Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (Sixth Series)

Research Article

THE ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN STEPPES: VASILII DOKUCHAEV AND THE HARVEST FAILURE OF 18911

David Moon

Abstract

This article examines aspects of the environmental history of the Russian steppes in the long term and in a comparative framework by focusing on the work of the prominent Russian scientist Vasilii Dokuchaev in response to the drought and harvest failure that afflicted large parts of the steppes in 1891. Dokuchaev analysed the causes of the disaster in the long-term context of natural and human-induced changes in the environment. He drew up a plan to address the environmental constraints on agriculture in the region, and led a scientific expedition to examine the feasibility of putting parts of his plan into practice.

(READ 22 October 2004 AT THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST OF ENGLAND)

Footnotes

1 This paper is dedicated to the memory of Aleksei Enverovich Karimov (1966–2004) who provided much help and advice for this research project. The author would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Leverhulme Trust, which funded a six-month reseach visit to Rostov-on-Don and Stavropol' (in the steppe region of Russia) in the spring and summer of 2003, and the British Academy and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, which funded shorter visits to St Petersburg and Helsinki. He would also like to extend his gratitude to the staffs of the universities, archives, libraries and nature reserves where research was carried out. Neil Edmunds, T. C. Smout and Richard Stites kindly commented on part or all of previous drafts. The author remains solely responsible for any errors.