Stay informed: Sign up for eNews Subscribe

A Little Corner of Freedom Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachev

  • by Douglas R. Weiner (Author)
  • June 2002
  • First Edition
  • Paperback
    $38.95,  £30.00
  • Title Details

    Rights: Available worldwide
    Pages: 570
    ISBN: 9780520232136
    Trim Size: 6 x 9
    Illustrations: 28 b/w photographs

Read Chapter 17
Chapter 17: Science Doesn't Stand Still

Because of its role as the scientific justification for an expanding network of zapovedniki, a holistic understanding of the natural community or biocenosis retained its hold on Russian ecologists and field biologists longer than in the United States or other countries. Through the 1980s advocacy (support for inviolable zapovedniki as institutions) continued to be dressed up as science (biocenology, the study of ecological communities). That linkage began to weaken during the 1960s and 1970s when, first, biocenologists finally had to acknowledge that their theory and practice did not cohere; second, they recognized that the theory was out of step with international science; and third, new paradigms and institutions began to challenge their monopoly within Soviet ecological science. These challenges to the ecological community concept, in turn, presented challenges to the raison d'être of the zapovedniki, which were amplified by the growth of Soviet tourist demand for scenery. Some environmentalists sought a new scientific theoretical grounding for protected territories to supplant the shaky old one, while others acknowledged their subjective view of the zapovedniki as simply sacred space. By the late 1980s the rationales for zapovedniki focused more on their roles as protected habitats, buffers for an overindustrialized landscape, aesthetically valuable undisturbed nature, and areas where the flow of life could still go its own way.

Beginning in the late 1960s, philosophers, economists, and political scientists discovered environmental rhetoric—I hesitate to describe it as "advocacy." Although each environmental writer was trying to make a name for himself (or, rarely, herself) and implicitly made claims for his or her discipline's central role in developing environmental theory, collectively these individuals represented a regime-approved and regime-sponsored means of blunting the critical edge of environmental speech. At the same time, the abundance of "environmental" publications in the social sciences represented proof of the regime's good intentions. This appropriation of environmental rhetoric went largely unchallenged by authentic activists because it also served their purposes: it confirmed environmental issues as one of the few zones of relatively free speech in the Soviet Union.

The evolution of ecological thought in America was neatly summed up by boreal ecologist Hugh Raup, director of the Harvard Experimental Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts:

Ecological and conservation thought at the turn of the century was nearly all in what might be called closed systems of one kind or another. In all of them some kind of balance or near balance was to be achieved. The geologists had their peneplain; the ecologists visualized a self-perpetuating climax; the soil scientists proposed a thoroughly mature soil profile, which eventually would lose all trace of its geological origin and become a sort of balanced organism in itself.... I believe that there is evidence in all of these fields that the systems are open, not closed, and that probably there is no consistent trend toward balance. Rather, in the present state of our knowledge and ability to rationalize, we should think in terms of massive uncertainty, flexibility, and adjustability. 1
Since 1910 the latter approach had been championed in Russia by Leontii Grigor' evich Ramenskii, but it had made little headway against the holistic, supraorganismic model of the biogeocenosis (ecological community plus abiotic environment) championed by Sukachev and his many allies.

During the early 1960s things began to change slightly with the appearance of two important articles by V. D. Aleksandrova, which showed a certain sympathy for the continuum notion, but even they fell short of a clean break with organismic holism. 2 Soviet ecologists, particularly plant ecologists, were caught in a bind. On the one hand, they prided themselves on claiming to be an important part of international science. This logic should have pushed them to give up the holistic biogeocenosis for the more Western and relativistic "ecosystem" and for the continuum. On the other hand, they still needed a scientific justification for the zapovedniki, and in the absence of any other compelling ecological model clung to that of the biogeocenosis.

