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2. Institutions concerned with the issues of desertification and drylands development


A. Turkmenistan
B. Russia
C. Kazakhstan
D. Ukraine
E. Centres in other states of the CIS
F. Projects for change


2.1 In the Soviet Union, all scientific work on desertification and drylands development, whether theoretical or practical, was concentrated in the institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union. These were important establishments with hundreds of employees including administrative and support personnel.

A. Turkmenistan

2.2 The most important research institution in these fields is the Institute of Deserts of the Academy of Sciences of the SSR1 1 of Turkmenistan, renamed in late 1991 the Institute of Deserts of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan (Turkm.: Ch÷ll´er Instituty, Turkm´enistan Ylymnar Akad´emi´asy; Russian: Institut Pustyn' Akad´emii Naouk Turkm´enistana). Founded in 1962, it has taken charge of the research stations at Repetek (R´ep´et´ek), and has two other stations near Ashkhabad. The Institute has a total of about 400 employees. Its address is: 15 ulitsa Gogol´a, Ashkhabad (Turkm.: Ashgabat). The address "Ashkhabad sad Keshi," which is occasionally seen (for example, in World of Learning), is false.

1 SSR - Soviet Socialist Republic

2.3 The Institute, currently directed by A. G. Baba´ev (Babayev), is interdisciplinary, employing geographers, biologists, engineers, computer experts, agronomists and other specialists. In the 1970's, the work of the Institute concentrated on accumulating knowledge of the deserts of Central Asia and on their management, particularly sand dune fixation. In the 1980's, the Institute took an increasing interest in studies on the degradation of the natural environment, on changes in the Aral Sea region, and on the possibilities of limiting their negative impact. Noteworthy among these researchers is Mr. I.S. Zonn who coordinated this research and is the author of several works on defining desertification (cf. chapter 4 A and bibliographical entries).

2.4 Since 1967 the Institute of Deserts has published the bimonthly "Probl´emy osvo´eni´a pustyn'" (cf. bibl. entry 15; Turkm.: Ch÷ll´eri ÷zl´eshdirm´egin pr´obl´emalary) and several publications whose visual presentation leaves something to be desired (small characters, lack of photographs, barely readable graphics). These are mainly team efforts under the direction of A.G. Baba´ev. So far, the Institute publishes almost exclusively in Russian, although its scientists come from various republics (many of them, however, are Russian). Its books are written exclusively in Russian, as are the articles in "Probl´emy osvo´eni´a pustyn'," sometimes accompanied by brief summaries in Turkoman and/or English, with the title page in Russian and in Turkoman (since 1992, Turkoman first), and the titles of articles in Turkoman, occasionally in English. The official documents of the USSR were drafted by the Institute in English (cf. bibl. entries 12, 22, 49). Since 1980 the English version of "Probl´emy osvo´eni´a pustyn"' has been published in the U.S. (by Alerton Press).

2.5 A.G. Baba´ev and a delegation from the Academy of Sciences of the USSR participated at the United Nations Conference on Desertification (Nairobi, 1977). Since the conference, the Institute has acquired a privileged position in doing research on desertification in the USSR. It coordinated the programmes USSR/UNEP, USSR/UNEP/FAO, USSR/UNESCO and the cooperation of the USSR in ESCAP.

2.6 The Institute of Deserts has organized courses for specialists from developing countries on the development and management of pasture resources and on integrated development (cf. bibl. entries 20, 21, 71, 144). For scientific expertise, the Institute benefits from the services of the institutes of other republics; the organizational side of its work has been taken over by the Centre of International Projects of the Higher Committee of Science and Technology of Moscow (Tsientr Miezhdunarodoykh Pro´ektov, Glavny´ Komit´et po Naouk´e i Tiekhnik´e).

2.7 In Turkmenistan, apart from the Institute of Deserts, no other research centre exists which deals with desertification.

