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1991-2021: Thirty Years After – The soviet industrial/nuclear legacy after the collapse of the USSR

"Inheriting the Pandora Box: Environmental impacts of the Soviet Industrial Legacy"
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The nuclear catastrophe of Chernobyl has been considered a catalyst of the end of the Soviet Union since the inability of Soviet authorities to handle the situation triggered regionalist revendications. But the Chernobyl catastrophe was not the only “industrial” problem faced by the society in the end of the 1980s and for instance already on September 29, 1957, one of the largest nuclear disasters in the world had happened -the Kyshtym accident. With the panel “Inheriting the Pandora box: Environmental impacts of the Soviet industrial legacy” we want to discuss impacts on the environment left by the Soviet industry. What is the situation of the industrial and nuclear legacies thirty years after the end of the USSR? How have the former republics - including Russia been able to deal with the Soviet industrial heritage?

If the end of the Soviet Union meant the withdrawal of the Russian authorities from the former republics, it meant also that former republics had to deal with the Soviet colonial legacy. If the issue of nuclear waste is negotiated by Rosatom on an international level, it is only on behalf of Post-Soviet Russia, and agreements do not include anymore the Post-Soviet republics which are left alone to deal with the Soviet hazardous waste. The territory of Sugd Oblast (Tajikistan), a center for both the extraction and enrichment of uranium during the Soviet time, is nowadays highly polluted and background radioactive levels exceed the acceptable level nationwide, which threatens the environment of the entire Ferghana Valley and its 10 million inhabitants. Another example of possible ecological risk is the proposal for the E-40 waterway, connecting the Baltic Sea with the Black Sea through Poland, Belarus and Ukraine via Chernobyl, which may activate the spreading of radioactive sludge and threaten the local populations and biodiversity. On the other hand, we can see the movement towards heritagization of the Soviet industry where the most illustrative example is Ukraine’s latest plans to get the status of “world’s heritage” to Chernobyl nuclear plant. The former metropole, Russia, itself is not exempt from the consequences of oppression and environmental degradation as a result of extractive approach to nature and local inhabitants, which are taking on a neocolonial shape also within this vast and diverse country.

Thus, our interest in the Soviet industrial legacies includes a broad range of questions: economic, political, historic, legislative, ecological and cultural. With the panel, we hope to open a multidisciplinary discussion which would include both scholars and practitioners.


  • Anna Barcz; Assistant Professor at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Science in Warsaw; has recently published Environmental Cultures in Soviet East Europe (2020).
  • Arran Gare; Associate Professor in Philosophy and Cultural Inquiry, School of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. His last book The Philosophical Foundations of Ecological Civilization: A Manifesto for the Future (2017).
  • Dimitri Litvinov; engaged in environmental matters notably through his involvement in Greenpeace, Sweden.
  • Tatiana Kasperski, Associate professor at Pompeu Fabra University (Spain) , her latest book Les politiques de la radioactivité. Tchernobyl et la mémoire nationale en Biélorussie (2020).


  • Wouter Blankestijn, Doctoral Student; School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies
  • Tatiana Sokolova, Doctoral Student; School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies
  • Kseniia Zakharova, Doctoral Student; School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies


Florence Fröhlig and Yuliya Yurchuk with Tatiana Sokolova, Wouter Blankestijn and Kseniia Zakharova

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Meeting ID: 658 9359 3016

Passcode: 904852

Time and place

26 May 10:00-12:00


Online via Zoom


Arranged by

Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES)



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