The plan the Lavrenko commission (see chapter 11) released in 1957 for future expansion of the network of reserves could have been drafted by G. A. Kozhevnikov himself. At its core was the recommendation that representative etalony be chosen on the basis of the geobotanical maps of the USSR that Lavrenko's team at the Botanical Institute had compiled. Once again, the Soviet scientific elite would have its own "archipelago"—islands of natural diversity and research autonomy, embodying the broader values of diversity and autonomy, a kind of "free territory of the intelligentsia," as Stalinist critic Lepeshinskaia once implied. Encouraging results followed endorsements by V. A. Engel'gardt, the new secretary of the Biological Division, and by Academy president Nesmeianov. 3

However, the specter loomed of another zapovednik war like those of the 1920s and early 1930s. Repeating history, the USSR Agriculture Ministry's Glavpriroda, where utilitarians were still ensconced, sought to annex the newly created or restored zapovedniki of the Russian Republic's Glavokhota system and of other republican systems to its own, centralized all-Union network. Eerily, the issues had hardly changed since the 1930s, for Glavpriroda's reserves were still pursuing the same income-maximizing goals as before, while the Glavokhota reserves, heirs to the Kozhevnikov tradition, continued to reaffirm both the etalon mission of the zapovedniki as well as the inviolability of their regime. 4 In this reprise of the debate, ecological questions played a central role.

The Zapovednik Question in the 1960s and 1970s

The reiterative nature of the struggle over reserves was amply revealed by the statements of nature protection activists at Glavokhota's conference of zapovednik directors held May 22-24, 1963 at the Voronezhskii zapovednik. A. M. Krasnitskii, director of the Central Black Earth zapovednik, took to task the utilitarian construal of zapovednik functions (especially maximizing game) presented by A. G. Bannikov, a kind of quasi-official personage who was generally regarded as working for the secret police. Instead, Krasnitskii unabashedly defended the pure-science nature of research in the reserves. 5 Mikhail Aleksandrovich Zablotskii, the savior of the zubr, reminded his coparticipants of how much had been neglected, destroyed, or forgotten as he explicitly invoked the name of V. V. Stanchinskii:

That which the comrade from the Voronezhskii zapovednik just defended here with so much zeal for us [old timers] is not news. In the years before the war, quite formidable scientists worked in our system, among whom the late Prof. V. V. Stanchinskii, doubtless known to many of you, occupied far from last place.... Some jokingly say that things go around in a spiral; the circle has closed and now we are again talking about these same interdisciplinary investigations. 6
Someone else trotted out the memory of Malinovskii, now in retirement, as the symbol of oppression and unhealthy management. What especially rankled the speaker was the "double" expropriation of the zapovedniki Malinovskii carried out. Not only was he complicit in the Stalin plan of 1951, but he had the insulting temerity to replace zoologists with foresters as deputy directors for research in the reserves. This was a legacy that cried out to be fully reversed. 7

Perhaps the most striking defense of the traditional vision of the zapovednik during the 1960s was the speech of Glavokhota's director of zapovedniki, A. Kondratenko, at the All-Union Conference on Zapovedniki on February 12, 1968. Declaring that to give a speech and pretend that the zapovedniki were no longer faced with powerful threats and impediments would be "to engage in simple phrase-mongering and empty words," Kondratenko outlined four broad areas in which the "Leninist principles of organization and management of zapovedniki" were undercut or trammeled.

First was inviolability. Kondratenko noted that, as a result of the Stalin and Khrushchev liquidations of 1951 and 1961, "research over many years' duration was interrupted and considerable amounts of state funds were thereby wasted.... Consequently, the elimination of zapovedniki is not a process linked with the development of our society... but merely the thoughtless actions of specific individuals who have misled government and higher political organs." 8 The consequences were sometimes dramatic. After the 1961 elimination of the Bashkirskii zapovednik, 1,343 hectares of forest in the most accessible areas along the banks of rivers were cut down. Almost all of the maral, roe deer, and moose were killed off. The Kronotskii reserve fared no better. Almost all of the larch forest around Lake Kronotskoe was chopped down, and geological and topographical expeditions engaged in illegal hunting out of season. The Bogachev Geological Expedition managed to destroy sixty-four brown bears in two months after the zapovednik was decertified in 1961. The Soviet military was not far behind. A military detachment at the Gulf of Ol'ga used a colony of elephant seals as target practice to try out a new gun; the carcasses were just left there, unused. Tourists, unsupervised, engaged in practices that threatened the living and nonliving elements of the landscape. 9

The second "act of destruction" was Khrushchev's conversion of some of the most historic and important zapovedniki in 1957 to so-called zapovednookhotnich'ia khoziaistva. "Is there any need to explain the absurdity of this marriage of concepts?" Kondratenko asked. At the very least these areas needed to be renamed. 10

