Publication Date

Summer 1993

Document Type



Other Social and Behavioral Sciences | Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


Published in The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, Vol. 18 No. 2, Summer 1993, pg 131-158.


With the collapse of Communist power in the Soviet Union, considerable attention has focused on the lessons produced by the experiment with Marxist socialism in the Russian empire and what we might regard as the legacies of Communism. One of the most highly visible legacies of that system is a pattern of environmental neglect that stretches from the Baltics to the Kamchatka peninsula. As a public issue, ecology only emerged in the final years of communist rule in the USSR, initially as part of Gorbachev's glasnost and, later, as a component of the country's increasingly vocal nationalist movements. A radioactive explosion in Tomsk-7 in April, 1 993,1 served as a reminder that the system which produced Chernobyl had not disappeared but had simply been passed on to the successors of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, who now faced an ecological nightmare inherited from the old regime. This paper is an examination of the appearance of ecological concerns as a public issue, the often inadequate response of the system to those concerns, what that response revealed about the changing Soviet system, and, finally, the environmental situation which faces the post-Communist leadership of what was the Soviet Union.