Arctic Yearbook 2022 - The Russian Arctic: Economic, Politics & Peoples

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Arctic Yearbook 2022

Heininen, L., H. Exner Pirot, & J. Barnes (eds.). (2022). Arctic Yearbook 2022: The Russian Arctic: Economics, Politics & Peoples. Akureyri, Iceland: Arctic Portal. Available from

ISSN 2298 2418

This is an open access volume distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non commercial.


Lassi Heininen|

Managing Editor

Heather Exner Pirot |

Assistant Editor

Justin Barnes |

Editorial Board


Dr. Alexander Pelyasov (Russian Academy of Sciences; Director of the Center of Northern and Arctic Economics; Ministry of Economic Development & Trade, Russian Federation)

Dr. Daria Burnasheva (Senior Lecture at Arctic State Institute of Culture and Arts, Sakha Republic)

Dr. Miya Christensen (Professor at University of Stockholm, Sweden)

Halldor Johannsson (Executive Director, Arctic Portal, Iceland)

Dr. Kirsi Latola (Research Coordinator, UArctic Vice President Networks, Finland)

Dr. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson (Former President of the Republic of Iceland, Chair of the Arctic Circle Assembly)

James Ross, (Gwich’in leader, Northwest Territories, Canada)

Dr. Lawson Brigham (Distinguished Professor of Geography & Arctic Policy, University of Alaska Fairbanks)


About Arctic Yearbook

The Arctic Yearbook is the outcome of the UArctic Thematic Network (TN) on Geopolitics and Security. The TN also organizes the annual Calotte Academy

The Arctic Yearbook seeks to be the preeminent repository of critical analysis on the Arctic region, with a mandate to inform observers about the state of Arctic politics, governance and security. It is an international and interdisciplinary peer reviewed publication, published online at [] to ensure wide distribution and accessibility to a variety of stakeholders and observers.

Arctic Yearbook material is obtained through a combination of invited contributions and an open call for papers. For more information on contributing to the Arctic Yearbook, or participating in the TN on Geopolitics and Security, contact the Editor, Lassi Heininen.


The Arctic Yearbook would like to acknowledge the Arctic Portal [] for their generous technical and design support, especially Ævar Karl Karlsson; and our colleagues who provided peer review for the scholarly articles in this volume.


The Russian Arctic: Economics, Politics & Peoples

Introduction ......................1

Lassi Heininen, Heather Exner Pirot, & Justin Barnes

Year in Review ................10 Paige Groome & Justin Barnes


Thematic network on geopolitics and security: A brainstorming session on how to maintain peace & stability, and continue constructive cooperation in the Arctic...........................................................14 Lassi Heininen

I. People, Art, and Culture

On the importance of Native consultants in Ethnological Impact Assessment in Sakha Republic........................................................................................................................................................18

Maria Pavlova & Sardana Nikolaeva

Why are the Khanty and Mansi default figures in the politics of memory in the north of Western Siberia? .........................................................................................................................................................31

Ksenia Barabanova

Syktyvkar: the (Komi) capital of the Komi Republic. Analysis of lived experiences of urban Komi people............................................................................................................................................................41 Maria Fedina

Art from the margins and colonial relations: to listen or to ban artists’ voices from Russia?........58 Maria Huhmarniemi & Ekaterina Sharova

Finding Gender from the Capital of Gas: Reflections of Women in Russia’s Fossil Fuel Industry........................................................................................................................................................74

Sohvi Kangasluoma

Indigenous women as water protectors, men as firefighters? Gender and indigeneity in the context of climate change in Sakha (Yakutia)........................................................................................88 Daria Burnasheva


Research in the Russian Arctic: challenging but rewarding fieldwork on the Kola Peninsula 107 Robert Wheelersburg


II. Climate, Society and Development

Human capital in the Russian Arctic: Challenges and responses 114 Aleksandra Pryadilina, Emma Likhacheva, & Irina Chesnokova

Comparative analysis of living conditions and environmental factors related to the population health and well being risks in urban and rural areas of the Nenets autonomous okrug (Arctic Russia), 2000 2019.....................................................................................................................................125 A.A. Dudarev & A.V. Dozhdikov

Constructing the Russian Arctic as a Special Economic Zone............................................................146 Alexandra Middleton

Arctic Conferences: What is the Economic Impact of Choosing Locations Outside the Arctic to Discuss Arctic Issues? ..............................................................................................................................165

Daria Mishina

Examining the maritime activities and environmental effects of the ice class ships Efecan Özcan, Sinan Yirmibeşo ğlu & Burcu Özsoy.............................................................186

Homesteading in the Arctic? The Logic Behind, and Prospects for, Russia’s Arctic Hectare Program 201 Kara K. Hodgson & Marc Lanteigne

Permafrost Thaw and Adapting to its Multiple Effects in the Arctic 215 Outi Meinander, Mikael Hildén, Hanna K Lappalainen, Claire Mosoni, Reija Ruuhela, Eeva Kuntsi Reunanen, Timothy R. Carter, Stefan Fronzek, Nina Pirttioja, Ali Nadir Arslan, Kaarle Kupiainen, Ketil Isaksen, Heikki Lihavainen, and Juha Aalto

III. Chinese Russian Cooperation

The War in Ukraine as a Critical Juncture: China, Russia, and Arctic Collaboration up to 2035 233 Liisa Kauppila & Sanna Kopra

Can Russian Arctic regions benefit from collaborating with Northeastern China? Current challenges to the low carbon agenda 249 Gao Tianming, Vasilii Erokhin, Zhu Dianyong & Zhu Gexun

Implications for Sino Russian Cooperation on the Polar Silk Road 277 Yu Cao

IV. Russia and the World

The Arctic as a laboratory for improving the relations between the EU and Russia: Prospects for the future 293 Tiziana Melchiorre


To Live Up to Our Name “Greenland”: Politics of Comparison in Greenland’s Green


Lill Rastad Bjørst


Russia’s war and the prospects for Arctic States’ cooperation..........................................................328 Michael Paul

Can the Arctic remain a region of international cooperation in the context of the Ukrainian crisis? 331 Valery Konyshev

Can cooperation be restored?..................................................... 335 Pavel Devyatkin

Keeping ahead of Arctic science in difficult times What scientists seek and do 342 Hiroyuki Enomoto

Report from the USC NSF Arctic Security Conference 346 Nicholas Parlato, Christopher Kiyaseh, Nadezhda Filimonova, Daniel Ziebarth & Yu Cao

31st Year of the Calotte Academy 351 Eda Ayaydın & Griffith Couser

“Close, like minded partners committed to democratic principles”: Settling the Hans Island/Tartupaluk Territorial Dispute..................................................................................................357 P. Whitney Lackenbauer & Rasmus Leander Nielsen



Arctic Yearbook 2022: The Russian Arctic in Focus

This year’s theme, “The Russian Arctic: Economics, Politics & Peoples” was chosen, at the turn of 2021 2022 and prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, due to the high relevance of the Russian Arctic in every aspect of Arctic politics. The region comprises over half of the Arctic’s land surface area, mostly covered by permafrost, and almost half of the coastline and the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Arctic Ocean. Its population consists of almost 70% of the total number of Arctic inhabitants. The volume of its economy with multiple fields of exploitation is 73% of that of the Arctic. Despite being largely covered by permafrost, the Russian part of the Arctic contains large cities and numerous towns and villages, as well as road networks and even railways. These populated centers, many of them ‘mono towns’, are surrounded by advanced infrastructure both old and new and consist of mines, smelters and other factories, harbors, airports and other transportation means, research stations, as well as navel and other military bases. Since the time of tzardom, Russian scientists and scholars have explored the Arctic and conducted field work studying geography, Arctic ecosystems, climate, cryospheric sciences, glaciers, the Arctic Ocean, and sea ice. The Russian Arctic is also home to diverse groups of Indigenous peoples with their unique languages, cultures and livelihoods. Research done by and with Russian scientists, scholars and academic institutions is an invaluable part of international Arctic research.

The Russian Arctic is therefore an incredibly important part of the entire Arctic region to understand, not only because the Russian Federation is the biggest and largest of the eight Arctic states. And yet, the region is often either not known, and/or misunderstood to external audiences and stakeholders, with superficial characterizations proliferating due to a lack of up to date information. There is thus a need for sophisticated English language scholarship on the Russian Arctic, especially from Russian authors themselves. That is the intent of the Arctic Yearbook 2022. Is this endeavor more or less urgent after February 24, 2022, when Russia initiated a war against Ukraine? Unlike after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the response of the seven other Arctic states to pause all Arctic cooperation with the Russian Federation, though it holds the Arctic

Lassi Heininen, Heather Exner Pirot, and Justin Barnes are the editors of the Arctic Yearbook Lassi Heininen, Heather Exner Pirot & Justin Barnes

Council Chairmanship (2021 2023), is one of the most significant events in Arctic politics since the founding of the Council in 1996. The implications of the war in Ukraine, to world geopolitics and Arctic geopolitics, will be felt for years to come. And as security dynamics between Russia and the West harden, and less proper information across borders is available, better understanding the Russian Arctic has already begun to take on new levels of importance.

Impacts of the war

The conflict in Ukraine is changing European security dramatically. Bringing a (hot) war into Europe has been a game changer in European and Arctic geopolitics. The consensus not only in the West, but amongst the states of the United Nations, is that the war violates international law, the integrity of a sovereign state. Others perceive, however, a state of constant imbalance and warfare in world politics, as well as the madness of cruel wars without justification, and with long lasting impacts and legacy, due to a few basic reasons. Among them the existing structures of world politics based on great power rivalry and new East West grievances, which neither prioritize solidarity nor support the thinking that cooperation and trade strengthening interdependence decrease tension and increase stability. Further, that the unified state system, occupied by a cluster of crises from the crisis of democracy to the climate crisis and its main actors are politically unable to resolve the great social equality and global environmental challenges of the global age (Hurrell 1995; Nayeri 2022). Finally, a new phase of fighting over resources, markets and power between different (western, eastern, state) capitalistic systems and blocs with competitive and conflicting interests. All this leads to armed conflicts and wars, and growing risks of irreversible or other collapses of our industrial civilization and modern societies due to multiplied crises, which could be interpreted as substitute actions, when the hard decisions on climate change mitigation and protection of biodiversity are neither being made nor implemented.

The pause of the Arctic Council transferred cooperation among the A8+ to another format overnight. Other inter governmental and non governmental organizations such as the Barents Euro Arctic Council (BEAC) and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) have also followed this procedure, as have many universities and research institutes. On the other hand, however, a few non governmental organizations and forums such as the University of the Arctic (UArctic), the Calotte Academy, the Thematic Network (TN) on Geopolitics and Security (the publisher of Arctic Yearbook), High North Talks by Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP), and University of Southern California (USC) & NSF Arctic Conference continue scientific and academic cooperation and discussion with Russians across borders on an individual level. Interestingly, there are a few international forums which have neither condemned Russia for the war nor (de facto) accepted Russian participants. This has been, and is becoming increasingly, a sensitive issue among experts of the seven Arctic states, especially after Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership applications, positioning this group as a united NATO Arctic.

These ‘pauses’ placed on the various venues for Arctic cooperation, though understandable, have already caused damage. Even if person to person scientific and development work is broadly accepted, a lively cross border cooperation, including multiple activities between Indigenous peoples and other local communities, local and regional authorities, and students and researchers from the eight Arctic states and several non Arctic countries, have been, if not totally, abandoned by the restrictions of the governments of the seven Arctic states and the sanctions by the European Union and EU member states, the USA and other NATO member states. Those non

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governmental organizations/forums and their members are having real difficulties in logistics and communication, including many obstacles for finding ways and funds to continue in person cooperation between individuals. Behind this are not only many restrictions, sanctions and the closing of borders to Russians, but there is also a level of intolerance by state (agency) authorities for many kinds of social scientific discussions and personal opinions that were commonplace before. It feels like a very long time since the Arctic states agreed to reaffirm their “commitment to maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation in the Arctic”, though it was only 1.5 years ago at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in May 2021 in Reykjavik (see Reykjavik Declaration, 2021).

Cooperation and trade, in particular functional cooperation in fields of low politics, has been argued by several IR theories to decrease (military) tension and increase (political) stability and security between states/nations. Though this is not determined, the post Cold War Arctic is an example of this possibility, as was discussed in the introduction of our 2019 volume.

Surprisingly, there has been, so far, less fundamental changes in Arctic security, although the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO may alter this balance. Nuclear weapons systems of both the USA and the Russian Federation are deployed in the region, but they have been since the early stage of the Cold War period. The global nuclear deterrence system guaranteed the capability to conduct a revenge strike between the two major nuclear weapon powers (e.g. Heininen, 2018). It has been known and discussed, at least since the 1980s, that an armed conflict/war in any other part of the globe that involves the USA and/or the Soviet Union/Russian Federation could have spill over effects in the Arctic. The meaningful change concerning Arctic (military) security is that the important issues of arms control and nuclear disarmament are lower on the agenda of the US Russian relations, as the new START is the only arms control treaty in force (until 2026); interestingly, Russia informed the USA about its nuclear drills in October 2022 under the treaty (The Economist, Oct. 29, 2022). There are no new initiatives, or real discussions about denuclearization and nuclear weapon free zones in the Arctic for the foreseeable future, unlike the initiatives launched by the then President of Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev (who passed away in September 2022) in his Murmansk Speech in 1987 (e.g. Exner Pirot, 2020).

Long range air and water pollution and grand environmental challenges, such as the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, are continuing to heavily impact the terrestrial and marine ecosystems, as well as peoples and societies of the Arctic. The most important cause of changes in Arctic security since the end of the Cold War period, has been long range (air and water) pollution, in particular ‘nuclear safety’ in the 1990s and early 21st century, and later climate change (e.g. Heininen & Exner Pirot, 2020). Arctic states, particularly the five coastal states due to the importance of the Arctic Ocean and its sub seas, have benefitted from trans boundary cooperation on environmental protection, including through the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) for nuclear safety between Norway, Russia, and the USA. The environmental and climate situation is becoming worse, and we already face multiple ecological catastrophes and climate related crises which impact people’s everyday security, as we have seen this summer with various fires, storms, floods and droughts. These issues also threaten the national security of Arctic states, and their origin is not the war in Ukraine.

Regular cross border cooperation of environmental monitoring and impact assessments, field operations, data sharing and exploration between Russian and Western scientists, scholars and

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research institutions have helped us understand and mitigate some of these processes. Now it is on hold, which acts as barrier to efficient international action against climate change, which is much required at the COP 27 Summit.

All in all, it is too early to say what the impacts of the paused Arctic cooperation will be in the long run. It depends on how the major Arctic stakeholders states, Indigenous peoples, regional governments, the scientific community, and civil societies will interpret the situation and act; as well as to the extent that relations with Russia improve or worsen in the coming months. Many questions remain about whether the eight Arctic states will still have interest in continuing the beneficial multilateral Arctic cooperation, including the possibility for more strict environmental regulations. If state to state relations seem unlikely in the near term, to what extent will scientists, civil society, Indigenous organizations and individuals want to, and be able to, continue cooperation? This is particularly relevant to Arctic Indigenous peoples and their representatives, who live in the region their homeland now and in the future. Correspondingly, this is dependent on how each stakeholder and individual defines the value and necessity of Arctic cooperation.

How to maintain / continue cooperation

Questions about “future Arctic cooperation” and how to maintain peace and stability in the Arctic have been asked and discussed since February 2022 by many individuals and institutions (e.g. Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), UArctic and its thematic networks, IASC and its working groups, Calotte Academy). Behind these discussions, on the one hand, is awareness of the high value of constructive international cooperation in the Arctic for bringing a high level of geopolitical stability that has been mutually beneficial. The first preamble of the Arctic Council Ministerial meetings’ declarations “to maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation in the Arctic” has been indicating and manifesting the main aim of the eight Arctic states to keep low tension in the high latitudes for years. This was reaffirmed in the first line of the US National Strategy for the Arctic Region released in October 2022 in which it identifies its vision for an Arctic that is “peaceful, stable, prosperous, and cooperative” (The White House, 2022)

The TN on Geopolitics and Security with expertise on IR / Political sciences, Geopolitics, Security studies, Strategic studies, Political geography, Environmental politics, Human & Environmental security had in spring 2022 a brainstorming session on how to maintain peace & stability, and continue constructive cooperation across borders in the Arctic region, even in the face of needing to confront an aggressive and hostile Russia in Ukraine. It aimed to find answers, ideas & proposals for solutions to the challenging situation, in particular how to continue the existing functional cooperation on science and higher education at an individual level, and to avoid a fragmentation / split of academic networks and project teams. Finally, how to be ready to restart the pan Arctic cooperation and revitalize connections after the war is over, and when the seven Arctic states feel able to re engage with Russia in functional, scientific matters. If successful, the material was agreed to be used in constructive and respective ways (e.g. in Role Play Game at the 2022 Academy, at the TN sessions at the Arctic Circle Assembly, and for the 2022 Arctic Yearbook).

This modest action did not produce a miracle, as none expected, but was successful enough by bringing fresh material (questions, comments, ideas, hopes) which are useful as food for further thoughts. Among short contributions, there were good questions, critical assessments and fresh thoughts on Arctic cooperation and its structures and bodies, fruitful comments based on theory


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or practice, as well as learned lessons from history for best practices and examples for future cooperation (see Heininen's commentary in this volume). Furthermore, that an open discussion, an implemented method in too few other academic gatherings, is a simple and useful way to share information, correct misunderstandings, and create new knowledge and approaches when conducted with mutual respect and tolerance toward others’ arguments and perspectives. These dialogues should not be like a battle field.

To summarize, the most relevant learned lessons are: First, an open minded and inclusive discussion with interplay between science, politics and business is not only needed but the most fruitful when trying to find solutions. Dehumanizing an “other”, or drawing an enemy picture, is not constructive, and there are diverse viewpoints on the current war, as well as other recent wars. Here the role of academic events, such as the Calotte Academy, has been fruitful and meaningful to increase tolerance and implement that interplay. Second, the success of Arctic cooperation is human made, based on the idea and implementation of functional cooperation, which due to its flexibility has been a practical means for cooperation in the past without a need to build blocs. The added value is its usefulness and ability, if the partners wish, to increase mutual confidence. Third, as Arctic states lean on science due to climate change, we academics should make clear that keeping the Arctic as “a region of geopolitical stability… is a precondition for sustaining Arctic research” (Toyama Conference Statement 2015), and that ‘focus on science’ includes freedom of science and that of expression, as well as mutually beneficial collaboration across national, sectorial and discipline boundaries. Fourth, looking at the multiple crises we face in regards to global environmental degradation and wars, protecting peace and the environment could provide common ground and be a priority for international politics while continuing functional cooperation across borders in the fields of low politics. Among these fields are maritime safety, including search and rescue, oil spill response, and fisheries management, as the USA and Russia in the Bering Strait area and Norway and Russia in the Barents Sea have continued cooperation since February 2022. This could be extended to the fields of nuclear safety, environmental protection, and science. Due to the high value of these areas, there could be space for differentiation and to separate scientific and practical cooperation from conflicting geopolitical interests and great power rivalry.

About Arctic Yearbook 2022

The original aim of the 2022 Arctic Yearbook, before the war started, was to explore, analyze, critique, and deepen our collective understanding of the Russian Arctic and its economy, politics and societies. As Russia was chairing the Arctic Council; as a coming oil, gas, and minerals boom was strengthening the Russian Arctic’s global influence; as pollution and climate change were reshaping the Arctic environment; and as Russian polities and peoples were demanding more attention and control, we saw it as critically important to collect open access, high quality, and informed studies on the Russian Arctic.

Although the Russian Arctic has not been (so) closed, as it was in the Soviet Era, the region is still not that well known by citizens of other Arctic countries and regions, partly due to the fact that it is a huge area and it is not easy to reach. Also, there is mis/dis information, fault perceptions, stereotypes, prejudices, as well as a lack of real information and knowledge. In particular, as Russia is a co founder and an active member of the Arctic Council and its Working Groups, as well as a few other international institutions, such as IASC, International Arctic Social Scientists Association (IASSA), BEAC, and UArctic Russian scholars, scientists and students have been contributing to

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the Arctic Yearbook and using its articles from the very beginning. At the time of writing, Professor Alexander Pelyasov acts as the chair of the editorial board of the Arctic Yearbook. These were the motivations for Arctic Yearbook: to respond to the need for more nuanced and sophisticated English language scholarship on the Russian Arctic, especially from Russian authors themselves.

The 2022 volume includes 18 high quality scholarly articles and nine commentaries & briefing notes on the Russian Arctic, and cover several fields and areas from different angles. All this is more important after February 2022 due to the war, and as the seven Arctic states paused their cooperation with Russia. Understandably, these two matters are influencing both the numbers and contents of the manuscripts and articles of the 2022 edition and its entire content, as well as the editorial work, though neither caused too much harm nor stopped the process. We believe our goal has been achieved, as this edition is even more relevant today than it was when we decided on the theme before the war. We publish the contributions of both Russian authors and non Russian authors with deep expertise and connections to the region. We have not sought to agree with every submission, but rather to respect them. All in all, the focus is not on the Russian invasion of Ukraine (although some authors point out that they deeply criticize this). Rather it is to do with what was our original intent: to better understand the peoples, economy and politics of the region. After reading through all of the articles and commentaries, we certainly have developed a better understanding. We hope our readers do, too.

Outline of AY2022

The Arctic Yearbook 2022 is organized into four overarching themes that cover a wide variety of interrelated topics and themes. These are: (1) People, Art, and Culture; (2) Climate, Society and Development; (3) Chinese Russian Cooperation; and (4) Russia and the World.

I. People,Art,andCulture

The articles in section one, People, Art, and Culture, discuss the ways in which life has been experienced by the diverse peoples and communities of the Russian Arctic. The authors approach this topic through different lenses, and in doing so provide valuable insights into historical and contemporary challenges being faced by local Indigenous peoples, researchers, artists, and other stakeholders contributing to life in the Russian side of the Arctic. Mining and extractive industries have influenced life in the region significantly, an issue that Maria Pavlova and Sardana Nikolaeva highlight from the view of their own experiences working as consultants with mining companies and Indigenous communities in the Sakha Republic. While Pavlova and Nikolaeva discuss the importance of accurately representing Indigenous views in this area and processes for doing so, Ksenia Barabanova describes how the influence of Soviet mining projects in the Russian Arctic has dominated the historical memory of the North of Western Siberia, a process which replaced local Khanty and Mansi figures with the narratives of the Russian pioneer oilman. These processes have implications on social memory and identity, a topic also discussed by Maria Fedina who approaches these issues by exploring the urbanization of Indigenous livelihoods and the experiences of urban Komi living in Syktyvkar. Shifting towards social structures of power, including those which shape individual experiences and identity, Maria Huhmarniemi and Ekaterina Sharova argue there is a need to decolonise and strengthen arts and culture organizations to advance human to human contact. From an ecofeminist, intersectional and biopolitical perspective, Sohvi Kangasluoma explores how women are present and presented within the heavily

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male dominated Russian Arctic oil and gas industry. In the context of climate change and related disasters, Daria Burnasheva explores existing power relations, social inequalities, and their gendered dynamics in responding to climate related challenges from a Sakha Indigenous paradigm. By exploring the experiences of local firefighters and water protectors, Burnasheva argues that we need to shift our perspective from 'what to fight' to 'what to protect', a nuanced but important distinction. Finally, Robert Wheelersburg shares their experiences as an American conducting fieldwork with Indigenous communities in the Russian Arctic, and the valuable lessons they learned in the process.

II. Climate,SocietyandDevelopment

In section two, Climate, Society and Development, these authors explore the social, economic, climatic, and environmental factors shaping life in the Russian Arctic. Pryadilina, Likhacheva and Chesnokova explore the natural and climatic factors of the region that influence human health. Building off of this, Dudarev and Dozhdikov provide an in depth analysis of the living conditions and environmental factors influencing demographic processes, well being, and health of urban and rural settlements of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Noting the vast challenges in developing the Arctic region of Russia, Alexandra Middleton explores the policy changes and incentivization programmes initiated by the Russian government to expand the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and encourage settlement and economic development throughout this 'special economic zone'. Kara K. Hodgson and Marc Lanteigne dig deeper into one of these initiatives, specifically Moscow's "Hectare in the Arctic" programme, and explore the reasons behind it as well as the challenges that lay ahead. Further exploring the topic of economic development, Daria Mishina challenges what has become the common practice of having Arctic focused conferences in places outside the Arctic region, arguing that these conferences bring substantial and needed economic benefits to Arctic communities and people, when they take place there. Meanwhile, Efecan Özcan, Sinan Yirmibeşo ğlu & Burcu Özsoy explore the implications of economic development from the perspective of growing maritime activity in the Arctic Ocean and Russia's Northern Sea Route, and provide an overview of how regional and international lawmakers are approaching the environmental effects of ice class ships operating in the region. Finally, Outi Meinander and colleagues provide a literature review and analysis of permafrost thaw impacts in the Nordic and Russian Arctic, highlighting the many significant and interrelated effects on human health and well being, infrastructure, and ecosystems on local, regional, and international scales.

III. Chinese RussianCooperation

The authors in section three, Chinese Russian Cooperation, consider the growing relationship between these two influential states, as well as possible scenarios for future cooperation. This topic has become increasingly significant in recent years, and each of the authors consider how the current international context is shaping inter state relations in different areas. In the context of the outbreak of war in Ukraine initiated by Russia and the war's vast implications for West Russia relations, Liisa Kauppila and Sanna Kopra construct three possible scenarios on the continuation of Arctic cooperation with Sino Russian relations as the primary focus. Also looking to the future, Gao Tianming, Vasilii Erokhin, Zhu Dianyong and Zhu Gexun discuss the important role that Russian and Chinese collaboration in Russia's energy sector plays in broader discussions of emission reductions and the decarbonization of Russia's energy sector. The war in Ukraine has shifted conventional formats for collaboration, and Tianming et al. explores new approaches for

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bridging the spatial development gap in the energy sector that could address the many challenges related to a low carbon energy transition in the Russian Arctic. Taking a broader look at Chinese Russian cooperation, Yu Cao explores the development agenda of the Polar Silk Road, and argues that increasing tension between Russia and the West is stimulating convergence of Russian and Chinese interests and collaboration in the Arctic.

IV. Russia and theWorld

In section four, Russia and the World, the authors provide a wide view of Russia's place in the world in relation to its most recent actions as well as some broader political dynamics the Arctic has experienced in 2022. By applying a scenario development analysis, Tiziana Melchiorre explores possibilities for maintaining the Arctic as a space for cooperation in energy, environment, and science/research sectors, and argues that the strong geopolitical and economic interdependence that exists between Russia and the EU still provides avenues for beneficial cooperation. Taking a step outside the Russian Arctic, Lill Rastad Bjørst provides an analysis of Greenland's envisioned contribution to the green transition despite lacking a formal climate strategy, and does so by exploring Greenland's official statements and actions in comparison to other nation states around the world. Section four concludes with seven commentaries and briefing notes from leading experts and early career researchers who provide their views on the current international situation as well as updates on related workshop discussions. Michael Paul provides their Western perspective from Germany on the Ukraine war, highlighting what they see as the main effects of the war and prospects for dialogue and Arctic cooperation in the future. Writing from Russia, Valery Konyshev notes that there has been a clear shift in confrontation between the West and Russia, and that while there is no obvious answer about a return to Arctic cooperation at this time, the significance of the Arctic and of historical cooperation in the region could keep cooperation going in less politized areas such as scientific research. Pavel Devyatkin explores this question as well: can cooperation be restored? Devyatkin describes Russian reactions to the pause of state to state cooperation in the Arctic, Russia's pursuit of non Arctic partners, possibilities for restoring circumpolar cooperation in certain areas, and lessons learned from the Cold War that includes a reminder of the important roles of non state actors. Hiroyuki Enomoto digs deeper into what has been impacted in terms of Arctic science since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, and presents various possibilities for continuing important scientific activity that has global implications. Nicholas Parlato and colleagues provide an in depth report on the outcomes of the USC NSF Arctic Security Conference in Washington DC which engaged specialists from across different areas of expertise on the topics of climatic and environmental security in the Arctic domain, as well as the implications of the current international context on Arctic security and development. Celebrating the 31st year of the Calotte Academy, Eda Ayadin and Griffith Couser report on the meaningful dialogues that took place between early career researchers and established experts throughout the week long event in June. Finally, to close out the volume, P. Whitney Lackenbauer and Rasmus Leander Nielsen discuss the history of the Hans Island / Tartupaluk territorial dispute between Canada and Denmark, and the agreement signed on 14 June 2022 which brought the long standing dispute to a close. Lackenbauer and Nielsen describe the diplomatic activities that eventually led to the agreement as well as the final outcomes of the agreement, and note that in contrast to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, they remind the world that consistent multilateralism and the rules based international order can produce peaceful resolutions during the most challenging of times.

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Economist, The (October 29, 2022). Worries about Ukraine Dirty secrets p. 44 45.

Exner Pirot, Heather (2020). Between Militarization and Disarmament: Challenges for Arctic Security in the Twenty First Century. Climate Change and Arctic Security. Searching for a Paradigm Shift. Eds. by Heininen & Exner Pirot. Palgrave Macmillan / Palgrave Pivot.

Heininen, Lassi (2018) Special Features of Arctic Geopolitics A Potential Asset for World Politics, The GlobalArctic Handbook. Eds. by M. Finger & L. Heininen. Springer: Cham, pp. 215 234. Online.

Hurrell, Andrew (1995). International Political Theory and the Global Environment. K. Booth and S. Smith (eds.), International Relations Theory Today. The Pennsylvania State University Press: Pennsylvania, pp. 129 153.

Lassi Heininen & Heather Exner Pirot (edited) (2020). Climate Change and Arctic Security. Searching for a Paradigm Shift. Palgrave Macmillan / Palgrave Pivot: Cham.

Nayeri, Farah (2022). A continuing threat to democracy The New York Times International Edition September 28, 2022, S3.

Reykjavik Declaration (2021). On the occasion of the Twelfth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in May 2021 in Reykjavik.

Toyama Conference Statement (2015). Integrating Arctic Research: A Roadmap for the Future ICARP III & ASSW.

The White House (2022). National Strategy for the Arctic Region. Released October 2022.

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Novem ber



Arctic Yearbook 2022 Year in Review

Paige Groome and Justin Barnes 2021

A study utilizing data from the EU’s Copernicus satellites Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 2 finds that melting permafrost will affect 55% of the Arctic’s coastal zone infrastructure by 2050.

Russia criticizes the Norwegian navy for a voyage taken by the Norwegian KNM Thor Heyerdahl to the Arctic Archipelago, Svalbard, citing the excursion as another example of “hidden militarization” within the region.

AY 2021 is launched virtually at the Calotte Academy 2021 in Inari, Finland

The first plenary meeting of the Arctic Council under the Russian Chairmanship takes place from December 1 2, 2021 in Salekhard. The meeting features 180 delegates from the Arctic Council’s member states and 38 observer states.

Russian government aid Yuri Ushakov confirms Russian interest in strengthening Arctic energy cooperation with India, including joint development of hydrocarbon fields in the Russian Far East.


The Norwegian government shuts down its main military base, located in Bodø, Northern Norway, as part of the Norwegian government plan to decommission the F 16 fighter jets used by the Royal Norwegian Air Force and transition to a fleet of new F 35 jets out of the larger Ørland Air Base to the south.

The Finnish meteorological services firm Vaisala reports that the high Arctic experienced over four times the number of lightning strikes in 2021 compared to 2020. Vaisala linked the spike in strikes to increasing regional temperatures.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) adopts the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s (ICC) policy recommendation on reducing underwater noise pollution. This adoption marks the first time the ICC has directly impacted IMO policy.

Antarctic sea ice shrinks to near record low as January 2022 ranks as the sixth warmest January on record.

Justin Barnes is the Assistant Editor of the Arctic Yearbook and a PhD Candidate at the Balsillie School of International Affairs

Paige Groome serves as Communications Coordinator at the Arctic Yearbook and is a Senior Associate on the Milken Institute Government Affairs Team

Russian President Vladmir Putin signs a $117.5B oil and gas contract with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Russia launches an invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Three warships from the Arctic division of the Russian navy, the Northern Fleet , are utilized in Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.

Russian companies Rosneft and Lukoil are suspended from the Norway’s Oil and Gas Association in response to Russia’s unlawful attack on Ukraine.

The remaining seven Arctic Council member states formally condemn Russia over the conflict in Ukraine and 'pause' their work at the Arctic Council, of which Russia holds the Chairmanship of.

India releases its Arctic Policy titled “India and the Arctic: Building a Partnership for Sustainable Development.” India currently holds an “Observer” status within the Arctic Council.

More than 2,300 troops from Finland and Sweden take part in NATO’s bi annual Cold Response drill in northern Norway, marking the first time non aligned Finnish and Swedish troops have participated in the drill.

Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) 2022 takes place in Tromsø, Norway from March 26 April 1, 2022.

More than 7.2 million cubic feet of natural gas escaped in a leak at an Alaskan oilfield operated by ConocoPhillips, forcing workers to evacuate and production to be cut.

Norway announces plans to expand Arctic oil and gas drilling

Canada’s 2022 FY budget includes funding for affordable housing in Canada’s North, support for the critical minerals industry, construction of the High Arctic Research Station in Nunavut, and a hydroelectric project in Yukon.

The hybrid High North Dialogue 2022 conference takes place April 6 7, 2022 both in person in Bodø, Norway and virtually. The theme centers around “Business in the Arctic The Great Shifts” with special emphasis on green technology development and implementation.

The 6th ‘Arctic: Territory of Dialogue’ International Arctic Forum takes place April 11 13, 2022 in St. Petersburg.

The Russian Ambassador at Large for Arctic Cooperation, Nikolai Korchunov, expresses concern about the increase in NATO military activity in the Arctic.

The Woodwell Climate Research Center, the Arctic Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Alaska Institute for Justice announce the launch of Permafrost Pathways, a $41M multi year research program seeking to provide policy recommendations that will mitigate permafrost thaw.

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February March April

Despite increasing likelihood of European sanctions and reevaluation from key partners, Russia’s largest oil producer, Rosneft, continues developing its Vostok Oil mega project. The project is expected to produce over 100 million tons of oil and natural gas each year by 2030.

The Arctic Mayors’ Forum appoints its first Secretary General.

The US Army of Alaska is rebranded to the 11th Airborne Division, making it the first Arctic specific operational division.

Finland and Sweden officially apply to become full members of NATO.

Russian Ambassador at Large for the Arctic Cooperation, Nikolai Korchunov, announces that Russia is ready to resume dialogue with the other seven Arctic Council members.

The Russian Ministry of Defence announces a successful test launch of a hypersonic Zircon cruise missile capable of traveling at nine times the speed of sound. The fast speed, technical maneuverability, and long ranges of hypersonic missiles make them difficult to counter with traditional missile defense systems.

Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark resolve the 51 year territorial dispute over Hans Island, finalizing the maritime border between Canada and Greenland

The 3rd UArctic Assembly meeting is held June 1 3, 2022 in Portland, Maine, USA. The UArctic network now includes 176 participants.

The Arctic 7 Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States announce they will resume limited internal cooperation with projects that do not involve the participation of the Russian Federation.

The Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies is established in Anchorage, Alaska by the U.S. Department of Defense

The Inuit Circumpolar Council releases its protocols for the Equitable, Ethical Engagement of Inuit in the Circumpolar world, aimed at all decision and policy makers, researchers and others operating in the Arctic.

The 31st Calotte Academy took place from 10 19 June in Sapmi and northernmost parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden

Pope Francis makes a brief visit to Iqaluit, Nunavut as his last stop on a 6 day visit to Canada to apologize for the abuse of Indigenous peoples at government residential schools run by the Catholic church

US Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Linda Fagan calls for a larger icebreaker fleet before the US House Committee on Homel and Security’s Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security.

Facebook announces that Inuktitut is a new official language setting on the social media platform

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June July May


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg joins Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on a tour of a military radar site in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, marking the first time any NATO chief has paid a visit to Canada’s Arctic.

President Biden announces plans to establish a new Ambassador at Large position focused solely on the Arctic region. The Ambassador will engage with the other seven Arctic states including Russia, Indigenous groups, and other regional stakeholders.

Iqaluit, Nunavut declares a local state of emergency over water drought

Svalbard records the hottest summer on record with the average temperature of June, July, and August measuring at 7.4 ℃, which is 0.2 degrees above the previous temperature record from 2020.

26 energy companies seek Norway's permission to drill for oil and gas in Norway's predefined areas licensing round.

The Arctic Council's Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) releases its landmark report "AMAP Assessment 2021: Mercury in the Arctic" which reveals how increased mercury levels are putting wildlife and Indigenous communities at risk.

Russia conducts military exercises at Cape Chelyuskin and on the Chukchi Sea coast, demonstrating its Arctic military capabilities

The Biden Harris Administration releases the United States’ National Strategy for the Arctic Region. The strategy emphasizes four pillars: 1) security; 2) climate change and environmental protection; 3) sustainable economic development; 4) international cooperation and governance.

Tromsø ends its friendship/twin city agreements with Russian cities Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, and Nadym in response to Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.

Russia announces plans to launch nine polar orbiting satellites to monitor the Arctic by 2026 in support of its Northern Sea Route development plans

The 10th annual Arctic Circle Assembly takes place from 13 16 October in Reykjavik, Iceland.

For the first time, three Indigenous leaders take the Arctic Circle Assembly stage as main speakers during the opening session Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, Múte B. Egede, Prime Minister of Greenland, and Sara Olsvig, International Chair for the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC).

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August September

Thematic Network on Geopolitics and Security: A Brainstorming Session on How to Maintain Peace & Stability, and Continue Constructive Cooperation in the Arctic

The Thematic Network (TN) on Geopolitics and Security, with expertise on IR / Political sciences, Geopolitics, Security studies, Strategic studies, Political geography, Environmental politics, Human & Environmental security, had in spring 2022 a brainstorming session on how to maintain peace & stability, and continue constructive cooperation across borders in the Arctic region

The brainstorm did not produce a miracle, as none expected, but was successful enough by bringing fresh material (questions, comments, ideas, hopes) which are useful as food for further thoughts. Among contributions and (short) comments (questions, critical assessments & thoughts on Arctic cooperation and its structures & bodies, comments based on theory or practice, learned lessons from history, best practices & examples of future cooperation) by TN members (here anonymous) were the following ones:

“What did the Russians and Europeans learn from each other over 20 years of multidimensional and multi layered interaction?”, and if participants of the academic dialogue at the Kuhmo Summer Academy / Calotte Academy “might have been considering themselves representing the two opposite ideological camps” (substantial contribution by one member);

“A renewed opportunity to think about the role of academic events, such as Calotte Academy as social science diplomacy” (comment by another);

Though “Disaster diplomacy results so far do not find many examples where disaster related activities were the cause of new, lasting diplomacy... [it is being applied] on Svalbard with pan Arctic implications” (proposal by one member);

“The discussion… of the Arctic without the participation of Russian experts can hardly be called fruitful” (reminded by another);

“We have to do our best to keep academic dialogue going on the Arctic. Issues of climate change should be... included” (commented by another);

Lassi Heininen is Editor of the Arctic Yearbook. Commentary

“We can only hope that in the words of the ‘functionalists’ like Mitrany and others, that the Arctic remains a ‘zone of peace’” (hoped by another);

“We are also in a unique position as we are scholars who focus on geopolitics, security, peace and conflict, and we are not only just finding the few topics that are less contentious to discuss, but … also take on the difficult conversations” (though by a senior member);

“How society can make the dramatic changes necessary to protect peace and environmental security?” (asked by a young member);

“The planet, the environment and the Arctic matters to all of us” (agreed another member);

“I, like many others, have never experienced war… Therefore, I can start sharing some examples of my working situation in Academia, since the conflict has definitely had an impact on the research arena… I have seen some sort of closure with Russia or Russian topics” (stated by another young member).

“Another human and nonhuman tragedy right in front of us… war seems to have moved the environmental disaster we are facing into the background… looking at the multiple crises we face in regard to the global environmental degradation, this must be a priority field of international politics & IR… could also be a common ground to continue [Arctic] cooperation… there is space to separate it from geopolitical interests and conflicts and to find common ground” (a striking comment by the last contribution).

