Water management in Romania and Czechoslovakia: visions and reality under state socialism. A comparison of the ecological history of two regions


State socialist regimes typically proclaimed that they were building a new social order. Infrastructure projects in peripheral locations were prominent in this vision. Until now, the role of the environment in this context has not been adequately researched. This project aims to investigate the construction of hydraulic structures in the Slovak and Romanian Carpathians and the accompanying discourse on water pollution. In so doing, the project will draw conclusions on the relationship of people to their environment in the period from 1945 to 1989.

The project focuses on three central questions:

1. What do discussions of water pollution and the construction of reservoir dams in Romania and Czechoslovakia reveal about people’s perceptions of the environment and nature? What bearing did these perceptions have on how people dealt with nature?

2. In the context of the (re-)discovery of space in the spatial turn, I view the construction and varied usage of reservoirs by citizens and regimes as a ‘production of spaces’. How did this affect the political, socio-economic and cultural situation in the regions examined? I also ask if the new spaces changed the perception of the periphery, binding it more closely to the centre.

3. How do approaches to the environment in Romania and Czechoslovakia compare with each other and with approaches taken in other countries? Were people guided here by the Soviet Union or existing domestic traditions or did they look to the West as a model?

Arnošt Štanzel