Eunice BlavascunasOct 20, 2021
Foresters, Borders, and Bark Beetles
The Future of Europe's Last Primeval Forest
Indiana University Press 2020
In Foresters, Borders, and Bark Beetles: The Future of Europe’s Last Primeval Forest (Indiana University Press, 2020), Eunice Blavascunas provides an intimate ethnographic account of Białowieża, Europe's last primeval forest. At Poland’s easternmost border with Belarus, the deep past of ancient oaks, woodland bison, and thousands of species of insects and fungi collides with authoritarian and communist histories. Foresters, biologists, environmentalists, and locals project the ancient Białowieża Forest as a series of competing icons in struggles over memory, land, and economy, which are also struggles about whether to log or preserve the woodland; whether and how to celebrate the mixed ethnic Polish/Belarusian peasant past; and whether to align this eastern outpost with ultra-right Polish politics, neighboring Belarus, or the European Union. Drawing on more than twenty years of research, Blavascunas untangles complex conflicts between protection and use by examining which forest pasts are celebrated, which fester, and which have been altered in the tumultuous decades following the collapse of communism.
Piotr H. Kosicki is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Catholics on the Barricades (Yale, 2018) and editor, among others, of Political Exile in the Global Twentieth Century (with Wolfram Kaiser).