Partly as my responses to these questions and comments, and mostly as follow ups there are a few learned lessons from the first 30 years (or so) of international Arctic cooperation:

• The Cuban Crisis (in 1962) taught that when having weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons, and zero confidence between parties, it is wise (for human existence) to have safety & warning systems between rivals, such as the Hot Line between Moscow and Washington DC, US Soviet arms control treaties on nuclear weapons, the ‘agree to disagree’ as a recognized procedure. Behind this was the fact that the nuclear weapon system is based on global nuclear deterrence, which is credible only by including the capability for a revenge strike. And you cannot win a nuclear war that means to have the capability for a first strike when your rival has the capability for revenge strike, and both Russia and the USA have this capability. A strategic nuclear submarine (SSBN) carrying ballistic missiles with several nuclear warheads and hiding under sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is the most efficient ‘Warrior’ of that; Russia and the USA have (had) their SSBNs patrolling there. Therefore, the best way to avoid the risk of nuclear war is to have a balance between the rivals and their capabilities of the nuclear weapon systems;

• Due to the fact that the end of the Cold War was arrogantly defined by the ‘West’ as a victory (even an ‘End of history’), and Russia was mystified as a primitive, oriental, power hungry and former enemy, who lost and had environmental degradation. Then the NATO expansion to the Russian borders was interpreted to be legitimized, despite the common sense and agreement to terminate both military blocs (as the Warsaw Pact was). Unfortunately, we do not have, any more, the “to agree that we disagree” procedures for uncertain times, and only one arms control treaty between Russia and the USA is currently in force. Even knowledge on arms control and disarmament, as well as nuclear weapons, is rare, and a few ‘wise women &

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men” with knowledge & experiences on this are not heard. These procedures and expertise would be useful, even needed, today for the unpredictable / unprecedented situation of world politics;

• The Ukrainian war, in particular how NATO member states try to avoid a direct conflict with Russia, though sending hard military stuff to Ukraine (a proxy war), is a reminder that the nuclear weapon systems still matter. Furthermore, that there is no guarantee of the old wisdom that they are only ‘political weapons’. Hence, it would make sense to have better knowledge of nuclear weapon systems and the nature of global nuclear deterrence, as well as that of arms control & disarmament (e.g. to include programs of social sciences’ seminars and workshops);

• Most non state actors (NGOs, civil societies, scientific community) are more flexible and willing for transformations, as well as open minded for international, functional cooperation on their fields. In an ideal condition, they are able to push governments to do new things and apply new methods. This was the case in the Arctic (in particular the Barents Sea and the Bering Strait areas) at the turn of 1980s / 1990s, when the transformation started by transboundary cooperation on environmental protection and science. As international cooperation on environmental protection and that on science are largely recognized and valued by the Arctic states and their policies, it is logical to interpret functional cooperation as the most successful field of cross border cooperation, in particular when facing existential environmental & security threats. Thus, after a decrease of military tension, environmental awakening became an influential force to impact governments to act, environmental protection a focus of Arctic cooperation, and climate change ‘politicized’ in the Arctic;

• Indeed, among different ways & practices, functional cooperation is a more efficient way, than to build a bloc, to cooperate between actors who, as (former) rivals / enemies, don’t have mutual trust and are afraid of transformation. Being mutually beneficial it is easily followed by increasing trust between new partners. Indeed, confidence building measures (CBMs) were an important means in nuclear arms control and disarmament between the two superpowers in the Cold War;

• Despite, the “high latitudes low tension” slogan being repeated in statements, policy documents and speeches, and speculations about for how long the high stability will stay due to forth coming threats, common interests of Arctic states as preconditions for high geopolitical stability are being less analyzed. There could be more and advanced scientific research on the mutually beneficial common interests on the one hand, and on the other how to make a paradigm shift of security by defining climate change mitigation as the ultimate and most urgent aim. Likewise, the relevance of ‘science diplomacy’ is being repeated and praised, but its efficiency is not, yet, really tested. The current situation could be a ‘perfect storm’ to test its relevance and efficiency in a crisis;

• Finally, based on the shift of the Arctic focus ‘from military tension to environmental protection’ and towards climate change (mitigation) when (re)defining Arctic security, it would be possible to recognize IPCC as more important security actor than NATO. In particular, if / when the environment is defined as the material basis for human existence in danger due to human activities.

TN on Geopolitics and Security Brainstorming on Peace and Stability

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I. People, Art, and Culture

On the Importance of Native Consultants in Ethnological Impact Assessment in Sakha Republic

Ethno logical Impact Assessment (EIA) has been implemented in Sakha Republic for almost eleven years. The existing literature on the EIA process focuses on the experiences of primary stakeholders mining companies and Indigenous communities. What is missing from this discussion is a critical examination of the important role of consultants responsible for carrying out assessments, creating links, and contributing to productive negotiations between companies and communities. Most importantly, we need more thorough understanding of consultants’ positionality, their perceptions on practices of EIA, their interactions with all key stakeholders involved, and challenges faced before, during, and after EIA. In this article, we investigate the role of specifically native consultants, who occupy a unique position to conduct EIAs more effectively practicing more transparent and responsible communication and decision making, and with more benefits for communities. This article builds on the data collected through the professional experiential narrative of the first author, who has participated in more than thirteen EIAs and other projects as a professional consultant in Sakha, and the ethnographic observations, supplemented with the semi structured interviews with the consultants and communities by the second author in the Arctic Indigenous district. Ultimately, we argue that the EIA projects (and policies based on them) must involve and be conducted primarily by local native practitioners and consultants since they are essential in trust building and forging power balanced partnerships with Indigenous communities without prioritizing companies’ extractivist interests.


A few days ago, I came back from a trip to the remote rural Indigenous villages Iengra and Khatystyr of the extraction centered district of Neryungri in Sakha Republic. This trip was focused on two goals: firstly, I wanted to meet with the local Indigenous communities to discuss a new gas pipeline passing through their territories; secondly, I planned to learn more about the communities’ opinions on creating a database of local natural and sacred places. As a professional consultant at one of the largest academic institutions in Yakutsk, I was requested to hold a consultation session with the community leaders and the public after the formal meeting. Most of the session time was spent on discussing the issues related to the Ethnological Impact Assessment procedure, the strategies for more accurate and objective damage assessment, the available legal protections of traditional modes of subsistence (such as fishing and hunting), and the activities of the logging and extractive companies operating on the local Indigenous territories. At the end of the session, the

Maria Pavlova is affiliated with the Department of Ethnosocial and Ethnoeconomic Studies of Geosystems, the Academy of Sciences, Sakha Republic, Russia Sardana Nikolaeva is affiliated with the Department of Anthropology, University of Manitoba, Canada.

participants noted that the community had not had such an informative and productive meeting for a long time, especially focusing on the issues concerning primarily local community.

This, and other consultation sessions that the first author Maria Pavlova an experienced professional consultant and an academic researcher, has successfully organized and managed upon the requests of many remote rural Indigenous communities demonstrate not only an existence of a high demand for native consultants’ work but also highlights particular responsibilities that they have. Here, native consultants are Indigenous (and non Indigenous) academic researchers (rarely non academics) with close social, cultural, and generational ties to local communities, who are hired to conduct the impact assessment on behalf of proponents and the government agency responsible for regulating the assessment process. We wish to discuss this unique position and the important role of native consultants in the context of Sakha Republic in this article. We draw from literature on Ethnological Impact Assessment (EIA) in Sakha, and existing discussions on the critical role of consultants responsible for carrying out assessments, serving as mediators, and contributing to productive negotiations between companies and communities. Ultimately, we argue that the EIA projects (and policies based on them) must involve and be conducted primarily by local native practitioners and consultants since these individuals are essential for trust building and forging power balanced partnerships with Indigenous communities without prioritizing companies’ exploitative extractivist interests.

Situating the Research: Location and Methodology

Sakha Republic, the far northeastern region of the Russian Federation, provides an excellent geographical site for exploring the conditions and mechanisms of the EIA projects through which local Indigenous peoples can challenge extractive encroachment, protect traditional ways of life, and prevent large scale environmental effects. The Republic has largely been developed as a colony of the Russian center, primarily as a natural resource rich region, and has constantly been exploited for the strategic economic and political benefit of the Russian state. During the Soviet period, the region came to be an imperative part of a larger policy to “master” the North and its natural resources (Hicks, 2011; Tichotsky, 2000). After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the resource extraction industry was kept under the Russian state control, where the local Indigenous and non Indigenous population were largely excluded from the profits of the diamond and other extractive industries, causing political and economic anxiety within the region. Additionally, the environmental issues due to the extractive activities, exploitation of natural resources as well as industrial violations of land rights further politically and economically disadvantaged the Republic’s most vulnerable communities: remote rural Indigenous groups (Maj, 2012). According to Hicks (2011: 88), Russia maintains that it supports Indigenous rights in theory, however, it also characterizes the issues of land and natural resources as “a problem of compensation and redress”, promoting the rhetoric of cultural rights but overall rejecting the idea that cultural rights might be connected to and imply political and economic rights. Within this context, the Ethnological Impact Assessment can carry a drastically differing yet important role as a culture and Indigeneity focused legal instrument, which still has a potential to challenge hegemonic economic and political discourses of the extractive companies and the federal government. In this view, an inquiry into the workings and nuances of the EIA projects in Sakha Republic can provide a fertile ground for analyzing the complexity of local discourses on EIA, rural Indigenous experiences with extractivism, as well as positionalities and roles of native EIA practitioners and consultants.

On the Importance of Native Consultants in Ethnological Impact Assessment in Sakha Republic

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This article builds on personal and professional experiential narratives of the first author, Maria Pavlova, who has participated in more than thirteen EIAs and other projects in several Arctic Indigenous districts as a professional consultant, and the data collected by the second author, Sardana Nikolaeva, through ethnographic observations and semi structured interviews with the consultants in Yakutsk, a capital city of Sakha, and the members of the Indigenous communities in one of the Arctic districts in 2017 2018. Considering the main focus on the issues surrounding extractive activities, confidentiality and anonymity were enforced and maintained. In this paper, we use pseudonyms for individual people (unless they are public figures and do not object to their names appearing in the article); this is not necessarily for fear that the indviduals will face any danger or risks (individual, professional, financial or otherwise) should their identities be exposed, but to protect their privacy.

Literature Review

Ethnological Impact Assessment and its Procedure in Sakha Republic

Anatolii Sleptsov (2015: 17), the author of the regional Law on Ethnological Impact Assessment in the places of traditional residence and traditional economic activities of the Peoples of the North of Sakha Republic (No. З No. 537 IV), states that the concept of “Ethnological Impact Assessment” is first mentioned in the Article 1 of the Federal Law No. 82 FZ of April 30, 1999 “On Guarantees of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation”. The concept is defined as “a scientific study of an impact on the original habitat of Indigenous peoples and their immediate socio cultural situation” (Sleptsov, 2015: 17). Despite numerous criticisms of the concept itself and its application (see for example, Mostakhova & Pakhomov, 2018; Samsonova et al., 2017; Shadrin, 2018), EIA came to be seen as an important tool in negotiating a more power balanced relationship between Indigenous communities and extractive companies, and providing a legal instrument to ensure the implementation of the constitutional guarantees intended to protect the ancestral territories and traditional ways of life of the Indigenous peoples of the Russian North.

The EIA process itself is complex and multi stage that requires participation of numerous stakeholders, including representatives of affected Indigenous communities, companies who act as customers of EIA, and consultants, who hold the most responsibility as practitioners. For example, consider the multiple required stages of the EIA process in Sakha. In accordance with the regionally approved procedure of conducting EIA, its process includes the following twelve steps: 1) a required registration of an application and provision of supplemental documents for verification to the Ministry of Arctic Development and Northern Affairs of Sakha Republic; 2) a review of documents for compliance with regional legal requirements; 3) an attendance of a hearing meeting of the Expert Commission responsible for EIA procedure; 4) a customer/company and the Ministry sign contracts and provide invoices for a fee payment to the budget of the Republic; 5) the Ministry applies to the Ministry of Finance to increase budget allocations and their limits, while the Ministry of Finance prepares an approval for draft amendments to the Republic budget; 6) the Ministry receives a certificate of notification and makes changes to its schedule and coordinates an agreement with the Republic Procurement Center; 7) the Ministry announces a bidding to conduct an EIA project; 8) further publishing a result of a bidding process; 9) a contract is signed with a winner of a bidding process; 10) a bid winning organization conducts EIA; 11) a bid winning organization prepares a draft report, which must be approved and issued to a customer; 12) the

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Government of the Republic prepares and publishes its approval of a received report. Throughout the EIA process, a customer/company must supply the following required documents: 1) a detailed plan for an EIA project; 2) a registry of collected materials for EIA (e.g., ethnic and cultural characteristics of local community/ies; details on the types of traditional economic activities; collected data on territory and natural resources present; list of objects of historical and cultural heritage; places of ancient settlements; places of family and burial places, and other objects of cultural, historical, religious significance, etc.); and 3) an estimate of economic damages caused by extractive and other activities (e.g., loss in annual gross income, loss of land and its natural resources, loss in case of deterioration of the quality of lands and other natural resources, etc.). It is also important to note that the customer/company is responsible for reimbursement of all research and calculations involved in EIA, meaning a customer/company pays the state fee for conducting EIA. If too many negative comments are made in assessment materials, a draft EIA report and proposed calculated economic losses are sent for revision. In case of a positive conclusion, a final document is sent to the executive authorities of Sakha Republic for approval. Ultimately, the Government of the Republic determines recipients of compensation for economic damages caused to traditional territories of Indigenous peoples, and companies will be required to sign a Compensation Agreement.

To this date, more than ten EIAs have been successfully conducted in Sakha Republic. The total amount of the financial compensation approved by the Government of Sakha Republic is almost 338 million rubles; of these, the total compensations paid is almost 65 million rubles. The remaining payments of 243 million rubles are still being negotiated (Mostakhova & Pakhomov, 2018: 51).

On the Importance of Native Consultants in Ethnological Impact Assessment in Sakha Republic

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Figure 1: Consulting on territorial rights in Olekminskii District (Photo by Maria Pavlova)

Role of Consultants in Environmental Impact Assessments

The existing literature on the Ethnological Impact Assessment projects in the context of Sakha exclusively focus on the experiences of the primary stakeholders the extractive companies and the Indigenous communities (see among others Basov, 2018; Mostakhova & Pakhomov, 2018; Novikova 2017, 2020; Samsonova et al., 2017; Shadrin, 2018; Sleptsov, 2015a, 2015b). We suggest that this discussion lacks an exploration of an important role of consultants responsible for carrying out assessments and serving as mediators between companies and communities. Thus, it is imperative to understand consultants’ positionalities, their perceptions on practices of EIA, their interactions with all key stakeholders involved, and challenges faced before, during, and after the EIA projects.

Internationally, the literature on Environmental Impact Assessment as a tool to prognosticate impacts on environment and ensure sustainable development (Erickson, 1994; Fischer, 2007; Toro et al., 2010, etc.), and on the role of consultants involved is abundant. For example, the earlier discussions of Environmental Impact Assessment emphasize not only multidisciplinary nature of its process and content but also the need for an interdisciplinary team of specialists to conduct a credible and successful Assessment (Erickson, 1994; Fortlage, 1990; Kreske, 1996; Petts, 1999; Shah, 2013). However, scientific rationality and credibility are not the only important contributions by consultants; there is a growing literature that considers a political aspect of the Assessment projects and subjectivity as well as politicized positionality of people involved in the Assessment process. For instance, Hugh Wilkins (2003) challenges an assumption that subjectivity is the shortcoming of Assessments, conversely arguing that the Assessment projects produce and develop not only scientific knowledge but also particular social and political values. According to Wilkins (2003: 409), Environmental Impact Assessments serve “to support, oppose or mitigate publicly controversial projects and, as such, discourse is stimulated in which people can espouse their views and hear and understand the concerns of others”. In this sense, subjectivity of those producing Impact Assessment knowledge enhances its value rather than hindering the process; moreover Assessments can also promote discourses of sustainable development and social responsibility if consultants are able to create appropriate conditions for quality public participation, transparency of process, and open dialogue sensitive to local cultural attitudes (Wilkins, 2003: 411).

However, despite that the importance of consultants in Environmental Impact Assessment process is widely understood, consultants themselves may face a number of challenges and constraints in their work. For example, Sam Chanthy and Clemens M. Grunbuhel (2015) investigated the challenges reported by the consultants in Cambodia, which might have affected an assessment process and lowered quality of their practice. The key informants in their study identified such constraints as limited time and access to important data, financial constraints for assessment, lack of trust in consultants’ work by local communities but also companies, and political influence by local elites and politicians (simultaneously project owners or company shareholders) (Chanthy & Grunbuhel, 2015: 228 231). Similarly, Mehreen Khan et al. (2018) reveal a challenge laden work of the Assessment consultants in Pakistan, acknowledging such negative aspects as limited resources and expertise, lack of cooperation by proponents (funders of Environmental Impact Assessments) as well as public (usually reluctant to share their views openly or exaggerate/hide information, and often convinced that their participation is useless) (Khan, 2018: 203 206). Yet, Nasim ur Rehman

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Shah (2013: 6) states the role of practitioners/consultants (and their expertise, knowledge, and skills) is critical in Impact Assessment process as proponents and communities need “expert assistance for their environmental requirements that only a qualified environmental consultant can provide”. He further recommends raising critical a wareness of the significance of Environmental Impact Assessment consultants and their labor for the general public, as well as potential proponents (companies), and provide quality professional training and educational opportunities for all practitioners.

Ultimately, a central assumption in the reviewed literature on the role of consultants is that a successful and effective Environmental Impact Assessment depends on cooperation of multiple individuals and groups, however consultants occupy a particularly important position within this system (Morrison Saunders et al., 2001; Morrison Saunders & Bailey, 2009; Weaver et al., 2008; Wilkins, 2003). Therefore, it is paramount “to engage more fully with Impact Assessment actors’ interests, experiences, stories, interrelations, and intuitions of the situations they are involved in, and of other participants” (Kagstrom & Richardson, 2015: 111).

Personalizing Ethnological Impact Assessment Process in Sakha Republic

Maria Pavlova’s Notes

I have been involved in consulting projects and hired as an academic researcher and a consultant since the early 2000s. My very first project as a consultant was to assist in business planning of agricultural organizations in the field of animal husbandry and processing of agricultural products. This groundwork and experience in consulting on issues of organization, management, and tax accounting have improved my skills and knowledge on legal issues and economic relations specifically in agricultural production of small scale farms and communal organizations. This more than a decade consulting experience and the fundamental legal knowledge I gained significantly facilitate my current work as a consultant for EIAs with Indigenous communities in Sakha.

On the Importance of Native Consultants in Ethnological Impact Assessment in Sakha Republic

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Figure 2: Conducting a consulting seminar on the traditional fishing rights in Neryungrinskii District (Photo by Maria Pavlova)

Based on my consulting experience, I identify two important venues of critique and need of improvement in current EIA process (in addition to already existing critique of the EIA procedure in the Republic referenced earlier). Firstly, I believe that the main obstacle in creating productive dialogue between Indigenous communities and extractive companies within the EIA procedure is primarily related to necessity of regular exchange of information in order to form a stable communication of all participants involved in the assessment process. For example, the Indigenous community leaders often complain that when they write letters to extractive companies, they rarely get a response. I contend that this is the case of lack of knowledge of bureaucratic documentation procedure, a poor command of an official business style of speech (predominantly implemented by the local companies), and lack of knowledge of the business and legal vocabulary. Here, it is a responsibility of a consultant to translate business and legal jargon for local community members. In this sense, being able to speak a local language is not an advantage but a requirement for an EIA consultant because a consultant must manage literal translation (and interpretation) of the EIA documents (and all communication involved) into native languages of local Indigenous communities. Additionally, the consultant must mediate an extensive correspondence between extractive company and community. Therefore a consultant must have experience working with the local agricultural and communal organizations, and possess the skills of business and legal correspondence.

Secondly, a consultant must have familiarity, or better, an in depth understanding of the local socio cultural and religious worldviews, the existing public concerns on environment, and the current political and economic conditions. For instance, a general EIA process (and many consulting projects I have participated in) focuses on land rights, or the legal specifics of the Territory of Traditional Nature Use. Legally, the status of the Territories of Traditional Nature Use determines “specially protected nature territories, formed for the purposes of traditional natural resource use and traditional way of life of the Indigenous numerically small peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East of the Russian Federation” (RF2001a, Article 1). As the federal law, it guarantees the Indigenous communities “the right to hunt and fish without license and to collect and control information about their territory, … to initiate dialogue with non Indigenous resource users (extractive industries) over issues of ecological damage, compensation, partnership, assistance, and so on” (Parlato et al., 2021: 2). However, many Indigenous communities in Sakha, to date, have not registered their lands as the Territories of Traditional Nature Use (and the Traditional Hunting Acreage), therefore they are not legally protected. The encroachment of extractive companies on their ancestral territories of the traditional economic activities, which are also recognized as the sacred and culturally significant landmarks, causes intense concern and justified indignation among the local Indigenous people. In this case, a consultant can expedite securing of the legal status of the Traditional Nature Use and/or the Traditional Hunting Acreage. To achieve this, a consultant must consider the following information: a physical and geographical location of the land, specific areas of traditional subsistence hunting and fishing, a placement of herding camps, seasonal reindeer pastures, herd routes, local settlements, sacred locations, etc. It is evident that this endeavor is not possible without an extensive knowledge of the local economic activities and the territorial specifics based on the longitudinal ethnographic observations, and ongoing collaboration with the local Indigenous communities.

In addition to the questions related to the land rights and strategies of dealing with extractive companies, a consultant must also be prepared to provide adequate information and answer to a

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diverse assortment of questions that communities might need assistance with. For instance, in my consulting experience, I have received such (sometimes unexpected) inquiries as: a request to assist with a grant application to the Ministry of Arctic Development or the Presidential Grants Fund; how to prepare a range of documents to rent reindeer pastures from the government; where to locate a map to demarcate the traditional territories in the archives; where a hunter can sell the procured fur for a higher price, etc. It is clear that a consultant has an imperative role not only in delivering an effective and beneficial for communities EIA, but he/she must also consider the particular social and political conditions and the existing institutional arrangements to utilize his/her expert knowledge as an important (at times politicized) tool to achieve a communal socio cultural, economic, and political advancement.

In 2017 2018, I conducted ethnographic research in one of the Arctic districts of Sakha Republic, exploring what forms of local Indigenous mobilization are possible when an Indigenous political representation in the traditional sense is heavily circumscribed and may appear virtually impossible. Here, I present some observations I have made during the fieldwork, supplemented by the data from the semi structured interviews with the residents of the Arctic Indigenous village, the academic researchers in Yakutsk (a captial city of Sakha) who served as the consultants for the local Ethnogolical Impact Assessment projects, and several urban Indigenous activists. Based on the research data, the discourses on EIA have drastically differed depending on interlocutor’s position, status, and background; but most apparent discord was based on urban and rural divide. Many urban activists, who I interviewed, themselves well familiar with the EIA process, emphasized its importance but also offered valuable criticism. For example, one urban activist, himself from an Indigenous reindeer herding family, noted:

On the Importance of Native Consultants in Ethnological Impact Assessment in Sakha Republic

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Figure 3: My host and her friend showing me around the village (Photo by Sardana Nikolaeva) Sardana Nikolaeva’s Notes

Unfortunately, EIA is not a required mechanism; the big extractive companies can easily refuse conducting (and funding) an EIA project if community resides on the lands, non recognized as the Territory of Traditional Nature Use. The methodology of how the EIA consultants calculate ethnological and environmental damage is also not perfect because it is very difficult to calculate what will happen in twenty years, for example. Because the calculating methods are so flawed, a financial compensation to communities is often very low. There is also a question what to do with the small scale extractive companies operating throughout the Republic, who can easily avoid responsibility of conducting EIAs.

The critique of the inadequate calculating methods of damage and compensation came up many times during my conversations with the local consultants. Nadezhda, an experienced academic researcher who consulted in several EIAs, echoed these concerns, however she indicated that the complexity of the EIA procedure lies in evaluating of not economic losses but of cultural and spiritual. According to Nadezhda, communities sometimes do not have a necessary legal documentation of their previous and ongoing economic activities, which incredibly complicates the EIA process itself. Yet potential post extractivism social and cultural transformations require a different approach of prioritizing an insider perspective, which I believe reflects a demand in native consultants or consultants from within communities. However, several urban activists I conversed with also complained about “passivity” of rural Indigenous communities. One of the urban prominent researchers, who also served as a consultant at multiple EIAs, lamented: Our people in the rural areas do not have enough information about their own rights; however, it also happens that they do know their rights but because of their “psychology of an object rather than a subject”, they end up relying only on the Association resources (the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North), and do not want to do anything themselves. I tell them at least inform us about what is happening or initiate something in your village and tell us about it and we will get involved. But most often, we are the ones doing things and the local people do not do anything. I believe this is a psychology of a passive dependency and waiting for someone accomplish things for them. This comment, and similar ones, must be understood in terms of a systematic marginalization and exclusion of rural Indigenous people from most political and public spheres. Equally problematic is the undermining of a class dimension in Indigenous experiences of rurality; the rural communities in remote isolated Arctic locations do not often have access to the same crucial resources (financial and otherwise) that could have propelled their grievances to more public arenas.

Having completed fieldwork in Yakutsk, I spent several months in the rural Arctic Indigenous village with a population of around 730 people; the village residents practice mixed economy mostly employed in wage labor, as well as those involved in traditional modes of subsistence such as reindeer herding, hunting, and fishing At the time of my arrival (and fieldwork duration), the local Indigenous community was still in the process of negotiating the results of an EIA, funded by one of the largest diamond extraction companies in Sakha Republic currently operating in close vicinity to the village. In my conversations with the local people, I inquired what they thought about the recent EIA which had been conducted by a group hired by the company who were

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Russian speaking consultants from Moscow. I learned that most of the village residents were confused not only about the EIA process but also why it was important in the first place. One of the village elders recalled: There was a group of people, brought up here by the company, who visited our village and conducted surveys, but we did not understand what it was. If we had been explained better of the importance of EIA and its outcomes from the beginning, we could have been more active and defended our rights. We did not think that it was important at all!

The local authorities later confirmed that as a result of the residents’ confusion about the EIA process, the community participation in the public hearings and, overall, the EIA project itself was low. One of the local community leaders also complained that some members of the EIA group did not have any clue about the local socio cultural, economic, and political conditions, which rendered EIA itself flawed and ineffective in protection of local Indigenous rights against the extractive company.

However, it must be also noted that several community members managed to vocalize their grievances and fears over extractivist harm to the local environment during a handful of the public hearings with the arrived EIA researchers/experts. Ekaterina, a local elderly activist, attended those meetings and recounted to me afterwards:

I was at the hearings for EIA, the researchers only spoke Russian and we have Elders here who do not understand Russian, so it was difficult for them. They also used this complicated scientific language, which a lot of us also could not understand. I also noticed that some of them were seemingly laughing at us I thought it was very disrespectful.

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Figure 4: The local river that became a point of contention between local villagers and company before the EIA (Photo by Sardana Nikolaeva)

In her ethnography Unearthing Conflict , Fabiana Li (2015: 186, 207) argues that the strategic language of science and expertise, frequently implemented by representatives of extractive companies in their dealings with affected communities, “prioritize[s] mining interests and enable[s] corporations to define the standards of performance that governments will use to establish compliance”, disadvantaging local people (especially in rural areas) since they rarely have resources to produce “accurate and scientific” counterarguments. Considering Ekaterina’s description of the public hearings and the EIA reseachers’ deliberate deployment of overtly complex scientific jargon, it can be suggested that this was a deliberate strategy that limited an informed participation of the village residents in the EIA project and other critical discussions about their futures and future of their environment, but it also allowed them to be dismissed as “ignorant, irrational, misinformed”.


Ethnological Impact Assessment in Sakha Republic is a pioneering procedure that is intended to minimize negative environmental impacts of extractivist activities and protect Indigenous territorial rights and traditional lifeways. However, as any bureaucratic endeavor, it requires a constant critical scrutiny and interrogation not only of its procedure and content, but also of those who are involved in different capacities in the EIA projects. Out of this group of stakeholders, the position of a consultant (mostly academic researchers with specific expert knowledge who conduct EIAs) is particularly imperative since they are responsible in delivering a successful and effective EIA, prioritizing communal interests rather than those of extractive companies. In this sense, the position of a consultant is inherently intersectional, and various aspects of a consultant’s subjectivity can become a useful and powerful tool in conducting the EIA projects and producing relevant knowledges and discourses. In this article, building on the first author’s professional experience and the second author’s ethnographic research findings, we argue that native consultants, who understand local Indigenous communities’ issues and concerns from within, who can speak a native language to establish a better rapport with community members, and who possess an in depth knowledge of local socio cultural, economic, and political dimensions, are needed to create effective mechanisms of public participation in the EIA projects, to uphold transparency of the EIA procedure, its goals and outcomes, and to promote the Indigenous territorial, environmental, and cultural rights.


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Why are the Khanty and Mansi silent figures in the politics of memory in the N orth of Western Siberia?

Ksenia Barabanova

The area of the North of Western Siberia is a unique project of historical memory. Part of its uniqueness is due to the fact that virgin oil lands continue to remain relevant, unlike other Soviet projects for the development of areas and socialist constructions. The development of the territories of the North of Western Siberia began in the 16th century, but the historical memory of the region dates back to the 1960s. The main plot for the historical memory of the region was the development of nature and the appropriation of natural resources. The most important figure of memory for the North of Western Siberia has become the image of a pioneer oilman. Commemorative practices of the Great Patriotic War were used in the formation of the memory of the conquest of nature. Representatives of the Indigenous peoples of the Khanty and Mansi have become the default figure in the historical memory of the North of Western Siberia. Despite the national projects for the preservation of the culture of Indigenous peoples, their representatives did not become part of the region's memory project. Thus, the Indigenous people are ousted from the region's memory project by the figure of a pioneer, with the arrival of which the history and historical memory of the North of Western Siberia begins.


The space of the north of Western Siberia is a unique project of historical memory. That is because, unlike other Soviet projects for the development of areas and socialist construction projects, virgin oil continues to develop and retain its relevance (Barabanova, 2020).

In this article, we will only consider a part of the north of Western Siberia the Khanty Mansiysk Autonomous County Yugra, since that territory became the center of oil and gas production and underwent the most changes after its discovery in the middle of the 20th century. This event became a continuation of virgin history and got the name “virgin oil”. Back in 1965, F. Gurari wrote in his work “Virgin Oil of Siberia” that “so far we have virgin soil in front of us. Everything is still young in it from virgin lands to the first openwork towers, from blocks of the first cities to the first heroes of the oil harvest" (Gurari, 1965: 65). It should be mentioned that the region is actively implementing its projects of historical memory, among which we can single out the actual memory of the conquest of virgin oil and a project to lengthen the history of the region.

Ksenia Barabanova, Candidate of Historical Sciences

Senior Scientist, Laboratory of Historical Research, Surgut State Pedagogical University. Senior Researcher, Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Space Research, Tyumen State University

The development of the territories of Ugra starts as early as in the 16th century, but the historical memory of the region begins in the 1960s. That is due to the fact that during this period oil production began, and the area was reborn. There is a long history of area exploration and the historical memory before us, such as the "young cities" of the Urals, whose life started in the era of industrialization (Veselkova, 2016; Veselkova, 2017). The main plot for the historical memory of the region was the development of nature and the usage of natural resources (Barabanova, 2021).

At the same time, the settlement process of virgin oil continues. Severe climatic conditions and remoteness from the center determine the temporary nature of the stay in the region. The involvement of Ugra in the national memory projects and the lengthening of history allows us to talk about the gradual transformation of the area, and its habitation. To implement this project, the region is actively involved in all Russian and all Siberian memory projects.

To this day, the memory of the Great Patriotic War is rightfully considered to be the main project in the politics of historical memory (Miller, 2009). Its implementation in Yugra began as early as 1945 when an obelisk was installed on the territory of the Surgut river station dedicated to the Surgutians who left to serve at the front line in 1941 1945. In 1995, the wooden obelisk was replaced by white marble. As in many other regions, the monument was installed in a place that represents the beginning of the road to the front. Since the Ob was the only transport artery in the region, it became the river port from which the Surgutians headed to the front. In 1968, a memorial of Glory was opened in Surgut, the core of which was a wooden obelisk in honor of those who died during the kulak uprising of 1921 (Wealthy peasants who used hired workers in the 1920s 1930s. They were subjected to repression, their property was confiscated, and they were exiled to the remote territory of the Soviet Union). This successful case shows the process of absorbing the memory of the revolution by the Great Patriotic War at the local level (Boltunova, 2017). It should be noted that the creation of a large complex was the main feature of the 1960s; large monuments and memorials were installed throughout the Soviet Union (Popov, 2019).

The north of Western Siberia, just like Siberia as a whole, was a place of exile for many years (Alekseeva, 2020; Ficpatrik, 2001; Istoriya ssylki… ). Commemorative practices related to the victims of repression are still taking shape. In 2018, a monument to the victims of the repressions of the 1930s and 1940s was opened on the Ob River embankment in Surgut. This monument is dedicated to Russian peasants who were exiled from the european part of the Soviet Union to the North of Western Siberia in the 1920s 1930s. Today, the exiles continue to be the same figure of silence as the Khanty and Mansi

The museum complex "Old Surgut", which was opened to visitors in 1999, takes an important place in the process of lengthening the history of the region. The complex of 14 wooden houses is located on the river Saimaa. Its purpose is to give a visual representation of the historical appearance of Surgut in the 19th century. "Old Surgut" has become an artificially created place of memory. At the same time, let’s keep in mind that Surgut of the 19th century was located in a completely different place, and the buildings presented at the exposition are just reconstructions. Since the opening of the complex, it has managed to turn into a place of memory for many citizens, thanks to the well organized exhibition work.

In 2002, a monument to the “Founders of Surgut” was installed in Surgut, depicting the prince (Fedor Boryatinsky, who, together with the voivode Vladimir Anichkov, arrived in Western Siberia), a Cossack carpenter, and a priest. In 2020, the Embankment of Life graffiti appeared on

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the embankment near the river port of Surgut, reflecting important stages in the history of the city. And although the emphasis is on the period of discovery of oil and gas fields, the period before the Russians came to these territories was also shown.

The inhabited space indicates a gradual transformation of cities of temporary residence into permanent ones. And the space occupied by these cities is completely reclaimed from nature. Small sculptures or compositions are created, scattered around the city, creating a recreational area. These sculptures often claim to be the symbol of the city. For Surgut, as the largest city of Ugra, these are the numerous sculptures of a black fox, which can be found primarily in the "Old Surgut" and areas next to it. The black fox is a symbol of the city, placed on its crest. A hotel and a cafe are named after it. But near the building of the local history museum, there is a sculptural composition of a smile, which is also called a symbol of the city in many guidebooks. Smiling fish is a symbol of a city rich in fish and cheerful people.

Here we should refer to the proposed by D.S. Zaikin periodization of the symbolic policy of constructing the "Ugra" identity, which began in the late 1990s with the addition of the toponym "Yugra" to the official name of the region. In 2018, the second stage has started, in which the authorities of the region are implementing an active identity policy. In the course of implementing the task set, the regional authorities actively support the commemorations of Ancient Ugra in the context of museum work, competition events, publication of the academic history of Ugra, etc (Zaikin, 2020: 252). The project to lengthen the history of the region logically fits into this periodization proposed by Zaikin. The concept of "Ugra" identity is designed to melt into a single monolith disparate groups of "temporaries", which will create a new identity, while representatives of the Khanty and Mansi remain outside this project since it is not focused on them.

The Khanty and Mansi have become silent figures in the historical memory of the north of Western Siberia. Despite the national projects for the preservation of the culture of the Indigenous peoples of the North, their representatives did not become part of the actual project of memory of the development of virgin oil. Hence, the Khanty and Mansi were ousted from the region's memory project by the figure of a pioneer, with the arrival of which the history and historical memory of the North of Western Siberia begins.

Considering the space of historical memory of the North of Western Siberia, the question arises: have the Khanty and Mansi completely disappeared from historical memory? And here the most appropriate answer would be: not completely. In this work, we will consider the local memory projects that involve representatives of the Indigenous peoples of the North.


The project of conquering nature

First, we should refer to the actualized past of the North of Western Siberia, and the memory of the conquest of nature. The most important for this project was the image of a pioneer oilman. Monuments to oil workers are part of the memory of all oil regions. It should be noted, the similarity of their compositions. Most of them have a drilling rig and a symbolic fountain of oil. At the heart of the composition of the monument to the Labor Feat of Generations of Surgutneftegaz Oilmen, opened in Surgut in 2016, is a fountain of oil gushing from the bowels of the earth. In the center of the composition, there are 11 bronze figures a geologist, a surveyor, an engineer, a driller, an electrician, an oil and gas production operator, a welder, a builder, a driver, and a chef.

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The monument "Oil Crafts of the Master" in Nyagan (2010) also uses the symbols of the oil industry and depicts an oil fountain.

There are monuments to the pioneers planted all over the major cities of Ugra. But in different parts of the region, the figure of the pioneer is seen differently. In Nefteyugansk, the monument to the "Pioneers" (2012) is a monument to the legendary "landing force" of geologists who began the exploration of the subsoil of the Ust Balykskoye field in 1961. The stella in the center reminds of an oil rig surrounded by three sculptural groups: builders, geologists and oilmen, and young families. In Surgut, a monument dedicated to the "Geologists of the Middle Ob" or pioneer geologists was installed, to honor the Salmanov group, which began exploration in 1957.

When forming the memory of the conquest of nature, the commemorative practices of the Great Patriotic War were used. This approach manifested itself most clearly in the monument to the Conquerors of Samotlor (1978, Nizhnevartovsk), located on the Mound of Glory, at the intersection of roads leading to Samotlor Lake and the Megionskoye field. Today the monument is known as "Alyosha", being on a par with the other Alyoshas: Bulgarian (the monument to the Soviet soldier in Plovdiv (1957), the North Sea (the monument to the "Heroes of the North Sea" (1973) and Murmansk (the monument "Defender of the Soviet Arctic during the Great Patriotic War "(1974)". All four Alyosha memorials are similar in their compositional concept. Nizhnevartovsk "Alyosha" got a hammer instead of a weapon, and instead of a military uniform a pea coat, tarpaulin boots, and a helmet, the uniform of the pioneers of virgin oil, per se. Nizhnevartovsk "Alyosha" can be considered as a continuation of the Bulgarian and Murmansk, that is, as a change from a military feat to a labor one. The enemy in this discourse is nature, from which space and resources have to be reclaimed. This struggle is as dramatic as the hostilities because, during the conquest, many discoverers suffered or died.

Representatives of the Indigenous peoples of the North act in the policy of memory of Yugra as antagonists to the oil workers, who are presented as the present and future of the region. In contrast to the oilmen, who enter into a war with nature, and win back space and resources from it after a difficult battle, the Khanty and Mansi stay in harmony with nature. And these harmonious relationships last for many centuries. On one hand, this allows us to use the image of the Ob Ugrians to represent the past region, and on the other hand, to portray them as an example of harmonious existence in the space of the North.

The commemorative practices of the memory of the Khanty and Mansi are implemented within the museum projects. In 1987, the open air ethnographic museum "Torum Maa" was opened in Khanty Mansiysk, the name of which is translated from the Mansi language as "Sacred Land". The museum is located on one of the seven sacred hills, not far from the confluence of the Ob and Irtysh rivers. The exposition presents a reconstruction of the life of the Ob Ugrians and is represented by a summer camp, a winter settlement, a sanctuary, and a hunting trail.

In the same year, the ethnographic park museum of the village of Varyogan began its work. Its authors were the Novosibirsk ethnographer I.N. Gemuev and a resident of Varyogan reindeer herder Yu.K. Aivaseda (Vella). Through joint efforts, a unique collection was assembled, introducing the culture of the Agan Khanty and the Forest Nenets. The task of the exposition is to acquaint visitors with the traditional types of nature management, life, and folklore of the peoples of the North. In 2016, the house museum was included in the structure of the museum of Yu.K. Wells (Istorija muzeja Jetnograficheskij park muzej s. Var'jogan…).

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In 1988, the Museum of Nature and Man of A.P. Yadroshnikov, whose collection formed the basis of the exposition. The exposition contains zoological and ethnographic collections dedicated to the harmonious existence of man and nature. For example, the exposition "The World of the Sacred River Trom Agan" introduces visitors to the life of the Trom Agan Khanty and Russian old timers. Over time, Russkinskaya became a place of attraction for those who want to get acquainted with the traditions of the Khanty and Mansi (Istorija muzeja Russkinskoj muzej Prirody i Cheloveka imeni Jadroshnikova Aleksandra Pavlovicha…). Every March, the village hosts the “Day of the Reindeer Breeder” a traditional holiday where competitions are held, such as: throwing an ax, reindeer sled racing, archery, throwing a lasso (tynzyan) on a pole, which is used to drive a reindeer sled (trochee) (Nacional'nyj prazdnik narodov …).

