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Steppe by Steppe: Exploring Environmental Change in Southern Ukraine

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This article examines the environment of the steppe of Southern Ukraine. It is based on a journey across the steppe; what I learned from people, especially scientists, I met; and research in printed sources. The article aims to be an example of how environmental historians can integrate fieldwork with more conventional historical research. The first section considers ‘nature transformed’. Since the conquest by the Russian Empire in the eighteenth century, the steppe grassland has been transformed from pasture for livestock into agricultural land farmed by settlers of European origin. The second section, ‘nature protected’, discusses the Askania Nova biosphere reserve, where an area of native grassland has been protected since the late-nineteenth century. The reserve also contains an artificial woodland park and grazing animals brought from all over the world. The third section, ‘nature destroyed’, is about the Oleshkovskie sands, on the left bank of the estuary of the Dnepr river opposite the city of Kherson. Since ancient times, a pine forest grew on the sands. European settlers cleared much of the forest for grazing, leading to erosion. Trees have since been replanted in a circle surrounding a curious landscape of sand dunes, which have become a habitat for rare plant species. The sands were also used a bombing range for Warsaw Pact air forces during the Cold War.
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Keywords: Ukraine; agriculture; central planning; environmental protection; steppe

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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