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Forester

Collection: 
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

 

Jane Costlow notes a growing concern about Russian forests in the nineteenth century:

“Concern for the health and fate of Russia’s forest is evident in journalistic writing from at least the 1840s. The Lesnoi zhurnal (Forest Journal) founded in 1833 by the Society for the Improvement of Forest Management (Obshchestvo dlia pooshchreniia lesnogo khoziaistva) was closely aligned throughout its history with the Imperial Free Society and provided a regular venue for a broad range of forest-related issues….Particularly in the 1840s and 1850s the journal seems directed as much at gentry landowners as at professional foresters (of whom there were, in any case, very few in Russia – a frequently heard lament in the journal’s pages)….The broader educated public of Russia retained access to discussions of the ‘forest question’ through ongoing discussion in the thick journals: as we note below, Russkii vestnik and Otechestvennye zapiski, among others, regularly published on the topic throughout the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s.”
       
“Later nineteenth-century authors of comprehensive studies, including N.V. Ponomarev and F.K. Arnol’d (both professors at the St. Petersburg Forest Institute), point to the second half of the nineteenth century in Russia as a period of accelerating, rapacious deforestation. Ponomarev attributed the increased level of destruction to the post-Emancipation [1861] economic situation of Russian landowners. The extent to which this explanation was accepted by contemporaries – and in some cases modified or added to by them – is evident in a series of articles written in the decades following 1861. These pieces appeared in central thick journals, thereby gaining a potentially broader audience than those published in the Lesnoi zhurnal ...In the years from 1861 to 1880 no fewer than fourteen articles appeared in Russkii vesnik and Otechestvennye zapiski, addressing both the general problem of the destruction of Russia’s forests and the more particular issue of the environmental and economic impacts of that destruction. The picture that these authors paint is of a forest in crisis, and of a nation self-deceived in believing that its forests are ‘limitless.’ Their arguments are empirical, lucid, and draw on contemporary work by German (an in some cases French) forest science. But these authors – many of whom are themselves professionally trained forest scientists – are drawn almost despite themselves toward the rhetoric of catastrophe.”

Jane Costlow, “Imaginations of Destruction: The ‘Forest Question’ in Nineteenth-Century Russian Culture,” Russian Review, vol. 62, no. 1 (January 2003): 94, 95-6.

 

Similar Subjects by Other Artists

Wilhelm Leibl, The Game Wardens (fragment), 1882-86, Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin

About the Artist

Born: Novaya Sot, Voronezh Province, 8 June 1837
Died: St Petersburg, 6 April 1887
Nationality: Russian