The figures stagger the imagination. Last year Russia produced about the same amount of industrial roundwood as in 1930. It produced 70% less sawnwood as in 1990 and 60% less pulp. Not even the Second World War caused a collapse of that magnitude.
Forces outside the forestry sector were responsible for most of this dramatic decline. Russian consumers and companies can no longer afford to construct buildings or purchase furniture, books, and newspapers. Transportation costs have risen thirteen fold. Stringent monetary policies keep Russian companies from obtaining the capital they need to finance investment and operating costs.
In the short-term, the crisis probably reduced pressure on Russian forests. But at the same time it led the government to reduce its funding for forest fire and pest control, reforestation, and forestry research and education. It also generated widespread corruption and other illegal activities in the forestry sector.
In human terms, over 200,000 forest sector workers lost their jobs in the first half of the 1990s. Some 3,000 communities depend largely on forest enterprises for their medical care, local transportation, pension systems, housing, and social facilities. At least half of those enterprises now operate at a loss and many have been forced to cut back or eliminate these services to maintain their operations.
Further information on this Russian drama can be found in the recent book ’Word Forests, Society, and Environment, Volume 1’ edited by Matti Palo and Jussi Uusivuori from Finland and published by Kluwer Academic publishers.
The book also contains many topical chapters on a wide variety of other forestry issues from around the world.
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Elena Kopylova coordinated the book’s chapters on Russia and can be reached at: mailto:email@example.com or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
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