The third was the regime's failure to enforce existing laws. Kondratenko spoke of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture's "gross violation" of the RSFSR's October 27, 1960 law on nature protection by permitting its zapovedniki on RSFSR territory to allocate up to 50 percent of their land to "experiments," some of which entailed significant alteration of natural conditions. 11

The fourth sin was using the press to promote false and distorted notions of the role of zapovedniki. Kondratenko singled out the article "The Zapovedniki Need a Single Administration" by the head of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture's zapovednik administration and the head of its Party cell, V. B. Kozlovskii, an agronomist. The article, which ran in 1966 in Okhota i okhotnich'e khoziaistvo and the following year in Nedelia, in addition to trying to make the case for Ministry of Agriculture suzerainty over all USSR protected territories also promoted the usual ways in which nature within the reserves could be "improved." Kondratenko quoted from a hostile reader response to Kozlovskii as well as from D. L. Armand's For Us and Our Grandchildren, which also emphasized the eternal nature of zapovedniki as a "closed 'holy of holies."' 12 In line with this emphasis on inviolability, all experiments in acclimatization had to stop. "It is well known that the most typical way in which the natural balance is destroyed is by introducing nonnative biological species to an area, which often leads to the most unexpected consequences." 13

If Kondratenko's remarks were sharply phrased, it must be appreciated that as the representative of Glavokhota RSFSR he was not simply echoing the principles of the old-line scientists who dominated his agency's scientific advisory council. He was also defending the historic interests and prerogatives of the Russian Republic against a frequently aggrandizing all-Union center. Less than three years earlier, by means of a decree of the USSR Council of Ministers, the USSR Ministry of Agriculture successfully "raided" seven of Glavokhota RSFSR's zapovedniki. 14

What distinguished these seven reserves was that they were among the most picturesque and the most accessible. Because the USSR Ministry of Agriculture's Glavpriroda had now been designated as the official Soviet "lead agency" for international contacts concerning nature protection and protected territories, there was a concern that the ministry have within its jurisdiction appropriately interesting reserves that it could show to foreign scientists and dignitaries. Not coincidentally, Bannikov's guidebook of the Ministry of Agriculture zapovedniki, complete with beguiling color photos, appeared in early 1966. 15 That infuriated "authentic" nature protection activists even more, as their foreign counterparts would be meeting with second- and third-rate scientists and bureaucrats of the Ministry of Agriculture system and would never learn of the existence of their "real" colleagues sequestered in the Glavokhota and other systems.

These and a cavalcade of real abuses committed by and in the USSR Ministry of Agriculture system provided constant reinforcement for the scientific intelligentsia's continuing fixation on the zapovedniki as the central issue of nature protection well into the Brezhnev era. Trouble started even before the new regime's first anniversary; agriculture minister V.V.Matskevich in October 1965 had issued an order stripping the newly acquired Astrakhanskii and Kavkazskii reserves of zapovednik status and converting them into branches of local game management areas, only months after an attempted transfer of 5,000 hectares from the Kavkazskii reserve to local forest authorities had been successfully fought. 16

Official poaching and other abuses of zapovedniki in the Brezhnev era were ubiquitous. In Tadzhikistan's Tigrovaia Balka (where the last tiger's tracks were recorded in 1953), runoff from cotton fields had poisoned the northern portion of the reserve. A hunting lodge had been built on the reserve's territory for the shah of Afghanistan. In the Kzyl-Agach reserve on Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea coast, Marshal Chuikov, the hero of Berlin, led a military-style assault on the wintering waterfowl, scoring a major victory. Several years later, in 1976, Marshal Grechko did Chuikov one better, employing helicopters to obliterate the recalcitrant herons, flamingos, and geese. 17

One of the worst embarrassments occurred when Minister Matskevich invited Academy of Sciences president Stubbe of the German Democratic Republic to the Voronezh zapovednik and then proposed a deer hunt. In deference to the scientific mission of the reserve, Stubbe refused, complicating the diplomatic atmosphere. Matskevich's practices were then held up to sharp criticism at the February 1968 all-Union Conference on Nature Protection, and when the head of the Department of Zapovedniki of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture tried to defend his boss, "tens of people started to shout from their seats 'Matskevich is a poacher!' The young naturalists—protégés of P.P. Smolin—made the most noise, for they had been to many of the zapovedniki and knew everything firsthand, even to the point of witnessing some of these outrages." 18

