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Song of the Forest

Russian Forestry and Stalinist Environmentalism, 1905–1953

Stephen Brain

Publication Year: 2011

The Soviets are often viewed as insatiable industrialists who saw nature as a force to be tamed and exploited. Song of the Forest counters this assumption, uncovering significant evidence of Soviet conservation efforts in forestry, particularly under Josef Stalin. In his compelling study, Stephen Brain profiles the leading Soviet-era conservationists, agencies, and administrators, and their efforts to formulate forest policy despite powerful ideological differences. From the visionary teachings of Georgii Morozov, considered the father of modern Russian forestry, to the Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature and its narrow “belts” of forest planted across the vast Russian steppe, Brain chronicles the major advancements and often bizarre schemes of foresters during an era of political and social upheaval. He also reveals the deep psychological, historical, and cultural ties that connected Russians to the forest, ensuring that its song would not fall upon deaf ears.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Front Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-iv


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p. v-v

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pp. vii-viii

I would like to convey my sincerest gratitude to all the people and institutions that helped me complete this book. First, I would like to thank the University of California-Berkeley Graduate Studies Offi ce, the Doris Quinn Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the University of Arizona for providing ...

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pp. 1-10

The Song of the Forests, Dmitrii Shostakovich’s seventh choral piece and his first oratorio, debuted in Leningrad on 15 November 1949. The Moscow debut, eleven days later, so delighted the Party’s cultural arbiters that they awarded Shostakovich the Stalin Prize the next year. Th e oratorio’s success was scarcely ...

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1. Old Growth

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pp. 11-28

In the decades before the Bolshevik revolution, Russian foresters began to suspect, to their great alarm, that their mighty red Russian forest was turning white. Ruddy-barked pine and spruce, for centuries an invaluable source of foreign currency and construction material, were disappearing across Russia, ...

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2. Seeds

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pp. 29-53

A thoroughgoing reevaluation of forest management was just one small part of a deep wave of national self-examination disquieting nearly all aspects of Russian life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By the time the monarchy fell, educated Russians had been engaged for almost a century in a ...

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3. Ground Fire

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pp. 54-78

Forests and revolutions are implacable enemies. Revolutions are radicalism made real, whereas forests are nature’s hereditary monarchs, conservatism in landscape form. As they stabilize soil, moderate air temperature, and regulate water flow, they create conditions favorable for their continued domination of ...

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4. Clear-Cut

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pp. 79-104

Pioneer species thrive on disturbed ground, places where the rapid destruction of the prior occupants has freed up resources for new inhabitants. Soon after colonizing an area, they begin to compete aggressively with one another and crowd each other out. In the absence of further disturbances, they will then ...


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pp. 105-114

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5. Regeneration

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pp. 115-139

Dictators like trees. Perhaps the appeal lies in the fact that forests vibrate with a kind of cultural resonance most helpful to authoritarian political actors, tying a dictatorship to the nation’s distant poetic past and creating an impression of stability for the future. Th e Nazi regime famously endorsed green ...

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6. Transformation

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pp. 140-167

Th e story of the Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature, the world’s first explicit attempt to reverse human-induced climate change, replicates in miniature the larger story of Stalinist environmentalism, which emerged in 1931 with the creation of the forest cultivation zones and developed steadily ...


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pp. 168-171


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pp. 173-205


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pp. 207-226


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pp. 227-232

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780822977490
E-ISBN-10: 0822977494
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822961659
Print-ISBN-10: 822961652

Publication Year: 2011