection and of urban greening—as equally pressing. The question of urban greening is linked with that of human health and it is doubtless important." However "it is ill-considered to view it as equal in importance to the urgent and great problem of nature protection."[41]

Varsonofeva explained that preserving nature's "untouched baseline territories" was not for the sake of an abstract Nature but for living people, and not simply for material well-being but for a more transcendent aspect of human existence: the "restoration of the moral forces of the human being." "We must preserve standards [etalony ] of the beautiful age-old nature of our Motherland," she continued, "and there, where life forces us to alter its visage, we must not leave a defaced, deformed wasteland. We must pass on to our descendants monuments of nature in their original beauty. . . . The most urgent task of our society is—the protection of nature."[42]


A Leningrad delegate, Georgii Ivanovich Rodionenko, was more direct:

I would like to pose the following question to the members of the Central Council. Have they raised even one problem of national scope, such as the fate of Lakes Sevan or Baikal or of a large zapovednik ? Nothing was uttered about these problems either in the [official] report or in the other announcements. It seems to me that we must elect to the new Central Council, in addition to those who are adept at organizational work, specialists with a broad field of vision. Without their help it will be difficult to raise questions having national import.[43]

One speaker, V. V. Tarchevskii, a delegate from Sverdlovsk oblast' , raised the relatively new problem of air pollution. Cheliabinsk made the problem not only visible but inescapable. "Over all the cities in Sverdlovsk oblast' ," said the delegate, "and there are 101 of them, lie permanent clouds of smoke. The atmosphere is polluted with toxic wastes dangerous to human beings. For this reason the question of the protection of individual elements of nature, especially the atmosphere, is extremely urgent."[44] Painting a ghastly picture of cities in the Urals surrounded by "deserts of life . . . for dozens of kilometers out from the city perimeters, where there is no vegetation," Tarchevskii complained that already in the oblast 's third largest city, Kamensk-Ural'skii, "it is impossible to breathe" owing to the waste belched forth from the monster Urals Aluminum Smelting Plant. He described clouds of asbestos and enormous, exposed waste dumps in the city of Asbest. The oblast ' branch of VOOP sought to plant them over, but what was really required was a massive national campaign to rehabilitate mined-out and degraded land and, especially, to clean the air.[45]

Another delegate, from Astrakhan', informed the Congress about bacterially contaminated rivers of her oblast ' and the writers Oleg Pisarzhevskii and E. N. Permitin cautioned that socialism ipso facto did not guarantee "safe" industrial working conditions.[46]

Despite these few brave words, the activities of the Congress displayed a monumental complacency, reflected in the election of the new president and Presidium. The Russian Republic minister of forestry, Mikhail Mikhailovich Bochkarëv, was selected to lead the Society for the next three years, while the politically reliable Andrei Grigor'evich Bannikov, a mediocre zoologist but regime loyalist, was elected first vice president. Nikolai Vasil'evich Eliseev was named, more or less ex officio, as was past president Motovilov. The only pre-1955 faces were those of Avetisian and Gladkov, who were unlikely to oppose the further commercialization of the Society.

The archive contains Vera Varsonof'eva's secret written ballot for the Central Council of the Society. Fifty-five names were listed as candidates for the Council and fifty-five individuals were ultimately elected to that body. But


Varsonof'eva only placed approving check marks next to twelve, not counting herself—the only real old-timers. Indeed, the only Presidium members she considered voting for were Gladkov and Avetisian.[47]

A few of the Society's publications did address some of the major issues of environmental ruin. An article in the Society's journal Okhrana prirody i ozelenenie (Nature Protection and Greening ) was remarkably candid about the extent and location of water pollution in the USSR and even identified some point sources with descriptions and amounts of their effluents.[48] A much more extensive brochure, authored by the botanist G. G. Bosse and the population geneticist and ecologist Aleksei Vladimirovich Iablokov and designed to coach the Society's lecturers, underscored the problems of biotic conservation that were largely ignored at the conference while also defending the aesthetic side of nature protection as an expression of patriotism.[49] However, these were the rare exceptions to the flood of pamphlets about gladiolus varieties, ornamental trees, and new pesticides for apple orchards.

Although politically, morally, and intellectually stagnant, the Society grew like topsy. By 1962 its membership had ballooned to nine million. VOOP—in 1959 it had regained its old name—had not only become the largest nature protection society in the world, but also one of the largest non-state businesses in the Soviet Union.


Chapter Ten—

A highly unusual conference on the nature reserves was convened in the spring of 1954 by three voluntary societies, MOIP, VOOP, and the Moscow branch of the Geographical Society of the USSR (MGO). The zapovednik conference is a watershed in the history of the Russian and Soviet conservation movements for a number of reasons. First, with almost geological force it thrust up the seething, formerly self-censored passions of the scientific intelligentsia to the surface of public life: its anger, its sense of wounded dignity, its unrelenting claim to a decisive role in public policy, its bitterness at the expropriation of "its" archipelago of freedom—the zapovedniki , its disdain of the values and utilities of the Stalinist bureaucracy, and its unrequited patriotism.

Second, the conference ushered in a period of ascendancy in the movement's history of the Moscow Society of Naturalists and the Moscow branch of the Geographical Society, and with it, a new, highly visible place for geographers and geologists. This occurred against a backdrop of chaos and a leadership interregnum in VOOP, so recently rocked by financial difficulties, dissension, regime persecution, and Makarov's retirement and death.

Third, even while the majority of the old activists were still determined to restore the status quo ante and hence equated nature protection with the zapovedniki , new voices were heard at the conference and new concerns were tentatively expressed that prefigured a broader agenda for the movement: the issues of pollution and of resource management outside the reserves system.

Malinovskii's new Main Administration quickly began to reorient the scientific work in the rump zapovednik system. The main orientation became


developing means of "increasing" nature's productivity. For example, at the Voronezh reserve, work intensified on replacing the "unproductive" aspen forest with other tree species.[1]

Of the total area of 1,328,700 hectares that remained in the twenty-eight reserves of Malinovskii's system, twenty-three reserves with an aggregate area of 915,600 hectares contained forests, of which actual forest cover accounted for 67 1,500 hectares. Of these, 58 percent were characterized by Malinovskii as very mature or old-growth and another 13 percent as mature.[2] Although forestry measures in twelve of the twenty-three forested reserves were limited to fire control and anti-poaching measures, in the other eleven, some of which were still quite large, "forestry measures . . . were being conducted in full measure."[3] "Full measure" included such "biotechnical means" as clearing trees from the enclosed bison range in the Belovezhskaia pushcha in order to plant new forest browse, or clearing black elm in the floodplain of the Usman' River, which had been impeding the growth of willows, the tree of choice for the local beaver.[4] Malinovskii's vision of the role and function of zapovedniki mirrored that of the Stalinist theorists of the 1930s—Arkhipov, Boitsov, Veitsman—who saw the reserves as experimental areas to create the lush, superproductive "Communist" nature of the future.[5]


"Biotechnics," the technical means to achieve a "reconstruction" of "first nature," embraced an array of disparate measures: predator control, pesticide application, the introduction/acclimatization of exotic species of plants and animals, supplementary feeding and the provision of salt licks, and the removal of existing vegetation in favor of another species mix. Motivated by a single-mindedly economic yardstick of benefit, measured in currently identified resources, this reconstruction of nature was also wedded to a voluntaristic perception of existing nature as backward, unplanned, and not having reached its productive potential. Soviet biotechnics would correct all that.

Ever since the first epic battles over acclimatization, especially those fought at the 1929 and 1933 nature protection congresses, biotechnics had acquired intense symbolic meaning for the two opposing sides. This was particularly the case regarding proposals to carry out acclimatization and other biotechnical measures in the zapovedniki . For the Stalinist nature-transformation enthusiasts, these measures were weapons in their war against the prerevolutionary, indeed counterrevolutionary, inertia of old Russia. No community—neither human nor ecological—would be permitted to stand aloof from the complete refashioning of one sixth of the earth's surface into a


gleaming, rationally planned socialist commune. Nothing would be allowed to "go its own way."

For the nature protection activists acclimatization meant much the same thing, but the proposed "great transformation" elicited not enthusiasm but horror, disdain, and ultimately resistance. Acclimatization, especially in zapovedniki , threatened the last little islands of "inviolability," beauty, and purity in the swirling and profane sea of Stalinist changes. True, the threat was ecological—portending the spread of parasites and the transformation of acclimatized species into pests and public menaces. But it was also symbolic, marking the intrusion of the Party-state and its machinery into the last holdout of the scientific intelligentsia. It was a struggle over whether there was to be any kind of "geography of hope" in the Soviet Union.

Makarov and Smidovich in the 1930s decided rhetorically to capitulate to the nature-transformers, renouncing the principle of the "inviolability of the zapovedniki " and admitting the permissibility in those reserves of "biotechnical measures." Yet their concession was an exercise in protective coloration, and Makarov tried to limit the actual implementation of many of these nature-transformation schemes for the zapovedniki to the best of his ability.

Nevertheless, it was politically impossible to stay aloof from some high-profile campaigns. Regarding the acclimatization of the muskrat, the raccoon-dog, the sika deer, and some other large game animals (especially ungulates), there was almost no choice. Although the elimination of wolves and other large predators in the reserves had greater internal support, particularly if the reserves also harbored endangered herbivores, there too the authorities exerted uncontestable pressure. All the while, campaigns against the wolf were raging outside the reserves; the last family of wolves was exterminated in the Okskii zapovednik in 1954 and in the Voronezhskii in 1955. And, depending on the reserve, foxes, bobcats, wolverines, bears, cormorants, seagulls, marsh hawks and other hawks, and owls also found themselves at the wrong end of a gun.[6]

Acclimatization intensified under Malinovskii, although not every attempt resulted in a thriving population (and consequently a biotic disruption). Nine musk deer were released in Denezhkin kamen' in the Urals, for example, but by 1959 all the animals were dead. "The results of the acclimatization of the sika in zapovedniki were various. However, in all cases where the deer survived, regular winter feeding and other biotechnical measures were maintained," wrote Filonov. Ironically, when some of the reserves to which the sika had been acclimatized, such as the Buzulukskii bor and Kuibyshevskii zapovedniki , were liquidated in 1951, the unforgiving hand of natural selection also carried off the deer.[7] The only successful sika introduction was in the Khopërskii zapovednik , where twenty-seven animals released in 1972 grew to 1,800 by 1977.[8] More "successful" attempts involved the


raccoon-dog (Nyctereutes procyonides ), the muskrat, and the American mink, but much of these efforts were now largely conducted outside of zapovedniki , in forest plantations or areas designated for legal hunting.[9]

Other measures also continued or were expanded. Hay mowing for supplemental feeding or for feeding the Mordvinian zapovednik's own stock from 1954 through 1967 reached 9.4 tons per year, and in Il'menskii (from 1937 to 1960) averaged about 24 tons annually. Twig bunches (veniki ) were collected on a massive scale in some reserves, such as the Mordvinian, Il'menskii, and Okskii.[10]

But Malinovskii's beloved preoccupation in his new reserve system was forest management. From this perspective, ungulates were as much a pest to be eliminated as an economic amenity to be promoted. In quite a few zapovedniki such as the Crimean and Voronezhskii, deer were shot or, after 1952, captured and relocated.[11]

In reserves that had been "liquidated" and turned over to the USSR Ministry of Forestry, commercial logging soon began. There were important exceptions, such as the reserves of Lithuania, now classified as "watershed" forests protected from lumbering, and areas where the commercial potential was particularly low. The former Troitskii forest-steppe zapovednik constituted such an area, and it had the relative good fortune to be handed over to Perm' State University, which rechristened the territory an "Instructional-Experimental Forest Plantation." Here, the supportive local oblast' Executive Committee declared the area a zakaznik (a protected territory established usually for a period of five or ten years) until 1961, with all economic activities or alterations of the natural conditions prohibited. Thus, with the connivance of the local political authorities, Troitskii de facto remained a zapovednik , but now of Perm' University. Perhaps the most visible change was in the kinds of research pursued. More emphasis was placed on developing strategies for pest control, reclamation of salt pans and salt meadows through targeted afforestation with appropriate tree species, and studying the relationship between tree species and soil chemistry. Basic research continued to be pursued vigorously as well.[12]

The contrast between zapovednik management in the pre–and post-Malinovskii eras, although significant, has perhaps become exaggerated in the memories and perceptions of partisans of nature protection. True, acclimatization and predator control were conducted as protective coloration under duress during the Makarov years, whereas Malinovskii promoted those policies with enthusiasm. Yet the ecological consequences of acclimatization and predator control were not discernibly different before and after 1951.[13] In the memories of scientist activists, understandably, there has been a tendency to picture the zapovedniki before 1951 as idyllic and during the Malinovskii period as degraded. Certainly, from the perspective of scientists'


input and autonomy, not to mention the more mundane question of employment, that portrait of the reserves system reflects indisputable realities. Regarding acclimatization and the extermination of predators, however, the truth is not nearly as clear-cut.

The Academy of Sciences Commission on Zapovedniki

Bright spots such as Troitskoe or Lithuania were only local responses. The first coordinated response of the scientific community following the August 1951 calamity was not long in coming. With the quiet blessing of the new president of the Academy, the chemist Nesmeianov, who had just succeeded the late Sergei Ivanovich Vavilov, and of the Academy's scholarly secretary, A. V. Topchiev, a major new commission was created on March 28, 1952, attached to the Academy's Presidium: the Commission on Zapovedniki .[14] Like Vavilov before him, Nesmeianov had to walk a fine line between official obeisance to regime policy and his own vision of the welfare of science. This is well illustrated by a visit paid to him in early summer 1952 by Aleksandr Leonidovich Ianshin (see figure 12) and Vera Aleksandrovna Varsonof'eva in their capacities as co–vice presidents of MOIP. Their goal was to try to convince the Academy president personally to join the fight to restore at least some of the zapovedniki .[15]

Varsonof'eva started to speak about the importance of the Kondo-Sos'vinskii reserve on the eastern slopes of the Urals and the Barguzinskii zapovednik on the eastern shores of Lake Baikal in restoring the population of sable. Perhaps exploiting his status as a chemist, Nesmeianov replied to the geologist: "Vera Aleksandrovna, why do we need to worry about breeding all those fur-bearing animals these days? With the help of chemistry we can produce fur of any quality, any color, and any degree of beauty. We are now living in the century of synthetics and not natural products," he concluded, refusing help.[16]

Looking back, Ianshin was convinced that Nesmeianov was using a little protective coloration of his own to avoid the opprobrium of scientific public opinion. A Party man, indeed, a member of the nomenklatura , Nesmeianov was obliged to obey and fulfill the instructions and decrees of the Party once they were adopted. For that reason he could not be openly associated with the struggle against the 1951 Party decision. Yet, his honor as a member of scientific public opinion was called into question by his inability to join this crusade. Hence the need to present his position in terms of personal aesthetics, colored by his background as a chemist, so as to avoid an embarrassing admission that to protect his position he had no choice but to refuse assistance.[17]



Figure 12.
Aleksandr Leonidovich lanshin (1911–  ).

Nevertheless, the Academy president allowed Vladimir Nikolaevich Sukachëv, dean of Soviet botanists and director of the Academy's Institute of Forests, a surprising degree of freedom to use both his Multidisciplinary Scientific Expedition on Problems of Shelter Belts as well as the new commission as havens for out-of-work zapovednik staff and activists in the area of nature protection.

With Sukachëv as chair of the Commission on Zapovedniki , Makarov and Dement'ev were named two of his four deputies, the others being the aca-


demician Andrei Aleksandrovich Grigor'ev, a geographer and conservation stalwart, and Nikolai Evgen'evich Kabanov, a biologist working in the Institute of Forests. The remaining membership was no less distinguished.[18]

Barely two weeks later, the commission had already roared into action, convening the first meeting of its executive Bureau. Preoccupied with the continuing political troubles of his interdisciplinary Shelter Belt Expedition as well as an unexpected initiative, probably with its source in the Central Committee, to move his Institute of Forests to eastern Siberia (Krasnoiarsk), Sukachëv was unable to attend. Indeed, according to his close friend and deputy director of the Expedition, Sergei Vladimirovich Zonn, Sukachëv's blood pressure was so consistently high during those days that his doctor did not know whether the academician would live to see the next morning.[19] Happily, Sukachëv had a coterie of brilliant and dependable associates whom he had either attracted to his Institute or rescued from persecution by Lysenko and others, and to them he could confidently delegate some of his important scientific-political responsibilities. One of these was Nikolai Evgen'evich Kabanov, who in the early years of the commission more often than not sat as acting chair and convener.

Under Kabanov's direction the commission developed a work plan for the first half of 1952. Among its central responsibilities was examining the scientific research plans of Malinovskii's new Main Zapovednik Administration of the USSR Council of Ministers, particularly because the new decree on zapovedniki of August 1951 specifically assigned research-related "methodological leadership" to the USSR Academy of Sciences.[20] The dogged persistence and cunning of scientific public opinion now placed oversight of zapovednik research in the hands of Malinovskii's enemies: the old guard nature protection activists and elite field biologists of the nation. Scientific public opinion would not allow its "free territories" to be dispossessed, even if it meant a protracted and grueling guerrilla war. And a guerrilla war is what the central authorities got.

At a meeting of the Bureau on July 9, 1952, with Malinovskii's deputy director for scientific research Aleksei Ivanovich Korol'kov present, the forestry plans of the Main Administration came under fire. One of the most eloquent defenses of the special function of zapovedniki as etalony was made by Makarov, who insisted that the reserves must find a way of pursuing forestry under conditions of zapovednost' (inviolability): "Here [in Malinovskii's plans] a mistake has crept in. [Research] needs to be conducted not [only] within zapovedniki , but under conditions of zapovednost' ."[21] Forestry needed to promote the "natural" regeneration of "natural" forests.

Malinovskii's plans now came under accelerated attack in the commission. At a December 10, 1952 meeting, A. P. Protopopov, who was asked


to testify, demonstrated that he had lost none of his acuity or his mettle as he subjected Korol'kov, who then held the rank equivalent to a deputy minister, to inconvenient questioning:

I want to receive an answer from the representative of the Main Zapovednik Administration how we should critique [his plans] in the future. A question has emerged: "What kinds of institutions are we looking at here? What, in fact, are the Main Administration's zapovedniki? " The Main Administration uses the term zapovednoe khoziaistvo [management of a zapovednik oriented toward the exploitation of its resources, even if experimentally]. What are the zapovedniki, scientific-research institutions or zapovednye khoziaistva? This term elicits incomprehension. As I see it, zapovednoe khoziaistvo is an impossibility. There can only be khoziaistvo zapovednika [administrative management of a zapovednik ].[22]

Korol'kov was equally outspoken:

I am shocked by the question "What is a zapovednik?" The USSR Council of Ministers has already settled this question. Comrade Protopopov will find a exhaustive response [to it] in the statute [on zapovedniki ]. . . . It must be kept in mind that there is a whole group of objects of economic interest in the zapovednik. Experience has shown that it is impossible to practice forestry without cutting and treatment [of trees]. Economic measures must be carried out.[23]

When the commission finally drafted its official assessment of the scientific work plan of Malinovskii's reserves system for 1953 it noted that the Main Administration had taken some of the criticism received at the December 10 meeting into account, which improved the plan. However, the commission continued, "a second look at the plans sent to us shows that the Main Zapovednik Administration has still not adequately taken to heart the observations and recommendations of the Commission on Zapovedniki."[24]

The target of the commission's displeasure was the entire section "Scientific and Scientific-Technical Measures for Implementing Zapovednoe Khoziaistvo." "This whole section deserves the most comprehensive and critical discussion at the Scientific-Technical Council of the Main . . . Administration," the report noted. While projected studies of the ecological effects of the flooding of the shores of the Rybinsk reservoir were praised, the attempt to call a whole slew of managerial and technical measures "fundamental research" was roundly opposed.[25]

Malinovskii sought to keep his Scientific-Technical Council completely isolated from any contacts with the old guard on the commission, a state of affairs bitterly condemned by Geptner.[26] By March 1953 the Academy of Sciences and its commission were so frustrated by Malinovskii's lack of cooperation that they tried to get relieved of their responsibilities for oversight of the scientific work done by the Main Administration. Of course, they also no longer wished to be held legally responsible for that research, a responsibility overseen by the USSR Ministry of State Control.[27]


When the nature reserve system was "reorganized" there had been zapovedniki that were already subsumed under either the USSR Academy of Sciences or one of the Academy's republican affiliates. With the "liquidation" of most of the reserves, the Academy inherited an additional contingent that Malinovskii rejected for his own system, largely because the reserves lacked significant forest cover. Thus, by February 1953 the Academy system controlled fourteen reserves.[28]

By May 1952, Sukachëv, together with corresponding member I. V. Tiurin, director of the Academy's Institute of Soil Science, tried to roll back the decree of the previous year, beginning with the case of only one zapovednik, the Poperechenskaia steppe. Writing directly to Malenkov at the Central Committee Secretariat, the two scientists argued against the transfer of the zapovednik from the Penza Pedagogical Institute to a nearby collective farm, since the total area of the reserve, 200 hectares, would hardly represent an appreciable gain for the "Proletarian" collective farm (6,000 hectares). Meanwhile, those 200 hectares were among the last parcels of undeveloped northern forest-steppe. At a meeting organized by the Penza oblispolkom of March 5, 1952, they noted, a great many local workers and specialists spoke out in defense of continued protection for the area, as did the Penza branch of VOOP and the Biology Division of the Academy.[29]

Malenkov examined the letter ten days later, and marked in the margins that A. I. Kozlov, head of the Agricultural Department of the Central Committee, should look into it. However, Malenkov significantly made the further notation, "We must act in accordance with the decision of the Government concerning zapovedniki. Report back."[30] On June 13, Kozlov's deputy V. Iakushev wrote back to Malenkov:

The head of the Main Administration, . . . Malinovskii, considers it ill advised to reexamine the decision of the USSR Council of Ministers of October 29, 1951 . . . because pristine, unplowed lands continue to be preserved in the Tsentral'no-Chernozemskii zapovednik  . . . where practical scientific work on problems of the generation of strong black earth soils is being conducted. I also spoke with the secretary of the Penza obkom, Comrade Lebedev, who informed me that the obkom  . . . did not support the recommendations of Comrades Sukachëv and Tiurin.

Neither did the Agricultural Department.[31] This time, however, Sukachëv and Tiurin did not fold, taking their case to Academy president Nesmeianov. Another attempt was made the following year.

For the short term, Stalin's death on March 6, 1953 worsened the situation of zapovedniki in the Main Administration. In the immediate aftermath of the dictator's death there was a significant rearrangement of ministerial responsibilities at the USSR level. Stalin was succeeded by Nikita S. Khrushchëv as first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist


Party of the Soviet Union. Georgii M. Malenkov replaced Stalin as chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers (premier). One change entailed the abolition of the Ministry for Supplies (temporarily, it turned out), which was merged with Agriculture, with A. I. Kozlov (also temporarily) replacing Benediktov as minister of the enlarged superministry of Agriculture and Supplies. Although Malinovskii was not removed as head, his Main Administration was demoted from its status as an all-Union ministry and subsumed as a somewhat minor department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Supplies. As had happened in the 1920s, zapovedniki were trapped in the unfriendly embrace of the "economic commissariats." Little help could be expected from the minister, Kozlov, whose prior position made him Malenkov's right-hand man on the Secretariat for agricultural and land-use matters, and who was partly responsible for the reserves' current plight.

That seemed to leave only one route: to have the Academy system somehow become the nucleus of a new expansion. In his last major speech before his death, Makarov expressed the hope that the Academy would indeed prove to be the savior of his life's work. After all, the zapovedniki, he told a convocation of directors of nature reserves of the Academy system in the spring of 1953, "serve the general goals of the development of science."[32] Despite the importance of each reserve preserving its own personality, Makarov also stressed the need for common goals, common scientific perspectives, and common methods, so that the results of research at the various reserves could be compared. Here, too, the Commission on Zapovedniki had already begun work, drafting an overall statute for the Academy system "independent" of the statute on zapovedniki drafted by Malinovskii one year earlier.[33] It was crucial always to remember that zapovedniki were "a huge natural laboratory, a laboratory of nature" rather than a laboratory in nature, as Malinovskii would have it.[34] Making the obligatory rhetorical bows to "Michurinist biology" and "Pavlovian physiology," Makarov concluded by emphasizing the crucial role of the reserves also in the preparation of graduate students in their aspirantura (graduate training) and as a research base for those mature scholars seeking the degree of doctor of science (doktorantura ) both inside and outside the Academy systems.[35] A little over two months after giving this speech, Makarov died, and the commission was spurred to even more energetic activity to honor his legacy.

The new draft of the statute on the Academy's reserves was completed on September 18, 1953. The reserves were declared to be "independent scientific research institutions" of the Academy systems, with their own staffs of scientists and technical and support workers, and with goals that highlighted the twin missions of protection and fundamental research.[36]

Despite the political confusion following Stalin's death, the country also had a new atmosphere of guarded hope and of greater freedom. True, no one knew who was on top—Khrushchëv or Malenkov—but for the scien-


tific intelligentsia that was not a major preoccupation. As 1953 glided into 1954, the scientific intelligentsia mobilized to reclaim scientific autonomy and restore the "geography of hope," in many ways vastly outpacing their colleagues in literature who were creating the first "thaw."

