Primary Source

Environmental Activism in the Soviet Union


On April 26, 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine led to the radioactive contamination of the surrounding countryside and to radioactive fallout throughout Eastern and Western Europe. In a test of the new Soviet policy of glasnost' (openness), Soviet authorities acknowledged the disaster, though only after Western countries had traced the radiation source to Ukraine. Inside the Soviet Union, this led to the birth of environmental activism that ultimately pursued a series of causes. One of these causes—the subject of this poster from 1989—was the danger of deforestation. The full text reads: "If I pick flowers, if you pick flowers. If all of us: if I and you, if we pick flowers—then everything would be deserted, and nothing will be beautiful!" This was a particularly important warning at the time, as new evidence of the erosion of the Aral Sea from Soviet irrigation projects gained worldwide attention. Even more important, a continuation of criticism of the Soviet Union from inside its borders signified that the new policy of glasnost' was creating real change.

"If I pick flowers...," 1989, Wende Museum.


Courtesy of the Wende Museum, Los Angeles, CA.

How to Cite This Source
Environmental Activism in the Soviet Union in World History Commons,