During the Cold War, official Soviet institutions organized tens of exhibitions of an American figurative artist Rockwell Kent. These exhibitions, undertaken bypassing the official United States, demonstrate that promotion of Kent in the USSR was an exclusively Soviet enterprise. Examining the role of Soviet institutions in Kent’s success, the article sheds new light on the Soviet approach to the representation of American visual art during the Cold War.
Basing on unique findings from American and Russian archives, the article provides a comprehensive analysis of political and aesthetical factors, which predetermined Kent’s incredible popularity in the Soviet Union. Contextualizing the Soviet representation of Kent within relevant Cold War contexts, the article argues that Kent occupied a specific symbolic position in Soviet culture, as Soviet propaganda re-conceptualized the artist’s biography and established the Myth of Rockwell Kent. This myth served for legitimization of Soviet ideology and for anti-American propaganda.
The article examines a crucial shift in models of domestication of the Soviet Far North during the Thaw period. The closure of the Gulag system and the social transformations of the 1950s caused changes in the social space of the Soviet North and in the role of expert knowledge in the USSR. By focusing on modernist urban projects for the Soviet Arctic, I analyse how urban specialists during the Thaw attempted to formulate a new conception of the North as a place for ‘ordinary life’ and therefore transform a peripheral region into an ‘average’ Soviet space.
This chapter focuses on imageries and historical change in the European Russian Arctic.
This article examines the nature of Soviet consumption and technological development through the history of milk and milk packaging between the 1950s and 1970s. Based on published and archival materials, the paper focuses on the role that milk played in Soviet nutrition and the role that packaging played in Soviet consumption. The article also examines the modernization of technology for making packaging as well as technology transfer from the West. It concludes that, as in many Western countries, both the Soviet state and Soviet specialists saw it as important to increase the consumption of milk after the war, but the meaning of milk changed. Milk, a basic staple for nutrition, became a matter of science and specialists sought to explain its positive effects. In addition, due to the development of the paper and chemical industries, new forms of milk packaging, more practical in their uses, were introduced in the West. Soviet leaders and specialists saw the new packaging as a desirable feature of modernity, but were unsuccessful in launching domestic technologies for manufacturing such packaging. While experimenting with domestic technology, Soviet producers also received foreign equipment for making milk packaging. Nevertheless, the capacity of such foreign equipment was not enough to satisfy growing demand and the consumption of “modern packaging” remained lower than in the West until the introduction of capitalism and, with it, foreign companies into the Russian market in the 1990s.
This article explores the history of the Russian monopolistic companies that operated in the international market for blubber in the first half of the eighteenth century. It argues that the long-held view that the companies were unsuccessful is not supported by the statistics relating to the trade, which indicate impressive progress in terms of market revenue and the redistribution of profits. Moreover, the authorities had ambitious strategic goals for the project as a whole that entailed more than simple commercial success. The companies, in fact, were perceived as an instrument that would transform landlocked Muscovy into a leading power in the international maritime economy. The article analyzes the essence and the consequences of these conflicting perspectives.
This article examines the industrial wastes and environmental effects of Soviet technological development through the history of the Karelian Isthmus, a border territory that had previously been Finnish. Focusing primarily on the history of two large enterprises – the Svetogorskii (former Enso) and Sovetskii (former Johannes) pulp and paper making plants, the authors illustrate the polluting nature of the Soviet economy in the 1940s-1980s. We contend that from the very beginning, important as they were for the USSR, the enterprises of the Isthmus were built into a system of shortages of techniques and materials that contributed to the hectic fulfillment of the plan. Producing pulp and pulp-based products remained a priority during the whole Soviet period. On the level of industrial enterprises, the Soviet system revealed itself as incapable of solving the problem of pollution and wasting. After waste treatment facilities developed by Soviet engineers in the 1960s turned out to be inadequate for dealing with increasing pollution, the Soviet authorities called on Finnish companies to carry out substantial modernization of a few enterprises on the Isthmus. This helped the modernized plants remain functioning in the age of economic crisis at the end of the Soviet epoch. Old problems, however, such as shortages and lack of expertise, remained pivotal, while new sources of pollution, such as carbon emissions, appeared. As a result, the level of contamination was still high and led to negative environmental impacts.