Bannikov and others tried to play a constructive behind-the-scenes role. In August 1966 Bannikov wrote to Matskevich on the eve of the minister's trip to Tadzhikistan about the abuses in the Ramit zapovednik and the need to create a zapovednik in the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous oblast'. 19 And Glavpriroda began work on a draft law on nature protection for the entire USSR. 20 Yet the prevailing sentiment was that sounded by Glavokhota director Kondratenko: the forces of light (Glavokhota and nauchnaia obshchestvennost') were still locked in battle with the forces of darkness (Glavpriroda and transformism).

One complex of issues that still retained its emotional force was that of acclimatization and the campaign to eliminate large predators. For the scientific intelligentsia, this was an unsurpassed metaphor for the careless, scientifically uninformed, and dangerous transformism of the Soviet regime generally: chaotic capriciousness under the guise of "rational planning." It was difficult to escape the parallels in the realm of social and public policy: the "liquidation" of the "kulaks as a class," the deportation of peoples from ancestral lands to places half a continent away, the communal apartment, and other social experiments. Linkage with Lysenko and his ally Pëtr Aleksandrovich Manteifel' only deepened acclimatization's reputation as quackery and "Stalinist science." It was all the more odious that the regime had at various times forced this profane policy into the precincts of the zapovedniki.

Khrushchev's thaw provided the first opportunity for opponents of acclimatization to go public. Writing in MOIP's Bulletin, game biologist V. N. Skalon took first crack at the symbolically charged program. "Acclimatization was advanced under the slogan of the transformation of nature," began Skalon, but "it could only be assessed favorably; no criticism of it was tolerated." As a result of that lack of peer review and the consummate haste in which measures were effected, "there was no small number of failures, which cannot be passed over in silence." 21

Many schemes were hopeless from the first, such as the attempt to improve the Siberian red fox by releasing Canadian foxes. Introduced animals became pests: squirrels in the Crimea, mink in Eastern Siberia (where they preyed on the muskrat, which had also been introduced from North America, but never achieved great enough density to become economically harvestable), and the raccoon dog almost everywhere it was introduced, particularly in central European Russia, where it attacked ground-nesting birds.

Some acclimatization schemes were even fraught with threats to human health. Raccoon dogs carried rabies. Ground squirrels, introduced to the Caucasus, created a variety of epidemiological problems. Although those taken from the Altai were certified to be free of infectious diseases, they quickly became receptive hosts to the endozootics of the Caucasus. When the tufted-eared Altai red squirrel was introduced to Kirgizia, the "planners" were not as careful. It brought with it the flea Tarsopsylla octodecimdentata, which carried encephalitis. To top things off, the quality of the fur of the introduced animals declined, in some cases to economic uselessness. One additional consequence of these blunders was a certain resistance to reacclimatization, which is always safe and economically reliable. 22

There were a few instances in which acclimatization was undertaken for loftier motives. The best example is the acclimatization of the sika deer from the Far East to the Caucasus and other places during World War II, when it was feared that the animal would be driven to extinction should war break out between Japan and the USSR. 23 One or two such examples, however, were hardly enough to outweigh the emotional animus of the scientific intelligentsia. Geptner, in a 1963 article, called once and for all for a renunciation "of that harmful idea that acclimatization may be a basic means of increasing the productivity of game resources." 24 Acclimatization was harmful "not only because it does not hold up, but even more so because it deflects us from serious and thoughtful work to a search for ways of quickly overcoming difficulties and deficiencies without expending a great deal of effort." 25 Skalon weighed in again later in 1963, as did A. A. Nasimovich in 1966 with a major attack on the consequences of the muskrat's acclimatization. 26 In 1965 the Tadzhik Academy of Sciences' Institute of Zoology and Parasitology took the opportunity of Lysenko's downfall to eliminate acclimatization from its research program. 27 Six years later Skalon, in a highly polemical piece, "The Essence of Biotechnics," mounted a spirited attack on the claims of acclimatizers and other "biotechnicians" to speak in the name of science. 28

