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The Development of Paleontology in Russia: Science, Politics, and Culture

Presenters Name: 
Reese Fulgenzi
Primary Research Mentor: 
Howard Epstein
Secondary Research Mentor: 
1:15 - 1:30
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 1:15pm to 1:30pm
Board Room
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Grant Program Recipient: 
Not a Recipient

Paleontology, the study of past life, is a fairly recent discipline that originated in Western Europe in the late-18th century. Paleontology in Russia parallels the West historically, with contemporaneous proliferation throughout the 19th century. The understanding of the heritage of an region is valuable in conceptualizing space and place. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Russia utilized geological and paleontological expeditions to bolster legitimacy in the Eastern stretches of the country. Imagined geographies grounded by natural history are common, but Russia is unique in the syncretic nature of commercial and academic paleontology. The divergence from Western scientific standards during the rise and control of the USSR was exacerbated after the Union’s dissolution. The integration of scientific and commercial interests in the discipline is due to the distinctive paleontological resources and relationships among political, cultural, and paleontological interests. Analyses of historical paleontological research, imperial maps, and commercial sales data are synthesized to highlight the unique nature of paleontology in Russia. Paleontology in Russia has been used for colonial power much like in the United Kingdom and China, but is distinctive in the political and cultural adaptations and influences in science. A fuller understanding of the relationship between science and politics, and of nations and natural history, provides a framework for the current environment. Comparative discussions of imperial and colonial power through science can be extended to the present day to conceptualize the preservation of national identities in a globalized world.