B. Russia

2.8 In the Federal Republic of Russia, the Geographical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Institut G´eografii Rossi´sko´ Akad´emii Naouk; until 1991 the Academy of Sciences of the USSR) is the chief research centre. Its address is: Moscow, Staromon´etny´ P´er´eulok 29. The institute employs approximately 400 people.

2.9 A large involvement of geographers in the studies on desertification has resulted in a concept of geography entirely different from that in Western European countries. In the USSR the geography has been treated as an exact science, as for example in France, geography is thought of as a social science. In geographical institutes, approximately 80% of the personnel deal with physical geography in departments (kafiedra) such as climatology, hydrology, geomorphology and pedology. In this Institute, the hydrologist and pedologist S. V. Zonn initiated work on desertification (cf. bibl. entry 146). In the 1980's, changes in the natural environment of the Aral Sea and methods of combating these changes were the priority objectives of the Institute's research. This work, directly supervised by the director of the Institute, Mr. V. M. Kotliakov (Kotlyakov) led to several publications, a number of them in English (cf. bibl. entries 43, 77, 109). In the 1990's, the countries of Central Asia decided that henceforth all work on the restoration of the Aral Sea and on the management of the surrounding region would be completed without Russia's help. The State University of Lomonossov at Moscow (MGU) was virtually uninvolved in the studies of desertification. However, this Institute led research on soil erosion in various regions of Russia, and, in lesser extent, in the other countries of the CIS. Some of these works could be useful in attempts to limit desertification (cf. bibl. entry 92). -It is worth mentioning also the Lenin Library of Moscow (Bibliot´eka im´eni L´enina -its current name) which fills the function of central library where nearly all publications appearing in the USSR until 1991 can be found. However, the collection is catalogued with a 1 to 2 year delay, and since 1991 a number of the documents which do not concern Russia do not reach the library. This library also has catalogues of the collections of some other Russian libraries. In Russia, outside of Moscow, there are few individuals who deal with desertification. At St. Petersburg, the second most important scientific centre of the country, problems of desertification are scarcely studied, probably because of the distance between St. Petersburg and the subtropical dry land zones. Nevertheless, since the Institute of Hydrometeorology (in Russian: Institut Gidrom´et´eorologii and Gidrom´et´eoizdat Publishing House) in St. Petersburg remains the chief centre in Russia for research on long-term climate change, the problems of desertification sometimes come up in the course of work on other issues (cf. bibl. entry 78).

C. Kazakhstan

2.10 Unlike the situation in Russia and Turkmenistan, desertification is the subject of research in several small institutions in Kazakhstan. They have close relations with the Institute of Deserts at Ashkhabad and with the University of Urumchi (China). They also correspond with institutes in Japan, Germany, the United States, and with international organizations, especially UNEP and UNESCO. Contact with Moscow and St. Petersburg is limited. The Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan has led research in Mongolia, published articles, and is currently preparing a vegetation map. The characteristic features of all the research centres at Alma Ata are a relatively good methodology, poor technical equipment, and enormous printing difficulties which prevent the publication of a number of articles (cf. bibl. entries 121, 124).

2.11 The main centres of Kazakhstan are:

(i) The Botanical Institute (in Russian: Institut Botaniki; Kazakh: Botanika Instituty) of the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan. It prepares vegetation maps (of present state and evolution). It also directs studies on the productivity of pastures and work on revegetalization. Several years ago, L.I. Kurochkina was the scientific head of this institute; now it is I.I. Rachkovska´a.

(ii) The Geographical Institute (in Russian: Institut G´eografii; Kazakh: G´eografi´a Instituty) of the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan. It has a team of about 15 members led by G.V. Gel'dyeva working on desertification. They prepare maps of the landscape, of the degree of desertification, and of other changes in the natural environment. The regions of study are the areas surrounding the Aral Sea and Lake Balkhash.

(iii) The Council for the Organization of Productive Forces (SOPS, in Russian: Sov´et pro Organizatsii Proizvodit´el'nykh Sil) of the Republican Office of Planning. It prepares maps of natural resources and designee projects for combating desertification, prepares regional development plans and organizes conferences. Considering, among others, the existence of the Ministry of Ecology in the government, the position of this nature group is particularly strong.