One study that struck out at biotechnics and acclimatization simultaneously was Konstantin Pavlovich Filonov's doctoral dissertation on the population dynamics of ungulates in zapovedniki. 29 A research scientist in Glavokhota RSFSR, Filonov culled thousands upon thousands of entries on index cards from the letopisi prirody (nature logs) kept by each zapovednik since the mid-1930s. His aim was to see what effect the policies of provision of salt licks, winter feeding, and other non-natural care of hoofed mammals, combined with campaigns to eliminate wolves and other predators and acclimatization of exotics, had on the ungulates' population dynamics. He found increasingly wide fluctuations: huge increases followed by catastrophic diebacks. As natural predation was eliminated, population densities increased, but so did the percentage of genetically less adaptive individuals. No longer culled from the herd by wolves and bears, these weaker and often sick individuals spread infection throughout the population. In the former Crimean zapovednik, deer with six-point antlers constituted 20.5 percent of the herd during the 1920s and only 16.3 percent in the 1950s. More robust ninepointers, meanwhile, had completely disappeared. 30

Acclimatized animals, such as the sika deer in the Okskii and Mordovskii reserves, deflected selection pressure from the native moose, becoming another prey species for wolves. In consequence, the moose population was no longer "policed" as efficiently for defective, older, and weak individuals. 31 Ultimately, concluded Filonov, to "undo" the effects of Stalinist "biotechnics," deer and moose herds now had to be thinned on a regular basis. Humans were now condemned, like it or not, to intervene in the life of a no longer pristine nature, but such intervention should always be only a form of damage control. 32

Once the police power of the Party-state was withdrawn from the arena of biological research and teaching, geneticists and ecologists exerted efforts to decertify Stalin-era "schools" and their practitioners. Controlling scientific credentials was central to the social identity of the scientific intelligentsia and to its norm of scientific autonomy, and scientists lost no time trying to reclaim lost ground.

Paradigms in Motion

Among conservationists, voices of qualification, such as that of G. P. Dement'ev, the new president of the Academy of Science's Conservation Commission, warned that "it was time to renounce the view that zapovedniki are a 'higher' form of conservation." Instead, Dement'ev noted that the areas the reserves incorporated were only "conditionally natural" and that the tasks of conservation transcended the preservation of natural areas and their denizens (no matter how worthy that cause). 33 However, his words went largely unheeded by the restorationists.

Nonetheless, a conference called by the Academy's Conservation Commission and those of the republics, meeting at the Zoological Institute in Leningrad on January 25, 1956, revealed the incipient divergence within the ecologist-conservationist camp. Professor V. B. Dubinin, microbiologist and vice president of the Commission, emphasized not zapovedniki but resource problems in his keynote address. For the first time there was a vigorous call for the study of the ecological impacts of migrating radioactive compounds, now identified as a serious health threat to humans. 34 Articles on the ecological consequences of pollutants and pesticides also began to appear in the Commission's journal, Okhrana prirody i zapovednoe delo v SSSR.

Accompanied by a disturbing photo showing a lifeless stretch of the Kamyshevakha River downstream from a coking plant where unfiltered phenols were discharged, T. E. Nagibina's exposé, one of the first published articles to provide facts and figures on water pollution, cleverly juxtaposed a second photo showing revegetation following a cleanup of the stream, so as to maintain the mood of official optimism. 35 As a sanitary inspector of the USSR Ministry of Public Health, Nagibina approached the problem from the standpoint of human health. Natural conditions of water bodies had been vastly altered, she noted, and the amount of runoff from industry and agriculture had undergone a quantum increase. Pollution threatened the purity of water for drinking and recreational uses, promoted new out-breaks of infectious diseases, and impaired the water bodies' capacity for self-cleansing. 36 She invoked historical precedents: great tsarist-era public health experts such as Erisman and Khlopin had warned of such things, as had Chekhov, who was also a medical doctor. Water pollution was discussed at the 1896 and 1902 Pirogov Society congresses and at the Sewage Congress of 1905, which called for government standards of water quality. 37

