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The Plough that Broke the SteppesAgriculture and Environment on Russia's Grasslands, 1700-1914$

David Moon

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199556434

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556434.001.0001

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Climate Change 1

Climate Change 1

(p.118) 4 Climate Change1
The Plough that Broke the Steppes

David Moon

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter four considers climate change and the vexed question of whether, and if so why, droughts were becoming more frequent. For much of the nineteenth century, contemporaries believed that the climate was becoming more extreme, and droughts more frequent, as a result of human activity, in particular deforestation. Over the second half of the century, with the growth of scientific meteorology, a new consensus emerged that climate change was autogenic, and cyclical. Most contemporaries acknowledged, however, that the loss of woodland in the region had removed barriers to the drying winds from the east.

Keywords:   climate change, deforestation, cyclical change, drought, meteorology, wind


Agricultural settlers quickly became aware of the main features of the steppe climate: the summers were hot, the winters cold, it was windy, with hot dry winds blowing from the east and south-east, and—most importantly for farmers—there was less rainfall than they had been accustomed to in their previous homelands. The rainfall, moreover, was unreliable. In 1767, Petr Rychkov reported to the Free Economic Society that, on the high steppe in the Orenburg region, there were strong heatwaves and droughts that caused the grass to dry up and burn.2 The leaders of the Academy of Sciences expeditions of 1768–74 recorded the drought of 1769 in parts of the steppe region (see above, pp. 65–6). Droughts periodically hit the region, with devastating consequences for farmers. In successive years in 1824 and 1825, for example, the Mennonites of Molotschna in Tauride province suffered bad harvests due to drought. It no doubt hurt their pride that they had to seek assistance.3 Less than a decade later, in 1833, the Mennonites were hit by drought again. By early 1833, Molotschna had received no precipitation for seven months. The elder, Johann Cornies, wrote: ‘Not even the oldest people here can remember such weather. The ground is like…dry rock, without any moisture.’4 The drought of 1833, which affected large parts of the steppe region, was one of the worst in the period covered by this book (see above, p. 66). The resulting harvest failure provoked deep discussion in the government on the state of Russian agriculture (see below, p. 243). It also provoked a belief that the climate of the steppe region was changing, for the worse from the perspective of farmers, and that the population was to blame.

(p.119) In February 1833, at the inaugural meeting of the Russian Forestry Society, a speaker asserted:

In Russia a large part of the surface of the land is level, which requires the protection of forests, and for this reason in some places which have been denuded of them droughts have become more frequent.…The climate of the southern Provinces of Russia has perceptibly changed. On the steppes near the Black Sea, which have been denuded of forests, the climate…[is] now severe or unbearable from the intense heat, so that these places are incapable not only of supporting human habitation, but even wild animals have abandoned their refuges.5

The argument that human action in destroying forests was responsible for climate change, causing greater extremes of temperature, more frequent droughts, and stronger winds was repeated many times over the following decades. For much of the nineteenth century, the argument was asserted most strongly during or in the wake of droughts.

The case for progressive, anthropogenic climate change

Over the middle decades of the nineteenth century, specialists in Russia advanced the case that the climate of the steppe region was undergoing progressive change, and that this was due to deforestation. In 1834, an article in Forestry Journal reported that the provinces which had suffered most from the recent drought and harvest failure were those where forests had been depleted. The author deplored the destruction of the forests that he believed had once existed, especially in Tauride province (the former Khanate of Crimea). He noted that the Crimean Tatars said that, since the Russians had arrived [in 1783], the local climate had got colder.6

As well as observing the climate of the steppe region, Russian specialists read the works of their counterparts in Western European and North America, where there were similar debates about climate change. Work on the climate of other parts of the world was brought to wider attention in Russia through translations and summaries published in Russian journals. To take just one example, a translation of an article by a German specialist on the influence of forests and their destruction on the climate was published in Forestry Journal in 1837. The author asserted that forests influenced temperature, air quality, and wind direction. He was categorical, moreover, that forests increased the quantity of (p.120) moisture in the air, and hence precipitation, through evaporation. He continued that the experiences of several countries had shown that if the area of forest was reduced, it led to a fall in the amount of moisture, and consequently in the quantity of vegetation, and to more heatwaves.7 In 1854, the journal of the Ministry of State Domains summarized the work of the French scientist Antoine César Becquerel on the influence of deforestation on the climate. Becquerel’s study looked back into history and around the world as background to his specific work on France. He concluded that clearing forest reduced the amount of moisture, but whether this was due to reduced rainfall or increased evaporation of rainwater he was not able to say. Deforestation led also, he argued, to increases in the average temperature, made the air drier, and exacerbated the impact of winds.8 In the mid-1860s, the American environmentalist George Perkins Marsh argued that deforestation could influence local climates, including precipitation.9

The views of foreign specialists coincided with those of many, but not all, Russians on the climate in the steppe region in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. In the late 1830s and early 1840s, several statistical studies made similar arguments about the steppe climate. In 1836, V. Passek wrote:

According to the observations of old timers, the climate of Khar’kov province…has become more severe, and it is now exposed to more droughts and frosts. It is likely that this change has come about because of the destruction of forests…and from the considerable reduction [in the area of forests] in neighbouring Provinces.…Such destruction, denuding the surface of the land, exposes it all the more to the wind, which deprives it of a certain amount of moisture.

He continued that deforested land had less attraction for rain clouds, which further contributed to droughts.10 In his survey of southern Russia for the Ministry of State Domains published in 1841, Andrei Zablotskii-Desyatovskii described how the destruction of forests in southern Chernigov, Poltava, Khar’kov, and Kursk provinces over the previous thirty or forty years had removed protection against the easterly winds which, he stated ‘must be the main cause of the disastrous impact of droughts which has been intensifying recently’.11 Later that year, a more alarming case was made by I. Krestling: (p.121)

In former times…these steppes, they say, were not so bare: in places forest grew and now old timers assure [us] that around fifty or fewer years ago, the climate was much more moderate. Only to the imprudent destruction of forests can be attributed the severe cold, which is intensifying each winter, the severe storms in the spring, and the extreme heatwaves in the summer that dry out the land even more; deprived of trees, [the land] is becoming infertile, because dry soil does not absorb moisture, and with every year, the rains are becoming rarer.12

Ivan Palimpsestov joined the debate in 1850. He made a passionate argument that deforestation had changed the climate of his native Saratov province:

With each year, it is being transformed into a waterless, dry, scorching (znoinaya) steppe. With each year, summer heatwaves register higher and higher on the thermometer, and the barometer more and more rarely descends from its heights; each winter the cold is becoming more severe…: old timers in Tsaritsyn and Tsarev districts [in the south of the province] still recall that they did not have such hard frosts, nor blizzards, nor deep snows, [and that] livestock grazed all year round on the steppes. Less rain is falling in our province, and the rain that does fall quickly evaporates in the heated up atmosphere…’13

