The end of the Soviet Union had far-reaching effects all over the world. Even today, researchers continue to discover new ways by which the fall of communism shaped not only global society and politics – but even European forests, as it turns out.
“I personally was quite surprised with our results on forest dynamics,” PeterPotapov, a professor at the University of Maryland, admitted.
Potapov has carefully analyzed forest cover changes in eastern Europe and western Russia over the last 27 years. His results are striking: The transition from communism to a liberal market economy has left clear traces that can be seen on satellite images. In most eastern European countries, forests have expanded overall.
Potapov's research shows how the end of the Soviet Union literally made the world more green – but at a substantial human cost.
How unemployment made forests grow
One of the reasons for the fall of the Soviet Union was its economic struggles. Following the breakup, the former Soviet states' economies declined even further.
Efficient western European and American companies suddenly entered into competition with neglected eastern European enterprises. It only took several months for most of those companies to go bankrupt. Especially hard-hit were farmers who had few other options than moving into urban areas. "Reduction of agriculture area affected most of the region, but was especially severe in areas where farming was marginally profitable," Potapov concluded.