The Rise of MOIP as a Center of Resistance

When Varsonof'eva and Ianshin went to see President Nesmeianov about enlisting him in the fight to restore the zapovedniki, they came as representatives not of VOOP but of MOIP, the Moscow Society of Naturalists, Russia's oldest scientific society.[37] To understand why they presented themselves in this fashion and to understand how MOIP came to represent a center, and later the center, of scientific public opinion, we must survey the history of that society from 1948 on.

As late as the early 1940s, MOIP still had a deserved reputation as a sleepy academic society.[38] Its library, adjacent to the Gor'kii Library of MGU's old campus opposite the Manezh, was frequented largely by older men and women poring over biological arcana under the stern gaze of a huge stuffed owl and equally lifeless early nineteenth-century portraits of MOIP's founders. The society's president was the ancient and revered Nikolai Dmitrievich Zelinskii, a chemist and prerevolutionary relic who still favored the round, brimless black academician's cap, which vaguely resembled Central Asian Muslim headgear, the tiubeteika. In a word, MOIP was quaint.

Two features distinguished it from all other Soviet societies. MOIP had maintained an almost unbroken tradition of non-Communist leadership, from Menzbir to Zelinskii (although Sukachëv joined the Party in 1937, he was clearly heterodox) and now to Ianshin. Even such venerable and progressive societies as the Geographical Society of the USSR or the Mineralogical Society, two others that survived the early 1930s and that were almost as old as MOIP (f. 1805), were obliged to select Party members as their presidents. The difference was that whereas they were chartered within the system of the USSR Academy of Sciences, MOIP was tucked away under the aegis of Moscow State University, almost out of bureaucratic view.[39]

Like VOOP, MOIP united the scientific, preeminently biological and geographical-geological intelligentsia across Russia and even the Soviet Union, despite its local name. Though the society had no organizers, branches emerged on local initiative in Kalinin (Tver'), Riazan', Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg), Tomsk, L'vov, Uzhgorod, Alma-Ata (Almaty), Aral'sk, and Sukhumi, among other places, constituting an informational network across the country. As Nikolai Nikolaevich Vorontsov noted recently, an entire history could be written about science "on the periphery" in Russia. This periphery was a product of many factors, including the flight of many field


biologists to distant zapovedniki and antiplague stations, to pest-control stations, and to remote research and teaching institutions, partly in the hope of avoiding the repressions that were continually sweeping the "center."[40]

In the words of Oleg Nikolaevich Ianitskii, "The Moscow Society [of] Naturalists was arguably one of the few long-established social organizations that was not taken over entirely by the state. In any case, its official structure differed from the state-determined model. . . . The organizational principles set out in its constitution were democratic, and its members did not have to be professional scientists, but were merely required to be involved in the scientific life of society."[41]

Like VOOP under Makarov, MOIP institutionally, as a community of likeminded members, embodied the ideal of scientific public opinion. Plenary meetings of the society were usually held in the Old Zoological Auditorium in the Zoological Museum on Herzen Street. It could accommodate more than 200 participants, and its acoustics were among the best in Moscow. Just before it was closed as a fire hazard, Zelinskii, then ninety-two, gave his last lecture in the auditorium. Fearing for the president's health, one of the society's vice presidents asked Zelinskii if he wanted to sit down while giving his talk, a fully justifiable break with the society's traditions. To that, Zelinskii firmly replied, "If I gave my talk sitting down, that would be a mark of disrespect to my audience," and then lectured for nearly two hours on the developmental physiology of the Mexican alpine salamander. For the old guard, breaking with its cultural rituals—rituals that embodied and symbolized the dignity of the scientific intelligentsia—would be to renounce one's social and personal identity. Zelinskii remained on his feet to the end of the meeting.[42]

In 1950, when, in connection with the construction of the new Lenin Hills campus of Moscow State University, MOIP was offered the opportunity to move to newer quarters, Zelinskii sent word from his sick bed of his intense opposition. Zelinskii reasoned that MOIP was a scientific organization whose membership was drawn from a number of different institutions and workplaces. Aside from tradition, therefore, fairness, convenience, and its social role dictated that the society remain in the center of the city.[43] The society's Presidium "categorically" insisted on remaining.[44]

Inescapably, because of what MOIP embodied, political risks and dangers were thrust upon that society just as they had burst through the thin defensive perimeter of VOOP's countercultural community. As it was for VOOP, 1948 was the decisive turning point, disrupting the serene and dignified routine of the society. And if VOOP was launched on a trajectory that would ultimately lead to its reincarnation as a huge, Party-dominated business enterprise, MOIP's fate was happier, for it was transformed within a few years into the theoretical center for biology for one-sixth of the globe and into the new headquarters for nature protection activism. Rarely have


organizations had to shoulder so much responsibility as MOIP, and rarely have they risen so successfully to the challenges that faced them.

After the August 1948 session of the Lenin Agricultural Academy, Lysenko and his allies, with Stalin's blessing, established a reign of terror in Soviet biology. Their influence permeated every school, every university, every public meeting. Even zapovednik directors were required to convene meetings to weed out "Weismannist-Morganist-Mendelian" perspectives and to replace them with "Michurinist" biology. No corner of the vast country was exempted from the new rituals of obeisance to Lysenko.

The most tragic consequences, described at great length in other works, included a wholesale purge of instructors, teachers, professors, and researchers from educational and research institutions large and small.[45] N. N. Vorontsov estimates the number of expelled university professors at 3,000. Some, such as the eminent physiologist D. A. Sabinin, committed suicide.[46] Even the Academy of Sciences was powerless before the personal endorsement of Stalin.

In this atmosphere of tragedy and calamity, the president of the Academy, Sergei Ivanovich Vavilov, called on Zelinskii. For Vavilov, the tragedy was multiple. In 1941 he had lost his twin, Nikolai Ivanovich, one of the USSR's most eminent geneticists, who had been arrested the year before as a result of his attempt to defend classical genetics against Lysenko's increasingly aggressive and ignorant claims. After Nikolai died in Saratov in near-isolation, Sergei, a prominent physicist but not yet Academy president, was forced to hold his tongue even as his twin's body was dumped into an unmarked grave. Even with the partial recovery of genetics' fortunes in 1946–1947, Sergei was compelled to continue to keep silent. Now, he was coerced into a purge of his own institution, the Academy. It was as if Stalin and Lysenko were forcing Vavilov to put a gun to his own brother's head. Vavilov had been covertly trying to help some of the marked individuals and recognized that he was faced with a terrible dilemma: he could preserve his honor and resign, thereby sealing his own fate as well, or he could remain and try to use his position to do as much covert good within the system as the situation might allow. Happily for the scientific intelligentsia, Vavilov opted for the second course, although his reputation is only now beginning to reflect the wisdom and humanity of his difficult decision.

Distraught, Vavilov turned to the superannuated Zelinskii for help, telling him that he, Vavilov, was forced to "liquidate" genetics in the Academy. He was not even permitted to allow the word genetics to remain in any institute. "I know this is antiscience," but owing to the Academy's position, Vavilov confessed, there was little he could do at the moment. However, he had a plan. Could not MOIP, with its freer atmosphere, organize a section for genetics to provide at least an intellectual haven for his brother's colleagues?[47]


Zelinskii summoned the members of the Bureau of MOIP's Presidium, recounted the conversation with Vavilov to them, and asked for support. The response was unanimously enthusiastic. Here at last was a constructive way in which the scientific intelligentsia could respond to Lysenko. As Ianshin, who was at the meeting at Zelinskii's apartment on Gor'kii (Tverskaia) Street near the Main Telegraph, recalls it, the members of the Bureau immediately called N. P. Dubinin, B. L. Astaurov, I. A. Rappoport, and V. P. Efroimson and asked them to organize the new genetics section. "We could not provide them with a lab," Ianshin later explained, "but we gave them a roof over their heads and an opportunity to read foreign journals, to hold symposia, and to give talks." Thus S. I. Vavilov helped to keep genetics alive during the darkest of years for Soviet science.[48]

It was inevitable that Lysenko would hear of MOIP's Section on Genetics. In mid-1950, when Zelinskii was still alive, news of Lysenko's awareness of the section's existence filtered back to MOIP. Hastily but without panic, Zelinskii convened a meeting of the Presidium in his apartment. Rumors have spread, he told the Presidium, that we were giving "refuge" to "Weismannist-Morganists" and that they were meeting at MOIP nearly every week. At this Vera Varsonof'eva excitedly objected: "What are you suggesting, to close down the section on genetics?" Zelinskii reassured her: "No, no, calm down. We will under no circumstances close it down. We must invite Trofim Denisovich to talk to our society. Then he will see that there is nothing subversive going on." In order to pull this off, Zelinskii had to make sure that everyone knew his or her part, for one mistake could ruin the stratagem. Over a period of weeks, groups of Moscow's leading biologists—all members of MOIP—filed into Zelinskii's musty apartment to hear the instructions: "Don't hoot, don't whistle, don't ask trick questions! We are doing this to save the section."[49]

In December 1950 the "people's academician" paid his visit to the citadel of scientific public opinion (see figure 13). Chairing the vast meeting—171 MOIP members and 600 nonmembers attended—was venerable zoologist Sergei Ivanovich Ognëv, one of the society's vice presidents. Lysenko chose his own theme, the transformation of one species into another, but despite the extreme intellectual provocation his remarks presented, there was not a hoot, not a whistle, and only one recorded challenging question. Ognëv, in fact, graciously expressed "the deep gratitude on the part of the members of the society for a thoroughly interesting and extraordinarily substantive talk on the problem of Michurinist theory."[50] Zelinskii's strategy worked seamlessly, and, for a time, MOIP continued to be viewed by the Stalinist camp as a collection of chudaki —harmless and marginal oddballs.

With Zelinskii's death, the baton of leadership in MOIP was passed to Vladimir Nikolaevich Sukachëv, who was concurrently director of the Academy's Institute of Forests as well as head of the Interdisciplinary Expedi-



Figure 13.
Nikolai Dmitrievich Zelinskii (seated)
and Trofim Denisovich Lysenko.

tion for Shelter Belts, chair of the Academy Presidium's Commission on Zapovedniki, and editor of the Botanical Journal (as president of the Botanical Society). In the secret balloting conducted by the society on February 10, 1951, with 126 members present and 115 voting, fifty-seven candidates vied for forty seats on MOIP's Executive Council. In a bizarre coda to Lysenko's appearance at the society, Lysenko was placed on the ballot for a Council seat. Apparently, MOIP's leaders had decided to go with a winning strategy; why not embrace Lysenko with open arms? Perhaps then he might forget about them. Sensibly, the voting members gave Lysenko 100 affirmative votes, less than the totals for Varsonof'eva, Obruchev, Ianshin, Ognëv, Deineka, and Sukachëv, but enough to win him a seat on the Council. His allies, though, did not fare as well. Koshtoiants and Davitashvili ended up with forty votes and thirty, respectively.[51]

With the presidency of MOIP, Sukachëv also inherited de facto control over the society's Bulletin, concentrating in his hands leadership of virtually all of the surviving institutions of scientific civil society. Delegating responsibilities for the Expedition to S. V. Zonn, for the Academy Commission to Makarov, Dement'ev, and Shaposhnikov, for MOIP to Varsonof'eva and Ianshin, and for the Botanical Society to D. I. Lebedev and others, and resigning as director of the Institute of Forests when it was transferred to


Krasnoiarsk, Sukachëv used his own relatively unimpaired political reputation as a shield to protect his vulnerable colleagues.

If there was one issue on which Sukachëv gambled his political capital, it was his monumental battle with Lysenko beginning in 1951. Recent scholars have sensibly argued that Sukachëv would not have even considered such a risk had not Stalin's quizzical article on linguistics plausibly signaled, albeit indirectly, that Stalin had felt that all would-be arbiters of Soviet science—Lysenko included—had overreached themselves and were attempting to set themselves up as authorities independent of the Party, that is, of Stalin.[52]

Nevertheless, it was a big risk. But Sukachëv's own articles and those published in the Botanical Journal and the Bulletin of MOIP in 1952–1954 so resonated throughout Soviet scientific society that by 1956 Lysenko seemed to be on the ropes.[53] The example of Sukachëv's civic courage had an inestimable effect on other scientists, especially on impressionable young biologists and students just coming of age in the early and mid-1950s. A 1955 letter to the botanist from a young zoology student at Moscow University and future USSR minister for the protection of nature, Nikolai Vorontsov, illustrates this intergenerational link as well as the affection in which Sukachëv was held:

Deeply Esteemed Vladimir Nikolaevich!

I warmly congratulate you on your coming birthday. . . . Permit me, a young biologist, to express my deepest gratitude to you for that struggle against Lysenkoism in biology that you have led during the difficult conditions of 1952 and which you continue to lead to the present.

Despite administrative pressure, despite the fact that from their university chairs A. N. Studitskii [here follows a list of Lysenkoist instructors] and others try to enlist us under the flag of "new" medieval views, the majority of conscious university youth, both undergraduates and graduate students, is with you in your struggle for Darwinism, for genuine biology, and against obscurantists in our science. . . . Please know, dear Vladimir Nikolaevich, that in this struggle the ardent hearts of youth are on your side and we will remember those efforts which you have expended.[54]

Under Varsonof'eva's day-to-day leadership, MOIP in 1954 launched a second front in the scientific community's struggle against Stalinist science policy: a public campaign to restore the zapovedniki. With VOOP still struggling with political and fiscal problems and, especially after its merger with the Green Plantings Society, internal division, MOIP was the more logical


place to establish the campaign's headquarters, especially as it commanded greater prestige among scientists.

The Zapovednik Conference of 1954

The 1954 Zapovednik conference was completely ignored in the Western media. Most likely it was never even logged in the daily political summaries sent to Washington by embassy staff in Moscow. In the Soviet press there was barely a mention of it. Why, indeed, should anyone have paid serious attention to zoologists and botanists gathering to discuss the current situation and future prospects of zapovedniki in 1954? As the cream of Soviet field biology assembled on the morning of May 12 at the Academy's Moscow House of Scholars on Kropotkin Street, however, Moscow was witnessing the first public protest of the scientific intelligentsia, a meeting that affirmed a social identity of scientists-as-citizens sharply at odds with the Kremlin's definition of "citizens," and opposed the dictatorship in science imposed by Lysenko and the Party bosses. To identify the meeting for what it was, an observer would have had to know the behavioral and rhetorical codes and markers of that community, which even its insiders knew only on an experiential, not a conscious, level. Nonetheless, those who participated in the conference remembered it clearly to the end of their lives.

"Comrades!" shouted Vera Aleksandrovna Varsonof'eva triumphantly over the hum, "permit me to declare the joint session of MOIP, the All-Russian Society for the Promotion of the Protection of Nature and of the Greening of Population Centers [VOOP], and the Moscow branch of the All-Union Geographical Society [MGO] open for business!" Following the rituals of Soviet academic arcana, those present elected a Presidium and a chair for the conference.[55]

Leading off, Varsonof'eva cunningly mentioned the February—March Plenum of the Central Committee, the meeting at which Khrushchëv had announced his signature Virgin Lands program, and noted that its successful implementation depended first of all on deepening our knowledge of the natural world. And, she asserted, zapovedniki, offering unique opportunities for field study of ecological complexes under natural conditions, were an essential component of the plan. "The failure to study these complexes sufficiently will lead, in some cases, to devastating consequences for the economy," she warned prophetically, alluding to the understudied grasslands of southern Siberia and Kazakhstan. "The unthought-out, monolithic application of the travopol'e system in our southern regions may serve as an example," she noted, referring to the ill-fated, dictatorially imposed system of cropping advocated by Stalinist soil science icon G. R. Vil'iams, a figure


similar to Lysenko. "I must say," she added, "that these natural geographical conditions are far from adequately understood by us not only [in the Virgin Lands] but in other regions as well."[56] For that reason alone it was necessary to restore the former reserves and even to expand that network to include all biological and physical-geographical zones of the USSR that were not represented in 1951.[57]

As many had argued before her, wild-growing vegetation was the raw material for many commercial crops and applications. The potential value of nature, even reckoned in this way, she observed, was unknown. One example she mentioned was Professor Avrorin's use of wild plants from a number of regions for the greening of the city of Kirovsk on the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic zone. In some cases, the plants exhibited dramatically different physiological responses and potentialities than those observable in their area of natural distribution, which held great interest for biological theory. In light of this, the role of zapovedniki as reserves of such wild-growing plants was no less important than their role as pristine natural ecological communities.[58]

Varsonof'eva explained that the conference was the result of the initiative of "three of the most prominent scientific societies linked with the study of natural resources"—namely, MOIP, VOOP, and MGO—which had approached the USSR Academy of Sciences and the USSR Ministry of Agriculture (to which Malinovskii's agency was now subordinated) to send speakers "to inform scientific public opinion about the work being conducted" in the zapovedniki.[59] Although it was already highly unusual that voluntary societies in the USSR should request any kind of accounting to them by state agencies, Varsonof'eva took scientific public opinion's claims one step further, asserting the societies' methodological leadership on the question of nature protection. Diplomatically but assertively she concluded by expressing "the conviction that this conference will assist the Main . . . Administration and the Academy . . . to find the way toward future development of this great cause."[60]

Despite the dignified and restrained tone set by Varsonof'eva, it was not easy for Aleksei Ivanovich Korol'kov, Malinovskii's deputy, to face the largely hostile audience, many of whom had lost their positions in 1951 Commencing on a defensive note, Korol'kov announced that he would not discuss the history of the zapovedniki before 1952, although he reminded the audience that 200 inspectors were dispatched in 1950 by the Ministry of State Control and that the 1951 decree flowed from the Kremlin's belief that the system of reserves had become "unjustifiably overblown."[61] He also mentioned that the zapovedniki had been accused by the government of conducting work that was useless to the larger society, backing up his contention by citing the 1951 decree, which stated plainly that "the scientific re-


search in the majority of zapovedniki is pursued in a way disjunct from the practical interests of the economy."[62]

After going into some detail regarding the various research and biotechnical projects conducted in his system, Korol'kov noted a number of quantifiable indicators of improvement. State funding of the system rose from 14 million rubles in 1952 to 17 million for 1954, including an increase from 3.7 million to 4.8 million for research. From 1952 to 1953 the number of candidates of science in the system had increased from nineteen to thirty-six and, equally important in Korol'kov's eyes, their affiliation with the Komsomol or the Party rose from 31 percent to 41 percent.[63] At the end of his speech Korol'kov came to the question that had brought the big crowd together in the first place. "We believe," he pronounced, "that the question of increasing the number of state zapovedniki must be decided not as part of a general reassessment of the whole system . . . but on an individual basis," renouncing in advance any support for a strategic reconstitution of the system.[64] Finally, Korol'kov tried to reassure the scientists that the most recent transfer of the reserve system to the USSR Ministry of Agriculture would not be fatal to serious scientific research. Studies would begin in 1955 on intra–and interspecies relationships, as well as comparative studies on reproduction, such as the effect of light. Moreover, there would be experiments on the hybridization of closely related species and an extensive campaign of acclimatization was to commence, with kulan (onager or Asiatic wild ass) and pheasant brought to Barsakel'mes Island, musk deer to Denezhkin kamen', roe deer to Prioksko-Terrasnyi, and European bison to the Khopërskii zapovednik.[65] But Korol'kov's examples were precisely the kind of science that most disquieted this particular audience: hybridization and acclimatization without regard for either the genetic prerequisites or the possible undesired ecological consequences of these "biotechnical" measures. These programs in field biology vividly symbolized the dictatorship of Lysenko and the Baconian-Timiriazevan-Stalinist vision of total control, which the scientists rejected.

The second major address was delivered by Nikolai Evgen'evich Kabanov, acting chairman of the Academy's Commission on Zapovedniki. Kabanov's speech was a strong defense of the scientific intelligentsia's traditional program of nature protection. Invoking the names of some of the founders of that program—Kozhevnikov, Borodin, Zhitkov, Buturlin—Kabanov signaled that the Academy was now ready to support the commission's plans for a radical expansion of the Academy's network of reserves, a stance that implicitly marked the commission's aim to wrest the status of effective center of nature protection from the Ministry of Agriculture Main Administration. Although the preparation of a volume, Zapovedniki of the USSR Academy of Sciences and of the Academies of the Union Republics, was a first step,


Kabanov now revealed movement on the more important front of creating or restoring protected territories:

I wanted to inform you that the Presidiums of the Academies of Sciences remain interested in the status of their zapovedniki. Individual Presidiums . . . such as the Estonian now are actively raising the question of creating zapovedniki in their republics. Similar information regarding the Latvian Academy of Sciences has reached the commission as well, and there are also reports from the Academy of Sciences of Georgia. . . . All of this clearly shows that the existing network of zapovedniki is not the final word on the issue, not bottled up in its present scale, but it will and doubtless must change in connection with the needs of the economy and culture of the various oblasts and republics of the Union.[66]

Kabanov asked the audience for the help of scientific public opinion in editing and publishing the rich manuscript materials in the hands of the commission, materials that would not see the light of day if they had to depend on Malinovskii's Main Administration. Further, he asked the meeting to support a group of recommendations, which, taken together, constituted a declaration of war against the Main Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture.[67] He declared, "We hold that any zapovednik, be it state or part of the system of the Academy of Sciences, must be by its nature a specific kind of scientific research institution which must develop its specific themes for study . . . linked, principally, with the . . . scientific principles of nature protection in the USSR under conditions of inviolability."[68]

Kabanov explicitly noted that the practical tasks outlined by Korol'kov, particularly under the influence of the Ministry of Agriculture, did not represent "full-blooded" science and that zapovedniki ought to be devoted to other tasks. "For that reason," he exhorted, to the applause of the delegates stirred by this bold public rebuke to their enemies, "the time has come when we need to raise the question, 'Doesn't the general regulation of the whole cause of nature protection and zapovedniki demand raising the question of organizing under the USSR Council of Ministers an authoritative agency for nature protection and zapovedniki?'"[69]

Korol'kov was brought back to the podium to answer questions, which Varsonof'eva had asked to be submitted in written form, evidently to minimize the chance of the meeting getting out of hand.[70] However, many of the emboldened scientists made a point of signing their names to the written questions (which in Soviet practice were usually anonymous), demonstrating that they were submitting written questions in deference to the wishes of their respected colleague, Varsonof'eva, not out of fear.

Korol'kov mentioned that he had received numerous questions all asking the same thing. The most strongly worded were those of Formozov and Nasimovich. Those scientists demanded to know what was happening to the


resources—the plants, animals, and minerals—of the former zapovedniki liquidated in 1951. Korol'kov admitted that oil was being drilled in the Kronotskii reserve on Kamchatka and that lumbering and hunting operations were going on in other formerly protected territories.[71]

Questioners asked about the scale of logging in the Belovezhskaia pushcha and the Khopërskii zapovednik, about the amount of income actually cleared by the exploitation of resources in the former reserves and the net amount saved by the government as a result of the liquidation, and whether Korol'kov's talk was preapproved by the Main Administration. Korol'kov informed the audience that in all existing reserves of his Main Administration during 1953 234,000 cubic meters of wood were logged, including 55,000 that went into production (delovoi les ).[72]

Some questions were acidly or testily phrased, such as the one that asked why Korol'kov mentioned that "the forests were still not inventoried in the Kyzyl-Agach reserve when in fact there was not a single tree there." Another wanted to know why the eider duck was not considered an economically important enough object to support its study in the Main Administration's research plan. But the question that rocked the session was one that challenged the whole political basis for the 1951 liquidation: "What attitude ought we to hold today to the investigations of the activities of the zapovedniki carried out under the leadership and on the instructions of the enemy of the Motherland Merkulov?" The implication was that because Vsevolod Nikolaevich Merkulov had been discredited, tried, and shot, the fruits of his political activity should likewise be reevaluated, if not completely reversed.

Korol'kov, however, remained one step ahead of the questioner. "The activities of the zapovedniki were investigated by two hundred Soviet people," lectured Korol'kov, "who worked and even now work in the Ministry of State Control. In the government commission worked comrades admired by all, including Comrades Khrushchëv, Kozlov, Bovin, Benediktov, and Chernousov. For that reason the [basis of the] question is simply in error." Korol'kov was able to trump his clever adversary because the system had, as it were, prepared for the contingency by spreading the responsibility for the liquidation of the reserves across a broad spectrum of prominent political figures. Nonetheless, Korol'kov continued to be hammered by questions. One of his most dogged adversaries was A. N. Formozov.

Aleksandr Nikolaevich Formozov (see figure 14) was one of the acknowledged leaders of Russian biology. His monograph on the role of snow cover in animal ecology, published by MOIP in 1946, was nominated for a state prize. Another volume, An Essay on the Ecology of Mouselike Rodent Vectors of Tularemia , was also published by MOIP a year later.[73]

At the end of the war the director of the Institute of Geography, Andrei Aleksandrovich Grigor'ev, offered Formozov the opportunity to create a



Figure 14.
Aleksandr Nikolaevich Formozov (1899–1973).

department of biogeography in the institute. Formozov accepted, and from March 16, 1945 on he served as the head of the new department, even though his main employment was at Moscow University.

Formozov's postwar research focused on the ecology of the steppe and desert regions of Eurasia. New research problems imposed themselves on him with the announcement of the Stalin Plan. Those who drew up the blueprints for the shelter belts failed to take into account the response of wildlife. It turned out that the massive seeding of oak trees attracted huge numbers of rodents, which were appreciatively eating the acorns.

