1st Edition

The Development of Russian Environmental Thought Scientific and Geographical Perspectives on the Natural Environment

By Jonathan Oldfield, Denis Shaw Copyright 2016
    212 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    212 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book provides a comprehensive overview of the very rich thinking about environmental issues which has grown up in Russia since the nineteenth century, a body of knowledge and thought which is not well known to Western scholars and environmentalists.  It shows how in the late nineteenth century there emerged in Russia distinct and strongly articulated representations of the earth’s physical systems within many branches of the natural sciences, representations which typically emphasised the completely integrated nature of natural systems.  It stresses the importance in these developments of V V Dokuchaev who significantly advanced the field of soil science. It goes on to discuss how this distinctly Russian approach to the environment developed further through the work of geographers and other environmental scientists down to the late Soviet period.

    1. Introduction: Landscapes and Earth Systems, Russian Geographical Perspectives on the Natural Environment, 1880s – 1960s.  2. The Origins of the Russian Geographical Tradition: from Peter the Great to ca. 1880.  3. V. V. Dokuchaev and his School: Soil Science, Natural Historical Zones and Geographical Understandings of the Natural World.  4. Landscape Science and the Physical-Geographical Envelope: Conceptualizations of the Physical Environment during the early Soviet and Stalin Periods.  5. The Post-Second World War Period (1945-1953): Crisis in Science and the Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature.  6. Nature-Society Debate and New Directions in the Soviet Geographical Sciences, post-1953  7. Conclusion


    Jonathan Oldfield is Reader in Russian Environmental Studies, University of Birmingham, UK. 

    Denis Shaw is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham, UK.

    'Oldfield and Shaw have done a great service by parsing out these geographical concepts, explaining their distinctions and elaborating their relationship to broader trends in the country’s history. The volume is indispensible for scholars of Russian environmental thought.'

    Andy Bruno, Northern Illinois University, Slavonic and East European Review

    'This substantial book by Oldfield and Shaw is well suited to stimulate a productive, down-to earth approach to the history of science in the Soviet period.'

    Nils Roll-Hansen, University of Oslo

    'The book could be classed as an extended essay on the history of ideas; and it makes a valuable contribution, unwittingly, to the sociology of science – the discrete and sometimes controversial study of how culture and society, as well as professional rivalries and jealousies, affect scientific practice and priorities. Overall, The Development of Russian Environmental thought: Scientifi c and geographical perspectives on the natural environment is an informed, comprehensive summary of the very wide-ranging Russian work within ‘the geographical envelope’, and a fascinating glimpse into Russian political, social and economic life.'

    Frank O’Reilly, East–West Review, Journal of the Great Britain–Russia Society

    'The book will be of interest to a wide audience of scholars from various disciplines: human geography, environmental history, area studies, history of science. The reader-friendly language of the book also makes it suitable for students of these disciplines. Evidently, it will be especially useful to those who are interested in post-Soviet and post-socialist history, as some trends in the development of science in Russia were similar for all countries in Eurasia. The book also provides an interesting historical perspective on the similarities between ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ conceptualisations of environment and nature, making it relevant for scholars interested in the topic beyond the regions mentioned above.'

    NATALYA YAKUSHEVA, PhD Candidate, Södertörn University, Sweden, Europe-Asia Studies

    'But the authors have achieved the stated aims of this work. In illuminating how geographers conceived the natural environment over the course of 250 years, they have made a valuable contribution to Russian environmental history.'

    ALAN ROE, College of William and Mary