The representation of electricity was a significant challenge because Soviet authors were to communicate the complex ‘scientific’ phenomenon to an unprepared audience. In my essay, I will explore how during the 1920s to the 1930s, Soviet authors experimented with the representation of the electricity in order to find an optimal proportion of fantasy and factual data for children’s books. A forthcoming publication within The Pedagogy of Images: Depicting Communism for Children, edited by Marina Balina and Serguei Oushakine.
Published by EH.Net (January 2019)
Tapio S. Katko, Finnish Water Services: Experiences in a Global Perspective. Finnish Water Utilities Association, 2016. 288 pp. 70 euros (hardcover), ISBN: 978-952-6697-26-0.
Reviewed for EH.Net by Viktor Pál, Laboratory for Environmental and Technological History, Higher School of Economics.
The paper aims to discuss the multifaceted links between the marine environment of the Gulf of Finland and the representations of the large complex of cultural heritage related to the city of St. Petersburg. The paper is based on a spatial imaginary of Greater St. Petersburg as the cultural and technological unity of the city and adjacent waterscapes in the times of the Russian Empire. This concept is instrumental to see the historical links between the parts of the heritage complex that has by now disintegrated and has been separated by state borders.
The article deals with the state of the housing stock for the restoration and development of enterprises in the Soviet-annexed Finnish territory after the great Patriotic war. The impact of the condition of housing stock and levels of housing in the provision of business and employment are described. The measures on restoration of housing, construction of new houses, and on improvement of living conditions of workers realized by the enterprises are considered.
Industrialisation and social transformations changed the landscapes of the Soviet Arctic and stimulated discussions about the models of its domestication. Numerous industrial towns in the Soviet Far North in the 1930s were established next to Gulag labour camps. The attempt of technical, social and visual re-conceptualisation of urban space in the Soviet Arctic related to several reforms of the post-Stalin period. This chapter analyses how Leningrad architects since the 1950s used modernist urban projects for the realisation of their professional and personal ambitions trying to create a new conception of a “normal city” in extreme climate. While most were not implemented, their appearance shows the shift of the attitude toward the North in the USSR as well as the controversial changes of experts’ position.
This article examines the Finnish industrial and trade fairs held in the Soviet Union in the context of Finnish–Soviet trade and scientific–technical cooperation in the 1950s and 1960s. While primarily focused on fairs, it also discusses different activities that accompanied them, such as lectures, visits, and negotiations between Finnish traders and Soviet officials and specialists. This study illustrates how such first-hand contact played an important role in Finnish– Soviet communications. First, they helped Finnish producers showcase their goods and technologies directly to Soviet buyers in various ministries and organizations. Second, these contacts included diverse activities such as face-toface contacts, lectures, and seminars, being a means of technology transfer from Finland to the USSR. Finally, although they were commercial interactions without explicit ideological purposes – like many international exhibitions of the last century – Finnish fairs demonstrated a technological gap between Finland and the USSR.
The paper explores a symbolic appropriation of Saimaa Canal by Soviet media after it became part of the USSR in the 1940s.
This article examines the discourses of water pollution and protection in the Soviet Union in the 1950s-1960s. It explores discursive practices which sprung up related to two paper and pulp plants, one located on the shore of Lake Baikal and another production unit in Svetogorsk on the border with Finland. These two discourses provide deep insight to pro-industry and nature protection claims which characterized Soviet water pollution and protection discourses in the 1950s-1960s. The paper contends that discussions about pulp production near Baikal were influencing the conditions in other, far located regions and stimulated engineering of water treatment facilities. The development of such facilities became a compromise between supporters and defenders of increasing pulp industry production, but in practice did not result in solving the problem of water pollution. In analyzing this issue, I consider discussions around the Baikal pulp plant and first attempts of introducing advanced water treatment in an industrial city of Svetogorsk and beyond, also discussing contacts with the West, in particular with Finland and their effects on Soviet water management.
