The Politics of Environmental Policy in Russia

The Politics of Environmental Policy in Russia

David Feldman and Ivan Blokov

The authors, renowned experts in the field, explore efforts to develop a mature civil society in Russia, and analyse the policy views of environmental groups, the media, and the scientific community. Three important case studies underpin the study: suspended plans to build an oil pipeline near Lake Baikal; management of Cold War-generated radioactive waste at Chelyabinsk; and public reaction to the introduction of genetically modified foods. The conclusion is that although civil society groups face obstacles in the form of apathy, state-imposed constraints on their activities, and agency reluctance to confer on decisions, there are some successes in reversing decisions due in part to NGO pressures yielding reform.

Chapter 4: Case studies and their insights into civil society growth: Lake Baikal, Chelyabinsk and genetically modified food

David Feldman and Ivan Blokov

Subjects: environment, environmental geography, environmental politics and policy, management natural resources, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


This chapter examines three cases that illuminate the role of Russia’s growing environmental civil society, and help to amplify the findings of our survey. We focused upon those aspects of the cases that underscore the roles played by civil society groups, public opinion and citizen activism in their advent, evolution and resolution or current status. These cases were selected because they are (1) controversial–embracing important policy debates that have resonated, and will continue to do so, for some time; (2) complex–entailing issues that are difficult to resolve because they involve the management of risk, public concerns over justice and fairness, and vested bureaucratic interests; and (3) diverse–ranging over vast time periods. Specifically, while one case represents a legacy issue from the cold war (Chelyabinsk)–and, thus, is a controversy revolving around previous activities–a second (the VSTO pipeline) revolves around the conflicting goals of preservation versus energy development in the present. The third case (genetically modified food) is a ‘postmodern,’ quality-of-life issue for which there is currently only modest interest outside Europe and East Asia. Finally, all three cases illustrate the unique interplay of political, economic, social and cultural forces in the making of environmental policy decisions, as well as distinct impediments to the growth of democratic institutions and attitudes supportive of environmental policy change.

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