Militant Uses of the PastBy Laurent Coumel
This article investigates the history of student “nature protection” organizations in the USSR and in contemporary Russia after 1991. Combining research in central and regional archives, interviews conducted during fieldwork, and published sources (including from online social networks), this article reviews the institutional foundations and recruitment and working methods for this little-known form of environmental activism, which began in the Soviet period. Combining a high degree of social elitism with a vigilante approach and a corporatist desire for autonomy, it contributed to the emergence of a dedicated green movement during the period of democratization in Russia (1987–93), before gradually fading away. It is now experiencing a certain revival under Vladimir Putin’s regime as a movement that represents both nostalgia for the late Soviet period and the renewal of expert-led protest in opposition to authoritarianism.