Formozov's outspoken defense of the importance of natural selection on the basis of intraspecific competition got him in trouble. On Novem-


ber 4, 1947, he was one of three (D. A. Sabinin and I. I. Shmal'gauzen were the others) who appeared before a sympathetic crowd in the huge "Communist" auditorium at Moscow University—the university's biggest—as part of an unprecedented public series of talks and debates pitting Lysenko against his critics. Immediately afterwards, the university published the three talks as Intraspecific Struggle in Animals and Plants , a significant show of support for the partisans of Mendelian or classical genetics and the "Great Synthesis" in evolutionary theory.[74] After the August session of 1948, however, the situation radically deteriorated, and on November 4, 1948, Formozov decided to go on half-time status at the university. Before the start of the next academic year he requested permission from the Biological Faculties dean's office to leave altogether, but for his own tactical reasons the new dean, I. I. Prezent, Lysenko's right-hand man, refused, keeping Formozov under his jurisdiction while he awaited an opportunity to discredit Formozov. Nevertheless, the focus of Formozov's energies now was the Institute of Geography, where there were many whom he considered close colleagues and even friends. Formozov was given the opportunity to build up the institute's department of biogeography, and he now hired many experienced biologists, including former college classmates, colleagues, and students. Many who joined the department had lost their positions as a result of the post–August session developments in biology or were unable to get work elsewhere.[75]

Aside from serving as a zapovednik for rare and endangered Mendelian-oriented field biologists, the Institute of Geography became a crucible where the two disciplinary intelligentsias formed personal, intellectual, programmatic, and ultimately political alliances, with Formozov and his circle at the nexus. From an institutional point of view, the presence of Formozov, Nasimovich, and a band of other zoologists and botanists in the Institute of Geography as full-fledged members allowed them to enter and authoritatively participate in the Moscow branch of the Geographical Society of the USSR as well. Formozov and Nasimovich particularly enjoyed influence with I. D. Papanin, which continued into the 1960s.

At the 1954 conference on zapovedniki , Formozov responded to Korol'kov's address:

Aleksei Ivanovich [Korol'kov] gave us a detailed talk about the situation in currently existing zapovedniki , but the presentation he offered did not deal with the issues we would have liked to hear about. . . . We would have been interested to hear [from Korol'kov] about the future prospects of zapovedniki as a whole, what directions they must go, what they are currently lacking, what shape the network should attain in the future, but we did not hear a single word about [the big picture]. . . . We are first concerned about whether any positive results were in fact achieved by the . . . reform of the past few years. We are concerned with the question of what is going on now in the territories of


the liquidated zapovedniki . I posed this question to Comrade Korol'kov and he failed to respond. Evidently, the Administration is completely indifferent to the fate of those territories, [despite the fact that] they hold great interest for science and culture.[76]

Although he had not made a special study of the question, Formozov had received disquieting information from a number of sources about the conditions of the Ministry of Agriculture reserves and the ex-reserves. A full third of the forests of the liquidated Lapland zapovednik had burned, and the fires had also spread to the iagel' (lichen meadows that served as the principal food base for the reindeer of the region). The iagel' requires decades to regenerate in Arctic conditions, and so the reindeer herds that the zapovednik had so successfully enabled to recover were once again under threat.[77]

Formozov had also heard that on the territory of the former Altaiskii zapovednik a party of geological prospectors slaughtered more than thirty maral deer, taking only a small amount of meat and leaving the bulk of the carcasses to rot. "Is this not an example of barbarous squander of natural resources?" he asked angrily. From the Far East, K. G. Abramov, the dean of zoologists and conservation activists there, had informed Formozov that the goral and sika deer of the former Sudzukhinskii zapovednik were on the brink of extinction. "Comrade Korol'kov informed us that the Administration was contemplating establishing a series of game preserves for especially valuable animals," Formozov archly noted, pausing to deliver the punch line. "However, while they are contemplating this there will already be nothing left to protect. For those animals that find themselves in the most threatened situation it will all be over, and this will be an irreplaceable loss not only for the economy but also for science and culture."[78]

Formozov pressed Korol'kov on the issue of whether or not there was any demonstrable benefit from the liquidation of 1951. Practically refuting the idea that the Party-state possessed some kind of superior wisdom, Formozov challenged Korol'kov's repeated assertions that changes in the zapovednik network could and should only come about through government decrees and that consequently there was no sense talking about reversing the effects of 1951. "We know that [argument] perfectly," Formozov continued,

but we are interested in something else: what, in reality, did that decree achieve? Is it not so that recently, for example, a decree on the merger of a group of ministries was issued? However, practice proved that this was ill advised and the decree was replaced with another. And what has practice shown concerning the liquidation of a group of our finest zapovedniki , which we had regarded as a significant cultural achievement in the recent past of our country? . . . Are you sure that without those forests [of the zapovedniki ] our forest industry would be sunk?[79]

Formozov taunted Korol'kov and Malinovskii, alluding to the shortcomings of lumbering and forest culture in the USSR's forests outside the reserves,


which would furnish far more usable timber, if lumbering practices were even partly improved, than the available cut in the former zapovedniki . "We should have pursued precisely that route," Formozov acidly quipped, "and not run after essentially insignificant forested areas of the zapovedniki ."[80]

Formozov agreed with Korol'kov on one point: that protected territories alone could not save endangered species. "If we will protect valuable animals on 'postage-stamp tracts' while everywhere else we have picked the land clean, then the result will be pitiable indeed," he warned.

Recounting his experience at the meeting with then USSR minister of state control Merkulov, which, he said, could be confirmed by Professor G. V. Nikol'skii, also in the audience, Formozov revealed that

all of the determinations of scientific public opinion were rejected without basis owing to his political assignment; the decision to liquidate . . . was taken before any materials were received from the 200 investigators. Even pleas from local authorities were disregarded. Given the situation, it is entirely possible that the government was led to blunder by the deliberately biased materials prepared for its perusal. What the role of the Main Administration was in this is still not clear to me, but history will sort this out and each will receive according to his deserts.[81]

Repeating his accusations that Korol'kov had insulted the audience of scientists by presenting a Pollyannaish "bureaucratic presentation," Formozov called on his listeners to compile a data bank regarding the fate of the former protected territories subsequent to their liquidation. But he closed with a call for struggle: "We must expand the network, increase the areas, and demand that the government reexamine the course that it has adopted." The audience roared its approval; scientific public opinion was standing tall.[82]

For today's readers, the statements made at this meeting may not seem lurid or shocking. For the participants, though, hearing this public censure of officials (some of whom were present) by representatives of scientific society must have been thrilling political theater. And for more than a few, these revelations of Kremlin goings-on told by one of their own—demystified, unawed, uncowed—was a kind of public speech that they had not heard since Stalin's Great Break of the early 1930s.

We have seen how zapovedniki resonated for the scientific intelligentsia as symbolic and tangible free territories. Additionally, they embodied and symbolized other values of the intelligentsia, including "responsibility." No speech better underscored that aspect of Russian nature protection than the remarks of I. E. Lukashevich. For him, leaving some areas untouched was a mark of a sense of responsibility to the future, and the fate of what people protected—or failed to protect—today would affect how they were viewed by people in the future. Maintaining this sense of community in time was an important value of the movement, and, at least for Lukashevich, our degree of responsibility was the greater because the future was powerless to affect


decisions in the present. "However," he noted, "the impression has been created that these questions are not being viewed from that perspective and this has upset many of us." He proclaimed that "an exact and clear depiction of what we have heard today in the first [Korol'kov's] talk" was furnished by Formozov's off-the-cuff descriptor "cold indifference." "This indifference," he cautioned, "cannot lead to anything except the worst possible consequences not only for the present day, but for the far future as well."[83]

Lukashevich argued that scientists were far from knowing the potential of each species both for practical economic benefit but also for increasing scientific knowledge per se. "We cannot even suspect what [secrets] one or another life form carries within itself: Only in the future can the full importance of [these] forms for practice and theory be appreciated; obviously, this cannot be gauged by their current market values."[84]

No less than Formozov, Lukashevich enunciated the political claims and political dignity of scientific public opinion. Even while stating that it was the scientists' "sacred duty" to provide the government and the Party with essential information, he also had a different, more radical message: "The obsessive references to the decrees of the Party and the government in no way free the broad mass of scientific public opinion and official authorities [concerned with nature protection] . . . of responsibility not only toward the present generation but to future ones as well. At our cultural level it is already impermissible to hide behind excuses of ignorance, as our predecessors still could." Here Lukashevich injected a remarkable addendum: "We must recall that we are responsible for incorrect decisions regarding zapovedniki not only to our own people but to humanity as a whole for all time to come and that to isolate nature behind state boundaries, to be sure, is an incorrect framework of understanding."[85]

Restating the claims of scientific public opinion to possession of the key expertise on the question of nature protection, he insisted that "problems of zapovednost ' must not be decided by bureaucratic means or by chance people with no connection to the cause. I am greatly agitated because, in contrast to the speaker [Korol'kov], I am unable to treat these questions with indifference," concluded Lukashevich, again to the applause of the crowd. Scientific public opinion had not only had found its voice; it was shouting itself hoarse.[86]

The passionate Lukashevich had warmed the hall. Now, the dryly acerbic and unmovably dignified Vladimir Georgievich Geptner took the podium. "I must state at the very outset," he confessed, "that I was not completely satisfied by the report . . . of the Main Administration." Daring the officials, Geptner sarcastically ventured that he had "counted on the probability that the three years that had elapsed since the reorganization of the


system of zapovedniki would be enough to be able to demonstrate the superiority of the new system . . . as compared with the old."[87]

As a result of a uniquely developed theoretical framework as well as through trial and error, a number of features came to characterize Soviet zapovedniki , explained Geptner. One was that they should represent each and every major natural historical province of the great country. Another was that they should be as large as possible, individually. A third was that the reserves were, first and foremost, to be considered scientific research institutions that would also serve as field research stations for researchers of institutions outside the reserves system. "In that way," emphasized Geptner, "specific features were developed in our Soviet zapovedniki , in our attitude toward zapovedniki , which strongly set them apart from attitudes to [protected territories] in foreign countries [emphasis in original]."[88]

Geptner noted that the emergence of this new type of institution, the zapovednik , helped to give birth to a new kind of research, whose field observations were station-based, not helter-skelter and performed "on the run." "A whole new branch of zoology was created that hadn't existed before," he added, referring to advances in community ecology and more. "Now, we have grown used to the contributions that the zapovedniki have made"; all this, he stressed, "was done by our zapovedniki , specific to our own conditions, and not by national parks, dedicated to leisure . . . as has been done in other countries."[89] Geptner seconded Lukashevich's assertion that zapovedniki were "cultural institutions called upon to preserve models of pristine nature for future generations." Calling the 1951 reorganization "a step backward," Geptner noted that the state-run protected territories accounted for just 0.06 percent of the overall land mass of the Soviet Union. "That is totally unacceptable!" he exclaimed. Indeed, "the very idea of zapovednost ' has been demeaned. Externally," he continued, "this at the very least has been reflected in the fact that [before] we had an Administration for Zapovedniki attached to the [RSFSR] Council of Ministers with good scientific staff, with a scientific-technical Council, and which elicited tremendous interest on the part of public opinion. . . . Now there is merely a department of a ministry and, naturally, the authority of this ministry cannot be compared with that which had been before."[90]

Next, he lashed out at Korol'kov's information about logging in the current Ministry of Agriculture reserves. The assistant director's figures of 234,000 cubic meters, or 0.1 cubic meter per hectare, did not appear too egregious, but statistical averaging might be deceiving: "Sergei Sergeevich and I want to eat, but I eat two sandwiches while he has none. [If you average it out] it turns out that we're both satiated!"[91] "What I'm interested in knowing," he continued, "is how much forest was chopped down in the Belovezhskaia pushcha . Averages don't tell us anything. There is a noticeable


utilitarianism in your work," he went on, apparently looking at Korol'kov. "I repeat: zapovedniki must work in the interests of the economy, this is beyond doubt. However, they may not be objects of economic exploitation, and this must be stated unambiguously."[92]

An unmistakable note of patriotism rang through Geptner's remarks, but it had a rueful tinge. He and fellow biologists wanted to be proud Soviet patriots and to be recognized as contributors to their country's greatness. However, the authorities continued to push them away, accepting patriotism only on the terms of the regime, not those of scientific public opinion.

The zoologist Georgii Vasil'evich Nikol'skii was next to take the floor. Departing somewhat from previous remarks, he offered that "perhaps it is not entirely right to limit our discussion only to questions concerning the system of zapovedniki ." Nikol'skii saw a larger issue at hand, that of the protection of nature generally. "Unfortunately," he observed, " it must be said without mincing words that we do not have a system for the protection of nature . . . . Water quality protection is inadequate; the situation with forest protection is downright disgusting; the protection of our fisheries is a total fiction; and the situation with the protection of animals and birds is an outrage."[93]

We pour half a million tons of oil and petroleum products into our waters annually, he charged. We lose the equivalent of one quarter of the wood in the forests of the zapovedniki in the form of logs that sink to the bottom of our rivers after cutting. "Naturally, such a situation cannot be tolerated," he declared. Nikol'skii told the convention that during the past year he had worked on some questions concerning forestry. "I came across outrageous facts regarding the protected forests of watershed areas." These facts "need to be presented to the public at large." The only way that the country could begin to forge a necessary integrated policy for environmental protection was by creating a new Administration for Problems of the Protection of Nature and Natural Resources under the USSR Council of Ministers.[94]

Sergei Evgen'evich Kleinenberg pointedly began where Georgii Vasil'evich left off, expressing his "enormous sense of satisfaction at the circumstance that, finally, questions about the work of the zapovedniki are receiving some kind of airing before scientific public opinion, because in recent years, since the liquidation of the [Scientific] Council of the Main Administration, no information about the activities of the zapovedniki has reached nauchnaia obshchestvennost ' and no one knows what is going on there. This [meeting] is an extraordinarily gratifying fact and for that we must thank our society," he declared.[95]

Kleinenberg, another respected zoologist, tackled the charged question of acclimatization. Twenty-five years after the violent battles over that question of the late 1920s and early 1930s, acclimatization still possessed the symbolic resonance that made it an explosive issue for the scientific intelli-


gentsia. Acclimatization symbolized the wanton, arbitrary, and, for them, wrongheaded way in which the Bolsheviks thought they could disregard all science and social science in order to rearrange nature and human society. Acclimatization had become a symbol of what had happened to the country: its threat to endemic life forms symbolized Stalinism's threat to the "endemic" intelligentsia; its basis in doctrines hostile to genetics symbolized the Party-backed ignorant dictatorship in biology. Acclimatization was an affront not only to the scientists' biological expertise, but to their ethical vision of social relations as well.

Kleinenberg now declared, "I believe that acclimatization is no game. We must approach this technique with extreme seriousness and acclimatization for the sake of acclimatization must not be permitted."[96] Here, Kleinenberg played off the rhetoric of the old accusations against the conservation movement: that it engaged in the "protection of nature for its own sake." More than that, the charge leveled by Kleinenberg of "acclimatization for its own sake" showed a clear recognition of the symbolic and ideological uses that "biotechnics" had acquired in the hands of the Stalinist nature-transformers. Repeating warnings that acclimatization was "pregnant with very serious consequences," some of which were dangerous, Kleinenberg ended with a description of the Main Administration's plans as "hodgepodge, unserious, and ad hoc, . . . the results of which could be quite injurious not only to us but to the economy of the whole country."[97]

At this meeting the terror that had paralyzed a whole country for thirty years had taken a holiday. All were burning to have their say. Georgii Aleksandrovich Novikov spoke on behalf of "hundreds, even thousands of Soviet scientists and patriots of our Motherland" who were "alarmed" at the course of developments in the area of nature protection. "I must say," he declared, "that as a former, old researcher in the zapovednik system and having, to a great extent, developed as a zoologist through the . . . system, I have the impression that the current Main Administration is pushing us—nauchnaia obshchestvennost' —to the margins and is trying to operate alone, from its own [secret] cells. Perhaps this is more convenient, but I do not think that it is correct." Even here, "face to face with the representatives of Soviet scientific public opinion," the bureaucrats of the Main Administration refuse to speak openly and honestly about their shortcomings, he charged.[98] Calling for the Main Administration genuinely to submit to the methodological leadership of the Academy, Novikov twitted the Main Administration: "Really, now, is it that hard to contact the Leningrad Academy institutes? It's not hard, and it wouldn't hurt you to come over."[99] Then, correcting any false impression about why the scientists had converged on Moscow, he added: "We have enthusiastically responded not to your invitation, but to the call of the Moscow Society of Naturalists . . . and the leaders [of my institute] enthusiastically sent me off to take part in this meeting."


Novikov now took on Korol'kov's rhetorical support for interdisciplinary research and coordination: "You have mentioned Nesmeianov. Well, he says that neighboring disciplines in science must develop together. You, on the other hand, make contracts only with economic organizations. And under those conditions there will never be any sense [to your research program], the more so since the leaders of the Main Administration—I believe for many of those sitting here—the leaders are rather poorly known as scientists." With this withering aside, the hall erupted in laughter, causing Novikov to pause until things were brought back under control.[100] Novikov returned to the attack with a lacerating indictment of the Main Administration's undistinguished publishing record since 1951 noting that even the publications the officials claimed credit for were actually either done before or published by other organizations. "One cannot engage in a living cause with a cold heart and cold hands," he lectured Korol'kov and Malinovskii. "You must radically alter your entire style of operations. Only then, and not by yourselves alone, but together with all of us, may we solve the essential and venerable task of the protection of nature in our Soviet Union," he concluded, again to the enthusiastic hurrahs of the scientists.[101] Not in anyone's memory had high officials been subjected to such a relentless barrage of withering criticism. Scientific public opinion had waited thirty years for this moment, and now it was loath to let the opportunity pass it by.

After V. V. Krinitskii, the director of the Voronezh zapovednik , finished his remarks, Varsonof'eva interrupted for an announcement. Fourteen had asked to speak and only seven had done so already, and time had run out. She also had to provide time for the speakers to respond to more questions, for concluding remarks, and for voting on resolutions. The meeting's schedule was getting out of hand. What was to have been a one-day meeting had become a historic event. Someone from the audience suggested extending the conference another day, and Varsonof'eva put it to a vote. Regardless of whether the vote was indeed unanimous as the record states, it seems likely that there was a massive majority in favor of extending the conference; accordingly, Varsonof'eva set the beginning of the next session for 7:30 A.M.

Day Two

The next day brought a headliner to the speaker's platform—Aleksandr Vasil'evich Malinovskii. Having sat through much harsh criticism the previous day, Malinovskii decided to answer in kind. "It must be noted," he said, warming to his topic, "that the debates that unfolded [yesterday] . . . followed an error-ridden line that was adopted beforehand. In fact, those who spoke, as a result of their hotheadedness, tore themselves away from life, based their comments on rumors and on unproven facts, and reach con-


clusions and recommendations with which we can never agree."[102] Malinovskii challenged his critics to defend their comments in light of their not having set foot in his reserves over the past two years. (If some had visited, Malinovskii was supposed to have known about it, and therefore such furtive visits were "contraband.")[103]

Thus far, the zapovednik conference had been distinguished by the extraordinary tone of some of the speakers, bordering on lèse-majesté. As the senior Soviet official present as well as chief intended target of these remarks, Malinovskii had an obligation before the Party to respond.

People have stated here that the operations of the zapovedniki are conducted on an isolated, secretive basis by people with hearts of ice. But what about the comments of Comrade Novikov, who spoke with such a hot heart and a hot head that it was terrifying to listen to him! Allow me to ask you, Comrade Novikov, over the past three years have you been to the Main Administration or to a zapovednik? If you have noticed something [some abuse or shortcoming], come to the Administration and tell us. But did you do anything of the kind? . . . Over two years there have been only outcries from this auditorium. . . . I decisively announce that work in the zapovedniki has in no way been conducted "in secret" as was charged here, and reject that in the most decisive fashion.[104]

Malinovskii next turned to the question of the boundaries of the reserves. Some had pointed to the Caucasus zapovednik , reduced from almost 300,000 hectares to 100,000, as an example of particularly wrongheaded boundary-setting, because seasonal pastures of some of the most important ungulates were excluded. Malinovskii hastened to correct the impression that he was the one at fault:

One hundred thousand hectares. This was set by a decree of the Government and beyond that, I have neither the right as director nor the duty to audit that decision. People here referred to the decree signed by . . . LENIN. I am in agreement with them. But look, the last decree was signed by Comrade LENIN's pupil and disciple I. V. STALIN, and for you it is no secret that it was he who named the overall figure of 1,300,000 hectares [the total for the surviving zapovedniki] . When I increased the area of the Pechoro-Ilychskii zapovednik , the [USSR] Ministry of State Control wrote that I had violated the decree of the [USSR] Council of Ministers and that I might not be aware how that might all end.[105]

As he turned to the question of reviving the Main Administration's publishing activities, he noted that the old RSFSR Main Administration's publications were shut down in 1949, and he asked Formozov to tell the conference what had precipitated that. However, Malinovskii was interrupted by a shout from the crowd: "It was closed under you!" Malinovskii rebutted that he had just arrived from his service in the Soviet Administration in


Germany (SVAG) and started only in January 1950. "[That remark] is on your conscience," he retorted to the heckler. The only related material Malinovskii inherited, he claimed, was 120 tons of recyclable paper scrap, which he finally wrote off as a loss. Nevertheless, Malinovskii argued, the publication record of the Main Administration under him exceeded the publications of zapovednik research of the Academy system. He understood the scientists' feelings about the liquidation, "but it is impermissible to accuse indiscriminately and to state that the entire system is in ruins."[106] "Why don't you want to look to reality, Aleksandr Nikolaevich?" said Malinovskii, addressing Formozov. "Are we really going to hold up the economic development of the country because there is some zapovednik someplace?"[107]

Someone called out, "Then you must [develop] next door!"

Despite the catcalls, Malinovskii wanted to reach out to these scientists. He had already told them that Stalin, not he, was primarily (and personally) responsible for the general contours of the 1951 decree. However, what kept getting in his way was his ideology of transformism and economic development, which was irreconcilable with the vision of development and society embraced by scientific public opinion. Nature and zapovedniki were central symbols in this clash of social and economic visions.

Despite the gulf that separated them, Malinovskii did make an important overture: he offered to join in a petition to restore the Lapland zapovednik . He also proposed establishing three new reserves: one in the Briansk forest to commemorate the partisans who lived there, one at Shushenskoe, where Lenin lived in exile, and one at the Tul'skie zaseki, which would gain support because it included shelter belts.[108]

Coming to the end of his time, though, Malinovskii could not let Lukashevich's offensive address go unchallenged. "It seems to me that it is impermissible to speak out that way and that it is not allowed to state that a decree of the Government . . . must be reexamined at its roots," he warned the activist.[109] From the floor, however, a listener interrupted: "That is not how it was phrased." Malinovskii responded, "It is nonetheless necessary to have respect when dealing with this situation." He then directly answered Geptner's question of how much timber was cut per hectare in the Belovezhskaia pushcha : it turned out to be on average one cubic meter, with an annual increase of biomass of four cubic meters.[110]

Again, in a surprisingly conciliatory mode, Malinovskii promised to consider the "critical comments made here" and to analyze them thoroughly. "I have detained you a long time," he confessed, "but I think that we shall resolve this important question conjointly. . . . I hope that we will be able to come to some agreement." The only deflective note was his expression of the hope that, in the future, their discussions would have less of a "philosophical" hue and would be "closer to real life." Malinovskii proposed that the conference delegate its Presidium to continue a working relationship


with him and his agency after the conference, with an aim to generate concrete proposals for improvement and reform of the reserve system.[111]

For historians of the Soviet Union, especially those who study a period still so close to the tyrannical rule of Joseph Stalin, Malinovskii's address is perhaps even more remarkable than the extraordinary speeches made by angry scientists before him. First, the very fact of Malinovskii's appearance to give an accounting of himself and his agency—in Russian, otchityvat'siato representatives of the mobilized scientific intelligentsia was a striking indication both of the scientists' power and of how much had indeed changed in the space of a year and two months. I would argue that this was the only constituency that was fearless enough and mobilized enough to compel such an appearance at such an early date. Second, Malinovskii's attempts to legitimize his authority, to exculpate himself (here at Stalin's expense), and to make concessions to public opinion are nothing short of astonishing. If Stalin's and Khrushchëv's Soviet Union were nothing but a successful totalitarian regime, such acts of legitimation would be utterly incomprehensible. Yet we know that schools cannot run without teachers, universities without professors, sanitation departments without garbage collectors, and so on. And a zapovednik system, even one as imbued with short-term pragmatic economic goals as Malinovskii's, could not exist for long without sympathetic, capable zoologists and botanists. The diehard guerrilla war that scientific public opinion began to wage against his agency was viewed by Malinovskii as a serious enough threat to warrant all reasonable efforts to end it, even to the point of making concessions.

As the rest of the meeting would demonstrate, however, the road to compromise would be long and hard. Lev Konstantinovich Shaposhnikov, academic secretary of the Academy's Commission on Zapovedniki , immediately challenged Malinovskii's view of the proper regime and research concerns of those institutions, as set out in his 1953 article "Zapovedniki of the Soviet Union."[112] There it was in black and white, in Malinovskii's words: "The basic task of the zapovedniki is [resource] management geared to solving problems in agriculture, forestry, hunting, and fishing." Shaposhnikov contrasted this to the classic view of the tasks of zapovedniki .