In 1990, the village of Sosva was created from the initiative of the teacher of the Mansi language, A.M. Khromovaya, the ethnographic park museum "Nayotyr Maa" (translated from Mansi "Land of Ancestors"). The exposition of the museum includes traditional dwellings and buildings harmoniously integrated into the natural landscape.

The ethnographic museums have become an important platform for building a new policy of memory in relation to the Ob Ugrians. Not only traditional museum methods of representing the traditions of Indigenous peoples of the North are involved, but also emphasis is placed on interactive workshops: masterclasses on making toys and traditional jewelry, theatrical excursions, etc. for this.

Ethnic camps, where tourists can touch their culture, have set a new direction in creating the memory of representatives of the Indigenous peoples of the North. This is not a museum complex, but rather a theatrical performance, a showcase, which is shown by the Khanty and Mansi themselves. In 2009, in the Nizhnevartovsk district of Khanty Mansi Autonomous Okrug Yugra, not far from the village of Varyogan, the Amputinskoye camp was opened for visitors, where residential and outbuildings are presented for tourists, as well as reindeer sled rides, fishing, collecting herbs and tasting national cuisine. In 2011, a similar ethnic camp "Karamkinskoye" was opened near the village of Agan.

In the late 1980s Against the background of developing oil production and environmental problems caused by this process, ethnographic museums were created in Yugra. The initiators of their creation were residents from the peoples of the Khanty and Mansi. The exposition space is inscribed in the natural landscape and allows visitors to get acquainted with the everyday life of the peoples of the North. This technique emphasizes the message of the long term harmonious relationship of the Khanty and Mansi with nature. These relationships are contrasted with the destructive activities of the oil workers, who leave behind oil spills, equipment, and other trash. The ethnographic museum and camps have become one of the few opportunities to look into the closed world of the Khanty and Mansi since it is almost impossible to get to a real camp, where they live and lead a traditional way of life. It should be noted here, that the memory of the Khanty and Mansi is built here, by the Ob Ugrians (Khanty and Mansi) themselves. They define the boundaries of accessibility to their culture and regulate the representation of the image of a person living in harmony with nature. The excursion programs focus on traditional practices and bypass the use of modern technology in the life of the people of the North.

Why are the Khanty and Mansi silent figures in the politics of memory in the North of Western Siberia?

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Socialist construction and technology

Places of memory in the North of Western Siberia are developing in the context of the memory of socialist construction projects. It should be noted that the oil target, together with The Baikal Amur Mainline (from here and onwards BAM), is part of the project to commemorate the development of the North. But unlike the virgin lands, these projects have been successful and therefore not subject to oblivion. Monuments with the use of technology became a common case for commemorations of socialist construction projects. For the North of Western Siberia, it became airplanes and helicopters. In 2000, the Alley of Honor for Aviation was opened in Nizhnevartovsk. It presents the aircraft involved in the development of the territory in the mid 1960s: Mi 1, Mi 2, Mi 4, Mi 6, and Mi 8 helicopters, as well as An 2 aircraft. Near the airport of Surgut, the Mi 6 was installed in 2004. The helicopter was a gift from Utair airlines on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the united squadron for its contribution to the development of Western Siberia.

The usage of technology as a symbol of victory over nature is also common for other socialist construction projects. The DT 54 tractor became the main symbol of the virgin lands. Three monuments with this tractor were installed on the former virgin lands in Borets (1975), Zlatorunovsk (1979), and Tselinny. In commemoration of the deed of the BAM builders, the leading role is given to the railway and railway equipment steam locomotives Ea 4249 and P36 0098 at the Vikhorevka and Severobaikalsk stations, respectively.

The traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the North stand against using the technology in commemorations of the development of virgin oil. The figures of the Ob Ugrians are used to fill out the urban space, especially in the capital of Ugra, Khanty Mansiysk. Just like that, a sculptural group "The Khanty Family on Rest" (A.N. Kovalchuk and LLC TPO "Ekaterinburg Art Fund") was installed near the airport in 2007. In 2010, the sculpture “Mythological Time” was installed in Khanty Mansiysk (artist Vizel G.M., sculptor Sargsyan V.A.), which reflects the ideas about the time and the world of the Ob Ugrians.

The images of representatives of the Indigenous peoples of the North convey the traditional way of life and their opinion on time and space, supporting the idea of harmony with nature. They refer us to the tradition and the past, which have become the personification for the project of lengthening the history of Yugra. The usage of technology in the commemoration of virgin oil once again points to modernity.

History Extension Project

Let's look at the project of lengthening history, whose commemorative features have been talked about earlier. The images of Khanty and Mansi take an important place in this project. They represent the ancient Ugra before the arrival of Yermak. In 1998, a memorial was opened in the Laryak village in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Nizhnevartovsk region, which "symbolizes the arrival of civilization on the Yugra land." In the center of the chum monument, where a resident encounters "the first man who brought civilization to the taiga land a geologist" (Pamyatniki Nizhnevartovskogo rajona: putevoditel', 2010: 22).

A stele "To the Pioneers of the Yugorsk Land" (K. Saprichan) was installed in 2003 on Komissarskaya Hill in Khanty Mansiysk, the capital of the Khanty Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug Yugra. And it became the highest point of the city. The stele simultaneously resembles a Khanty

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tent, a Cossack observation tower, and an oil rig. The relief panel depicts the history of the development of Yugra from the ancient period to the time of the beginning of the development of oil and gas fields, through the main characters of the period: the Khanty, the Cossacks of the period of Yermak's campaign and the oilmen. In the monument "The Bronze Symbol of Yugra" (Khanty Mansiysk, 2005), the works of A.N. Kovalchuk, the Khanty, and Mansi also represent the ancient Ugra, and the modern times are personified by the working people, which include oil workers, geologists, and builders. Hence, the images of the Khanty and Mansi are used to represent ancient Yugra in the project of lengthening history. They show the world that existed before the Russians arrived in the North of Western Siberia. If the oil workers are the main characters of the updated past, then the Khanty and Mansi are only elements in the growing project of lengthening the history and settling in the territory of the region.

F. Salmanov man and ship, man and plane

The figure of F. Salmanov became the central place in the memory of virgin oil. He led the search for oil in the region. In recent years, his figure has ousted the names of other geologists from historical memory, including under whose leadership the first deposits were found. His image of a young active pioneer geologist began to take shape as early as the 1970s. It can be assumed that Salmanov took an active part in creating the image of the oil discoverer, and over the years rebuilt his biography in the context of the idea of pioneers.

And just like that, in 1972, V. Vysotsky (a Soviet singer songwriter, poet, and actor) wrote the song "Tyumen Oil", whose hero was a geologist who overcomes the skepticism of his superiors and colleagues in the search for oil. According to various versions, the prototype for Vysotsky was either Salmanov or Ervie (Kulagin, 2018: 162). Salmanov in his memoirs described his meeting Vysotsky, at which the song was first performed (Salmanov, 2003). The image of “Salmanov the pioneer” was preserved in the films of A. Konchalovsky "Siberiada" and A. Proshkin’s "Risk Strategy". It should be noted that Salmanov took an active part in creating this myth around himself (Stafeev, 2007), publishing his books about his work in virgin oil (Salmanov, 1988; Salmanov, 2006).

After Salmanov’s passing in 2007, a new round of commemoration came out. We shall mention that most of the events were timed to coincide with the anniversary. So, in 2007, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the start of the work of geologists in Surgut, the "House of F. Salmanov '' was opened, the same place where a monument to the geologist was installed. As well as the other monuments: in Salekhard (2009), Khanty Mansiysk (2010), Gornopravdinsk (2014). Also, the name of the pioneer is immortalized in the names of the streets in Tyumen, Surgut, Nizhnevartovsk, and Pyt Yakh, as well as on the boards of UTair (UUTnoe nebo UTair…) and Aeroflot transport aircraft (Samoletnyj park…). In 2018, Salmanov's name was given to Surgut Airport as part of the Great Names of Russia competition. On the one hand, Salmanov has become a place of memory in Surgut. On the other hand, the pioneer oilman is considered to be the place of memory for the entire virgin oil region.

At the same time, we cannot single out a similar character from the peoples of the Khanty and Mansi. Partially, this can be explained by the fact that the oilmen and Salmanov himself put a lot of effort into creating places of memory for their deeds. Oil corporations, as the heirs of the Soviet

Why are the Khanty and Mansi silent figures in the politics of memory in the North of Western Siberia?

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departments, are the main players in the politics of memory in the region today. Khanty and Mansi do not have such opportunities to found and maintain such expensive commemorative projects. Perhaps they do not have such a need, since they are not faced with the goal of developing the area, defeating nature, and appropriating its resources. Harmonious existence with nature eliminates the need to consolidate victories over it.


In the historical memory of Yugra, representatives of the Indigenous peoples of the North are the antagonists to the pioneers and oilmen. At the same time, the Khanty and Mansi are included in the projects of lengthening the history and settling in the virgin oil region. They represent a collective image of the past, while the oilmen, in turn, personify the present and the future.

It is important to note that the policy of memory of the oil workers is being implemented in the urban space, and Surgut has become its center. The Khanty Mansi Autonomous Okrug is one of the most urbanized regions in the Russian Federation. Cities have become a hub for shift workers, and the remoteness and inaccessibility of fields have led to the concentration of commemorations dedicated to virgin oil in cities. Khanty and Mansi remained outside the urban space. In the context of lengthening the history project of the region, the involvement of Ob Ugrians images enhances the contrast between the past and the present through the opposition of wild nature and the city. The city of Khanty Mansiysk was founded in 1930 as the capital of the national district. Today it is the capital of the Khanty Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug Yugra and the decoration from the court to the culture of the Khanty and Mansi. Sculptural groups and an ethnographic museum dedicated to the small peoples of the North are assigned to the district as a reference to the culture of the indigenous peoples. According to E.A. Pivnev, the Ob Ugrians that live in the cities, retain the historical memory of the land of their ancestors as “their land” and this image is actively involved in the construction of the ethnic identity of the Khanty and Mansi (Pivneva, 2019; Spodina, 2009).

It should be noted that the monuments serve as a reminder and at the same time they change the urban symbolic landscape, that is, they domesticate the space. Numerous monuments to pioneer oil workers reinforce the image of an oil target for the space of the North of Western Siberia. In the memory of the development of virgin oil space, representatives of the Indigenous peoples of the North act as a person living in harmony with nature.


The results were obtained in the framework of the grant of the Russian Federation Government, project № 075 15 2021 611 "Human and the changing Space of Ural and Siberia"


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Barabanova, K.S. (2021) Neft' v istoricheskoj pamyati osvoeniya Severa Zapadnoj Sibiri // Vestnik Surgutskogo gosudarstvennogo pedagogicheskogo universiteta. № 3 (72). Pp. 15 21. (in Russ.)

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Ficpatrik, SH. (2001) Stalinskie krest'yane. Social'naya istoriya Sovetskoj Rossii v 30 e gody: derevnya. Moskva: ROSSPEN, 422 p. (in Russ.)

Gurari, F.G., Ostryj, G.B. (1965) Neftyanaya celina Sibiri. Novosibirsk: Zap. Sib. kn. Izd vo. 66 p. (in Russ.)

Istorija muzeja «Russkinskoj muzej Prirody i Cheloveka imeni Jadroshnikova Aleksandra Pavlovicha» // «Russkinskoj muzej Prirody i Cheloveka imeni Jadroshnikova Aleksandra Pavlovicha». URL: https://xn jtbfcfdbbugmtnad0al.xn p1ai/ (25.05.2022). (in Russ.)

Istorija muzeja «Jetnograficheskij park muzej s. Var'jogan» // Oficial'nyj sajt «Jetnograficheskij park muzej s. Var'jogan». URL: https://museum 2/ (25.05.2022). (in Russ.)

Istoriya ssylki i specpereselenij v Hanty Mansijskom avtonomnom okruge Yugra. 1920 1950 e gg. Virtual'nyj muzej. URL: (25.05.2022). (in Russ.)

Konradova, N., Ryleeva. A. (2005) Geroi i zhertvy. Memorialy Velikoj Otechestvennoj // Pamyat' o vojne 60 let spustya: Rossiya, Germaniya, Evropa. M.: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, Pp. 241 261. (in Russ.)

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Pamyatniki Nizhnevartovskogo rajona: putevoditel' (2010) // Municipal'noe byudzhetnoe uchrezhdenie «Mezhposelencheskaya biblioteka» Nizhnevartovskogo rajona; sost.: N.K. Markova, O.N. YAremchuk, S.I. Manujlova. Nizhnevartovsk: LenProekt. (in Russ.)

Pivneva, E.A. (2019) «Svoya zemlya» kak simvol etnicheskoj identichnosti v gorodskoj povsednevnosti obskih ugrov // Prirodno geograficheskie faktory v povsednevnoj zhizni naseleniya Rossii: istoriya i sovremennost'. SPb.: Kul'turno prosvetitel'skoe tovarishchestvo. (in Russ.)

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Salmanov, F.K. (2003) ZHizn' kak otkrytie. M.: RTK Region. (in Russ.)

Salmanov, F.K. (1988) Sibir' sud'ba moya. M.: Sovetskaya Rossiya. 318 p. (in Russ.)

Salmanov, F.K. (2006) YA politik: razdum'ya odnogo iz sozdatelej toplivno energeticheskoj moshchi strany. (in Russ.)

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Spodina, V.I. (2009) Cennostnye harakteristiki «svoej zemli» v tradicionnoj kul'ture narodov Yugra kak marker etnicheskoj identichnosti // Vestnik Tomskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Pp. 77 80. (in Russ.)

Stafeev, O.N. (2007) Vospominaniya F.K. Salmanova kak istoricheskij istochnik razvitiya neftegazovogo kompleksa Zapadnoj Sibiri 1960 e 1980 e gg. // Vestnik Tomskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. № 294. Pp.166 169. (in Russ.)

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Zaikin, D.S. (2020) Politika pamyati kak instrument simvolicheskoj politiki po formirovaniyu regional'noj identichnosti v subarkticheskom regione (na primere Hanty Mansijskogo avtonomnogo okruga Yugra) // Razvitie institutov grazhdanskogo obshchestva v arkticheskih regionah sovremennoj Rossii: politiko pravovye aspekty. Sbornik materialov Vserossijskoj nauchno prakticheskoj konferencii. Surgut: Surgutskij gosudarstvennyj universitet. Pp. 248 261. (in Russ.)

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Syktyvkar: the (Komi) capital of the Komi Republic. Analysis of lived experiences of urban Komi people

Urban areas are often perceived as non compliant with Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and therefore seen as threatening for sustaining Indigenous identities. At the same time, the global urban Indigenous population keeps growing, in some areas already surpassing the rural one. In this setting, the concept of indigeneity and particularly territoriality as its vital component should be addressed critically.

In this contribution I aim to investigate how Komi residents of the capital city perceive themselves in urban space and what meanings they attribute to being a Komi urban resident. I do it by referring to their personal and autobiographical stories told to me during my fieldwork performed in Syktyvkar from October 2021 to February 2022.

I argue that urban Komi employ two major strategies in sustaining their identities in the city. Some of them continue perceiving themselves as products of rurality and therefore maintain their Kominess by continuously returning to the rural areas and searching for rural elements in the city. Others maintain and develop their Komi identity by exploring new possibilities the city may offer and, when doing so, they contrapose rurality to modernity and innovation. In either way, urban Komi residents are regarded, particularly by their rural counterparts, as multifaceted actors combining rural and urban implications of themselves. Being at large connected with their rural counterparts, resilience and actual decision making power of urban Komi community is therefore closely related to the prosperity of all Komi people.


The present contribution is largely based on Indigenous Studies scholarship and therefore follows the consequent academic tradition. Undoubtedly, one may highlight that the Komi people lack official recognition as one of Russia’s Indigenous small numbered peoples. Nonetheless, it is important to outline the ultimately excluding and limiting character of this artificial categorization. The Russian Federal Law No. 82 describes “indigenous small numbered peoples” as those “ living in the territories of traditional settlement of their ancestors, preserving their traditional way of life, economic activity and crafts, numbering less than 50 thousand people in the Russian Federation and recognizing themselves as independent ethnic communities”. There are several problematic aspects engrained in that definition, among which the numerical parameter is frequently considered as the most confining (Donahoe et al., 2008). As Donahoe et al. (2008: 995) describe, among more than 200 ethnic groups inhabiting Russia, of which around 130 can be potentially named as

Indigenous, “according to definitions based on autochthony, rights of prior occupation, and a history of disenfranchisement vis a vis the dominant population”. Currently, only 47 groups are officially recognized as such.

The limitations of Russian legislation on Indigenous peoples are continuously confronted by non recognized peoples, for example, in their utilization of legal vocabulary designed for Indigenous matters. For instance, UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), the resolution seminal for the Indigenous world, is translated to the languages of 5 ethnic groups residing in Russia, namely Karelians, Livvi Karelians, Komi, Nanai, and Veps. Only the latter two peoples possess the official Indigenous status.

Indigeneity, which is simultaneously an ontological, political, and legal phenomenon, can therefore be understood, analyzed, and applied differently. Furthermore, one may indeed argue that conceptualization and historical framework of indigeneity in Russia differs significantly from the application of the concept in, for example, North or South America. Nevertheless, it appears that recognized and non recognized Indigenous peoples in Russia, particularly, in their political and economic claims tend to follow the common narrative of the international pan Indigenous movement, which among other things incorporates historical experiences of oppression and autochthony.

Lacking the official Indigenous status, Komi people possess the status of titular peoples of the Komi Republic. Such status is encapsulated in the Article 3 of the Komi Republic’s Constitution, which defines that the Republic’s formation, its political and legal statuses are directly linked to the dwelling of the Komi people on its territory (Fedina, 2022). Furthermore, the Komi people self identify as native people and employ this category in their political actions and activism. On the international level, such actions are exemplified by, for example, occasional participation of Komi representatives in sessions of EMRIP (Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) or former membership of the Komi people in UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization). While the efficacy of the latter act has been debated even by the Komi people who oversaw it (Alexey Konyukhov, personal communication, April 2022), its symbolic meaning is hardly contested. On the local level, the notion of indigeneity is directly used by, for example, the Izhma Komi people, the northernmost Komi group, in their statements addressing natural resources extractive activities conducted by Lukoil in their homeland, the Izhemsky district:

We, the Izhma Komi, are the indigenous people and these are our lands. We no longer want to put up with the predatory exploitation of our mineral resources and environmental irresponsibility of Lukoil Komi. We must be an equal partner in conduction of any industrial projects on our lands (7x7 Horizontal Russia 2014).

It is widely accepted that cities generally tend to possess fewer resources than rural areas for the sustenance of Indigenous livelihoods that include language, cultural and spiritual practices, and connections to extended family (Shell Weiss & Bardwell, 2017: 101). However, it is as well important to outline that indigeneity is, by no means, a static construct, but a subject to constant transformation, not only in the urban areas, but in the rural ones as well. Indigenous urban residence and mobility to cities is not a novel phenomenon. Nonetheless, it is the enhancement of such movements that has led to increasing physical, political, and academic visibility of urban Indigenous communities (McSweeney & Jokisch, 2015: 14).

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Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, is historically and numerically referred to as the most Komi city. In this contribution I aim to investigate how Komi residents of the capital city perceive themselves in urban space and what meanings they attribute to being a Komi urban resident. I do it by referring to their personal stories told to me during my fieldwork performed in Syktyvkar in October 2021 February 2022.

Methodology and positionality

The data presented in this article was produced during ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Syktyvkar, the Komi Republic, Russia from October 2021 to February 2022.

I conducted 6 groups and 29 individual interviews, encompassing 67 people in total. All participants are adults from 18 to 70 years old, who self identify as Komi and/or Izhma Komi. Most of them (53 people) were females. The participants represent various fields and professions: they are, for example, students, university and school lecturers, culture workers, public figures, private sector employees, and retirees. For most of the participants, Komi language, culture, or politics constitute a substantial part of their professional lives. Approximately half of individual participants are current or former members of different Komi organizations such as the Syktyvkar branch of Komi Voityr, the representative organization of all Komi people, and districts’ zemljachestva, the associations that unite people originating from a particular district.

Some fieldwork participants are born urbanites, who have been living in the city constantly since their birth. Nonetheless, most of the participants are first generation internal migrants, who relocated to Syktyvkar from rural districts of the Komi Republic mostly due to studies or work. The participants represent 7 of 12 districts of the Komi Republic: Izhemsky, Kortkerossky, Syktyvdinsky, Sysolsky, Udorsky, Ust Vymsky, and Ust Kulomsky. Most of these districts are Komi dominated: 75.8% of Ust Kulomsky district’s, 66.4% of Kortkerossky district’s, 63.9% of Sysolsky district’s, and 62% of Izhemsky district’s populations are Komi. Additionally, 45.6% of Syktyvdinsky district’s, 39.3% of Udorsky district’s, and 25.4% of Ust Vymsky district’s populations are Komi.

The duration of country born participants’ residence in Syktyvkar varies from several months to more than 50 years. The first instance is typical for the first year Bachelor students who has recently relocated to the city, and the latter for the older research participants who moved to the capital after graduating from rural secondary schools to continue their education in professional colleges and the pedagogical institute1 in Syktyvkar.

The group interviews included 3 to 11 people. 4 out of 6 group interviews were conducted with the students enrolled in the Bachelor’s programmes “Pedagogical education: Native language (Komi) and literature and Russian language and literature" and “Pedagogical education: Native Language and literature and Foreign language (English)”.

I am a native Russian speaker with good understanding of the Komi language but limited speaking abilities. The main language of the interviews was Russian. At the same time, several participants opted for the Komi language as the medium of the dialogues and were speaking in Komi throughout the interviews, while I was responding in Russian. According to my observations, such mode of interviewing did not cause substantial issues, as all research participants are bilingual, however, one participant asked me at the end of the interview, when will I start speaking Komi too. It was as well common for most of the participants to perform occasional switches to the

Syktyvkar: the (Komi) capital of the Komi Republic

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Komi language, particularly when telling autobiographical stories or talking about rurality related phenomena.

When searching for people for the interviews, in the initial stage of the fieldwork I primarily used my mother’s connections. My mother is a Komi linguist, the current head of Syktyvkar branch of Komi Voityr, and a public figure well known and respected among urban Komi residents; she self identifies as Izhma Komi and is a native speaker of the Izhma Komi dialect. Later, when my own network grew, I was employing a snowball approach to recruit new participants.

Apart from conducting interviews, I attended several events, like literary evenings, concerts, church services2, the public organization’s meetings. All events were performed in the Komi language and were meant to unite urban Komi residents. I kept my observations on these events as fieldwork diary notes.

All participants gave their permission to use the interviews’ data and refer to it by their real names. Nevertheless, I have decided to opt for anonymization of all participants, unless they express their opinions as public figures. I would not regard data presented here as highly sensitive in other circumstances, but in the continuously restrictive settings of contemporary war time Russia any non aligned views may lead to administrative or even criminal persecution. Having safety of my research participants as one of the vital premises of my research, I therefore have to sacrifice personification of their stories for their security.

What is a city?

There is no universal definition of what constitutes a city. UN Human Settlement Programme’s guide attributes such ambiguity to “the uniqueness of urban form, the fragmented and interstitial fabric of cities, the spatial and functional blur between urban and rural areas, as well as complex growth trends that generate diverse patterns and conditions” (UN Habitat, 2022). Each state defines cities and urban areas differently. In the case of Russia, the state does not impose the universal definition and instead the regions define a city individually. Rooted in the drastic variations in population density in Russia, such approach is justifiable.

The common characteristics that distinguish cities from other human settlements in Russia are size (in majority of the regions, a city is a settlement with over 12 thousand inhabitants), presence of developed infrastructure, and a settlement’s role as an administrative, cultural, and/or industrial center. At the same time, the status of a city in Russian is rather an administrative construct than an adequate representation of the corresponding level of urbanization, since, by some estimates, up to a third of Russia’s cities still bear profoundly rural characteristics (Kommersant, 2015).

The Komi Republic’s law on administrative and territorial structure of the Komi Republic No. 13 RZ includes the following types of urban areas: cities of republican significance, cities of district significance, and urban type settlements. The law does not provide clear definitions for any of these categories. There are 8 cities of republican significance and 2 cities of district significance in the Komi Republic. Syktyvkar, the geographical locus of this paper, is the biggest city possessing the status of the regional capital.

Indigeneity and Indigenous identity in urban areas

I argue that cities should not be contraposed to the Indigenous world. Ascribing non urban spaces as authentic and urban as non authentic, and consequently questioning authenticity of urban


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dwelling Indigenous peoples are specifically problematic approaches in times when Indigenous populations are becoming increasingly urbanized (Andersen & Peters, 2013: 1). Non authenticity of urban areas may, in this framework, allegedly imply impossibility of indigeneity to be sustained in urban areas and consequent impossibility for such areas to become inclusive and safe spaces (Howard Wagner, 2021: 13). The discourse of non authenticity of urban areas is highly problematic also in that sense, as it facilitates the development of invisibility of Indigenous populations in the cities (ibid.). The related narrative of non authenticity of urban dwelling Indigenous peoples is as well questionable, as the prerequisite of authenticity that is imposed on Indigenous peoples replicates the centuries long dominance of settler colonial states and societies (Ravindran, 2015: 326)

At the same, while it is indeed common to ascribe the creation of the narrative of non authenticity to the dominant political systems, I support Ravindran’s argument (2015: 326) that this narrative is further sustained and reproduced by some parts of Indigenous populations themselves. Hereof, the idea of authenticity, and associated narrative of purity may become misleading in that sense that they distract Indigenous populations from the political struggle and disintegrate their unity (ibid., 330). Simultaneously, the narrative of authenticity, imposed by state practices and reinforced by communities, is disputable in that regard as it reproduces the understanding of identity as something unchangeable, to paraphrase Harris et al. (2013: 5), something that is in the process of ‘being’ rather than ‘becoming’.

One of the pillars of Indigenous identity and pan indigeneity is connection to and relations with the land and particular territory. As Weaver (2012: 475) suggests, “cultural identity is ultimately connected with and defined by traditional territories. Indigenous cultural and spiritual practices are inextricably linked to the land.” Relocation to the place, which is not perceived as originally Indigenous may thus question the cohesion of the Indigenous identity. However, such logic is disputed by Indigenous populations themselves. As was shared by a Metis female in Monchalin et al.’s article on urban Metis women in Toronto: “It’s not like I’m more Indigenous there [on the land] and I’m less Indigenous here [in the city]. Right? I am the same person no matter where I am” (Monchalin et al., 2020: 328). Resilience of the urban Indigenous communities and sustenance of the core Indigenous values, even under conditions of the widespread language loss and lack of infrastructural opportunities for sustaining Indigenous practices, are often seen as attributive to those communities (Weaver, 2012: 476).

Furthermore, common sense suggests that the very fact of relocation to another place does not annihilate original ethnic and/or Indigenous identities: a Finn does not stop being a Finn when relocating to New York. Indigenous peoples stay Indigenous regardless the place they end up living in. What is contested in this regard are the political and legal implications of indigeneity (Alexiades & Peluso, 2015: 8; McSweeney & Jokisch, 2015: 25). From one perspective, as McSweeney & Jokisch (2015: 16) outline, the challenge is attributed to the difficulty to “reconcile the fact of “multisited” indigeneity with the fact that territoriality remains a core project of global indigeneity”.

From the other, as Berg Nordlie (2018: 50) observes, “states' indigenous policy is often shaped to target rural populations, while urban authorities lack or struggle to develop indigenous policy of their own”. Thus, relocating to the city, Indigenous residents risk being disenfranchised of vital rights they might have possessed in the rural settlements and reservations.

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Such observations are as well relevant in the case of the Russian Federation, where the federal legislation defines the list of the territories of traditional residence of the Indigenous small numbered peoples (Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of May 8, 2009, No. 631 r). The list primarily consists of rural areas, nonetheless, several urban areas, including cities and urban districts, are incorporated as well. However, while such cities as Anadyr and Salekhard with substantial3 Indigenous populations are represented, other vital, and sometimes bigger, Indigenous centers, such as Yakutsk, Khanty Mansiysk, Naryan Mar, and Petrozavodsk, are excluded, and, therefore, in these cities the policies aiming at Indigenous populations are defined solely by the regional and local administrations, if regulated at all.

While connection to the land and ancestral territories is referred to as one of the fundamental elements of global pan indigenous identity, it may become challenging exactly for those Indigenous peoples who are either born urbanites or second , third , or fourth generation urbanites, who do not possess required ties to what is understood as an ancestral territory. For such people, Indigenous identity may be constructed based on other premises, such as kinship or connection to the community.

During continuous and sometimes misleading and embedded in essentialism debates over the (non)authenticity of urban Indigenous residents’ identities and (non)authenticity of cities as homes for Indigenous peoples, several crucial observations are left neglected. First, cities are not recent elements in Indigenous worlds: even in pre Columbian era Indigenous urbanity was vibrant in Amazonia, although, such urbanity may not align with the Western understanding of cities (Alexiades & Peluso, 2015: 2; McSweeney & Jokisch, 2015: 14). Even nowadays, a substantial share of urban Indigenous peoples lives in the cities that are built on the traditional Indigenous territories. Secondly, Indigenous identities, rural or urban, are themselves flexible entities that among other things are defined by the existing social, political and historical frameworks (Harris et al., 2013: 7). As Harris (2013: 13) suggests, “identities are formative and constitutive, not merely reflexive, they emerge from particular historical moments, experiences, relations, position with social order, and from both the opportunities and constraints that govern our realities”.

Relocating to cities, Indigenous residents encounter other ethnicities and social groups present in the urban space. As Andersen & Peters (2013: 6) advocate, Indigenous residents in these new settings “never merely mimic those of pre existing non Indigenous communities but, rather, “attach” themselves to these locales in ways powerfully embedded in their own traditions and histories while still producing novel and enduring social relations specific to the urban contexts in which they live”. Ultimately co influenced by non Indigenous urbanites and urban settings, Indigenous urbanites develop new sets of their own identities by adding new layers to the existing ones. Such settings, therefore, dispute the understanding of Indigenous identities as something exclusive and extrusive, to acquire which one must supposedly demise “all other identity markers” (Harris, 2013: 22). Indeed, Indigenous urbanites challenge the idea that innovations relevant to Indigenous communities may only materialize within the frameworks of those communities, and instead make such communities more permissible for inclusion of outsiders.

Cities are the places where different understandings of Indigenous identities interwind. Undoubtedly, there are those Indigenous residents who sustain ties with ancestral territories by continuously returning to such places, and for whom territoriality keeps being a vital component of their own identities. Nonetheless, there are those Indigenous residents who for a variety of


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reasons neglected or were deprived of the possibility to return to or to stay connected with their ancestral lands. For such people, other markers signify their indigeneity. In either case, depriving the cities of their role as the places of emergence of new meanings and connections, as well as important battlegrounds of political resistance and struggle of Indigenous peoples appears to be both counterintuitive and counterproductive.

Ethnic development of the Komi Republic’s capital

According to the All Russian Census 20104, the Komi Republic is home to 901,000 people, 202,000 (22.4%) of whom self identify as Komi, the Izhma Komi people included. The Izhma Komi are the only Komi subgroup that is recognized in the official Census alongside the “bigger” Komi people people may register using either Russian endonyms ‘izhemtsy’ and ‘komi izhemtsy’ or Komi ethnonym ‘izvatas.’ The administrative capital and the oldest and biggest city of the Republic is Syktyvkar. Approximately 250,000 people reside in Syktyvkar, 62,000 (24.73%) of which are Komi.

Syktyvkar was frequently called the most Komi city by the interviewees. Such opinions were particularly expressed when discussing differences between Syktyvkar and Ukhta, the second biggest city and the industrial capital of the Komi Republic. Ukhta has one of the lowest shares of the Komi population among the Republic’s cities (7.48% of all city population self identifies as Komi). Calling Syktyvkar a Komi city, participants primarily addressed the biggest, among the other Republic’s cities, share of Komi population in the city population composition and the city’s particular location. Syktyvkar is surrounded by districts with substantial shares of Komi population, who either migrate to the city or visit it occasionally due to various reasons, most typically being for doctor visits.

The Komi residents of Syktyvkar are either born urbanites or internal migrants relocated to the city from other districts of the Republic. Most of these newcomers are former residents of the nearby southern and central districts, particularly, Ust Kulomsky and Sysolsky districts. The same districts were the main sources of urban migration in previous centuries as well (Rogachev, 2010: 19).

The geography of the contemporary resettlers’ homelands is more diverse than it used to be. It is visible, for example, in the presence of the districts’ zemljachestva, associations that consolidate natives of the specific districts. To my knowledge, there are 9 formally established zemljachestva currently operating in Syktyvkar; it is worth mentioning that there are 12 districts in the Komi Republic. The legal form, the organizational principles, as well as the scope of the zemljachestva’s activities vary sufficiently; however, it is usual for zemljachestvo to possess formal or informal ties with district’s administrations, acting in some instances as “embassies” of districts in the capital city (V. C., personal communication, December 2021). The main functions of zemljachesta are to unite representatives of the particular district, to assist them in various matters, to cooperate with their home districts, and to represent the particular district in the city by organizing different, mostly cultural, events. Unifying potential of zemljachestva is, however, dependent on two major factors: 1) engagement and enthusiasm of their heads and the most active members, who, in most cases, are not paid for their community service, and 2) availability of a premise for regular meetings. Not surprisingly, two of the most active zemljachestva, Izvatas (Izhemsky district) and Yemdinsa (Ust Vymsky district) combine both of these factors. Yet currently Izvatas does not possess its own facility and has to book the premises at the House of Friendship of Peoples. It, however, used to

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own the locally famous Izva kerka, a two story wooden house located in the historical quarter of Syktyvkar, which was burned in 2016, restored later, and still had to cease its operation due to complaints of residents of neighboruing apartment building (V.C., personal communication, 2021). Syktyvkar gained status as city in 1780 and until the 1960s it was developing as the Komi dominated city (Rogachev, 2010: 19 20). It used to be one of the rare cities in the European North of Russia, where the dominant population was non Russian (ibid., 20). It is interesting that until the All Soviet Census 1959, the share of the Komi population in Syktyvkar was generally lower than in the entire region. However, from the Census 1959 on up until now, the percentage of the Komi population in Syktyvkar is consistently higher than the regional one, however, the differences are steadily disappearing. In 1959, Komi constituted 30.4% of the entire population of Komi ASSR and 50.3% of the Syktyvkar residents, in 2010 the proportion was 22.4% and 25.9% respectively.

According to the Census data, the influx of prisoners sent to Gulag camps, widespread on the territory of the Komi ASSR, and people sent to forced settlements in the 1930s and the 1940s has not initially affected Syktyvkar’s ethnic composition to the same extent as the regional one. However, starting from the 1960s, the sizable decrease in the share of the Komi population in Syktyvkar has been traced, which might be contributed to the settlement of former Gulag prisoners, as well as the influx of the professionals sent from other regions for the industrial development of the North, who settled in the capital city.

Syktyvkar is the cultural, educational, and political center of both the Komi Republic and the Komi world. The key Komi cultural institutions are located in Syktyvkar, among them are the Komi Cultural Center and the National Drama Theater, which performances are conducted in Komi. The Syktyvkar State University is the only higher education institution that provides training for future Komi language and literature teachers. Furthermore, Syktyvkar hosts the Komi Science Center, the regional center of academic research. In Syktyvkar, the public movement Komi Voityr was established; the capital hosts the movement’s presidium. The centrality of Syktyvkar for Komi political activists supports the overall importance of cities as decision making places; as McSweeney & Jokisch (2015: 22) observe, “it is in cities that indigenous leaders meet each other, compare experiences, and strategize around shared goals, including territorial ambitions and plans” Syktyvkar, however, is not only the place, where Komi leadership convenes, but also the place, where various Komi forces collide.

Complex nature of urban Komi

We may argue that the composition of the urban Komi population is much more complex than it is usually believed to be. Komi people of Syktyvkar is not an undivided construct but rather a convoluted network of various groups.

There are 8 cities in the Komi Republic. These cities host 47.15% of all Komi people residing in the Republic (Table 1). While Syktyvkar is indeed the city with the highest number of Komi dwellers (62 040, 24.7% of city total population), the share of Komi population in other cities is quite low 13.86% in Usinsk, 12.47% in Pechora, 10.4% in Inta, 10% in Vuktyl, 8.57% in Sosnogorsk, 7.48% in Ukhta, and 1.46% in Vorkuta (Table 2). Syktyvkar is simultaneously a city with the highest number of Komi dwellers and the highest share of Komi population. Furthermore, it is a home for the majority of urban Komi the city hosts 65% of all urban Komi people in the Komi Republic (Table 3).


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Table 1. Urban and rural population of the Komi Republic Total population (All Russian Census 2010) People who self identify as Komi absolute number share absolute number share

Urban 669 851 74.33% 95 400 47.15% Rural 231 338 25.67% 106 948 52.85% Total 901 189 100% 202 348 100% (22.45% of total population)

Table 2. Urban population of the Komi Republic

City Total population (All Russian Census 2010) People who self identify as Komi Share of the Komi population

Syktyvkar 250 874 62 040 24.73% Ukhta 121 701 9 100 7.48% Vorkuta 95 854 1 401 1.46% Pechora 57 364 7 155 12.47% Usink 47 229 6 548 13.86% Sosnogorsk 46 775 4 007 8.57% Inta 35 181 3 660 10.4% Vuktyl 14 873 1 489 10% Total 669 851 95 400 14.24%

Table 3. Urban Komi population of the Komi Republic City People who self identify as Komi Share in total urban Komi population

Syktyvkar 62 040 65.03% Ukhta 9 100 9.53% Vorkuta 1 401 1.47% Pechora 7 155 7.5% Usink 6 548 6.86% Sosnogorsk 4 007 4.2% Inta 3 660 3.84% Vuktyl 1 489 1.57% Total 95 400 100%

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As was mentioned earlier, the Syktyvkar Komi are both born urbanites and resettlers from the districts. While there is a unified literary Komi language, simultaneously there are 10 Komi dialects existing, the geographical dispersion of which is vaguely congruent with the administrative map of the Komi Republic (Bunchuk et al., 2018: 5). Whilst it is accepted that Komi people can understand each other without significant issues, anecdotical stories caused by misunderstandings grounded in the differences in dialectal vocabularies are quite widespread. Culturally, there are also a few variations existing between the districts, which nevertheless, do not disintegrate the overall unity of Komi people. The Izhma Komi group in that regard may be regarded as rather exceptional, due to historical engagement in reindeer herding, interethnic contacts with the Nenets people, as well as relative geographical detachment, which led to overall specificity and detachment of this subgroup (Sikora & Fedina, 2021).

At the same time, despite existing cultural, as well as linguistic differences between the districts, their role in the city is debatable. While people indeed tend to take pride in their homelands and manifest it in numerous ways, as well as produce stereotypes of populations of other districts, it is impossible to claim that the complexity of the urban Komi population can be contributed only to the geographical factor. In rural areas, on the contrary, local based identities are much stronger and thus the division is more acute as well: as, for example, was shared by one of the participants in her recollection of her father, originated from the Ust Vymsky district, visiting the relatives of his Izhma Komi wife:

My dad, when he first arrived [to the Izhemsky district], he was in shock. The houses were all painted. They were covered with clapboard. Everyone lives so neatly, grandmothers wear national costumes, every grandmother wears babayur [a traditional Izhma Komi headdress]. And everything is so beautiful there, silk shawls and sarafans. Well, dad was very surprised. And my mother told him, "Now you see how one should live" (O. B., personal communication, November 2021).

It is as well more common for the urban Komi to appeal to Komi Russian dichotomy than to interdistrict differences and to portray all Komi speaking people as “our own people.” Exceptional is, in this case, the stance occupied by some resettlers from the Izhemsky district (N. K., personal communication, December 2021; A. T., personal communication, January 2022). The Izhma Komi identity appears to be the most resilient local Komi identity in Syktyvkar. While indeed other Komi residents express their connection with their homelands as well, it is the Izhma Komi people, who were specifically proclaiming in the beginning of our conversations that they self identified exactly as Izhma Komi, and not as pan Komi. The perseverance of the Izhma Komi identity is also acknowledged by representatives of other Komi dialectical groups.