Palimpsestov said more about the subject in an address to the Richelieu Lycée in Odessa in 1864. He responded to criticisms (see below, p. 127) that some of his evidence was the recollections of old timers by stating that he drew also on meteorological observations over the previous thirty years in Nikolaev and Odessa. But, he skirted over them, and went on to discuss wider issues. His argument was informed by Alexander von Humboldt’s Kosmos, in which the German geographer had made a case for unity in the complexity of nature.14 At the heart of Palimpsestov’s argument, echoing Humboldt, was that there was a close connection between the atmosphere and the land. Thus changes to the face of the land would cause changes in the climate. Since the onset of large-scale agricultural settlement of the steppes, the former vegetation—wild grasses as well as trees—had been replaced by arable land, pasture, and even land left bare of any vegetation. Palimpsestov asserted that the previous, richer vegetation had reflected more of the sun’s rays onto the clouds and had evaporated more moisture into the air. As a result, there had been more rain in the past. The reduction in precipitation, moreover, had led to lower water levels in the rivers and seas, which in turn led to less rainfall. The felling of trees in the region, moreover, had removed a barrier to the hot, dry winds from the east, which made the droughts worse. With a customary rhetorical flourish, Palimpsestov warned his audience:

(p.122) as the expanses of forest move away from us to the west, south-west, north and north-west, [the] climate will increasingly take on the character of the expanses of steppes in Africa and Asia: the aridity of the air, the unrestrained torrents of…winds, especially north-easterlies, the rapid transitions from hot to cold and vice versa, and finally, the severe winter frosts, with their terrible blizzards and snowstorms.15

The argument that the climate of the steppe region was changing for the worse was also made in official circles. The Valuev commission, which was set up to investigate the state of agriculture, reported in 1873 that deforestation in the black-earth region was causing the climate to become ‘more severe and drier’.16 In 1878, the governor of Stavropol’ province sought permission to protect the remaining forests and plant more trees on account of their beneficial influence on the climate, and the harmful consequences of their destruction. The governor referred to the repeated droughts and crop failures since the 1860s.17

Inhabitants of the steppe region noted changes in the climate. In 1879, Achilles Alferaki, who owned an estate near Taganrog, stated that there was plenty of evidence for a deterioration in the climate. It was not just old timers who recalled a different climate in the past: young people had noticed changes in their lifetimes. He gave examples of recent climatic phenomena which he believed to be new: sharp swings from hot to cold weather, and very hot, dry winds that could destroy a field of ripe crops in a couple of days. He wrote that there had been more rain in the past. ‘Local inhabitants’ did not recall that in the past the land had been cracked so deeply from heatwaves and frosts. He continued that observations of the climate in Odessa, Kherson, and Nikolaev since the 1820s indicated that average temperatures were rising and precipitation was falling. All this he attributed to deforestation.18

Writing about his native Don region in 1884, Semen Nomikosov of the Don Statistical Committee pointed out that in 1853 an observer had noted significant changes in the climate in recent years. The changes were of such a magnitude, moreover, that old folk, apparently, did not recognize their homeland. Spring was starting later, winters had got colder, and summer droughts were more frequent. The climate, moreover, had become more changeable. Above all, the region had turned from one rich in water to one where moisture was scarce. Conditions had become worse for arable farming, unfavourable for livestock, even camels, and some wild grasses were dying out. Nomikosov attributed the alleged changes to deforestation. He opened his chapter on climate, however, by (p.123) acknowledging that there was no scientific study of the climate of the region based on data collected with meteorological instruments.19

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the new generation of Russian scientists paid increasing attention to climate change. In his study of the significance of forests in nature of the late 1870s, Yakov Veinberg included a lengthy discussion of their role in the climate. He considered the work of foreign scientists, including Becquerel and Marsh, which he largely agreed with. He turned to an analysis of the influence of forests, and deforestation, on the climate of Russia, including the steppe region, in which he drew heavily on the work of Russian specialists. He noted that those, such as Palimpsestov, who argued that the climate had changed were also those who argued that the steppes had once been covered by forest. On the other hand, specialists who argued against climate change, for example Konstantin Veselovskii (see below, p. 126), believed that the steppes had always been grasslands. Regardless of the former extent of forest cover on the steppes, Veinberg accepted the overwhelming evidence that there had been substantial deforestation in recent decades. Together with the removal of other steppe vegetation, he argued, this had had a significant impact on rainfall. Without the protective cover of vegetation, the soil heated up to such an extent that it warmed the air, and the rising current of warm air vaporized moisture in the upper layers of the atmosphere that could otherwise have formed droplets of rain. Rain drops that did form, moreover, had to fall through a hotter and drier lower layer of air that caused them to evaporate. This process of evaporation was exacerbated by the hot, dry winds from the south-east, which were no longer blocked by forests. Rain in the steppe region, he further argued, increasingly fell in torrential downpours that quickly drained off the land through ravines.20

Thus, the prevailing view that had emerged over the middle decades of the nineteenth century was that the steppe climate was changing for the worse, and that it was a consequence of the destruction of forests. The case was restated in the aftermath of the serious drought of 1891. In a debate over the causes of the drought and crop failure in the Free Economic Society in late 1891, N. A. Khvostov, a estate owner from Orel province in the forest-steppe region, asserted:

I remember in the [18]50s and ’60s, warm, light rain at night, and beautiful, warm weather, there were not the choking winds which are common phenomena now. We explain it to ourselves that this change is simply a result of the destruction of forests, which began in the 1860s.

(p.124) He blamed deforestation on the vodka excise reform of 1863, which had made distilling more profitable. This had led to an increase in the number of distilleries, which used timber for their construction, and burned firewood to distil the spirits. Khvostov also blamed the construction of railways. ‘According to my personal observations’, he concluded, ‘our climate has changed; it has become drier.’21 In the 1850s, however, older timers in Orel province had been just as concerned about climate change, and had also looked back to their younger days, when the climate had been better, before the destruction of the forests, which long predated the 1860s.22 Khvostov and successive generations of old timers in the forest-steppe region were typical of many inhabitants of the steppes. Throughout the nineteenth century, when they experienced climatic conditions that were unfavourable for agriculture, they thought about whether the heatwaves, droughts, hot and dry easterly winds, and harsh winters had got worse or were recurring more frequently. They also worried about who or what was to responsible, and pointed the finger at deforestation.

In trying to address the issue, however, they came up against the lack of hard data. The problem was summed up in the early twentieth century by Khariton Popov, a local historian on the Don: ‘Information on the climate of the lands of the Don Cossacks at the start of the nineteenth century is extremely meagre and does not have…a strictly scientific character.’23 This was also the case for other parts of the steppe region. Thus, until the late nineteenth century, many observers had little choice but to rely on their own recollections of the weather when they were younger, the memories of old timers about the past, and other such largely anecdotal evidence. One problem for proponents of progressive, climate change that relied on such evidence, however, was that old timers could also remember bad weather in the past. A zemstvo study of Samara district in 1883 cited old timers’ memories of droughts in the past as evidence that they had not become more frequent.24

Arguments against anthropogenic, progressive climate change

By the early 1890s, Khvostsov was in a minority in making a case for anthropogenic, progressive climate change. By the turn of the twentieth century, in (p.125) mainstream Russian scientific and official circles, bold arguments that the climate of the steppe region was deteriorating due to deforestation were becoming rare. In his book Black-Earth Russia published in 1903—in which he summarized recent studies—Aleksandr Platonovich Engel’gardt did not discuss the climate in terms of deterioration caused by deforestation.25 There was no discussion of deforestation and progressive climate change in the volumes on the steppe region in the series of geographical descriptions of Russia, edited by the geographer V. P. Semenov-Tyan-Shanskii, which appeared between 1901 and 1910.26 Since Semenov’s volumes presented state-of-the-art discussions of the empire’s geography, the absence of discussion of anthropogenic climate change is telling.