Despite this long-standing awareness plus Soviet-era legislation of 1923 and 1937 and the drinking water standards of 1954, observed Nagibina, the discharge of untreated waste water continued to inflict "great harm on the population and on the economy." The Volga directly received 500,000 cubic meters of untreated wastewater daily, while the Oka basin, which flows into the Volga, received an additional 370,000. Those waters were unusable for drinking or aquatic sports. Some waters were so polluted that they could not be used even by industry. Fishing and agriculture were the major victims. 38

The main culprits were the oil extracting and refining, pulp and paper, chemical, metallurgical, and some consumer industries. In 1952, 550,000 tons of oil and petroleum products were lost after extraction, 350,000 tons of which polluted river basins through runoff. The concentration of emulsified oil in the Volga near the city of Gor'kii (Nizhnyi) exceeded permissible limits by twenty-five to seventy times. Such pollution also had international implications, added Nagibina, as when flocks of migratory birds died in the Caspian as a result of waters polluted by oil. Rivers and the factories that polluted them were mentioned by name. And while Nagibina pointed to alleged improvement since 1951, "there has still not been the requisite attention paid [to the issue] by the leaders of ministries, agencies, and individual enterprises." Moreover, there were far too few opportunities for public health scientists to test and apply their laboratory findings in the real world; one procedure proposed by scientists in 1951 for filtering petroleum products from waste water had still not been tested under production conditions. Nagibina also criticized the reluctance of industrial ministries to rethink their production processes, which led to an overreliance on technology to detoxify currently generated wastes. Only an all-Union organ for the protection of water bodies with the authority to enforce its decisions could guarantee truly safe production. 39

That same issue of Okhrana prirody i zapovednoe delo v SSSR featured one article about air pollution and another about radioactivity. In much the same vein as Nagibina's piece, the article by M. S. Gol'dberg of the Laboratory of Air Quality in the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences' Institute of General and Public Health focused on public health. However, Gol'dberg also pointed out the special danger of sulfur dioxide to plants, especially trees. 40 A. M. Kuzin and A. A. Peredel'skii of the USSR Academy of Sciences' Institute of Biophysics, researchers in "radiation ecology," provided a history of the emergence of the study of radioisotopes in nature. Recalling the work of Vernadskii, Baranov, Cannon, and others, the authors showed how certain plants functioned as indicator species in areas containing deposits of uranium and other radioactive elements. Those plants that were coadapted to relatively high natural levels of radiation in many cases showed a higher metabolic rate. This was also the case with nitrogen-fixing bacteria exposed to high rates of natural radiation. Consequently, before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was believed that radiation was some kind of tonic that could make living things more productive. 41

Now, with atmospheric testing, the situation had become qualitatively different. Japanese research on contaminated fish conclusively demonstrated the accumulation of isotopes in the internal organs of fish. If the irradiation of plankton was also taken into account, then whole food chains, up to and including humans, were placed in danger. True, some organisms, such as jellyfish and other swimmers, seemed to be largely unaffected, but that was a comparatively minor bright spot in the overall gloom. 42 Most ominous, as was brought out at the 1955 Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, were the implications of exposure to high doses of radioactivity for human genetic integrity. Even with the peaceful use of the atom, noted the authors, the problem of disposal of radioactive wastes remained critical. 43

"Having learned how to use atomic energy," philosophized the authors,

humanity has still not fully grasped the responsibilities that attend this development, both with respect to our contemporaries and to future generations of people, as well as to nature the whole world over. . . . The expansion of work on the peaceful use of atomic energy demands the development of research in the area of radiation ecology, the training of radiation ecologists, and attracting in the broadest way the attention of scientific public opinion to this problem. 44
These articles represented a new style of ecology on four counts. First, radiation and pollution were human health issues, to be studied in the tainted earth and waters around nuclear test sites, reactor sites, farms, and factories, remote from the allegedly self-regulating etalony of virgin nature. Second, the analytic framework for studying the effects of radiation and pollution was the species population, not the vaguely defined community. Third, this new current of ecological research was pervaded by the optimistic supposition that nature was fully knowable and would eventually be reducible to mathematical description. Finally, adherents of the new ecology believed that each of the new, serious environmental problems confronting society was susceptible of a technical solution, in principle.

