Anita Zariņa (University of Latvia);
Ivo Vinogradovs (University of Latvia)

“Nature Caprices are Finally Defeated!”:
Reclamation Politics and Practices in Latvia During the Era of Modernism

Soviet agro-polders, as ideological and highly technological assemblies, were among the first to signify the productivism era in the rural landscape of Baltic republics and the modernisation of Soviet agriculture there (Zariņa et al., 2018). Such large land conversion ventures, although petty compared with the transformations of nature elsewhere in the Soviet Union, were employed for the first time in the region.

The establishment of polders took place during two different periods of Soviet agricultural developments. The first phase occurred as part of Khrushchev’s reforms, whereas the second was implemented under Brezhnev’s reclamation programmeme. Whereas the former was linked to recovery from stagnant Stalinist schemes by improving the conditions of marginal areas and poor collective farms, the latter, in the context of Latvia and the other Baltic Republics, entailed extensive works on what was called the ‘northern strategy of drainage, liming and so on’ (Gustafson, 1981, p. 10). Establishment of agro-polders (a total of approximately 50 000 ha) was greatly expanded from 1966 onwards when the Central Committee of the Communist Party adopted a decree for drainage works to be done with national funding (i.e. from Moscow). Building on case studies, wider political contexts and local situations, the paper traces the formation of agro-polders and unfolds the various practices of the Soviet agricultural ideology in action.

Gustafson, T., 1981. Reform in the Soviet Politics: Lessons of recent policies on land and water. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Zariņa A., Vinogradovs I., Šķiņķis P. (2018) Towards (Dis)Continuity of Agricultural Wetlands: Latvia’s Polder Landscapes After Soviet Productivism. Landscape Research, 43(3), 455–469.
Full-text available here: DOI: 10.1051/SHSCONF/20196312003