Giving a Green Light to Development: State and Personal Encounters with Nature in Cold War Siberia


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Once the mightiest dam in the world, the Krasnoyarsk Dam, built 1956-1972, instigated popular pride and brought sweeping development to Siberia. As a result of the latter, scholars generally present it as proof of antagonism between the Soviet state and nature. Asking “How green were ‘the Reds’?” this dissertation examines the interconnection of two seemingly opposed Soviet state programs—the exploitation and preservation of nature, as embodied by the Krasnoyarsk Dam and the neighboring protected urban greenery and “wilderness” at a nature preserve, respectively. Sharing ecosystems and community, these projects advanced a Soviet “promethean-preservationist” program meant to remake humans, their environment, and their relationship to nature. This relationship was not defined by conquest. As a Soviet dam builder declared, “We did not conquer the Yenisei [river], we proposed an alliance to him!” This historical-anthropological research emphasizes that nature had its own power to foster popular fascination and affinity, producing an environmental subjectivity beyond ideological confines.