Polessye as a “Landscape of Intervention”

Polessye, a natural and historically distinct landscape [Belarusian: Палессе Paliessie, Ukrainian: Полісся Polissia, Polish: Polesie, Russian: Полесье Poles’e, „woodland“, „land near the forest“] is a region which encompasses one of the last large marshlands and alluvial forests in Europe. It is located on the border of Belarus and Ukraine. During the 20th century, human intervention transformed the region´s landscapes and living environments fundamentally: Polessye has experienced drastic changes in terms of regional development planning and land use, the exercise of power, and the introduction of new technologies. Polessye witnessed the destruction brought on by two world wars, genocides, and far-reaching attempts at centralization and modernization by various ruling powers. Since the 1930s, continuous efforts have been made to drain marshlands. Since the 1970s, the Soviet Union has made plans to transform the Ukrainian part of Polessye into an energy landscape. To that end, it constructed three large nuclear power plants and the necessary infrastructure. One of these plants, Chernobyl, has become the symbol of a modern “risk society” with its inherent technological risks throughout the world.

During the summer school, the organizers want to take the participants and experts from Belarus and the Ukraine with them on an investigative exploration through Polessye, experiencing the region together as a dynamic ecological, political, socio-cultural and economic space. The focus will be both on everyday life as well as on the relationships between the state, the people, the natural environment and technology. In three different locations, the group will explore examples of how key historical protagonists interacted with the landscape and dealt with geographical space: Pinsk in the Belarusian part of Polessye, Varaš/Kuznecovsk in the Ukrainian part, and Kyiv.

The summer school offers lectures, excursions and practical seminars. Prior to the start of the trip, participants will receive a comprehensive reader containing literature relevant to the main topics. The event is divided into four modules. Each will involve a practical exploration, based on a comparative approach, of various key issues, methods of knowledge transfer and methodical techniques of working.