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From Akhmatov to Zapovednik
Want to learn more about Russia's wilds? It can be as easy as turning on your computer to read about the country's zapovedniki (scientific nature reserves), or as exciting as a tour of the remote Akhmatov Gulf to visit with polar bears.
Igor Shpilenok and Laura Williams, the photographers for this article, are also contributing editors at www.wild-russia.org, a comprehensive guide to the country's vast network of protected areas.
Immerse yourself in Russia's environmental history with Douglas R. Weiner's pair of books, Models of Nature: Ecology, Conservation, and Cultural Revolution in Soviet Russia (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000) and A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection From Stalin to Gorbachev (University of California Press, 1999).
Some of the zapovedniki are starting to allow limited tourism. Travel designed to help the reserves without hindering their long-term mission has begun under the auspices of the Dersu Uzala Ecotourism Development Fund (www.ecotours.ru). Its trips have an educational or conservation focus, such as birdwatching or tiger tracking.
Russia's natural splendor isn't confined to its scientific reserves. This July, Sierra Club Outings features a trip to Severnaya Zemlya, a sublimely remote archipelago off the Taymyr Peninsula in northern Siberia. The tour will include visits to walrus colonies, polar bear populations, and the Akhmatov Gulf. For more information, call (415) 977-5522 or see the Outings Web site at www.sierraclub.org/outings/national/brochure/02635A.asp.
Keep up with the fight to preserve the natural resources of northern Eurasia by reading Russian Conservation News (www.russianconservation.org), an English-language quarterly.
A variety of domestic and international organizations are working to preserve Russian ecosystems. For more information, contact:
Pacific Environment and Resources Center, 1440 Broadway, Suite 306, Oakland, CA 94612; www.pacificenvironment.org
Russian Far East Hotspot Project, 3-17-24-2F, Mejiro, Toshima-Ku, Tokyo, Japan 171; www.foejapan.org/en/siberia
Taiga Rescue Network, TRN Russian Coordination Center, Biodiversity Conservation Centre, Ul. Vavilova 41, Apt. 2, Moscow 117312, Russia; www.taigarescue.org
To learn more about environmental issues in Russia, check out these articles from the Sierra archives:
"The Green Menace" (November/December 2000)
Vladimir Putin finds a new class enemy in environmentalism.
"Running With Bears" (March/April 1999)
The grizzlies of Kamchatka have never learned to fear humans. And two Canadian researchers studying them have learned not to fear the bears.
"Rich in Gold and Grizzlies" (November/December 1998)
Sierra Club activists fight to keep a remote Russian peninsula mining-free.
"Ghosts of the Cold War" (March/April 1997)
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Aleksandr Nikitin faces the death penalty for exposing a nuclear threat.