Publication details

Transforming Nature in "Czechified" South Moravia After World War II


ORSILLO Nicholas Paul

Year of publication 2014
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
Description This paper examines landscape changes in South Moravia after World War II and explores the resulting environmental impacts of these changes. Before World War II, there was an ethnic German majority inhabiting much of this area. South Moravia is essentially congruous to the area of the Pannonian biogeographical region that extends into the Czech Republic in its northwesternmost range. It represents a unique biogeographical area in the Czech Republic: it is warmer, drier, and generally flatter here than in the rest of the country. It also features highly fertile soil, and thus the region has long been a center of agriculture. It is also unique in that it is the only section of the Czech borderlands with an environment highly favorable for agriculture. Thus, postwar landscape changes here were not marked by abandoned farmland and afforestation as was typical in the rest of the borderlands. In the mid-twentieth century, drought was a topic of frequent concern in South Moravia. Conservation-minded natural scientists observed that natural resources in South Moravia had long been poorly managed, which contributed greatly to aridification and thus to poorer agricultural output. Decades of intensive farming had claimed the forests, wetlands, lakes, and ponds that once keep the water cycle in balance and threatened to irrevocably destroy the region as a fertile and productive area. Nonetheless, after World War II, there were major demographic changes in South Moravia. Most of the ethnic Germans were forced to leave the country after the war, and the area was resettled by Czechs. When the Communists came to power in 1948, while farmland was being forcefully collectivized, efforts were simultaneously being made to restore ecological equilibrium in this newly thoroughly Czech landscape, aided along by the Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature: large shelterbelts were planned for South Moravia and ponds that had been drained in the nineteenth century were filled with water once again. This paper shall trace the changes that actually did take place in the landscape of South Moravia between 1945 and 1960 in light of the major demographic changes that occurred there after the war. Preliminary research indicates that measures intended to improve the landscape and thus agricultural production taken in the hardline 1950s, a period most frequently associated with negative environmental processes, actually may have had the potential to significantly improve environmental conditions in the region.
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