Lake Baikal: A Russian Environmentalists Dream

Lake Baikal is one of the world’s oldest and deepest lakes. It is more than 5,000 feet deep and stretches for more than 400 miles near the south part of Siberia. This lake is crystal clear and known for the pristine water quality and abundant life forms that exist within its’ waters. However, the lake was once extremely polluted. Because of Joseph Stalin pushing for the ideals of a great industrial revolution, the lake became extremely polluted and lost the high quality of water purity. There was a power plant that was located directly on the lake that was causing a great amount of pollutants to stream constantly into the lake.

Russian environmental activists were very concerned with not only Lake Baikal but also other forms of pollution and threats to the environment. Environmentalism was not seen as a political issue in Russia during this time. This protected the activists and they were allowed to speak out and give opinions and even disagree with the government on certain rulings regarding the environment. This was not a usual happening in Russia because the scholars and scientists were used to being controlled and pushed around by strict government regulations.

The Baikal Lake issue was known throughout Russia and Siberia as a huge environmental hazard. While the contamination of the lake was known to be coming from the factory on the lake, it still was not enough to just know the source of the pollution. The environmental activists were ignored and their findings were seen as conjecture and the ramblings of nationalists. This did not stop them from continuing to try and clean up Lake Baikal. This was a turning point for Russians and this issue of contamination did more than allow for scientific research. It allowed many people in a previously repressed population to speak out for a cause that they believed in. For a long time under the rule of Stalin, there was not much room for expression of opinion. Now the Russian people had a reason to speak out and do the research on things that mattered to them. The clean up of the lake was more than an environmental concern, it was an uprising of opinions and personal expression. Lake Baikal


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