A Belated and Tragic Ecological Revolution: Nature, Disasters, and Green Activists in the Soviet Union and the Post-Soviet States, 1960s-2010s*

In: The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review
Authors: Laurent Coumel and Marc Elie1
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In the late Soviet period, environmental issues gained an unprecedented media resonance and dramatic socio-political importance. The “Ecological Revolution” took a tragic turn in the Soviet Union, against the background of high-impact industrial and natural disasters. After the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station (Ukraine, 1986) and in a context of increased free-speech, Soviet citizens seized on new and old, covered up or forgotten environmental issues and demanded that a hesitant government put them on the political agenda. In a mixture of media revelations, mass demonstrations, and intense voluntary-sector activity, environmental issues of local, national and global significance ranked high among the main preoccupations of the Soviet population. In this introduction to a special issue of SPSR on the environmental history of the late Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia, we explore new avenues of understanding the upsurge of ecological perestroika from the 1960s to the 2010s.

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