When the French writer Louis Viardot ventured into the wilds of Novgorod province and Karelia on various hunting expeditions in the mid-1840s, he reacted with astonishment to the unkempt and “chaotic” nature of Russia’s vast forests, so unlike the carefully managed woodlots he knew in Western Europe, and he bemoaned the haphazard and wasteful fashion in which Russians used and abused their greatest natural resource. A newcomer to the country, Viardot was discovering first-hand that Russians had their own distinct and often contradictory set of cultural attitudes and practices with regard to the forests that sheltered and sustained them. Though Viardot did not see much evidence of it, for most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Russian forest science was in fact in the thrall of German silvicultural thinking, which sought to rationalize and normalize the messy “chaos” of the forest into a maximally productive (and biologically homogeneous) ideal. It was not until the end of the nineteenth century, just as educated Russians were finally waking up to the rapid decimation of their seemingly limitless woodlands, that a homegrown brand of forestry began to take shape, one that did not approach the forests as tree farms, but instead
Canadian-American Slavic Studies – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2015
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