Water History

, Volume 10, Issue 2–3, pp 207–222 | Cite as

Industrial waste, river pollution and water politics in Central Russia, 1880–1917

  • Anna Mazanik


The article explores how Russia’s governmental authorities, scientists, engineers, and industrialists engaged with the problem of factory waste and water pollution. It argues that industrial pollution of rivers emerged as a subject of considerable public debate in Russia in the 1880s and the enforcement of water protection laws grew stricter towards the end of the Empire. However, the vagueness of the legislation and the lack of clear quality standards opened the way for contingency and arbitrariness in the persecution of violators. This persecution did not lead to the reduction of pollution in the imperial period, but it raised awareness of the dangers of industrial discharge for riverine environments.


Industrial pollution Waste treatment Rivers The Russian Empire Moscow 



I would like to thank Erin Corber, Brendan Röder and Ann Röder for their comments on this text and Andrei Davydov from the Central State Archive of Moscow who helped me find the necessary archival materials. This article was written during my postdoctoral fellowship at the New Europe College (Institute for Advanced Study).


Primary sources: Archival sources

  1. CSAM (Central State Archive of Moscow, TsGA Moskvy)Google Scholar
  2. f. 16 Moscow Governor-GeneralGoogle Scholar
  3. f. 179 Moscow MunicipalityGoogle Scholar
  4. f. 143 Moscow Exchange CommitteeGoogle Scholar

Primary sources: Legal sources

  1. Rivers Pollution Prevention Act. London, 1876Google Scholar
  2. Ustav o nakazaniyakh, nalagaemykh mirovymi sudiami (Statute of Magistrates). St. Petersburg, 1864Google Scholar
  3. Ustav o nakazaniyakh, nalagaemykh mirovymi sud’yami (Statute of Magistrates). In: Polny svod zakonov Rossiyskoy Imperii (Full Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire). St. Petersburg 1912, vol. XVGoogle Scholar
  4. Ustav o promyshlennosti (Industrial Statute). In: Polny svod zakonov Rossiyskoy Imperii (Full Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire). St. Petersburg 1912, vol. XIGoogle Scholar
  5. Ustav stroitel’ny (Building Statute). In: Polny svod zakonov Rossiyskoy Imperii (Full Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire). St. Petersburg 1912, vol. XIIGoogle Scholar
  6. Ustav vrachebny (Medical Statute). In: Polny svod zakonov Rossiyskoy Imperii (Full Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire). St. Petersburg, 1912, vol. XIIIGoogle Scholar

