September 01, 2003

Heirs to Gagarin



When we asked photographer Igor Shpilenok to offer a few words about his wilderness images that comprise our 2004 Wall Calendar (see ad, page 1), here is what he said:

Most of my fellow countrymen who were proud of Russia’s achievements in space exploration or the arms race find themselves frustrated today.  Yet I have found another reason to be proud of my country: over the past 80 years, Russia created one of the largest and most effective systems of protected areas in the world.  Unlike space exploration or the arms race, this system continues to expand and it would be even more effective if only one percent of the resources spent on those programs were dedicated to the protected areas system.  Zapovedniks, or strictly protected nature reserves, form the core of this system.  While it is difficult to describe the magnificence of Russian wilderness preserved in zapovedniks in words, I have tried to capture some of its beauty in these photographs.

Interestingly, Igor had no idea that the lead story in this issue of Russian Life, which also features his photographs of Kalmykia (page 32) and of zapovedniki across Russia, was the Russian Space Program (page 24). Yet his comparison is well put. Russia can truly be proud of the wilderness areas it has preserved. But cordoning off these areas is one thing. Securing them for the future through an ongoing commitment to nurturing and protecting wildlife (from poaching and industrial waste, to name but two) and funding a modest system of rangers, is another thing altogether.


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Russian Life is a 29-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

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