‘The Environmental History of the Steppe in a Global Perspective’

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Abstract. This paper considers the importance of borderlandregions with environments that differ from the central regions ofstates in the development of innovations in conceptualizing therelationship between human societies and the ‘natural’ world. Thesteppe in the south of the Russian Empire is taken as an example.It is argued that there were three phases to the development of newunderstandings of the Steppe environment: encounter and recognitionof difference; exploration and scientific research; and innovation. Theprincipal innovations considered are genetic soil science, devised byVasilii Dokuchaev in the 1870s-80s, and methods of cultivating thesoil to retain scarce moisture, known as dry farming. The article alsoconsiders the transformation of the steppe environment as a result ofwholesale ploughing up over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.The significance of the steppe borderland is analyzed in comparisonwith the American Great Plains, which borrowed innovations from thesteppe, and European colonialism around the globe.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEkologicheskaya istorii v Rossii
PublisherIzdatel'svo Elabuzhskogo instituta KFU
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)978-5-600-00830-4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Russia, environmental history, steppe, soil science, dry farming

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