Topic 14. Industrial Enterprise and Environmental Hazard

Read: Kochetkova, Elena, and Pavel Pokid`ko. “Soviet industrial production and waste dispersal: a case study of pulp and paper plants on the Karelian Isthmus, 1940s–1980s.” Scandinavian Economic History Review 67, no. 3 (2019): 269-82.

This case examines the industrial wastes and environmental effects of Soviet technological development through the history of the Karelian Isthmus, a border territory that had previously been Finnish. Focusing primarily on the history of two large enterprises, the Svetogorskii (former Enso) and Sovetskii (former Johannes) pulp and paper-making plants, the authors illustrate the polluting nature of the Soviet economy in the 1940s–80s. The authors of the paper examine how socialist industrial enterprises influenced the natural environment.

Questions for preparation:

1. Why was the production at the Svetogorskii and Sovetskii pulp and paper-making plants so dirty? Was it an operational or a systematic problem?
2. What finally forced the enterprises to tackle water pollution?
3. How would you characterize the attitude of Soviet leadership towards nature?
4. What drawbacks of command economy does this case highlight?
5. Does sustainable approach contradict economic efficiency?