Polarization that is much more visible than the geographical is the one caused by linguistic attitudes and consequent distinctive understandings of the role of the Komi language in the construction of the Komi identity. The most polar attitudes are expressed by Komi speaking Komi professionally engaged in linguistics, culture, education, and activism and Russian speaking Komi. The former abnegate the possibility of Komi identity development without sustenance of the language, while the latter criticize so called purists for their non inclusive approach. Between these two extremes lies the less visible majority, who for assorted reasons do not manifest their stance and choose either to speak the language with relatives and Komi speaking colleagues or to not use the language at all.

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Another aspect that divides the urban Komi, particularly its most active part, which consists of activists, public figures, and intelligentsia, is political affiliation. While there are various actors with intermingled interests, the most visible separation can be traced in the attitudes expressed towards and relationship maintained with the regional authorities. Two extremes of that are portrayed by the marginal national(istic) movement Doryam asnymos (in English: (We) Protect ourselves) and official public movement Komi Voityr Doryam asnymos used to be an organized political party and movement particularly active in the 1990s, whose most well known but unrealized initiative was the establishment of a two chamber parliament with mandatory representation of the Komi people. The movement halted its activities in the 2000s but reemerged at the end of the 2010s with new leadership, which, however, was committed to similar goals as the old one. The movement was particularly active in ecological rallies over the landfill construction in Shiyes, however, in recent years became disintegrated due to, among other things, its members’ irreconcilable stances over Covid 19, which also led to the change of the movement’s leadership (Nikolay Udoratin, personal communication, January 2022). As for Komi Voityr, the leading Komi movement with more than 30 years of operation, in recent years was widely criticized5 for becoming a puppet of the regional Ministry of National Policies and unfulfilling its obligations to speak for the Komi people. Understanding the complexity of the Komi urban population is important for the critical analysis of the decisions and statements being executed in the name of all Komi people. At the same time, despite the existence of all apparent differences, the multifaceted urban Komi population, whether willingly or not, acts as the unified antipode of the stereotypical image of a Komi person as “an old granny or a rural resident wearing valenki and padded jacket” (V. C., 2021, personal communication).

Strategies for sustaining identity

As for the identity choices and sustenance, individual stories and choices of the urban Komi residents may indeed vary, however, in this contribution I attempt to present the major categories I came across when talking to my interlocutors and implementing fieldwork in Syktyvkar. The limitation of this contribution lays in the fact that while conducting interviews, I was able to have conversations principally with people who are considerably engaged in Komi related spheres. People, whose professional lives are not associated with the Komi language, culture, or politics, represent a small part of my interlocutors and, therefore, the reader should be aware that the present analysis primarily reflects those Komi, who manifest their ethnicity and native language publicly.

Overall, there appear to be two dominant approaches to understanding the factors that assist the continuity of the Komi identity in the city. One group is sustaining Kominess by regularly returning to the rural places. For such people, relocation to the city is not a one way process, as it does not halt the continuous movements between rural and urban areas. Due to continuous comebacks, these urban Komi people act as “bridges” that connect two types of settlements and associated worldviews.

For these residents, finding something in the city that helps them to be reminded of and connected with their rural motherlands is integral. For example, as one of my interlocutors shared in her monologue about her job in the city museum:

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But here [in Syktyvkar], it turns out that my profession perfectly connects, well, something natural in me and my everyday life. And it turns out that I broadcast both the language and the culture of those who are six hundred kilometers away from me. And it turns out that even at work, well, my territory is next to me. And it seems to me that it is in the city, where I still live, and even somehow already feel that Syktyvkar is also my territory. It seems to me that it was the specificity of my work that contributed to this (N. K., personal communication, December 2021).

Significance of connection with non urban areas is not exclusively limited to those urban Komi, who believe rurality is a critical component of Komi identity. For example, nature, the lack of which in the city was recalled numerous times by the participants and which is sometimes addressed as synonymous to rurality, is one of the most reflected components of the Komi world. Being in the city, some interlocutors attempt to find the rural and natural elements in it. One of the most spectacular observations was shared by the same museum employee:

I remember vividly my feelings when I arrived [to Syktyvkar] after finishing school. I was seventeen years old, and I had a real breakdown. How here in the city I, that same [participant’s name], who could somehow anticipate tomorrow's weather, who always checked the direction of the wind according to the river’s flow, how could I live in the urban space? <…> I had to get on the bus and go to the city districts where we had rural buildings <...>. I went there on Saturdays6, usually someone a bit crazy like me joined me, and we went around sniffing this bathhouse smell, the smell of stoves and all that. That is, I reassured myself with this, with some kind of participation in village life. In my studentship, it was necessary. It seems to me that now I also have such oddities. Because, like it or not, you still arrange some kind of excursion for yourself, maybe you don’t understand it anymore, as you understood then. Then I really understood it and went there on purpose, but now it happens somehow automatically. You feel that for a long time you have not felt something like this, something natural, and you arrange it. And then you start to think, it turns out it still lives in you (N. K., personal communication, December 2021).

Another frequently related element, which was shared by the proponents of ultimately rural character of the Komi identity, was the feeling of unfreedom, which they associate with the city. As was shared by my own relative in discussion with me and my mother:

My mother: Listen, you said when we lived in the village, we were free.

My relative: Yes, free, free.

My mother: And when you move to the city, do you become unfree?

My relative: As if you are crowded. Put in frames. Frames, frames, frames. Well, when I lived in the village, I could run around, no one crowds you, my mother never touched us with her hand [meaning, she never physically abused us]. Nobody touched us. We did what we wanted... Well, nature for me is a feeling of freedom (A. P., personal communication, October 2021).

For most of the interlocutors whom I identify as belonging to those Komi who label rurality as the vital component of Komi identity, urban Komi identity is virtually non existent. Even talking about

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themselves, they tend to regard themselves as rural Komi who happened to live in the city, but not as karsa Komi, a city Komi. Such opinions are expressed by both recent resettlers and long time city dwellers.

The second major group, which defines what an urban Komi is, contraposes rurality to innovation. They primarily identify themselves with the city and perceive the city as a place of different opportunities. These people are usually much more open and inclusive in their views. These people as well have more critical stances on such allegedly traditional aspects of Komi culture as a folk costume or folk songs:

If we talk about culture, there are all sorts of these folk dresses. These costumes annoy me very much. I’m saying, it’s a pity none of the textile workers can make normal costumes here. Not a folk dress, but a normal Komi stylized skirt. So, culture can be made urban. But apparently, there is no such task set (N.V., personal communication, December 2021).

Maria Fedina: Vasiley was yesterday too. It is, in fact, considered to be a festival of modern Komi music.

V.D.: Yes, I saw photos, grandmothers in kokoshniks. No, I'm not against grandmothers, I'm not against kokoshniks. But it's so outdated. Maybe they can change the name of the festival, I don't know (V.C., personal communication, January 2022).

Additionally, it is common for such people to regard the Komi people not in their solitude, but as connected to the Finno Ugric world (S. B., personal communication, December 2021).

Lastly, it is important to reflect upon two other major components that are usually addressed as being fundamental in construction of the Komi identity, those being kinship and blood ties and the language. The understandings of the role of Komi language and language practices exercised by urban Komi residents differ significantly, and therefore are the subject of a separate contribution currently being prepared. Kinship and blood ties, on the other hand, are those elements, the significance of which is acknowledged by all my urban Komi interlocutors irrespectively of their attitude towards rurality and modernity. In the city, it is not only important to sustain kinship connections with blood relatives, but to create the pan Komi urban community, inclusive of all Komi, as well. Importance of creating and sustaining an urban Indigenous community is recognized in the studies conducted with urban Indigenous residents elsewhere (see Monchalin et. al 2020 for the example of Toronto Indigenous community). The resilience of such communities is related to the vital role that belongs to the Indigenous organizations that “organize social spaces to enable practicing, preserving, transferring, and developing indigenous culture, language, identity, and community” (Berg Nordlie, 2018: 49). In the case of Syktyvkar, such role belongs to the Komi Cultural Center and National Theater, which unify the urban Komi community and provide them with invaluable opportunities to publicly express themselves in their native language and to practice their culture.


Urban Indigenous residents are often regarded as being the ones who create new meanings of indigeneity. At the same time, they are continuously criticized by being non authentic enough or

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non compliant with the dominant perception of an Indigenous person. The case of the urban Komi residents showed that the Indigenous urban community is indeed a complex construct, as different people sustain their identity differently and attribute it to various elements. Relationship with and the role of rurality proves to be the distinctive factor that differentiates the Komi urban residents. While some of them regard the Komi identity as exclusively rural and thus perceive the city as an alien locality, where Kominess is allegedly suppressed, others view the city as the place of opportunities and new possibilities for the Komi world. There are indeed a few people who solely follow either of these narratives, rather each person settles oneself along this spectrum. Overall, we may still regard most of urban Komi residents, especially first generation resettlers, as “multidimensional subjects” (Alexiades & Peluso, 2015: 7) combining rural and urban implications of themselves.

Despite the complexity of the relationship between Komi residents and the capital city, there are two vital observations that should not be neglected. First, Syktyvkar has been originally developing as a Komi dominated city, and, therefore, I reckon that the interlocutors’ opinions of destructive nature of the city should be attributed to the aftermath of ethnic changes Syktyvkar underwent in the second half of the 20th century rather than to the image of the city as an initially inadequate place for resilient residence of the Komi people. And secondly, as was shared by interlocutors, it is the city where innovations are emerging and later are acquired by rural settlements. Syktyvkar is the place of the Komi creativity, as well as decision making processes directed at the Komi population. One may indeed argue that the city occupies this position due to the underdevelopment of rural settlements and, in some way, Syktyvkar contributes to the brain drain of the non urban localities. At the same time, urban Komi at large are highly connected with their rural counterparts and therefore the resilience and actual decision making power of the urban Komi community is indeed closely related to the prosperity of rural Komi people. As was highlighted earlier, the present contribution is based on the personal stories of the most vocal urban Komi residents. I reckon that studies addressing the less visible part of the urban Komi residents, whose professional careers are not related in any way with Komi culture, language and politics are undoubtedly needed, and that therefore represents the future directions of the research on Komi urbanity.


1. The Komi Republic’s pedagogical institute was founded in 1931 and was merged with the Syktyvkar State University, the region’s leading higher education body, in 2013. According to the elder participants of fieldwork and to Komi public figures, the pedagogical institute was the birthplace of new generation of Komi intelligentsia, which was particularly active in the 1980s 2000s.

2. Most of the Komi people self identify as Orthodox, however, not all of them received formal baptism. At the same time, particularly in rural areas, pre Orthodox beliefs are still sustained and intermingled with the Orthodox traditions. While in some rural localities church service and masses are organized in Komi, to my knowledge, none of the Orthodox churches in Syktyvkar offers this possibility. The only church, which service and masses


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are organized in the Komi language, is the Komi church (in Komi: Коми вичко, Komi vichko), which belongs to the Protestant tradition.

3. There are around 2500 Indigenous residents inhabiting each of the cities. 19.1% of Anadyr’s and 6% of Salekhard’s populations are Indigenous.

4. Referring to the Russian or Soviet Censuses data, one should be advised to be particularly critical, as the official mechanisms of data collection and analysis are often flawed and non transparent; still, Census data is one of the few types of official statistical data on ethnicities circulated in Russia.

5. Among those who have criticized the central leadership of the movement for apathy and lack of support for the Komi related initiatives were the former heads of the movement and some of its oldest members, publicly addressed as the “elders” of the movement. In October 2021 prior the convene of the Executive Committee of Komi Voityr they published the open letter expressing their concerns.

6. In rural districts of the Komi Republic Saturdays are considered to be “bath days” (in Komi: пывсян лун, pyvsyan lun).


I would like to express my gratitude to Finno Ugrian Society, Nordenskiöld samfundet, and University of Helsinki for funding this fieldwork and my doctoral research.


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Donahoe, B., Habeck, J. O., Halemba, A., & Santha, I. (2008). Size and Place in the Construction of Indigeneity in the Russian Federation. Current Anthropology, 49 (6), 993 1020.

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McSweeney, K., & Jokisch, B. (2015). Native Amazonians’ Strategic Urbanization: Shaping Territorial Possibilities through Cities: Native Amazonians’ Strategic Urbanization. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 20 (1), 13 33.

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Alexey Konyukhov, April 2022.

Nikolay Udoratin, January 2022.

A. P., October 2021.

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Syktyvkar: the (Komi) capital of the Komi Republic

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Art from the Margins and Colonial Relations: To Listen To or to Ban Artists’ Voices from Russia?

Maria Huhmarniemi & Ekaterina Sharova

The Voice of Artists exhibition was shown in an art gallery in Lapland, Finland, as a statement to consider artists’ societal and political roles as opposition to centralised power. At the same time, many Western organisations banned Russian cultural and academic collaboration due to the Russian invasion in Ukraine in the spring of 2022. This article discusses the Voice of Artists exhibition project and considers the possibilities, ethics and obstacles for non governmental art associations when collaborating with Russian artists in the Arctic region. The study is a continuation of arts based action research to foster sustainability through international collaborations in arts and education. The theoretical background of the article is based on studies on critical and political contemporary art in Russia, colonial relations in Russia and art history when national romanticism endorsed and appropriated the North and the Arctic region. Power structures in Russian culture are Moscow centred, and there is a need to decolonise and strengthen regional structures in arts and culture organisations, foundations and policies. Human to human contact without interference from the state seems fruitful in providing new dialogue and new knowledge. Introduction

Western contemporary art emphasises the criticality and processes that are collaborative and participatory. Is there this kind of critical and societal contemporary art in Russia? When in May 2012, Vladimir Putin was reinstalled as president in Russia with an authoritarian conservative agenda, free speech was circumscribed, and the possibilities for artists to be critical and political were decreased; however, some resistance and a critical discourse continued in the arts, especially in visual art (Jonson, 2016; Erofeev & Jonson, 2018). Vasilyeva (2021) demonstrates how artists influence political and social norms with their art and challenge autocratic systems, inspire civil society and resist state propaganda in Russia. The essence of artistic initiatives is wider than current opposing political rules; art can be a constructive force, serve as a medium for change in Russia, show that the world is broader than presented by the officials, and create a medium to talk critically (Vasilyeva, 2021). However, critical contemporary art has a stronger position in Moscow and Saint

Maria Huhmarniemi is an artist and faculty member at the University of Lapland, Finland. Ekaterina Sharova is an independent scholar from Norway.

Petersburg than in the Arctic regions of Russia because financial, cultural and social capital from the country is centralised in these two cities. Colonial relations in Russia take place between the centre and the peripheries (Etkind, 2011), and there are significant internal hierarchies among Russians.

Many previous multinational Arctic collaborations have included Russian artists and organisations, and have fostered sustainability through the arts, research and education through the Arctic Sustainable Arts and Design (ASAD) network of the University of the Arctic (UArctic) (Jokela, 2008; Härkönen & Stöckell, 2019; Jokela & Härkönen, 2021; Jokela et al., 2021; Zemtsova et al., 2020; Zemtsova et al., 2021). The aim of the development of the joint collaboration, exhibition and university studies is to create close and long term cooperation between individuals, academic fields, universities and cultural organisations in the Nordic Arctic and in Arctic Russia However, all the collaborations with Russian organisations of the ASAD network were paused in the spring of 2022, and UArctic paused activities as well. This article is based on a cultural collaboration that partly grew from ASAD, but that was designed and carried out by an independent and artist run organisation. This article is based on long term arts based action research (ABAR) (Jokela, 2019; Jokela & Huhmarniemi, 2018; Jokela et al., 2019) to foster Arctic sustainability by promoting Nordic and Russian collaborations in arts, education and research.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in the spring of 2022, many economic, cultural and research collaborations between Russian and Western countries were closed as a sanction on Russia and as a demonstration of support for Ukraine. When Ukraine boycotted Russian culture and called for the rest of the world to do the same, associations of artists withdrew participants from Russia from their communities and thematic exhibitions and festivals (Ponedilok, 2022). Bans included cultural collaborations in the Arctic and impacted Russian artists as well as Indigenous artists in Russia However, the Artists’ Association of Lapland in Finland showed the Voice of Artists exhibition in Rovaniemi, Finland, in May 2022. The association decided not to cancel a curated exhibition, but artists from the Russian Arctic were shown together with Russian, Sámi and Finnish artists in Lapland as a statement of cultural policies and as a demonstration of the importance of support for artists’ voices as oppositional powers in any society. The decision was based on letters sent by the invited artists and the view of them as artists in colonised positions in Russia. In this article, we reflect on the exhibition project and consider the possibilities, ethics and obstacles for art associations when collaborating with Russian artists from the Arctic region.

At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, more than 2000 artists, art historians and architects in Russia expressed their condemnation of the war at the Spectate web zine on 26 February, 2022 (Meduza, 2022). Russia criminalised independent war reporting and anti war protests on 4 March, 2022, and therefore Spectate web zine had to delete the text and the more than 18 000 signatures (Spectate, 2022). Consequently, artists have had increasingly limited possibilities to condemn the invasion and to participate in critical debates.

Internal colonisation in Russia fostered by Moscow -led art institutions

Etkind (2011) describes overseas imperialism and terrestrial imperialism when defining internal colonisation in Russia. According to him, the Russian Empire conquered foreign territories and domesticated its own regions; colonisation was simultaneously internal and external towards others as well as Russians. Indigenous people in Russia as well as many other cultural minorities have been

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colonised. Similar processes have partly taken place in Nordic countries as well, where a need to decolonise the North not only for Indigenous people has been recognised (Haugen, 2021).

Western art and culture have historically colonised the North when artists have visited the North with explorers and presented the Arctic as, for example, a hostile wintry landscape (Atroshchenko, 2013; Chartier, 2018; Huhmarniemi, 2019). In Russia, artists and explorers came from the capitals supported by art patrons and philanthropists. Colonial narratives from the 19th century have not been deconstructed or critically addressed in Russia. Many major art museums in Russia still use colonial vocabulary and show ignorance about peoples in the Arctic. The national art history in Russia does not include northern artistic practices in the primary narrative.

Despite the fact that Russian (and Finnish) epic heritage was preserved by northern peasants, it was appropriated by Moscow artists during the industrialisation of the second half of the 19th century when entrepreneur and philanthropist Savva Mamontov, who built the northern railway, was a key figure (Chulos, 2002). In post Soviet society, these art historical narratives were lost. As Madina Tlostanova formulates it, “one of the most effective and persistent Soviet colonialist tactics was targeted at erasing all previous knowledge from people’s minds, and distorting their aesthetic and ethical norms and self perception, thus leaving them with no ancestral links and memories of the past” (Tlostanova, 2022: 6). Tlostanova has focused on the cultural space in the former Soviet republics, but the very same phrase could be used for the inhabitants of northern Russia, where local stories and narratives disappeared from the collective memory. Northerners forgot the heritage of their own ancestors by being indoctrinated by the centralised version of history and art history, where only the capitals’ narrative are described as important.

Contemporary art exhibitions about the North in Russia were initiated by curators from Moscow or Saint Petersburg and have been criticised for their colonial approach. One of those was the Komi Biennale launched by the art collector Pierre Christian Brochet in summer 2021. In a text for the Russian Art Focus, curator and art critic Alexander Burenkov (2021) writes that the Biennale “seeks to reveal the secrets of this remote and exotic region of the country, with the help of a bunch of Muscovite and international artists flown in especially for the occasion”. The classic tabs of coloniality (secret, exotic, artists from the capital visit the remote North) have not been avoided here.

The contemporary art field is fairly young in Russia. Institutions, such as the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art and the VAC Foundation (funded by oil and gas companies), were established in Moscow respectively in 2008 and 2009. Arctic art institutions in Nikel, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Norilsk are even younger. Also, decolonial thought and decolonial studies are new fields (Semenova, 2021). The new wave of Arctic industrialisation is aimed at its natural resources in the Arctic, but in the context where any state criticism has been oppressed, the survival of critical Indigenous art in Russia seems questionable.

In the 21st century, there have been some initiatives in Arctic Russia to promote decolonisation and the recognition of regional and Indigenous cultures in Russia. One of them is the Arctic Art Forum (Sharova, 2018, 2021, 2022a, 2022b) in Arkhangelsk (2016 2020), which is a democratic, grassroots artistic arena for the rediscovery of ancestral history which disappeared during the Soviet period where the only version of history was taught at schools. Due to the digitisation of archives and new, available ways of communication between different continents, northerners in Russia could make artistic connections to Alaska, Norway and Sweden and could rediscover their own art

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historical narratives forgotten during the Soviet period. Because there is no art academy in the Russian Euro Arctic region, contemporary art is being created by a few artists educated abroad (mostly in England, Norway and Finland). The goal of the Arctic Art Forum has been to provide an independent arena for critical discussions of art and culture professionals from Northern Russia and international colleagues. Local knowledge has been essential for new productions, and young artists and students were involved in producing the Forum. Local heritage, forgotten knowledge and oppressed narratives became the essence for the new, experimental, interdisciplinary projects that are documented in the book North 2.0 (Sharova, 2020).

The marginalisation of Indigenous artists within the Russian art world has been an issue for some contemporary Indigenous artists, such as Syanda Yaptik (who also took part in the exhibition Voices of Artists). When Burenkov (2021) stated that there are no Indigenous artists in Russia, the following text by Yaptik developed into a manifest from a ‘non existent’ Indigenous artist:

If you had enough knowledge (about the North and the colonial situation in it), then you would understand that perhaps there are indigenous people among the gallery artists, and this is not so easy to understand until you start asking such a question. By the way, Madina Tlostanova, to whom you are referring, just told you in a discussion that many people from the northern regions have Russian names, not everyone advertises their nationality, there are reasons for this, and it is important to wonder why this is so.

Perhaps you would understand that it is not for nothing that Indigenous people in Russia often do not represent their national identity in a form that is digestible for you…

Perhaps they would understand that in Russia, as a rule, there is no interest in Indigenous peoples, except for the exotic, and the extraction of resources in the territories where they live.

And to know the context of northern artists, it’s not enough to travel and look at their portfolios you need to have at least some general idea of how the development of Siberia, the North and the Far East took place. (Yaptik, 2022: np., translated from Russia by Ekaterina Sharova)

This strong message has been one of the most discussed in contemporary art in Russia in January 2022, right before the war. After the outbreak of the war, both Syanda Yaptik and Alexander Burenkov left Russia due to the unpredictable situation for contemporary artists in the country, censorship and persecution risks for critical voices.

Research methodology: Arts based action research

This research has followed the principles of ABAR (Jokela, 2019; Jokela & Huhmarniemi, 2018; Jokela et al., 2019). This approach consists of cycles of aim setting, conducting interventions and analysing and presenting results via research publications and artistic productions. ABAR is always intentional and critical; it is based on the intention to have positive influences on communities and on wider society. Criticality leads to an evaluation of research impacts and reflective discussions. Previous research on Arctic collaborations to enhance the arts’ societal impacts has been conducted within the ASAD network. Zemtsova et al. (2020) have evaluated the impact of joint Arctic art

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exhibitions and research conferences by ASAD and have noted increasing interest in Arctic issues and re interpreting and remaking regional identity through arts and design in Russia. Semenova et al. (2021) describe that artistic collaboration has been applied as a way to overcome distances. The Artists Association of Lapland, which produced the Voice of Artists exhibition, is led by a board of artists. The first author of this article is the chairperson of the board of the association. Thus, she participated in the decision making of the Voice of Artists exhibition and supported the curator Tanja Koistinen in her work. Both authors have promoted Arctic Nordic and Russian collaboration in the long term. Huhmarniemi, has initiated and curated Nordic Russian collaborations (Huhmarniemi & Jokela, 2020). Sharova has been working with relational projects in her native Euro Arctic Russia since 2012, including the Arctic Art Forum, which was a long term research and development project for the progressive northern communities in culture and the arts from 2016 2020 (Mikko, 2016; Sharova, 2018, 2021, 2022; Watson, 2020). She takes part in creating alternative perspectives through the field of art history, which has not been regulated by the government yet (unlike the field of history). She took part in creating a contemporary art field in Euro Arctic Russia. For this article, Sharova has contributed insights from Russian colonisation and contemporary art in the Arctic.

This article is based on research data and notes from the process collected by Huhmarniemi with an aim to self evaluate the project. It is typical for the ABAR that the researcher is somehow part of setting the aims and making the intervention; this is also the principle in action research. The research data from the Voice of Artists exhibition process include notes, documents of artworks presented in the exhibition and artists’ and curators’ statements. The reflection is brought into a dialogue with blogs and newspaper articles published online about cultural collaborations after the Russian invasion into Ukraine. Pictures of the artworks are published with the consent of the artists.

Exhibition Voice of Artists and conflicted views of showing Russian art

The Artists Association of Lapland has been organising Finnish Russian cultural co operations to increase mutual knowledge and interactions between the two cultures for many years. Russian artists have been regularly invited to exhibitions, such as the biennial Young Arctic Artists exhibition. The association received a grant from the Finnish Ministry of Culture and Education for Finnish Russian collaboration for the spring of 2022 along with a plan to make a joint exhibition with artists from Russia. However, after the Russian invasion into Ukraine, the board of the association published a statement on social media to articulate support for Ukraine, to encourage artists in the peace movement, and to prevent racism toward Russians in Finland: We want to show our full support for the Ukrainians and for all the artists who oppose dictators and are working to strengthen the peace movement in Russia. (...) Now when Russians are protesting against the war on the streets, they have been arrested. We have Russian artist friends in Finland, Russia and abroad. They have told us of shock, shame, fear and a sense of powerlessness. We hope for all of them the courage to publicly condemn the war and to influence against the war policy of the Russian regime in their communities. We also condemn racism against the Russian speaking population in Finland. Russians and Russian speakers living here and elsewhere in Europe are not responsible for the actions of the current Russian

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government. There must be absolutely no room for racism or hate speech (Artists Association of Lapland, 2022)

Soon after the statement was published, the board of the Artists Association of Lapland had a meeting to decide whether the exhibition plan with Russian artists should be cancelled, made without artists living in Russia or produced as planned originally. The board members considered what their statement and the phrase ‘stand with Ukraine’ should mean in practice. They also discussed news from friends and colleagues in Russia and were aware of the frustration, sorrow and horror of many of the artists. Based on a letter from one of the invited Russian artists, the board decided to stay with the exhibition plan. The following text was also presented in the exhibition, anonymously written:

I hope you realise that we Indigenous people of the North are also residents of Russia. Some of our settlements don’t have internet connection whatever even in peaceful times, which makes it super complicated not only to participate in the global context, it cuts off alternative information and erases our factual presence. So before you bash and banter, and ask foreign institutions to cut off some existing outlets for us to speak up and be heard, please check your own privileges. Comforts of democracy, that your respected countries provide you with, has not been practised in the spaces we call home. Is it needed to mention that our voices have been historically, systematically silenced in this country again?

Or that complications of global warming already made food security an ongoing problem, which will intensify with the imposed sanctions?

We do wish to live in peace, and hope that in the future there could be a broader understanding when we talk about this country that there are people who are existing in a residue of a colonisation, and regardless of their desire still considered as part of that country.

The board of the Artists Association of Lapland considered changing the exhibition topic to demanding peace and inviting artists from Russia to criticise the war and territorial colonialism in general; however, this was considered too risky because anti war protests are criminal offences in Russia. Thus, the theme of the exhibition followed the original plan: the relation to land and environment curated by Finnish artist curator Tanja Koistinen. The themes of the artworks touched on the relationship with the environment and the experience of inclusion. The exhibition showed artists from the Arctic region: Indigenous artists from Russia and Sámi region, artists from Rovaniemi and Russian artists living and working in Europe.

The title of the exhibition, Voice of Artists, was a statement to recognise the societal importance of art and the political potential of art as free expression. ‘Giving a voice’ is a common term in contemporary art meaning empowerment and support for citizen participation in society. Curator Koistinen stated the following about the exhibition: Curating the exhibition has been challenging in the current situation in Russia. Before the war, I invited artists to the exhibition with the theme of humans in their environment, with the aim of creating a dialogue between the art from different parts of the Arctic region. In the spring of 2022, I thought of freedom of expression and the worsening situation of the Indigenous artist’ community.

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Through the exhibition, Voice of Artists, the Artists’ Association of Lapland aimed to explore the potential of artist communities and artists to promote civic debate, democracy and the voice of Arctic artists. These themes are relevant to the entire field of Arctic art (Huhmarniemi & Jokela, 2020a).

It is common that an artist’s nationality is mentioned along with the artist’s name. However, Sámi artists often prefer to present their Saminess and Sápmi as a region rather than a nationality. In the exhibition, Voice of Artists, Koistinen and Humarniemi considered how artists should be presented and defined based on their ethnicity, nationality or the region where they are currently living, where they are from or where they feel belong. The artists and their home regions were Tomas Colbengtson (Sápmi), Tatiana Filippova (Sakha), Johannes Heikkilä (province of Lapland), Panu Johansson (province of Lapland), Piia Lieste (province of Lapland), Tanya Kravtsov (Omsk, Siberia /Israel/ province of Lapland), Svetlana Romanova, (Sakha), Lada Suomenrinne (Sápmi) and Syanda Yaptik (Yamalo Nenets, current nomad). For example, Colbengtson currently lives in Stockholm, outside Sápmi, but is identified as a Sámi artist. Kravtsov moved from Siberia, Russia, to Israel as a teenager and later to the province of Lapland. Suomenrinne was born in northern Russia and moved to Sápmi in Finland with her mother, who married a Sámi person. In her art, she explores the diversity of her own cultural heritage as being an Indigenous, Northern Sámi, Russian and Finnish woman. It was challenging to decide how artists’ ethnicity or nationality should be expressed, and the conclusion was to present artists just by their name in the exhibition poster and the communication (figure 1). The communication of only artists’ names not their nationality or home regions pulled the focus to artists as individuals.

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Huhmarniemi & Sharova Figure 1 Poster of the Voice of Artists exhibition. Tatiana Filippova is an artist, photographer and writer of fragmentary prose who uses art to decolonise her own experience as an Indigenous person. Her grandparents were forced to leave

their land during World War II; now, climate change is slowly turning her home into a foreign land. Through art and writing, she studies whether the modern Indigenous people of the Republic of Sakha can find a new homeland elsewhere or whether they should continue to live on their ancestral land. Some of her photos in the Voice of Artists exhibition refer to the colonisation of land and the mind and the people. Her landscape photo is titled ‘I have been colonised’ (Figure 2).

The Voice of Artists exhibition programme included a series of art workshops that were open to the public (figures 3 5). The workshops were facilitated by Tanya Kravtsov and Lola Cervantes. They have both found a home in Lapland though coming from abroad: Kravtsov is from Siberia and Israel, and Cervantes is from Mexico. Kravtsov explains the workshop methods:

We apply the traditions of birch bark and straw to contemporary crafts. The workshop promotes cross cultural interaction through craft making. We hope to engage both locals and newcomers of Rovaniemi, thus supporting the integration of newcomers into the environment through creative practice with natural materials in an art space (personal communication).

The workshop invitation was also communicated to refugees from Ukraine. Traditional birch bark crafting is a technique that has similarities with crafting traditions in Finland, Russia and Ukraine. The way of using it in community art pulled the focus from the war to the importance of encounters between people. Kravtsov is an artist researcher who has previously studied ways of using birch bark in community arts and a method that brings together locals and newcomers in Rovaniemi (Kravtsov et al., 2022).

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Figure 2. Tatiana Filippova, ‘I have been colonised’, 60 cm x 40cm.

Figures 3–5. A workshop designed and facilitated by Tanya Kravtsov and Lola Cervantes. Photos by Tanya Kravtsov and Lola Cervantes 2022.

Tomas Colbengtson was born in Tärna, Sweden, and is of south Sámi descent. In his works, he often refers to Sámi culture, asking questions about cultural identity and existence. The artworks presented in the Voice of Artists exhibition illustrate vandalised road signs. The name of the city, Rovaniemi, is written on two signs as Northern Sámi Roavvenjárga and Inari Sámi Ruávinjargâ (figure 6). The rova part of the name Rovaniemi is considered to be of Sámi origin, as roavve in Northern Saami denotes a forested, stony hill. Colbengtson points out that there is no official sign with this Sámi name of the city Rovaniemi. He also draws attention to the issue of signs that have often been defaced and vandalised when written in the Sámi language. When the work by Colbengtson was presented next to art by Indigenous Russian artists, the themes of the exhibition widened to consider whether Sámi culture is still silenced in Nordic countries, even if not to the same extent as in Russia. Making joint exhibitions of Indigenous and regional artists in the Arctic is one way to understand the realities of regional and cultural similarities and differences.

The Association of Lapland is a non governmental, artist run and non profit organisation. The costs of organising exhibitions are commonly covered by artists themselves or by cultural grants. The presented artworks are on sale, and the association keeps a provision of the sale to fund the continuation of activities. If possible, if the association has a decent grant for producing the exhibition, a fee is paid for artists. This was the situation in the Voice of Artist exhibition. Due to the potential financial benefit for the artists in Russia, the exhibition was not communicated in international forums, such as the Arctic Arts Summit 2022, which has launched a larger website to present arts in the Arctic (Arctic Arts Summit, 2022). The Arctic Arts Summit has faced similar controversial issues when pondering how to express solidarity with Ukraine while not isolating all Indigenous artists in Russia. In this situation, the presentation of the Voice of Artists exhibition was

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Huhmarniemi & Sharova Figure 6. Tomas Colbengtson, Ruávinjargâ, 2021.

not published. Anyhow, when there was no international media coverage about the Voice of Artists exhibition, the impact of the exhibition was only local, in the town of Rovaniemi.

Discussion: Potential impact of cultural collaboration and bans

In Nordic countries, as elsewhere in the West, people with local, Russian and Ukrainian roots live in the same cities. Many have relatives and friends in Russia, and maintaining the connection with ones who oppose Russian invasion has been considered important. While cultural collaboration has been cancelled, there have been discussions of whether this is beneficial (Sansom, 2022). Similarly, there have been discussions on academic boycotts (Burakovsky, 2022; Weinberg, 2022). Scientific collaboration and openness have been argued to aid democracy and human rights and to help counter misinformation in Russia (Burakovsky, 2022). Closing communication with Russia has been viewed as a risk to unintentionally support Russian efforts by isolating Russian students and academics who could be pro Western and anti authoritarian (Burakovsky, 2022). Similar arguments can be made regarding collaborations in the arts and culture.

While it is being debated whether grassroot level human to human interactions and collaborations should be continued between Russians and the rest of the world, there has been a bigger consensus on the importance of excluding Russia from events, such as the Eurovision Song Contest and Venice Biennale. These events are based on the idea of artists presenting a nation as well as a concept of nations competing with each other. The large scale, commercial art events can be considered equal to sports events that have, with reason, suspended the Russian national teams and Russian clubs from competitions. Cases of banning and cancelling Russian culture in the West have been discussed in the media in Russia. They have been used by propaganda media such as Izvestia, RIA Novosti, Lenta, Gazeta, RG (Rossiyskaya Gazeta). Journalists have focused on classical music and literature more than contemporary art. In Finland, the discussion on sanctions has focused on Russian tourist: there has been demands to close the borders from tourism. Borders got closed on 29th September 2022.

Institutional art collaborations are impossible, in the current situation, also because pro Western leaders of art museums and similar organisations have been replaced by ones who agree with war propaganda. Determining whether artist run organisations that work on critical contemporary art and grass root level cultural collaborations should listen to and present artists’ voices from Russia or join the international ban is complex. Would it be more beneficial to support artists who may have some potential agency in the anti war movement and civil society, or to suspend all collaborations as part of a wide cultural and economic sanction? We can also question whether either act ultimately makes any difference in such a large scale conflict as the invasion in Ukraine. Whether we should care about the difficult situation of colleagues and artist friends is a question of our ethics.

Risks for artists and Russian cultural institutions need to be considered along with the potential impact of the collaborations. Currently, contemporary art institutions risk being put on the list of foreign agents as a result of their criticism of the war in Ukraine, as has happened with one of the central regional grassroots initiatives in Russia, Typography (Zyryanov, 2022). Artists could also be viewed as criminals, such as Sasha Skochilenko (REE/RL, 2022) and Yulia Tsvetkova (Kishkovsky, 2022). If art institutions and artists are invalidated as a consequence of international collaborations, the goal of empowering artists in criticality turns against itself.

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2022 is the Year of Cultural Heritage of the Peoples of Russia. The Ministry of Culture announced a program with 180 events including support of infrastructure, publishing anthologies of national literature, and music festivals in various regions of the country. However, the Russian nation and the Russian language prevail in this state project, and the organising committee consists of mostly Russians. Due to the internal colonisation (Etkind 2011), Indigenous people of the Arctic region have only little power on the program, and the financing strategies of such events.

Knowledge production about Russia is influenced by media narratives, which are focused on the strong rather than the weak: coverage of the political life in Kremlin and oligarchs is more common than coverage of culture or conceptual art from the Russian peripheries. Pierre Bourdieu (1996), in his article ‘On Television’, claims that the very field of journalism is pressed by the time limits that do not allow for in depth research or putting facts into context:

Given the lack of time, and especially the lack of interest and information (research and documentation are usually confined to reading articles that have appeared in the press), they cannot do what would be necessary to make events (say, an outbreak of violence in a high school) really understandable, that is, they cannot reinsert them in a network of relevant relationships (such as the family structure, which is tied to the job market, itself tied to governmental hiring policies, and so on) (Bourdieu, 1996: 7).

This critical remark by Bourdieu (1996) could be applied to certain coverage of the news from Russia, which produces knowledge for the majority in the West, and it explains the way the context and the internal relations remain invisible. Indigenous and critical artists in the Arctic regions in Russia struggle for survival, and banning representatives of the vulnerable minorities from expressing their voice is problematic. Providing space for their expression means a contribution to sustainable cultural production, which is not possible in Russia in an equal way. According to Shestakova (2021), …the act of becoming the accomplice in both local and global ecological disasters caused by anthropogenic and white colonial destruction is an ongoing inquiry into one’s positionality, thinking habits, and imaginations. One has to become a time traveller: dismantling past and present oppressive structures for the decolonial futures to come (Shestakova, 2021: np)

The harmfulness of forced assimilation of cultural minorities has been recognised in the Arctic region (elsewhere than Russia), and various decolonising efforts are demanded and also taking place. Some artists and cultural organisations aim to contribute to decolonisation in the Arctic (Arntzen, 2021; Decker, 2020; Huhmarniemi & Jokela, 2020a; Jokela & Huhmarniemi, 2021; Sharova, 2020; Sharova & Veits, 2021).. For example, Sámi people and Indigenous people in Greenland and Canada have independent cultural organisations, and cultural independence has contributed to a decolonisation process (Arntzen, 2021). Artists in the Arctic region and peripheries play an essential role in proving that the North is inhabited and has multi layered narratives, which have not been yet told. Extractive practices (both oil and gas but also intellectual resources, ideas and imagery of the Northerners) could turn into acts of co creation.

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Huhmarniemi & Sharova


Due to the Russian invasion in Ukraine in the spring of 2022, many Western cultural organisations paused or closed their collaborations with Russian artists and Russian organisations. The relevance and potential fruitful and harmful impacts of bans have been discussed in the media. This article examined the possibilities, ethics and challenges related to contemporary art collaborations between the West and Russia in the Arctic context. Many contemporary artists and curators left Russia after the war began, some live in neighbouring countries, and some left for Europe. Brain drain from Russia is significant, but there are still some young and critical artists left; there are potentially emerging independent artists, researchers and cultural producers who are still in Russia. These active and vital forces require support and solidarity. Online activities, radio, discussion platforms for young artists and cultural workers are necessary and important. Hopefully, these relations can grow into projects after the regime change in Russia one day.

The need to support independent artists organisations, critical artists in Russia and in exile, and Indigenous people to promote decolonisation and democratic development is evident. Human to human interactions without interference from the state seem the most equitable way of acting, providing some dialogue and knowledge of Indigenous and regional cultures in Arctic Russia. However, the continuity of Indigenous regional arts and culture depends most on political and democratic development in Russia. The collaborations can cause harm for artists and result with only little local impact. Resources for supporting critical regional and Indigenous arts in Russia, through international collaborations, are needed from governments and international organisations, when the invasion in Ukraine is stopped.


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& Sharova

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Korkalo & T. Jokela (eds.), Dialogista vaikuttamista: yhteisöllistä taidekasvatusta pohjoisessa [Dialogical influencing: community based art education in the North (pp. 178 181). Lapin yliopisto.

