This book examines the relationship between Ukraine’s Galician Hutsuls and the Carpathian landscape between 1848 and 1939. The author analyzes the intersections of ecology and culture in the history of the Carpathian Mountains, with a focus on the region’s economy and biodiversity.
Anthony J. Amatois professor of social science at Southwest Minnesota State University.
Chapter One: The Map and the Territory
Chapter Two: Villages, Frontiers, and Pasts
Chapter Three: Thinking Unlike a Mountain: Environment, Pasts, and Present
Chapter Four: Girdling Dracula’s Trees and Sprucing up the Carpathians
Chapter Five: Unintended Alliances
Chapter Six: Missing the Forest for the Trees: Environment and the Servitudes Dispute
Chapter Seven: Environment and Economy
Chapter Eight: Rivers: Black, White, Brown, and Tan
Chapter Nine: Household, Property, and Economy
Chapter Ten: Thick Description of Thin Soils
Deeply considered and engagingly written, Anthony J. Amato’s environmental history of the Hutsul region in the northeastern Carpathians offers new vistas on the development of a remote, but by no means isolated, mountain area. Amato’s highly learned study offers a rich, multi-layered portrait of how the herders and swidden cultivators residing here made their livings during the nine decades after 1848 in a challenging natural environment and amidst changing biologic, economic, social, and political conditions. Anyone interested in the relationship of mountain communities to their environment will learn much from this book.
In this work of remarkable scholarship and insight, Anthony J. Amato has woven the ecological, historical, cultural, and linguistic world of Ukraine’s Galician Hutsuls into a compelling narrative of a people, their biotic and abiotic “patchy places,” and their ancient rootedness in the remote highlands, meadows, hollows, and valleys of the northeastern Carpathians. The period from Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph to Soviet power serves as loose boundaries for Amato’s history. These boundaries mark the end of manorial servitude (1848) and the rise of machine technology, collective farming, and conservation as a tool of production (1939). In between, we explore Hutsul highlander life in seven villages. We accompany transhumant herders making their annual treks up to alpine pastures. We see Hutsuls co-evolving with their landscapes, rivers, animals, crops, soils, gardens, trees, bees, industries, and markets, yielding a rich tableau of culture and ecosystems. The pioneering environmental historian J. R. McNeill observes that information from genomics, biodiversity, natural cycles, and anthropogenic climate change may discourage scholars from acquiring a sense of place. In his original approach, Amato demonstrates that these resources help to confer a fuller sense of a people and their place, their practices and folkways, their economies, their encounters with the land and living things, and their ability to protect a valued way of life under threat.
Based on a rich array of sources, Dr. Amato evokes and explains the world of the Carpathian Mountains and their Hutsul inhabitants in a too-often forgotten corner of Eastern Europe. Uplands and climate, forests and rivers, plants and animals, Hutsul villagers, their ways of life, and an economy with ties to the wider world all contributed to a distinctive, bioregional identity. Rooted in a specific place, multi-faceted in its approach, attentive to changes over time, this is a fine work of environmental history.
Amato brings to his writing a mix of scholarship and enthusiasm for the subject of environmental history, and his work is both informative and entertaining to read. In the case of his latest book, his work is a major environmental historical account of the Carpathian Mountains deep in the heartland of continental Europe. The volume is meticulously researched and draws on details of the natural world and the cultural traditions of the region. This is an important and accessible addition to the literature on that area and will appeal to a wide audience.
I found The Carpathians, the Hutsuls, and Ukraine to be an exceptionally interesting, enlightening, and authoritative study. The author is a keen observer of human-environmental interactions and plant ecology, as well as a patient reader of historical archives and old journals in various languages, a charming storyteller, and an excellent writer. His meticulous research is reflected in a total of 1,710 endnotes after the book’s ten chapters and a bibliography that runs thirty-nine pages.