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Elena Kochetkova

Associate Professor, Modern European Economic History

I am historian of the economy, environment, technology and state socialism. Among my publications are articles in leading international journals, such as Technology and Culture, Environment and History, Contemporary European History, Journal of Contemporary History, among others. I have published on various aspects of the history of nature and natural resources, such as water and forest, technological projects and socialist modernity as well as the history of industrial heritage in modern Russia. My first monograph “The Green Power of Socialism: Wood, Forest, and the Making of Soviet Industrially Embedded Ecology”, published with MIT Press in 2024, examines the relationship between nature and humans under state socialism by looking at the industrial role of Soviet forests. 

My book explores evolving Soviet policies of wood consumption, discussing how professionals working in the forestry industry of the Soviet state envisaged the present and future of forests, perceiving them both as a natural resource and a trove of industrial material. Looking at the materiality of Soviet industry through forests and wood, this work demonstrates how, paradoxically, industrial ecology emerged and developed as a by-product of the Soviet industrialization project. The book critically reconsiders two explanatory models which have become dominant in historiography of Soviet approaches to nature over the last decades – ecocide and environmentalism. It extends beyond these polarized characterizations to show that under state socialism, concern over the environment arose due to industrial priorities of the modernizing state, giving birth to an industrially embedded ecology. Within the context of the current environmental crisis, the book invites readers to re-evaluate state socialism as a complex phenomenon with sophisticated interactions between nature and industry. In so doing, it contributes a fresh perspective on the activities of socialist experts and their view of nature, shedding light on Soviet state industrial and environmental policy and its continuing legacy in the present day. The book`s discussions around the destiny of forests, the use of alternative natural resources and approaches to industrial functioning will be of interest to both professionals and a wider global audience. 

My current book project examines food modernity under state socialism. From the mid-1950s, industrial food manufacturing became a key priority of the Soviet economy. Increasing the production of agricultural and manufactured foodstuffs was a matter of improving living standards, which from 1961 the Soviet leadership declared as a crucial step in reaching communism. At the same time, from the 1950s and 60s, the role of science and technology in making food products had significantly increased, promising improvements in both the quantity and quality of nutrition. My project examines how food modernity was developing in Eastern Europe during the (post)-Cold War in a global context of technological change.  

EUR103 23V/Europe After 1945: Transformations in European Economies and Societies

HIS116: 10: History of Science, Technology, and Socio-Economic Change

GHMS: Global History Master`s Seminar

Academic article
  • Show author(s) (2022). Socialist construction for Siberia: Comecon and Ust`-Ilimsk forest industrial complex in the USSR, 1970s-80s. Journal of Contemporary History. 479-498.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Performing Inventiveness: Industrial and Technical Creativity in the USSR, 1950s–1980s. The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review. 249-273.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Making Food Modernity: Science and Technology in Late Soviet Nutrition and Food Production. Contemporary European History. 1-16.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Abandoned, But Not Forgotten Heritage: Former Industrial Enterprises in Cultural and Urban Russian Landscapes. Heritage & Society.
  • Show author(s) (2021). Technological inequalities and motivation of Soviet institutions in the scientific-technological cooperation of Comecon in Europe, 1950s–80s. European Review of History. 355-373.
  • Show author(s) (2020). Challenging Europe: Technology, Environment, and the Quest for Resource Security. Technology and Culture. 282-294.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Soviet industrial production and waste dispersal: a case study of pulp and paper plants on the Karelian Isthmus, 1940s–1980s. Scandinavian Economic History Review. 269-282.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Milk and Milk Packaging in the Soviet Union: Technologies of Production and Consumption, 1950s–70s. Russian History. 29-52.
  • Show author(s) (2018). Industry and Forests: Alternative Raw Materials in the Soviet Forestry Industry from the mid-1950s to the 1960s. Environment and History. 323-347.
  • Show author(s) (2018). Between water pollution and protection in the Soviet Union, mid-1950s-1960s: Lake Baikal and River Vuoksi. Water History. 223-241.
  • Show author(s) (2018). A Shop Window Where You Can Choose the Goods You Like. Scandinavian Journal of History. 212-232.
Academic monograph
  • Show author(s) (2024). The Green Power of Socialism: Wood, Forest, and the Making of Soviet Industrially Embedded Ecology.
Academic chapter/article/Conference paper
  • Show author(s) (2024). The Achilles Heel of a Big Player: Technology and Modernity in the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and Russia (Nineteenth to Twenty-First Centuries). 24 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2023). Drowning Capitalism: Soviet Technological Aid and the Technopolitics of Hydropower in Africa during the Cold War.

More information in national current research information system (CRIStin)

2021-2026 ---- Research Project “Memory politics of the North, 1993-2023. An interplay perspective' (NORMEMO)”, The Research Council of Norway, project participant.  

2021-2024 ---- Research Project “The History of Lake Ladoga”, Kone Foundation (Finland), project participant.  

Current book project: (Post)Socialist Food Modernity: Industrial Food Making in the USSR/Russia.