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Finding gender from the capital of gas: Reflections of women in Russia’s fossil fuel industry

The oil and gas industry has historically been and still remains, very male dominated. In Arctic Russia, where the oil and gas industry is an important local employer and actor, the narratives, perceptions, and opportunities that the industry creates are meaningful. Fully understanding extractivism and its multiple natures consequently requires focusing on the different identities connected with it. This article seeks to understand how women are present and presented within the Russian Arctic oil and gas industry. With the concepts of ecofeminism, intersectionality, and biopolitics guiding my reading, I performed affective visual reading and content analysis to examine Instagram posts of the local subsidiary of Gazprom and responses to a questionnaire that I made and distributed among local women. The article shows how assigning certain roles to women and min orities that emphasise motherhood, control the living space of the Indigenous Peoples, and support physical fitness are all tools of biopolitical governance aimed at enforcing nationalist narratives.

1. Introduction

As I was visiting the city of Novy Urengoy in northern Russia in late spring 2019, my senses were filled with the endless pink blockhouses, the biting wind and the presence of the parastatal gas company Gazprom. Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas, and its production in that field has increasingly shifted towards the Arctic. Novy Urengoy is Russia’s hub for its Arctic gas explorations: a thriving city living up to its nickname as Russia’s “gas capital”. The city itself is rather young; founded after the discovery of the massive Urengoy gas reserve in the 1970s, it was built around mineral extraction. Gazprom is the biggest actor in the area, and its influence on the city can be seen everywhere: in employment, in education, in culture, and even in how the streets look.

However, since Russia’s large scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the circumstances of Russian Arctic oil and gas have changed. The terrible series of events that have unfolded have changed the lives of millions of people and completely reshaped the security arena in Europe. In turn, discussions related to the Russian north and its oil and gas empire have increasingly focused on geopolitical tensions, economic sanctions, and security aspects. Although all of those

Sohvi Kangasluoma, Doctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki

developments have been highly important, my interest, especially now, lies in the ordinary people, particularly women, living in Russia’s gas capital of Novy Urengoy. Worldwide, the oil and gas industry has historically been and continues to be dominated by men, and, in the Russian context, the masculinity of the industry is salient (Etkind, 2014; Kangasluoma, 2020; Saxinger, 2015; Tynkkynen, 2016). Indeed, the masculinity of the backbone of the Russian economy, the fossil fuel industry, has not become less interesting since the start of the war but more so. Therefore, in this article, I seek and make gender, especially that of women, visible within the masculine fossil fuel industry in Arctic Russia. The article first focuses on finding gender in the Arctic gas industry and second questions how women are presented therein, what kind of roles are assigned to them, and how they approach the industry? By focusing on gender and other intersecting identities within the northern fossil fuel industry, this article shows how assigning certain roles as well as governing women and minorities serve to enforce nationalist narratives of the parastatal gas company in the Arctic.

In my quest to find women within the Arctic fossil fuel landscape, I turned to the Instagram page of the most dominant actor in the region, Gazprom Dobycha Urengoy. For supporting material, I also developed a questionnaire for women living in Novy Urengoy that inquired into their experiences with living in the gas capital. With the concepts of ecofeminism, intersectionality, and biopolitics guiding my reading, I examined the material by performing affective visual reading and content analysis. By analysing the posts of the local subsidiary of Gazprom and questionnaire responses from local women, I show what kinds of roles are assigned to women in the region’s gas industry. This article shows how emphasising and governing aspects such as motherhood, the coexistence of the industry with northern Indigenous Peoples, and physical fitness enforces the parastatal gas company’s nationalist narratives.

The role of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation has come to be extremely important and emphasised in national discourse (e.g. Larouelle, 2014). In parallel, the construction of the Arctic as a resource base (see e.g. Arctic strategies of Russian Federation 2013, 2020; Heininen et al., 2019) has been a key aspect of recent Russian policies in the Arctic. In decades past, the militarisation of the Russian Arctic during the Cold War emphasised the sense that the Russian north was a masculine space dominated by means of destruction. Although the idea and narrative of conquering the North largely derives from nostalgia for the Soviet Union, the growing importance of the Russian Arctic is emerging due to climate change and the opening of sea routes (Tynkkynen, 2019: 79 80). For all of those reasons, the Arctic as a concept is filled with emotional and affectual meanings, for northern Russia is governed not only by investments and infrastructure projects but also by creating certain affects and emotions around that space (Kangasluoma & Lempinen, 2022).

By paying attention to how gender and other intersecting identities are portrayed by the gas giant Gazprom, we can perhaps better understand the underlying logics of fossil fuel dominance. In the process, the intersectional gendered impacts of the fossil fuel industry should be acknowledged. As feminist scholar Brooke Ackerly and colleagues have written, “Just as states, conflict, institutions, security, and globalization cannot be studied without analyzing gender, gender cannot be studied without analyzing these subjects and concepts” (Ackerly et al., 2006: 4). The same goes for the energy industry: we cannot simply ignore gender while examining fossil fuel production in northern Russia, and, while looking at gender, we should also incorporate other intersecting categories as well.

Reflections of women in Russia’s fossil fuel industry

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2. Key concepts: Ecofeminism, intersectionality, and biopolitics

In Arctic Russia, where extractive industries are an important employer, the perceptions and opportunities that locals have are meaningful for example, the perceptions formed by and opportunities for youth living in local communities (Bolotova, 2021; Stammler & Toivanen, 2021). As me and my colleagues visited a local Gazprom high school during our trip, I asked the teacher about the small number of girls in the higher classes. He replied, “They won’t be employed here [by Gazprom] anyway”. The taken for granted masculinity within the industry is the reason why I decided to focus my research on the experiences of women, for I find it to be crucial to understand how such a masculine industry affects women’s perceptions of the place and how the industry itself portrays gender.

Extractive industries have traditionally been a very masculine industry in which the workforce has been and still is dominated by men (Macdonald, 2018; Helbert, 2021). In general, extractivism refers to the large scale utilisation of natural resources derived from socio ecologically destructive processes (for a more in depth discussion on extractivism, see Chagnon et al. 2022). The connections between fossil fuel production and gender are often approached from an ecofeminist perspective, a viewpoint that perhaps best acknowledges the different forms of oppression, both social domination and domination of non human nature, similarly. Ecofeminists have for long observed a deeply gendered, patriarchal grounding to modern, capitalist relations with nature (Merchant, 1980; Mies & Shiva, 1993; Plumwood, 1993), which can clearly be seen in modern extractivism. The connections of extractivism and gender are thus both practical and ontological in nature, for the underlying mindset within extractivism depends on comprehending nature as something that can and should be exploited, which aligns with the patriarchal worldview. In response, ecofeminism, as both a movement and a critical theory, links the oppression of women and minorities to the oppression of nature. Ecofeminism, understood as a conceptual umbrella, can provide tools for understanding the layered structural conditions of fossil fuel production and their effects on humans and non humans alike (Helbert, 2021: 36).

The relationship between gender, fossil fuel, and authoritarian movements has often been explored in light of the concept of petro masculinity Based on the underlying assumptions of ecofeminist thinking, petro masculinity simply means the creation and maintenance of (white) hegemonic masculinity via the extensive utilisation of fossil fuels. While Cara Daggett, the creator of the concept, focuses on the United States, the idea is applicable to other contexts as well, especially Russia. She explains that as the privileges of petro masculinity are increasingly threatened for example, due to environmental reasons the desire for authoritarian actions gains support (Daggett, 2018). The literature discussing the connections between gender and extractivism is extensive, even if the vast majority of it focuses on mining and the lower latitudes. In different localities around the world, extractivism is shown to have gendered impacts and gendered natures (e.g. Caretta et al., 2020; Helbert, 2021; Macdonald, 2018). In the Arctic context, for instance, Rauna Kuokkanen (2019) has noted that Indigenous women have limited power in planning and executing extractive projects. However, in the Russian context, that connection has not been thoroughly examined, and research on the topic remains slim. Furthermore, there exists no research focusing on the visual presentation of gender within (Russia’s) fossil fuel companies.

The oil and gas industry has been shown to affect different groups of people differently. In her book Women, Gender and Oil Exploitation, Maryse Helbert (2021) focuses on the industry’s effects

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on gender and pinpoints five ways in which petroleum dominance affects women in particular: discrimination in employment, a lack of recognition of women’s work and land rights, the unequal distribution of environmental risks, the unequal distribution of social vulnerability, and the unequal distribution of security risks. Although her work focuses on the Global South, many of the effects can be seen elsewhere, including in Arctic Russia. For example, the limited possibilities and opportunities presented for girls and women in areas driven by fossil fuels can force them to seek work elsewhere (Bolotova, 2021; Rozanova Smith, 2021), conflicts in land use between the extractive industries and Indigenous People in the Russian north are not uncommon (Stammler & Ivanova, 2016), and the environmental risks associated with oil spills are shown to affect genders differently in the Komi Republic (Stuvøy, 2011).

Extractivism can have very personal, subjective, and emotional impacts. Fully understanding extractivism and its multiple natures consequently requires focusing on the different identities connected with it. Although gender is indeed a highly relevant category, it is not the only category that needs to be examined to better understand the scope and impact of extractivism. Intersectional approaches, originally presented by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1991, are highly valuable in relation to extractive practices and identities. Intersectionality, as “a deeply spatial theoretical concept” (Mollett & Farhia, 2018), allows constructing a comprehensive image of the way in which gender and other identities are portrayed and understood in and by the fossil fuel industry at the local level. Despite the numerous intersecting identities present within the industry, the choice of material for this article limits what can be seen and thus known. In the material, the identity most visible other than gender was Indigeneity, and much of my analysis thus focuses on that. However, other categories, including disability, are also present and discussed. Intersectionality is an increasingly important way of looking at the world, including in the Arctic, as works on intersectionality and polar sciences recently emerged have shown (e.g. Hoogensen Gjørv, 2017; Seag et. al., 2019; Vladimirova & Habeck, 2018).

As I started to familiarise myself with the research material, the concept of biopolitics continued to seep into my mind. Put very briefly, the idea of Foucauldian biopolitics is concerned with the governance of populations and the control of people and their bodies via different political technologies (Foucault, 2007, 2008). Biopolitical governance takes life itself as its main object (Alt, 2016: 39); thus, life, namely ensuring and controlling it, is central to the idea of biopolitics. As a tool for governance, biopolitics is usually connected to modern (neo)liberal states, including Russia (Tynkkynen, 2019: 29), and has emerged simultaneously with the socio economic order of capitalism to ensure a productive population able to meet its needs (Alt, 2016; Foucault, 1978). Gender, reproduction, and physical fitness of people, all visible in my research material, are some of the core components of biopower, and controlling them enables the state to govern the population and safeguard its continuity (Foucault, 1978).

3. Materials and methods

To gain a comprehensive understanding of gender’s role in the gas industry in Novy Urengoy, I collected material for this article from the Instagram page of Gazprom’s local subsidiary and, for supplementary information, from a questionnaire distributed among women living in Novy Urengoy. To process the variety of material, I conducted visual analysis and thematic content analysis. Furthermore, the experiences, observations, and conversations I had during my trip to Novy Urengoy in 2019 are utilized as a background for this paper.

Reflections of women in Russia’s fossil fuel industry

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The Instagram page Gazprom_gdu focuses on Gazprom Dobycha Urengoy, the operating subsidiary of Gazprom in Novy Urengoy. Instagram is a social media platform owned by Meta (i.e. the parent organisation of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp) that relies on the power of visuality. For my analysis, I chose the period from Women’s Day in 2021 until Women’s Day in 2022, both celebrated on 8 March. Soon after March 2022, activity froze on the majority of Russian Instagram accounts when Meta became banned in Russia.

Gazprom_gdu’s Instagram page is highly versatile. The chosen one year period encompassed 499 posts about sports events, holiday celebrations, historical events, COVID 19 related information, and art exhibitions and other events sponsored and courses organised by Gazprom, as well as illustrated images about different issues, images of nature, advertisements of the company magazine Gas Urengoy, and finally the “Za mir” symbol (‘for peace’), with the caption “Za Rossiju” (‘for Russia’) in the colours of St George’s ribbon. Given the large number of posts, I did not analyse all of the photos and videos but instead focused on the ones that would help to answer my research questions. Although my chief interest was the visual aspects of Instagram, especially in depicted in photos, I also read and considered the captions.

Including a variety of approaches, visual methodologies have become not only increasingly useful but also increasingly important. We live in an era defined by visuality, yet the ways in which we understand knowledge within academia and elsewhere remain largely based on text and textual analysis (Bleiker, 2018: 1). Social media has made the world even more visual and in many ways has democratised who has the ability to create certain (visual) narratives of the world (Kaempf, 2018). Therein, the visual aspect of modern (political) communication is crucial and can have a strong impact on viewers (Filimonov et al., 2016). Even though Gazprom is a company, the political aspect and political communication of the social media account, such as the state owned Gazprom cannot be overlooked. Emotional and affective reactions towards certain forms of energy affect one’s cognitive reactions, and stimulating behaviour towards energy projects and platforms such as Instagram can be highly useful in creating (positive) emotional connections (Vespa et al., 2022).

Gillian Rose (2001) has identified three sites that warrant consideration while analysing visual culture: its production (i.e. where the image is made), the image itself (its visual content) and the audience, (for whom it is for, and where it is viewed) (cf. Pauwels & Mannay, 2020; Marston, 2020). Each of those sites has three modalities technological, compositional, and social that also have to be taken into account (Rose, 2001). For my analysis, I followed Rose by incorporating those three sites and their modalities into my reading to generate a background for the analysis. What I find to be particularly important is that every image tells a story as well as arouses emotions and affects (Bleiker, 2018). Affect has indeed been used as a guide for visual studies on social media, and Kate Maerston (2020), for instance, has shown how Rose’s different sites of visuality can be examined in relation to affect. The site of an image, the image itself, and the audience are all affected by different sensations, sometimes bodily ones. Affective reading thus emphasises the materiality and the body, which, according to Rose (2016: 9), results in the “rejection of the distinction between vision and visuality”, thereby allowing visual analysis to include more than merely the visual (Marston, 2020: 606). While analysing the posts by Gazprom_gdu, I have attempted to examine the images with consideration of the affectual dimensions that may have emerged, as in line with feminist methodologies (e.g. Penttinen, 2019: 8; Åhall, 2018).

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For this article, the questionnaire provided supporting material by offering additional information used in analysing the images. Containing nine questions, the questionnaire was distributed in February 2022 via snowball sampling, which began with two women living in Novy Urengoy whom I had met during my trip there in 2019. The two women were thus the so called gatekeepers of the sample. The questionnaire included questions addressing the respondents’ experiences with living in Novy Urengoy, their relationship with the gas industry, and the role of gender therein. I received eight responses to the questionnaire, and because of the circumstances of the war, it was impossible to find more respondents. The responses were not especially extensive yet contained interesting ideas. After translating the responses with the help of a native Russian speaker, I subjected them to thematic content analysis (e.g. Julien, 2008; Tuomi & Sarajärvi, 2004) and thus identified key themes from the responses. In the analysis section, the responses are organised according to the themes identified, which primarily derive from the visual material.

Because I am not Russian, I inevitably look at the research topic from the outside. The ongoing war has affected my views and the views of many others on the Russian government and society. By extension, I later found out that the first gatekeeper for the questionnaire sample my first contact in Novy Urengoy was a firm supporter of the Russian Government’s actions, which might have influenced the responses of the other women. That possibility thus forced me to rethink the ethics of remaining in touch with her and ultimately to not pursue more answers from her. My gender, because I identify as a woman, also naturally affected how I approached the topic. Even so, interpretative research is always subjective, whether text or images are being analysed, because “interpreting images is just that, interpretation, not the discovery of their ‘truth’” (Rose, 2001: 2).

4. Analysis

With ecofeminism, intersectionality, and biopolitics as my analytical lenses, I analysed the material utilizing affective visual reading and content analysis. In this section, the ways in which gender and especially women are presented, portrayed, and reflected upon within the research material are divided into three common figures: the motherly woman, the northern woman, and the absent woman.

a. The motherly woman

The women who answered my questionnaire had a generally positive attitude towards the industry. In the questionnaire, the presence of the company was described by one woman as follows: “It’s everywhere. You can’t help but feel it”. Because my interest was gender, especially that of women, I began reviewing the Instagram posts one by one, with particular focus on the presentation and visibility of women and other possible intersecting identities. As on the webpage of Gazprom (Kangasluoma 2020), most of the images portraying workers and other people were of men, though I also observed an increasing number of women portrayed in work clothes and not only in attendance at cultural or similar events.

Around the time of Women’s Day 2022, the company magazine Gas Urengoy devoted space to women working at the local division in Novy Urengoy. One Women’s Day post published on Instagram on 4 March 2022 shows images of seven women from the publication, all portrayed in work uniforms in the plant, in business attire in the office, and in dress clothes at award ceremonies. The women are all white and able bodied, have long hair, and are visibly using make up. Connected to the Women’s Day post, there is a video, published on 5 March 2022, of a woman named Nuria,

Reflections of women in Russia’s fossil fuel industry

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also present in the earlier post, working as an operator of Boiler No 7. The video and post describe her life and how she came to work with Gazprom in the North. To viewers, Nuria seems like an inspiring person, and someone committed to encouraging other women to enter the industry. She is also a mom and grandmother, as stressed in the video. The official Women’s Day post, published on 8 March, also stresses certain qualities of women, beginning with motherhood and followed by love and dedication to family. The post continues to state that because of women, men are inspired to conquer great heights. Even so, as the posts following that brief period reveal, the spotlight on women workers seems to remain limited to the time around Women’s Day. Likewise, during Women’s Day 2021, the company magazine was dedicated to women; however, throughout the rest of the year, women were in a clear minority of the posts, especially ones of a professional nature. In the posts in which they do appear, women are presented in different roles, and, also a few women in work clothes are shown reading Gas Urengoy (e.g. on 23 and 30 July 2021).

Thinking about fossil fuels and gender from an intersectional point of view demands recognising which identities are promoted and which become invisible, chiefly as a means to identify patterns of power (Kaijser & Kronsell, 2014). Annica Kronsell’s (2006) work on gender within institutions of hegemonic masculinity, (in her case, the Swedish military) reminds me to pay attention to the silences as well. Examining the fossil fuel industry has many similarities to examining the military industry; after all, both reproduce the norms of hegemonic masculinity via everyday practices and symbols, which, in the latter’s case, manifest in petro masculinity. Furthermore, the Russian military is also largely funded by the fossil fuel industry. Against that background, Kronsell (2006) has argued that silence about gender is a determining factor within institutions of hegemonic masculinity, one that reinforces the normality of a trend as just “how things are”. Building on Judith Butler’s work on gender, Kronsell continues that the situation in those institutions, where being a man is the norm, has “led to the rather perplexing situation in which “men are ‘persons’ and there is no gender but the feminine” (Butler, 1990: 19). That phenomenon is also visible in the Instagram posts of Gazprom. In ones showing women workers, their gender and, in many cases, maternal qualities, as in the post celebrating Nuria, are made explicit in the text, whereas the posts with men address only the processes depicted, not their gender. Similar to Kronsell’s findings from the military context, where the “male citizen is considered the citizen a priori, while the female citizen is expected to perform different duties towards the state” (2006; 114), at Gazprom men are the workers, whereas women are foremost “beautiful” mothers and grandmothers, as the caption of a Women’s Day post says, and workers only secondary to those roles.

The emphasis on motherhood can be also approached in light of biopolitics. Accentuating fertility and motherhood is a prime example of biopolitical governance, a key aim of which is the reproduction of the human race (Foucault, 1978, 2003). In northern Russia, Gazprom’s emphasis on motherhood and traditional family values ensures the reproduction and continuity of the life of the Russian people. Likewise, family values are salient in the Instagram posts. A post published on 8 July 2021 heralds a day celebrating family, love, and loyalty, with a drawn thumbnail image of a family. The image shows a family of five: a big, muscular man holding a woman, a toddler, and twin babies safe under his arms, while the woman carries the children. The congratulations in the post are directed towards, among others, those who “honour family values”. At the centre of the biopolitical approach lies the notion that policies ensuring the life of some inevitably diminish the life of others (Alt, 2016; Foucault, 1978; Weaver & Silvan, 2016). Overemphasising traditional

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family values thus diminishes other values, including those of sexual minorities, as Weaver and Silvan (2016) have shown in the context of homosexuality and biopolitics in Russia.

b. The northern woman

The northern location of Novy Urengoy was addressed in many of the answers to the questionnaire. The “white nights”, the Russian expression for the period of the midnight sun, was mentioned as something enjoyable but the “polar nights”, the dark period in the winter, as something negative on top of the bitterly cold weather. At the same time, northern Russia offers better opportunities to earn money, as one respondent from the questionnaire admitted. In one response, living in the north was described as if living in one country (i.e. mainland Russia) but being entirely separated from it as well. A sense of distance, the feeling of being far away from everything, was palpable. On my trip to Novy Urengoy in 2019, locals repeatedly referred to the rest of Russia as Материк: the mainland. The location of the city, far in the north and thus on the “periphery”, has presumably also affected local perceptions of the industry, the city, and life there, for northern Russia is typically viewed as a separate entity, similar to island states. At such a distance, it is gas that connects the satellite location to the mainland.

In the responses to the questionnaire, respondents expressed a deep respect for the northern people and the northern nature in a phrase, “love for the harsh land”. Meanwhile, in the imagery on Instagram, snowy landscapes, northern animals, and harsh working conditions were regularly portrayed. Unsurprisingly, no posts were dedicated to questioning the CO2 emissions caused by the oil and gas industry. One tool of governance is to control what is shown and for whom, as well as what is hidden. During the period examined, the Instagram page of Gazprom_gdu regularly utilised imagery of the Indigenous People of the north and of, for example, reindeer crossings in production areas. Although Novy Urengoy is located in the homeland of the Nenets people, an Indigenous group in northern Russia, compared with the other bigger cities in YaNAO and NAO, the number of Indigenous People living in Novy Urengoy is rather small (Rozanova Smith, 2021).

The Nenets have traditionally pursued a nomadic reindeer herding lifestyle, one that the presence and dominance of extractive industries in northern Russia threatens in various ways, including via environmental degradation, changes in demography, and alienation from traditional ways of life (Stammler et al., 2020).

In a post published on 9 August 2021, a young woman posing in a white, festive, presumably Indigenous outfit holds a white cloak in front of a verdant natural background, and the caption, celebrating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, notes that life in the area is a perfect example of the coexistence of industrial and Indigenous ways of lives. In another post published on 19 March 2021 advertising the company magazine, five people a baby, three children, and a woman dressed in traditional fur outfits are shown perusing the company magazine in an urban environment. Such a portrayal of Indigenous people serves a purpose in Gazprom’s social media strategy and, more importantly, constructs a narrative of a successful cohabitation in the region. From a biopolitical standpoint, the parastatal gas giant is efficiently governing both the life and living space of the Indigenous people in its vicinity. That narrative was also visible in the official Gazprom Museum in Novy Urengoy, which I visited in 2019, where the coexistence of the local Indigenous people with the gas industry was presented as harmonious and thriving. The creation of the narrative of successful coexistence shows, and more importantly hides, the unequal power relations present between the dominant industry and Indigenous people.


of women in Russia’s fossil fuel industry

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Stammler et al. (2020) have noted, however, that extractive industries in northern Russia can be both a threat and a source of security for Indigenous people, many of whom also work in the industry. Even so, a colonial mentality exists among the non Indigenous, one that enforces the narrative that northern Russia was “built with their own hands under extreme conditions and with the spirit of ‘pioneers’” (Saxinger, 2015: 89; Stammler et al., 2020: 379), all of which ignores the much longer presence of Indigenous people. In the questionnaire responses, pride in the industry was also expressed, as well as pride in the people working in it: “I am proud of our people, who can build gas pipelines, maintain them, and produce for the benefit of the Motherland”. The importance of the industry was not only described as important for Russians but also for all people living in the cold part of the continent.

Oil and gas production is a highly comprehensive, space intensive industry. Between preliminary exploration and the time when gas begins its journey via pipelines, or when liquefied natural gas (LNG) is loaded onto ships at the beginning of its Arctic voyage, the building of infrastructure, roads, and pipelines has to occur, along with the extraction of minerals, the construction of seaports, and much more. The vast use of land often causes permanent environmental damage and change, an example of which is the domination of both nature and other beings living in the area.

c. The absent woman

On the questionnaire, most of the women reported not feeling that the gas industry affects them differently because of their gender. However, one responded that most people living in the city are workers, mostly men, and that in public places and at events, even at work, people are mostly men as well. She nevertheless added that it does not affect her feelings or behaviour. Another responded that there were fewer career options for “us” here meaning women because of the industry. Other research has highlighted the issue of gendered labor markets within northern cities devoted to extraction (Bolotova, 2021; Rozanova Smith, 2021). Rozanova Smith (2021), for instance, has noted that though the gender segregation of the labour market in those areas is visible, several initiatives exist to encourage women’s entrepreneurship, among other targets.

On the Instagram page analysed during the period in question, sports were a dominant theme. Many of the posts on Gazprom_gdu Instagram were dedicated to the celebration of success in sports competitions, either of Gazprom’s own teams or of professional local teams in ice hockey, snowmobile races, crossfit, volleyball, karate, rowing, mini football, and skiing, among others. However, in the posts celebrating competitive sports, women appear only in posts celebrating a competition of couples dancing, along with one woman in a karate competition and some women among many skiers at a skiing event. Sport is the most visible form of Gazprom’s corporate social responsibility, and as Veli Pekka Tynkkynen (2019: 49) has noted, sponsoring sports infrastructure and sports teams is especially visible in energy producing regions, and in regions with little or no gas coverage, they are utilised as tools to promote national gas programmes. Responses to the questionnaire also recognised that tendency and showed how Gazprom was perceived to provide opportunities for young people, support schools and sports, and, in turn, add value to the city. That tendency echoes what Tynkkynen (2019: 54) has noted, namely that Gazprom has managed to create a narrative in which all sport related investments are seen as responsible social provisioning, instead of investing, for example, in hospitals or poverty relief.

The Instagram page for Gazprom_gdu also portrays people with disabilities. For example, a post published on 21 February 2022 shows a video of a wheelchair dance event organised for children

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with disabilities, supported by Gazprom as part of its series of social and cultural projects. The video shows children and youngsters, either in wheelchairs or not, dancing in formal outfits. However, portraying disabilities as something exceptional and something that needs charity support also acts as a form of exclusion instead of inclusion, for people with (visible) disabilities are not shown unless their conditions are mentioned explicitly.

While sponsoring and establishing sports centres, teams, and individuals, Gazprom also promotes the biopolitical goals of the Russian state, namely by ensuring fit individuals for the sake of the Russian economy and military (Tynkkynen, 2019: 49 50). The posts celebrating sports often focused on teams (of men) gaining good ranking in a local sports competition. An example is a post published on 1 November 2021 addressing a volleyball competition for Gazprom Dobycha Urengoy employee teams. In the images, employees of different ages are portrayed playing in the heat of the game. The teams are comprised of men, and it remains a mystery whether women’s teams were part of the competition. Although constructing sports centres and sponsoring sports can be useful for all genders, portraying primarily men in the catalogue of Instagram posts creates a sense of valuing certain sports(men) and thus echoes the idea of petro masculinity.


The images that Gazprom, as a parastatal oil and gas company, publishes on its Instagram are not only images. On the contrary, they create certain narratives about Russian oil and gas in the Arctic a national source of pride while downplaying others. Emphasising motherhood, controlling the lands of Indigenous people, and supporting sports are all tools of biopolitical governance aimed at enforcing nationalist narratives. The identity of Russia is built on hydrocarbons, and its entanglements with ventures in the North are crucial to understanding the logic and nature of extracting Arctic fossil fuels (Tynkkynen, 2019). In a city and country that is run by fossil fuels, the narratives of women and minorities show what is valued, what is expected, and what is excluded.

Patriotism about the role of the oil and gas industry, visible both in the Instagram posts and the questionnaire responses, is not surprising given Gazprom’s national role. The way in which gender is utilised in the material examined for this article can be seen as an embodiment of petro masculinity. In a city such as Novy Urengoy, one cannot but see and feel the presence of the industry that keeps Russia’s economy rolling. However, with the invasion of Ukraine, the economic role of Russia’s oil and gas industry has gained new meaning, for it is now the de facto industry allowing Russia to practice extensive violence, not only against nature but also towards Ukrainian civilians. The entanglements of petroculture in the modern world are profound and perhaps even more so in Novy Urengoy.

In this article, I have shown how women are indeed present within the fossil fuel industry, though the roles assigned to them emphasise aspects considered to be necessary for the biopolitical needs of the state. Combining ecofeminism, intersectionality, and biopolitics allowed me to pay attention to the embodied social structures within the Arctic fossil fuel industry. Examining the visual material with affective visual reading also revealed which kind of categories and identities are permitted and what are not. Many of the pathways presented in this article came as a surprise to me but demanded to be included as the writing process evolved. When I started writing this article, the full scale attack on Ukraine had not commenced. That development clearly changed everything, from the research material to the research questions. Nevertheless, I wonder whether, without the

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war, I would have paid as much attention to questions of nationalism that now seem more important than ever.

As one of the most active players in Arctic oil and gas extraction, Russia will impact not only the future of the North but also the future of the planet. With the ongoing war, it is impossible to know what will happen to gas production in Novy Urengoy. The oil and gas province of YaNAO has been the crown jewel of Russian Arctic development, one closely connected to the development of the Northern Sea Route. However, with increasing sanctions, it remains to be seen whether production will continue as it has. For environmental reasons and for the well being of our planet, energy transitions should happen sooner instead of later, whereas developments in the Russian Arctic have indicated otherwise.


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Indigenous W omen

as Water Protectors,

Men as

Gender and Indigeneity in the Context of Climate Change in Sakha (Yakutia)


Daria Burnasheva

Indigenous women as water protectors, men as firefighters this paper contributes to the understanding of gender and indigeneity in the context of climate change by looking at what is underneath this established dichotomy. In the last decades, Sakha (Yakutia) in northeast Russia has literally gone through fire and water. The devastating floods an d wildfires have caused not only economic and environmental losses but most importantly, social and cultural consequences. However, this paper does not intend to look at the vulnerability, adaptability, and resilience of Indigenous communities in the face of climate change and related disasters. Instead, it attempts to understand what has shaped the existing power relations, strengthened social inequalities and their gendered dynamics in this particular context. As an Indigenous feminist, I approach these issues from Sakha Indigenous paradigm. In Sakha speaking rural communities, we still call ourselves people of woods and we refer to big water bodies as our grandmothers. This particular ontological viewpoint has been a methodological suggestion for my research and defined the specific way the analysis has been conducted. As a result, I claim that an entire shift in paradigm is needed in order to adequately address the climate change impacts such as wildfires. We should think not only about fighting wildfires but also about protecting forests, which will shift our perspective from what to fight to what to protect. In academic research, shifting the subject of study can raise novel research questions and opportunities for new critical analysis. Addressing the r oot causes of the wildfires will mean not only fighting its consequences but preventing this disaster. Finally, in the Indigenous feminist paradigms, protecting waters and forests means taking care of our human and other than human relations and, on a greater scale, our ways of being in this world.


I come from the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), one of the northern and easternmost regions of the Russian Federation. I grew up in a taiga area of central Sakha (Yakutia) where the river Lena, our ebe [Sa. ‘grandmother’] carries her cold, silvery waters along sandy banks and hills covered with bushes, birches and pine trees. I have picked wild berries and mushrooms with my mother, observed my brother and father shooting grouses and wild ducks. We are tya djono [Sa. ‘people of woods’], the way rural people are referred to in our native Sakha language, as opposed to kuorat djono [Sa. ‘city people’]. As most of our generation, me and my brother, cousins, and classmates are

Daria Burnasheva is a Senior Lecturer at Arctic State Institute of Culture and Arts, Sakha Republic.

city people now. However, we still strongly identify ourselves as people of woods, as taiga is not only a source of subsistence, but most importantly, foundation of our cultural identity.

Global trends inform that women and their livelihoods are more affected by climate change than men. Since most studies on this issue are conducted in the Global South, there is a gap in knowledge and lack of understanding of how climate change impacts Indigenous women in the margins of the Global North. This gap is even more significant in the Russian North and especially in the context of wildfires. The wildfires problem is yet to be explored in depth from different perspectives and mainstreamed in Russian academic discourse on climate change. Despite having serious negative impacts on human health and wellbeing, it still lacks critical reflection in social studies. In this connection, research done from Indigenous feminist paradigm can contribute to a better understanding of the issue.

The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) is the biggest federal subject of the Russian Federation. Covering 3 million square kilometers, it is sparsely populated by less than a million people, while almost one third of them reside in the major urbanized area around the capital Yakutsk. The territory of Sakha (Yakutia), as with most of Russia’s North, is being increasingly affected by global climate change trends. Climate related changes cause permafrost thawing and subsequent landscape degradation, however, the most devastating consequences have been caused by wildfires. The wildfires in Sakha (Yakutia) destroy the taiga, which is highly important both in terms of food security, as well as social and emotional wellbeing.

In summer of 2021, 8.5 million hectares of taiga have burnt in Sakha (Yakutia). Combined with heat waves and the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, it put even greater pressure on the local communities. That summer, the increasing female participation in wildfire mitigation and management has been observed as women started to create themselves space in this highly masculine domain. Historically, being active members of the labor force, women around Soviet Russia have always been present in disaster prevention and mitigation field. However, in 2021, female participation and contribution became highly visible as they fought at the forefronts of wildfire management along with men both on professional and volunteer roles, while their stories were shared by female social media activists and journalists. As a result, active and articulate female voices have challenged the masculinized narratives around wildfires.

Thinking about wildfires from an Indigenous feminist paradigm, I center my focus not on Indigenous women as subjects of study but the forests as a space where important meanings, concepts and identities are being shaped influenced by gender and indigeneity. This paper does not intend to look at the vulnerability, adaptability, and resilience of Indigenous women and communities in the face of climate change and wildfires. Instead, focusing on forests, I aim to better understand the existing power relations, domination and inequality, and how they increase under social, economic, and environmental crisis caused by wildfires. In Sakha speaking rural communities, we still call ourselves people of woods, and we refer to big water bodies as our grandmothers. This particular ontological viewpoint has been a methodological suggestion for my research and defined the specific way the analysis has been conducted.

As a result, I claim that a shift in paradigm is needed in order to adequately address the wildfires. We should think not only about fighting wildfires but also about protecting forests, which will shift our perspective from often limited ‘what to fight’ to more productive and critical ‘what to protect’. In academic research, shifting the subject of study will help raise novel research questions and

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opportunities for new critical analysis. Addressing the root causes of this issue would mean not only fighting its consequences but preventing its development. Finally, in the Indigenous feminist paradigms, protecting waters and forests means taking care of our human and other than human relations and, on a greater scale, our ways of being in this world. Though women in Sakha (Yakutia) have demonstrated their potential for strong female leadership in wildfires mitigation and management, their roles should eventually stretch beyond caretaking positions and reach the highest levels of decision making processes.

Grounding my epistemic location as Sakha Indigenous feminist

Studies made by feminist scholars on climate change come from two major paradigms: ecofeminist and Indigenous feminist. Though both paradigms have a lot in common, the relationship between them is not easy. The main critique of classical ecofeminism is its essentialism and support of women and nature, men and culture binaries, which justifies and maintains the female subordination (Ortner, 1974; Warren, 1998). Early Indigenous feminists are criticized for similar essentialist views but in another way claiming higher status of Indigenous women in society before colonialism and their alleged power and authority (Anderson, 2016).

Indigenous feminist does not equal ecofeminist, or even broadly feminist. It is easier to think of Indigenous paradigms as feminist as indigeneity itself in general has been vocalized and strongly influenced by female scholars and their experiences (e.g. Smith, 1999), is derived from holistic, collective experiences and knowledges (Kuokkanen, 2000; Porsanger, 2004; Wilson, 2005), not exclusively female or male, but also not even exclusively human (Anderson, 2016; TallBear, 2019; Todd, 2014).

Indigenous feminist theories are multiple, there is no one Native feminist standpoint (Goeman & Denetdale, 2009) as there is no one single Indigenous paradigm. It would be naïve and narrow idea to think that all Indigenous peoples share the same worldview, similar epistemologies and ontologies. However, there are close relationships and values shared among them that makes it possible to see them as alternatives to ‘Western’, including most ecofeminist theories which are located in white, ‘Western’ paradigms.

In the current body of critical reflections both on ecofeminism and Indigenous feminism, several frictions can be found. Ecofeminism is being criticized by some Indigenous feminists who argue that ‘Western’ feminists invoke Aboriginal cultural beliefs and histories (Wilson, 2005), some warn about appropriation of Indigenous concepts when developing ecofeminist theories (Nixon, 2015). Some call for ethical and respectful inclusion of Indigenous women voices to greater feminist movements (Kwaymullina, 2017), while others only see the possibility of partial connection between them (Sempertegui, 2019).

Unified views of ‘Western’ ecofeminism and Indigenous feminism can harm the way Indigenous women are perceived. The application of Western gender theory and policy to Indigenous has tended to reduce women and girls’ experiences to the categories of ‘victim’ and ‘other’ (Chilisa & Ntseane, 2010). Similarly, in many Indigenous contexts, the predominant discourse of liberal feminism tends to focus exclusively on gender discrimination and gender equality. The problem is the lack of recognition of Indigenous women’s articulations and conceptualizations of feminism that do not focus solely on gender discrimination or gender equality (Flowers, 2015; Knobblock & Kuokkanen, 2015). Such an approach towards Indigenous women was demonstrated in the recent

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Gender Equality in the Arctic Report, where, unfortunately, indigeneity is mentioned only in the context of violence and reconciliation (2021).

While there is a clear tendency of reducing indigeneity and gender in climate change to the concept of vulnerability, Indigenous feminisms debate this dominant discourse as they come out of a long history of activism to address different types of oppression in their communities (Anderson, 2020). Importantly, Indigenous feminism has been ‘instrumental’ in the resistance to resource extraction (Yazzie & Baldy, 2018) especially in water protection movements.

This approach also acknowledges the particular positioning of Indigenous women as researchers who ‘stand with’ their communities in an ethic of ‘staying in relation’ (TallBear, 2014). Indigenous research and activism are understood as a whole, as a ‘scientific service to one’s people’ (Vinokurova, 2017), where a person becomes a ‘transformative healer, who resists dominant research discourses in order to develop processes of social justice and healing in the community’ (Chilisa & Ntseane, 2010). This ‘epistemic disobedience’ (Mignolo, 2009) leads to transnational Indigenous feminisms that negate powerlessness and center on relationships beyond dominating paradigms (Aikau et al., 2015; Evans, 1994). The interconnectedness between Indigenous women’s bodies and the lands that women caretake becomes central, thus, responsibility to lands and waters is a key part of the collective and radical relationality work of Indigenous feminists (Yazzie & Baldy, 2018).

In developing my research, I am largely inspired by Indigenous feminist theories of relationality (e.g. Anderson, 2016; TallBear, 2019; Todd, 2014) and guided by Indigenous methodologies principles as defined by Indigenous scholars (e.g. Kovach, 2010; Kuokkanen, 2000; Porsanger, 2004; Wilson, 2000). The Indigenous feminist paradigm shaped by Sakha perspective will contribute to better understanding of gender and indigeneity in the context of climate change. Thinking about how feminist theorizing, concepts, discourses, and understandings can be developed to better accommodate Indigenous feminist perspectives and understandings (Sinevaara Niskanen, 2010), I would like to place Indigenous feminism from a Sakha perspective within the mainstream and as part of Indigenous feminisms rooted in other Indigenous lands and minds throughout the world.

Localizing the problem in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Russia

Climate change is a major challenge to Arctic and other Indigenous peoples, but often its impacts are largely understood in policy and research frameworks and separately from issues of health, poverty, education, cultural vitality, equity, and justice (Huntington et al., 2019). Climate change threatens global sustainable development while very often its massive burden is carried by the poorest and most vulnerable. Its impacts are felt by everyone, but not equally: women and men experience the changing climate differently.

According to the UN Gender, Climate and Security report (2020), ‘a gender blind’ approach to addressing climate related security risks or a ‘climate blind’ approach to women, peace and security programming can exacerbate the vulnerabilities of groups exposed to climate change, thus deepening already existing inequalities and potentially aggravating environmental and security threats. Furthermore, Indigenous women often face multilayered risks as they are discriminated against as environmental activists, as women and as part of an ethnic minority group.

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Up until recently, the topic of gender did not figure prominently in Arctic research (Hoogensen, 2017; Vladimirova & Habeck, 2018). Moreover, most studies focus on women and female experiences, while those of men’s and outside gender binaries are still understudied (Oddsdottir & Agustsson, 2021). In Sakha (Yakutia), the leading female scholars of the Institute for Humanities and Indigenous Issues have been the most active writers on gender and women. They have made a significant contribution to understanding the role and situation of women in Sakha (Yakutia), mostly focusing on female political participation and role of Indigenous women in society (Vinokurova et al., 2004). Unlike systemic research on some women issues, sporadic research has been done on Indigenous men and masculinities. The most recent studies are ethnographical accounts which look at how current Sakha masculinities are being shaped (Yakutia) (e.g. Bragina, 2021; Tarasova, 2021; Ventsel, 2018).