Over the middle and later decades of the nineteenth century, arguments had also been put forward that the steppe climate was no different from the past. It was further argued that human activity had not, or indeed could not, affect the climate. Voices of doubt had been raised almost as soon as the issue of climate change was raised. In 1841, K. Engel’ke from Saratov province acknowledged the seriousness of the drought and crop failure of 1833, but described it as ‘exceptional’. He continued:

Our old farmers say ‘in olden times the years were better, nowadays it is not the same’. By these words they wish to say that in the past the grain grew better, [but] now the air is no longer as healthy, the climate has changed…

He agreed that grain had grown better in the past, but did not agree that the climate had deteriorated. On the contrary, he thought that, if anything, it had improved: ‘the population of the region is increasing from year to year, dead steppes are being brought to life by settlers and, it seems, droughts do not occur as often as before.’27

For those who looked for it, moreover, there was evidence for severe climatic conditions in the steppe region in the past, before the wholesale ploughing up of the land and destruction of woodland. In the mid-1840s, in a survey of Poltava province, N. Arandarenko noted the occurrence of periodic droughts and crop failures, the impact of hot, dry winds from the south-east, and occasional harsh winters. He accepted, to some extent, the view that the destruction of forests along the Vorskla river had made the climate harsher. Nevertheless, he was not convinced that there were big differences between the climate at the time he was writing and in the past. He cited descriptions of severe weather in the seventeenth (p.126) century from contemporary accounts of military campaigns as evidence that harsh climatic conditions were nothing new.28

The General Staff officers who compiled surveys of provinces in the mid-nineteenth century were sceptical about arguments for climate change, and that human activity could affect the climate.29 In his survey of Khar’kov province in 1850, Captain Mochul’skii denied that the severity of winters was due to the destruction of forests. He pointed out that deforestation had occurred only in ‘modern times’, while according to old timers and ‘history’, there were severe winters a hundred years earlier, and also a few centuries before Christ.30 The latter was clearly a reference to Herodotus’ description of cold winters in ‘Scythia’ (see above, p. 35) ‘Old timers’ who remembered that the climate had also been bad in the past were cited in the survey of the territory of the Ural Cossacks.31 Lieutenant-Colonel Shmidt, who compiled the survey of Kherson province of 1863, analysed the climatic observations gathered in Kherson, Nikolaev, and Odessa since the 1820s. The data he presented did not show any progressive trend.32

The argument against climate change, and human agency, was made strongly by Konstantin Veselovskii in his book on the climate of Russia published in 1857. The author was well connected. He was head of the statistical section in the Department of Agriculture of the Ministry of State Domains, editor of its journal, permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences, and a member of the Russian Geographical Society. He was also a native of the steppe region: he was born in Ekaterinoslav province in 1819.33 He stated that his book was a study of the ‘characteristics of the climate of Russia in respect of man and his activities.’ He noted the recent growth of observations of the climate in Russia, including parts of the steppe region. He presented data on heat, moisture, and wind, and discussed their impact on agriculture. He argued that the hot and dry climate of the steppes was well suited to growing grain, which was the mainstay of the agricultural settlers. When he discussed moisture, however, he was less sanguine about the prospects for grain cultivation. He acknowledged the relatively low rainfall and frequency of droughts, but pointed out that wheat required less moisture than other grains.34

(p.127) Veselovskii would have been aware of recent droughts and bad harvests in his native steppe region, since they were reported in the journal he edited.35 Nevertheless, he argued emphatically that the climate had not changed in historical time. He explained that the climate was a result mostly of global factors, such as the distribution of the continents and oceans, and the position of the earth relative to the sun. He pointed out that the constancy of the prevailing, easterly, winds, which were an important determinant of local climates, demonstrated that the climate had not changed. He believed that the existence or absence of forests were local factors that played little role in influencing the climate. He disagreed with the argument by Becquerel and others that forests influenced rainfall. Instead, he argued, precipitation was caused by the meeting of masses of air of different temperatures and humidities at global, not local, levels. The lack of rainfall in the steppe region, moreover, was not a result of the lack of forests, but the lack of forests was a consequence of the low rainfall, as well as the prevailing winds. He took issue, therefore, with the growing body of opinion that the climate of the steppes was becoming more severe and drier as a result of deforestation. He doubted the evidence—often the recollections of old people—used to support such arguments. He referred specifically to Palimpsestov and Passek in his criticism of writers relying on such recollections. In spite of the growing concerns that human activity was harming the steppe climate, Veselovskii argued that there was not sufficient scientific evidence to prove the case.36

A contemporary review of Veselovskii’s book by Nikolai Danilevskii was positive, but suggested that the author had paid too little attention to the role of local conditions. Danilevskii wrote that forests deserved more attention, but acknowledged that the idea that they could influence climates was only ‘hypothetical’.37 Krasnov, the author of the General Staff survey of the Don Cossack territory of 1863, drew on Veselovskii’s account. He noted that the climate was healthy for people and livestock, and excellent for grain cultivation. He blamed periodic bad harvests on poor farming, not periodic droughts.38 Veselovskii’s account of the climate was influential, and was regularly cited over the following decades, including in volumes in Semenov’s series of geographical descriptions of Russia.39

(p.128) Later in the century, the new generation of Russian scientists wrote about the climate and climate change. The most important was Aleksandr Voeikov, who published a major book in 1884. In contrast to Veselovskii, Voeikov did not consider the climate to be just an external influence on ‘man’ and ‘his’ activities, but—echoing Humboldt—as a part of the environment in which vegetation, especially forests, and climate influenced each other. Voeikov discussed how different plants had different requirements for light, heat, and moisture. He considered the climatic requirements for particular crops, for example wheat, and where they could be grown in Russia and elsewhere. In addition, Voeikov analysed the geographical distribution of trees in the context of their requirements for heat and moisture. He discussed whether the distribution of forests and steppes was due largely or solely to the climate, in particular, the availability of moisture. He argued that land with enough moisture for luxuriant grassy, steppe vegetation also had sufficient for forests. It was the drying winds, he argued, that hindered the growth of forests. Voeikov went on to consider the influence of vegetation on climate. Vegetation, especially forest, he maintained, had a noticeable influence on the heat and humidity of the air in its vicinity by shading the soil, increasing the surface area radiating heat, returning moisture to the air through evaporation of moisture from leaves, and by providing a barrier to the movement of air. He analysed studies by European specialists, such as Becquerel, which showed that forests had a moderating influence on the temperature of the air and soil inside them. In addition, forests increased the humidity of the air and reduced evaporation from the soil. Some French observations, moreover, showed that there was more precipitation over forests than surrounding fields. Forests also weakened the force of the wind. Woodland was particularly important in influencing the climate, Voeikov argued, on the steppes, where the summers were hot and dry as a result of the easterly winds from Central Asia. To emphasize this point, he contrasted the steppes, with their hot and dry summers, with north-western Europe, where the nearby sea and maritime winds caused temperate and wet summers.40

