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Changing meanings of Kyrgyzstan's nut forests from colonial to post‐Soviet times

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Discourses shape the perception, conservation and utilisation of natural resources. This can be seen in the case of the globally unique walnut‐fruit forests of southern Kyrgyzstan. This article shows the historical change of the discourse on protection and utilisation of these forests from the times of Russian colonialism and Soviet socialism up to present day post‐Soviet capitalism. Due to the abundance of these forests, protection concepts were developed long ago with the aim of implementing ‘proper’ utilisations. By applying an interpretative discourse analytical method, the thesis will be proved that historical concepts for forest protection did not arise from the understanding of an intrinsic value of nature as often assumed, but instead were formed by powerful actors through pragmatic arguments to create control systems over this natural resource. Consequently, the present status of the walnut‐fruit forests is a result of the interplay of natural processes and anthropogenic interventions. The conflict‐laden relation between the current socioeconomic situation of the region and specific patterns of the conservation discourse becoming apparent recently make this article relevant. If the forests' structural significance for local and regional economies is undervalued or ignored, concepts targeting the goal of restoring the forests in a natural state or operating with the basic objective of protecting biodiversity and genetic resources might generate new rivalries and income conflicts. Rather, in view of the long‐term human impact, the forests must be understood primarily as a cultural landscape, and consequently the aims, instruments and terminologies of the protection concepts have to be adapted to this understanding and reformulated with the involvement and participation of local stakeholders.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, Centre for Development Studies, Freie Universitaet Berlin, Berlin.

Publication date: 2011-09-01

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