Rivers, Memory, and Nation-Building: A History of the Volga and Mississippi Rivers

Zeisler-Vralsted, Dorothy | from Multimedia Library Collection:
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Rivers, Memory, and Nation-building: A History of the Volga and Mississippi Rivers. Cover.

Zeisler-Vralsted, Dorothy. Rivers, Memory, and Nation-Building: A History of the Volga and Mississippi Rivers. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014.

Rivers figure prominently in a nation’s historical memory, and the Volga and Mississippi have special importance in Russian and American cultures. Beginning in the pre-modern world, both rivers served as critical trade routes connecting cultures in an extensive exchange network, while also sustaining populations through their surrounding wetlands and bottomlands. In modern times, “Mother Volga” and the “Father of Waters” became integral parts of national identity, contributing to a sense of Russian and American exceptionalism.  Furthermore, both rivers were drafted into service as the means to modernize the nation-state through hydropower and navigation. Despite being forced into submission for modern-day hydrological regimes, the Volga and Mississippi Rivers persist in the collective memory and continue to offer solace, recreation, and sustenance. Through their histories we derive a more nuanced view of human interaction with the environment, which adds another lens to our understanding of the past. (Text from Berghahn Books)

The Rachel Carson Center, the ESEH, and Berghahn Books (New York and Oxford) partner on the publication of the peer-reviewed book series The Environment in History: International Perspectives. The series strives to bridge both national and disciplinary divides, with a particular emphasis on European, transnational, and comparative research.

Further readings: 
  • Kraikovski, Alexei V., and Julia A. Lajus. "The Neva as a Metropolitan River of Russia: Environment, Economy and Culture." In A History of Water. Series 2, Volume 2. Rivers and Society: From Early Civilizations to Modern Times, edited by Terje Tvedt, Terje Oestigaard, Richard Coopey, Graham Chapman, and Roar Hagen, 339–64. New York: I. B. Tauris, 2010.