This trend was reflected in new institutional arrangements, such as V. A. Kovda's Institute on Soil Science and Stanislav Semënovich Shvarts' Institute for the Ecology of Plants and Animals (established 1955), attached to the Ural Scientific Center of the Academy in Sverdlovsk, which had been fortified by waves of physicists and mathematicians seeking to apply their latest theoretical models to the study of living systems.

S. S. Shvarts, a "new man" of Soviet biology not unlike the geneticist N. P. Dubinin, began developing his critique of the older school as early as the 1950s. A disciple of Nikolai Vladimirovich Timofeev-Resovskii (the "zubr" who, exiled to Shvarts' institute, studied ecological aspects of radioactive cycling) and Pavel V. Terent'ev, both of whom strongly championed the population approach and the use of mathematical methods, Shvarts was first drawn to the problem of acclimatization, one of the pet programs of the nature-transformers, although he openly critiqued Manteifel's neo-Lamarckian approach to it from a modern, population-oriented standpoint. 45 Above all Shvarts, traumatized by the arrest in 1937 of his father, an Old Bolshevik, resolved on a course of political acceptability, avoiding even the faintest whiff of dissidence. 46

After having helped to launch the journal Ekologiia (Ecology) in 1969, Shvarts began to speak out emphatically on the relationship between ecology as a science and resource development. In a talk at a 1973 special Academy-wide conference on conservation, he first underscored the sharp distinction that needed to be made between professional ecological science and conservation. Owing to a wrongheaded conflation of the two in the public mind, "broad circles of readers began to understand ecology as...a science with a social agenda, whose task boiled down to the protection of nature, the amelioration of the microclimate in urban areas, the development of various methods of detoxifying effluents, etc. However, speaking about ecology, it is always essential to emphasize that ecology is a biological discipline with its own...specific research methods." 47 Nevertheless, Shvarts did see a central role for ecology in addressing the environmental problems of the day. 48 But to play such a role, ecology needed to be unflinchingly scientific, abandoning all traces of muddy, idealist thinking and values.

One year later, in a talk to Party leaders in the Urals, Shvarts went further, deriding the ecological alarmists. "I am deeply convinced," he declared, "that their assertions are illegitimate." Discussions about the "exhaustion of nature," he continued, "sow doubt about the powers of man.... There is a wise aphorism: 'A resource deficit is simply ... a deficit of knowledge.' " 49 The ultimate goal, he explained, was not some prehuman harmony but the ability "to direct natural processes." "We have no other alternative," he asserted, recommending the development of a general theory of ecological engineering. 50

Although Shvarts' ecological engineering cannot be equated with I. I. Prezent's voluntaristic call in 1932 for Soviet biologists to become "engineers" in the great transformation of nature, there is at least one common thread: the notion that static natural harmonies do not exist. If, as Shvarts noted, ecology was "a science of the environment," then that environment has become increasingly transformed by humans. Consequently, "the most progressive ecologists see the main task of their science as developing a theory governing the creation of a transformed world." The world "could not remain untransformed," Shvarts declared, adding that such a process of transformation needed to be governed by considerations of human needs. 51 Shvarts radically diverged from his colleagues in considering the framing of economic and developmental strategies as the proper preserve of the political authorities, not of scientists with technocratic aspirations.

A year before his death Shvarts participated in a series of sharp debates with the writer and conservation activist Boris Stepanovich Riabinin, a member of the Central Council of the All-Russian Society for Conservation. 52 Held during the spring of 1975 at the Academy's House of Scholars and the "Ural" Palace of Culture, both in Sverdlovsk, they marked the ultimate development of Shvarts's positions, which provided powerful ecological-scientific justifications for the prodevelopment point of view. At that time Shvarts was perhaps the best-known ecologist in the Soviet Union among the lay public.