(iv) The main library is in Alma Ata, the regional equivalent of the Lenin Library in Moscow. It is also a library of the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan (Russian: Bibl´ot´eka Akad´emii Naouk R´espubliki Kazakhstana; Kazakh: Kazakhstan R´espublikasy, Fykym Akad´emi´asynyn Kitapkhanasy).

D. Ukraine

2.12 As in Kazakhstan, there is no central institution dealing with desertification and the problems of combating it. Studies of limited scope are directed by small teams dispersed among different institutions at Kiev, L'viv Ivano-Frankovsk, and elsewhere. The problems of desertification remain in the background and are only dealt with in the course of studies on soil erosion or on vegetation changes (cf. bibl. entries 89, 130). Most scientists work for the Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine. The main collections of specialized literature are kept at the V.E. Vernadski Central Scientific Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine (Ts´entralna Naoukova Bibliot´eka im. V.I. V´ernadskogo, Akad´emi´a Naouk Ukraini).

E. Centres in other states of the CIS

2.13 Studies on desertification are pursued in other countries which have separated from the Soviet Union, but their scale is smaller and they are carried out by individual researchers. Azerbaijan, however, deserves special mention. At Baku, research has been supervised by the Geographical Institute (in Russian: Institut G´eografii Az´ersko´ R´espubliki) - Baku, Nartsimanova 31 -and by the Institute of Natural Resource Studies by Remote Sensing (in Russian: Institut Issl´edovani´a Prirodnykh R´essursov iz Kosmosa) - Baku, Kommunistich´eska´a 10. It has not been possible to obtain more precise information about these institutes; contacts with the RAN Geographical Institute are not currently maintained. Both these centres published their works in Russian and in Azeri. A portion of the results especially those obtained via satellite imagery - are not available to the public. Some small-scale projects have been carried out by the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences (in Tashkent) and by the Academy of Sciences of Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek, formerly Frunze), generally in close cooperation with the Institute of Deserts at Ashkhabad or the RAN Geographical Institute.

F. Projects for change

2.14 It is understood that scientific structures have not yet adapted to the new political situation (interview with S.V. Zonn, among others). Considering current political conditions, the Institute of Deserts at Ashkhabad could lose the ability to function outside Turkmenistan. Most of the scientists working on desertification are Russian. Russia has no interdisciplinary centre of desertification. The success of reforms introduced since the end of May, 1993, depends above all on the development of the political situation in the countries of the CIS.

2.15 A subsidiary of the Institute of Deserts under the direction of I.S. Zonn has been founded at Moscow. Its future status has not yet been determined. The plan is to locate it in the heart of the city, next to the International Projects Centre. This would undoubtedly lead to the Institute's becoming far more than just the subsidiary of a Turkoman scientific institute.

2.16 The creation of an Institute of Deserts in the Federal Republic of Russia was planned for the end of 1993. It would be located at Elista, capital of the Kalmyk Republic of Russia. The range of activities of this research centre would include the Republic of Kalmyk, which is the most involved in the creation of the institute, the territory of Krasnodar north of the Caucases, the oblast (administrative district) of Astrakhan in the lower Volga, and possibly other regions. However, the structure of the institute had not yet been determined as of July 1993. It will benefit from local scientific potential (the University of Elista, the Russian Academy of Sciences). Financing will come from the Buddhist community in the United States (the majority of Kalmyks are Buddhist), and from Japan. The institute is to conduct complex studies of the natural environment of deserts, to work on endangered species of vegetation, and to study methods of combating sand encroachment and salinization. It will direct studies on the optimal conditions for irrigated agriculture, methods of irrigation, and pasture management. The institute will also conduct research on the possibility of acclimatizing American plant species to the subtropical zone (oleaginous plants, among others). Noteworthy among local scientists is V.A. Bananova (cf. bibl. entry 25).


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