Pripet Marshes

Nature, knowledge, and politics in Polish Polesie until 1945
Author: Sławomir Łotysz
Publisher: Cracow: Universitas 2022
ISBN: 978-83-242-3958-0 (2nd ed. paperback), 978-83-242-3867-5 (paperback), 978-83-242-3794-4 (hardcover)
ISBN e-book: 978-83-242-6646-3

572 pages


The Pripet Marshes, which belonged to Poland throughout the interwar period, are typically portrayed as being no different from the rest of the country. However, everything appeared to be unusual there: hay was gathered by men standing knee-deep in water, trade at the Pinsk market was done directly from boats, and the central part of the region used to change into an inland sea for many months of the year. Łotysz aimed to recreate the area’s interwar era by looking at it from an environmental point of view. As he explains, Polish efforts to drain the marshes were crucial in the state’s policy toward the eastern territories because only the draining of the marshes opened this vast land to colonization and, subsequently, polonization.

Table of Contents (in Polish): PDF

The Awards

Jan Jędrzejewicz Prize

The book has been noted for the third time!!! Pińskie błota  received an honorable mention in the competition for the best work in the field of the history of science and technology named after Jan Jędrzejewicz. It was awarded by the Committee for the History of Science and Technology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the city of Płońsk, where Dr. Jędrzejewicz, an astronomer and promoter of science, used to live.



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Nomination to “Polityka” award for the best historical book of the year

Jury statement (Professor Barbara Klich-Kluczewska):

“This is an innovative look at the history of Poland and the region from the perspective of environmental history, i.e. the intertwined history of man and nature. It is a fascinating story of political struggles over the fate of the now non-existent world of the Polesie wetlands and the Poleshuks living in symbiosis with them.

Sławomir Łotysz moves confidently in the fields of medical history, military history, and social imagination. He is equally attentive to the processes of orientalization of Polesie as a “borderland” region, as well as to the political squabbles and scholarly debates surrounding the idea of a new ” Polesian Netherlands”, which was ultimately not implemented in the Second Polish Republic.

Our contemporary fears resonate throughout the book. About drought, global warming, and ultimately about the wrong decisions of people who still think in terms of “progress” or their own political gain.”

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Eastern Review Award
Photo by Anna Dydek

The book received the “Eastern Review” Award for 2022, awarded by the Center for Eastern Europe of the University of Warsaw. The award ceremony took place on March 25 in the Senate Hall of the University of Warsaw in the Kazimierzowski Palace. The laudation was delivered by Professor Anna Engelking from the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

From the Jury’s verdict: The winner of the Award managed to prepare an excellent work, the first monograph on this issue and this area, which has been written from a multidisciplinary perspective covering various scientific disciplines: from sociology and post-colonial theories of political science to biology and ecology, which gives the reader a wide range of knowledge and can be a starting point as well as a model for further research.

prepublication reviews

“Although it is a scholarly work, it is written in vivid and rich essayistic language, drawing the reader in from the first page and making it a passionate read to the end”.
Professor Anna Engelking, Institute of Slavic Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw

“This is the first monograph on the history of the Second Polish Republic written with an environmental perspective in mind, demonstrating the ecological dimension of key debates concerning this period in Polish history.”.
Professor Adam Izdebski, Institute of History, Jagiellonian University, Cracow


Review in Nasha Niva, an independent Belarussian web journal (in Belarusian and Russian). Dr. Alyaksandr Byely (Аляксандр Белы), the review’s author, is currently a political émigré.

What the readers say

Public presentations

Public presentations of the book at book fairs, conferences, seminars, and radio shows [read more in Polish].


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Cited by

Bienias, Barbara (2023). “Jak (nie) pisać o Mikołaju Koperniku – refleksje na marginesie nowych biografii,” Kwartalnik Historii Nauki i Techniki 68(2): 187-212. (OPEN ACCESS)

Mialik, Alexander M. (2023). “The history of the study of the flora of Pripyat Polesie,” (in Russian with English summary), Studies in the History of Biology 15(2): 7-37. (OPEN ACCESS)

Pospiszyl, Michał (2023). “The Fifth Element: The Enlightenment and the Draining of Eastern Europe,” Environmental History 28(2): 361-388. (OPEN ACCESS)

Zysiak, Agata (2023). “Ludowa historia Polski: Historia wyzysku i oporu. Mitologia panowania. By Adam Leszczyński. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo W.A.B., 2020. 667 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Tables. zɫ59.99, paper. – Bękarty pańszczyzny: Historia buntów chłopskich. By Michał Rauszer. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo RM, 2021. 280 pp. Appendix. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Figures. zɫ39.99, paper – Chamstwo (Rabble). By Kacper Pobłocki. Wołowiec: Wydawnictwo Czarne, 2021. 384 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. zɫ49.90, hard bound,” Slavic Review 82(1), 184-193. doi:10.1017/slr.2023.105


Łotysz, Sławomir. Pińskie błota. Natura, wiedza i polityka na polskim Polesiu do 1945 roku. Cracow: Universitas 2022.

This research was funded by the National Science Centre, Poland, under grant number 2015/19/B/HS3/03553 [read more].