This article considers the environmental legacy of Soviet central planning, that began in the late-1920s, and also longer-term human intervention, in the ‘natural’ world of rural Southern Ukraine. It is based on a journey across the steppe, what the author learned from people, especially scientists, he met, and research in written sources. The first section considers ‘nature transformed’. Since the conquest by the Russian Empire in the 18th century, the steppe grassland has been transformed from pasture for livestock into arable land farmed by settlers of European origin. The second section, ‘nature protected’, discusses the Askania Nova biosphere reserve, where an area of grassland has been protected since the late-19th century. The reserve also contains an artificial woodland park and a collection of grazing animals from all over the world. The third section, ‘nature destroyed’, is about the Oleshkivs’ki sands, on the left bank of the estuary of the Dnipro river opposite the city of Kherson. In ancient times, a forest grew on the sands. From the 18th century, European settlers cleared much of the forest for grazing, leading to erosion. Trees have since been replanted surrounding a curious landscape of sand dunes, which have become a habitat for rare plant species. The sands were also used a bombing range for Warsaw Pact air forces during the Cold War, but part if now protected as a nature reserve.
- Ukraine, steppe, agriculture, central planning, environmental protection