Taming the Dnipro Rapids: Nature, National Geography, and Hydro-Engineering in Soviet Ukraine, 1946-1968
Duncan Smith, Megan K.
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CitationDuncan Smith, Megan K. 2019. Taming the Dnipro Rapids: Nature, National Geography, and Hydro-Engineering in Soviet Ukraine, 1946-1968. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractDuring the twentieth century, writers, artists, planners, and engineers dramatically re-imagined and re-drew the Dnieper River. This dissertation examines the renegotiation of Soviet conceptions of the natural environment and national geography in an era of large-scale nature transformation and hydro-engineering. The construction of the Dnipro Hydropower Station in 1927-1932 made the Dnieper modern. Twenty years later, the symbolic significance of agricultural fertility made the Kakhovka Hydropower Station both a modern and a nationally-oriented project for Soviet Ukraine. However, its enormous reservoir submerged the fertile Dnieper floodplain and forced the local population from their homes and private gardens. The ecological impact of the reservoir further threatened the idea of an agricultural paradise in southern Ukraine. My cultural approach to environmental history allowed me to write the cultural intelligentsia into the narrative of Soviet environmentalism. The existing narrative largely highlights the scientific intelligentsia while marginalizing cultural voices, especially before the 1970s. Embracing pastoral nature as well as pristine nature, figures such as Oleksandr Dovzhenko and Oles’ Honchar valued nature in a broader sense than the scientific intelligentsia who mourned the shrinking nature preserves.
Throughout this dissertation, I examine the evolution of environmental thought within the Ukrainian cultural intelligentsia in the 1950s and 1960s. The overarching argument at the heart of this project is that this discourse was fundamentally linked with the Dnieper’s status as a national symbol and the construction of the Dnieper Hydropower Cascade. The cultural intelligentsia articulated a form of environmental thought that was deeply rooted in the Ukrainian national idea and in many ways trigged by the war experience on Ukrainian territory and the third major famine in thirty years. This dissertation begins with voices that enthusiastically welcomed the transformation of nature as a powerful symbol of modern Ukraine. In the first three chapters, environmentalism is expressed as a celebration of the beauty and fertility of Ukrainian nature and the Ukrainian landscape. The final two chapters trace the gradual emergence of an explicitly environmentalist discourse among the Ukrainian cultural intelligentsia, who began to make a direct appeal to protect nature based on these same values.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42013094
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