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

By Jones, Ryan Tucker | The Historian, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

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


Jones, Ryan Tucker, The Historian


Song of the Forest: Russian Forestry and Stalinist Environmentalism, 1905-1953. By Stephen Brain. (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011. Pp. viii, 232. $24.95.)

With an extensive examination of bureaucratic records and forestry journals, Stephen Brain has written the remarkable story of the romantic, prerevolutionary Russian forester Georgii Morozov and his posthumous contribution to the unique strain of environmentalism that developed in Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union. In this lucid and engaging book, Brain has recovered a little-known chapter in the history of forestry and significantly reshaped our understanding of the Soviet Union's conservation record.

In the late nineteenth century, St. Petersburg forester Morozov developed a new theory of forest management in opposition to the prevailing German insistence on sustainable yield and monoculture. Arguing that Russian forests possessed their own natural and national character, be proposed that Russian foresters gain ah intuitive understanding of the trees. They should identify the idealized "stand type" (e.g., pine forests with white moss ground cover) that soil conditions dictated a forest should naturally belong to and then cut accordingly. The philosophy was pithily summed up as "the cut and the regeneration are synonyms." As Brain notes, the power of Morozov's ideas lay as much in the beauty of their expression as in their practicality. Implementing ideal stand types remained a constant source of frustration for his dedicated followers.

After gaining broad acclaim shortly after 1900, Morozov's ideas met what would seem an implacable opposition in the triumphant Bolsheviks, who "had no sympathy for romantic, nationalist conservationism" (57). Indeed, the immediate postrevolutionary years were hard for Morozov and his ideas. …

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