HISTORY 33

ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF RUSSIA IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

FALL 2015

 

Bob Weinberg                                                                          Office Hours: W 4-5

Trotter 218                                                                                                         T/TH 10-12

x8133                                                                                                                    By Appointment

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This course explores how ideology and politics gave rise to policies that had deleterious effects on Russia’s environment.  We will examine several cases of environmental degradation and disaster such as Chernobyl, Lake Baikal, and the Aral Sea, in order to understand how politicians and scientists alike pursued policies that endangered the health of millions of citizens and threatened the environment.  We will also study efforts to protect the environment from the challenges of modernization.

 

You  are expected to read the College’s policy on academic honesty and integrity that appears in the Swarthmore College Bulletin.  The work you submit must be your own, and I will submit suspected instances of academic dishonesty to the College Judiciary Council for adjudication.  When in doubt about citing sources, please check with me.

 

I will not accept late papers and will assign a failing grade for the assignment unless you notify me and receive permission from me to submit the paper after the due date.  In addition, you must submit all written work in order to pass the course.

 

You are required to attend and participate in all class discussions (20 percent).  Not surprisingly, it is crucial to your success in the course that you come to class prepared to discuss the assigned reading for each session. Keep in mind that the History Department has a draconian policy on attendance:  unexcused absences will be penalized by a lower grade.  If you are unable to attend a class session due to illness or some other issue, you are responsible for contacting me in advance. 

 

In addition, you are required to submit two six-page papers during the course of the semester (20 percent each) and a twelve-page paper based on research (20 percent).  You will also have a final examination (20 percent).

 

The following books are available for purchase in the bookstore and on reserve in McCabe.  Some are also E-books that can be accessed via Tripod.  All other readings are posted on Moodle.

 

Svetlana Alexievich, Voices from Chernobyl

Stephen Brain, Song of the Forest: Russian Forestry and Stalinist Environmentalism, 1905-1953 (E-book)

Paul Josephson, Industrialized Nature: Brute Force Technology and the Transformation of the Natural World

Valentin Rasputin, Siberia on Fire

John Scott, Behind the Urals

Peter Thompson, Sacred Sea: A Journey to Lake Baikal (E-book)

Christopher Ward, Brezhnev’s Folly: The Building of BAM and Late Soviet Socialism (E-book)

 

Week One (September 2)--Introduction: The Environment in Russian Culture and History

 

Leo Tolstoy, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”

Ivan Turgenev, “Forest and Steppe” and “A Journey to Polesje

 

Week Two (September 9)--The Problem: Ideology vs. Nature

 

Paul Josephson, Industrialized Nature: Brute Force Technology and the Transformation of the Natural World

 

Week Three (September 16)—Prometheus Unbound: The Stalin Years

 

John Scott, Behind the Urals

M. Ilin, The Story of the Great Plan

 

Week Four (September 23)--No Class

 

Week Five (September 30)—Stalin and the Environmental Question

 

Stephen Brain, Song of the Forest: Russian Forestry and Stalinist Environmentalism, 1905-1953

 

Week Six (October 7)-- Water at Risk

 

Peter Thompson, Sacred Sea: A Journey to Lake Baikal

 

FIRST PAPER DUE: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9 BY 3 PM

 

Week Seven (October 21)--The World We Have Lost: Regional and National Identities

 

Valentin Rasputin, Siberia on Fire

 

Week Eight (October 28)--Prometheus Unbound: The Khrushchev and Brezhnev Years

 

Christopher Ward, Brezhnev’s Folly: The Building of BAM and Late Soviet Socialism

Films: The BAM Zone (20 minutes) and Against the Current (27 minutes)

 

Week Nine (November 4)—Chernobyl

 

Svetlana Alexievich, Voices from Chernobyl

 

Week Ten (November 11): Ecocide, Civil Society, and Environmentalism: Gorbachev and Beyond

 

Doug Weiner, A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachev  (selections)

Murray Feshbach, Ecocide (selections)

 

SECOND PAPER DUE: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13 BY 3 PM

 

Week Eleven (November 18)—Coming to Grips with Soviet and Post-Soviet Power

 

Andrew Wiget and Olga Balalaeva, Khanty: People of the Taiga (selections)

 

Week Twelve (November 25)—Individual Meetings on Research

 

Week Thirteen (December 2)--Presentations

 

FINAL EXAMINATION

FINAL PAPER DUE: DECEMBER 18 BY 3 PM