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Environmental Justice and Sustainability in the Former Soviet Union

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Environmental Justice and Sustainability in the Former Soviet Union
Edited by Julian Agyeman and Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger

The legacy of environmental catastrophe in the states of the former Soviet Union includes desertification, pollution, and the toxic aftermath of industrial accidents, the most notorious of which was the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. This book examines the development of environmental activism in Russia and the former Soviet republics in response to these problems and its effect on policy and planning. It also shows that because of increasing economic, ethnic, and social inequality in the former Soviet states, debates over environmental justice are beginning to come to the fore. The book explores the varying environmental, social, political, and economic circumstances of these countries—which range from the Western-style democracies of the Baltic states to the totalitarian regimes of Central Asia—and how they affect the ecological, environmental, and public health.

Among the topics covered are environmentalism in Russia (including the progressive nature of its laws on environmental protection, which are undermined by the instability of the legal environment and a failure to implement laws); the effect of oil wealth on Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan; the role of nationalism in Latvian environmentalism; the struggle of Russia’s indigenous peoples for environmental justice; public participation in Estonia’s environmental movement; and lack of access to natural capital in Tajikistan. Environmental Justice and Sustainability in the Former Soviet Union makes clear that although fragile transition economies, varying degrees of democratization, and a focus on national security can stymie progress toward “just sustainability,” the diverse states of the former Soviet Union are making some progress toward sustainability and environmental justice.

Contributors: Julian Agyeman, Caroline Campbell, Susan A. Crate, Brian Donahoe, Jessica K. Graybill, Mati Heidmets, Laura A. Henry, Jüri Kruusvall, Katherine Metzo, Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Shannon O’Lear, Maaris Raudsepp, Tamara Steger, Dominic Stucker, Kate Watters

Urban and Industrial Environments series

About the Editors

Julian Agyeman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. He is the coeditor of Just Sustainabilities (MIT Press, 2003).

Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger is Assistant Professor of International Development, Community and Environment at Clark University.


“With in-depth field surveys, rich historical contextualization, and cultural assessments, this book shines a light on issues that have received little attention in Western publications. Citizens of the former Soviet Union give voice to environmental issues and their interrelation to ethnic conflicts, nationalism, criminality, and other issues. This book convincingly shows how environmental issues and their solutions are critically tied to other factors.”
—Walter Richmond, German, Russian, and Classical Studies, Occidental College

“In the quest for a middle ground of ‘Just Sustainability,’ fresh insight is provided by this eclectic portrait of a region where both justice and sustainability are in short supply.”
—Michael R. Edelstein, Ramapo College of New Jersey, author of Contaminated Communities, and lead editor of Cultures of Contamination