Expo ’67 in Montreal and Expo ’74 in Spokane took strikingly different stances regarding human-nature relations. The title of the first was “Man and His World.” Here, the Soviet pavilion exhibited the Krasnoyarsk Dam to showcase its conquest of nature. The exploitation of “idle” Siberian resources, like hydro-energy, was bound to fulfill the promise to “catch and overtake” the United States. Yet, the global environmental awakening of the 1960s added a “green race” to existing Cold War races and propelled environmental cooperation. Spokane’s Expo became the first environmental world's fair with the motto “Progress without Pollution.” Now, the ussr exhibited the Krasnoyarsk Dam as an inseparable part of the landscape and the new “green” socialist settlements to demonstrate the industry’s harmony with nature. An envoy for Soviet environmentalism, the display was responsive both to raising global concerns and to the detrimental environmental consequences of industrialization on the ground in Siberia.
In propaganda related to the industrial hero-project of the Krasnoyarsk Dam (built 1956–1972), the Soviet press synthesized a narrative of modern conquest of nature by means of advanced hydrology and hydraulic technology with folklore-like myths that emphasized the often-mysterious greatness of the Yenisei River, the glory of the Soviet state, and the heroic feats of Soviet people. This mythology was a complex mixture of imagery that drew on the Indigenous groups of Central Siberia (the Evenks, Tuvans, and Buryats) that had been displaced and alienated by the Russian state and the historic Russian residents of Siberia. These were the very groups whose worlds and stories had been deemed culturally backward. The mythology also incorporated imperial legends of Siberian conquest and embellished stories of Lenin’s sojourn in pre-revolutionary Siberia. Soviet print literature imaginatively recreated the Yenisei River as Ionessi and Ulug-Khem – “big water” or “big river,” “brother of the ocean,” and a mighty bogatyr (or warrior-hero) cursed to be a river. Such seemingly archaic imagery may seem to contradict the narrative of socialist industrial progress in the Yenisei basin, but this article highlights how such myths were modernized and mobilized in support of late-Soviet mega-engineering projects. It argues that the modernized myths of the Yenisei’s transformation – magical and through time – aimed to show nature in flux. People constantly acted upon it, transformed it, and cooperated with it. Moreover, these myths reflected the popular fascination with the immense, often dangerous and always mysterious, features of the Siberian landscape. Thus, in contrast to Stalinist industrialization, Soviet propagandists of the Cold War era did not always demystify nature; they also built their rhetoric upon folkloric and Indigenous conceptualizations of human-nature interaction and environmental change and created a sense of belonging to the place for the people who voluntarily participated in Siberian development.