In recent years the environmental humanities have evolved in new and exciting directions, due largely to the democratisation of information and new digital communication technologies. Social media channels, smartphones and the ease of online communication have also helped to advertise the ideas of emerging scholars in the growing field of environmental history. Inspired by the success of other academic societies in supporting their early-career members, such as the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE), the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) Grad Caucus and New Scholars network, and the Tensions of Europe Network (ToE), the Board of the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) decided to initiate its own Next Generation Action Team (NEXTGATe), which was established in June 2018. The first tenure of NEXTGATe (2018–2019) consists of six scholars: Roberta Biasillo (Rachel Carson Center, Germany); Elena Kochetkova (Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg, Russia); Tayler Meredith (University of Birmingham, UK); Simone Schleper (Leibniz Institute of European History, Germany) and Erin Spinney (University of Oxford, UK). NEXTGATe’s coordinator is Viktor Pál (Higher School of Economics, Russia), who serves as Assistant to the Board.
Since the early 2000s, authoritarianism has risen as an increasingly powerful global phenomenon. This shift has not only social and political implications, but also environmental implications: authoritarian leaders seek to recast the relationship between society and the government in every aspect of public life, including environmental policy. When historians of technology or the environment have investigated the environmental consequences of authoritarian regimes, they have frequently argued that authoritarian regimes have been unable to produce positive environmental results or adjust successfully to global structural change, if they have shown any concern for the environment at all. Put another way, the scholarly consensus holds that authoritarian regimes on both the left and the right generally have demonstrated an anti-environmentalist bias, and when opposed by environmentalist social movements, have succeeded in silencing those voices.
This book explores the theme of environmental politics and authoritarian regimes on both the right and the left. The authors argue that in instances when environmentalist policies offer the possibility of bolstering a country’s domestic (nationalist) appeal or its international prestige, authoritarian regimes can endorse and have endorsed environmental protective measures. The collection of essays analyzes environmentalist initiatives pursued by authoritarian regimes, and provides explanations for both the successes and failures of such regimes, looking at a range of case studies from a number of countries, including Brazil, China, Poland, and Zimbabwe. The volume contributes to the scholarly debate about the social and political preconditions necessary for effective environmental protection.
This book will be of great interest to those studying environmental history and politics, environmental humanities, ecology, and geography.
The article examines the history of using wood and timber wastes and annual plants as well as in the Soviet Union from the 1950s to the1960s. In the middle of the twentieth century, century Soviet leadership, producers, and scientists expressed their anxiety about the lack of forests near pulp and paper plants, and started looking for alternative raw materials. Modernization during the same period witnessed a number of initiatives to use different sources for pulp production, ranging from wood and timber wastes to reed and annual plants. It included attempts to develop low-waste and non-waste industrial technologies. In most cases, however, this search did not transform the supply of raw materials. Instead, most factories continued manufacturing pulp and pulp-based products using wood, and thus kept cutting and exploring undisturbed forests, in particular those in Siberia. In this article, I investigate the attempted use of alternative resources in industrial operations and examine why employing these materials, was not successful in the Soviet Union in the 1950s-1960s. I am interested in the organizational and technological aspects of how forestry developed and used resources in the Soviet Union. I illustrate how technologies circulated not only within the country, but also between the USSR and Western countries. The article contends that new practices did not change wasteful wood-use practices, in large part because the industry continued to contend with infrastructural and organizational obstacles while attempting to introduce alternative resources
The paper analyzes the contemporary situation in the history of interrelations between the cities and the water streams and puts the papers, published in the special issue of the Water History Journal into the propoer conceptual frame.
About the European bicycling: the politics of low and high culture: taming and framing cycling in twentieth-century Europe