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Industrial Deserts: Industry, Science and the Destruction of Nature in the Soviet Union

Paul Josephson
The Slavonic and East European Review
Vol. 85, No. 2 (Apr., 2007), pp. 294-321
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4214437
Page Count: 28
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Industrial Deserts: Industry, Science and the Destruction of Nature in the Soviet Union
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Abstract

At the foothills of the Ural Mountains that divide Siberia from Europe lie the cities of Cheliabinsk, Ekaterinburg, Perm, Nizhnii Tagil and Magnitogorsk. Russian officials referred to the Urals region as the 'forge' of the nation owing to its huge reserves of copper, bauxite and iron and the establishment of massive metallurgical combines nearby for smelting. In the Soviet period, owing to a military mentality toward the region and its inhabitants, the physical landscape was destroyed and the people of the region were exposed to toxic chemicals that led to high infant mortality rates and declining life expectancy. Military metaphors predominated in attitudes toward nature during the 1930s and the rapid industrialization effort, World War II and the evacuation of entire factories to the Urals by railroad just ahead of advancing German armies to the West, and during the Cold War when the nuclear armaments enterprise was established with wanton disregard for public health and safety. The result was the creation of an 'industrial desert', as defined and explored in this article.

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