By the middle of the second day, Varsonof'eva was getting weary. When S. D. Pereleshin came to a discussion of 1951 and said: "There is also one very painful, unpleasant, and ticklish question. . . . At this conference someone mentioned the name of Merkulov," he was immediately cut off by Varsonof'eva with a forceful request "not to broach that subject. This is beyond our competence," she continued, "is not our task, and we will not discuss it here."[113] However, the assembled scientists wanted to have their full say. Mikhail Aleksandrovich Zablotskii, a widely respected figure who brought the European bison back from the brink of extinction, restarted the political theme. Countering Malinovskii's appeal to respect government and Party


decrees that were already in place, Zablotskii cited recent editorials in the journal Kommunist and articles in Pravda and Izvestiia that called on Soviet people to criticize incorrect decisions. "And this, sad to say," concluded the zoologist, "is still applicable in our Soviet science."[114]

With an unmistakable allusion to Lysenko, Zablotskii began a bold and extended political commentary:

In particular, we should note that up to now the phenomena of monopolies and of heavy-handed bureaucratic misrule in science have still not been rooted out and still confront us, not to mention a whole slew of other deficiencies. . . . [T]he most recent decisions of the Party and government have subjected to sharp criticism the hackneyed approach to the introduction of the grass-field system of agriculture, whose introduction a while back took place not without the awareness by that same Party and government. You and I have borne witness to the fact that a number of workers who spoke out against the indiscriminate application of [that] system were persecuted and tossed out of a number of agricultural institutions . . . [T]he shutdown of a number of zapovedniki  .  .  . was also carried out according to a decree of the [same] Council of Ministers . . . and that has inflicted a great deal of harm to the cause of protected territories. It seems to me that it is permissible to state here that in that decree too we may find the selfsame hackneyed approach.[115]

Doubtless Varsonof'eva breathed a sigh of relief when Zablotskii ended his overtly political commentary to discuss in depth the implications of the new, smaller post-1952 boundaries for the Caucasus zapovednik , which he knew well in connection with his work with the restoration of bison in that part of their former range. The subject of bison gave Zablotskii an opportunity to challenge Malinovskii's attempt to refute the charge that his Main Administration had sealed itself off from nauchnaia obshchestvennost' . The director of the Belovezhskaia pushcha had spoken to the meeting on the previous day, and he was peppered with all sorts of questions about the status of the bison herd in his reserve. Such dialogue was a good thing, but the flood of questions, explained Zablotskii, could only be explained by the fact that "for the past few years we haven't been able to locate a single informational dispatch concerning the work with bison" there. Zablotskii was able to relate firsthand how, in 1952, the Mammalogical Section of VOOP had scheduled three invited talks on the European bison, including a talk by Zablotskii. However, the Main Administration forbade two of the speakers to present talks, allowing only one presentation from among their staff. "Would it have been so horrible," Zablotskii asked Malinovskii rhetorically, "if the comrades could have heard about bison from the mouths of speakers directly?"[116]

Zablotskii now harpooned the whole work environment of the Main Administration: "The operative principle that underlies the department is


that scientists of the zapovedniki and the staff of the Main Administration must . . . fulfill decisions [from above] more and discuss and evaluate them less. And those comrades . . . who permit themselves a modicum of independence of judgment, as G. A. Novikov so aptly observed, if their judgments do not coincide totally with the opinion of the Main Administration, risk having themselves cut off."[117] Zablotskii was interrupted by approving cries of "It's an Arakcheev regime" from the audience, the reference being to the rigid, dictatorial style of administration of military colonies under Alexander I's general, Count A. A. Arakcheev, which in Russian parlance had come to stand for the worst kind of bureaucratic authoritarianism.

Resuming his remarks, Zablotskii explained: "Sometimes it's done surgically, sometimes by a whole series of indirect ploys that create for researchers such moral conditions that force older scientists, unable to abide the 'new' demands, to leave by their own decision." Despite his recent face-to-face talk with Korol'kov and Malinovskii's seemingly conciliatory remarks, Zablotskii remained profoundly skeptical about any improvements under this administration.[118]

In his second turn at the rostrum, Formozov advanced ecological arguments against what he believed was Malinovskii's simpleminded approach to the presence of "surplus" resources in the reserves. "We have heard talk here," he began,

that it is stupid not to clean up fallen trees in zapovedniki after a windfall, etc. But this question is not so simple. Under these fallen tree trunks capercaillie and quail make their nests, and marten and sable mate there in winter. I know of instances when ducks and capercaillie have made their nests under one and the same downed tree trunk for a number of years in a row. That means that this trunk is a valuable resource for them. Malinovskii has said here that around Moscow there is not much wildlife. That is true. But it is true because the woods have been cleaned excessively. . . . In forestry plantations often they conduct cleanups of the forests without taking into account the interests of other branches of the economy, which is wrong as well. But in zapovedniki such measures are simply impermissible.[119]

For Formozov, Malinovskii would never be able to emancipate himself from his narrow training in commercially oriented forestry. The zoologist drove home his main point. "Your speech, Comrade Malinovskii, proved that those who said that the Main Administration did not have a clear, correct understanding of its tasks were right," Formozov concluded to applause.[120] There seemed to be no letup to this barrage, but then, could the pent-up rage of thirty years be drained in one morning, or even two?

Andrei Aleksandrovich Nasimovich pointed to international practices that, he argued, put Soviet efforts to shame, and indicted the Main Administration for anti-intellectualism as he recounted how portions of manuscripts


soggy from improper storage were brought to the Prioksko-Terrasnyi reserve and consigned to the fireplace. Nasimovich and a few others were able to rescue from the flames some valuable materials from the Tul'skie zaseki reserve. "I'm sure you agree," Nasimovich said to the audience, "that this adequately reflects the style of operations of the Main Administration and its attitude toward scientific research." Someone shouted "What a shame!" Malinovskii rose to his own defense, shouting back, "That's not true, they were duplicates." Nasimovich retorted, "That's not difficult to determine," and noted that the deterioration of records had become a universal problem in the system. Geptner jumped in, asking where the other scientific materials from the liquidated zapovedniki were being stored.[121]

Among the most passionate retorts was from Lukashevich, whose initial speech had also been among the most barbed:

There has been an accusation made against me, which I simply am unable to ignore in light of its stupidity. . . . It is difficult for a person at the end of his life, who has worked as a propagandist for decades, to agree with your claim that in my remarks there was some sort of disrespect for the decrees of the Party and the government. . . . The fact is that the all too frequent references to the decrees of the Party and the government seemed to me simply to be an intentional design on the part of . . . Korol'kov . . . to shunt responsibility both from himself and from the official leadership [of the Main Administration] for what they have done.

"That's how we understood you," voices from the audience called out, providing Lukashevich with a needed opportunity. "It turns out that the entire auditorium understood me," he went on, "and only two persons interpreted my remarks tendentiously. Why is that so? It is my opinion that this is a reflection simply of inadequate respect. Who in the world am I? Do I occupy an important position? [Evidently] my name didn't ring any bells for you, and you [permitted yourselves] to fling stupid imputations my way, accusations that people usually do not throw around."[122]

Even the normally more reserved Avetisian, who followed, expressed his "amaze[ment] at the bureaucratic attitudes on the part of the leadership of the Main Administration toward the initiative taken by the scientists. It seems to me," he continued, "that the Administration should be gladdened that such Soviet scientists as Professors Formozov, Turov, Nikol'skii, Dement'ev, Geptner, and many others . . . wish to provide assistance to the . . . Administration. . . . The Administration should heed the voice of scientific public opinion and not hole itself up in its bureaucratic shell."[123] Avetisian, in a long and at times historically3 referenced address, joined his scientist colleagues in calling for a complete turnaround in reserves policy: not simply restoration of what was lost, but an energetic expansion, while there were still large undeveloped territories:


There was a period of time when problems of nature protection were not thought to be sufficiently important. Some leading figures in the ministries and a segment of biologists believed that since the goal of the transformation of nature was posed that meant that there was no reason to protect nature . . . There were even those extremists [peregibshchiki ] who thought that agitation for nature protection was not necessary either. And it is no accident that when the question of truncating the network of zapovedniki was decided, at the very same time some leading [political] figures, not without support from the leadership of the [Main] Zapovednik Administration, posed the question of liquidating the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature as well.[124]

Avetisian recounted how he was the only dissenting opinion on the Gosplan RSFSR commission that was created to decide the fate of VOOP. "[T]he RSFSR Council of Ministers agreed with that [dissenting] opinion," he triumphantly noted, however, "and I can gladden you with the news that the Society for the Protection of Nature will continue to survive," as a wave of applause rolled through the auditorium again, causing yet another noisy interruption.[125]

Endorsing all of the big demands voiced by the scientist activists, Avetisian concluded that "the time has come" for a decree by the Supreme Soviet on nature protection generally, and that this complex of issues should be institutionally represented by a Main Administration for the Protection and Rational Use of Natural Resources and Zapovedniki attached directly to the USSR Council of Ministers. To keep a narrowly focused Main Zapovednik Administration under the aegis of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture was like "letting the cat guard the lard and the goat the hay."[126]

The time had now come to try to bring closure to an exceptionally tense two days. Understanding her role as a voice of reason, and afraid, perhaps, that things were now really getting out of hand, Vera Aleksandrovna Varsonof'eva, the conference chair, decided to intervene. She tried in a creative way to make the agenda of the scientists, seemingly so distant from the concerns and methods of Malinovskii and his team, not only intelligible but even attractive to the latter. According to her approach, the bitterly divided camps at the conference were actually mired in an apparent contradiction, because what the scientists were proposing was in their eyes just as much for the well-being of the society, the economy, and the state as the program of the Main Administration. The differences lay in methods of activity and in broader or narrower definitions of utility and benefit.

Varsonof'eva sought especially to avoid fatally alienating Malinovskii. Diplomatically, she recognized that "one did not get the feeling that [in] the comments of Aleksandr Vasil'evich there was an effort to oppose so sharply [these differences] or to so sharply condemn the opinion of the scientists." Addressing him directly, she assured him that "we consider it valuable and


necessary to attain mutual understanding and to work together in close contact; criticism and self-criticism is one of the methods by which we work in our state. For that reason, no one should be personally insulted by criticism." "Perhaps," she admitted, "there was too much emotionalism in some of the talks and comments. Some questions were even touched on here that do not enter into our competence. It is not necessary to bring up the question of the role Merkulov played in that commission. The government will figure that out on its own. That is not our concern." She took pains rather to emphasize that it was "the sincere desire to help correctly orient this great cause that guided us, and it would be unwanted if our conference and our goals were understood in some other way."[127]

Finally, she said that it was her understanding that Malinovskii was now in agreement on the question of increasing the number of zapovedniki . She saw a possibility now to build bridges and a working relationship between the Main Administration and scientific public opinion.[128] She argued against the conference hastily voting on resolutions, especially with the atmosphere so emotionally charged. It would be wiser to elect a Commission and delegate it to propose resolutions, which could then be submitted to the votes of the three societies that convened the conference.[129] Yielding to Varsonof'eva's authority and her image as a kindly but strong old aunt, the conference dutifully elected a Presidium of eleven.

Not all the rancor had subsided, however. Korol'kov had unwisely described the attempts at compromise as a "kind of blackmail," prompting a last-minute speaker from the audience, Tsapkin, to renew calls for a Council of Ministers investigation of the reserves and the Main Administration.[130] This, in turn, elicited the response of Malinovskii, who now retreated to the position that "if criticism is baseless, then we will not accept it. . . . The government has provided the basic principles and the practical direction." Two voices from the audience sought to put Tsapkin's ideas to a vote: that the Council of Ministers should turn to representatives of scientific public opinion for assistance in reexamining the whole question of the zapovedniki , which would include a new investigation of the Main Administration and its reserves and also include the zapovedniki of the Academy of Sciences.[131] The vote for Tsapkin's proposal carried by a huge margin. In a huff, Malinovskii asked to be removed from the Commission.[132] Arguments continued inconclusively for quite a few minutes before Varsonof'eva ultimately brought the meeting to a close with an expression of thanks to all for their "active participation."

The "Three Societies" Conference of 1954 was a grand stage on which the scientists could brandish publicly their sense of professional dignity, for so long hidden in the recesses of their marginal socium. Central to the drama were the honor, dignity, and integrity of the scientists' and activists'


social identity as embodying "certified public opinion." Only viewing the conference in this light may we appreciate the importance of what would otherwise seem petty, the parade of speakers rising on the second day to refute the characterizations of themselves made that morning by Malinovskii, himself rebutting the scientists' prior accusations made against him. Indeed, the battle had only just been joined.


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.


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


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


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


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]


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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-


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?


Chapter Twelve—
A Time to Meet

Cemented by propinquity, the alliance between MOIP and MGO grew into a powerful force from the 1954 "Three Societies" Conference through the end of the decade. The personalities of the Moscow leaders of geography and geology, such as Andrei Aleksandrovich Grigor'ev, Grigor'ev's successor as head of the Institute of Geography (IGAN), Innokentii Petrovich Gerasimov, the good-natured Ivan Dmitrievich Papanin, and the secretary of the Geographical Society's Moscow branch, Iurii Konstantinovich Efremov, played an immense role in developing these links. Nevertheless, structural and theoretical developments in geography and the earth sciences, together with the influential presence of Nasimovich, Formozov, Leonid Nikolaevich Sobolev, and other zoologists and botanists in the Biogeography Department of IGAN, as well as the rising prominence of the biogeographer Anatolii Georgievich Voronov, an MGU professor, within the Geographical Society, all worked to push geography as a discipline into an intimate embrace of nature protection issues.

Enter the Geographers

By the mid-1950s geography was finding a second wind in the Soviet Union. Gosplan began to seek out geographers for consultations, especially when planning hydroelectric installations, particularly after the unsatisfactory experience with the Rybinsk reservoir, which demonstrated the adverse consequences of doing without solid scientific advice.[1] The "Stalin Plan for the Great Transformation of Nature" and Khrushchëv's Virgin Lands program also created a demand for detailed descriptions and maps of large areas of the USSR, a boon for geographers.


With geology and meteorology now completely separate disciplines, geography—a loosely knit federation of such fields as economic geography, physical geography, cartography, and biogeography—had lost its most "scientific-looking" subdisciplines, intensifying the discipline's crisis of identity. Physical geographers made a bid for control over the discipline and its image, hoping to stabilize geography's prestige by emphasizing the scientistic landform categories of their field. Nature protection afforded those in biogeography and economic geography the opportunity to try to claim for geography the title of the "environmental science." For the discipline as a whole and for the various subdisciplines, this was a complicated interplay that would affect the distribution of resources and the future of research directions.

Theoretically, geography was experiencing a period of ferment as the search for a coherent object of study for the discipline, long elusive, was drawn now to an attempt to identify "natural" units in the overall environment. This search had much in common with the evolution of the discipline of ecology. One major Soviet school in geography was linked to the ideas of Nikolai Adol'fovich Solntsev, who asserted the possibility of identifying coherent units—"landscapes." Basing his ideas on those of V. V. Dokuchaev, who incorporated soil layers into an understanding of larger bioticabiotic systems, and Lev Semënovich Berg, who was the first to use the term landshaft (landscape, from the German Landschaft ), Solntsev saw the "landscape" as a self-contained molecule, much as ecologists from Kozhevnikov to Sukachëv imagined the biocenosis. Solntsev and his school proceeded from a geomorphological starting point, viewing each landscape as formed by a discrete genetic process, involving a certain originary mother rock and a shared history of uplifting and weathering, in turn determining the vegetation.

A competing perspective, partly influenced by A. A. Grigor'ev's ideas, was held by V. B. Sochava, E. M. Murzaev, S. V. Zonn, and I. P. Gerasimov, who saw the unity of "landscapes" as the product of a process of coevolution: here, the later history of the landscape mattered more than its earliest history, with biota assumed to have greater capacity to influence soils, relief, and ultimately the vegetational cover than in competing theories. Nevertheless, both views agreed on the presence of "landscapes" as holistic units in nature, however defined.

A few geographers, such as David L'vovich Armand, Iurii Efremov, Fëdor Nikolaevich Mil'kov, and others argued for a broader understanding of landscape that was less essentialistic. For them, geography was the broadest study of all—that of the earth's entire envelope of life, akin to Vernadskii's biosphere—and they viewed the scientistic search for a smaller "empirical" unit of study as a misguided narrowing of the discipline's perspective.

Finally, botanical and animal ecologists now lodged in the Institute of


Geography of the Academy of Sciences introduced to geography the perspectives of those who sought to define natural communities—biocenoses—on the basis of spatially bounded processes of mineral cycling and shared rates of productivity. These descended from the approaches of I. V. Larin, L. E. Rodin, and Nina Bazilevskaia, and found expression in the productivity studies and cycling analyses done by the Institute of Geography on the Tsentral'no-Chernozëmnyi zapovednik .

Despite their interpretive differences all these groups could unite around a single assertion: the world of life was under threat and needed to be protected.[2]

Geographical propinquity as a factor in human social affairs is not to be dismissed lightly. We have already seen how the occupation of the same building by MOIP and MGO helped forge the powerful alliance between the two organizations during the 1950s. Propinquity also had a hand in the enlistment of geographers into VOOP in the early 1950s, a development that had interesting consequences later on. On the twenty-fourth through the thirty-first floors of the main tower of Moscow State University is the Museum of Earth Sciences (muzei zemlevedeniia ). Thematically, it suggests approaches to the study of three levels of our environment: local (kraevedenie ), regional (stranovedenie ), and planetary (zemlevedenie ). In 1949, upon his demobilization from the Soviet Army and his return to Moscow (having pioneered the geographical exploration of the Kurile Islands in 1946 while still in uniform), Iurii Konstantinovich Efremov (see figure 15) sought to resume his teaching duties at Moscow University, which the war had interrupted in 1941. Born on May 1, 1913, Efremov apprenticed as a metalworker in 193–1931 and then attended the Omsk Agricultural Institute, transferring to the Moscow Timiriazev Agricultural Academy until 1934. A stint working with tourists in the Western Caucasus preceded his enrollment in Moscow University, from which he graduated in 1939. Now, Efremov wanted to create a museum of earth sciences. Soviet bureaucracy being as formidable as it was, it took six years to prepare for the opening, which was just in time for the 200th anniversary of the university in 1955.

Gurgen Artashesovich Avetisian had also joined the staff of the museum, and he and Efremov struck up an acquaintance. Shortly after VOOP's merger with the Green Plantings Society, Avetisian, as president of the Organizing Committee of the new merged organization, invited Efremov to attend one of their meetings. Drawing in other geographers, Efremov and his colleagues began to constitute a "fifth column of geographers in a milieu that was rather geographically ignorant." With the departure of much of VOOP's old guard to MOIP, VOOP's aktiv now consisted of a group of "gladiolus and strawberry breeders from the outskirts of Moscow" who "had nothing at all in common with ecology, biocenology, and nature protection" as the founding generation understood it.[3]



Figure 15.
Iurii Konstantinovich Efremov (1913– ).

About that time, the Academy's newly reorganized Commission on Nature Protection had, among its other initiatives, prepared a draft law on nature protection for the Russian Federation. Promoted and largely written by the commission's secretary, Lev Konstantinovich Shaposhnikov, a zoologist of high ethics but juridically and economically naive and narrowly trained, the draft law focused exclusively on protection of biota and protected territories, omitting issues of human health and what we today understand as "environmental quality." Owing to its defects, the draft failed to gain the


approval either of legal experts or of Gosplan of the RSFSR, and there the matter rested for about a year.

After the Estonians enacted a pioneering nature protection law in 1957, however, someone—Iurii Zhdanov, head of the Central Committee's Science Department, or Mikhail Suslov, perhaps—decided that in light of the international atmosphere and considerations of the image of the USSR abroad a Soviet law on nature protection should be enacted. It was thought prudent to begin with the remaining republics before enacting an all-Union law; such preliminary efforts would help to "get the lumps out" of the all-Union law.[4]

That such a consideration began to emerge from within the Soviet Party elite about that time is generally confirmed by the recent testimony of a Kremlin insider. Iurii Zhdanov has written that

still working in the Science Department, I accidentally became aware that few in our country were writing about its nature. Specifically, there were no natural history albums. On the initiative of our department the Geography Faculty of Moscow University under the leadership of I. Gerasimov created the first album, The Nature of Our Motherland. Pictures of natural scenes in zapovedniki were included in it as well. At the time, the album was still a thin, monotone affair, but it soon was expanded and improved. . . . [ U]nder Khrushchëv contacts with foreign figures surged. At such meetings it was the custom to give coffee-table albums on the nature and culture of your country. And we suddenly remembered: aside from our album there was nothing at all. That is when the decision was made to reissue the volume as a deluxe gift album, Nature in the USSR.[5]

The same logic applied to the legislation and to the decision to permit the Academy Commission on Nature Protection to join the IUPN about the same time.

Once it was decided that the republics should follow in Estonia's footsteps, the RSFSR Council of Ministers, finding the Academy commission's efforts unacceptable, moved on, forwarding the assignment to VOOP. However, by 1957 that organization was, to understate matters greatly, even less equipped than the commission to draft such legislation. As Efremov described it, "You can imagine at what a loss [the strawberry and gladiolus breeders] found themselves after they had been summoned by the government to prepare a nature protection law for Russia. It was then that they turned for help to the Geographical Society. And we responded."[6]

Together with Leonid Nikolaevich Sobolev and David L'vovich Armand, Efremov took the initiative and decided to craft a law that would shift the emphasis from zapovedniki to the realization that "nature was dying" as a result of improper use, greed, and waste. In the absence of anyone else in VOOP capable of completing the assignment, the new president of VOOP, Mikhail Mikhailovich Bochkarëv, who also was chair of the RSFSR State For-


estry Committee, had to turn to Efremov's group; appealing to Bochkarëv's "practical" side, they were able to convince him to support them in their "geographical" approach. Efremov's approach emphasized preserving environmental quality even as nature is used and transformed rather than trying to preserve "pristine" nature. To solicit as much feedback as possible, Efremov and his team held "seminars" for planners, economic managers, and legal experts at which they fielded objections. Armand's rhetorical skill made him a standout in these discussions. "We even put the legal experts to shame," gloated Efremov thirty years later, because they had not even considered these questions until they began attending the seminars. The shamed legal experts moved quickly to establish university departments or chairs of conservation law such as the one created at MGU by V. V. Petrov.[7]

Another outcome of Efremov's activity was the penetration of conservation ideas to the Party's elite. Efremov got an unexpected invitation from P. A. Satiukov, editor in chief of Pravda , who asked the geographer if he could present some of his ideas to the paper's editorial board. On June 5, 1957, Efremov arrived at the Pravda complex near Leningradskii Prospekt. About twelve persons were present at the meeting, including a good percentage of the editorial board.

What Efremov told the assembled Party journalists must have pricked some ears: "The protection of nature is very much impeded by the underestimation of its importance, by a lack of comprehension of its significance, and by lack of respect for this citizens' movement both by the broad masses as well as by leading [Party] figures." Perhaps, he offered, that lack of respect was spurred by the label "protection of nature. "' Protection of nature' for some sounds like something conservative, like a call to some kind of museumlike mummification and to an absurd inviolability of nature generally; it seems like some kind of private cause and concern of a few weirdo do-gooders [chudaki-blagotvoriteli ], like a haven for those unfit for gainful work." Unlike his field biologist friends, geographer Efremov had his own objections to the term okhrana prirody (protection of nature); it sounded too passive. "Rather," he said, "defenders of nature must be on the offensive, they defend not for the sake of preservation and mummification but in order to enrich natural resources. For that reason their banners should read 'Protection and Enrichment of Nature.'"[8]

A wide gulf and feelings of "strain" characterized the two polar positions regarding the use of nature in recent Soviet history, he explained. Some of scientific public opinion supported the extreme position of using bans and prohibitions to preserve nature as it is. On the other hand, some partisans of use "justified their rampages and their rapacious ravishing of nature by such demagogic 'principled' appeals as: 'From whom are we defending nature? From the people? No! Nature must serve the people! It must be subjugated and transformed, not protected!"' This kind of slogan-mongering,


argued Efremov, did a lot of damage, especially when combined with a cavalier attitude toward the complexities of the natural world. "It disoriented people, deflected them from the necessity of continuously caring for nature—our mother—and the basis of our productive forces and our economy," he continued. Confronting us, he declared, "is the necessity to overcome first of all the mass disrespect to the tasks of protection and enrichment of nature" and to oppose the equally harmful view of nature protection as "simply this season's big campaign."[9]

Efremov explained that the reason nature protection needed to be a constant concern was that it "was the cornerstone of the present and future well-being of the inhabitants of our planet." Nature protection and enrichment was the permanent rudder that balanced the "inevitable [dialectical] contradiction between nature and its use by humanity, between the inevitability of using up natural resources and caring for their replenishment and further expansion." For that same reason, he argued, now addressing partisans of preservationism,

it is not necessary to show anxiety when we are witnesses to ever newer intrusions on nature as it is: this is an expression of that same permanently operating contradiction that leads us now and will no doubt lead us many times into conflict. Enterprising neighbors will never stop greedily eyeing protected meadows, or lumbermen the forests, or hunters the game animal. Under the flag of "temporary measures" they will always find justifications . . . for exceeding tempos of exploitation set by science.

For that reason, Efremov repeated, nature protectors had to be eternally vigilant. The dialectic furnished no respite.[10] Efremov held out some hope of social peace between the economic managers and the nature defenders, however. If the principles of true planning gained ascendancy over the principles of resource-grabbing among the economic managers themselves, Efremov assured the editors, "then there would be less necessity for the defenders of nature to engage in sharp struggle from their side. The economic managers must transform themselves into defenders of nature, its friends and enrichers," instructed Efremov.[11] Then all social interests could truly be harmonized.

