This chapter assesses Russia’s environmental conditions by focusing on the broad and persistent ecological legacy that has framed policy debate in Russia since the break-up of the Soviet Union. We preface our discussion with the word ‘broad,’ because reliable information about these impacts–and the conditions facing Russia’s environment over the past 15 years–only became available well after 1991. As the quote at the beginning of this chapter indicates, many although certainly not all of Russia’s most serious environmental problems are the product of industrialization, resource exploitation and urbanization that occurred at a horrendous pace under communism. Much of this frenetic activity took place under various fiveyear plans promulgated in the Soviet Union beginning in the late 1920s. There remains considerable uncertainty and even skepticism regarding the reliability and accuracy of many environmental and natural resources data today. In part, this is accounted for by the belief that the state spends insufficient resources on environmental regulation (and, thus, on the collection of data important to that effort). However, other factors may be important as well, including the fact that many data are self-reported, not always adequately monitored or validated, or even collected.
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