Green to Gray: Political Ecology of Sobyanin’s Moscow City Green Places

Authors: Mikhail Blinnikov*, St. Cloud State University, Nikolay Sobolev, Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia, Liudmila Volkova, Severtsov Institute of Problems of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Russia, Urban Geography
Keywords: Moscow, urban green spaces, political ecology, biota assessments
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8216, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Moscow, Russia is the largest city in Europe with over 12.1 million residents. The remarkable fact is that it is also a relatively biologically diverse ecosystem with a few dozen small to medium nature preserves (zakazniks), about 15 large nature areas and a variety of natural elements present even in the core of the central city, including lavish Zaryadye. The recent landscaping “improvements” conducted by the Moscow government on a massive scale with the approval of Mayor S. Sobyanin led to a number of key changes in the green infrastructure, e.g., a lot more pavement, systematic grass mowing, widespread planting of exotics, loud public events with increasing emphasis on outdoor mass events, more public and some private buildings, increased bicycle traffic, etc. While quantification of the impact of the above on the biota is not easy, we offer some insights into the recent (last 5 years) changes with respect to birds, insects, and plants within the most developed part of the city inside Moscow MKAD beltway . We then proceed to analyze these changes from the political ecology perspective of conservation and control thesis of Paul Robbins and actor-network theory by looking at what Moscow residents feel and how they interact with the now more controlled nature and how nonhuman actors interact with the residents. Paradoxically, some improvements may actually increase contact opportunities for the residents with green places, while at the same time forcing the true nature to retreat giving way to lawns and other controlled substrates.

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