Primary sources: Published primary sources

  1. Danilov F (1912) Biologicheskaya ochistka gorodskikh, domovykh i fabrichnykh stochnykh vod (Biological treatment of urban, domestic and industrial waste waters). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  2. Drozdov V (1908) Nekotorye dannye iz praktiki sanitarnoy tekhniki v dele okhrany rek ot zagryazneniya fabrichnymi vodami (Some information from the practice of the sanitary technology in the task of protecting rivers from industrial pollution). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  3. Ivanitskiy A (1923) Voprosy okhrany vodoyomov obshchestvennogo pol’zovaniya (Questions of protection of public water reservoirs. In: Pyat’ let sovetskoy medistsiny, 1918-1923 (Five years of Soviet Medicine, 1918-1923). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  4. Kastalsky V (1883) Moskva v sovremennom sostoyanii i chto ey predstoit sdelat’ v otnoshenii blagoustroystva (Moscow in its current state and what it has to do for urban improvement). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  5. Kolokolov M (1886) Vody Sankt-Peterburga, issledovannye kolichestvennym bakterioskopicheskim analizom (Waters of St. Petersburg researched with quantitative bacteriological analysis). St. PetersburgGoogle Scholar
  6. Kotsyn M (1889) Opyt sistematicheskikh nablyudeniy nad kolebaniyem khimicheskogo i bakteriologicheskogo sostava vody Moskvy-reki za 1887-1888 g. (Systematic observations of the variations in chemical and bacteriological composition of the water in the Moskva River in 1887-1888). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  7. Koz’min (1928) Zubatov i yego korrespondenty: Sredi okhrannikov, zhandarmov i provokatorov (Zubatov and his correspondents: Among the security police and provocators). Moscow and LeningradGoogle Scholar
  8. Miller O (1892) K otsenke sposobov ochistki fabrichnykh stochnykh vod (Evaluation of the methods of industrial wastewater treatment). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  9. Otchet Ekspertnoy Komissii (1903) po voprosu ob ochistke stochnykh vod sakharnykh zavodov (Report of the expert commission on the question of treating waste waters of sugar factories). KievGoogle Scholar
  10. Otchet Komissii po ochistke stochnykh vod (1913) (Report of the Committee on the treatment of waste waters). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  11. Otchet vremennogo komiteta (1913) po izyskaniyu mer k okhrane vodoyomov Moskovskogo promyshlennogo rayona ot zagryazneniya stochnymi vodami i otbrosami fabrik i zavodov za 1912 g. (The 1912 report of the Temporary Committee for Protection of the Waterways of the Moscow Industrial Region from Pollution by Factory Wastes and Discharge). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  12. Otchet vremennogo komiteta (1914) po izyskaniyu mer k okhrane vodoyomov Moskovskogo promyshlennogo rayona ot zagryazneniya stochnymi vodami i otbrosami fabrik i zavodov za 1913 g. (The 1913 report of the Temporary Committee for Protection of the Waterways of the Moscow Industrial Region from Pollution by Factory Wastes and Discharge). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  13. Petunnikov A (1879) Sostav i svoystva Moskovskikh vod (Composition and qualities of Moscow waters). Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy 3:15–31Google Scholar
  14. Petunnikov A (1882a) Materialy dlya izucheniya Moskvy v sovremennom eya sostoyanii (Materials for the study of Moscow in its current state). Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy 1:46–54Google Scholar
  15. Petunnikov A (1882b) Gidrografischeskiy ocherk Moskvy (Hydrological overview of Moscow). Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy 7:70–74Google Scholar
  16. Stochnye vody (1896) fabrik i zavodov i ikh obezvrezhivaniye (Industrial waste waters and their treatment). St. PetersburgGoogle Scholar
  17. Svyatlovsky V (1889) O fabrichnykh otbrosakh i stochnykh vodakh promyshlennykh zavedeniy (On factory wastes and discharge of industrial enterprises). ChernigovGoogle Scholar
  18. Trudy Komissii (1896) dlya sostavleniya proyekta polozheniya ob ustroystve i soderzhanii promyshlennykh zavedeniy i nadzore za proizvodstvom na nikh rabot (The works of the Commission for the development of the law on organization and control of the industrial enterprises). St. Petersburg. Vol. 1Google Scholar
  19. Verner I (1913) Sovremennoye khozyaystvo goroda Moskvy (Modern economy of Moscow). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  20. Witte S (1960) Vospominaniya (Memoirs). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  21. Yakovkin A (1892) K voprosu o zagryaznenii Moskvy-reki (To the question of the pollution of the Moskva River). MoscowGoogle Scholar
  22. Yensh A (1910) Printsipy ochistki gorodskikh i fabrichnykh stochnykh vod i spusk ikh v reki (Principles of treating urban and industrial waste waters and their discharge into rivers). St. PetersburgGoogle Scholar
  23. Zhurnaly Komissii (1902) po nadzoru za ustroystvom novogo vodoprovoda i kanalizatsii v Moskve (Journals of the Commission for the control over the organization of water-pipe and sewerage system in Moscow). MoscowGoogle Scholar

