CFP: Not just Chernobyl Ecological Dimensions of the History of Communism (Poznań, Poland)

Deadline to Submit Abstracts: February 15, 2016

Date of the event: April 21-22, 2016
Place of the event: Poznań, Poland

Many social and economic practices had led to various forms of ecological disequilibria in the Pre-Modern, Modern, and Post-Modern eras. Ecological issues are among the most important and yet unacknowledged aspects of the history of communist rule over much of Central and Eastern Europe after 1945. Marxist ideology contained an idea for human domination over nature which, in turn, had an important role to play in legitimizing the communist system. The centralized command–and–quota economy resulted in ecological disequilibria, irrational management of natural resources and environmental contamination. Yet throughout the former Eastern Bloc, neither the planned economy nor policies explicitly concerning the environment were static after 1945.

The post–war famine and the so–called Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature were major stages of the late Stalinist period in terms of ecological impact. In the 1950s and 1960s, alongside the ideology of the communist regimes, scientific and technological revolutions and import substitution in the economy triggered intensified resource extraction and thus environmental damage throughout the region. Both mining and re–cultivation had to do with landscapes and wounded landscapes. Many regional studies highlight the impact of collectivization and the adverse results of experts’ ideas on improving agricultural productivity.

The era following the so–called high–modernity of the post–war decade yet again brought new economic ideas and practices to the former Eastern Bloc (as well as other parts of the globe). The ecological impact of export–oriented Eastern Block economies differed from the effects of trade and production practices in earlier decades, not least because of the use of nuclear energy. Under the communist dictatorships, the ecological results of economic policies were not presented to public opinion or subjected to democratic control. This state of affairs resulted in the catastrophe at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986. After this, the ecological results of the functioning of communist systems openly took on a political dimension. They were subject to the policies of the communist states, and they were part of the political ideas and activities of opposition and dissident groups in the communist societies.

Given the state of the scholarship on environmental history in the region, the aim of the conference is to investigate and analyze the following issues:
  • Chernobyl and other ecological disasters in the history of communism
  • The ecological impacts of collectivization and agricultural technology in the former Eastern Bloc
  • The ecological results of different periods of communist economy and polity
  • The influence of the Chernobyl disaster on the development of the opposition in communist states and the legitimization of the communist system
  • The importance of ecological and environmental protection as an issue in culture and counterculture
  • Chernobyl in the international press and public opinion and the popular memory of disasters as represented in movies, video games etc.
  • Environmental protection in governmental policies and as part of the endeavors of the various forms of opposition in communist states
  • Ecological and environmental protection in Cold War propaganda and ideology

Abstracts should be sent to:
krzysztof.brzechczyn@ipn.gov.pl; brzech@amu.edu.pl and a copy to rbalogh215@gmail.com