Interestingly, unlike research on Indigenous women in Canada in regards to their land based activities and climate change, no similar study has been done on female experiences in Sakha (Yakutia). These are gaps in knowledge that should be addressed. In the regional context, studies on the Russian Arctic and especially Sakha (Yakutia) lack social and cultural research done from Indigenous paradigms, as most works are done in a framework of Western sociology and ethnography. Thus, despite a body of knowledge produced on gender aspects of various social phenomena in Sakha (Yakutia), there is no well established tradition of critical gender studies, especially from an Indigenous feminist paradigm.

Due to climate change, the Arctic has been warming at more than twice the global rate over the past 50 years, causing drastic changes in its environment (AMAP, 2019). While indigeneity in general received relatively more attention in climate change scholarship in the Arctic, its gendered aspects remain marginal in the studies of climate change adaptation, resilience, and vulnerability (Bunce & Ford, 2015). Previous contribution to the issue has demonstrated that climate change related disasters strengthen patriarchal structures in Indigenous societies (Vinokurova, 2017). Thus, climate change should be seen as a disruption of, first and foremost, relations with our human and other relatives (Burnasheva, 2020).

Traditional land based activities and wildfires: looking into (stereo)typical gendered activities in forests

Research done in the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada on experiences of wildfire season demonstrates consequences of ‘summer of smoke’ for health and well being. For instance, people reported not only physical consequences such as limited activity and interruption of traditional summer activities, such as berry harvesting and fishing, but also emotional, such as fear, stress, uncertainty and isolation. For some, the only way to cope was by leaving their communities, so wildfires produced literal separation from the land (Dodd et al., 2017). The same was observed in Sakha (Yakutia) during the summer wildfires in 2021, when some people reported leaving to other Russian regions until fires are over, or even considering moving to other regions of Russia. People shared disappointment and sadness about the non ability to enjoy the short northern summer.

Across the Arctic, environmental and climate change is altering and disrupting hunting, foraging, fishing, and trapping among Indigenous communities (Beaumier & Ford, 2010; Ford et al., 2016; Cunsolo et al., 2012). While local food production alone cannot solve all the food related issues northerners are facing today (Herrmann et al., 2021), traditional subsistence systems and food


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remain a crucial part of ensuring ‘food resilience’ (Tendall et al., 2015) in the rural communities. The wildfires have direct negative impacts on everyone regardless of gender. However, as recent wildfires in Sakha (Yakutia) demonstrated, they can impact land based activities associated with men and women differently. I use the examples of berry picking and hunting on purpose because it has been an example in other case studies done among Inuit in Canada (Ford et al., 2016). It is an instructive and fruitful analytical tool to use analogies from different parts of the North to see similarities and contrasts.

Though men also go berry picking and some women hunt, berry picking is a female dominated land based activity in contrast to hunting (also fishing) which are predominantly male. In central Sakha (Yakutia) which is a focus of my research, berry picking and hunting take place in taiga. These activities provide important food berries and game, which are essential part of traditional diet and food security. They are both important types of socialization, also important in terms of mental and emotional well being (Ford et al., 2016). Apart from being both subsistence and recreation source, hunting is imbued with symbolic meanings and status. Unsurprisingly, hunting is directly linked to notions of masculinity and ethnic identity for young men.

For women, berry picking does not have such meanings. As Ford et al. (2016) note, berry picking in Inuit communities does not conflict with work and childcare duties, unlike hunting. Similarly, in rural Sakha communities, women often combine berry picking and childcare, so many children are exposed to this activity since the early age, unlike hunting, where boys are introduced only after they are able to take care of themselves. Again, Ford et al. (2016) note that unlike hunting, berry picking does not necessarily require access to transport, though it is changing now due to changing rain patterns and plant communities.

Notably, rural women often sell berries to have more income. Children of school age, especially girls, are also involved in this labor. Unlike berries, game is usually not sold. Selling game is a very new phenomenon in urban settings as traditionally it was shared with elders and relatives. Also, game is no longer a substantial part of traditional diets even in rural areas, it is not everyday food unlike berries, yet it requires more time and money spent on the process. Berry picking does not require any investments unlike hunting but it is much more productive in terms of revenue. It also has less of a recreational character unlike hunting.

Identifying discrepancies and inequality

While in most cases berry picking does not require from women anything but free time, a bucket and walking (Ford et al., 2016), men hunting requires expenses related to buying, building, and maintaining seasonal hunting gear, hunting hut, transport, gasoline, rifles, dogs, and food, and importantly, vacation time. There are fundamental differences between these land based activities which demonstrate fundamental gender inequality. I do not intend to diminish hunting as inherently discriminative, however, in most cases, there is a clear tendency of uneven distribution of resources and contribution to family food security. There is a whole industry around men’s outdoor and hunting clothing and equipment, while women who also spend much time outdoors, have more limited opportunities.

Both hunting and berry picking are necessary as symbols of stability, seasonal changes and cultural identity, it is at once an ‘important traditional food, subsistence economy and social fabric’ (Ksenofontov et al., 2017). Both of them are now affected by climate change: women and men

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express the same concerns and anxiety regarding the decreasing availability of wild game and berries. Climate change means not only disruption of traditional food systems but is also a threat to social and emotional wellbeing. It also involves more time, efforts and costs as decreased opportunities have caused longer trips both for hunting and berry picking. Especially, it affected women who used to cover shorter distances but now they have to expand their areas, which involves more walking and organizing, which means more mental and physical labor (also in Ford et al., 2016).

Both berry picking and hunting are demonstrative examples for understanding different types of traditional gendered land based activities in the context of cultural, social, economic, and environmental changes happening in the region. They are activities that are at the same time subsistence, recreation, non paid labor and unofficial income. During the wildfires in summer 2021, there were attempts by the local government to officially regulate land based activities. It was strongly recommended to avoid the forests, also due to outbreak of pest infestations and subsequent treatment with pesticides. Since the wildfires have lasted throughout the summer months, they affected mainly female activities, hunting was not affected as much as berry picking since its season is in early fall and late spring, when most wildfires have not started yet or are managed and naturally extinguished due to fall rains and decreasing temperatures.

Although women have their space in the taiga, the forests remain almost exclusively a male realm where men exercise their heteronormative masculinity and support patriarchal values. Shaped largely by male dominated hunting, forests are constructed as a conservative, masculine, heterosexual space. It is coupled with a limited, unsustainable, excessively centralized approach of Russian forestry management (Sokolov, 2020; FNO , 2012). Thus, the forests in Sakha (Yakutia) suffer from ‘masculinization’ and can enormously benefit from ‘feminization’.

Feminizing the masculinized: from fighting fires to protecting forests. Why adding women to firefighter brigades is not enough?

Encouraged by Socialist ideology and Soviet growth strategy (Ofer, 1985), women have had high labor force participation even in areas traditionally perceived as masculine, such as emergency preparedness and management. Although no data is available on gender composition of numerous state agencies responsible for management of wildfires, women have always been present in its bureaucratic structures. For example, in central agencies for management and mitigation of emergency situations in Russia’s federal districts every third officer is a woman (Kashina, 2021). Although the Ministry for Emergency is often associated with natural disasters, the wildfires are in fact an area of responsibility of several state agencies with complicated hierarchies and structures of their own. As experts suggest, the Russian fire management system is in deep crisis (Sokolov et al., 2020).

The summer wildfire season of 2021 in Sakha (Yakutia) was different from previous ones. It was so far the most devastating as it caused human loss among volunteers and dozens of burnt houses in a rural settlement of Bes Kuel. From the very beginning women have been continuously active in social media sharing pictures and videos of wildfires threatening the rural communities. As the situation got worse, female social media influencers started social media campaigns locally and internationally to raise awareness. They led several campaigns for crowdfunding to help the


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firefighters with food supplies and inventory (Iakutiia sgoraet zazhivo: blogery zapustili fleshmob za spasenie respubliki ot pozharov, 2021).

Active female leadership helped establish the work of the Volunteer center in Yakutsk. While its major activities were coordinated by women, only men were recruited to firefighter’s roles due to high risks and difficult working conditions. However, women were most active and willing to join the firefighter brigades. At the beginning, they were not accepted to the field, however, the most determined female volunteers convinced the recruiters and were assigned to the brigades as cooks. However, as female stories show, their responsibilities stretched beyond cooking as they took care of men cheering them up, guiding them through and providing support when needed (Efremova, 2021; Toytonova, 2021). Thus, female caretaking responsibilities at firefighter brigades should not be diminished to mere service providing roles, as they are proved to be the bedrock of this system.

In remote rural areas, far away from more centralized organization and supply, women performed work typically assigned to and considered as male from the very beginning. In some villages, women formed female firefighter brigades which raised discussion in social media, namely, the most popular news outlet. Some criticized the state agencies and local government, some compared them with Soviet women fighting the fascism during the Second World War, some expressed solidarity and pointed out to sense of belonging and unity among people (Zhenshchiny vyshli na bor’bu s lesnymi pozharami v Iakutii, 2021; Foto s zhenshchinami, tushivshimi pozhary v Ytyk Kuele vyzvalo vozmushchenie v sotsetiakh, 2021). Unfortunately, there is no data available on the scale of female participation in professional and volunteer firefighter brigades. However, much more than previously, it has been visible in media discourse. The voices of female activists, firefighters and journalists made visible what was previously hidden behind the bureaucratic reports, and it made wildfires discourse more transparent and put a human face onto it.

Similar to a feminist claim ‘adding women and solar panels is not enough’ made by Bell et al. (2020) in regards to energy systems, adding women to a firefighter brigade is not enough. Placing the wildfires within larger system and structures of power would help us understand how power works more broadly in the context of climate change and related disasters. In this sense, if we approach the dynamic of power relations, domination and vulnerabilities, we will be able to see the wider picture. The unsustainable wildfire mitigation and forest management systems require fundamental restructuring of institutions and sharing power. However, it is not a mere restructuration, but an entire shift in paradigm is needed in order to challenge the established unsustainable system of behaviors and norms, as well as knowledge and laws around wildfires and forests.

Adding more women to firefighter brigades is not enough because it does not challenge the unsustainable system and established power relations. We have to ensure female participation on all levels starting from firefighter brigades on land to the political offices on the highest level. Despite active female participation, their further involvement in larger decision making processes remains uncertain. Following the general Soviet trends, women in Sakha (Yakutia) have been actively participating in labor force and have acquired leading positions. However, throughout all the levels there is still a gender asymmetry and disproportionate distribution of power (Ivanova, 2016; Egorova et al., 2017; Evseev, 2016; Petrov & Lukina, 2020).

Shifting the paradigm

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Unlike wildfires, water narratives are feminized narratives. In Indigenous feminist paradigms, not only water is ‘other than human’ and ‘more than human’ relative (Anderson et al., 2013; Stevenson, 2018; TallBear, 2019; Todd, 2017; Yazzie & Baldy, 2018), but it is literally perceived as grandmother, particularly in the Sakha paradigm (Burnasheva, 2020; Danilova, 2015; Prokopeva, 2015). In Sakha (Yakutia), the water protection narrative is a currently dominating ‘water narrative’ despite devastating floods (Stammler Gossmann, 2012). It is true in many other Indigenous contexts, as in the well known case of the Standing Rock protest movement with strong female leadership of LaDonna Brave Bull Allard (Chavez & Pember. 2021). The water protection is a powerful narrative on its own connected to other Indigenous and female led initiatives around the world.

Meanwhile, fighting, not protection, has become a dominating ‘forest narrative’ in Sakha (Yakutia). While ‘protection’ is informed by female perspectives and caretaking experiences, ‘fight’ belongs more to a masculine conceptual field, especially when militarized language is used in the firefighting structures, such as desant [Ru. ‘troops’] or brigada [Ru. ‘brigade’]. In connection to it, limiting the understanding of women in firefighting by caretaking roles diminishes them to mere service providers. Thus, the female caretaker role should be understood beyond these meanings in relation to greater processes of life support to avoid its usage as an “archetype that supports the patriarchal militarism” (Kaplan, 1994: 123). With shifting the paradigm more questions would arise. For example, an A.D.I.R (actors, drivers, impacts and responses) framework looking at those elements altogether will ensure gender informed analysis and further, gender informed intervention (Seager, 2021).

Very much like water protection activism, “using trees as the entry point” (Green belt movement 2003) might be useful in the case of forest protection in Sakha (Yakutia). The example of Wangari Maathai and planting trees movement in Kenya offers an insightful and instructive framework and perspective on environmental justice that challenges patriarchal structures (Muthuki, 2006). Moreover, other studies done in Kenya and Nepal suggest reasons that limit women’s involvement in forestry projects: limited access to productive resources, limited decision making roles, limited participation in the labor market and lack of incentives for project workers to incorporate women (Boyer Rechlin, 2010). At least two of them limited access to productive resources and limited decision making roles might be applicable to the case. These suppositions require deeper analysis in the future. While water protection activism in Sakha (Yakutia) connects to other Indigenous and female led initiatives around the world, the same approach might benefit the forests protection if connected to globally renowned initiatives.

The feminization of wildfires narratives is thus a counter discourse to the masculinized; it is “celebrating feminine values as an important contribution to the achievement of peace, economic justice, and ecological sustainability” (Ingólfsdóttir, 2011). Also, a feminist perspective on the wildfires can be seen as an alternative to ‘white technomasculine’ (Bell et al., 2020) aerial views on the forests which are used as the primary control method (Sokolov et al., 2003). This aerial view is now going even further up with the introduction of satellite imagery. These methods used for both monitoring and research drive our views away from human communities and their everyday relations to lands and waters by making them invisible. Therefore, they should be used along with research done in the field, on the grassroots level. This is the knowledge which is equally valuable

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for understanding climate change, and these two systems of ‘air born’ and ‘grass born’ knowledges should work together.


In recent decades, Sakha (Yakutia) has literally gone through fire and water. The devastating floods and wildfires have heavily impacted several rural Indigenous communities that still rely on land based activities both in terms of subsistence and cultural identity. There are differences how two disasters are approached: despite the devastating effects of floods, the dominating water narrative is water protection with strong female agency. Wildfires discourse is dominated by firefighting narratives. Forest protection, unlike water protection, is almost non present. Unlike water, the forests are imbued with masculinity on cultural, social and political level, which impacts the ways they are managed and protected from wildfires. In order to change the established unsustainable approach to forests, shift in paradigm is needed we can change our perspective from fighting wildfires to protecting the forests. This shift would change the often limited perspective of ‘what to fight’ to a more productive and critical ‘what to protect’ and ‘what to take care of’. It might help address and focus our attention to the root causes of the wildfires.

In Indigenous feminist paradigms, protecting waters and forests means taking care of our human and other than human relations and, on a greater scale, our ways of being in this world. Wildfires threaten the wellbeing of all living things, as well as economies and infrastructures. Moreover, in Sakha (Yakutia), they induce permafrost thaw and landscape degradation. Forests preserve permafrost, the foundation of our culture and identity shaped by the coldest climate on the Earth. Last summer, women, children and elders fought wildfires along with men to protect their relations and ways of being in this world. Therefore, assumptions about Indigenous women in the Global North feeling the climate change in indirect ways (unlike women in Global South) diminish and make their struggles invisible in one of its remotest and marginalized areas. However, as much as it is harmful for people to put on them the pressure of adaptation to climate change, it is equally harmful to think of them as mere victims, inherently vulnerable and powerless. The wildfires of summer 2021 in Sakha (Yakutia) have demonstrated the potential of female leadership in disaster mitigation and management. It is necessary to include women in these processes as their knowledge and experience can strengthen the social and political response to challenges caused by climate change. In order to do so, we should concentrate not only on disaster itself, but most importantly, on post disaster processes.

This paper did not intend to address the adaptation, resilience and vulnerability, though these concepts are directly connected to gender, indigeneity and climate change. These concepts are now being critically addressed since often pressure and responsibility to adapt are put on people, not on the root causes. Indigenous peoples throughout the world have been adaptive and resilient for centuries, enduring impacts of colonialism and industrialization. However, there are limits to Indigenous resilience and adaptive capabilities. The pressure of adaptability and resilience should be put on the unsustainable systems and structures which should be held accountable for creating and supporting these power relations, domination and inequality.

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This paper was submitted as a final assignment at the Gender Equality Studies program at the University of Iceland in November, 2021.

I express my gratitude to the GRO GEST for having me at the program. I am thankful to all my relations at home family, friends, colleagues, forests, waters and our ways of being for helping me shape and train my voice as Sakha Indigenous feminist. I dedicate this paper to all women and men in Sakha (Yakutia) who protect waters and fight fires on the fronts of the climate change in the Arctic.


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Post Script

Climate change as a metaphor: the world where men fight and women protect


On the forefront of climate change in the Arctic, indigenous men fight wildfires, women protect waters. This commentary employs this dichotomy as a metaphor to better understand larger processes shaping current situation in Russia. On September 25, a few days after the mass mobilisation started in Russia, women of Yakutsk held a peaceful protest. They performed a traditional circle dance until police intervened. Female protesters had been protecting their men and have been threatened and detained by other men. The female protests in Sakha (Yakutia) was one of a few taking place in Russian Federation those days so it caught the attention of many Russian and international media outlets. However, in academic research, female protest in Sakha (Yakutia) should be covered and analysed by Sakha women themselves. Let us read, see, and listen to women who protect and protest.

Question of epistemological justice

Considering current, and most importantly, future lack of our voices in international academic fora, our voices may be appropriated by outsider researchers who will then get all the benefits, not giving anything back to the communities affected. Recently, a friend of mine, an early career scholar and native anthropologist themselves, had been approached by a researcher from a European country. My friend was asked by that person for assistance in establishing contacts among Buryat men who fled to Mongolia to avoid mass mobilisation. The further intention of that person was to apply for a research grant in Europe. This is a demonstrative example of how the industry of knowledge extraction keeps reaping benefits from conflicts and disasters hitting the poorest, most marginalized, and neglected groups. Benefiting and building careers on such data should be strongly discouraged as they are exploitative, extractive, and colonial in nature. Instead of framing people as a study subject, one should help them become actors. It can be done by sharing resources and power. Let us bring epistemological justice and not extract, appropriate, and benefit from tears and fears of women.

Question of agency

Our roots grow deep into the frozen ground. Today this ground is rapidly thawing, degrading and falling through, literally and figuratively. How do we keep ourselves and our roots alive? How does

Daria Burnasheva is a Senior Lecturer at Arctic State Institute of Culture and Arts, Sakha Republic.

one keep agency when everything has been taken, native lands and waters lost to extractive industries, men taken to death and voices being shut and appropriated? How to not completely lose capacity of acting when actions are not allowed? Our tears and panic attacks, late over the tea discussions in small kitchens of panel blocks, sleepless nights filled with anxiety, phone calls, and messages, belong to nobody but us. This time, we have too much to lose. This time, we should and will own our voices. It comes through owning our pain and facing the reality. Using this kind of approach it is truly in our powers to contribute to better, just future for all of us in a world where women do not face risks protecting their human and non human relatives.


Written with a lot of support from my female friends who protect and protest despite tears and fears.

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Briefing Note

Research in the Russian


Challenging but Rewarding Fieldwork on the Kola Peninsula

“Amerikanskaya, finskaya mashina” (American, Finnish automobile). Hearing those words in 2003 spoken by one Russian border control officer to another was bittersweet. They meant that I would be permitted to drive my rental car through the Salla border crossing from Finland to Russia to meet my colleagues in Apatity for my fifth and final summer of fieldwork in the Imandra Lake region. After five years of fieldwork on the Kola Peninsula, and two years of archival research in Finland and Sweden, our project to reconstruct western Kola Saami herding villages was coming to an end. The fieldwork was challenging but rewarding, leading to results that documented significant changes in western Kola Saami herding villages. The purpose of this briefing note is to recommend three steps necessary for successful and safe fieldwork in the Russian Arctic, based upon my experience. First, work with Russian colleagues who can provide language and logistical support. Second, examine archival sources outside of Russia to learn about local, regional, and national processes that influenced the region. Third, follow laws and ethical research procedures while in Russia to prevent legal troubles. These recommendations are offered with the assumption that relations will improve in the near future and western scholars will be allowed to conduct fieldwork in the Russian Arctic. While a graduate student during the mid 1980s in Brown University’s Circumpolar Studies Program, going to the Soviet Arctic to conduct fieldwork seemed impossible. The region was relatively closed to western scholars, although the border crossing near Kirkenes, Norway had been open to commerce and Norwegian and Russian workers for several decades. My entry into the Kola Peninsula was surprising for several reasons. First, foreign armies had used the region as a corridor to threaten the survival of the Soviet Union. In late 1918 and 1919 at the close of WWI, 10,000 American and British forces invaded and occupied portions of the Kola Peninsula, taking the ports of Murmansk on the Arctic Ocean and Archangel on the White Sea. The Anglo centric forces were there because their governments opposed the Bolsheviks and attempted to destroy the fledgling Communists before they were firmly established. Nearly three decades later, the Kola

Robert P. Wheelersburg, Ph.D., Three time Fulbright Scholar to Arctic Centers (Sweden and Iceland)

Peninsula again became strategically important because the border zones with Norway and Finland were used as German invasion routes during the Winter War and WWII. Murmansk became the receiving port for the thousands of weapons and supplies sent by the Allies through Arctic convoys during the Lend Lease Program. Following the war, Murmansk became home to the Russian nuclear missile submarine fleet. Thus, the strategic military importance of the Kola Peninsula was well established throughout the 20th century.

In addition, the Murmansk Oblast, including the western Kola Peninsula and Imandra Lake, is restricted because it is one of the most developed parts of the Arctic, containing some of the most important strategic mineral mines and processing plants in Russia. To the northwest of Murmansk is the town of Nikel. Nikel was within Finland until the Petsamo region was annexed by the Soviet Union following the Winter War as part of the Moscow Armistice of 1944. To the southeast lies Murmansk, an important military region with many bases and Russia’s. Farther south is the Khibiny Massif that feeds minerals to the heavy industries developed by the Soviets following the October Revolution. The Severonikel plant in Monchegorsk, the apatite (used to make phosphorous) factory in Apatity, and several manufacturing plants in Kirovsk process the minerals into strategic compounds. To the west along the border is the carbonatite mine in Kovdor. The regional industrial complex is powered by the Kola Nuclear Plant and supported by a railroad (and now highway) from Kandalksha to Murmansk. Thus, th fact that I was allowed to conduct research in such an important area of the Russian Arctic was surprising, but it also presented our team with a tremendous opportunity to explore an area relatively unknown outside of Russia.

Although many scholars at R1 institutions prefer internationally known colleagues, I was fortunate enough to secure excellent colleagues from a local institution. The larger NSF team of which we were part included two major Russian researchers from Moscow based universities, one of whom was a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. While their work in natural and science was exemplary, neither had much local experience with the Kola Peninsula. That led me to choose to work with a fellow anthropologist, Dr. Natalia Gutsol, of the Institute of Northern Ecological Problems, Kola Science Centre. Along with her former graduate student, our three person team conducted fieldwork in the region for years free from serious problems.

As an anthropologist who had conducted fieldwork in the Nordic Arctic for over a decade, I spoke Swedish and Norwegian, along with German as an archival language. Combined with extensive interaction with local groups, local language competence is one of the defining characteristics of the discipline. It was hard for me to break that commitment toward language competency, but it is impossible to learn Russian quickly. The dependence upon Russian colleagues who spoke the language, along with competent English, worked well in the field, and allowed me to participate in the project.

If the Russian Arctic is a secondary fieldwork region and you do not have language skills, local colleagues can read the Russian sources and conduct interviews as long as there is plenty of interaction with their team members. What western scholars can bring to the research project is literacy in English, Nordic languages, and German, which make up a substantial amount of archival information produced during the closed Soviet period (and before), as described below. Several of the local institutions where we worked possessed archival collections unavailable elsewhere that added to our team’s results (Figure 1).

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As to the other defining characteristic of anthropology, extensive experience with local groups, I drew on my skepticism from my education toward scholars who studied their Russian subjects from afar. Both Brown and Ohio State University (undergraduate) had excellent Russian programs, focusing on history and politics. I always asked my professors and supervisors in those programs about their actual experiences in Russia. With few exceptions owing to careers in the State Department, none had spent more than a few weeks in the former Soviet Union. Even when they went to Russia, Sovietologists were essentially escorted tourists, who were not able to pursue their personal and professional interests by setting their own itineraries. Instead, western tourists (including scholars) from the 1950s to the 1980s (the so called “thaw” era) when millions of foreigners visited the Soviet Union, were accompanied by Intourist guides who ensured that they travelled only to areas that exemplified the ideological, economic, and social successes of the Communist regime. Since the collapse of the Soviet state, however, there is no excuse for social science research in Russia that does not include substantial local experience.

Although your Russian colleague(s) will probably know much of the local region’s history where you are researching, they may have less information about regional or international events because of Soviet censorship. Gathering the information may not be easy since there may not be much available in English or other major languages (e.g., French). Luckily for our team, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish ethnographers and linguists (e.g., Friis, 1872; Halström, 1911; and Itkonen, 1948) along with nature explorers (e.g., Rae, 1881), and administrators (e.g., Engelhardt, 1899), recorded their observations about the Kola Saami herding groups in Russia during their time there (Figures 2 and 3).

Local, regional, and international events that took place from 1850 to1945 changed Saami herding groups there so much to the point that they disappeared. Until that occurred, there is some evidence that the Kola Saami, like Saami in other countries such as Finland, retained vestiges of the traditional, if not Indigenous, socioeconomic structure the sidda. The sidda was the basic residential and kinship unit for herding groups, which determined where Saami lived, what dialect they spoke (to a certain extent), which lands and waters they exploited, and the spiritual life they shared. Sometime during the Early Modern Period (c. 1500), as happened elsewhere in Sápmi (e.g., Sweden), the Russian Orthodox Church began to administer the Kola Peninsula, drawing the Saami further under the Tsar’s grip. With the literacy and organization it possessed, the Church baptized all of the Saami into the Kola Lapp (sic) Parish in the Kola district of Archangel province, which was further divided into three cantons, each containing several herding villages or pogosty

Another process that changed the nature of the western Kola Peninsula was the colonization efforts by the Tsar and then the Soviets to populate the area. In the 1860s, large numbers of people were brought to Murmansk to build the naval facilities that today are an important part of Russia’s strategic fleet. In the late 19th century, Komi reindeer herders were forcibly moved to the Kola Peninsula from below the White Sea due to a reindeer plague, with many of them settling in eastern Saami village areas but some mixing with western Saami. Other Indigenous groups like the Nenets also migrated into the area. The greatest influx of new settlers was Russian and other ethnicities (e.g., Ukrainian) who were removed from their homes in the 20th century to work in the mines, and to build roads, railroads, and factories. In less than 100 years, the population of the Kola Peninsula grew from 5,000 to over one million, with over 300,000 people employed in the Imandra Lake region (Wheelersburg, et. al., 2012).

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Research in the Russian Arctic

Perhaps the single action that contributed most to the destruction of the western Kola Saami was the political repression carried out by the Soviets. While it is true that other Arctic countries like the U.S. and Canada also displaced, imprisoned, and killed their Indigenous peoples, in Russia it can be argued that the repression was carried out for political reasons, not warfare, including the government instituting a centrally planned economy. Stalin’s friend and right hand man, Sergei Kirov who was a Bolshevik revolutionary and Soviet politician, became head of the Communist Party in Leningrad, including the Murmansk Oblast. Following Kirov’s assassination in 1934, Stalin brought true repression to the Kola Peninsula. In all, dozens of the Saami village leaders and family heads were killed or imprisoned because they failed to adhere to the Soviet demands that they give up private property (including herds) and enter reindeer collectives. Finally, the last thing western scholars want is to end up in a Russian prison because of mistakes they made during their fieldwork in the Arctic. It is important to learn as much as you can about Russian laws and to follow them to the letter. For example, your visa will state which cities and localities you are allowed to visit based upon your request and its approval. The authorities will track you and check your location permissions just about everywhere you go. After driving from Kirkenes, Norway, through the Russian border station, I picked up the members of my team in Apatity, and drove to the border zone check point near our first fieldwork destination in Kovdor, 500 kilometers distant. The border guard looked at my passport and told my Russian colleagues that “we have been waiting for this car”. Five minutes later, a military vehicle with mounted machine gun, an FSB sergeant and two soldiers, and the meanest dog I’ve ever seen showed up. The sergeant took my passport and went into the guard shack to call headquarters, appearing a few minutes later to ask “who are these Saami people”. After getting an answer from one of our team members, and calling to HQ again, he handed back my passport and said “you may go”. Luckily, I had Kovdor listed on my visa as a destination, and me being there was not a problem.

Entry to the Russian border zone with Norway and Finland, an area of several kilometers patrolled by the FSB (Federal Security Service, a descendent of the KGB), is through a locally obtained visa with some exceptions. The director of the FSB, like the American FBI, is appointed and answerable only to the Russian president. The FSB is charged with counterintelligence among other responsibilities, but one of its main functions became border security after the FSB absorbed the Russian Border Guards in 2003. While this seems a bit restrictive, the result is a streamlined and more efficient method for western scholars to conduct fieldwork in the Russian Arctic. During the five years I conducted research on Kola, my research visa was issued by the Foreign Ministry through the U.S. State Department. The problem was that much of the fieldwork was located within the border zone, which was administered by the militarized border guards of the Interior Ministry who were not happy that an American was being allowed into such a strategic area.

What you don’t want to do is follow the path of British adventurer Roger Took as told in his 2003 book, Running with Reindeer: Encounters in Russian Lapland. As outlined in my review of Took’s book (Wheelersburg, 2004), in which he described himself as searching for adventure in Europe’s last wilderness, Took experienced adventure, some of which was inherent in his Kola journey, some of which he manufactured by violating several Russian laws: carrying an illegal weapon, fishing without a permit, entering closed military areas, and exceeding visa restrictions. In sum, whether you are trying to choose a primary research area as you start your career in Arctic social science, or if you are considering a secondary culture area to attain a comparative perspective

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(i.e., in my case it was to attain additional coverage of Sápmi), the Russian Arctic can present challenging but rewarding fieldwork opportunities. The amount of research from the region available in English and other western languages remains limited (which this issue of Arctic Yearbook is helping address). Thus, the contributions you make to the literature from Russian Arctic fieldwork can be important and is worth doing for your career as well. To help ensure success, western scholars should work with Russian colleagues, examine sources outside of Russia to understand local, regional, and international influences, and learn and obey Russian laws and conform to ethical research principles.

Research in the Russian Arctic

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Figure 1. Hand drawn map of the Old Saami Ekostrovski Pogost. Unknown artist and date. Courtesy of the Museum of Exploration of the Great North of Russia, Apatity, Russia.

Figure 2. Ferry dock, boats, and Saami fishermen who also transported people and freight along the Kola Trakt. Photograph by J.A. Friis, 1867. The photo inscription reads “Russia, Kola Peninsula, Lake Imandra”. Courtesy of the Finnish National Library.

Figure 3. Saami family fishing salmon with a small seine. Photograph by T.I. Itokonen, 1914. The photo inscription reads, “Muurmanni beach, Kuolavuono, Graznaja. The people of Lapland pull a small salmon seine (so called foam seine).” Courtesy of the Finnish Heritage Agency.

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Engelhardt, Alexander Platonovich. 1899. A Russian Province of the North. Westminster: Archibald Constable and Company.

Friis, Jens Andreas. 1872. En sommer i Finnmarken. Ryssisk Lappland og Norkareler: skildringar af land och folk [A Summer in Finnmark, Russian Lapland and North Karelian: Divisions of Land and People]. Stockholm: Huldegergs Bokhandel.

Hallström, Gustav. 1922. Kolalappernas hotande extisens. [The Kola Lapps’ Threatened Experience]. Ymer. Tidskrift utgiven af Svenska sällskapet förantropologi och geografi. [Ymer. Journal published by the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography], 1911, H. 3, pp. 239 316. Stockholm.

Itkonen, Tolvo Immanuel and Eeva K. Minn. 1948. The Lapps in Finland up to 1945. Vol. 1.Porvoo, Finland: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö.

Rae, Edward. 1881. The White Sea Peninsula. A Journey in Russian Lapland and Karelia. London: John Murray.

Took, Roger. Running with Reindeer. Encounters in Russian Lapland. London: John Murray.

Wheelersburg, Robert P., N. Gutsol and L. Bromley. 2012. “Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge & Western Science to Assess the Current State of Pre Collectivized Sami Resource Territories on the Western Kola Peninsula,” in Sami Land Use and the Human Dimension, edited by Peter Sköld and Krister Stoor. Umeå University.

Wheelersburg, Robert P. and Natalia Gutsol. 2009. Traditional Saami reindeer herding village resource territories on the western Kola Peninsula, Russia. Polar Record 46 (238), 222 232. University of Cambridge Press.

Wheelersburg, Robert P. Wheelersburg and Natalia Gutsol. 2008. Babinski and Ekostroskvi: Saami Pogosty on the Western Kola Peninsula from 1890 to 1940. Arctic Anthropology, Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 79 96, 2008. University of Wisconsin.

Wheelersburg, Robert P. 2004. Review, “Running with Reindeer: Encounters in Russian Lapland”, Arctic Vol. 57, No. 3 (2004): 311 312.

Research in the Russian Arctic

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Climate, Society and Development

Human Capital in the Russian Arctic: Challenges and Responses

The article deals with the issues of preservation and development of human capital in the Arctic. The results of studies on the influence of various natural and climatic factors characteristic of the northern regions on the functional systems of the body are presented. In the example of the city of Murmansk, the capital of the Russian Arctic, the method of statistical analysis of multidimensional images in the thermal infrared range of the city’s territory is considered, which is used to zoning the natural and climatic factors of the Russian Arctic. According to the results of the study, three groups of Arctic regions of the Russian Federation were identified according to the prevailing diseases caused by natural and climatic factors.


The strategic resources of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation (AZRF) are not only natural resources, oil, gas, communications, sea and air routes, but also people: human capital (Lukin, 2014). In modern society, human capital is of great importance for the development of the economy and the state. Human capital is understood as a certain stock of health, knowledge, abilities, motivations, and habits formed as a result of investments and accumulated by people, which is used in the field of social production. In modern Russia, the situation with human capital is ambiguous. On the one hand, the majority of Russians in cities have or receive a good education, they have high consumer demands and requirements for the quality of life. On the other hand, the peculiarities of the national character, together with a high degree of bureaucracy and corruption in society, create serious obstacles to the development of human capital, which is the basis of a high tech economy (Moskalenko, 2013; Govorova, 2018)

In the northern regions of the Russian Federation, a high migration activity of the population is currently preserved, and therefore, studies on the influence of geoecological (natural climatic) features of the territory on the health of the population are very relevant. The purpose of this work was to study the influence of various natural and climatic factors characteristic of the northern regions on the functional systems of the body.

Aleksandra Pryadilin is affiliated with the Water Problems Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow (WPI RAS) Emma Likhacheva is affiliated with the Institute of Geography Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow (IG RAS) Irina Chesnokova is affiliated with the Water Problems Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow (WPI RAS).

Aleksandra Pryadilina, Emma Likhacheva, & Irina Chesnokova

Results and discussion

Climatic conditions have a huge impact on the quality of human life. The contribution of the weather and climate factor to the state of human health is about 20%, lifestyle is 50%, genetics about 20%, the level of health care about 10% (Eskov, 2004) However, under the conditions of the North and unfavorable technogenic impacts, this contribution can increase up to 30 40%.

Therefore, it is impossible to consider morbidity rates in the Arctic regions without analyzing the physical and geographical factors of the environment. Figure 1 shows the zoning of the territory according to the comfort of natural and climatic factors. This indicator is the result of a synthesis of the main climatic parameters, considered from the point of view of their comfort for human habitation.

Figure 1. Zoning of the territory according to the comfort of natural and climatic factors

As can be seen on the map, 80% of the territory of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation belongs to absolutely uncomfortable conditions. The Murmansk region and the Arkhangelsk region (its continental part) are characterized by extremely uncomfortable conditions for humans. And only two small areas in the south of the Arkhangelsk region and the north region of the Krasnoyarsk Territory (in the borders of the Arctic zone) are characterized by uncomfortable conditions.

A new and important stage of our work was the statistical analysis of long term images in the thermal infrared range on the territory of the city of Murmansk, which can be used in the future zoning of natural and climatic factors in the Russian Arctic.

Murmansk, as we know, is a resource city in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation, the world’s largest ice free Arctic port, the capital of the Arctic. The city is located in a territory characterized by difficult natural conditions: sudden temperature changes, high humidity, complex wind

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conditions, short polar days and long polar nights. Every year, the technogenic load on the territory of the city increases, which ultimately provokes the development of various environmental problems on its territory.

The main sources of information for our study were images in the thermal infrared range obtained from the Landsat 8 imaging system. The spatial resolution of the images is 100 m.

Images in the thermal infrared range capture the intensity of thermal radiation of the underlying surface, which is measured in watts per square kilometer. Thus, thermal imaging data makes it possible to draw conclusions about which objects captured in the image radiate thermal energy more intensively, respectively, which objects are heated more.

32 images were selected for statistical analysis (from 2014 to 2020). They formed two sets of data. One characterizes the period of the year with positive temperatures, the second with negative ones. After the formation of two data sets, all images were cropped along the border of the city of Murmansk, that is, all images have the same size and coverage. Each subsequent snapshot of the sample completely repeats the shape of the previous one. This is important because all static values are calculated using a regular network of equal sized and geographically contiguous cells arranged in rows and columns.

Thus, when calculating the median within the boundaries of one cell of a regular network, all sample pixels are analyzed. As a result, the resulting raster is formed, in which each cell of the regular network (pixel) will correspond to the median calculated based on all sample values in a particular place in space.

The resulting rasters make it possible to draw conclusions about the main trends in the intensity of thermal radiation within the territory of the city of Murmansk. During the static analysis, the following value fields were calculated:

1. The minimum value of the intensity of thermal radiation;

2. The maximum value of the intensity of thermal radiation;

3. The median of the thermal radiation intensity, that is, the value that divides the ranked sample of the data set into two equal parts. Half of the sample values are less than the median, half are greater. Calculating the median reveals the central trends in a dataset.

Table 1 shows the main results of the statistical analysis. Visualization of the calculation results of three value fields is shown in Figure 2.

Table 1. Characteristics of the results obtained

Index Warm period

Minimum The minimum values correspond to forest vegetation, according to thermal images it is possible to divide the dense forest vegetation of slopes and interfluves, which is characterized by minimum values and more sparse vegetation of elevated areas.

The maximum values of the sample correspond to water bodies, and the water of the Kola Bay has a higher intensity of thermal radiation than lakes

Cold period

The maximum values of thermal radiation are characteristic of the non freezing Kola Bay. The thermal structure of the Kola Bay is homogeneous. Land lakes are no longer released, as they are covered with ice and have a lower intensity of thermal radiation.

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Index Warm period Cold period

within the city. Moreover, the resulting image shows the thermal structure of the Kola Bay (there is a decrease in the intensity of thermal radiation from north to south, a decrease in the intensity of thermal radiation from the coastal zone to the center of the bay is also clearly visible, which may be an indirect sign of the warming influence of port zones).

Near the lakes, shallow waters of southern exposure are clearly distinguished, which are better warmed up by the sun.

The lakes clearly distinguish shallow waters of the southern exposure, which are better warmed by the sun

On the territory of the city, the warmest were Lake Quarrynoye and Srednye Lake.

Urban development is characterized by average values of thermal radiation.

Anthropogenic buildings are characterized by average values of the intensity of thermal radiation.

On the resulting raster, geological structures (cracks) are clearly readable.

The minimum values within the city correspond to the “Yellow Mountain” quarry in the deposit of boulder gravel sand material (this indirectly indicates that during the cold period of the year, work on the quarry is not carried out).


The minimum values are the Kola Bay (without separation of the thermal structure of the water), slightly higher intensity of thermal radiation of the lakes. Anthropogenic buildings stand out brightly: residential and industrial buildings, a port zone.

The most “hot spots” are the shopping center “Murmansk Mall”, one of the workshops of the Murmansk fishing port, the Hipermarket “Tvoy”, the 186th microdistrict (is an industrial zone).