Voeikov addressed the issue of climate change over long periods of time and in a global context. He considered whether the study of fossil remains of plants could be used to reconstruct climates in the distant past, but urged caution. With regard to forest cover and climate on the steppes in the past, he accepted that it was ‘very possible’ that there had been larger areas of forest on the steppes when the local climate had been moister, and thus more suitable for trees. This had been in the distant past, however, and he wrote that the distribution of forest and steppe was a result of a ‘long struggle for existence’ between trees and grasses, before people had appeared on the scene. Since then, humans had, consciously and unconsciously, made major changes to the vegetation. However, Voeikov (p.129) believed that the steppes had been grasslands for a very long time, and that the climate of the steppe region had not undergone major change over the period of human history.41

Voeikov took very seriously arguments that forests, and their removal, had an effect on the climate, but always urged caution. He was not fully satisfied with theories that had been put forward, or the data and methodology on which they were based. In 1892, he contrasted contemporary views on the role of forests in the climate. Some people attributed ‘all possible benefits to forests’ and saw deforestation as a cause of ‘all the calamities’ which afflicted people. Others, however, denied forests had any influence besides providing shelter from the sun.42 Voeikov took a carefully balanced view on the wider question of whether human activity had an impact on climate. His view to some extent reconciled the opposing interpretations put forward by Veselovskii and Palimpsestov. In a general essay entitled ‘The Influence of Man on Nature’ of 1894, Voeikov stated that people could not alter the basic conditions of the climate. On the other hand, they could do quite a lot to change the conditions in the lower layer of air. By planting trees and shrubs, people could weaken the force of the wind, and by chopping them down, they could remove barriers that provided shelter, and by digging ponds and irrigating fields, they could make the air more humid.43

A recurring theme in Voeikov’s writings on the climate was the need for serious study based on data collected in a scientific manner, which he had done a great deal to promote (see above, pp. 69–70). In a review of a book on the climate of the black-earth region published in 1892, he stated that the book showed once again how little was known about the climate of even the most densely-populated and richest parts of Russia, and how necessary it was to collect new, more accurate, observations of the climate. He continued:

Last year’s disaster turned general attention to the need for agricultural meteorological observations. We hope that this interest will not be a flash in the pan, but that we will make the proper observations that are necessary not only in the interests of pure science, but also of practical life, in particular agriculture.44

He was utterly scathing about many earlier writings on climate change, in particular those in which arguments were based on the memories of old people.45

(p.130) In his contribution to the debate on the causes of the drought and harvest failure in the Free Economic Society in St Petersburg in late 1891, Voeikov pointed out that, although the beginnings of ‘agricultural meteorology’ had been established in Russia, the volume of data that had been obtained was still very small. Nevertheless, he was prepared to state that the observations being collected were very likely to show that there were not ‘large variations in meteorological precipitation’.46 Other participants in the debate agreed with Voeikov, including fellow scientist Pavel Kostychev and P. S. Ikonnikov, an estate owner from Saratov province.47 A couple of years later, N. Kravtsov, who farmed in southern Voronezh province, compared the length of the drought of 1891, which lasted from the spring to late autumn, with that only of 1833. He stated that droughts in others years (1862, 1878, 1886, and 1889) had lasted for shorter periods. He did not suggest that the climate was deteriorating, however, but presented the 1891 drought as a rare, but not unique, event.48

In the aftermath of the drought and crop failure of 1891, Vasilii Dokuchaev also argued that the climate of the steppe region had not changed in historical time.49 He had a lot at stake. If the climate had changed significantly, his theory of soil formation was wrong. In his monograph on the Russian black earth of 1883, he had assigned great importance to the climate as one of the factors in the formation of the soil. He had concluded: ‘Thus, it is necessary to suppose that for the whole long period of the formation of our black earth, the climate of European Russia remained in general the same as it is now.’50 In 1892, Dokuchaev considered the question of climate change at some length, was prepared to consider change in the deep past, but pointed out that ‘more or less accurate data’ on the climate of the steppe region had existed only for a few dozen years. ‘Therefore’, he stated, ‘to judge changes in the climate of the south of Russia relying purely on the meteorological method is absolutely impossible.’51 Dokuchaev’s associate Aleksandr Izmail’skii, who carried out extensive fieldwork in the steppe region, also challenged the idea that the climate was changing. He wrote: ‘Those meteorological data which we have from Veselovskii hardly give us the right to acknowledge the existence of such a change in the climate.’52 Izmail’skii and Dokuchaev both argued strongly that it was not the climate that was changing, but the steppe that was drying out (see below, pp. 152–7).

(p.131) Thus, even such disastrous conditions as the drought, crop failure, and famine of 1891–2, no longer provoked widespread anxieties among the local population and scientists about climate change and human culpability.

Arguments for autogenic, cyclical climate change

As more scientific observations were made of the climate of the steppe region, and as it was noted that old timers could also recall droughts and harsh weather in the past, discussions of climate change took a new direction. Some observers of the climate began to consider whether there was a cyclical pattern to climate change. Two General Staff officers put forward such ideas. In his survey of Khar’kov province of 1850, Mochul’skii noted that there seemed to be a pattern to the weather: severe winters occurred every ten years and were followed by hot summers.53 In the survey of Kherson province of 1866, Shmidt reported that local inhabitants had noticed that if the winter was long, constant, and had sufficient snow, then the following spring and summer would have abundant rain and the harvest would be good. This local knowledge was partly confirmed by evidence from the previous forty years. Shmidt noted four years in which mild winters were indeed followed by bad harvests, and five years when cold winters had preceded good harvests. The severe drought of 1833, however, had also been preceded by a cold winter.54

Patterns in droughts, and consequent bad harvests, were also noted in Samara province (which was badly affected by both). In his annual report for 1880, the governor wrote that bad harvests caused by droughts and heatwaves were ‘periodically recurring’.55 The zemstvo study of Buzuluk district of 1885 reported that ‘completely favourable’ meteorological conditions for arable farming occurred once in every five to seven years. For example, from 1880 to 1884, there had been a good harvest only once, in 1884.56 The governor was more specific in his report for 1890:

The closest acquaintance with the conditions in which agriculture in [Samara] province finds itself…, shows that poor harvests of grain…recur periodically,…[there are] a whole series of years with unsatisfactory harvests in succession,…ending with a general good harvest.

He had looked back at earlier annual reports, and pointed out that this had happened at the start of the 1870s and 1880s, and was happening again at the (p.132) start of the 1890s.57 The disaster of 1891, therefore, had not come as a complete surprise to the authorities in Samara.

