When scientists attempted to use their veto power in to halt high forest product quotas during Stalin's first Five-Year Plan, Stalin shut the Council down. Because Moscow basically ignored these scientists and dismissed them as chudak or oddballs, the scientists and nature-lover comrades were left alone to promote their ideas through "scientific public opinion. While Stalin was cracking down on subversive writers, artists and other critics of the regime, the nature lovers were viewed as harmless and not worth dealing with. The movement, and its power based on science, continued its dissident existence within this intellectual "safe zone.
According to Weiner, what the scientists were really saying was that this wholesale destruction of nature was destroying society.
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They were able to make that connection and they thought that if they could somehow cut the violence against nature based on scientific argument, they might be able to mitigate the violence against society," says Weiner. Because of this "little corner of freedom" within the vale of scientific research, the nature-protection movement was able to openly exchange ideas and thoughts which would have gotten anyone else "liquidated.
They also argued against collective farms in connection with which hundreds of thousands of peasants were deported, many of whom died on trains or in camps based on biodiversity and ecological principles which could increase productivity without the need for mass enserfment of rural society. If you don't have the right policemen, then you couldn't find the right subversives.
The regime's perceptual apparatus didn't allow it to see nature-protection as political speech or having counter-culture potential. Through the s and '60s a larger movement began to emerge with the decay of Communist ideology. And though the VOOP had been taken over by the Communist Party and the earlier theories of ecology that excluded man had all but been abandoned, the nature-protection movement continued to speak out more openly.
Still, no crack-down came because the earlier movement had established a "safe zone" which more people came to appreciate and colonize. To suppress people arguing for these things would have been incredibly embarrassing.
The movement truly crossed the line in April with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, plunging openly into legal protest. For the first time, due to glasnost, industrial accidents were being publicized broadly.
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Ordinary people, with grievances toward the State, felt safe enough to demonstrate. It came first with environmental protests," says Weiner.
According to Weiner, the fall of Communism in also marked the end of environmental protests and a more liberalized political arena allowed bigger issues to arise that didn't require the protective umbrella of nature-protection any more. The period Weiner studied has brought a new view of Stalin-era history, as well as the role that science and nature-protection played.
Though the nature-protection movement evolved into a Russian environmental movement which has all but died out, Weiner notes that the re-emergence of a vocal environmental movement in Russia will probably occur "only when people feel comfortable enough about employment, survival, and the stability of the Russian state to then focus again on these quality-of-life issues. The other alternative, according to Weiner, is if Russia reverts back to a highly authoritarian state.
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