Geschichte Osteuropas und Südosteuropas
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Dissertationsprojekt: Struggle for Oil: Environmental History of West Siberia (1970s -2008)

Betreuerin: Prof. Dr. Marie-Janine Calic

Russia’s substantial oil reserves have played a central role in its geopolitical and economic rebirth. West Siberia is Russia’s most highly developed and oldest oil province, producing 78% of the entire Russian oil. Though enjoying the highest rate of gross regional product in the country, ever since discovery of oil here in the 1950ies West Siberia has been notorious for its pollution. West Siberian oil resources have been exploited on a massive, world important scale and have been a major source of both revenue and entire spectrum of petroleum related ecological problems for over forty years. Russian historiography, however, clearly lacks works on the late- and post-Soviet regional environmental history.  Although there is no shortage of literature on Soviet environmental damage, work on modern Russian environmental history and on history of oil in particular is still just beginning to accumulate.

This study interprets West Siberia's eenvironmental problems as the product of ever growing  controversies between the federal and the regional politics on the one hand, and between state, businesses and society on the other. These problems have deep historical roots in the resource policy of the Soviet totalitarian regime, in the pressure of the planned economy and in the challenges of the Cold war. At the same time the full-scale socio-economic and political transition following the collapse of the Soviet Union has brought new trends into Russia’s energy policy and created new challenges for the environment.

This project aims to assess:

1. the impact of federal and regional policy on the environment of West Siberia,

2. the effect of the oil production on the indigenous communities of the region and the societal response thereto,

3. the development of the environmental movement in the region as a response to growing environmental degradation caused by oil production

4. the extent to which the environmental challenges of modern Russian oil industry are inherited from Soviet energy and natural resources policy.

The study utilizes sources available in the regional archives as well as libraries of the Siberian branch of the Academy of Sciences, regional press and oral history material to be obtained through interviews with the representatives of the local ENGOs.