After reading Industrial Life in a Limiting Landscape: An Environmental Interpretation of Stalinist Social Conditions in the Far North by Andy Bruno, I have a thoughts on some of what Bruno says and how some of the themes he touches upon may relate to our course as a whole. First of all, the fact that the Soviets even moved their richer, probably more skilled farmers to Northern mining towns raises some questions concerning the sustainability of the worker relocation program. By forcing many its farmers to abandon farming, the Soviet Union decreased the security of its food supply. While any negative circumstances might not have been felt immediately, they did become very apparent during the famine of 1932-33 (victims of which are pictured below). Though Bruno doesn’t spend a lot of time on the causes of the famine directly, it would be logical to say that if more people were farming, food might not have been a problem, especially since many of the deported farmers clearly were skilled in agriculture. Since I don’t know much about the famine however, it’s hard to tell whether the famine was caused by mistakes by the farmers or by natural factors like the weather.
The second topic that I’d like to discuss from Bruno is the idea inherent to Stalinism (and most other political ideologies on all sides of the political spectrum) that the environment is something that can and should be conquered. We’ve talked about this in class previously, so I won’t go over the concept, but I found it particularly interesting that in the case of the relocated farmers, the environment proved to be a hard beast to tame. The farmers, who were from the southern, more mild part of the U.S.S.R., found it difficult to survive in the far north of the country, which undermined their assumed duty to exploit nature that came with their membership in the human race. Further hurting their cause was the unpredictable and harsh weather, along with a high prevalence of diseases like measles and tuberculosis and the scarcity of wood to be used as fuel. These conditions combined to make the experiment of forced labor in the Khibiny Mountains as startling failure. It showed Soviet leaders that they couldn’t necessarily always control nature and bend it to their every whim. This went entirely against the ideologies prevalent in the country at the time and seemed to show an inherent flaw in the Soviet (and thus Marxist) worldview.