Although his emphasis was on what we would call "wise use," Efremov was also a supporter of inviolable zapovedniki , although for him they had a lower priority than for the hard-core field biologists. Significantly, though, despite the fact that it might sound like the agenda of some "weirdo do-gooder" before this tough audience, he defended zapovedniki as they had been originally constituted, that is, as inviolable and established for all eternity. Although later, he noted, "this formulation was thrown out as allegedly idealistic for asserting the existence of 'eternal values,'" Efremov cleverly noted that those critics "forgot that Marxism-Leninism had discovered


eternal principles; let us recall, for starters, the transfer of land eternally for the use of the collective farms . . . Setting aside of protected territory only justifies itself if it is for all time. . . . The principle of eternal preservation [zapovedanie navechno ] must be eternally restored to our zapovednik cause and in legislation."[12]

As a representative of scientific public opinion in the specific form that such a social group assumed under Soviet conditions, Efremov found himself caught in his own dialectic. Despite his disposition toward economic development, he was still at bottom a non-Party scientist who was fighting to defend the dignity of his social identity in a system that was at best disrespectful of it. And in his milieu the struggle for the purity of zapovedniki was the central means by which this social identity was affirmed and announced. In the bowels of the system, at the editorial offices of Pravda , as he struggled to find a common language with the Party apparatchiki , Efremov found himself unable to betray his own values or identity. Although the rich and productive tension generated by these efforts permeated his entire remarkable presentation, his proud restatement of his dignified claims to civic empowerment and respect are most vividly profiled in his discussion of nature protection as an ethical endeavor. "The protection of nature is a battlefront," he said, "where the struggle demands valor and decisiveness and a deep conviction of the rightness of the principles being defended. Valor is needed at all levels of this struggle. For the warden guarding the zapovednik the poacher's bullet always threatens. Incidents of the heroic deaths of scientists at the hands of vengeful violators of zapovednik conditions are familiar to us; we need only recall the fates of Isaev or Kaplanov." In an obvious reference to A. V. Malinovskii, Efremov continued:

Unfortunately, such courage has not always been shown by the highest leaders of nature protection and zapovednik management. . . . It wasn't even the bullet of the poacher that frightened them, but merely the ire of their immediate superiors, little black marks on their high reputations. But their stamps of approval, signifying assent to the ravaging of major natural treasures, to the destruction of zapovednik conditions, were more than little black marks. They left an inky streak on the cause of the protection and enrichment of nature, and led here and there already to irreversible devastation and to irrevocable losses.

For the real representative of scientific public opinion, the defense of honor and ethical duty, not public office or fear of political retribution, had the greater claim on one's actions. At least that is how scientists wanted to think about themselves.

Efremov tried to shame the Pravda editors by noting that the USSR was in last place among major nations in the percentage of national territory under protection:


The fact that we, with all of the wealth and bounty of our natural resources, have fourteen times less land under protection in percentage terms than even the United States, echoes for us like a reproach among international scientific and cultural public opinion. Still more shameful is the fact of the liquidation and clear-cutting of forests of those zapovedniki, for example in the Carpathians and the Transcarpathians, that arose under conditions of capitalism and were assiduously cared for by the Ukrainians and Poles even under Austro-Hungarian rule.[13]

Nor did Efremov neglect the "impermissibly large scale of soil erosion in our country." Wasn't it ironic, he asked, that the erosion-control ideas of physical geographer D. L. Armand, "who has just brilliantly defended his doctoral dissertation," were successfully implemented by the Chinese but ignored by the USSR Ministry of Agriculture, in whose system he worked?[14]

Efremov called for the editors' support for the creation of an all-Union society for the protection and enrichment of nature and an authoritative state committee with the power to levy "severe sanctions" on violators of the law.[15]

Efremov's final point concerned his long-standing passion for kraevedenie. Almost until the latter movement's final forcible disbanding in 1937, kraedenie and the nature protection movement had been inseparable civic twins. They had shared much of the same leadership, and a remarkable number of their leading activists were active in both movements. If we look upon both kraevedenie and nature protection activism not simply as esthetically motivated but as activities laden with social meaning, the linkage between the two immediately becomes clear: both represented the idea that fragile human social relations, particularly those that affirmed the political, moral, and intellectual dignity and empowerment of the educated citizen within the community, were built up with great sacrifice and over immense political obstacles in Russia. The ecological community and the local cultural region that was the object of the kraeved's study both were formed from a long process of coevolution. Both symbolized the ideals of diversity within harmony—a harmony cemented not by hierarchical authoritarian power but by the almost organic ties of mutual dependence, assistance, and duty, old themes in Russian intellectual social thought. Stalin's attempt to make Soviet society uniform through his politics of "leveling" [uravnilovka] of all genuine, autonomous diversity (tightly controlled state-sponsored ethnic dance troupes and the like were Stalin's replacement for that diversity) via a "great transformation" of society and nature both was viewed as a mortal threat to the prerevolutionary intelligentsia's ideal.

Efremov's love was old Moscow. After Stalin's death he fought to restore the historic names of Moscow's streets, efforts that have only recently been rewarded. Just as he and other nature protection activists sought to roll back


the "vandalism" of 1951, they sought to restore other symbolically resonant landmarks of the old world that Stalin had tried to efface.

Most important, though, was "to guarantee a decisive about-face in the public opinion of the whole country concerning the protection and enrichment of nature." And for that, Efremov concluded, an "authoritative article" had to appear in Pravda providing a "corrective in their worldview, the most fundamental attitudes of people toward nature."[16] Satiukov and some of his colleagues were so impressed that he asked Efremov for materials for an editorial. Although Efremov prepared an extensive draft, no editorial resulted.[17] But was it pure coincidence that Pravda published Academy president Nesmeianov's powerful essay on nature protection some five months later?

Despite the Pravda disappointment, Efremov was later asked to write the speech introducing the Russian Republic's new law on nature protection for Nikolai Nikolaevich Organov, chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet. Invited to witness the enactment of his law by the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, Efremov for the first time in his life entered the mysterious government compound within the Kremlin.[18]

From the perspective of enforcement, the law passed on October 27, 1960 was no more distinguished than other Soviet legislation; liability and enforcement authority were both unclear, and the law's gaps seemed larger than its substance. Much was sacrificed between Efremov's daring presentation before the editors of Pravda and the ultimate redaction of his draft law by a team of bureaucrats. Nevertheless, the law contained phrasing that reflected a sophisticated understanding of society and nature as a system. It called for "taking into account the interrelationships among the resources listed [separately] under Article 1, so that the exploitation of one resource will not inflict damage on others"; it called for continuous qualitative as well as quantitative monitoring of what we identify as resources, to be centralized in the Central Statistical Administration of the RSFSR; it prohibited reductions in the size of useful natural areas such as forests, meadows, and bodies of water unless they were specifically approved for alternative uses; and called on economic agents to avoid damage to natural resources during construction. Efremov's law called for a prominent place for science in the planning of nature protection strategies and specifically granted VOOP the right to create citizen inspectorates to monitor compliance alongside the official agencies.[19]

The decade (1955–1965) during which Efremov served as the scholarly secretary of MGO under Papanin's presidency was the golden age of that organization's civic activism. Founded in 1945, the branch grew quickly and only one year later began to publish an influential series of anthologies, Voprosy geografii (Problems of Geography), which grew to well over one hundred


numbers. By the end of Efremov's term the Moscow branch alone had 2,555 members, about what the entire Geographical Society had had in 1946.[20]

In close alliance with MOIP, where his counterpart Konstantin Mikhailovich Efron (see figure 16) labored equally tirelessly under Sukachëv and Varsonof'eva, and with the Academy of Sciences' Commission on Nature Protection and the Academy's Moscow House of Scholars under Professor V. I. Sobolevskii, Efremov was at the hub of the frenetic organizing activity of the period. After the effective departure of almost all of the old-timer biologists from VOOP, Efremov and Armand were among the handful who served as that society's sole remaining bridge to the older scientists' movement.

Within the Moscow branch of the Geographical Society an important role was played by the Biogeography Commission, founded in 1956. Its very first session, dedicated to problems of nature protection with talks by Dement'ev and Nasimovich, set the tone for the future activity of this unit, which sponsored twenty-seven talks in 1956–1957 alone, attended at times by more than 200 people. Acknowledging the prominence of the new commission, the Moscow branch in 1957 voted to entrust to it the preparation of an entire volume of its anthology. This appeared as number 48 of Voprosy geografii in 1960, devoted to problems of biogeography and the protection of nature.[21]

The Geographical Society was, along with MOIP, one of the oldest surviving scholarly organizations in the Soviet Union, having been founded in 1845. Like MOIP and VOOP, it survived in the postrevolutionary period doubtless owing to its aura of venerable quaintness: here was another clan of chudaki . Like MOIP and VOOP, through the late 1940s it had a modest membership, although the number of full members had expanded from 896 in 1941 to 3,560 in 1947.[22] Its Second Congress (the Second All-Union Geographical Congress), which took place in January 1947, was attended by 1,600 delegates and guests.[23]

On December 24, 1950, longtime society president Lev Semënovich Berg, an eminent academician, limnologist, and biogeographer, died. Merkulov's minions were turning their attention to the zapovedniki and to VOOP, and could just as easily turn on the geographers. Like VOOP, the Geographical Society endured a tense hiatus until the Party finally gave its permission to elect a new leader. Unlike VOOP, the society chose brilliantly. Assuming the presidency on July 23, 1952, Evgenii Nikanorovich Pavlovskii, the eminent parasitologist, director of the Academy's Zoological Institute and the Military Medical Academy, and academic politician supreme, led the Geographical Society for more than a decade, until May 29, 1964. Serving under him as vice presidents were Gerasimov and Stanislav Vikent'evich Kalesnik, a glaciologist who had served for a decade under Berg as scholarly secretary.



Figure 16.
Konstantin Mikhailovich Efron (1921–  ).

Again paralleling VOOP, the Geographical Society was allowed to hold its next Congress (called the Second Congress of the Geographical Society of the USSR) in 1955. The 209 delegates were joined by more than 2,000 guests, now including foreigners from eleven countries. Among the most notable of the 106 talks were those by Sukachëv and by Zonn on the shelter belts, by Armand on soil erosion, and by N. E. Kabanov on the scientific role of zapovedniki . With the Moscow branch at the oars and with the sympathetic captaincy of Pavlovskii and his crew, the larger Geographical Society now also began to set a strong course for nature protection.[24]


Within the Geographical Society the following years saw an accelerating series of activities and conferences dedicated to problems of nature protection, but what must rate as the landmark event of the era was a conference so powerful that, at the last moment, publication of its proceedings was halted by the censors.

The 1957 Conference on Rare and Endangered Species

When the old-timers were driven out of VOOP and into the arms of MOIP, they represented an enormous fund of organizing experience as well as passion for nature protection. Although Aleksandr Petrovich Protopopov had already made an unforgettable impression at the 1954 zapovednik conference, the feisty activist had an idea for one last campaign that he hoped would dramatize the larger issue of the accelerating impoverishment of the biotic world around us. As longtime former chair of VOOP's Crimean Commission, Protopopov was no stranger to management and organization. Having convinced his friends G. G. Adelung, I. O. Chernenko, and A. A. Nasimovich (see figure 17) to serve with him as a "war council," Protopopov spared no efforts to ensure the success of his proposed all-Union conference on rare and endangered species of plants and animals, set for March 1957. The organizational committee was based at MOIP in the old Zoological Museum on Gertsen Street, where Protopopov now worked in MOIP's newly created Commission on Nature Protection.[25] With the Moscow House of Scholars and the Geographical Society's Moscow branch strongly on board, the four committee members sent letters to scores of colleagues around the country to get out the word.[26]

Real spring was still over a month away when the Conference on Problems of the Protection of Valuable, Rare, and Endangered Species of Plants and Animals and of Unique Geological Objects and Their Rational Use (its cumbersome official title) began in the early evening of March 25, 1957. Into the low white building—a former aristocratic mansion—on Kropotkin Street near Chistyi Lane, in the older part of the Arbat, streamed a huge crowd of chudaki . As they pressed to get out of the freezing air, they jammed the lobby and the parklike courtyard all the way back to the wrought-iron gates by the street.

When P. A. Polozhentsev's gavel brought the conference to order, nearly every seat in the stately auditorium was filled. With well over 600 in attendance, this was not only already a resounding triumph for Protopopov, but an astounding demonstration of scientific public opinion. Of this number, 400 had come from out of town, from as far as eastern Siberia and Central Asia. The press, which had decided to cover the event, could not fail to notice this impressive constituency: the cream of Soviet field biology, geol-



Figure 17.
Andrei Aleksandrovich Nasimovich (1909–1983).

ogy, and geography. Party and government officials did not miss the significance of such a show of strength, either, which may help to explain the timing of the invitation to Efremov to come to speak to the editors of Pravda . "In a certain sense," wrote Efron three years later, "this may be considered a pivotal moment in the struggle for the protection of nature, giving its participants the push to organize a series of local conferences that permitted a new beginning for activism at the periphery and in the center."[27]

Over five days the conference heard 108 talks, beginning with G. E. Burdin's broad survey from his vantage as head of Glavokhota RSFSR's zapovedniki . He set a cosmopolitan tone for the mass meeting by characterizing nature protection as "reflecting not only vital national interests of one particular people or state. The solution of these problems concerns all the peoples of the world."[28] Such a public acknowledgment of one's international citizenship had become safer as a result of Khrushchëv's active diplomacy, with its implicit criticism of Stalin's isolationism—isolationism that had been painfully ironic, because Marxism was the "cosmopolitan" ideologypar excellence .

Much as he had delighted the conference of zapovednik directors and workers the year before, Burdin now thrilled the huge auditorium with the


announcement that 108,000 hectares had already been restored to the Caucasus zapovednik and that his agency had slated fifteen new reserves to be created by 1960, along with the expansion of existing ones.[29]

In a blatant swipe at Malinovskii and the USSR Ministry of Agriculture's approach, Burdin again declared that "the protection of nature, including the forests, must be achieved on a strictly scientific basis, holistically [kompleksno] , and may not be subordinated to only a single narrow economic goal," a position that completely supported the claim of scientific public opinion to be the arbiter of scientific standards governing resource use.[30] However, he went on, "in the actions of the leaders of those economic agencies which simultaneously bear responsibility for nature protection as well, the economic tasks always are given priority." Part of the problem was that the press and the Party were "generally not terribly interested" in those agencies and the result was that "the protection of natural resources is sacrificed by [the agencies] for narrow economic interests, which are guided by the attitude toward resource availability: 'a hundred years is plenty for us.'"[31]

Of all the remaining formal talks, though, with the possible exception of A. A. Nasimovich's review of foreign literature on the protection of nature in which he brought up the issue of the harmful effects of pesticides, the presentation that pushed the political limits furthest was that of A. A. Peredel'skii, who worked in radiation ecology. "In the majority of cases," stated Peredel'skii, "human activity is the causal factor of the extinction of species." Now, however, there was an "unusually serious" and growing threat, not simply to individual species "but to all life itself, including humanity," the threat of radiation.[32]

With the proliferation of radiation a new branch of biology had emerged—radiation ecology—Peredel'skii informed his listeners:

A child of the atomic age, radiation ecology at the present time is in its first stages of infancy. However, the basic outlines of its future profile are already sufficiently defined. . . . In first order facing radiation ecology is the task of assisting with epidemiological controls in the atomic age, to identify the biological pathways by which radioactive isotopes on those abundantly poisoned areas of dry land, water, or air are disseminated further. These are the result of military and experimental explosions of atomic and hydrogen bombs and of the activity of nuclear reactors and other nuclear-related industries, including extraction and enrichment, and also the broad use of natural and artificial radioisotopes in technology and in scientific research, medicine, and agriculture.[33]

Although the diffusion of isotopes through soil erosion, wind action, and the circulation of water, and the roles of temperature and precipitation, were all well studied, the migration of these isotopes through the tissues of living and dead organisms remained mysterious. First-level concentrations


of radioisotopes in the organs of living creatures, Peredel'skii suggested, were thousands of times greater than in the general environment. When the organisms' carcasses were eaten, these concentrations substantially increased, rising in tandem with the place of the consuming organism on the food chain. "What emerges are dauntingly complex ecological 'radiation food chains.'"[34]

Although bodies of water could be cleansed by some bacteria or by insect larvae, which concentrate the isotopes and then disperse them when the insects reach their mature, airborne stage, the problem was one of scale. "We might well ask," he said, "what is the nature of the threat to cetaceans [whales and dolphins] . . . in the oceans?" The Pacific was now polluted by radioactive dust and ash from the explosions by the United States in the Marshall Islands, he warned, and isotopes could collect in plankton and cause a catastrophic extermination of whales.[35]

And while radiation was a threat to all species, he averred, it was a particular threat to those rare and endangered species already on the brink of disappearing. In a highly unusual final appeal Peredel'skii concluded: "Nature protection activists must . . . address the governments of all countries, insisting on the prompt attainment of strict bilateral and international legal measures to protect nature from pollution by radioactive isotopes."[36] It was plain that Peredel'skii was making no distinction between "good" Soviet socialist radiation and "bad" capitalist radiation.

After the first evening's plenary session the conference broke up into more specialized sessions and workshops, reconvening for a final discussion on the penultimate evening of the great meeting; the final day's plenary would be devoted to resolutions. After four days of horror stories, the mood was militant. One listener submitted a written question to L. K. Shaposhnikov of the Academy commission, that began: "Comrade Shaposhnikov, isn't it time to move from words to action? Nature is disappearing catastrophically."[37] Another charged, "While you are creating your very own bureaucratic system of commissions within the Academy of Sciences nothing will remain of nature. There won't be anything left for you to protect. Have you truly heard the 'cries from the soul' that welled up from the audience?"[38] The well-meaning Shaposhnikov was hurt: "I was astonished by the first lines [of the question]. I don't believe, after all, that the Academy of Sciences deserves that kind of characterization."[39]

What the questioner did not appreciate, though, is that Academy president Nesmeianov was an expert at the "game," and knew that the appointment of a firebrand as scholarly secretary of the nature protection commission could have knocked the entire game board over and his job into the bargain. At each level—from activist to Academy president to chairman of the RSFSR Council of Ministers—the trick was to play the game as close to


the threshold of political permissibility as possible without going over the edge. For each level of player there was a different set of rules and a different threshold that defined political life or death, promotion or demotion, freedom or imprisonment. Worse yet, these thresholds were always in motion; they could narrow abruptly at the whim of the Party bosses. For players, the object was not only to play as close to the edge as possible but also to engineer the retreat of that edge: that is, to gain playing ground and political "space" for their side.

However, unlike the politicos in the RSFSR cabinet or even the Academy president, who was still a loyal member of the Communist nomenklatura , authentic scientific public opinion constituted a special class of players who had their own rules and their own goal line at the rear of their playing field, retreat beyond which would fatally compromise their social identities and their self-respect. Scientific public opinion continually had to balance between compromising its ethical injunctions in order to keep itself in business—a genuinely valuable social goal in an authoritarian political regime such as that of the USSR—or acting on its sense of entitlement to full civic and political rights and risking curtailment of privileges or even obliteration. Neither choice was easy or satisfactory.

Burdin was next to answer the questions of the audience. One question dealt with the touchy subject of acclimatization and culling of animals within the Glavokhota zapovedniki , as these measures were viewed by activists as the very symbols of the hated transformation of nature and as a deep profanation of the purity of the reserves. Here, too, the RSFSR had come through for the activists; Burdin told an ecstatic audience that both measures had been ended in his reserves system.[40]

The next question, though, introduced a note of disquiet into the otherwise triumphal gathering. Someone asked whether there was any truth to the announcement yesterday at the conference that the Crimean and Belovezhskaia pushcha zapovedniki were to be reorganized into game management preserves. Burdin responded that Glavokhota did not have any official information on this, although he did have a copy of the letter Pavlovskii had sent to the political leadership protesting these changes.[41]

After the question and answer period, there was a final round of statements before people dispersed for the night. Ecologist G. A. Novikov, though a Party member, was sharper than most in his criticism of the political leadership:

For us here today, as well as for many others, . . . it is completely clear that the question of the protection of nature in the Soviet Union is in an extremely grave state. . . . The broad Soviet public, whom we represent, has for a long time already been demonstrating its deep concern over this matter. . . . If those comrades who were placed by the Party and government to direct this cause [Malinovskii and his aides] had acted as befitted Bolshevik leaders and


worked together with the masses instead of avoiding them like the plague, then we would not be in the shameful situation in which we now find ourselves. I will speak candidly about this, naming names, as was done a number of years ago. There was a time—1950—when the cause of zapovedniki was prospering. There then followed a period of sharp deterioration. Who is guilty of this? Malinovskii. I, as a Soviet scientist and as a Communist, cannot, I must confess, understand for the life of me why our leading political institutions have not listened to what broad public opinion has been saying about this matter and about this person [Malinovskii]. I cannot understand how this person, who has compromised himself from the bottom to the top before the Party and the state is still occupying his position![42]

Novikov's harangue set off a demonstration in the hall. When the cheering and clapping died down, Novikov resumed his unexpectedly explicit remarks: "How is it that he still heads the [USSR Ministry of Agriculture's] Main Administration of Hunting and Nature Protection?! To let Malinovskii defend this cause is the same things as letting the wolf guard the sheep or letting the elephant into the china shop!" Again the hall erupted in applause and laughter. Novikov's talk had detonated four days of growing feelings of tension, anger, concern, frustration, and militancy.

Malinovskii, observed Novikov, came to the opening of the session with a bored and weary look on his face, sat down and then left, "vividly testif[ying] to Malinovskii's credentials as a 'zealot' of this cause." Again to applause he expressed his hope that "our cause will soon be rid of such grief, of such a leader." Even the unkind words directed at Malinovskii in 1954 paled before the abuse hurled by Novikov that evening. By contrast, Novikov did extend to Burdin his best wishes for success. Before this audience, the juxtaposition could not have been more effective.[43]

Not to be outdone, Nasimovich insisted that in the resolutions the conference should go on record as holding "a sharply negative view of the reorganization of the system of zapovedniki and . . . to our own home-grown Herostratus of this cause, A. V. Malinovskii," also provoking laughter and applause.[44] Nasimovich also could not resist recording his "amazement at why this man who more than anyone was responsible for the destruction of the system [of reserves], more than anyone represents the Soviet Union at international conferences on problems of the protection of nature! This is a shame!" Again, applause thundered through the large hall. Nasimovich urged the conference to write a letter to USSR minister of agriculture Matskevich calling for Malinovskii's ouster.[45] No one could remember any other unsponsored, unchoreographed appeal for the removal of a highly placed member of the Soviet government.

Decidedly calmer heads prevailed when it came time to draft the resolutions to the conference.[46] Although the reorganization of the zapovedniki was condemned in resolution 13 as having "the most harmful consequences,"


Malinovskii personally was not mentioned. Also glaringly omitted from the resolutions was mention of the danger of radiation, although all of the other major issues—botanical, zoological, or geological—were accommodated.