A number of immediate reactions to the drought and crop failure of 1891 in other parts of Russia also spoke of them as examples of periodic occurrences, rather than evidence for deteriorating climatic conditions. At the annual meeting of the Free Economic Society on 31 October 1891, the agricultural specialist Nicholas Vereshchagin was invited deliver an address on ‘the bad harvest’ as a last-minute replacement speaker. Hence, his comments have an added degree of immediacy. He spoke about the phenomenon of bad harvests recurring after certain intervals of time, and that this had suggested the idea of the influence of ‘more remote, cosmic phenomena such as sun spots’.58 Future Minister of Agriculture Aleksei Ermolov described the drought of 1891 as ‘unusual’, and the extent of the crop failure as comparable only with those of 1833 and 1840. It was much more serious, moreover, than ‘ordinary droughts’, which recurred periodically.59 The geographer Leonid Vesin published a lengthy article on bad harvests over the long term in Russian history in 1892 in which he speculated on the issue of cyclical climate change.60

The terms in which Russian specialists discussed the drought of 1891 demonstrated their familiarity with the contemporary ‘preoccupation’ among scientists around the world with ‘the issue of periodicity of climate’ rather than progressive, anthropogenic climate change.61 A theory of ice ages had been presented by the Swiss-American scientist Louis Agassiz in 1840.62 The Scottish scientist James Croll published an influential study, Climate and Time, in 1875. He argued that the alternate cold and warm periods of the ‘Glacial Epoch’ were caused by ‘the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit’.63 There was much speculation during the nineteenth century, moreover, into the impact of cycles in sun spot activity on the periodic patterns of change in air temperature, rainfall, and river levels (and grain prices, famines, and financial crises). Important research was carried out by the Russian-born German meteorologist Wladimir Kö̈ppen. He began his work in St Petersburg in the early 1870s. He argued that there was a inverse relationship between the numbers of sun-spots and the air temperature, and thus cycles of change in both were connected.64

(p.133) The work by a foreign scientist on climate change that had, perhaps, the greatest influence on Russian specialists was Eduard Brückner’s Climate Change since 1700, published in Vienna in 1890. Brückner was German, but had experience in the Russian Empire. He lived in Odessa and the Livonian university city of Dorpat as a child, and was educated in both the Russian Empire and Germany. He worked with Kö̈ppen in Hamburg for a while in the late 1880s.65 Brückner’s study of climate change, moreover, drew in part on data from the Russia Empire, including the steppe region. He compared patterns in changing water levels in the Caspian, Black, and Baltic Seas with those of changes in glaciers in the Alps and noted certain similarities. He went on to examine data on rainfall and temperature from around the world over the preceding decades, and the dates of the freezing and thawing of rivers, in particular in the Russian Empire, the dates of grape harvests in France, Germany, and Switzerland, and the frequency of cold winters. Some of his data stretched back over several centuries. Brückner concluded that ‘in the course of the past nine centuries our globe has experienced climatic variations with a periodicity of about thirty-five years’, during which wet and cool periods alternated with dry and warm. Cycles of thirty-five years did not coincide with the cycles of the sun spots, however, and he rejected the idea of a link between them. He published articles in the press and delivered public lectures, for example at Dorpat University in 1888, as well as presenting his findings to his fellow scientists. He was very interested in the practical implications of his work. He suggested that regions with continental climates, such as Siberia, North America, and Australia, would experience droughts and poor harvests during a dry period that would intensify around the turn of the twentieth century.66

Voeikov, who was a voracious reader in several languages as well as a prolific author, assisted in the further dissemination in Russia of international work on ‘climate oscillation and change’ in an article he published in 1894. He reviewed and engaged with the work of Brückner, Kö̈ppen, Croll, Agassiz, and other specialists. He discussed the extent to which the various hypotheses on climate change in historical and geological time fitted what was known of climatic patterns in the Russian Empire. He noted that observations of the climate in south-western Siberia and glaciers in the Caucasus did not fit Brückner’s cycles. He concluded:

our knowledge is broadening and improving somewhat, and previous absurd hypotheses are being repudiated and replaced by others, which, although they cannot be considered completely correct theories, at least given the current state of our knowledge can serve as…working hypotheses.67

(p.134) Russian specialists continued to suggest some sort of cyclical pattern to the climate, in particular in the occurrence of droughts in the steppe region. As has already been noted, Samara province seems to have been ripe for such observations. The governor wrote in his report for 1897: ‘Some farmers who are making observations of the quantity of precipitation have established the fact that droughts in Samara province are unavoidable and their recurrence after certain intervals of time are not accidental and unexpected phenomena.’ Thus, after very bad harvests in 1891 and 1892, there had been a series of good years, until another drought and poor harvest in 1897. The biggest fluctuations were in the south of the province.68 This pattern was confirmed by observations of precipitation over the 1880s and 1890s by E. A. Geints. His data showed that rainfall in the lower Volga basin was lower than the norm in the years 1891–7, when there were four dry years (1891, 1892, 1897, 1898) and four wet.69 In the second decade of the twentieth century Grigorii Baskin, the chief statistician of the Samara zemstvo, studied the recurrence of crop failures. He took account of socio-economic factors as well as climatic, and found waves of ‘high’ and ‘low’ harvests in groups of four years, with peaks of ‘highs’ followed immediately by ‘lows’. Thus, the period from 1885 to 1888 with very good harvests preceded the years 1889–92 with poor harvests, and the ‘high’ in 1901–4 came before the ‘low’ in 1905–8. His model, moreover, correctly predicted that harvests would start to improve in 1922 after another low period. He disagreed with attempts by other specialists to relate fluctuations in the harvest to Brückner’s cycles.70 In the Don region in the early twentieth century, however, the geologist V. V. Bogachev argued for a correlation between cycles of sun spots, Brückner’s cycles, and patterns in the climate.71 Thus, by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many Russian specialists, in particular those with experience of the steppe region, considered that droughts recurred periodically for reasons largely beyond human influence.

Arguments that the winds were getting stronger.

