The emergence of national parks in Russia : with studies of Pribaikalski and Zabaikalski National Parks in the Lake Baikal region of south-central Siberia




Tripp, Michael William

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The recent establishment of an impressive network of national parks within first the Soviet Union and then post-Soviet Russia can be viewed as representative of ongoing shifts in relationships between valuations of nature and of societal organization and empowerment. With dissipation of the country's centralized administrative structures, the designation of national parks has repeatedly been used to support regional claims to territorial autonomy under the auspices of environmental protection. Site selection, however, has been motivated primarily by attachments to the specifics of place and attendant proclamations of self-identity rather than to normative ecological or recreational national park criteria. As a consequence, Russian national parks embrace complex matrices of historical, cultural and natural landscape characteristics reflective of their respective constituencies. Appearing first in the outlying Republics, the national park formation process diffused inwards to the Russian heartland and eastwards into Siberia. This sequential development, not by chance, has mirrored the devolution of Soviet sovereignty and the deconstruction of its empire. Two national parks, Pribaikalski and Zabaikalski in the Lake Baikal region of south-central Siberia, have served as primary research sites for examining the validity of the above concepts and for observing and analyzing the processes involved. To maximize informational and perceptual access and to study site/societal interactions, a variety of constituencies have been incorporated into the study through extensive multitiered participatory roles. At an operational level, these activities have emphasized international agency/NGO consultancies, the development of a park-directed, village-based ecotourism program and the founding of a wider-ranging “Friends of the National Parks Society.” Research results have supported the contention that Russian national parks are primarily a product of regional socio-political forces intent on preserving representative natural/cultural landscapes rather than the result of centralized decision-making processes prioritizing recreation, education, or biodiversity objectives. Given the persistence of societal flux, the sites will continue to be highly susceptible to the influences of stakeholder/constituency interests and empowered individuals.



National parks and reserves, Pribaikalski National Park, Zabaikalski National Park