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At the beginning of the 1870s, an “oil boom” in Baku province significantly increased the rate of oil extraction in the Russian Empire. Due to underdevelopment of railway infrastructure, most of it was transported by waterways—the Caspian Sea and the Volga river—in wooden barges, which caused a large percentage of leaks. Due to the oil pollution, the number of fish in the river rapidly decreased, and the inhabitants of the Volga cities suffered from the lack of clean water. The enhancement of the oil extraction was inextricably intertwined with the development of water transportation infrastructure and opened up for the Russian Empire new opportunities in foreign policy and industrial growth. In contrast to that, the limitation of the oil transportation could slow down the pace of economic development, but would undoubtedly correspond to the interests of all residents of the Volga region and especially of the fishing industry, in which a significant number of citizens were employed. The deterioration of the river ecosystem caused the very wide and active public discussion, which resulted in the adoption of the “Rules on the protection of the Caspian-Volga waterways from oil pollution” (1904)—the most successful anti-pollution bill in pre-revolutionary Russia’s history. In my talk, I will show how different social groups and agencies imagined the causes and consequences of the river pollution, and how anti-pollution movements affected the development of oil transportation infrastructure in the late Russian Empire and early Soviet Union.
Andrei Vinogradov completed his dissertation in historical sciences in 2013 at the Institute of History of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences. His dissertation was titled “Kazan province in the 19th - early 20th centuries: environmental issues of industrial development.” Since 2011, Andrei has been employed as an assistant professor and senior lecturer at Kazan Federal University, and is currently affiliated to the research center "Human, nature, technology" at the University of Tyumen as a senior researcher. In 2018 joined the Doctoral Program Environment and Society at the Rachel Carson Center. His current research project "Struggle with industrial pollution and birth of Russia's environmental policy (1870-1931)" is funded by the Russian Science Foundation and aimed at studying public resistance to pollution in the late Russian Empire and early USSR.
Link to Andrei Vinogradov's profile at RCC