Throughout the debates, Shvarts's main argument was that prehuman, "pristine" nature no longer existed. Using the same example offered by Kozhevnikov nearly seventy years earlier, Shvarts noted that almost all of the forests of Western Europe were at least second-growth. However, Shvarts and Kozhevnikov drew diametrically opposite conclusions. Kozhevnikov conjured up the image of German forest plantations as a warning to Russians to preserve what virgin nature remained; for him, the deceptive luxuriance of the human-altered vegetation concealed a less stable, less biologically diverse assemblage of organisms than the community that had been supplanted. Shvarts asserted, on the contrary, that there were no grounds to consider second-growth inferior to original ecosystems. "In general," he noted, "it is not at all easy to determine how a bad or good ecosystem might be defined." 53 The "luxuriant tropical forest," he pointed out, would be choked by industrial effluents in only a few years, while the relatively species-poor taiga was able to withstand such abuse for centuries. The value of a given ecosystem had to be calculated in the context of its value to human society, argued Shvarts, not by some abstract principle of diversity or harmony. 54

Another aspect of this problem cropped up during the discussion about the place of predators in the modern world. Riabinin quoted from the newspaper article "Nature Has No Stepchildren" to bolster his contention that predators played a necessary role in the economy of nature and should be preserved. He asked Shvarts to comment as an ecologist. Shvarts addressed the fate of the wolf as exemplifying the problem of large predators in the modern world. Through the mid-1950s, the wolf had been hunted down, even in the zapovedniki. However, with the triumph of the etalon view in the 1960s, the campaigns ceased, and the wolf population surged to over 100,000. Soon wolves once again became an object of public concern. Shvarts distinguished between those few remaining natural areas, such as the tundra, where the wolf still fulfilled a role of sanitary predation, and elsewhere. In the vast, anthropogenetic majority of Russia's modern agricultural landscapes, the wolf needed to be exterminated; there was no going back to the prehuman balance. 55 One practical conclusion that flowed from this was Shvarts's support for active management within nature reserves, which he did not recognize as incorporating self-regulating nature. 56

In 1979 a roundtable was held in the pages of the main hunting and conservation journal, Okhota i okhotnich'e khoziaistvo (Hunting and Game Management). The head of the Ministry of Agriculture's Glavpriroda, A. Borodin, repeated Shvarts's argument that zapovedniki were only truncated islands of natural systems and, therefore, the ecological argument that wolves were necessary for maintaining those systems' self-regulating properties was spurious. 57 More revealing, however, was the argument of Oleg Kirillovich Gusev, the editor of Okhota i okhotnich'e khoziaistvo, who accused the bulk of Soviet biologists of "losing their objectivity" and "idealizing nature" while wolves were destroying thirty million rubles' worth of agricultural stock a year. They were purveying a baseless ecological catechism. 58 Ridiculing the ecologists, Gusev suggested that they had fallen into the teleological fallacy of believing that the wolf was created in order to prey on ungulates, ungulates to eat grass, and "both, in order to testify to the glory of the wise Creator." Their "murky" theory of "natural equilibrium" was the philosophical equivalent of a Divine Plan. Starry-eyed "idealization of nature" was to be contrasted with Gusev's hard-nosed realism: "The crux is this, that with the elimination of predators their place will be taken by other factors of selection, including human beings, whom the entire course of evolution on Earth prepared for a decisive role in the evolution of the biosphere."

This belief in a fated role for humans as the new chiefs of evolution was also sketched out by Shvarts, who, like the Tomsk zoologist-acclimatizer Nikolai Feofanovich Kashchenko (and the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia, many of whom envisioned socialism as a time when humans would become "gods on earth") almost eighty years earlier, proclaimed the end of the wild. All species would come under the management and stewardship of humans. "But this is nothing to fear," Shvarts reassured Riabinin; nature in the future would be better suited to human aspirations and needs, at least according to Shvarts's material understanding of them. 59

The nub of the matter was a conflict over values. Shvarts dismissed Riabinin's contention that industrialization and urbanization were leading to the "impoverishment of nature" as an emotional reaction not deserving serious consideration. The only relevant understanding of "impoverishment" was in its quantifiable, "professional sense," namely, a lowering of biological productivity. There was no room for aesthetic or emotional criteria. Riabinin stuck to his critique of the urban "rat race," which "cut the heart out of life," warning that "blind faith in science is one of the modern varieties of ignorance." 60 There were absolutely no grounds for technological optimism à la Shvarts; "no," Riabinin warned, "there must not and cannot be easy and quick solutions." 61 For his part, Shvarts declared the "alarmists"' slogan "Back to Nature" not only "reactionary" but also "antiscientific." "Man cannot return to the caves," he intoned. 62