The hot, dry winds that blew from the east and south-east (sukhovei) were a recurring feature in discussions of the steppe climate. Observers noted that the winds dried out the air and the land. In 1820, Vasilii Lomikovskii, an estate (p.135) owner in Poltava province, wrote that hot winds blew every year in July and could last for three days or more. Crops dried out and died.72 While the relationship between forests and the climate as a whole was the subject of much debate, many agreed that the loss of areas of woodland in the steppe region had removed barriers which had sheltered the land from the winds, and thus intensified their impact. As far back as 1807, I. I. Veber wrote from Ekaterinoslav that the destruction of forests in the region had removed barriers to the easterly and northerly winds that blew in the autumn and spring.73 In the aftermath of the devastating drought and crop failure of 1833, Andreevskii wrote about the role of forests in protecting land from the impact of the wind. He also noted that it was the provinces with least forest that were worst affected.74 The General Staff surveys of the mid-nineteenth century discussed the impact of the winds. The survey of Kherson province of 1849 noted that the winds were harsher and dried out the land more in the summer in the treeless steppe of the south of the province. The authors remarked on the destruction of forests by settlers. They went on to record the prevailing opinion among the population that: ‘one of the main causes of droughts and the scorching impact of the strong winds…which have such fatal consequences [as] crop failures is…the shortage of forests…’.75 Mochul’skii, who compiled the survey of Khar’kov province of 1850, also noted that winds led to droughts, and dried out the soil, causing bad harvests. He further noted the extent of deforestation in the province, but did not make a connection between the destruction of woodland and the impact of the winds.76 Palimpsestov did make the connection, arguing that deforestation had opened southern Russia to hot, dry winds from the east, from arid, sandy, parts of Asia. He added that the winds brought droughts with them.77

Scientists and other specialists continued to pay close attention to the wind later in the nineteenth century. The importance of forests in acting as windbreaks was noted by Voeikov in 1878. The point was also made in the journal of the Southern Russian Agricultural Society in 1875. The latter published a summary of a book by a German scientist, which stressed that serving as a mechanical barrier to the wind was the main influence of forests on the climate.78 In the late 1870s, Veinberg analysed the particular harm caused by the hot, dry winds from (p.136) the south-east to crops at the time they were flowering. Damage to crops caused by the winds had become more serious, he noted, due to deforestation:

We have already seen how much, unfortunately, was done to give free access to those winds, by destroying the very forests, which in the not too distant past had protected the southern Russian steppes from the pernicious influence of these winds.

He concluded that ‘it was not a shortage of precipitation that caused the frequent and so pernicious droughts in our southern region, but rapid evaporation on account of the dry and hot winds that blow.’79

Local studies sponsored by zemstva made the same connection between deforestation and the impact of the wind. A study of Novyi Uzen’ district in southern Samara province in 1882 noted that the removal of trees from river valleys had left the steppe and soil defenceless against the burning south-easterly winds, which quickly transformed the top soil into dry rock.80 A study of Samara district the following year noted that two–three days of hot, dry winds from the south-east in the summer were sufficient to dry out most crops and cause them to wilt. ‘In olden times’, however, ‘the deleterious feature of this wind was paralyzed to some extent by the moderating influence of the huge forests and luxuriant meadow vegetation that lay in its path.’81 Similar remarks were made at this time in surveys of Nikolaevsk and Buzuluk districts in the south and east of Samara province. The author of the latter stated that the ‘ruthless destruction of the forests’, which caused the influence of the steppe climate to be felt more sharply, was due to recent action by local peasants.82

Years of drought, for example 1885 in Stavropol’ province, prompted particular attention to the hot, dry winds. Regular reports on the state of the crops over the growing season made by local elders to the provincial administration contained frequent comments on the wind. In the district of Aleksandrovskaya in the south of the province, it was reported from Nogutskaya township on 13 May that a south-easterly wind had been blowing since 10 May, and ‘if it continues during the drought, it will harm the flowers on the ears of the rye’. Two weeks later, the elder of the township reported that the grass had grown badly in May due in part to the hot, south-easterly winds. There similar reports elsewhere in the district. At around the same time, elder Rubailov from Severnaya township wrote that strong winds had blown from 11 to 20 May, and that in places the grass and spring grain had died. The elder of Otkazenskaya township reported on 9 June that the winter and spring grain were poor due to drought and ‘hot winds’.83 Winds harmed crops in Novogrigor’evskii district, in the arid north-east of the (p.137) province which had been badly hit by duststorms whipped up by the wind. On 12 June, elder Bugakov of Blagodarnoe reported that the winter and spring grain were in a poor condition on account of the lack of rain, heatwaves, and strong winds. He did not have any hopes for the harvest.84 These reports by township elders did not mention the winds as a new phenomenon or one that worse than in the past. D. L. Ivanov, the engineer who conducted a survey of Stavropol’ province in 1885, however, wrote about the ‘ceaseless easterly winds’ in that year and the impact of deforestation in making the climate more extreme.85

A particularly dramatic statement on the impact of the easterly winds was made by Vereshchagin in his address (as a last-minute replacement) to the Free Economic Society in October 1891. He considered the causes of the drought and crop failure, and moved on to the consequences of deforestation in exacerbating the impact of the easterly winds: ‘we ourselves have greatly assisted the harmful influence of hot, Asiatic winds, but in any case, the proximity to Asia costs us dearly’. He made up for the lack of time he had had to prepare his talk with rhetoric: ‘In the deep past we experienced the invasion of [Asia’s] savage population, and at the present time we must reckon with the no less destructive violence, which it is sending us—the hot climate, plague, and other disasters.’86 In the mind of Vereshchagin, therefore, the hot, dry winds from the east were nothing less than the new Mongols. Nikolai was the brother of the artist Vasilii who, together with other intellectuals such as Vladimir Solov’ev, had a distaste for the ‘Orient’ and feared its malevolent influence.87


Over the course of the nineteenth century, there was much debate among members of the local population, officials, naturalists, and scientists over the vexed question of whether the climate was changing. The drought and crop failure of 1833, which was one of the worst of the century, prompted considerable anxiety about climate change. It also brought to prominence the argument that the climate was changing for the worse—from the point of view of the settler population—as a result of the destruction of woodland in the region. The argument for anthropogenic, progressive climate change, which was informed by observations in the steppe region and the work of foreign specialists on other parts of the world, was the prevailing view over the middle decades of the nineteenth century. The development of the science of meteorology and the (p.138) start of the collection of more accurate data on the climate in the steppe region undermined this consensus. Scientists argued against the notions that the climate was changing, and that human activity could alter the climate. Some scientists, members of the region’s population, and officials began to see cyclical patterns in climatic fluctuations. One area in which most observers agreed was the drying influence of the winds that blew into the steppe region from the east. The destruction of woodland across the region, moreover, had removed barriers to these winds.


(1) An earlier version of part of this chapter was published as David Moon, ‘The Debate over Climate Change in the Steppe Region in Nineteenth-Century Russia’, RR, 69 (2010), 251–75.

(2) Petr Rychkov, ‘Otvety na Ekonomicheskie voprosy, kasayushchiesya do zemledeliya, po raznosti provintsii kratko i po vozmozhnosti iz”yasennye, v razsuzhdenii Orenburgskoi gubernii’, TVEO, 7 (1767), 127–8.

(3) DAOO, f.6, op.1, 1824, sp.1774, ll.51–62.

(4) Quoted in John R. Staples, Cross-Cultural Encounters on the Ukrainian Steppe: Settling the Molochna Basin, 1783–1861 (Toronto, 2003), 89.

(5) ‘Rassuzhdenie o neobkhodimosti okhraneniya vladel’cheskikh lesov ot istrebleniya i o pol’ze pravil’nogo lesnogo khozyaistva’, LZh, 1 (1833), 72–3.

(6) Andreevskii, ‘Zamechaniya o lesovodstve i o neobkhodimosti razvedeniya lesov v yuzhnykh guberniyakh Rossii’, LZh, 3 (1834), 7–8, 10–11.

