As part of the New York Times’ recent celebration of the centennial of the communist takeover of Russia (“The Red Century”) the paper published an August 8 piece by one Fred Strebeigh, a Yale environmental studies and English lecturer, entitled “Lenin’s Eco-Warriors.” The theme of the article is that, yes, the Russian communists tortured and mass murdered tens of millions of their own citizens, enslaved the rest in totalitarian hell, and completely ruined their economy; but on the bright side they were precursors of and role models for the Sierra Club, Earth First!, Rachel Carson, and Al Gore.
The Soviet Union, which spanned eleven time zones, was “the world’s largest system of . . . protected nature preserves,” boasts Strebeigh. No kidding. How else would one define millions of acres in Siberia?
Lenin’s henchmen went on a murderous rampage to eliminate all suspected opponents, especially the clergy. What churches that were allowed to remain were run by KGB agents disguised as priests, according to Yuri Maltsev, who once worked as an advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev. Yet Strebeigh writes that priests “sanctified the forests” of the Soviet Union and praises Lenin himself as “a longtime enthusiast for hiking and camping.” He would have fit right in at the Yale faculty club and the New York Times lunch room, in other words. Strebeigh sounds almost giddy in his description of a supposed “communist conservation movement” in the Soviet Union.
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The New York Times has been lying to the American public about Soviet Russia for a very long time. In the 1930s, when 25,000 Ukrainians a day were starving to death, the New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty misinformed his readers that “there is no famine . . . nor is there likely to be” (NYT, Nov. 15, 1931). “Any report of a famine in Russia is . . . malignant propaganda,” wrote the Soviet stooge who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this “reporting” (NYT, Aug. 23, 1933). Stalin himself publicly thanked Duranty for his work. To its everlasting shame, the Pulitzer committee refused to rescind Duranty’s prize when in 2003 a campaign was waged to get it to do so.
So it is no surprise that the current New York Times writing about the environment in the Soviet Union is more fake news. After the collapse of communism in the early ‘90s the world was finally able to peer into the formerly closed, totalitarian communist societies like the U.S.S.R. What we learned about the environment under communism was exactly the opposite of the Algorean wonderland portrayed by Professor Strebeigh. A book entitled Ecocide in the USSR reported that, as of the early ‘90s, seventy-five percent of the former Soviet Union’s surface water was polluted; 25 percent was untreated; air pollution was orders of magnitude worse than anywhere in the West; farmworkers had died in the fields from overexposure to massive pesticide use; there was so much smoke spewing from Soviet factories that the workers could not even see each other inside; and the average Soviet lifespan had been declining.
Water pollution was catastrophic in the Soviet Union. All the fish in the Oka River were killed in 1965, with similar fish kills occurring in the Volga, Ob, Yenesi, Ural, and Northern Divina Rivers. Factories discharged their waste without any pollution controls at all.
The sturgeon population was so devastated from overfishing that the Soviets experimented with “artificial caviar.” Decades of untreated sewage turned the Caspian Sea into a rancid sewer. The Volga River was so polluted that steamboats were equipped with signs forbidding passengers to throw cigarettes overboard for fear that the chemical-laden river would catch on fire. The Real Lincoln: A Ne... Best Price: $1.99 Buy New $9.96 (as of 06:35 EST - Details)
Professor Strebeigh begins his article by talking of the “pristine” Lake Baikal. It was not so “pristine” under Leninism. Factories dumped hundreds of millions of gallons of pollution into the lake for decades, and untreated sewage was dumped into all tributaries of the lake. There were huge islands of sewage floating around the lake, one of which was eighteen miles long and three miles wide according to early 1990s reports.
Similar environmental catastrophes occurred in all other appendages of the Soviet empire during the twentieth century. In Czechoslovakia farmland in some areas was toxic to more than a foot in depth due to decades of overuse chemical fertilizers. The air in some places was so foul it could be tasted. In East Germany 80 percent of the surface waters were off limits for swimming, fishing, or drinking, and one-third of all lakes were declared to be biologically dead because of all the untreated sewage dumped into them for decades.
Once again, the New York Times proves itself to be the Grand Pinocchio of the (fake) news world.