Why can a forest not be private? A post-socialist perspective on Polish forestry paradigms – an anthropological contribution

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During the last few years (2016–2019) forestry in Poland has received special attention from domestic and international audiences. In particular, the conflict relating to the Bialowieza Forest in Eastern Poland has been widely covered by the media. Yet there reminds a lack of understanding relating to Polish forestry paradigms. There are only a few publications on the topic. Moreover, little empirical work on the current major conflicts in the Polish forest sector has been done. This paper uses an anthropological approach to analyse the main paradigm of forestry in Poland. It draws upon long-term research on Polish forestry and forest policy conducted 2012–2017. The aim of this paper is to analyse the developments in the paradigm of Polish forestry between 1989 and 2017 by applying a post-socialist perspective. The paper explores the main paradigm of contemporary forestry in Poland, particularly its element – the conviction that forests should be state owned – and interprets this conviction in the frame of the Transformation of 1989 and the consequent social circumstances. The social and cultural context of the Transformation is analysed as a historical period that triggered shifts in the values, targets and motivations of Polish foresters. By employing a post-socialist perspective to current developments related to forests, this research traces the (long-term) social consequences of this shift in the forestry paradigm in Poland. Conceptually, the research builds upon an environmental anthropology approach. It uses a combination of ethnographic methods (participant observation and 120 in-depth qualitative interviews) and a literature review of media sources, grey literature and legal documents. The analysis explores two levels of forestry: the institutional level of policies and politics, and the practical level of foresters in forests.


Konczal, A (2020). Why can a forest not be private? A post-socialist perspective on Polish forestry paradigms – an anthropological contribution, Forest Policy and Economics, Volume 117, 2020,102206, ISSN 1389-9341,

Post-socialismPolandState forestryAnthropologyChangeParadigm