(7) ‘O vliyanii lesov i istrebleniya onykh na klimat’, LZh, 3 (1837), 427–42. See also ‘O vliyanii lesov na klimat, reki i prozyabenie, i vrednykh posledstviyakh ikh istrebleniya’, LZh, 9 (1837), 325–50.

(8) [A. C.] Bekkeral’, ‘Vliyanie istrebleniya lesov na klimat’, ZhMGI, 52 (1854), 5th pagn, 54–68.

(9) For the Russian translation, see Georg Marsh, Chelovek i priroda, ili o vliyanii cheloveka na izmenenie fiziko-geografiskikh uslovii prirody, trans. N. A. Nevedomskii (Spb, 1866).

(10) V. Passek, ‘Istoriko-statisticheskoe opisanie Khar’kovskoi gubernii 1836 goda’, Materialy dlya statistiki Rossiiskoi Imperii (Spb, 1839), 140–2.

(11) A. P. Zablotskii, ‘Khozyaistvennye zamechaniya o nekotorykh guberniyakh yuzhnogo kraya Rossii’, ZhMGI, 1 (1841), 2nd pagn, 12–14.

(12) I. Krestling, ‘O stepnykh zamechaniyakh v Rossii, ZhMGI, 3 (1841), 2nd pagn, 563.

(13) I. Palimpsestov, ‘Saratovskaya step’ v khozyaistvennom otnoshenii’, TVEO, 4 (1850), 113.

(14) For references to Humboldt, see I. Palimpsestov, ‘Peremenilsya li klimat yuga Rossii? in I. Palimpsestov (ed.), Sbornik statei o sel’skom khozyaistve yuga Rossii, izvlechennikh iz Zapisok Imperatorskogo Obshchestva sel’skogo khozyaistva yuzhnoi Rossii s 1830 po 1868 god (Odessa, 1868), 2, 4–6, 11, 16, 20. He cited Aleksandr Fridrikh fon Gumbol’dt, Kosmos: Opyt fizicheskogo miroopisaniya, trans. Nikolai Frolov (Spb, 1848).

(15) Palimpsestov, ‘Peremenilsya’ (quotation from 25).

(16) [Valuev], Doklad vysochaishe uchrezhdennoi komissii dlya issledovaniya nyneshnego polozheniya sel’skogo khozyaistva i sel’skoi proizvoditel’nosti v Rossii (Spb, 1873), 7, 41.

(17) GASK, f.101, op.4, d.732 (1878–1887), ll.1–3, 35ob.–37ob.

(18) A. Alferaki, O polozhenii sel’skogo khozyaistva v yugo-vostochnom krae (Spb, 1879), 7–10.

(19) Semen Nomikosov, Statisticheskoe opisanie oblasti voiska Donskogo (Novocherkassk, 1884), 96–7, 117–51, 199–217.

(20) Ya. Veinberg, Les: znachenie ego v prirode i mery k ego sokhraneniyu (Moscow, 1884), 168–208.

(21) ‘Besedy v I Otdelenii Imperatorskogo Vol’nogo Ekonomicheskogo Obshchestva po voprosu o prichinakh neurozhaya 1891 goda i merakh protiv povtoreniya podobykh urozhaev v budushchem’, TVEO, 1 (1892), 110, 121–2.

(22) ‘Izmenenie klimata v Orlovskoi gubernii i prichina tomu’, ZhMGI, 58 (1856), 3rd pagn, 70–6.

(23) GARO, f.55, op.1, d.736, l.13. He referred to [V. D. Sukhorukov], Statisticheskoe opisanie zemli Donskikh kazakov, sostavlennoe v 1822–1832 godakh (Novocherkassk, 1891).

(24) SSSpSG, i, Samarskii uezd (1883), 2nd pagn, 49.

(25) A. P. Engel’gardt, Chernozemnaya Rossiya (Saratov, 1903), 64–72.

(26) V. P. Semenov (ed.), Rossiya: Polnoe geograficheskoe opisanie nashego otechestva, 11 vols (Spb, 1899–1914), vi, Srednee i nizhnee Povol’ze i Zavol’zhe (1901), 52–69; xiv, Novorossiya i Krym (1910), 49–71.

(27) K. Engel’ke, ‘Khozyaistvennoe polozhenie Saratovskoi gubernii’, ZhMGI, 1 (1841), 2nd pagn, 371–2. This resembles the argument that ‘rain follows the plow’ on the Great Plains of the USA later in the nineteenth century. W. Kollmorgen and J. Kollmorgen, ‘Landscape Meteorology on the Great Plains’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 63 (1973), 434–6.

(28) N. A[randarenko], ‘Khozyaistvenno-statisticheskii vzglyad na Poltavskuyu guberniyu’, ZhMGI, 16 (1845), 2nd pagn, 230–3.

(29) See David Moon, ‘Agriculture and the Environment on the Steppes in the Nineteenth Century’, in Nicholas Breyfogle Abby Schrader, and Willard Sunderland (eds), Peopling the Russian Periphery: Borderland Colonization in Eurasian History (Abingdon, 2007), 88–90, 99.

(30) VSORI, 12/1, Khar’kovskaya guberniya, comp. Mochul’skii (1850), 55.

(31) MDGSR: Ural’skoe Kazach’e voisko, comp. A. Ryabinin (Spb, 1866), 156.

(32) MDGSR: Khersonskaya guberniya, comp. Shmidt (Spb, 1863), 359–63, 367–8, 376–9, 562–71.

(33) ‘Veselovskii’, ES, vi (1892), 100.

(34) K. Veselovskii, O Klimate Rossii (Spb, 1857), vii–ix, 49–52, 332–8.

(35) See, for example, I. G., ‘Khozyaistvennoe obozrenie ekaterinoslavskoi gubernii, za poslednie pyat’ let (1847–1851g.)’, ZhMGI, 43 (1852), 3rd pagn, 30–5.

(36) Veselovskii, O Klimate, 234–7, 316–20, 385–400.

(37) N. Danilevskii, review of Veselovskii, O Klimate Rossii, VRGO, 25 (1859), 4th pagn, 8, 10.

(38) MDGSR: Zemlya voiska Donskogo, comp. N. Krasnov (Spb, 1863), 161–7, 221–2. Krasnov was inconsistent. Elsewhere he noted briefly that deforestation was making the climate more severe. MDGSR: Zemlya voiska Donskogo, 122, 284.

(39) See, for example, Semenov, Rossiya, xiv, Novorossiya i Krym (1910), 916. See also Engel’gardt, Chernozemnaya Rossiya (1903), 67.

(40) A. I. Voeikov, Klimaty zemnogo shara v osobennosti Rossii (Spb, 1884), esp. 291–324, 583. On the author, see above, p. 69.

(41) Voeikov, Klimaty, 302, 307.

(42) A. Voeikov, ‘Po voprosu lesnoi meteorologii,’ Meteorologicheskii vestnik, 2 (1892), 51. See also A. A. Grigor’ev, ‘Rukovodyashchie klimatologicheskie idei A. I. Voeikova’, in Izbrannye sochineniya, ed. A. A. Grigor’ev, 4 vols (Moscow and Leningrad, 1948–57), i, 13.