Median Not only anthropogenic buildings are clearly distinguished, but also the zone of influence of anthropogenic buildings. For example, in the north eastern part of the city, “Languages” of increased intensity of thermal radiation are visible, and these “languages” stretch much to the east of the technogenic buildings.

According to the authors, in this place there is a removal of air masses heated in the field of industrial production by cuttings under power lines and thalwegs outside the city.

The main trends of the warm season are repeated. The differences lie in the fact that the lakes and the Kola Bay are characterized by the same level of intensity of thermal radiation. The intensity of thermal radiation of anthropogenic buildings is lower than in the warm period.

The hottest spots of the city in the cold period of the year co rrespond to the hot spots of the warm period.

The zone of influence of man made buildings is not as clearly distinguished as on the raster obtained over the summer period, this is due to the fact that anthropogenic buildings are strongly emasculated in the cold period of the year and thermal contrasts between different buildings are no longer so visible, which indicates good thermal insulation of buildings and structures.

The brightest technogenic object at this time of the year is the combined heat and power plant, located in the north east of the city. The waters of the Kola Bay do not freeze due to the warm current. They have the maximum intensity of thermal radiation, against the background of cooled anthropogenic buildings.

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Human Capital in the Russian Arctic

At the next stage, an assessment was made of the influence of natural climatic factors on the health of the population. Currently, there is a high migration activity of the population in the northern regions of the Russian Federation, and therefore studies on the impact of geoecological (natural and climatic) features of the territory on public health do not lose their relevance.

The natural and climatic factors characteristic of the northern territories include: low temperatures, frequent disturbances of the magnetic field, an increased content of toxic substances in environmental components, the polar day and the polar night.

As a result of the analysis of existing data, the influence of various natural and climatic factors characteristic of the northern regions on the functional systems of the body was shown (Table 2).

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Table 2. The influence of geoecological (natural and climatic) factors of the territory, characteristic of the northern latitudes, on the human body

Functional system of the body Natural and climatic factors

Effects on the body

Cardiovascular system Cold period Increased tonic tension of peripheral vessels, increased blood pressure, increased overall peripheral resistance, arterial hypertension, coronary heart disease may develop (Bashkatova, 2014)

Skin, respiratory system Temperature differences at the exit from the room (+28...+30 °С) to frost ( 35... 40 °С)

Such drops lead to spasm of the vessels of the skin and (reflexively) coronary vessels (neurovasculitis damage to nerve endings and small blood vessels). With physical exertion in the cold, ischemic effects can occur, when it is necessary to strengthen the work of the heart, and the coronary vessels narrow from the cold. These drops are also very negative for the skin, which ages rapidly (wrinkles) due to capillary spasms and loss of elasticity. When a person leaves a warm and dry room, the dry frosty air of the street causes a spasm of the capillaries of the mucous membrane of the respiratory system (Bashkatova, 2014, Scafetta, 2007, Voets, 2004, Xie, 2001)

Respiratory system Low indoor humidity Erosion of the mucous tissue of the respiratory system, premature aging of the skin of the hands and face (Bashkatova, 2014)

Skin, vision Reduction of total ozone in the atmosphere

Increase in the incidence of malignant neoplasms, especially with damage to the skin and retina of the eye (Dorshakova, 2004)

Respiratory system Low temperatures “Polar dyspnea” is associated with a change in alveolar ventilation and perfusion, impaired diffusion of gases through the alveolar membrane, morphological changes in the acinus (Aghajanyan, 1987, Anchugin 1988, Vlasov, 1992, Gerasimov, 2003, Popova, 2009)

The body as a whole Frequent non periodic perturbations of the geomagnetic field, which last from a few minutes to many hours

Increased content of toxic substances in the Arctic and subarctic, where they are brought from other regions by sea currents

Metabolism Extreme natural conditions

They act at the molecular and submolecular levels and lead to a special state of the body polar stress syndrome (Bashkatova, 2014)

Chronic intoxication of the body (Degteva, 2004)

“Polar” (“Northern”) metabolic type, in which the body moves to a qualitatively new level of homeostasis, characterized by greater use of fats and proteins for energy needs and less use of carbohydrates (Avtsyn, 1985,

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Functional system of the body

Natural and climatic factors

Effects on the body

Bashkatova, 2014, Kaznacheev, 1980, Panin, 2010, Sevostyanova, 2013, Khasnulin, 2013) Poor absorption of vitamins (Bashkatova, 2014)

Nervous system Polar Day Working capacity decreases, apathy appears, inadequate reactions, a feeling of anxiety and tension, depression occur. A person feels constant drowsiness. The fact that vision at this time transmits little information negatively affects the work of the brain. (Bashkatova, 2014)

Polar Night Increased mental activity, irritability, short temper, sound and light hypoesthesia, lability of mood and emotions (Khasnulin, 2013)

Analysis of national reports on the state of sanitary and epidemiological well being of the population in the regions of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation (State report 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, Report, 2018) allows us to consider such indicators as the total incidence per 1000 inhabitants and the structure of the incidence of the population by risk groups.

From the histogram (Fig. 3) it can be seen that the highest indicator of the total incidence was recorded in the Republic of Komi, the Republic of Karelia and the Arkhangelsk Region.

Figure 3. General morbidity of the population by region

The incidence of the population by risk groups was ranked in descending order of the number of cases per 1000 inhabitants. For the analysis, the first three groups of diseases were considered (Table 3). Table 3 shows a ranked list of three risk groups with the maximum number of cases per 1000 inhabitants by region. In general, from a list consisting of 16 groups of diseases (for which statistics are collected in the framework of reports on the state of health of the population), 4 groups of diseases and injuries are given. From this we can conclude that diseases of the respiratory system, diseases of the circulatory system, musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, diseases of the genitourinary system are characteristic for the regions under consideration.

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Table 3. Groups of diseases with the highest number of cases per 1000 inhabitants


Risk group by quantity cases per 1000 residents 1st place 2nd place 3rd place

Murmansk Oblast Diseases of the circulatory system

Republic of Karelia Respiratory diseases (including SARS and influenza)

Archanel region Respiratory diseases (including SARS and influenza)

Komi Republic Respiratory diseases (including SARS and influenza)

Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue

Respiratory diseases (including SARS and influenza)

Diseases of the circulatory system Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue

Diseases of the circulatory system Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue

Diseases of the circulatory system Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective system ткани

Autonomous Okrug Respiratory diseases (including SARS and influenza)

Yamalo Nenets

Krasnoyarsk Krai Respiratory diseases (including SARS and influenza)

Injury Diseases of the genitourinary system

Injury Diseases of the genitourinary system

The subjects of the Russian Federation under consideration can be clearly divided into three groups according to the prevailing diseases.

1. In the Murmansk region, the region with the most favorable climate (4th place in terms of total morbidity in the list), in the first place diseases of the circulatory system, then diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, and in third place respiratory diseases (including ARVI and influenza).

2. When moving to the north (the Republic of Karelia) and to the east (Arkhangelsk region, the Komi Republic), with an increase in the continentality of the climate, respiratory diseases, including ARVI and influenza, come first, diseases of the circulatory system come in second place, and diseases of musculoskeletal tissue take the third place.

3. Even further east (Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Krasnoyarsk Territory) respiratory diseases remain in the first place, injuries come in second place, and diseases of the genitourinary system come in third place.


The article deals with the issues of preservation and development of human capital in the Arctic. On the example of the city of Murmansk, a method of statistical analysis of multidimensional images in the thermal infrared range on the territory of the city is proposed, which can be used for zoning the natural and climatic factors of the regions of the Russian Arctic. As a result of research on the influence of various natural and climatic factors on the functional systems of the body, the

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Russian Arctic regions were ranked according to the prevailing diseases. It was shown that the regions of the Russian Arctic can be clearly divided into three groups according to the types of prevailing diseases. The Arctic zone is a strategic territory of the Russian Federation in many respects, primarily as the main resource base. Therefore, it is imperative to provide the local population with everything necessary to maintain and improve health: a high level of medical care, prevention and social programs to help the population to ensure a decent standard of living.

The Arctic zone is a strategic territory of the Russian Federation in many respects, primarily as the main resource base. Do not forget that for any production and maintenance of infrastructure, people are needed. As The Doctor of Economics Prof. Viletta Gassiy (2022) notes in her interview to the correspondent of IA REGNUM, “The Arctic is alive as long as people live in it”.


This study was carried out under Governmental Order to Water Problems Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, subject No FMWZ 2022 0002& to Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, subject No FMGE 2019 0005.


Aghajanyan N.A. (1987). Adaptation to hypoxia and bioeconomics of external respiration / N.A. Aghajanyan, V.V. Gnevushev, A.Y. Katkov. M.: RUDN. 186 p.

Anchugin B.A. (1988). Comparative assessment of the vital capacity of the lungs in schoolchildren in the cities of Tyumen and Vladimir. //Pediatrics. № 11. p. 109.

Avtsyn A.P., Zhavoronkov A.A., Marychev A.G., Milovanov A.P. (1985) Human pathology in the North. M.: Medicine, 415 p.

Bashkatova Yu.V., Karpin V.A. (2014) General characteristics of functional systems of the human body in the conditions of the Khanty Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug of Ugra //Human ecology № 5. P. 9 16.

Degteva G.N., Zubov L.A. (2004). Actual issues of social, physiological and metabolic adaptation of the human body to the conditions of the North //Human ecology. № 4. P. 57 59.

Dorshakova N.V., Karapetyan T.A. (2004). Features of pathology of the inhabitants of the North //Human ecology. № 6. P. 48 52.

Eskov V.M., Filatova O.E. (2004). Ecological factors of the Khanty Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug. Part I: General issues of the action of environmental factors on natural and urbanized ecosystems. Surgut: Surgut. St. Univ., 168 p.

Gerasimov I.G. (2003). Interrelation between indicators of hemodynamics and respiration of man //Human physiology. V. 29. № 4. P. 72 75.

Govorova N.V. (2018) Human capital the key asset of the economic development of the Arctic territories // Arctic and the North. 2018. № 31. S. 52 61. DOI: 10.17238/issn 2221 2698.2018.31.52

Kaznacheev V.P.(1980). Mechanisms of human adaptation in conditions of high latitudes. L.: Medicine. 200 p.

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Khasnulin V.I., Khasnulina A.V.(2013) Resistance to psycho emotional stress in the North depending on the imprinted type of adaptive response //Human Ecology. № 1. P. 8 13.

Lukin Yu.F.(2014). Status, composition, population of the Russian Arctic //Arctic and North. No 15. P. 57 94.

Moskalenko M. R., Kropaneva E. M.(2013). Features of human capital and development of the Russian Arctic. The Arctic and the North. No 13.P.1 5.

Panin L.E. (2010) Homeostasis and problems of circumpolar medicine (methodological aspects of adaptation) //Bul. Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. V 3. № 3. P. 6 11.

Popova O.N., Gudkov A.B.(2009). Morphofunctional features of the respiratory system in northerners. //Human ecology. №. 2. P. 53 58.

Report (2018) “On the state of sanitary and epidemiological well being of the population in the Yamalo Nenets Autonomous District in 2018”. Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare. Department of Rospotrebnadzor in the Yamalo Nenets Autonomous District. URL: (retrieved 19.03.2020).

Scafetta N. (2007). Fractal response of physiological signals to stress conditions, environmental changes, and neurodegenerative diseases //Complexity. V. 12, N 5. P.12 17. DOI:10.1002/cplx.20183.

Sevostyanova E.V.(2013). Peculiarities of human lipid and carbohydrate metabolism in the North.// Bulletin of Siberian Medicine. V. 12. №. 1. P. 93 100.

State report (2017) “On the state of health of the population of the Republic of Komi in 2017” Ministry of Health of the Republic of Komi. URL: Report20201720.pdf.

State report (2018) “On the sanitary and epidemiological well being of the population of the Republic of Karelia in 2018”. Office of the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare in the Republic of Karelia. Federal Budgetary Institution of Health care “Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology in the Republic of Karelia”. URL: _o_sanitarno_epidemiologicheskom_blagopoluchii_naseleniya_respublik_kareliya_v/.

State report (2019) “On the state of sanitary and epidemiological well being of the population in the Krasnoyarsk Territory in 2018”. Office of the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Federal Budgetary Institution of Health care “Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology in the Krasnoyarsk Territory.” URL:

State report (2020) “On the state of sanitary and epidemiological well being of the population in the Arkhangelsk region in 2018”. Office of the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare in the Arkhangelsk Region. Federal Budgetary Institution of Health care “Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology in the Arkhangelsk Region.” URL: bd8d 47f5 a800 9d749bf1345a&groupId=10156.

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Violetta Gassiy (2022): “The Arctic is alive as long as people live there.” URL:

Vlasov Yu.A. (1992) Human circulation and gas exchange. Novosibirsk: Nauka: Sib. Department. 319 p.

Voets T. et al. (2004). The principle of temperature dependent gating in cold and heat sensitive TRP channels // Nature. V. 430. P. 748 754. DOI: 10.1038/nature02732.

Xie A. (2001) Exposure to hypoxia produces long lasting sympathetic activation in humans // J. Appl. Physiol. Vol. 91. P. 1555 1562. DOI: 10.1152/jappl.2001.9

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Arctic Yearbook 2022

Comparative Analysis of Living Conditions and Environmental Factors Related to the Population Demography, Well-being and Health in Urban and Rural Areas of Nenets Autonomous Okrug (Arctic Russia):


The present review evaluates, summarizes and comparatively analyzes the information for the period 2000 2019 on living conditions and environmental factors in urban and rural settlements of the Nenets autonomous okrug (NAO) in relation to the assessment of demographic processes, well being (quality of life) and health of the NAO population. This review was prepared using the information accessible in the open sources, primarily the official Rosstat data. The analysis clearly demonstrates that the living conditions in the rural NAO areas are characterized by transport isolation, irregular supply of foods and essential goods, outdated housing and social infrastructure, lack of centralized heating, water supply, sewerage, waste collection and disposal, limited access of the population to medical care, lack of adequate opportunities for education, chil dren's creativity, cultural development, leisure activities, and sports. The living conditions and sanitary epidemiological situation in the rural NAO settlements (especially in the remote and hard to reach villages) should be characterized as unfavourable. The demographic situation in NAO has obvious signs of the formation of a pronounced depopulation trend both among the urban and rural population. The situation among the rural population is alarming: high mortality rates (so far compensated by the high birth rates) accompanied by even higher migration loss, are obviously leading to the further (perhaps irreversible) reduction in the “inhabitability” of the rural NAO areas. Poor demographic situation in the rural NAO areas is accompanied by the increased public health risks (high rates of morbidity).

Aims and tasks

The present review has the aim to evaluate, summarize and comparatively analyze the information for the period 2000 2019 on living conditions and environmental factors in urban and rural settlements of the Nenets autonomous okrug (NAO) in relation to the assessment of demographic processes, well being (quality of life) and health of the NAO population. This report is reviewing information regarding housing, communal services, social infrastructure, focusing on energy supply, heating, water supply, types of service water to households, use of water pretreatment,

Alexey Dudarev and Alexey Dozhdikov are affiliated with the Department of Arctic Environmental Health, Northwest Public Health Research Center, St. Petersburg, Russia.

availability of sewerage, waste collection and disposal, as well as population access to medical care, the healthcare infrastructure, opportunities for education, children’s creativity, cultural development, leisure activities, and sports in NAO. This report is highlighting the present day demographic and public health challenges for living conditions in the rural areas of the isolated Russian Arctic region.

Materials and methods

This review was prepared using the information accessible by fragments in the open sources for the period 2000 2019. To characterize the living conditions of the NAO population (housing, communal services, social infrastructure) the information was collected from the explanatory notes to the NAO territorial planning schemes, “passports” of municipalities, programs for the development of communal infrastructure, and schemes of water supply, water disposal, and waste disposal available at the official website of the NAO administration and the websites of the NAO municipalities, and other technical documentation.

Information on the environmental contamination factors, status of communal and social infrastructure, and sanitary epidemiological aspects of living conditions in the NAO settlements have been collected from the regional Rospotrebnadzor annual Reports “Status of sanitary epidemiological wellbeing in NAO”, 2011 2020 and the Reports of the NAO “Department of natural resources, ecology and agro industrial complex”, 2010 2020.

Demographic data on the population number, birth rates, general mortality and natural increase rates of the NAO population were collected from the Rosstat “Demographic Yearbooks of Russia”, 2002 2020. Information on the net migration rates and the total NAO population change were collected from the Rosstat Bulletins “Number and migration of the population of Russian Federation”, 2009 2020.

Data on the causes of death of the NAO population (compared to other Russian Arctic regions) were additionally collected from the Rosstat “Bulletins “Natural movement of the population of the Russian Federation”, 2008 2019, and regional “Statistical Yearbooks”, 2008 2020.

Data on the morbidity (primary incidence) of the NAO population were collected from the Rosstat Compendiums “Healthcare in Russia”, 2001 2021.

Some additional data on the NAO population health were used from the rare scientific publications describing the results of studies carried out in NAO.

The main data sources used for the preparation of the present review are listed in the references without links in the text, since the abundance of the multi year statistical and technical data (fragmented by individual location, parameter, and calendar year) does not allow citing each element of the information used.

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Dudarev & Dozhdikov

Health Research Center, St Petersburg, Russia.

Figure 1 .

Map of Nenets autonomous okrug (NAO). Source: Alexey V. Dozhdikov, Northwest Public

Comparative analysis of living conditions and environmental factors in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug

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The NAO is located in northwest Russia beyond the polar circle and ranks 20th among 85 Russian regions in terms of area size; the territory stretches for almost 1000km along the coast of three Arctic seas White Sea, Barents Sea and Kara Sea (Fig. 1). The NAO relief is mostly flat, dominated by tundra and forest tundra; marshes and wetlands occupy 19% of the territory. In addition to the main Pechora River, many small rivers and streams flow towards the Arctic seas and the number of lakes exceeds 160,000. Permafrost occupies almost the entire central and northeastern parts of the NAO.


NAO is the least populated region of the Russian Federation with the second lowest population density. Within NAO are: 1 city of Naryan Mar, 1 township of Iskateley, which is the administrative center of the single Zapolyarny district, comprising 40 rural settlements (Tab. 1)

84% of the population resides in the central part of NAO along the Pechora River, including the urban dwellers (74% of the NAO population). 16% of the population (7,000 people) live in remote villages located in the east (territory of intensive oil and gas production 6% of the NAO population) and in the west (residence area of the majority of Indigenous people traditionally engaged in reindeer herding 10% of the NAO population).

Table 1. Demographic features of the Nenets autonomous okrug, 2021.

Territory, km2 176,800 Districts, number 1 Inhabited localities, number 42 Population total 44,400 Population density, people/km2 0.25 Urban settlements, number 2

Urban settlements, population

Naryan Mar city 25,500 Iskateley township 7,400 Rural settlements, number 40 Urban population (% of the total) 32,900 (74%) Rural population (% of the total) 11,500 (26%)

Indigenous population groups: * Nenets, people (% of the total) 7,504 (18 6%) Komi, people (% of the total) 3,623 (9 0%)

Non Indigenous population: * Russians, people (% of the total) 26,648 (66.1%) Ukrainians, people (% of the total) 987 (2.4%) Belarusians, people (% of the total) 283 (0 7%)

* All Russian census 2010 data

28% of NAO population is Indigenous (Nenets and Komi). 76% of the Indigenous Nenets reside in rural areas; 47% of them live in the remote and hard to reach villages. 73% of the NAO territory

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is occupied by reindeer pastures, where 29 reindeer breeding brigades operate employing 860 Nenets who lead a nomadic and semi nomadic lifestyle. Reindeer herding is the main source of livelihood for most Nenets families.


The basis of the NAO economy is oil and gas production; 50 hydrocarbon deposits are being developed in the eastern NAO; the annual production is 13 14 million tons of oil and about 300 million m3 of natural gas. There is no oil refining industry in NAO; oil is transported through NAO territory by the pipelines network with a total length of more than 1,400 km. The produced gas is not supplied outside the region, it is mainly used by oil companies. Gas supply to NAO population is extremely limited (only the Naryan Mar city and 3 nearby settlements are supplied). Fuel for the needs of majority of NAO settlements is annually purchased in neighboring Arctic regions (additional costs for the region’s budget) and transported by sea in the frames of the “Northern Delivery” (11,000 tons of diesel, 24,000 tons of coal, 9,000 m3 of firewood on average annually in 2018 2020).


NAO is the only region of the European part of Russia that does not have railway and highway transport links with neighboring regions. In rural areas there are no paved roads; off road vehicles are in use in winter season by “winter roads” between some settlements. About 85% of the annual amount of cargo (primarily fuel and basic products) is transported by the “Northern Delivery” in summer up the rivers.

Air transport is extremely dependent on weather conditions. The passenger flights are irregular and expensive. Two airports (“Naryan Mar” and “Amderma”) and 16 unpaved runways in rural settlements are available in NAO. The only local aviation company fleet consists of several light airplanes and a couple dozen of helicopters. There is a high degree of deterioration of aircrafts and ground aviation infrastructure. It should be noted the irregularity in the delivery of foods and vital goods to many settlements, especially to the remote ones; there is a deficit in the supply of some food products (vegetables, fruits, dairy products, etc.) both in summer and winter.

Energy supply

Energy supply of NAO should be considered as a set of systems that provide heat and electricity separately. The developed system of heat supply is functioning only in Naryan Mar city and Iskateley township, as a network of boiler houses powered by natural gas. The only one in NAO “Naryan Mar Power Plant” (gas powered) is supplying with electricity the Naryan Mar city, Iskateley township and two neighboring villages.

In 12 rural settlements (30%) the heat supply systems are small scale; it means that small boiler houses and short heat supply networks serve mainly the “socially significant objects” (administrations, kindergartens, schools, medical units, etc); dwellings are heated by their own small boilers or stoves. In 28 villages (70%), there are autonomous boiler houses serving separate municipal buildings; private houses are heated by individual boilers and stoves. Only in two villages (5%) natural gas is in use as fuel for boiler houses, in other 38 NAO villages either coal (85%) or diesel (10%). Coal and firewood are used for stoves in private houses all over NAO, with the exception of two gasified settlements (Fig. 2).

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Figure 2 and all subsequent figures relating to power supply, water supply and sanitation, social infrastructure and consumer services, incl. education and health care (Figures 3 6) reflect the state of affairs in 2010, i.e. in the middle of the 20 year period under study (2000 2019). All the recent changes (they are minor) that occurred between 2010 and 2019 are discussed in the text in each separate section. As for fuel, in the period 2016 2019, the coal was replaced by diesel in 7 villages, while 27 villages (67.5%) continue to use the coal today

Electricity supply for 87.5% of the rural settlements is provided by local stationary diesel electric power generators. Electricity for the remaining 12.5% of the villages is generated in neighboring settlements and come by the electric power lines. Heat and power generating equipment, electric and heat networks in NAO are characterized by a high degree of wear.

Figure 2. Energy


in rural NAO settlements in 2010 (number and % of villages).

There is no control of air pollution or monitoring of atmosphere quality in NAO. It’s impossible to assess or predict (for different settlements) the exposure levels and potential health risks associated with air emissions of soot (BC particles of various dispersion: PM10, PM2.5, etc) and other products of fuel combustion, emitted into the atmosphere almost all year round

For the settlements, where the coal is the main fuel for local boilers and stoves, the problem of air pollution is very acute. In these settlements, stacks of coal (and heaps of slag from its combustion) are usually located near the boiler houses, close to dwellings and objects of social infrastructure (schools, kindergartens, medical units, etc). As a result, the inhabitants of these settlements (including children and pregnant women) are directly double exposed to harmful polydisperse carbon fractions relatively rough coal dust plus fine BC particles. In the residential buildings in such settlements, when the wind blows from the side of the boiler house, it is difficult to breathe;

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residents complain on the layer of black dust, constantly accumulating on surfaces in apartments (even with the windows closed).

Water supply and sanitation

Naryan Mar city and Iskateley township are equipped with the centralized groundwater supply systems. Water from the boreholes for Naryan Mar enters the storage reservoirs, where the aeration and partial settling of water takes place. The water taken from the storage tanks enters the network to the consumer without chlorination. Water treatment facilities in Iskateley township were built in 2016; in the period 2000 2015 water from boreholes flow to the distribution network without treatment. The unsatisfactory sanitary and technical condition of water supply networks, the lack of scheduled repairs leads to the emergencies and enhances the risk of the secondary contamination of drinking water.

The centralised sewerage system with sewage treatment facilities exists only in Naryan Mar. Water disposal in Iskateley township was carried out in cesspools and septic tanks; further, liquid municipal wastes (in the period 2000 2017) were transported to the unauthorized dump near the township. Starting from 2018, the housing and communal sewer waters from the Iskateley township began to be transported to the treatment facilities of Naryan Mar. Wastewaters after treatment at Naryan Mar does not meet the requirements of hygienic standards for microbiological and physico chemical parameters. Sewer networks and treatment facilities are worn out, which increases the risk of emergencies.

The abundance of permafrost and swampiness of NAO territory cause significant difficulties in supplying rural population with high quality drinking water. Amderma township (former military base) is the only one rural settlement where the centralized water supply and sewerage systems function, but the sewage waters through the gravity collectors are discharged into the Kara Sea lagoon without treatment.

As for the rural areas (Fig. 3), the centralized water supply and sewerage systems were absent during the whole period 2000 2019 in 39 villages (97.5%), including 25 villages (62.5%) where the decentralised water supply (without distribution networks) was functioning in 2000 2009 The decentralised sewerage in these 25 villages is organized (up to now) by accumulation of sewage waters in individual or group cesspools, after which they are taken out without cleaning to the unauthorized dumps.

During 2000 2009, there was no water pretreatment in all rural settlements. In some settlements the drinking water was delivered through trucked service. In 2010, 5 villages supplied from the underground sources, and 2 villages supplied from the surface sources, have been equipped with a “block water treatment facility” (Fig. 3).

In 14 villages (35%) during 2000 2009 there was no water supply at all; for the drinking and household needs the people independently delivered water from rivers and lakes, and used melted ice (harvested in late autumn) in winter and spring. In the period 2015 2019, in 7 villages (half of these 14) the decentralized water supply systems (incl. installation of the “block water treatment facility”) have been constructed. There is still no water supply in 7 villages (17.5%) today.

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* Centralized water supply and sewerage systems in Amderma.

Figure 3. Water supply and sewerage in rural NAO settlements in 2010 (number and % of villages).

In sum it should be concluded that in 2010 the residents of 32 villages (80%) used untreated water; in 2019 the number of such villages dropped to 21 (52.5%). That means that nowadays half of the NAO villages still drink the untreated water, although it is well known that the water from surface water bodies in NAO is characterized by high levels of turbidity and chromaticity, poor self cleaning ability, low mineralization, high content of iron and organic compounds, severe worsening of quality parameters during spring floods. On the other hand, an unsatisfactory quality of underground NAO waters is caused, as a rule, by poor self protection of aquifers due to replenishment with surface waters, and by violation of the rules while operating water intake facilities.

The control (and monitoring) of the quality of water sources and drinking water in the rural NAO areas is hampered by a shortage of personnel, laboratory equipment, material support and funding of the regional Rospotrebnadzor. The office of Rospotrebnadzor is located only in Naryan Mar city; it has no any territorial branches. For inspections of legal entities, the Rospotrebnadzor employees travel each year to some villages; trips to small remote villages are carried out occasionally. As a result, there are shortcomings in coverage of the controlled settlements (especially remote and hard to reach), regularity and frequency of data collection, value of the collected materials. All this does not allow an adequate assessment of the state of environment (incl. water quality) in various settlements, taking into account their significant territorial disconnection and remoteness from the center. There is no any data on water quality in the villages, where water supply is not organized, and where the people obtain water on one’s own.

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Solid wastes disposal

Disposal and utilization of solid wastes (incl. hazardous) is a very serious problem in NAO. There is a single authorized disposal facility for solid wastes in NAO an open ground area nearby Naryan Mar city which receives wastes from the city, and also from Iskateley township (since 2017) and Krasnoye village (since 2016). In all rural settlements the solid wastes are placed at unauthorized dumps, which are often located near water intakes and residential areas. In the Amderma township the area of unauthorized dumps (including scrap metal and barrels of fuel and lubricants) is more than 10 hectares with a total volume of 5 7 thousand tons.

Garbage collection at container sites and its further transportation with specialized equipment (garbage trucks) are organized only in 5 settlements (Naryan Mar, Iskateley, Krasnoye, Kotkino and Nizhnyaya Pesha villages). In 15 rural settlements (36%) the collection and accumulation of solid wastes is organized by local authorities in non specialized containers. The subsequent removal of wastes to unauthorized dumps is carried out 1 3 times a year (often only “after the snow melts”) by trucks, tractors, bulldozers and other non specialized vehicles. In 22 rural settlements (52%) there is not any arranged procedure for the collection and transportation of wastes; people independently take out wastes by personal transport (snowmobiles, dog sledges) “to swamps or tundra”.

It should be noted that the environmental pollution in the rural settlements (particularly in the remote and hard to reach) is caused by the presence of unauthorized dumps, chaotic placement of fuel storage sites, the proximity of housing and social facilities with boiler houses, garages, repair shops and other technical facilities

Social infrastructure and consumer services

Social infrastructure and consumer services in rural NAO settlements presented in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Social infrastructure and consumer services in rural NAO settlements in 2010 (number and % of villages).

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In urban NAO settlements the secondary general education (11 classes) is available today in 6 schools in Naryan Mar and one school in Iskateley township; the preschool education is available in 9 public and 6 private kindergartens in Naryan Mar and in 3 public kindergartens in Iskateley township.

Rural settlements face shortage of schools and kindergartens. In 2010, 12 villages (30%) had no schools; 28 villages (70%) had one school (Fig. 4). Available levels of school education in rural settlements in 2010 presented in Figure 5.

In 2010, 26 villages (65%) had a kindergarten, while 14 villages (35%) did not have (Fig. 4). The situation with schools and kindergartens in rural NAO settlements got worse in 2014 2017 when in 3 small villages where the preschool/elementary school units (school and kindergarten are combined in one building) were closed. As a result the number of rural settlements deprived of the educational entities has increased to 15 villages (no schools 37.5%) and 17 villages (no kindergartens 42.5%).

Figure 5. Structure of school education in NAO rural settlements, 2010 (number and % of villages).

In 2017, 70% of schools in NAO did not meet modern requirements for equipment and facilities. In rural areas 46% of schools did not have indoor sport facilities; 25% of schools were not equipped with centralized water supply and sewerage; many school buildings needed major repair. As part of the state program in NAO, measures are currently being taken to build new schools and carry out renovation of school buildings.

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Secondary vocational (professional technical) education is available only in Naryan Mar. Higher education is currently unavailable in NAO; higher institutions from neighboring Arkhangelsk oblast, which previously had branches in Naryan Mar, were closed in 2007.


There are several cultural institutions in Naryan Mar, including a palace of culture, central library, ethno cultural centre and two museums. There are no theatres, concert halls, or circuses in the NAO capital.

In the Iskateley township and in each of 36 rural settlements (90%) during the whole period 2000 2019 the single so called “House of culture” was available. Usually it is a relatively small building with 2 3 rooms, with a library, and a space for children’s and adult’s creativity (amateur folk art, singing, dancing, etc). Obviously, such houses provide very limited opportunities for leisure activities and cultural entertainment for the residents of a settlement. Four villages (10%) have no “Houses of culture” (Fig. 4).


There are 54 sports facilities in Naryan Mar, including 30 sport halls, swimming pool, indoor ice rink, shooting range, ski base. Sport hall, ski roller track, two hockey courts and 2 gyms are available in Iskateley township.

In 26 villages (65%) the sports indoor facilities were absent in 2000 2017 (Fig. 4), apart from some unequipped (uncovered) outdoor sports grounds. 8 villages (20%) dispose only a sport room in a local school in 2000 2019. In 6 rural settlements (15%) the “sport recreation complexes” were built in 2010 2015; in 2 villages the indoor sports facilities were built in 2019.

Consumer services

In Naryan Mar city and Iskateley township, there are enough organizations providing consumer services to the population, such as public baths, canteens, restaurants, bars, various shops, etc.

During 2000 2019, 15 villages (37.5%) are deprived of bathhouses; 24 rural settlements (60%) have no canteens. Only 13 villages (32.5%) have more than one shop, where people can buy all foods and goods (Fig. 4).


Specialized medical care in NAO can be obtained in the state medical institutions in Naryan Mar (Nenets okrug hospital, Nenets okrug dental clinic, Nenets okrug tuberculosis dispensary) and in Iskateley township (Central Zapolyarny district polyclinic), and also in few private medical organizations in Naryan Mar. High tech medical care is unavailable in NAO, due to the lack of appropriate opportunities.

The Nenets okrug hospital disposes 243 beds in 13 specialized medical departments; there are also 37 beds in the “day hospital” and 20 beds in the outpatient clinic.

The key problem of the NAO healthcare system is the limited access of rural population to medical aid and treatment. The lack of reliable transport routes, low level of logistic links and low accessibility of medical institutions for residents of remote settlements, the shortage of doctors, especially “narrow” specialists, and deficiency of the adequate laboratory facilities worsen the quality of medical care for the population. As of 2019, 60% of the rural healthcare buildings were

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constructed in the middle/second half of the 20th century and require major repairs and modernization.

In 25 rural settlements (62.5%) only primary medical care in the first aid posts (one medical assistant on staff) is available. There was an outpatient clinic in 10 villages (25%) in 2000 2015, which, as a rule, employ one general practitioner and 2 7 mid level medical workers (Figure 6). The outpatient clinic has no inpatient sector (no beds); after receiving primary medical care the patients are treated at home, and if necessary, are referred for consultation or inpatient treatment to the Nenets okrug hospital in Naryan Mar.

In 2016, the outpatient clinics in four villages were abolished to first aid posts, which made medical care even less accessible and qualified for the rural population. Today 29 villages (72.5%) dispose only first aid posts.

Figure 6. Health care institutions in NAO rural settlements in 2010 (number and % of villages).

Hospitals disposing inpatient departments (10 25 beds) are available in five rural settlements (12.5%). Unlike outpatient clinics, hospitals employ more doctors (2 4) and mid level medical staff (up to 17).

Ambulance (including medical evacuation) for the residents of remote villages is provided by air ambulance. On average annually, 230 air ambulance flights are carried out in NAO; more than 400 NAO residents are evacuated to Naryan Mar; about 60 patients are evacuated outside the NAO. Short daylight in the autumn winter period, lack of airfields in a number of villages, and strong dependence on weather conditions hinder the flights.

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Due to the nomadic lifestyle, the reindeer herders have no regular access to health care units. Nevertheless the NAO reindeer herders are not completely deprived of medical care. The medical social project “Red Chum” was reestablished in NAO on the initiative of the Association of the Nenets People “Yasavey” with the financial support of the oil and gas company LUKOIL in 2002. In 2008, the project received a long term annual planned character and new financial partners. The main objectives of the project are: access to medical care for the nomadic population in hard to reach areas, examination and treatment of reindeer herders and their families, medical prevention, first aid training, providing the pharmaceuticals. The mobile medical teams of the “Red Chum”, usually consisting of several medical specialists, are annually visiting some reindeer herding brigades in the remote NAO areas.

Analysis of the demographic data

Figure 7. Number of NAO population (urban, rural and total) in 2000 2019.

The total NAO population number in the period 2000 2019 slightly increased by 6.5%, which was determined by the increase of the urban population by 24.9%, while the rural population has decreased by 24.2% (Figure 7).

The demographic rates presented in the figures below cover the period 2011 2019, as no data on the urban and rural NAO population (separately) are available for earlier years in the Rosstat materials.


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An increase in the total NAO population number in the period 2011 2019 (by 4.1%) was due to a high birth rate (16.0 per 1000 on average), more than 1.5 times higher than the general mortality rate (9.4 per 1000), slight natural increase (6.6 per 1000), relatively low migration rates ( 1.5 per 1000) with a positive overall population growth (5.1 per 1000). There is an impression of a relatively favorable demographic situation in the region; however, the real state of affairs should be evaluated separately for the urban and the rural NAO population in dynamics in recent years (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Rates of births, general mortality, natural increase (RNI), net migration and total population change of urban, rural and total NAO population in 2011 2019 (per 1000).

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While in the period 2011 2019 the birth rate of the urban NAO population is 20.3% lower than that of the rural population, both groups have about quarter decrease in 2016 2019. At the same time the general mortality rate of the rural residents (14.3 per 1000) is almost twice as high as the death rate of the urban ones (7.4 per 1000). The positive natural increase rate in NAO is provided (in 2011 2016) mainly by the urban population, but the intensive drop in 2017 2019 is determined by the urban and particularly the rural population (up to 1.3 per 1000).

The positive migration increase rate of the urban population in 2011 2015 is replaced by a decline in 2016 2018, while in the countryside the migration loss is relatively constant throughout the entire period of 2011 2019 (averaging 21.6 per 1000). As a result, some total population growth in NAO (5.1 per 1000) is accompanied by a high overall decline in the rural population ( 17.2 per 1000) with a significant overall urban population growth (14.3 per 1000). However, the urban population growth is determined by its exceptionally high rates (up to 24.5 per 1000) in the period 2011 2015, which was followed by the sharp downward trend in the period 2016 2018 (Figure 8). Thus, it should be stated that the demographic situation in NAO got worse significantly in recent years; there are obvious signs of the formation of a pronounced depopulation trend both among the urban and rural population. The overall growth of the urban population has dropped by an order of magnitude over the period 2011 2018, primarily due to the progressive increase in migration loss. The situation among the rural population should be characterized as critical: high mortality rates (so far compensated by the high birth rates) accompanied by even higher migration loss, are obviously leading to the further (perhaps irreversible) reduction in the “inhabitability” of the rural NAO areas.

Additionally, it is important to note that, according to the official Rosstat estimates, the life expectancy at birth in 2019 for the rural NAO population is 67.4 years, which is 8.3 years less than the corresponding value for the urban population (75.7 years).

Analysis of the mortality data (caus es of death)

NAO has the second highest (24.1 per 10,000) mortality rates from external causes of death (averaged for the period 2000 2019) among all Russian Arctic regions, after Chukotka autonomous okrug (28.0 per 10,000); Komi republic is the “third ranked” (22.2 per 10,000).

Figures 9 and 10 show the dynamics of crude mortality rates from the main causes of death (external and circulatory) for the urban and rural NAO population; the standardized mortality rates are unavailable in the Rosstat materials.

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Figure 9. Mortality from External causes of death, crude rates for urban and rural NAO population in 2000 2019 (per 10,000).

Figure 9 demonstrates that the average (for 20 years) mortality rate from external causes among the rural NAO population is 2.3 times higher compared to the urban population. However both population groups have a decreasing mortality trend during 2000 2019 (by 73.4% for the urban and by 38% for the rural NAO population).

Suicides make significant contribution to the mortality from external causes. NAO has the second highest (59.5 per 100,000) mortality rates from suicides (averaged for the period 2006 2019) among all Russian Arctic regions, after Chukotka autonomous okrug (61.3 per 100,000); Yakutia republic is the “third ranked” (37.2 per 100,000). Data on the NAO suicide mortality for 2000 2005 are unavailable in the Rosstat materials.

The study of fatal suicides in NAO in 2002 2012 has demonstrated 1.5 times higher standardized suicide mortality rates in the Indigenous Nenets population (72.7 per 100,000) which reside mainly in rural areas, compared with the non Indigenous population (50.7 per 100,000) which are mainly urban dwellers (Sumarokov et al., 2014).

It has long been established that alcohol is a major risk factor for external causes of death, incl. suicides, particularly among the Indigenous people of the Arctic. In the frames of the same study of fatal suicides in NAO in 2002 2012, it was shown that alcohol was present in the blood (postmortem analysis) of 78.3% of male and 92.3% of female suicide cases among the Indigenous NAO population. Data from the neighboring Arkhangelsk oblast (non Indigenous people) showed significantly lower proportions of blood alcohol content in the fatal suicide cases (59.3% in males and 46.6% in females) (Sumarokov et al., 2016).

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Figure 10. Mortality from diseases of Circulatory system, crude rates for urban and rural NAO population in 2000 2019 (per 10,000).

A similar (to the external causes) situation is observed for the circulatory mortality (Fig. 10). The average circulatory mortality rate among the rural NAO population is 1.5 times higher than the level among the urban population, and both curves are descending (by 52.1% among the urban and by 24.8% among the rural population) in the period of 20 years.

Table 2 demonstrates that the rates of mortality from neoplasms, diseases of digestive system, respiratory system, infectious parasitic diseases among the NAO rural population are higher than the corresponding rates among the urban population, particularly for the infectious and parasitic diseases.