Still, there was a heady feeling when the conference closed on March 30. Because of MOIP's formal ties with Moscow University, it was able to gain the assent of the university's press to publish the proceedings. Leaving aside content, the bulk of the tome—477 printed pages—entailed a major commitment. With Protopopov assuming hands-on editorial control of the volume and Fëdor Nikolaevich Petrov, "the oldest living Bolshevik," acting as editor in chief, the volume was ready for publication by early 1959, with an interesting, heavily historical introduction by Protopopov. Galley proofs were prepared, and the volume was only days away from production with a print run of 2,000 when the entire project was shut down by the Moscow censor, the movement's old "friend" Tsyriul'nikov.[47]

An order, similar to Lysenko and Prezent's order to smash the frames of Stanchinskii's book at the compositor's, had gone out to destroy the prepared materials of the conference. Was it the article on radiation that upset the censor? Or was it the composite impression of the volume? Or was it an order from a higher authority yet—Matskevich or even Khrushchëv? We still cannot say for sure. Fortunately, the head of MOIP's publishing operations, Grigorii Naumovich Endel'man, had his wits about him. Rescuing one copy of the galleys, he cut them, rebound them, and hand numbered them, depositing the unpublished volume, including the title page, in the MOIP archives.[48]

The excitement and feelings of solidarity generated by the conference spilled out into a range of new public relations initiatives. A week after the close of the conference, activists were able to criticize the l951 "reorganization" in the central press for the first time. "In Defense of Zapovedniki " was published in the April 6, 1957, issue of Izvestiia , which concluded with the now customary recourse to shaming the regime into action: "The protection of nature and the organization and support for a network of zapovedniki is a matter of the honor of the entire Soviet people!"[49]

The All-Union Conference on Zapovedniki

Flushed with their success, the MOIP and MGO activists immediately began planning the second big nature protection conference, set for one year later. Again held in the Moscow House of Scholars under the chairmanship of V. I. Sobolevskii and V. G. Geptner, the All-Union Conference on Zapovedniki began its work on the evening of March 17, 1958, with 473 in attendance representing 159 institutions and organizations.[50]


Geptner welcomed the large gathering, reminding the audience that "our public opinion always was passionately concerned with the cause of the protection of nature and always devoted special attention to the zapovedniki ." Those who knew the history of this cause in Russia were aware, he continued, that a very large percentage of zapovedniki were organized at the initiative of citizens' organizations, including local kraeved societies. The state had always relied on civic initiative.[51] Although the changes introduced in 1951 rejected and denigrated this tradition, "in the recent past we have been living through a new period," he said. "The expansion of the rights of the Union republics, the organization of economic regions, . . . etc. have created an entirely new situation for the protection of nature and for our zapovedniki ," he added, noting the restoration of previously eliminated zapovedniki and the creation of new ones by Russia and the other republics. It was a desire to exploit this new, optimistic climate of opinion and these new opportunities for influencing policy, Geptner explained, that moved MOIP, MGO, and the Moscow House of Scholars to call the present conference.[52]

One of the more dramatic moments at the conference, which was noticeably more sedate than those in 1954 and 1957, was the announcement by Geptner that there would be a special talk dedicated to the work of V. N. Makarov in nature protection by S. S. Turov, Makarov's successor as director of the Moscow University Zoological Museum. When Geptner asked that the audience stand in Makarov's memory, the great hall heaved as 473 naturalists came to their feet to remember the cause's great leader with a standing ovation.[53]

Stretching the bounds of political criticism, the botanical ecologist S. Ia. Sokolov for the first time raised the issue of "highly placed poachers," pointing the finger at the militia and prosecutors of raion -level governments. "They style themselves Louis XVI," governed by the slogan "Après moi, le déluge." Sokolov added that "they kill off wildlife in the most merciless fashion, sometimes shooting senselessly." If we cannot fight against this, he noted, particularly when the violators are figures on the oblast' level or up, prospective members of our cause will shrug and say: "This is a fool's errand; we will be protecting nature, and Comrade Zver'ev will come along and destroy everything."[54] Sokolov graphically described how Zver'ev, a colonel and director of a Noril'sk kombinat (multiprocess factory), went out with his comrades to the Nairna River and shot several hundred wild reindeer that were trying to ford the river. Then they abandoned the carcasses and drove away. When kolkhoz workers came by and collected the deer, they were able to use them only for bait for trapping foxes.[55]

Winding up on March 21 with a very long list of resolutions, the conference repeated the calls made by the 1957 Rare and Endangered Species and Western Ukrainian Nature Protection Conferences and by the Congress of


the All-Union Botanical Society of the same year for an all-Union agency to ensure the protection of nature, for a network of zapovedniki representing every landscape zone of the USSR, and for an all-Union law on nature protection and the rational use of resources. In addition, it called for a range of new measures:

1. that all republic–and oblast' -level government and Party organs should discuss the current state of nature protection and zapovedniki in each economic region (Khrushchëv had just reorganized the territorial units of the USSR into sovnarkhozy, or economic planning units);

2. that the press should become more involved with propagandizing nature protection;

3. that the journal Okhrana prirody and the Nauchno-metodicheskie zapiski should be revived;

4. that full courses on nature protection should be introduced at the university level, including at teacher-training colleges, and that for lower grades relevant materials should be integrated into the curriculum plans; and

5. that any plan for acclimatization of exotic flora and fauna should be submitted to the Academy's Commission on the Protection of Nature for approval.[56]

A letter sent to the RSFSR Council of Ministers and to N. N. Organov, chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, from Gosplan RSFSR member V. Domrachev on July 16, 1958 illustrates the effect of this massing of public opinion. Reacting to a letter of June 17 from MOIP to the RSFSR Council of Ministers urging the adoption of the conference's resolutions, Domrachev's memo, speaking for Gosplan RSFSR, found it "exigent" that Glavokhota RSFSR before January 1, 1959, after consultations with all interested parties, submit concrete proposals for the organization of new zapovedniki and the expansion of existing ones.[57]

Once again, an emboldened movement took hope. A full list of Soviet congresses and conferences at which the protection of nature was the exclusive or a prominent theme for the period 1957 through 1960 would be surprisingly long.[58]

Zoologists and biogeographers constituted a proselytizing force for nature protection and zapovedniki with the Academy's Institute of Geography and the Geographical Society. MOIP was already multidisciplinary, although by the end of the 1950s, chemistry and physics were completely marginal areas and there was even discussion of disbanding those sections.[59] As a result of these processes and of the intimate collaboration of the two societies in nature protection, by the end of the 1950s a remarkable interdisciplinary


culture extended from academic geology through geography and botany to zoology—a broad front of organized scientific public opinion.

Winning the Young: MOIP, KIuBZ, VOOP, and the Young Naturalists

Perhaps because field naturalism was viewed as both a craft and a worldview, the Moscow Society of Naturalists from the beginning had a place for young apprentices, called pitomtsy (fledglings).[60] The "fledglings" were trained not only in technical methods in science and in frameworks of scientific analysis, but also in the proper way to conduct scientific discussions and disputes, and in a whole world of other values besides.

One of the most important values to be inculcated was the "autonomy of science" from political authority. It was not merely coincidence that MOIP vice president Vera Aleksandrovna Varsonof'eva, who in 1955 published an extensive history of MOIP, noted that the society maintained as active members Decembrists and those fallen from official favor: "These facts graphically testify to the fact that the leaders of the Moscow Society of Naturalists in the oppressive years of the reign of Nicholas I did not fear to attract politically 'untrustworthy' people to their milieu."[61] Aleksandr Ivanovich Gertsen (Herzen) was elected to the "youth" section in 1830, later becoming a full member. The Society did not flinch from listing him as a full member in 1842, when he was already in exile in Vologda. Varsonof'eva's commentary conveys how deeply entrenched these proud traditions were:

The authentic face of the Society was revealed, of course, not in official meetings and pompous receptions but in its scientific activity and its attitude toward the representatives of the progressive intelligentsia. In science as well there was a struggle between the new and the old. . . . In this struggle the Moscow Society of Naturalists took an identifiable position. Doubtless, within the society were individuals with reactionary inclinations but the majority of the members were on the side of the progressive materialist teachings, of evolutionary ideas, and later defended Darwinism from the attacks of reactionary scientists. This attracted the Decembrists and A. I. Herzen to the Society as well. . . . In turn, the Society continued to value its "fledgling" Herzen even when he became a political exile.[62]

With the eclipse of MOIP from the 1860s through the 1920s, the role of training "fledglings" had been preempted by a number of organizations. In this regard the first decade of Bolshevik power was a particularly fecund time, with the creation of a youth section within VOOP as well as the emergence of KIuBZ (the Circle of Young Biologists of the Moscow Zoo) and the more "loyal" Young Naturalist movement.


Pëtr Petrovich Smolin, affectionately called "PPS" by generations of children and students, was smitten with a love for field biology as a child, reading Brehm's Life of Animals at age five. After the revolution, Smolin found employment at the Moscow Zoo, where he was central to protecting the animals during the Civil War. Along with zoologist V. G. Dormidontov, in 1923 Smolin organized KIuBZ. However, Smolin's objections to keeping animals behind bars moved him to transfer the headquarters of the Circle to the K. A. Timiriazev Central Biological Station in Sokol'niki. There, KIuBZ and the Young Naturalists functioned as one, with Smolin representing the Biological Station of the Young Naturalists at the First All-Russian Congress for the Protection of Nature in September 1929. Smolin, however, was called away to the far North to organize a commercial game procurement station in Arkhangel'sk in 1930. There, along the coast of the Arctic Ocean, with the help of Biological Station "graduates," Smolin worked to identify the richest regions for fur-bearing mammals and other game. From one extreme of the country he traveled in 1935 to the other, to the Crimean zapovednik , where he worked until 1939. He then returned to Moscow to work in the Darwin Museum as an interpretive guide. With the coming of war he cut short his stay in Moscow to enlist in the army, becoming the commander of a platoon as well as an instructor on the military use of dogs.[63]

In Smolin's absence, leadership of KIuBZ fell to the zoologist Pëtr Aleksandrovich Manteifel', who had been a co-organizer of the group; according to one account, Manteifel"s son was in the Boy Scouts before the revolution, and Manteifel' wanted his son's outdoor education to continue. KIuBZ became one of the Soviet-era equivalents to scouting.[64]

Manteifel', whom Varvara Ivanovna Osmolovskaia (a zoologist who had been a member of KIuBZ in the 1930s) once termed a "natural Lysenkoist" owing to his passion for the transformation of nature, also deeply loved nature and was a formidable naturalist and a hunter. Like Smolin, he was charismatic and, despite his belligerently anti-preservationist ideology (which led him to ally himself with Lysenko against the vast mass of field biologists), he inspired his young charges with the excitement of conducting serious research and observation in undisturbed nature. Despite her subsequent strong scientific and ethical opposition to Manteifel"s views, Osmolovskaia recalled with nostalgia traveling to the Altai in 1934 with a group from KIuBZ to catch marmots, which the students then introduced to alpine habitats in Dagestan (at that younger age she was caught up with Manteifel"s vision of rearranging nature by means of acclimatization).[65] During the 1930s, perhaps the golden age for KIuBZ, a host of future zoologists received inspiration and training at his hands, as reflected in a photograph of a reunion of kruzhok graduates (see figure 18).[66]

Of course, enthusiasm alone does not make knowledgeable scientists,



  Figure 18.
KIuBZ fiftieth anniversary.

and here Manteifel"s leanings toward dubious doctrines of nature transformation sometimes did his protégés a disservice. As Konstantin Mikhailovich Efron remarked, although Manteifel' was a great leader for those in the sixth grade or younger, he had a great capacity to confuse the developing minds of older youths.[67] In the opinion of Elena Alekseevna Liapunova, a cytogeneticist who was a member of Smolin's VOOP kruzhok (circle) in the early 1950s, "PPS was incomparably more interesting than Manteifel'." On the other hand, after the August 1948 calamity, Manteifel', despite his own hostility to classical genetics, remained personally supportive of "his" fledglings such as E. D. Il'ina, who was fired for embracing a "formal genetics worldview."[68]

With peacetime Smolin first taught at the Institute of Furs and Pelts at Balashikha, just east of Moscow, and then in 1948 returned to the Darwin Museum. Simultaneously, from 1946 Smolin headed the youth section of VOOP as well as returning to the directorship of KIuBZ. However, a falling-out with the leadership at the Moscow Zoo led Smolin to resign from KIuBZ in 1949, taking a number of youngsters personally loyal to him over to the VOOP kruzhok , where he now invested all of his efforts. Among the


members was the future population ecologist Aleksei Vladimirovich Iablokov, who was elected the first president of the VOOP circle. Another member of that impressive cohort was the priest Father Aleksandr Men', who was later murdered. Based first in the premises of the Moscow oblast' Pedagogical Institute and from 1966 in the Darwin Museum, the VOOP kruzhok was weak until Smolin took over the reins.[69]

Although the atmosphere of the groups was more alike than dissimilar, the VOOP group was more traditionally scholarly than KIuBZ. If we discount his personal animus against Manteifel', Smolin's observations from 1951 illuminate this difference: "The existing Young Naturalist institutions and the children's collectives grouped around them exhibit a one-sided agrobiological ['Lysenkoist'] tendency. . . . Knowledge of nature stands at a very low level not only among the so-called Young Naturalists but among their leaders as well [a reference to Manteifel']."[70]

All of these groups, which were formally united under the umbrella of the Young Naturalists, had a profoundly democratic spirit. As Liapunova put it, they exuded a spirit of grazhdanstvennost' (citizenship). Loyalty to the group, which embraced those in grades five through ten, was important, but so was the exercise of individual responsibility.[71]

In the VOOP kruzhok in particular there was a "strong feeling of community." Aleksei Andreevich Liapunov, Elena's father and an eminent mathematician with a strong interest in biology, often invited the group over for discussions with light refreshments in their apartment. They even had a definite schedule. On Tuesdays there were lectures held at the Lenin (Potëmkin) Pedagogical Institute in the central Frunze district of Moscow. PPS often invited famous scientists to these; in those days they came willingly. On another weekday the kruzhkovtsy met by themselves and read their own lectures; these meetings were sometimes held at the Darwin Museum, where PPS worked. On weekends there were excursions to natural areas in the vicinity such as the Prioksko-Terrasnyi zapovednik , Zvenigorod, Lake Kiëvo, and other interesting places. Everyone got up at dawn, and PPS led the members along trails and identified the various birds they encountered. Every once in a while he hinted at opposition to Lysenko's ideas, but never explicitly, not wishing to place the children in a situation where they would have to lie.[72]

When general meetings were held, the members experienced the feel of a "real" scientific society on the model of MOIP. There were membership inductions. To be accepted, the young woman or man had to make a scientific presentation based on her or his own research with photos and a dossier, already a sign of seriousness; until you did that you remained a soiskatel , or candidate member. Elena Liapunova, for example, traveled to the former Verkhne-Moskvoretskii zapovednik and worked on a method of censusing


beavers (including a demographic analysis) by examining the size of gnawed sections of trees. With induction immediately came membership in VOOP. Whenever the group held elections of officers, members had a "real democratic feeling."[73]

We cannot overestimate the importance of these groups, particularly the VOOP circle, as crucibles for the formation of the leading field biologists of the USSR. Those of the VOOP circle had the highest success rate of all students in the MGU Biology Faculty, and the graduates of both circles—VOOP and KIuBZ—demonstrated a solidarity within their ranks (especially among those of the same cohort) that endured for decades. That solidarity enabled them to organize outside of any institutional framework. One example was the organization of Nikolai Vladimirovich Timofeev-Resovskii's first lecture in Moscow (1955) since his deportation from Germany at the end of the war, which was held at the Liapunovs' home. The audience was composed largely of a group of university students who had all been members of the VOOP circle. This lecture was an important milestone in the revival of formal and population genetics in the Soviet Union.[74]

Following the 1958 MOIP-organized All-Moscow Conference on the Role of Youth in the Protection of Nature, MOIPjoined the quest for the hearts and minds of the naturalistically inclined youth. MOIP was aiming at university students, too old for the other groups. Under the chairmanship of Fëdor Nikolaevich Petrov, who from 1954 was chair of MOIP's new Section on the Protection of Nature, and through the efforts of Nikolai Sergeevich Dorovatovskii, one of the section's vice presidents, and of Konstantin Mikhailovich Efron, the society's scholarly secretary, a Student Subsection was organized, of which the most active members later became zoologists and conservation activists: Maria Cherkasova, Boris Vilenkin, and V. Baranov.[75] Even MOIP, however, proved too tame for the university students. Within two years the students, centered at the Biology Faculty of Moscow University, had amicably gone their own way, creating an entirely new kind of organization, the druzhina po okhrane prirody (Nature Protection Brigade). Nonetheless, it was no accident that the druzhiny , with their roots in MOIP, became the standard-bearers of future Soviet field biologists and of future scientific public opinion.

Finally, any discussion of how the founding generation of scientific public opinion sought to perpetuate its worldview, values, and vision of science must mention the last of the young naturalist organizations, the Circle of Young Naturalists of the Section on Nature Protection of MOIP. To a certain extent, this group was MOIP's compensation for having lost the university students. Founded in the early 1960s by zoologist Anna Petrovna Razorënova, this circle arguably became the most successful of the youth groups of the next two decades. Single, chronically ill, and also caring for a


sick father, Razorënova could not work, and instead for twenty-five years she selflessly devoted all her energies to the circle, organizing weekly seminars for children in grades six through ten. The earliest seminars were attended by Boris Fëdorovich Goncharov, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Formozov, Vadim Mokievskii, Arkadii Tishkov, and other now prominent natural scientists; more than 250 of Razorënova's "graduates" went on to become natural scientists. Some years' cohorts had up to twenty-five members.

On holidays and Sundays the MOIP kruzhok would convene on a farm outside Moscow. Later, Razorënova rented and then bought a house near Myshkin on the Volga, using it as a base for excursions. Like the other groups, the MOIP circle organized trips to zapovedniki , and the older students participated in animal censuses. A special treat was the trip to the Black Sea coast during winter vacation.[76]

The generation of founders of the Russian nature protection movement was schooled at a particular time and place. The imposing level of erudition that generation attained was as much a product of the prerevolutionary familial environment as of tsarist-era educational possibilities. These were strongly colored by the class structure of the era and by the values of both the traditions of the landed gentry and the emerging commercial and professional culture of Russia's cities. It is also important to recognize that science was still "small science" and that it was possible for an individual to gain prominence by investigating some of the great uncharted areas of the natural world. It was also a time when it was fashionable to advance grand theories and when there was greater faith in science. Finally, it was a time before scientific paradigms, ideas, and "facts" were called into question as perceptually driven artifacts resting on ultimately arbitrary or unprovable premises.

Almost all of those conditions had radically changed or were changing by the 1960s. The magnificently rich prerevolutionary education that wellborn and even middle-class children received in the home and at elite schools gave way, at least in school, to a routinized, rote, and dulling education, particularly after the early 1930s. It was far more difficult to affirm in public an identity based on the ideals of civic dignity and the autonomy of science, and the idea that scientific public opinion possessed special knowledge that conferred on it the right to intervene decisively in some public policy areas. Finally, in the era of emerging "big science" it became difficult for anyone to achieve the status of titan. Scientific authority itself would soon be questioned—later in the Soviet Union than in the West, but in time to cast a shadow on those coming to maturity in the 1980s and 1990s.

Taken together, all of these changes foreclosed the possibility of replicating the generation of the founders. And considering that the political and moral authority of those figures in part flowed from their sense of


authority among the next generation of scientists—who were less erudite and who practiced more what Thomas Kuhn has called "normal science" than paradigm-shaping—was problematic. There were limits to the effectiveness of the youth circles in socializing future naturalists to become just like their forebears. Yet much of that older spirit was passed along. Considering the political, cultural, and socioeconomic environment in which the founders were fated to work, that itself must be considered a monumental achievement.


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.


Chapter Fourteen—
Student Movements:
Catalysts for a New Activism

Alongside the cresting activism of scientific public opinion, the Khrushchev years saw the emergence of student environmental activism. For some, such as the Estonian students at Tartu State University, this activism was tinged with ethnonationalist feelings from the start. For others, particularly in biology programs at the elite universities, it revived prerevolutionary traditions of the studenchestvo (students' special social identity). Exploiting the moral authority traditionally enjoyed by students, activists took direct action against such social "ills" as poaching and also participated in the planning and staffing of protected natural territories. Finally, for a third group concentrated in the somewhat less prestigious engineering and higher technical schools, environmental activism allowed the students to put their newly gained technical knowledge in forestry and other areas to patriotic use, in trying to circumvent the cumbersome, wasteful, and conservative Soviet bureaucratic system. Only later were some members of this group, disillusioned by the bureaucracy's opposition to their efforts, drawn to an ideology of Russian nationalism.

As the professional scientists did, the students used nature protection as the nucleus for their sense of mission and social identity, but they were motivated more by youthful impetuousness and by love of nature than by a sacred ideal of Science. This was true even of the students in the elite biology programs. Despite the fact that the Moscow University Student Brigade for the Protection of Nature was originally sponsored by MOIP, the ideals, social identity, and practice of the new organization diverged from those of the older activists. This divergence demonstrated the impossibility of reproducing the social identity of the scientific intelligentsia under Soviet conditions.

The students' efforts to curb the abuses of the system and to implement


a more conservation-oriented approach to resource management provided an object lesson. Although suffocated by bureaucrats, the students' naive efforts revealed unrecognized contradictions between the Soviet system and widely shared social values. The experience of the students catalyzed the link between nature protection and an awakening antimodernist, xenophobic Russian nativism, helping to bring that larger movement into being.

The Moscow State University Biology—Soil Sciences Student Brigade for Nature Protection

The first university students' nature protection circle in the USSR was founded in Tartu on March 13, 1958, uniting students from Tartu State University and the Estonian Agricultural Academy. "Taking up the initiative of Tartu University," as a recent history put it, the students of the Biology—Soil Sciences Faculty (Biofak) of Moscow State University in 1960 founded the first druzhina (nature protection brigade).[1] The curiously anachronistic designation druzhina was not idly chosen. The chronicles tell us that Prince Vladimir, "who loved his druzhina ," consulted with it about affairs of the land and of war. The druzhina was the circle of closest warriors and counselors of the princes of Kievan Rus', the first line of defense of the Russian lands. "All this is known, of course, only by historians," writes modern-day druzhinnik Ksenia Avilova.

Nevertheless, when the Komsomol enthusiasts, having decided voluntarily and without any thought of gain to defend nature against doltish assaults, called themselves the druzhina as of old, they immediately and precisely defined the sense and thrust of their work: active activity [aktivnaia deiatel'nost '] , struggle, and the protection of Russian nature from evil, from soullessness, and from a lack of care for it. In that way the word druzhina acquired its contemporary meaning, distinguishing itself from all other circles, clubs, and societies that frequently exhibited only the external facade of solidarity.[2]

Vadim Tikhomirov, the druzhina 's faculty adviser, commented on this lexical matter as well: "The very word 'druzhina ' was a happy choice. . . . In it we see reflected the striving for active efforts, for struggle, and not for meditations on nature protection themes. It presumes a certain level of organization and solidarity and, more than anything, a strict sense of civic responsibility [strogaia obshchestvennaia otvetstvennost '] even while preserving the conditions of voluntary enrollment."[3]

That account, however, omits a much more recent antecedent, the druzhinniki , who had just been brought into being by Khrushchëv as part of his vision of a transition of the Soviet Union from a "dictatorship of the proletariat" to an "all-people's state." The Party Program that followed the Twenty-first Party Congress in February 1959 promised that organs of state


power would gradually become organs of public self-administration, in keeping with the withering away of the state that Marx and Engels had promised.[4] One of the first areas selected for this transition by the Soviet chief was the maintenance of public order, and squads of druzhinniki with their telltale red armbands became ubiquitous at sports events, parades, and even university entrance checkpoints following a decree of March 2, 1959, although their experimental precursors date to 1957.[5] The Moscow University druzhina could point to Khrushchëv's druzhiny as a potential source of legitimation while creating a social space for civic activism and public self-administration far more independent than what the state had intended.[6]

The origins of the MGU druzhina actually go back to 1959 as well, when a university student subsection was created under F. N. Petrov's Section on Nature Protection, with the active patronage of the president of MOIP's Biology Division, Nikolai Sergeevich Dorovatovskii, and its secretary, Konstantin Mikhailovich Efron. At the time, the most active student members were Boris Vilenkin, Maria Cherkasova, and V Baranov. "The numerous excursions and trips organized were motivated by the urge to apply the members' personal efforts in the defense of living nature," recalled Vadim Nikolaevich Tikhomirov, one of the subsection's organizers. The students were looking for "active efforts" and "struggle," motivated not by anti-Soviet attitudes but by a fierce impatience with the imperfections of the system. Many were members of the Komsomol who had acquired credentials as "citizens' inspectors" for nature protection. The first student inspections throughout Moscow oblast' to combat poaching and trips to the forest to prevent the logging of fir trees for the New Year date to this MOIP period of the movement.[7] The students proclaimed: "We've had enough talk about purity. Let's start cleaning up!"[8]

Aside from those dramatic undertakings, the students addressed numerous groups, from teachers to factory workers, and organized seminars to upgrade their own knowledge of conservation issues and biology. Through MOIP, they were able to attract speakers of the stature of soil scientist David L'vovich Armand. This exposure to scientific advocacy for nature protection, with all of its customs and rules of polemics and conversation, socialized the students to the social identity of nauchnaia obshchestvennost' .[9] For many students, however, devotion to the older cult of science with its rules and ethical norms had less appeal than the tug of adventure and a life of action.

Spurred by news of independent student organizations in Tartu and Astrakhan (Iu. N. Kurazhkovskii's "For a Leninist Attitude toward Nature," founded earlier in 1960), the students soon went their own way, with the reluctant blessing of the MOIP leaders.[10] Geography played a role in this turn of events. The headquarters of MOIP was on the old campus, in the


Zoological Museum off Manezh Square. However, the students lived and studied at the new campus, miles away on Lenin (Sparrow) Hills. This physical separation facilitated the creation of a distinct student identity.

The development of an autonomous society was quickened by the emergence of a group of exceptionally independent-minded first-year students in Biofak in 1960. As Tikhomirov relates it, "In the majority, they were shaped by having been in the various young naturalist circles: KIuBZ, the VOOP circle led by Petr Petrovich Smolin, and the circle within MOIP led by Anna Petrovna Razorënova. These students led by Evgenii Smantser sought out teachers who were also deeply troubled by problems of nature protection. As a result of the combined efforts of students and faculty came the birth of the druzhina ."[11]

Much like field biology itself, a region of natural science that seemed to draw in those who experienced a special need or delight in studying life in its unfettered condition, the druzhina attracted the most independent, self-reliant, and, it appeared, most sensitive students. They were also, in their own way, those most aware of social wrongs and, on some still dimly conscious level, of the possibility that the Soviet vision had taken a drastically wrong turn. It is likely that no one will improve on the portrait provided to us by druzhina veteran Ksenia Avilova: "It is natural that at the origins of this unique coalescing of youth, born as it were as a sign of the times on the eve of the RSFSR law on the protection of nature, stood individuals who were out of the ordinary. . . . [I] n the far gone days of 1960 this kind of activism with respect to nature was a reflection of an improbably daring, even dangerously bold view of life."[12]

At the October 1960 Komsomol conference of the members in the Biology—Soil Sciences Faculty, the activists secured support for the creation of a druzhina po okhrane prirody (nature protection brigade). On December 13, 1960, at a meeting of the Komsomol of the faculty and nature protection activists, the "fighting brigade" was formally christened. Its first "commander" (komandir ) was biology student Evgenii G. Smantser. Biofak dean Nikolai Pavlovich Naumov named dotsents Vadim Nikolaevich Tikhomirov and Konstantin Nikolaevich Blagosklonov, who later coauthored the first university textbook on nature protection and conservation biology, as the kuratory or faculty advisers of the new group.[13] Both were active in MOIP and VOOP and they were well positioned to convey the old-line tradition to the up-and-coming generation of elite field biologists.