(43) A. I. Voeikov, ‘Vozdeistvie cheloveka na prirodu’, in Vozdeistvie cheloveka na prirodu: izbrannye stat’i, ed. V. V. Pokshishevskii (Moscow, 1949), 67–90.

(44) A. Voeikov, review of A. N. Baranovskii, Glavnye cherty klimata chenozemnykh oblastei Rossii, Meteorologicheskii vestnik, 6 (1892), 246. See also A. Klossovskii, ‘Otvety sovremennoi meteorologii na zaprosy prakticheskoi zhizn’, Meteorologicheskii vestnik, 1 (1891), 5–13; 2 (1891), 53–62.

(45) A. I. Voeikov, ‘Kolebanie i izmenenie klimata’, IRGO, 30/5 (1894), 543–4.

(46) ‘Besedy’, 110.

(47) ‘Besedy’, 110, 118–19, 124.

(48) N. Kravtsov, ‘Po povodu neurozhaev v 1891 i 1892 godakh’, SKhiL, 172 (1893), 1st pagn, 317–19.

(49) V. V. Dokuchaev, ‘Nashi Stepi prezhde i teper’, in Sochineniya, vi, 81–6.

(50) V. V. Dokuchaev, ‘Russkii chernozem’, Izbrannye sochineniya, 3 vols (Moscow, 1948–9), i, 385. See also above, pp. 80–1.

(51) Dokuchaev, ‘Nashi Stepi’, 88–9.

(52) A. A. Izmail’skii, ‘Kak vysokhla nasha step’: Issledovaniya otnositel’no vlazhnosti pochvy i podpochvy, SKhiL, 174 (1893), 2nd pagn, 13; see also A. A. Izmail’skii, Vlazhnost’ pochvy i gruntovaya voda v svyazi s rel’efom mestnosti i kul’turnym sostoyaniem poverkhnosti pochvy (Poltava, 1894), 140, 156.

(53) VSORI, 12/1, Khar’kovskaya guberniya, 55.

(54) MDGSR: Khersonskaya guberniya, 376–9.

(55) GASO, f.3, op.167, d.89, [1881], l.6.

(56) SSSpSG, iii, Buzulukskii uezd (1885), 68.

(57) GASO, f.3, op.233, d.1000, [1891], ll.1–2.

(58) N. V. Vereshchagin, ‘Po povodu neurozhaya tekushchego goda’, TVEO, 2/5 (1891), 182.

(59) [A. S. Ermolov], Neurozhai i narodnoe bedstvie (Spb, 1892), 3–4.

(60) L. Vesin, ‘Neurozhai v Rossii i ikh glavnye prichiny’, Severnyi vestnik, 1 (1892), 117–18.

(61) See Nico Stehr and Hans von Storch, ‘Eduard Brückner’s Ideas—Relevant in His Time and Today’, in Eduard Brückner, The Sources and Consequences of Climate Change and Climate Variability in Historical Times, ed. Nico Stehr and Hans von Storch (Dordrecht, 2000), 12–15, 20.

(62) Stefan Brönnimann, ‘Picturing climate change’, Climate Research, 22 (2002), 91–2.

(63) James Croll, Climate and Time in Their Geological Relations, 2nd edn (Edinburgh, 1885).

(64) See, for example, ‘On temperature cycles’ [abstract of paper by Dr W. Koppen], Nature, 9/219 (1874), 184–5; Henry F. Blanford, ‘The paradox of the sun-spot cycle in meteorology’, Nature, 43/1121 (1891), 583–7; A. B. M., ‘Sun-spots and air-temperature’, Nature, 45/1160 (1892), 271–2.

(65) Stehr and von Storch, ‘Eduard Brückner’s Ideas’, 6.

(66) Stehr and von Storch, ‘Eduard Brückner’s Ideas’, 7–10; Brückner, Sources and Consequences, 47–191, 219–42, 255–68.

(67) Voeikov, ‘Kolebanie’, 543–78 (quotation from 577). Dokuchaev also argued against the applicability of Brückner’s theory in Russia. ‘Nashi Stepi’, 81–6.

(68) GASO, f.3, op.23, d.1541, [1898], ll.3-ob., 25ob.

(69) See Engel’gardt, Chernozemnaya Rossiya, 66.

(70) G. I. Baskin, Sbornik izbrannykh trudov G. I. Baskin po Samarskoi gubernii, 6 vols (Samara, 1925), i, 5–11. See also N. S. Belyakova, ‘Zemskii statistik Grigorii Ivanovich Baskin (1866–1938)’, Samarskii zemskii sbornik 1/3 (1999), 14–19.

(71) V. V. Bogachev, Ocherki geografii Vsevelikogo Voiska Donskogo (Novocherkassk, 1919), 105–8.

(72) V. Ya. Lomikovskii, ‘Otvet na zadachu 1820 goda ob unavozhivanii ozimykh polei v yuzhnykh guberniyakh’, TVEO, 72 (1820), 101.

(73) I. I. Veber, ‘Primechaniya o razlichnykh predmetakh khozyaistva v Ekaterinoslavskom Namestnichestve’, TVEO, 50 (1795), 190.

(74) Andreevskii, ‘Zamechaniya’, 4–8.

(75) VSORI, 11/1, Khersonskaya guberniya, comp. Rogalev, fon-Vitte, and Pestov (1849), 12, 71, 132–6.

(76) VSORI, 12/1, Khar’kovskaya guberniya, 51–3.

(77) I. U. Palimpsestov, ‘Odin iz otvetov na vopros: “byli li lesa na yuge Rossii?”, Izvestiya imperatorskogo Obshchestva lyubitelei estestvoznaniya, antropologii i etnografii, 41/1 (1881), 19.

(78) A. I. Voeikov, ‘O vliyanii lesov na klimat’, in Izbrannye sochineniya, iii, 44, 50, 58 (1st published, 1878); ‘Vliyanie lesov na klimat strany’, ZIOSKhYuR, 2 (1875), 92.

(79) Veinberg, Les, 243–9, 255 (quotation), 264 (quotation).

(80) I. I. Filipenko, Vopros obvodneniya stepei: na osnovanii issledovanii proizvedenykh v 1881 godu, po porucheniyu Novouzenskogo zemskogo sobraniya (Spb, 1882), 15.

(81) SSSpSG, i, Samarskii uezd (1883), 6.

(82) SSSpSG, vi, Nikolaevskii uezd (1889), 14; iii, Buzulukskii uezd (1885), 68.

(83) GASK, f.101, op.4, d.1502, ll.55, 62, 64, 77.

(84) GASK, f.101, op.4, d.1504 [1885], l.81.

(85) D. L. Ivanov, ‘Vliyanie Russkoi kolonizatsii na prirodu Stavropol’skogo kraya’, IRGO, 22/3 (1886), 236, 252–3.

(86) Vereshchagin, ‘Po povodu neurozhaya’, 182–3.

(87) See David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, Toward the Rising Sun: Russian Ideologies of Empire and the Path to War with Japan (DeKalb, IL, 2001), 207–8.