Secondary literature

  1. Bater J (1976) St. Petersburg: industrialization and change. McGill-Queen’s University Press, MontrealGoogle Scholar
  2. Bradley J (2009) Voluntary associations in tsarist Russia: science, patriotism, and civil society. Harward University Press, Cambridge, MACrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Breyfogle N (2015) At the watershed: 1958 and the beginnings of Lake Baikal environmentalism. Slavon East Eur Rev 93(1):147–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brüggemeier F-J (1994) A nature fit for industry: the environmental history of the Ruhr Basin, 1840–1990. Environ Hist Rev 18(1):35–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Castonguay S, Evenden M (eds) (2012) Urban rivers: remaking rivers, cities, and space in Europe and North America. University of Pittsburgh Press, PittsburghGoogle Scholar
  6. Cioc M (2002) The Rhine: An Eco-Biography, 1815-2000. University of Washington Press, SeattleGoogle Scholar
  7. Deligne C (2016) Industrialisation, manure and water quality in the 19th century. The Senne River in Brussels as a case study. Water Hist 8(3):235–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ely C (2003) The origins of Russian scenery: Volga river tourism and Russian landscape aesthetics. Slavic Review 62(4):666–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Feshbach M, Friendly A Jr (1993) Ecocide in the USSR: health and nature under siege. Aurum Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Filtzer D (2010) The hazards of urban life in late Stalinist Russia: Health, hygiene, and living standards, 1943-1953. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Garcier R (2010) The placing of matter: industrial water pollution and the construction of social order in nineteenth-century France. J Hist Geogr 36:132–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gatrell P (1994) Government, industry, and rearmament in Russia, 1900-1914: the last argument of tsarism. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Goldberg C (1974) The Association of Industry and Trade: the successes and failure of Russia’s organized businessmen. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. University of MichiganGoogle Scholar
  14. Hausmann G (2009) Mütterchen Wolga, Ein Fluss als Erinnerungsort vom 16. bis ins frühe 20. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt-am-MainGoogle Scholar
  15. Kraikovski A, Lajus J (2010) The Neva as a metropolitan river of Russia: environment, economy and culture. In: Tvedt T, Coopey R (eds) A history of water. Series 2, vol 2: Rivers and society: from early civilizations to modern times. London, pp 339–364Google Scholar
  16. Kupriyanova L (2000) “Rabochiy vopros” v Rossii vo vtoroy polovie XIX – nachale XX vv. (“Workers’ question” in Russia in the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries). In: Istoriya predprinimatel’stva v Rossii. Moscow, vol. 2Google Scholar
  17. Lajus D et al (2007) Historical records of the 17–18th century fisheries for Atlantic salmon in Northern Russia: methodology and case studies of population dynamics. Fish Res 87:240–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McCaffray S (1996) The politics of industrialization of tsarist Russia. Northern Illinois University Press, DeKalbGoogle Scholar
  19. Melosi M (2000) The sanitary city: urban infrastructure in America from colonial times to the present. Johns Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  20. Owen T (1991) The corporation under Russian law, 1800-1917. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Owen T (1998) Doing business in merchant Moscow. In: West J, Petrov Iu (eds) Merchant Moscow: images of Russia’s vanished bourgeoisie. Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp 29–36Google Scholar
  22. Pisar’kova L (2010) Gorodskiye reformy v Rossii i Moskovskaya Duma (Urban reforms in Russia and the Moscow City Council). Novy khronograph, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  23. Pravilova E (2009) River of empire: Geopolitics, irrigation, and the Amu Darya in the late 19th century. Cahiers d’Asie 17–18:255–287Google Scholar
  24. Pollack G et al (2016) Using and abusing a torrential urban river: the Wien River before and during industrialization. Water History 8(3):329–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rosenthal L (2014) The river pollution dilemma in Victorian England: Nuisance law versus economic efficiency. Ashgate Publishing, FarnhamGoogle Scholar
  26. Steinberg T (2004) Nature incorporated: industrialization and the waters of New England. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  27. Tarr J (1985) Industrial wastes and public health: some historical notes. Am J Public Health 75:1059–1067CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tomoff K (1995) The role of forests in Witte’s industrialization drive. Russ Hist 22(3):249–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tucker Jones R (2014) Empire of extinction: Russians and the North Pacific’s strange beasts of the sea, 1741–1867. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Zeisler-Vrasted D (2014) Aesthetics of the Volga and National Narratives in Russia. Environ Hist 20(1):93–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Central European UniversityBudapestHungary

Personalised recommendations