As the "zoological" half of the faculty leadership, Blagosklonov trained the students in the skill of observing bird behavior. The author of an internationally known handbook on the protection and attraction of birds, Blagosklonov had organized "Bird Day" in the 1920s with some Young Naturalist groups. He also supported youth programs such as the Zvenigorod


summer schools, KIuBZ, and VOOP's youth section, in which he continued to be active despite the transformation of VOOP's leadership into a sinecure for retired Communist operatives. Blagosklonov's other great strength was in organization. For more than twenty years he organized biology "Olympics" at Moscow State University, summer camps for nature protection, and a host of other events. He was also an eager propagandist for nature protection, writing innumerable articles and appearing on radio and television.

As the "botanical" half, with particular expertise in floristics and taxonomy, Tikhomirov (see figure 20) was an invaluable guide to the world of vegetation. His students were treated to exhaustive but also exhausting training: two months in the field in Mordvinia on the upper Volga after the first year, geobotanical field work and ecology in the Moscow region after the second, a transzonal field journey south to the Caucasus or Crimea together with soil scientists, and then a 10,000-kilometer odyssey around central Russia, including the southern steppes. Various zapovedniki served as training bases. Nature protection based on a profound scientific knowledge of vegetation was the emphasis. Those who sought to spend their summers sunning themselves on the beaches in Batumi were encouraged to select another area of specialization. The students had to love botany enough to consider a grueling field trip a vacation. Tikhomirov brought more than technical knowledge to the druzhina ; he was its moral compass, with his militancy, personal daring, and charisma.[14]

In those first few months, the druzhina began with a band of forty-two stalwarts, an impressive number for such a risky and dubious cause. In that first cohort, two members were involved with organizing and providing lectures and two more worked with the youth group at MOIP, a residual link to the parent society. Three served on the editorial commission and three more started a separate section concerned with the fight against water pollution. Almost half were involved in the antipoaching patrols, which were later (1974) christened "Operation 'Shot'" (Programma 'Vystrel' ). Instruction and training were a central part of preparing the druzhinniki for this dangerous work. Because the druzhina from the outset was under the aegis of both the Komsomol and VOOP, as members of the latter, druzhinniki were able to get credentialed as "citizens' inspectors for nature protection," which allowed them to apprehend violators of Soviet nature protection and hunting laws and to confiscate their equipment and catch.[15]

Regular antipoaching operations began in earnest in the autumn of 1961. Paraphrasing Smantser's memoirs, Sviatoslav Zabelin described the scene in those days (see figure 21): "In the evening upon the druzhinnikis arrival at the base, the atmosphere was jolly around the far from sober dinner table. But from early morning on followed the inspection, which involved a profusion of confrontations with violators who had no suspicion about the existence of hunting and fishing regulations and relied in all questions on the



Figure 20.
Vadim Nikolaevich Tikhomirov (1932–1998) and
Tat'iana Bek, druzhina komandir  (leader), mid-1960s.


Figure 21.
Druzhinniki  inspecting hunting documents, mid-1960s.


power of their fists and their lungs."[16] On rare occasions the raids ended in tragedy; at least six druzhinniki were shot dead during these hunting checks, creating an aura of danger and responsibility around the druzhiny . The group also conducted raids on the Kalitnikovskii open-air market, detaining those who were putting songbirds up for sale.[17]

Targeting ordinary citizens, albeit lawbreakers, reflected the political immaturity of the druzhina movement. From the standpoint of theory, the movement failed to develop a thoroughgoing socio-politico-economic analysis of the roots of the destruction of natural amenities in their society. From the standpoint of tactics, these raids alienated the great majority of the workaday public from the students. In many cases those who were fined or whose merchandise was confiscated were those toward the bottom of the Soviet social ladder, trying to earn a few rubles or bring back a partridge for the family pot. Despite the physical danger of flushing out poachers, the students were going after relatively minor offenders while major bosses, who were not only poaching but poisoning the rivers, lakes, streams, and air, were conveniently ignored. No wonder the antipoaching campaign alienated the masses from these elite students, as Tikhomirov obliquely recognized: "The attitude to its work on the part of the population was, as a rule, hostile. The activities of the druzhinniki often met with total incomprehension, especially when they affected the personal interests of citizens regarding the use of forests, hunting, or fishing. . . . It was a rare encounter in the forest that concluded without the use of force or some other sort of extreme action, and there were shoot-outs."[18]

The authorities had little use for the student raids, either. "We would frequently hear such outbursts [from them] as 'You what? Defend nature? From whom? From our Soviet person?'" Many officials even considered their cause "harmful."[19]

Even in the Biological Faculty itself, the stronghold of scientific public opinion, some questioned the wisdom of letting the students go off into the woods to catch poachers. Rebutting these misgivings, Tikhomirov emphasized the larger social meaning of the students' activities: "But it was precisely [these questions] that demonstrated that [the critics] had completely failed to understand that our foremost task was the socialization of these future specialists, forging their intellectual and political outlooks as well as molding them as citizens."[20]

By the group's official first anniversary in December 1961, a conference had been organized on the emerging problems surrounding Lake Baikal, a rather large and impassioned meeting held on the forestry experiment "Kedrograd" in the Altai, and four wall newspapers published. And Tikhomirov thought that it was time to create druzhiny in other higher educational institutions around the USSR.[21]

The next year's activities saw the New Year's tree campaign move to


Moscow railroad stations where, with the knowledge and cooperation of the stationmaster and militia, buyers and sellers alike were apprehended; in all, 800 trees were seized. It also marked an inconclusive attempt by the Komsomol of Biofak to disown the druzhina by preventing it from delivering its annual report. This and an investigation in November 1962 by the Party Committee were potentially damaging.[22] But the druzhina weathered these squalls, mainly thanks to the support of Naumov and his faculty, again demonstrating the ideals of obshchestvennost' in action.[23]

By the following year, the Party Committee of Biofak was showering the druzhina with compliments despite a few uncomfortable moments in early 1964 when apparently drunken druzhinniki on a trip to the Kyzyl-Agachskii zapovednik in Azerbaijan even engaged in some poaching themselves. Routines developed as komandiri and other posts were rotated every year. The campaigns netted increasing numbers of violators (see figure 22), and the druzhina became a visible and important institution in Moscow University's student scene, even if membership remained modest.

Like its parent, the druzhina was a counterculture. Dmitrii Nikolaevich Kavtaradze, a former leader of the group during the early 1970s, compared it to a "military unit." "Some people were influenced by it to such an extent that the whole course of their lives was altered."[24] Group loyalty was especially great in the druzhina (see figure 23)—partly because so many of its members had already been socialized in the VOOP and MOIP youth groups and in KIuBZ. The geologist Pavel Vasil'evich Florenskii, who had been in KIuBZ, speculated that this powerful bonding ethic had its origins in the brotherhood of the Tsarskoe Selo Lycée and in later traditions of solidarity within university student culture (studenchestvo ).

In the words of Oleg Ianitskii, the druzhina and its later offshoots were spreading "the 'small is beautiful' virus" in a system based on gigantomania. Inevitably this generated tension between the druzhiny and their official sponsors in the Komsomol and VOOP. As Ianitskii notes, "Under our conditions, these contacts did not in any sense amount to a compromise between the two sides; each was playing its own game. The people from the system considered that the independent organizations could be held in check, and that they were a useful valve for letting off the steam of popular dissatisfaction. The club leaders hoped that as they gained more muscle, they would gradually reconstruct the System from within."[25]

The Kedrograd Experiment

In Leningrad another influential youth group arose during the Khrushchëv "thaw" of the mid to late 1950s. Ever since the first Five-Year Plan, the Soviet state had been taking large numbers of workers' and farmworkers' children



Figure 22.
V. N. Tikhomirov detains poachers.



Figure 23.
Druzhinniki  at leisure, perhaps singing songs of Bulat Okudzhava.

and propelling them into new lives after their training in technical and engineering schools. As Sheila Fitzpatrick has observed, despite the privations of their school years, these students were often grateful to the regime for the opportunity for significant upward mobility. They were the system's, and Stalin's own, loyal constituency.[26] A discernible sociological gulf emerged between the mass of poorer students at the technical universities and the jeunesse dorée and hereditary intelligentsia at Moscow and Leningrad state universities and other elite schools.

At the Leningrad Forestry Technical Academy, one of these students of modest background was called "the dreamer." Described as a serious, "greyeyed, slightly wild-looking Siberian who, according to his passport, [was] called Fotei," Sergei Shipunov was rechristened by his classmates, who asserted "that such a name did not exist."[27] Although a silent, intense young man habitually "glued motionless to a book in the evenings,"[28] Shipunov became popular because after graduating from technical high school (tekhnikum ) he had worked a stint as a forester and knew the forests better than any of his peers. He also accrued greater authority owing to his independence and to his severely categorical judgments. Classmates also envied his habit of taking from books and lectures only what he needed. It was machismo with an angry Russian twist.


Shipunov and his friend Vitalii Feodos'evich Parfënov were elected to the faculty bureau of the Komsomol, where Shipunov became secretary. Soon, though, Shipunov was generating sparks. "He was excessively unbending and dealt with people too highhandedly," wrote the journalist and novelist Vladimir Chivilikhin. "He wanted to remake too much his own way and this frequently generated conflicts in the faculty." It was not long before he was called into the dean's office because he had announced that the students were being taught subjects that had little bearing on their future practical work and even had leaflets printed and distributed at nearby forestry plantations. "You're taking a lot on yourself, Shipunov!" snapped the dean. "In short, we have given the order to return your underground leaflets from the leskhozy [Soviet forest plantations]."[29] Shipunov did not bend. His response was to publish a biting article in one newspaper on how forests were being improperly cut in Leningrad oblast'and on the poor preparation of new foresters.[30] His friends tried to tone down his contentiousness, but it proved resistant to alteration right to the end of his life.

In the fall of 1957 Sergei was elected to the academy's Komsomol Executive Committee. By this time, he had become inextricably associated with his "dream" to establish a model forest plantation in the Altai Mountains in order to harvest the secondary products—squirrels, sable, deer, and some game fowl, as well as mushrooms, berries, and pine nuts—of the Siberian stone pine or "cedar" (kedr ) forest there. Only sick trees would be logged to preserve the health of the forest complex. Although some derided his dream as "utopian," others such as Parfëno, Lesha Isakov, Kolia Novozhilov, and Vladimir Ivakhnenko shared it.[31]

More than thirty years earlier, there had been similar plans for the sustainable utilization of the Altai's "cedar" forests. Sometimes called "chudoderevo " (wonder tree), "khlebnoe derevo " (the bread tree), "derevo-korova " (the tree-cow), or "derevo-kombinat " (the multiproduct/multiple services tree), the Siberian stone pine has long been known to be a good source of pine tar, bal'zam (resin), vitamins, nuts, wood, bark for corks and pigments, roots for wickerwork, and a prime habitat for economically valuable plants and animals.[32]

Cedar nuts constituted 50 percent by weight of all the trade traffic heading toward the iarmarki (fairs) of Irbit and Nizhnyi and constituted more than one quarter of the traffic by weight on the Trans-Siberian Railroad before the First World War; average yearly shipments were 189,000 puds (6,840,000 lbs.) during the period 1899–1908.[33] The "wonder tree" had also attracted the attention of curious lay polymaths such as V. Tatishchev in the eighteenth century—he described them in his journals—and later of a number of professional botanists and academic forestry specialists, including Sukachëv. Obviously no ordinary tree, the "cedar" had already be-


come a symbol of Siberia's economic potential and the richness of its natural resources by the time the Bolsheviks assumed power.

The Bolsheviks' early rhetorical commitment to rational resource management emboldened those who sought to restrain the accelerating tempo of resource exploitation.[34] At the end of the 1920s inside the system of consumer co-ops seven multiple-use cedar plantation-complexes were planned but only one, in the Gornyi Altai (Altai Mountains)—the Karakokshinskii cedar plantation—was organized, and that only lasted two years, going down in 1933. One reason for the failure of the venture was that there was not enough work year round; the project's planners had failed to diversify.[35]

When, after a hiatus of more than twenty years, the students of the Leningrad Forestry Technical Academy returned to the problem of the sustainable use of the cedar forests, they did so armed with their professional training as foresters but also with the knowledge of the cause of the previous venture's failure. Their plan for multiple use, which they dubbed "Kedrograd" (cedar city), included tapping spruce sap (for turpentine), grinding pine-needles to produce vitamins, bee-keeping, gardening, some agriculture, and limited logging, predominantly sanitary. This was the base for year-round activity on which the superstructure, based on harvesting nuts, berries, mushrooms, and pelts, would be erected. Logging would be allowed only if it enhanced, rather than undermined, the overall sustainable economic regime, and could not be done when it would disrupt the reproduction of wildlife. "All this was impossible to attain given existing practices, where the numerous forest users . . . worked autonomously, guided only by their entrenched bureaucratic interests," noted Parfënov; he and his young colleagues were going to reform the system, however, and help it regain the true path to Communism.[36]

Professionally, the students' ideas about forest structure were strongly influenced by the holistic ideas of Georgii Fëdorovich Morozov, Sukachëv's teacher and a proponent of the idea that there existed "forest types" that were relatively closed and self-reproducing, not unlike Sukachëv's later elaboration in his concept of the "biogeocenosis."[37] The cedar forest, accordingly, was considered one such bounded "type." Unlike Sukachëv, however, the students absorbed the post-Stalin Leningrad Forestry Technical Academy's commitment to the principles of rational resource use (sustainable use) and rejected the idea of "placing nature under lock and key." This pragmatic orientation distinguished the graduates and students of the Leningrad Technical Forestry Academy from the druzhinniki of MGU Biofak.[38]

Shipunov's "dream" was not subversive; he and his fellow students were seeking only to make Communism arrive faster by making production less wasteful and more efficient. Shipunov's vision of nature was a workshop, not a temple. His dream was that of a Soviet patriot. Seeking support,


Shipunov went to Moscow. Not wanting to alienate the ardent young students, officials extended their support; they included A. F. Mukin, head of the Forest Division of the RSFSR Ministry of Agriculture, as well as P. F. Kaplan of Gosplan RSFSR. Sergei Andreevich Khlatin of the Main Forestry Administration of the RSFSR in particular became the student's patron.[39]

Back at the Leningrad Forestry Technical Academy, some professors also gave the students warm support. One respected and popular professor of geodesy and surveying, Gubin, offered one month's salary to help pay for the reconnaissance expedition. In addition, Professor Gubin wrote a letter supporting the expedition to select the specific territory for the forest plantation. Alas, Gubin, who was too solicitous of the students' living conditions, went over budgetary allowances in his division and it was decided to remove him for "gross violations of financial rules."[40]

Sergei Shipunov, as a member of the Komsomol Committee of the Academy, decided either from "pigheadedness" or from "inexperience" to defend Professor Gubin. Despite intense pressure from the head of the Central Committee of the Komsomol, Oleg Maksimovich Poptsov (who later became editor of Sel'skaia Molodëzh' and after 1993 served for a time as director of Russian TV), as the member of the Committee with responsibility for student life Shipunov continued publicly to speak out. In fact, he provided his own "interpretation" of the meeting of the Komsomol Committee, making it appear that the committee was much more militantly opposed to Gubin's dismissal than in fact it was. Responding to Shipunov's call and organized from within the faculty where Parfënov was Komsomol representative, within twenty-four hours at an agreed-upon time almost all the students walked out of classes in protest at the professor's dismissal. Some instructors walked out with the students.[41]

However, the case did not end there. The district committee of the Komsomol intervened, "frightened that, in the academy, some sort of student 'circle' [gruppok ] had organized. Not getting down to the details, the bureau of the raikom expelled Sergei as well."[42] A week later, Shipunov's baccalaureate thesis defense was scheduled to take place. When he arrived, he read an order on the door expelling him from the academy, and was told to report to the Komsomol district committee. He was asked to surrender his Komsomol membership card, refused, and disappeared. Even his father did not know his whereabouts.[43]

A "political conspiracy" was alleged. "This is what the thaw has turned into," complained irate administrators as they kicked Shipunov out of the academy. Parfënov was given a warning from the deputy director of the USSR Federal Forest Service, who was on the faculty bureau. Gubin was falsely accused of "incitement."[44]

After graduation Parfënov organized the expedition alone; all the other


students received their diplomas and went home. However, all was not lost. They indicated a readiness to go to the Altai when called. So, when Parfënov arrived in the Altai in the summer of 1959, Sergei Shipunov showed up in September along with Ivakhnenko. And when Sergei Khlatin traveled to Choia to supervise, the young graduates knew that things were really underway.[45]

At first, local officials in the Altai as well as the faculty were supportive, either out of conviction or because they sought to humor the students and graduates, thinking that nothing would ultimately come of their scheming and dreaming. Among the genuine supporters was Roman Aleksandrovich Dorokhov, deputy chairman of the Altai kraiispolkom , who soon became the provincial Party first secretary of the Gorno-Altai oblast' . Sadly, he died in 1963 and was replaced by an enemy of the project.[46] Another important source of support was the Scientific Council of the faculty of the Leningrad Forestry Technical Academy, which met on March 6, 1959 and gave the project its blessing too after hearing a presentation by Shipunov.[47]

Of course, there were some early nay-sayers, such as academic forester A. D. Kovalevskii, who worked in the Central Black-Earth zapovednik , who wrote an article in Nash sovremennik that Kedrograd was all too theoretical and abstract.[48] This was countered by Feliks Kuznetsov, who defended the students (he later became the head of the Union of Russian Writers), and by Parfënov, who was given space in the journal two issues later.[49] Articles defending Kedrograd appeared in the student newspapers of the Moscow Aviation Institute and the Sverdlovsk Technical Forestry Institute, to name two.

As the saga of "Kedrograd" gained wider notice in Komsomol circles, in part owing to Shipunov's notoriety, the science editor of Komsomol'skaia pravda , Vladimir Alekseevich Chivilikhin, a Siberian, decided to cover the story himself. While Chivilikhin was preparing his story for press on December 28, 1959, the RSFSR Council of Ministers issued order no. 8285-R, setting aside 71,400 hectares for the experimental plantation. It was a huge victory for the students.[50]

Meanwhile, romance intervened to commingle the two very different traditions of student activism exemplified by the Moscow and Leningrad groups. At an all-Union conference of biology students, held at Moscow State University, which Parfënov and Shipunov attended, Shipunov made the acquaintance of Maria Valentinovna Cherkasova, a twenty-one-year-old zoology student at Moscow University.[51] Cherkasova, daughter of an engineer and a music teacher, was a child of the Moscow intelligentsia and was socialized to scientific public opinion. "When I was ten years old," she told Oleg Ianitskii in an interview, "I joined KIuBZ, of which Aleksei Iablokov, Nikolai Vorontsov, and other well-known biologists were members. My first


teacher was the unforgettable Pëtr Smolin, who had an amazing knowledge of birds and a great love for them—all my life I've remembered the excursions we made with him into the woods in springtime."[52] It was almost inevitable that she should enter the Biology and Soil Sciences Faculty of Moscow University after graduating from high school. She could not have picked a more intense time of intellectual ferment, and Biofak was at its epicenter. Recalling her conversion to nature protection activism, Cherkasova said: "My enlightenment came during the so-called Khrushchëv 'thaw.' I attended the lectures of David Armand, who had returned from imprisonment and had quickly published his first brilliant book on nature conservation, For Us and Our Grandchildren . These lectures were a revelation to me. I'm also greatly indebted to Vadim Tikhomirov, who played a huge role in educating the students of biology at the university."[53]

Shipunov's family, on the other hand, was decidedly nonelite; his father was a forester in Siberia and lived simply. Despite their differences in background, they became romantically involved. In February 1960 Cherkasova led six other biology students from Moscow University to Uimen', the plantation's first "capital," where they conducted a census of maral deer, registering 200. In that group of Moscow University students were some of the core organizers of the druzhina , including Cherkasova, which was officially inaugurated in December.

Official approval was not enough to secure the project. It took seven visits to Moscow by Shipunov, plus countless trips to Barnaul and Gorno-Altaisk, the capital of the province (krai ), to get the boundaries set and the local loggers off the territory. But after the publication of Chivilikhin's passionate saga of the birth of Kedrograd, "Roar, Taiga, Roar!" in the February 14, 1960 issue of Komsomol'skaia pravda , public opinion began to respond in an unexpectedly big way. Letters came pouring in from scientists, hunting experts, students, and workers, as well as members of the military.[54] Gifts came too, such as the 100 rubles from an anonymous engineer "to sweeten things up a little for the young kedrogradtsy ."[55]

On April 7, 1960 at Moscow University's Biology and Soil Sciences Faculty a small conference was convened on Kedrograd with talks by S. A. Khlatin, Maria Shipunova-Cherkasova (who had married Shipunov), and G. V. Kuznetsov, attended by the academician A. S. Iablokov of VASKhNIL (the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences), a big supporter.[56] Soon thereafter, in the fall there was a "tumultuous" Komsomol meeting on Kedrograd at Moscow University, where future druzhina members dominated with speeches supporting the experiment.[57] When the druzhina of Moscow University was formally organized later in the year, it officially pledged its methodological assistance and leadership (shefstvo ) to Kedrograd, a move that, although welcomed, may also have been perceived by the Leningraders as annoyingly patronizing.


Particularly striking was the reaction Kedrograd stirred among students of the USSR's other engineering and technical schools. That first year, students of the Moscow Aviation Institute organized an aid convoy to the Altai, while the next year the baton was passed to the Moscow Energetics Institute. Technical schools in Leningrad, Biisk, Voronezh, Krasnoiarsk, and other cities rallied as well. Thousands participated in the "Movement to Help Kedrograd." Summer student brigades formed autonomously, arranging travel to the Altai through the Central Committee of the Komsomol. It was nicknamed the "Virgin Lands of the Taiga" in the spirit of Khrushchëv's much-touted campaign to the west. Competitions were held to select the students best at wielding an ax and a rifle. Hundreds came during the summer. Nikolai Pavlovich Telegin, a talented forester, transferred from Perm' and was named official project director for three years by the government. Iurii Nikolaevich Kurazhkovskii, an Astrakhan' professor who had pioneered a movement there for "rational resource use" (ratsional'noe prirodopol'zovanie ), worked in Kedrograd as deputy director for science in 1960–1961, and in 1962–1964 as an instructor in the Gorno-Altai Pedagogical Institute, at the invitation and pleading of the kedrogradtsy . Kedrograd was a social phenomenon capable of motivating established professionals as well as students to uproot their lives and to live in the most rudimentary conditions.[58]

Paradoxes abounded in the opening year of Kedrograd's operation. After the komandiri of the Brigades to Aid Kedrograd of the Moscow Aviation Institute and of the Forestry Technical Institute traveled to Uimen', they, like Shipunov, were thrown out of the Komsomol. Yet funding for their travel came from the Komsomol's Central Committee.[59] On the surface, the forestry bureaucrats supported the plan, but they often failed to adopt practical measures to effectuate it, revealing their true attitudes. "After the appearance of Chivilikhin's 'Roar, Taiga, Roar!' the really serious complications in our lives began in earnest," recalled Parfënov. "The bureaucrats understood that they would either have to accept the blame for mismanaging forest resources or destroy Kedrograd." Consequently, the years from October 1961 to 1975 constituted a protracted "bloody war."[60] There were a number of causes of the "progressive paralysis" (Chivilikhin's expression) of Kedrograd, "but the main one was that the essentially progressive idea of multiple use of the cedar forests could not fit into the organizationalplanning structure of the economics of that time, when all around sectorialbureaucratic monopolism held sway in the area of resource exploitation."[61]

However, the young forestry graduates' education about the system had only begun. Not even a year had gone by when the first "knockout punch" was delivered by the bureaucrats in December 1960. One frosty day a commission drawn from oblast' organizations showed up at the "Kedrograd" encampment at Uimen' and announced a lawsuit against Kedrograd for illegal


nut-harvesting. First, the commission charged that Kedrograd was paying workers a higher price per ton than the rate set by the oblast' government, a disparity that could draw workers away from neighboring plantations and constituted illegal competition. (Strangely, the commission did not take into account that the only harvesters were members of Kedrograd or those who resided in its territory.) Second, the commission pronounced that "foresters" had no legal right to harvest ancillary forest products such as pelts because harvesting was the monopoly privilege of consumer cooperatives (and later, from 1961, of Glavokhota RSFSR and its local agents). With the backing of provincial authorities, the commission sequestered the harvest of cedar nuts in Kedrograd's storage sheds and the project's income flow dried up.[62]

Chivilikhin reported the incident with quiet fury in "The Taiga is Roaring," published in 1961. He let the actions of the authorities speak for themselves:

In Uimen' there were some violations of harvesting regulations. Rather than correct these mistakes of the young komsomols in timely fashion the oblispolkom kept silent until December. And then suddenly there was a decision: to sequester all the nuts and to impose a fine of 400,000 rubles on the enterprise, in the meantime seizing the 257,000 rubles that the kedrogradtsy had in their account. The acting director, Anatolii Malakhovskii, and chief engineer, Vitalii Parfënov, went to Moscow —to the State Arbitration Bureau [Gosarbitrazh ] in the Ministry of Finance After a lengthy review, the violation was found to be trivial and an order was given to erase the fine and rescind the sequestration. But how to return the 257,000 rubles now that the financial year had ended? "Clever" folks knew when to impose a fine. The youths did not receive their salaries for two months and organized debt lists in the cafeteria. For them it is a time not willingly recalled.[63]

