Throughout their history, the Soviets have not been a people to care much about the environment. It could be said that this is because they have so much land it doesn’t really matter. Either way, the damming of the Angara River, which began in 1955 perfectly shows the lack of preservation that many Soviets had.
The Bratsk High Dam is one of four dams on the Angara River. It began construction in 1955 and was operating at full power with 18 turbines and the capacity to generate 4.5 million kilowatts of power by 1969(1). At the time of its construction, the Bratsk dam was the largest and most powerful in the world. A majority of its energy goes to nearby industry and manufacturing, “including a wood-processing combine capable of turning five million cubic yards of wood into various products, and an enormous aluminum plant”(1). These factories, as well as the actual damning of the river help to contribute to diminishing fish populations and mass amounts of pollution in the Angara river as well as Lake Baikal(25% f the world’s freshwater). Fish are also affected by the damn since it disrupted the natural flow of the river and created a huge basin. “After the river was dammed with the 3 miles of concrete, the water level rose 479 feet”(1). This is also known as the Bratsk Sea since it is one of the largest artificial bodies of water in the world(1).
Even though the dam helps to destroy water quality and fish populations, the construction of the damn was an impressive feat. The workers had to build through the freezing temperatures of the Siberian winter, which gets down to -72 degrees Fahrenheit with frost on the ground for about 3/4’s of the year. It was also a great challenge to transport materials and workers to Bratsk due to its remote location. The building of the Bratsk damn shows how far technology came for the Soviet Union and is a testament to their power at the time, but it also brought along negative side effects. The destructive progressiveness of the Soviet Union can be represented by Valentin Rasputin and his work Farewell to Matyora, which describes the downfalls of technology and the loss of Russian peasant culture during the Soviet Union through depicting a 17th century village that becomes flooded by the dam.
1. Siegelbaum, Lewis. Bratsk. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1961bratsk&Year=1961
2. Bratsk High Dam. http://s690.photobucket.com/user/DeadNoon/media/hometown/bratsk_s_vertoleta_08.jpg.html
3. Rasputin, Valentine. Farewell to Matyora. 1976. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1961rasputin1&SubjectID=1961bratsk&Year=1961
4. Bratsk Damn. http://www.treklens.com/gallery/photo551355.htm