An Environmental History of Transboundary Rivers in Cold War East-Central Europe

Czech Science Foundation

Registration number: GA24-11526S

Realization: 2024–2026

Project title: An Environmental History of Transboundary Rivers in Cold War East-Central Europe

Acronym: ETRECE

Project summary:

Transboundary river basins shared by two or more East-Central European (ECE) countries experienced increasing water stress under communism. Although there has been extensive interest from the environmentally focused social sciences and humanities to study specific cases, "hot spots" such as the Gabčíkovo–Nagymaros Barrage System, yet the scientific community knows little about how issues of transboundary rivers - most notably pollution, regulation and utilization - were discussed and coordinated in communist East-Central Europe. This project centers on transboundary river issues around Czechoslovakia, with a focus on the Oder River (shared with Poland), and the Danube (shared with Hungary), and it focuses on the analysis of politico-scientific, as well as popular discourses. The project hypothesizes that during state-socialism, an ECE-specific ecological dichotomy evolved, in which the "official" scientific and political discourses created strong parallel realities regardless of the actual ecological situations. Paradoxically, actors of the politico-scientific discussions in communism were making repeated efforts to incorporate conservationists' theories, many of which were rejected by the mainstream in the West. Hence, the gradual growth of "unofficial", grassroots ecological movements managed to facilitate the "official" dialogue, which in turn sought such facilitation, and opened up to incorporate new eco-agendas. These two-way dynamics, proposed to be specific in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary, eventually closed the gap between the ideologically envisioned ecological reality and the actual environmental situation. Thus, it is anticipated that this project will find out novel insights into how and why ECE transboundary river issues, especially the ones between Czechoslovakia and Poland as well as Hungary, were formed by various actor groups during the communist period, and this study will reveal new knowledge about the human- nature relationships in ECE communist society, which were ECE region specific and different from their relevant counterparts in the West.



Viktor Pál (PhD, 2015; Associate Professor, 2021) is an associate professor at the University of Ostrava. Pál has published scientific articles in leading journals, such as Environmental History, Environment and History, Global Environment, Journal of Contemporary History and others, as well as produced edited volumes with Routledge and the White Horse Press. Pál is also the author of "Technology and the Environment in State-Socialist Hungary" (2017).


Lukáš Patera works at the Slovak Mining Museum and completes his doctoral dissertation "Iron ore mining in the Spiš-Gemer area during the process of industrialization (1871–1914)" at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ostrava, Czechia.

Renata Popelková works as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Science, University of Ostrava. She specialises in geoinformatics. Her research focuses on the historical development of the landscape, historical land use and spatial and temporal changes in the landscape (in the 19th and 20th centuries). She is the author of numerous studies in prestigious journals (e. g. Applied Geography, Journal of Maps) and co-author of the book "Black or Green Land. Industrialisation and Landscape Changes of the Ostrava-Karviná Mining District in the 19th and 20th Century" (2016).

Marcin Szymański works as an assistant professor at the Department of Recent History of Poland, University of Lodz. Dr Szymański's research focuses on the economic and environmental histories of twentieth century Poland. He is the author of "Łódzka elektrownia i gazownia do 1939 roku" (2016); "Polskie piwo. Biografia" (2018); also co-author of "Wielki przemysł, wielka cisza. Łódzkie zakłady przemysłowe 1945–2000" (2020).

Michaela Závodná works as an researcher at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ostrava. She specializes in economic history, especially the history of urban transport. Her research focuses on the economic, historical, spatial and social contexts of the development of urban transport from the 19th to 21st centuries. She published numerous studies in professional journals (e.g. Historica, Cities and History) and is the author of "Railways and the City. The Issues of Urban Rail Transport in Selected Moravian and Silesian Cities in the Years 1850–1914" (2016). She is the winner of the prestigious Josef Šusta Prize for the best monograph written by an author under 35 years of age.

Agata Zysiak is a historical sociologist working as a researcher at RECET, and as an adjunct at the Institute of Sociology, University of Łódź in Poland. Her latest book, "Limiting Privilege: Upward Mobility Within Higher Education in Socialist Poland" (2023), examines first-generation students' struggles with reluctant academia. Her research focuses on social mobility, modernization dreams, and state socialism. At RECET, she works on narratives of industrial collapse and the concept of socialist citizenship.

Updated: 13. 05. 2024