Indeed, one participant recalled the incident thirty-five years later only with great pain:

The consequences for the kedrogradtsy were tragic. The deep wound bled for many years and it is difficult to overestimate the moral blow inflicted on these young people who had come to tame the "virgin lands of the taiga." The legal action initiated by the financial organs of the oblast' led to the immediate imposition of a fine of Kedrograd's entire property and money on hand—404,000 rubles. As it later was revealed, this money went to pay employees of the oblast' , while the kedrogradtsy were left without a cent on the eve of the New Year and hadn't received salaries in months. . . . Hunger began to stalk this inaccessible taiga settlement in the mountains. Lack of experience and deep snow cover thwarted their efforts to catch maral deer for food. With no way out, the youths were driven to catch and eat dogs.[64]

With no expectation of this kind of persecution, the kedrogradtsy were at first bewildered and terribly hurt: "There was no answer to their ques-


tions: Where were the authorities? Where was the Komsomol? Where was the concern about the human being, propagandized at school? Where was common sense in the capricious actions the authorities permitted themselves? Attempts to demonstrate the stupidity of the bureaucratic claims . . . and to convince the leaders of the oblast' to rescind the fine and return the money, to not allow the faith in Kedrograd and the [youths'] patriotism to be lost came to nothing."[65]

As the representative of the Kedrograd Komsomol Committee, Parfënov had to go to Moscow, where a conference attended by the press and the public pressured the State Arbitration Bureau to rescind the fine and to return the nuts and the money. "Justice seemed to triumph, but the financial organs [of the oblast' ] never did return the money, noting that the financial year had already ended," commented Parfënov. The oblast' authorities "exploited their monopoly of bureaucratic power to enrich their coffers." Dozens of disillusioned youths quit the project and abandoned the taiga.[66]

Such an eruption of aggressive local bureaucratic opposition—from forest plantations, other land users, and provincial bosses—proved to be the first phase of the real, "hands-on" education in Soviet political economy for these ardent, sincerely devoted Young Communists:

This history, however, permitted us—and not only kedrogradtsy —to reach a number of fundamental conclusions. The awareness that in the depths of the conservative economic system based on bureaucratic foundations exist economic, social, and moral contradictions demanded a focused analysis of decisions taken in the area of resource use. It was obvious that Kedrograd touched on bigger questions than simply a responsible approach to the resources of the cedarwoods taiga, and could not succeed without help from the center.[67]

The kedrogradtsy's faith in the system, in the "center," in the existence of a "good tsar" was still unbroken. That faith was sustained by a number of decisions taken in Moscow. The RSFSR Council of Ministers now ruled that the all-Union consumer cooperative Tsentrosoiuz had to allow Kedrograd to harvest and sell ancillary products of the taiga as an exception to its monopoly. At the same time, Uimen' was legally given over to Kedrograd from the neighboring Karakokshinskii plantation. Kedrograd's territory was increased to 298,000 hectares and later that year to 400,000. Protests from loggers were dismissed by the Russian Republic government.[68]

Infuriated, the local bureaucratic interests wanted more than ever to eliminate Kedrograd. Desire for revenge intensified after Chivilikhin's reportage, which inflamed public opinion and created a wave of sympathy for the students. A flood of letters inundated the Gornyi-Altai obkom provincial committee) of the Party protesting the unfair treatment of the youths. Even more impressive, monetary and material contributions were sent to


the kedrogradtsy from people across the USSR. One woman from Voronezh wrote that her family circle decided to send 2,000 rubles in savings to the youths "because we love our country's nature." From contributions a library of 3,000 books was assembled.[69] At Moscow State University, other universities, and a host of engineering schools, committees sprang up in defense of Kedrograd. Perhaps the most flamboyant gesture of support came from cosmonaut Iurii Gagarin, who selected "kedr " as his "handle" in his first flight (a gesture doubtless lost on foreign commentators and intelligence gatherers). "Gornyi Altai unexpectedly became the center of attention of the whole country, and the Altai cedar the symbol of an honorable relationship with nature."[70]

But the center's support for Kedrograd lacked conviction. The year 1962 should have been very profitable. When the kedrogradtsy went to total up their first profits, however, they found that the bank account was empty: their earnings had been expropriated by the deputy director of Glavleskhoz RSFSR (the RSFSR Main Forestry Administration), Nikiforov, to support a group of specialists from Moscow working on a "minor problem" involving the use of cedar forests. As a result, the enterprise sustained a small loss for the fiscal year.[71] At the start of the season, the Altai Regional Forestry Administration, in whose jurisdiction Kedrograd had been placed by the RSFSR Main Forestry Administration, cut off all operating funds. By way of "compensation," the head of the regional forestry administration, Vashkevich, dispatched about two hundred people to Kedrograd "from steppe forest plantations who had not laid eyes on a cedar since they were born. The nut harvest was subverted," or at least that was Vashkevich's hope.[72]

In Barnaul, Vashkevich tried to abort an interdisciplinary conference of scientists, foresters, and planners to put the basic elements of the technical plan for Kedrograd into final shape. "Vashkevich flatly announced: 'There will be no such "plan." Everyone go home!' The conference, of course, took place anyway. However, Vashkevich did not give up."[73]

Aside from this act of resistance, there were defectors even among Vashkevich's subordinates. One specialist, N. Zhideev, volunteered to become the director of the new enterprise "so that I will have done something good for the forest before I retire," he told Chivilikhin. Even in the face of Vashkevich's attempt to undermine the nut harvest, Kedrograd registered a profit of 78,000 rubles in 1963 as against losses of 150,000 and 400,000 rubles for the neighboring timbering concerns.[74]

This kind of success was hard to ignore, and chief forest engineer Parfënov was awarded a certificate of merit by the Altai kraikom (regional committee) of the Party. (Shipunov, who balked at accepting the post of deputy director of Kedrograd, had already parted company with his brainchild.) Parfënov was even the star speaker at a major conference in Moscow on the cedar forests along with experts such as Prof. Boris P. Kolesnikov, who


warned that those forests would soon be wiped out if practices outside of Kedrograd did not change.[75]

Speaking for the collective, Parfënov proclaimed Kedrograd's resolve to resist in the national press. Writing in Komsomol'skaia pravda , he described chopping down a living cedar as "the same as doing in a cow for the sake of its bones. For that reason it has lately become the symbol of the struggle for the rational exploitation of the taiga."[76] "One particular complication," he explained, "has been the fact that from the get go we have been directed to fulfill a production program." Even so, he noted, with skillful adjustments the settlers had been able to make the timber cuts, hunt, and harvest nuts, taking 1,000 sable and 10,000 squirrels in just the calendar year 1962.[77] The kedrogradtsy still pinned their hopes on the central authorities, who they hoped would rein in the local logging interests and eliminate the production quotas. Ultimately, they saw Kedrograd as a heroic model for forestry, "a laboratory in nature, a base from which innovations can spread all across Siberia." However, they were beginning to suspect that the central authorities might not be as sincere supporters of Kedrograd as they had once assumed:

If the Main Forestry Administration does not want or cannot immediately organize one or several multiuse plantations in Siberia, it is still within its power to put an end to the attempts of several local authorities . . . to extend logging in the cedar taiga, to force us to increase our timber cuts at the expense of living trees, to cut us down at the knees. . . . And is it not high time for Glavleskhoz not only to take notice but to take steps to defend the cedar taiga from the saw and the ax?[78]

Parfënov's article ended with Komsomol bravado: "Whatever may come, our Kedrograd will live, for we are now firmly on our feet." But not even the most attentive of kedrogradtsy suspected how institutionally isolated they really were.

"At the very moment that V. Parfënov addressed the conference," wrote Chivilikhin, "Kedrograd for all practical purposes had already ceased to exist. The head of the RSFSR Main Forest Administration, Comrade [ Mikhail Mikhailovich] Bochkarëv, signed a decree directing the transfer of the richest cedar taiga to logging enterprises. The brand new settlement, the technology, the roads, and, most important of all, the marvelous cedar groves were handed over to the Karakokshinskii forestry plantation."[79] These stands were densely stocked with squirrel, sable, and maral deer; their loss devastated Kedrograd's ancillary hunting sector. "Despite protests, and pleas from the kedrogradtsy , wrote an embittered Chivilikhin, "Comrade Bochkarëv was unshakable. The order was signed and discussion was closed." The only compensation offered by Bochkarëv was to permit Kedrograd to relocate to Koldor, a place of inaccessible cliffs and a swampy delta—"no place to even


pitch a tent."[80] At that point Parfënov asked to relocate to Iogach, which had run up the 400,000-ruble deficit. "M. Bochkarëv graciously acceded," noted Chivilikhin facetiously.

The bureaucrats tried to force the kedrogradtsy to abandon their experiment by tormenting them in every possible way. A week after Bochkarëv agreed to the relocation, his local vicegerent Vashkevich showed up, removed the sympathetic Zhideev as director and demoted Chief Engineer Parfënov to a humiliatingly minor position in Iogach. "Then he set to work on the other specialists," wrote Chivilikhin.

He called them in one at a time, spreading slander and using threats and flattery, he offered them higher salaries and bigger apartments, but . . . in other leskhozpromy [forestry plantations] of the region. Not going along, our fellows stood like a rock. Here in front of me is a declaration signed by thirteen engineers of Kedrograd. They turned down these higher salaries and apartments because they "came to Gornyi Altai in order to create a multiuse enterprise" and ask (ask!) that they be allowed to work together in one place. It is impossible to hold such a document in one's hands without becoming incensed. My goodness, we should be nurturing such people, not breaking their spirit![81]

To add insult to injury, "Vashkevich haughtily served the [Kedrograd forest engineers] an infeasible production plan of cuts, forcing them to shave bare the upper reaches of the Bii River and part of the Teletskoe lakefront."[82] He was able to do this because the Altai krai was the only region of Siberia where commercial logging was carried out by forestry organs, which were normally supposed to concern themselves with forest protection . In the Altai, where the protective and extractive bureaucracies were merged into one, the logging mentality thoroughly dominated. Politically dependent on the major economic and political bosses of the region, local papers were pressured to label Kedrograd "a kindergarten for adults" (vzroslyi detskii sad ) and other names.[83]

To justify the expropriations, demotions, and harassment, Bochkarëv charged that Kedrograd was unable to pay its own way, despite its track record of the first three years. He even encouraged a correspondent from the popular newsmagazine Vokrug sveta to go to the Altai and to write a story on the experiment, casting doubts on its viability. The reporter asked to be able to spend six days in the field on the lower slopes. He was shown everything and, once back in Moscow, he decided to write what he saw. As a result of his personal revolt of conscience he was fired from Vokrug sveta and went unemployed for a number of years.[84]

Despite the privations, the alliance between local and central bureaucrats, the relocations, demotions, and expropriations, the young forest engineers hung on. They were supported by a massive wave of public opinion, led by the journalist Vladimir Chivilikhin. And they increasingly understood their struggle to be one between "good" and "evil."


Whereas initial local opposition to their project had provided an introduction to the political economy of the Soviet system, the collusion of Mikhail Mikhailovich Bochkarëv and the RSFSR Main Forestry Administration, which was supposed to be the forests' defender, raised the kedrogadtsy's education to a more advanced level. In a biting piece on the fifth anniversary of Kedrograd, published in Literaturnaia gazeta in January 1965, Chivilikhin raised the troubling possibility that the entire system was incapable of organizing the truly rational use of the country's resources:

How could it happen, for instance, that forests—which are the property of the whole people and the state—have now become parceled out in an almost unmonitored state to republican, inter-oblast' , and oblast' organizations and into the hands of specialized logging enterprises and co-ops? And why was it several years back that half a dozen forestry vuzy and many tekhnikumy were closed down? Can it really be that the astronomical figures of annual forest growth, which the logging agencies up to now have officially manipulated so as to justify current rapacious levels of logging, have convinced us all that the Russian forests will never be exhausted?[85]

Reticent to criticize the center, Chivilikhin still had to point the finger at the local extractive interests that were manipulating data. Yet, who gave them the latitude to create these pernicious fiefdoms? Who allowed the institutes and technical schools to close down? How deep did the sickness go? In his 1967 speech to the fifteenth Komsomol Congress, Chivilikhin revealed that the once idealistic youths of Kedrograd had also begun to ponder why their experiment was foundering on the shoals of Soviet realities. Their conclusions, it seemed, now pointed to a pervasive malaise of Soviet official culture:

The forest engineers of Kedrograd, serious, hardy lads fully devoted to our ideals, write to me: "On the basis of our six-year experience we have come to the definite conclusion that no 'cedar problem' exists in Siberia, but there is a problem of institutional narrowness and bureaucratism, a struggle with those who hide from taking responsibility for their actions and with the spinners of red tape. That is, the scientific and economic problem is fused with a social one."[86]

Bureaucratic obstructionism and, at times, outright malice had taken the luster off Khrushchëv's attempt to breathe new life into the Communist ideal. Idealists frustrated or crushed by the system now dared to question the structure of the Soviet social order. For many of the kedrogradtsy and their supporters, the "battle for Kedrograd" catalyzed their eventual transformation from Soviet patriots and Communist idealists to Russian nationalists and even embittered chauvinists. The best embodiment of this redirection of loyalties may be found in the subsequent career of Vladimir Chivilikhin, who wedded the protection of the taiga, archetypal "Russian nature," to the preservation of a Russian culture thought to be under mortal threat.


Vladimir Alekseevich Chivilikhin

"Have you turned your attention to the way in which Vladimir Chivilikhin ends his essays on the Siberian woods?" asks Aleksandr Petrovich Kazarkin, a critic and docent at Kemerovo State University. "Double and triple afterwords and epilogues—that is, a chronicle of ever-mounting calamity. Is that not why the two-volume Pamiat 'exploded in the popular consciousness, because the novel struck a nerve regarding a superproblem—the prehistory of the ecological crisis?"[87]

Like the ethnographer Lev Gumilëv, Chivilikhin believed that the major sources of life and hope and meaning are the people's national memory, especially their shared environmental experience. "The Russian people have never lived without forests and can never do so," insisted Chivilikhin.[88]

Chivilikhin was not always the Russian nationalist–environmental determinist of his later works, particularly Pamiat , which won him a USSR State Prize in 1982. He began as a Soviet patriot, in the very thick of the Komsomol movement—a journalist and then editor of the newspaper Komsomol'skaia pravda . Nonetheless, his provincial Siberian background provided the seeds of Russian chauvinism. Born in the coal-rich Kuzbas of southwest Siberia, he studied in Mariinsk and Taiga before completing his education at Moscow State University. One of his earliest literary heroes and models was Leonid Leonov, who began to smuggle in themes of "Russian" nature from the late 1940s.[89] Chivilikhin was already influenced by an incipient body of works in Russian letters voicing the tragic trope of the desecration of the Russian land and of heroic efforts to save that land. But, like Leonov, Chivilikhin had not yet disentangled the two not always compatible ideologies of Soviet patriotism and Russian nationalism. Only as a result of the bruising struggle over Kedrograd did the Russian element come to full consciousness.

Later, Chivilikhin would identify Leonov as the fount of his new ideology of literary Russian environmental nationalism: "In the novels of Leonov we may first notice the linkage between national character and the forest. . . . The books of Leonov breathe 'Russia' . . . and in them are the cast and logic of the Russian mind."[90] One only need look at the list of contributors to the various anthologies dedicated to and honoring Leonov's opus to appreciate his position as the godfather of this current.

Like Leonov, Chivilikhin was not actually against exploiting the taiga; the question was how : "Logging the taiga is necessary: there are trees rotting in it, and priceless national wealth is going to waste—marvelous construction materials, irreplaceable chemical raw materials and food supplies. But the time has come when we need soberly to weigh the resources of the taiga and to give serious thought to how to operate in that environment so that the taiga will produce the most benefit for the people."[91]


Kazarkin writes that "the works of Chivilikhin from the mid-1950s have sketched a scene of a thoughtless and therefore terrible process of the destruction of forests over a great territory from Arkhangel'sk to Vladivostok." By the late 1960s, Chivilikhin began to see this as nothing less than a struggle for the cultural and physical survival of the Russian people: "This foundation is the reserve of national ecological ideas, the people's perceptions about the land as their fate and about history as a link between the generations."[92] The deciding battle would be fought in Siberia.[93]

Like Gumilëv, Chivilikhin developed a notion of "the ecology of culture." Such an ecology was, in the words of Kazarkin, "that which insures its stability, a reserve of resilience of its way of life, an unsullied consciousness of one's identity, which is oriented toward things vital and permanent. One wants to call his historical conception a 'forest' conception."[94] The forest, for Chivilikhin, was the key to the survival of the Russian people during the years of Mongol-Tatar rule. Only forested Rus' preserved the pure genotype of the Russian people and their cultural heritage. Vladimir Chivilikhin was the "writer-intercessor  . . .  sent by the Siberian forests to plead the case for living nature." "The natural environment creates what, poetically, we call the soul of the people and in reality determines the salient characteristics of national culture. In preserving our traditional natural environment the people can count on preserving their creative originality. A writer as far back as N[ikolai] Leskov said it—the Russian character is impossible to imagine without [Russia's] expanses of forest."[95] This struggle to preserve the alleged aboriginal arboreal environment of the Russian people also took place in Siberia, according to Chivilikhin; he held that as far back as the first centuries of this millennium proto-Europeans there (Di, or Dinlins) had been in conflict with the Huns. Their descendants today, Chivilikhin claimed, are the Ket.[96] If the Russian people were to survive, they needed to preserve not one but two key elements undergirding Russian culture: the (Siberian) forest and cultural memory. For Chivilikhin they were intertwined, for at the center of the people's memory was the memory of the forest. And when a people forgets its folkways, Chivilikhin believed, echoing Gumilëv, it becomes a "a rapacious mongrel-group" (khishchnaia khimera ) bringing environmental (and then cultural) collapse upon itself.

By 1967, when he was awarded Komsomol's special medal for his reportage on Kedrograd, Chivilikhin openly paraded his urgent concern for the survival of the Russian people. At the time, it took a bit of daring to cast the ethnic Russians as an oppressed group, particularly in an organization officially dedicated to promoting Soviet patriotism, which strove therefore to replace ethnic particularism with a "supraethnic" Soviet nationality, even if the cultural forms of that nationality, including language, were derived in good part from the Russian one. "The past of our people, our fathers and mothers," the Russian past—the embodiment of historical memory,


that organ of national survival—was under attack from within and without, warned Chivilikhin. With pain and resentment he spoke of "attempts to insult and denigrate, to devalue that which is dearest to us."[97]

Chivilikhin did seek to soften the Russocentric core of his message. "I am introducing this subject," he continued, "because in several works of literature, and, unfortunately, not only in antisocial [podonochnye] underground publications, there is a tendency to paint Russians, for example, as a meek people, passively enduring torments, weak, without will and dull-witted, incapable of attaining the heights of culture and at the same time nationally self-centered, and there are attempts as well to belittle other nations inhabiting our Motherland."[98] Above all, Chivilikhin was concerned to refute the "Western," cosmopolitan assessment of Russia as backward and especially as weak:

At the beginning of this century my people, allegedly willing to put up with any suffering, under the leadership of the Bolshevik party and the great Lenin, together with other peoples . . . made three social revolutions and [then] saved the world from fascism. The Russian people gave the world Pushkin and Lenin, built Rostov and Kizhi, and in our day the Soviet people . . . built Magnitka and Dneproges, Bratsk and Rudnyi, . . . and were first to go to space! Meanwhile, heroes of stories and films pronounce even such words as ancestor or patriot with a kind of loathing snickering intonation![99]

To these snickers of the cosmopolites, Chivilikhin quoted Voronezh poet Vladimir Gordeichev's response:

And when over the ashes of patriots
Foreign wits amuse themselves
I stand up to meet their barbs
Baring my boils unflinchingly.[100]

Later, after his epic Pamiat'appeared, Chivilikhin provided an emotional credo in response to an interviewer who wanted to know why he had "focused precisely on the history of the soul of the people":

I am a Russian and my heart overflows with love for my homeland, for the path she has trod, and I am grateful to her for the happiness of living on Russian soil. Our people—builders and warriors—has something to be proud of. It is the only people on the face of the earth that has withstood three world-scale invasions. And my duty before the past, before the land that has sustained me and raised me, is to dedicate myself to studying the history of my people.[101]

The highest contribution anyone could make was to preserve and disseminate the nation's history. Sounding like a Stalinist cultural boss of the late 1940s, Chivilikhin said that the historian's task was to remind the people of Russia's greatness, of its innumerable priorities: "Memory is one of the strongest weapons on earth."[102]

Throughout Chivilikhin's writings the tincture of an anti-steppe, anti-


steppe peoples, and anti-Asian bias is discernible, as is Chivilikhin's conviction that ethnic differences are deeply engraved: "Yes, humans have only one Earth, but if we try to apply this standard to our theme, then what disorder and confusion we discover in our common human home, the biosphere, what a complex, variegated, and changeable picture of the world emerges, what striking dissimilarities exist among the historical, geographical, social, and other conditions of life for every people!"[103]

Contra Gumilëv, whose accounts softened the destructive impact of the Mongols, Chivilikhin restores the Mongolian invasion to the level of an epic historical trauma.[104] One region, however, escaped the burden of Russia's traumatic history. During an interview the journalist Ol'ga Plakhotnaia once told Chivilikhin: "Vladimir Alekseevich, I know that you have a special feeling for Siberia, your homeland." Chivilikhin's response again reflected his belief that the Siberians were the purest, the most "Russian" of Russians, to the extent that they had evaded the effects and aftereffects of the Mongolian yoke, serfdom, and the taint of Western invaders and immigrants: "Siberians are a punctual, hardworking, and knowledgeable narod .  .  .  . Almost every summer I come down with a 'Siberia' attack and travel to my homeland, to Baikal, the Sayans, the Altai." Siberia, a land of "strong characters and uncorrupted language," with its forests, was the new hearth of Russia.[105] As a prototype and standard of Russian nature, Siberia remained at the center of Chivilikhin's concerns even while the "battle for Kedrograd" was still raging.

After Chivilikhin's first articles, a flood of letters came to Kedrograd from all over the USSR complaining of other abuses. Among the topics most frequently brought up by his correspondents was that of the threats to Lake Baikal. In 1962 while still in Kedrograd, Chivilikhin wrote his "Sacred Eye of Siberia" (Svetloe oko Sibiri ) dedicated to the lake's problems, one of the first wake-up calls on the threat to Baikal from military-related nylon and cellulose mills on the lake's southern shore.[106] Chivilikhin also turned his attention to the problem of land use, seeking to publish a long essay called "Land in Trouble" (Zemlia v bede ). Here, however, Chivilikhin began to run up against the hand of the censor, who banned half of the manuscript and the title besides. The remainder of the essay was eventually published under the title "The Land—Our Food-Giver" (Zemlia -kormilitsa ), an alternative suggested by the helpful censor.[107]

With his critique of economic structures such as the Baikal plants and the sovnarkhozy it would seem as though Chivilikhin were inching toward a critique of the Soviet system based on an analysis of its political economy. However, a culturally and ethnically based critique proved easier and more attractive to him (and others). In contrast to a seductively slick cultural model based on "Western cunning," Chivilikhin praised the honest young people like the volunteers of Kedrograd, who were continuing the fight for the soul of Russia:


The voting folk don't complain; whining and skepticism is alien to their nature. . . . Our everyday heroes think, they struggle, and they are accumulating experience in the social defense of our natural resources. They don't intend to . . . use cunning or chemical trickery to win their cause. . . . To remain on the moral high ground, to maintain their lifelong youthful ardor for work, to keep their principled political attitudes—that is the task for them and for all of us! And meanwhile I have faith that the economic reforms taken on the initiative of the Party will be extended to other spheres, in particular to that of resource use, or else we shall impoverish our native land and consequently impoverish ourselves, both materially and spiritually. . . . Love of nature, like love for the Motherland, is not only in the sphere of feelings but in the sphere of deeds as well. And here, facing the Komsomol, is an enormous unplowed field, virgin lands in every direction.[108]

Despite his Komsomol background and his opposition to the "fetishizing of nature," Chivilikhin's attitudes toward modern mechanized society remained ambivalent:

Does the introduction of such good things as electricity and residential neighborhoods obligatorily have to be accompanied by the crushing of the flowers? Must industrial beauty replace natural beauty? . . . Why then were the people of Krasnoiarsk able to preserve a large tract of "wild" taiga right in the middle of their city? Why haven't they leveled the taiga, then, in Angarsk and Akademgorodok, but instead integrated their residential areas into it? . . . All of that, however, amounts to a few small islands of good relations with nature in a sea of evil.[109]

In another work Chivilikhin's antiurban feelings were more explicit, as he quoted Le Corbusier's observation that "cities were dangerous and unworthy machines for life in our epoch." Indeed, Chivilikhin himself added, "the specter of urbanization hangs like a black shadow on the horizon."[110]

The question was how to allow those islands of good to triumph over that sea of evil. Was it simply a matter of culture, or was that evil embedded somehow in the structural aspects of the system? "My lifelong and difficult love—the cedar—the symbol of powerful and generous Siberian nature . . . to this day mercilessly is being logged out with impunity all across Siberia despite a special clause banning that in the Law on Nature Protection," he