Table 2. Crude mortality rates for some causes of death among rural and urban NAO population, averaged for 2000 2019

Causes of death

Urban population death rate (per 10,000)

Rural population death rate (per 10,000)

Excess of the rural death rates over the urban (%)

Neoplasms 13.7 17.3 27%

Digestive system diseases 4.3 4.6 7%

Respiratory system diseases 2.7 3.0 9%

Infectious and parasitic diseases 0.73 1.17 60%

Additionally, it is worth mentioning that the infant mortality among the rural NAO population (19.3 per 1,000 live births) was on average 1.6 times higher than in the urban population (11.9 per

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1,000 live births) in the period 2000 2011, but during 2012 2019 the infant mortality levels in both population groups significantly decreased and became similar (4.0 per 1,000 live births).

Analysis of the morbidity data (primary incidence)

Data on the morbidity (primary incidence) are available only for the total NAO population; data on the morbidity of the NAO rural and urban population are unavailable wherever in the official statistics.

NAO is characterized by the highest (1567.2 per 1000) general morbidity rates (averaged for the period 2000 2019) among all the Russian Arctic regions, followed by Yamalo Nenets autonomous okrug (1169.9 per 1000) and Chukotka autonomous okrug (1165.8 per 1000).

NAO is also the “leader” of infectious parasitic primary incidence (65.5 per 1000) in the Russian Arctic; the second and the third “places” are occupied by Komi Republic (51.9 per 1000) and Yamalo Nenets autonomous okrug (49.1 per 1000).

Our study 10 years ago (Dudarev et al., 2013) based on the official data from the Federal database “Social Hygienic Monitoring” has demonstrated that in the period 2001 2011, among all regions of the Russian Arctic, Siberia and the Far East, the NAO average primary incidence levels of certain food and waterborne diseases were rather high, incl. bacterial infections (salmonellosis 43.7 per 100,000; shigellosis sonnei 20.6; yersiniosis 3.72), protozooses (giardiasis 323.8 per 100,000), helminthiases (enterobiasis 1079 per 100,000; beef tapeworm 1.089; pork tapeworm 1.5; diphyllobothriasis 213.9) and zoonoses (tularaemia 0.8 per 100,000). The NAO incidence rates of the giardiasis and enterobiasis were the highest among all the studied regions.

High levels of parasitoses (giardiasis, enterobiasis, diphyllobothriasis, etc) were described in NAO during the target parasitological studies of 2002 2013 when the additional serological diagnostic methods have been applied both in the rural and urban NAO settlements, among Indigenous and non Indigenous population. The authors attribute the high levels of parasitoses among the rural NAO population to the unsatisfactory sanitary and hygienic living conditions, household overcrowding, lack of centralized water supply and sanitation, lack of sewage treatment in most rural settlements; the entry of pathogens into open water sources causes the contamination of drinking water. The authors point to the ineffectiveness of measures aimed at the prevention of parasitoses in NAO, especially in relation to children; in practice, measures are reduced only to the treatment of identified infested persons (Bobyreva et al., 2016).


NAO is an isolated Arctic region which does not have railway and highway transport links with neighboring regions; there are no paved roads in the rural areas. Air transport is irregular and expensive; delivery of foods and vital goods to the remote settlements is sporadic. Despite the fact that the basis of the NAO economy is oil and gas production, the gas supply to the NAO settlements is extremely limited; the fuel (coal, diesel, firewood) for the majority of the NAO settlements is annually purchased in the neighboring Arctic regions and transported by sea in the frames of “Northern Delivery”.

The centralised systems of heat and electricity supply, water supply and disposal, sewage and solid wastes disposal are functioning only in two urban settlements. Coal or diesel is used as fuel in

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autonomous boiler houses serving separate municipal buildings in most of rural settlements. Coal and firewood are used for stoves in private houses all over the region. Electricity supply in villages is provided by local stationary diesel electric power generators. There is no control of air pollution or monitoring of atmosphere quality in NAO.

Nowadays all rural settlements (except one former military base) are deprived of the centralized water supply and sewerage systems; in most villages the decentralised systems are organized without distribution networks. Some settlements are supplied by drinking water through trucked service. As a rule, the rural settlements use drinking water without pretreatment. Accumulation of sewage waters in cesspools, with subsequent delivery (without cleaning) to the unauthorized dumps is applied in most villages. There is still no water supply and sewerage in seven villages now; people independently deliver water from rivers and lakes, somewhere using melted ice harvested in late autumn. The control (and monitoring) of the drinking water quality in the rural areas is inadequate; in the villages, where the people obtain water on one’s own, the water quality is out of control.

In all rural settlements the solid wastes are placed at unauthorized dumps, which are often located near water intakes and residential areas. In a half of rural settlements the collection or transportation of wastes is not organized; people take out the wastes by personal transport (snowmobiles, dog sledges) to “swamps or tundra”.

The availability of the entities of social infrastructure and consumer services in the rural settlements is extremely insufficient; in many villages there are no schools, kindergartens, “houses of culture”, indoor sport facilities, bathhouses, canteens. Majority of villages have only one shop, where people can buy foods and goods.

The key problem of the NAO healthcare system is the limited access of rural population (particularly of the remote settlements) to medical aid and treatment. The shortage of doctors, especially “narrow” specialists, deficiency of equipment and laboratory facilities worsen the quality of medical care. In most rural settlements only primary medical care is available in the first aid posts (one medical assistant on staff).

The demographic situation in NAO got worse significantly in recent years; there are obvious signs of the formation of a pronounced depopulation trend both among the urban and rural population. The overall growth of the urban population has dropped by an order of magnitude over the period 2011 2018, primarily due to the progressive increase in migration loss. The situation among the rural population should be characterized as critical: high mortality rates (so far compensated by the high birth rates) accompanied by even higher migration loss, are obviously leading to the further (perhaps irreversible) reduction in the “inhabitability” of the rural NAO areas.

NAO has the second highest mortality rate from external causes of death (incl. the suicide rate) among all Russian Arctic regions; the rural NAO population has 2.3 times higher rate compared to the urban.

NAO has the highest general morbidity and the infectious parasitic primary incidence among all the Russian Arctic regions. Some authors attribute the high levels of parasitosis among the rural NAO population to the unsatisfactory sanitary and hygienic living conditions, household overcrowding, lack of centralized water supply and sanitation, lack of sewage treatment in most rural settlements.

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Thus the living conditions and sanitary epidemiological situation in the rural NAO settlements (especially in the remote and hard to reach villages) should be characterized as unfavourable. This is confirmed by high migration loss, high rates of mortality and the increased public health risks (high rates of morbidity)


This study is the first stage of the implementation of the Northwest Public Health Research Center research term “Assessment of living conditions and environmental factors in relation to spatiotemporal distribution of medical demographic indicators among population (on the example of Nenets autonomous okrug)”, included in the Rospotrebnadzor Research Program for the period 2021 2025.


Bobyreva, N. S., Korneeva, Y. A., & Degteva, G. N. (2016). Analysis of parasitological situation in Nenets autonomous district. Gigiena i Sanitaria (Hygiene and Sanitation), 95 (2), 157 162, DOI: 10.18821/0016 9900 2016 95 2 157 162

Bulletin “Natural Movement of the Population of the Russian Federation” (2008 2019). Rosstat. Retrieved from

Bulletin “Number and migration of the population of Russian Federation” (2009 2020). Rosstat. Retrieved from

Compendium “Healthcare of Russia” (2001 2021). Rosstat. Retrieved from

Demographic Yearbook of Russia (2002 2020). Rosstat. Retrieved from

Dudarev, A. A., Dorofeyev, V. M., Dushkina, E. V., Alloyarov, P. R., Chupakhin, V. S., Sladkova, Y. N., Kolesnikova, T. A., Fridman, K. B., Nilsson, L. M., & Evengard, B. (2013). Food and water security issues in Russia III: food and waterborne diseases in the Russian Arctic, Siberia and the Far East, 2000 2011. International journal of circumpolar health, 72, 21856.

Report “On the results of the activities of the head of the Administration of the Zapolyarny region” (2019). Administration of the Zapolyarny region. Retrieved from

Report “On the state of reindeer breeding in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug” (2019). Department of natural resources, ecology and agro industrial complex. Retrieved from https://dprea.adm dlya olenevodov/

Reports “On the state and protection of the environment in NAO” (2010 2020). Department of natural resources, ecology and agro industrial complex. Retrieved from https://dprea.adm

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Dudarev & Dozhdikov

Reports “Status of sanitary epidemiological wellbeing in NAO” (2011 2020). Rospotrebnadzor. Retrieved from

Statistical Yearbooks of the NAO (2010 2020). Rosstat. Retrieved from

Sumarokov, Y. A., Brenn, T., Kudryavtsev, A. V., & Nilssen, O. (2014). Suicides in the Indigenous and non Indigenous populations in the Nenets autonomous okrug, northwestern Russia, and associated socio demographic characteristics. International journal of circumpolar health, 73, 24308.

Sumarokov, Y. A., Brenn, T., Kudryavtsev, A. V., Sidorenkov, O., & Nilssen, O. (2016). Alcohol and suicide in the Nenets autonomous okrug and Arkhangelsk oblast, Russia. International journal of circumpolar health, 75, 30965.

Territorial planning documents. Department of construction, housing and communal services, energy and transport of NAO. (2009 2017). Retrieved from https://gkh.adm i gradostroitelstvo/dokumenty territorialnogo planirovaniya/

Comparative analysis of living conditions and environmental factors in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug

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Constructing the Russian Arctic as a Special Economic Zone

The Russian Federation has the biggest land area in the Arctic and has been gradually expanding its definition by joining new regions and territories that previously were not considered Arctic to its Arctic Zone of Russian Federation (AZFR). In recent years, two incentivizing programmes, the Arctic Hectare and the Resident of the AZRF, were introduced to stimulate the social and economic development of the AZRF. The resident status in the AZRF provides an investor with a set of privileges for investment activity, including tax incentives. From 2020 to November 2022510 companies received the status of resident and are collectively all support programmes areexpected to contribute to over 33,400new jobs. This study is aimed at comprehensively reviewing the construction of the AZRF concept as a Special Economic Zone. In the analysis, I focus on the business incentivizing programmes through the lenses of sustainability, hence identifying how economic, social and environmental concern s are incorporated into the Resident of the AZRF programme. Results demonstrate that the economic pillar of sustainability outweighs social and environmental concerns in the construction of the Russian Arctic as a Special Economic Zone.


The Russian Arctic has been the focus of development by the Russian state. The last 15 years saw growing attention to the Arctic in Russia, which has been reflected in legislative and strategic efforts. Strategic documents for the future of Arctic development in Russia position Arctic territories as a strategic resource base to accelerate the country’s economic growth, improve socioeconomic conditions of local populations, and protect the environment and Indigenous peoples’ original habitat and traditional way of life in this territory.

Economic growth in the Russian Arctic is fuelled by extractive industries. Rapid industrialization and urbanization of the Russian Arctic affects local communities and Indigenous Peoples that continue to face difficult socioeconomic conditions, including the loss of their traditional homes and methods of natural resource management due to land allocations for industrial development or pollution of land, water, and other natural resources.

The recent addition to the management of Russian Arctic territories was the introduction of the Federal Law “On State Support for Investment Activities in the Russian Federation's Arctic Zone” in July 2022, which creates a set of preferences and benefits for large, medium, and small businesses

Alexandra Middleton is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Oulu Business School University of Oulu.

Alexandra Middleton

willing to invest in developing the Russian Arctic (Federal Law 2020, N 193 FZ). The law makes the whole territory of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation (AZRF) equivalent to a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) with a defined set of benefits and appointed a managing company in the name of Far East Development Corporation. This approach is novel for modern Russia because it involves support mechanisms not for specific sectors, but the whole AZRF when the state puts efforts and resources to enable the region’s growth. Some initial studies investigate quantitative and qualitative indicators of the current state of AZRF, including the number of residents, their business activities, and their relationship to future investment projects (Anciferova & Vasil’eva, 2021). However, the empirical base is rather small due to the novelty of the support mechanisms.

The purpose of this study is to conduct an in depth analysis of the AZRF idea as it relates to the creation of a Special Economic Zone. In the analysis, I trace the creation of AZRF from a historical perspective and later highlight incentive programs from the lenses of sustainability, thereby highlighting how economic, social, and environmental issues are incorporated into these initiatives. In addition, I assess how international sustainability frameworks, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, are reflected in these programs.

The article proceeds as follows. Section 1 discusses methodology and data. Section 2 reviews the literature on Special Economic Zone (SEZ) research. Section 3 provides evidence of the development of the AZRF concept and its composition. Section 4 focuses on the business incentivizing programmes in AZRF and Section 5 provides results and discusses challenges regarding these programmes from a sustainability angle. Section 6 concludes.

Methodology and data

The study builds on reviewing the development stages of the AZRF in line with regulatory changes and by looking at the expansion of the AZRF composition. A review of SEZ literature is evoked to see how the current regime in the AZRF corresponds to international practices, especially on the sustainability dimension.

The data is gathered from the regulatory legal acts of the Russian Federation, the Federal State Statistics Service, and publications of domestic and foreign scientists. Since the incentivizing programmes for the development of AZRF are relatively new starting from 2020, there is still a very limited number of scientific publications. Comprehensive statistical data is lacking. Hence findings from this study are of an exploratory nature.

Literature review on Special Economic Zones

Special economic zones (SEZs) are areas with particular economic advantages, for example lower taxes than the rest of the country to encourage investment. SEZs are generally defined as geographically delimited areas that are administered by a single body. These zones offer certain incentives to businesses that are physically located within the zone, such as generally duty free importing and streamlined customs procedures (FIAS, 2008).

Most developing and many developed economies use SEZs. Within these delimited areas, governments provide fiscal and regulatory incentives and infrastructure support. In 2019 there were 5,400 zones in 147 economies, up from 4,000 five years ago, and 500 more were in the works. The SEZ surge is part of a new wave of industrial policies and a response to competition for international investment (UNCTAD, 2019). Developed countries have basic free zones for trade

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logistics. Developing economies use multi industry, specialized, or innovation focused integrated zones for industrial development. New SEZs and development programs are emerging. Some SEZs focus on high tech, financial services, or tourism instead of trade and labor intensive manufacturing. Others emphasize environmental performance, science commercialization, regional development, or urban regeneration.

The premise under which SEZs are created is that they attract investment, create jobs, and boost exports directly and indirectly by building economic links. Zones support Global Value Chain (GVC) participation, industrial upgrading, and diversification. However, these effects are not automatic. In fact, many zones underperform. SEZs aren’t a prerequisite or guarantee for higher Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) or GVC participation. Most zones grow at the same rate as the national economy after the build up period and many zones become enclaves with limited impact (UNCTAD, 2019).


In the Chinese context, Liu et al. (2007) investigated the interaction of economic growth and environmental quality in Shenzhen, the first SEZ in China established in 1980. The massive growth of infrastructure, industrial sites, and urban communities has drastically altered the local environment. Authors apply the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) which is built on a hypothesis that the relationship between economic growth and environmental degradation is inversely U shaped, meaning that environmental pollution increases in the early phases of economic growth and environmental quality improves as income levels rise. The results by Liu et al. (2007) demonstrate that production induced pollutants support EKC while consumption induced pollutants do not support it. When it comes to Shenzhen’s economic development, foreign investment and joint ventures were essential in creating economic growth (Liang, 1999). A study by Zhao et al. (2022) investigating a link between special zones in China and their environmental impacts finds that lower investment standards and concentrated pollution from industry agglomeration harm the environment.

Zheng et al. (2016) studied the effects of development zones on the economic development of host regions in China. Macro level data analysis revealed that development zones, while beneficial in developed regions, do not contribute to economic growth in proportion to their land share in host cities. The authors propose that the central government of China should not expand development zones without limits, but rather should give careful consideration to the location and size of proposed development zones in relation to the regions that will host them before approving any of them.

In India, the introduction of SEZ in 2006 was aimed at improvement in terms of exports, employment, and infrastructure. At the same time, the states that introduced SEZ were accused of land grabbing. According to the findings by Akon (2018), these SEZs have not been successful in bringing about the socioeconomic development of the local community because Indian state politicians use state owned development corporations for rent capture, which undermines the potential efficacy of SEZs. One reason for the failure of SEZs is the lack of the right incentives for local politicians.

Concentrating only on creating an investor friendly industrial zone in the state of Jharkhand in India led to violation of the rules and ignoring the needs of other stakeholders. As a result,

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Jharkhand granted project approval to businesses even though no public hearings were held and little or no input from the affected communities was obtained. Jharkhand acquired privately owned land for industrial estates on behalf of private companies and established district wide land banks (Sundar, 2011). Chaudhuri & Yabuuchi (2010) found that without government spending on irrigation projects and other infrastructural development, SEZ formation hurts agriculture in India.

If agriculture receives more than a critical level of government aid, agricultural wages and economic employment may improve. To fully benefit from the SEZ policy, agriculture and industry must be balanced. The creation of SEZ relied heavily on the acquisition of vast acreage of land for new industries and mines as well as for large scale farming and infrastructure projects. Tension over land deals in the Indian state of Goa was intensified by the introduction of Special Economic Zones (Bedi, 2015).

In the Russian context, the region of Kaliningrad represents an SEZ case study in which the development of the region over 20 years reformed from customs tariffs to profit taxation preferences in the environment of institutional instability. In the framework of the SEZ, a study by Garaeev (2013) concluded that the trade off must be made between economic stimulation programs and economic efficiency in the Kaliningrad region.

Overall, the development of SEZs while beneficial economically can have potentially negative environmental and societal impacts. Also, since the beginning of special economic zones advancement in developing countries, people have been concerned about how zones affect employment (in terms of gender, wage levels and benefits, worker rights and working conditions, and worker rights in general), the environment, and other social factors that are related to employment (FIAS, 2008). To alleviate such imbalances design of SEZs requires holistic thinking, for example, by applying the UN Sustainable Development Goals and by incorporating ESG principles in reporting and accountability. Potential land conflicts, stakeholders’ concerns, and the role of public opinion and acceptance are crucial for the functioning of SEZs. The primary goal needs to be that special economic zones (SEZs) work toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), transforming them from privileged enclaves into sources of widespread benefits (UNCTAD, 2019).

Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

The Russian Federation has the largest area of the Arctic contributing to 50% of the total Arctic area, 60% of the total Arctic population, and 75% of the Gross Regional Product (ECONOR, 2020). The location outside the Arctic Circle and access to the Arctic Ocean are the two most important aspects of belonging to the Arctic. Each Arctic state has its distinct characteristics, and in exceptional cases, the boundaries of their land Arctic territories have been expanded to increase the scale of state support for the development of the Arctic zone (Gal’tseva et al., 2022)

There are many criteria for identifying what means to be Arctic and different schools of thought on what to consider the Arctic. In his monograph “Many faced Arctic in the stream of time and meanings”, Yuriy Lukin lists the following criteria: geographical, socio economic, and political legal criteria. The Arctic Circle (66°33’44”); geographical differentiation of Arctic landscapes and zoning of territories; natural and climatic criteria; internal administrative territorial boundaries of subjects and external boundaries of territorial waters, exclusive economic zones of Arctic states; cultural and ethnic landscapes; Arctic communities; economies; and geopolitics (Lukin, 2019).

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More specifically, in the Russian context, Zhukov et al. (2017) and Zhukov et al. (2018) propose the following set of criteria for a territory to be considered the Arctic:

1. Latitude based UV deficiency subzone assignment: Inclusion in the Russian Arctic requires, in the north, subzones of moderate UV deficiency (if other criteria are met).

2. Arctic and subarctic climates assessed by bioclimatic discomfort in life of populations.

3. Arctic/subarctic landscapes:

Except for Kamchatka and the Sea of Okhotsk coast, tundra and forest tundra territories are included in the Russian Arctic. Adding northern taiga territories to the Russian Arctic is possible (if it is justified by other criteria)

4. CAFF border as a criterion for inclusion in the Russian Arctic (if it is justified by other criteria).

5. Arctic specifics of economic systems:

Transport and economic gravitation to the Northern Sea Route and being in the zone of its influence; adjacency to the Arctic Ocean; peripherality, isolation, and remoteness of Arctic economic systems from large industrial centres; focal nature of the territory’s development; pronounced uneven settlements, the concentration of people in settlements; mono and oligoprofile of the towns.

Analysing the southern border of the Arctic as a biogeographic boundary, Doctor of Geographical Sciences Arkadiy Tishkov states that the decision on the composition of the Russian Arctic is “not the result of a physical geographical, medical biological or environmental scientific study, but a political act that takes into account natural, social, demographic and political realities, as well as the convenience of the state management” (Tishkov, 2012: 31).

From a legal perspective, the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation was defined by the Presidential Decree of May 2, 2014 No. 296 as “On the land territories of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation” (Presidential Decree of May 2, 2014 No. 296). The AZRF stretches across four Federal Districts in Russia (see Figure 1). Internal sea waters and territorial seas, areas of the Russian Federation’s continental shelf, and land and islands that do not belong to foreign nations and could in the future be opened in the Arctic Ocean from Russia’s coast to the North Pole are all included in the AZRF’s territory.

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The composition of the AZRF changed three times since 2014 (see Figure 2) when the territories included in the AZRF were stipulated by the Presidential Decree of May 2, 2014 No. 296 (Presidential Decree of May 2, 2014 No. 296). Initially, the AZRF comprised territories of four northernmost Arctic regions and all their municipalities: Murmansk Oblast, Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. One municipality from the Komi Republic (Vorkuta), five municipalities from the Sakha Republic, three municipalities from Krasnoyarsiy Krai and six municipalities from Arkhangelsk Oblast were included in AZFR in 2014.

Consequently, in 2017, the Presidential Decree of the Russian Federation of June 27, 2017 No. 287 introduced amendments to the composition of AZRF by adding three municipalities from the Republic of Karelia (Presidential Decree of June 27, 2017 No. 287). The leadership of the Republic of Karelia had repeatedly advocated for the inclusion of Kemsky, Loutsky, and Belomorsky of the Republic bordering the White Sea, into the Arctic zone. This would make them eligible for federal budget subsidies in the millions of dollars for the development of coastal municipalities experiencing significant economic and infrastructure issues (Batov, 2017).

In his interview with the newspaper Izvestia, Professor Alexander Pilyasov stated that “in an attempt to change the status of the regions of Karelia, there is a certain artificiality, but it reflects the objective trend of raising the status of the Arctic territories against the northern ones, which is happening in our country” (Izvestia, 2017). The addition of three municipalities from the Republic of Karelia to AZRF was driven by the interest to raise the status of these regions, making them

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Constructing the Russian Arctic as a Special Economic Zone Figure 1. Land territories of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation (Source: Troy J. Bouffard, 2020).

eligible for budgetary funds aimed at social, industrial, and transport infrastructure development to assist in business development.

Further, in 2019 the AZRF expanded by the inclusion of an additional eight municipalities from the Sakha republic. According to the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 13.05.2019 No.220, the territories of the Abyisky ulus (district), Verkhnekolymsky ulus (district), Verkhoyansk district, Zhigansky national Evenki district, Momsky district, Srednekolymsky ulus (district), and Eveno Bytantaisky national ulus (district) are included in the land Arctic zone (Republic of Sakha Yakutia). All eight districts are fully or partially located beyond the Arctic Circle. Previously, the Arctic zone included five regions located along the coast of the Arctic Ocean.

The latest expansion is documented in the Federal Law “On State Support for Investment Activities in the Russian Federation’s Arctic Zone” (Federal Law of 13.07.2020 N 193 FZ). While the law was still in development it prompted some Russian Federation regions to justify the incorporation of new territories (municipalities) in the Russian Arctic. Eventually, three municipalities in Komi Republic, ten municipalities in Krasnoyarskiy Krai, and three municipalities in each Arkhangelsk and Karelia Republic were added to the list in 2020 The motivation to be admitted to AZRF territory is the result of a large scale list of tax and customs preferences, as well as preferential normative regulation of labour relations for Russian Arctic residents (Khodachek, 2021).

AZRF 2014

Murmansk Oblast

Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

Komi Republic (1 municipality)

Sakha Republic (5 municipalities)

Krasnoyarskiy Krai (3 municipalties)

Arkhangelsk Oblast (6 municipalities)

AZRF 2017

Murmansk Oblast

Nenets Autonomous Okrug Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

Komi Republic (1 municipality)

Sakha Republic (5 municipalities)

Krasnoyarskiy Krai (3 municipalties)

Arkhangelsk Oblast (6 municipalities)

Republic of Karelia (3 minicipalities)

AZRF 2019

Murmansk Oblast

Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

Komi Republic (1 municipality)

Sakha Republic (13 municipalities)

Krasnoyarskiy Krai (3 municipalties)

Arkhangelsk Oblast (6 municipalities)

Republic of Karelia (3 minicipalities)

Figure 2. Changes in AZRF composition (Compiled by the author).

AZRF 2020

Murmansk Oblast

Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Komi Republic (4 municipalities)

Sakha Republic (13 municipalities)

Krasnoyarskiy Krai (13 municipalities)

Arkhangelsk Oblast (9 municipalities)

Republic of Karelia (6 minicipalities)


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It appears that the latest Federal Law on the AZRF takes a managerial approach and solves ambiguities in defining what territories are considered as Arctic in Russia. The list of all territories that are included in the AZRF presents what the Arctic is in the eyes of the legislator. The Federal Law determines the composition and status of the Russian Arctic that is used for supportive measures (e.g., entrepreneurial and infrastructure development support).

Socio economic characteristics of AZRF

The population in the AZRF has been declining since 1990. Figure 3 demonstrates population change in the AZRF from 2014 when the concept was first introduced. Growth in population in 2020 2021 is stipulated by the inclusion of new municipalities, not by the natural growth of net migration. Preliminary results of the Population Census (2021) paint a not so favourable picture for the AZRF. In the AZRF areas that are fully included (Murmansk Oblast, Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug and Chukotka), the population has collectively reduced by 145,000 from 2010 to 2021 with the biggest decrease in Murmansk Oblast where it decreased by 16% or by 127,238 people.


2.59 2.25 2.30 2.35 2.40 2.45 2.50 2.55 2.60 2.65 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2 020 2021 2022

Figure 3. Population in AZRF, million people, 2014 2020. Source: Rosstat, compiled by the author. The population is not evenly distributed within the AZRF with the most densely populated regions being Murmansk, Karelia and Arkhangelsk situated in the North West Federal District contributing to 63% of the AZRF population (see Figure 4). The population in AZRF is highly urbanized with 87% of the population living in urban settlements in 2021.

Population in AZRF, million people, 2014 2022 Source: Rosstat, compiled by the author 63%

AZRF population distribution by Federal districts, 2022. Source: Rosstat, compiled by the author North-West Federal District Ural Federal district Siberian Federal District Far-East Federal Distrct

Figure 4. AZRF population distribution by Federal districts, 2022. Source: Rosstat, compiled by the author.

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23% 10% 5%

In terms of economic development, the AZRF has been ahead of the average turnover of organizations across Russia. Turnover is the sum of sales and other operating income. Figure 5 demonstrates the turnover of organizations in RUB expressed as an index for the period 2016 2021. The AZRF economy has performed stronger than the rest of Russia with turnover growth of 133% over 2016 2021 while in Russia the growth was 85% over 2016 2021. Note that the index is calculated using current prices.

Turnover of organizations in RUB in AZRF, index 2016=100, 2016 2021. Source: Rosstat, calculated by the author.







233.3 184.6 100.0

240.0 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021

Figure 5. Turnover of organizations in RUB in AZRF, index 2016=100, 2016 2021. Source: Rosstat, calculated by the author.

Review of the business support programmes in AZRF

Business development in the Russian Arctic is affected by poor transportation accessibility, high energy costs, remoteness from administrative centres, and significant costs for compensation due to Far North employees’ benefits, which comprise travel compensation every two years, regional coefficients and allowances (Emelyanova, 2019).

In this article, the focus is on the new Federal Law on state support for entrepreneurial activity in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation (Federal Law 2020, N 193 FZ). The Federal Law defines the legal status of economic entities of the North as future AZRF residents, mechanisms for regulating AZRF residents’ activities, conditions for signing an investment agreement, amendments, and termination. The term “resident” in this context refers to the company or individual entrepreneur acting as an investor, hence, not to be confused with people who live in the Arctic. The state becomes a legal advocate for entrepreneurship in the Arctic, and the Far East Development Corporation is empowered to represent and defend residents’ interests in court in disputes with government authorities (Slepcov, 2020). According to some Russian experts, the law largely duplicates the provisions of current federal legislation, which allows for the establishment of various legal regimes: Federal Law ‘On Advanced Social and Economic Development Territories in the Russian Federation’ and Federal Law ‘On Special Economic Zones in the Russian Federation’ (Koshkin, 2020).

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Middleton AZRF Russian Federation

The Russian Far East and Arctic Development Corporation (FEDC) is the management company of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation, the Free Port Vladivostok, and the advanced special economic zones in the Far Eastern and Arctic constituent entities of Russia. During a meeting with investors from AZRF the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin said:

The Arctic is now becoming a favourable region for investment. Today, the largest special free zone in the world has been created in our northern regions. It should become an attractive place for businesses from completely different industries and different scales, and attract, among other things why not foreign investors. It’s definitely a very large number of industries that could be attractive, whether it’s a fish processing plant, or a small hotel, or medical care companies. Everyone should get an equal opportunity here. Moreover, this is enshrined in a package of laws on state support for entrepreneurial activity in the Arctic (Government of Russian Federation, 2020)

The reference of the AZRF to the special economic zone concept is not a coincidence because incentivizing measures are targeted at economic development and support for entrepreneurs. Unlike the system of “northern” benefits (northern coefficients of wages depending on the severity of natural living conditions, allowances for the length of service in the regions of the Far North, additional vacation days, payment for the road to the place of vacation once every two years, and some others), benefits that are defined in the new Federal Law are not guaranteed by default (Zamyatina, 2021). Rather these benefits need to be actively sought after and require capital investments from the applicants, with a minimum of 1 million RUB (equivalent to EUR 17,800) of declared investments.

In sum, the benefits include income tax breaks (except for mining projects); compensation of insurance premiums in respect of new jobs (except for mining projects); severance tax benefits for projects in the field of mining and processing of solid minerals; benefits for land and property taxes; obtaining land plots without bidding; the possibility of creating a free customs zone on the site; protection from excessive unscheduled inspections by supervisory authorities; qualified defence in court in case of disputes with authorities; the possibility of obtaining concessional financing of investments from credit institutions; and targeted support and assistance in solving any problems from the federal ministry (Zamyatina, 2020).

Support measures can be classified into three categories (see Figure 6). These comprise a Programme of the resident of the AZRF, subsidies for infrastructure development and territory of advanced development “Capital of the Arctic”.

Resident of the AZRF

• Aimed at large and small and medium enterprises

Subsidies for infrastructure development

• Aimed at big infrastructural projects

Figure 6. Components of support measures available in AZRF in 2022.

Territory of advanced development “Capital of the Arctic”

• Aimed at separate areas of the city Murmansk, Kola district and closed administrative territorial entity Vidyaevo

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Constructing the Russian Arctic as a Special Economic Zone

Resident ofthe AZRF

The programme resident of the AZRF was made possible as a result of Federal Law “On State Support of Business in the Russian Arctic Zone” (Federal Law 2020, N 193 FZ). The Federal Law defines a resident of the AZRF as “an individual entrepreneur or a legal entity that is a commercial organization, the state registration of which is carried out in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation (with the exception of state and municipal unitary enterprises), which have concluded an agreement on the implementation of investment activities in accordance with this Federal Law Arctic zone of the Russian Federation (hereinafter referred to as the investment activity agreement) and included in the register of residents of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation” (clause 2 of article 2 Federal Law 2020, N 193 FZ). The focus of the programme is to assist business development in the AZRF by providing business support and taxpayer incentives Beneficiaries of the programme are project developers in the Arctic Region of the Russian Federation who are planning to invest more than 1 million rubles in their ventures. The Russian Federation strictly regulates and simplifies the registration process for Arctic residents. The deadline for registration of residents from the date of submission application is 37 days. A resident of the Arctic zone is an individual entrepreneur or a commercial legal entity, registered on the territory of the Arctic zone.

State support for SMEs in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation is necessary since it contributes to the creation of new jobs, reduces unemployment and develops a regional market for goods and services (Kirillova, 2021). Any interested person who fulfils the criteria from the Federal Law to become a resident and has prepared a set of documents, including the investment project’s business plan, can receive Arctic resident status. After business plan approval, the company management company Far East Development Corporation seals the contract.

The tax preferences are summarized in Table 1. They include tax benefits, subsidies and insurance premium rates.

Table 1. Types of taxes and benefits for residents of AZRF (Source: Russian Far East and Arctic Development Corporation).

Typeof tax/benefit


Income tax 0% for ten tax periods after the resident receives the first profits Mineral extraction tax (MET) rate

1) 0.5 of the current rate (for solid minerals; only for new deposits. The amount of the benefit may not exceed the amount of private investment in infrastructure, enrichment or processing)

2) Zero MET rate on the production of combustible gas used exclusively for the production of liquefied natural gas and/or as a raw material for the production of goods that are petrochemical products produced at new production facilities put into operation after January 1, 2022

VAT Zero VAT rate for works (services) involving the carriage of goods outside the Russian Federation by sea transport, and the provision of icebreaker assistance services for sea vessels engaged in the carriage of goods outside the Russian Federation

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Subsidy 75% of the amount of insurance premiums (for new jobs only; does not apply to projects in the field of mining)

Insurance premium rate 7.5% for big businesses residents in the AZRF 3.75% insurance premium rate applies for SMEs resident in the AZRF

Apart from tax breaks, the residents receive administrative benefits. Administrative preferences include the ability to apply the free customs zone (FCZ) procedure to built up and equipped plots used by Arctic Zone residents, as well as the provision of state or municipal owned land plots to Arctic Zone residents without a bidding process, the possibility of conducting inspections concerning Arctic Zone residents only with the approval of the Ministry for Development of the Russian Far East and the Arctic, and the simultaneous conduct of environmental expert assessments and state expert assessments of design and estimate documentation in a shorter time frame. In court, residents’ interests are protected (the Management Company has the right to defend and represent the interests of the AZRF residents who have applied to it in court). Special regulations for the operation of checkpoints on the Russian Federation’s border in the Russian Arctic are applied.

Any investment project over 1 million rubles can become a resident of the Arctic zone and receive tax benefits. Arctic residents have lower tax rates than the rest of Russia and, in some cases, the Far East. In October 2021 the Cabinet of Ministers made it simpler for small businesses to obtain Arctic zone resident status. Previously, organizations seeking resident status were required to invest in the renovation or construction of the real estate. The Government of the Russian Federation approved a list of 58 types of activities for which companies can become residents of the Arctic zone without the requirement for construction or reconstruction of capital facilities. Among these activities are forestry, animal husbandry, furniture production, metal processing, clothing, publishing, paper and leather goods, the provision of educational services, waste collection and disposal, and healthcare. It is hoped that this order will become an incentive for the socio economic development of the Russian Arctic (TASS, 2021).


This element of support mechanism includes provision of government budgetary aid in the form of tax breaks and subsidies for capital investments made in infrastructure facilities. Beneficiaries are initiators of new investment projects in Russia’s Arctic Zone, with investments totaling more than 300 million rubles. The project’s goals should align with strategic planning documents that guide socioeconomic growth in the Russian Arctic. The project requires new or updated infrastructure and capital construction facilities. The anticipated state support should not exceed 20% of the project’s private investments and the project shall create jobs.


This support measure applies to separate areas of the city Murmansk, Kola district and closed administrative territorial entity Vidyaevo. Its first resident was NOVATEK Murmansk, which had a project involving the construction of large offshore structures. A special legal regime in the “Capital of the Arctic” is extended to 38 types of economic activity. Port activities, construction,

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and logistics continue to be the ASEZ’s primary specializations. So far, eight residents of the “Capital of the Arctic” have been granted the status of resident.


The Federal Law has Article 28 that mentions the standard of responsibility of residents of the Arctic zone in relations with the Indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation living and (or) carrying out traditional economic activities in the Arctic zone (hereinafter referred to as the responsibility standard). The responsibility standard, a list of principles recommended for use by Arctic residents when interacting with Indigenous peoples in their traditional residences and economic activities, was approved by the Order of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East No. 181

This Responsibility standard includes the following principles:

• promoting the sustainable development of Indigenous peoples, improving their quality of life and preserving their original habitat;

• participation of representatives of Indigenous peoples in decision making on issues affecting the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples in the development of natural resources in places of traditional residence and traditional economic activity;

• cooperation in improving the socio economic situation in the places of traditional residence and in the territories of traditional nature management of Indigenous peoples when a resident of the Arctic zone carries out his activities;

• openness of the activities of a resident of the Arctic zone for Indigenous peoples and their organizations, state authorities and local self government in all environmental and socio economic issues affecting the interests of Indigenous small peoples;

• minimizing the negative impact of the economic activities of a resident of the Arctic zone, taking into account the social, environmental, and natural vulnerability of Indigenous peoples and the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation as a whole;

It should be noted that the responsibility standard is advisory. It includes a resident of the AZRF conducting an environmental impact assessment, taking into account the Arctic’s vulnerability and Indigenous peoples’ traditional use of natural resources; compensation for damage caused by the resident’s economic and other activities that affect Indigenous peoples’ habitat; etc. Another principle is the participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making on issues affecting their rights and interest in natural resource development in traditional residences and economic activities. This principle requires preliminary coordination of the resident’s project with Indigenous peoples and consultations before starting industrial development projects in places of traditional residence and economic activity.

Results and Discussion

The historical analysis of constructing the AZRF concept in the Russian Federation demonstrates that the AZRF definition has been changing over the time with the addition of some territories whose Arctic status could be contested. The expansion of AZRF follows a managerial logic with a strong emphasis on providing support for socio economic development of these territories.

According to the official state narrative, the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation (AZRF) is the largest special economic zone in the world where investors enjoy special tax and administrative


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regulation regimes. The measures to support entrepreneurial activities in the AZRF are comprehensive and, in many instances, correspond to practices adopted in SEZs worldwide. However, the focus of the support mechanism is on the business registered in the AZRF, not on the attraction of foreign investment per se like it has been the case in the developing countries adopting SEZ programmes. The support measures are driven by economic considerations so far resulting in EUR 13.4 billion of expected investments in Resident of the AZRF alone and their social impact is most visible in job creation. In fact, statistics from the Resident of AZRF website indicate that since 2020 till November 2022, there have been 23,048 new jobs announced to be created as part of the resident of AZRF programme, 5,806 jobs as part of subsidies for infrastructure development and 4,579 as part of the territory of advanced developemnet “Capital of the Arctic”(see Figure 7) This adds up to a total of 33,433 new jobs announced and EUR 19.6 billion of investments announced.

Type of support programme

Number of residents/projects

Ammount of investments announced

Number of jobs to be created announced

Resident of the AZRF 526

RUB 811 billion (EUR 13.4 billion) 23,048


RUB 215 billion (EUR 3.5 billion) 5,806

Territory of advanced development “Capital of the Arctic” 8

RUB 162 billion (EUR 2.7 billion) 4,579

Figure 7. Results of business support programmes in AZRF as of November 2022. (Source:, compiled by the author).

The magnitude of economic and social impact in terms of announced job creation is big, at the same time, the Federal Law text itself and also the website for applying to become a resident do not have references to global sustainability frameworks like the UN SDGs.


The responsibility standard as part of the Federal Law is of an advisory nature. It has been criticized because some of the provisions of the draft order that meet the interests of the Indigenous peoples of the North, were excluded when the document was adopted in its final form. The draft document included the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the Indigenous peoples of the North of the Russian Federation to make decisions affecting their rights and legitimate interests. Part 2.2 of the current standard includes instead the principle of participation representatives of Indigenous peoples in decision making on issues affecting the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples regarding the development of natural resources in places of traditional residence and traditional economic activity, such as the FPIC principle that has been replaced by the principle of

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Subsidies for infrastructure development

participation (Ivanova & Litvinov, 2022). Moreover, the draft document was unique as it introduced signing an agreement on compliance with the standard between a company (resident) and the federal authority in the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and approved methods for monitoring compliance with it (Murashko, 2021). The final standard did not include these items either. Some researchers, however, note that the responsibility standard, although advisory, can have a positive impact on balancing business interests in developing Arctic natural resources and Indigenous peoples interested in preserving their original habitat and improving their quality of life (Samonchik, 2022).

Concerns have been raised in the sphere of land allocation to the residents of AZRF according to Federal Law. This concerns Article 15 “Features of the provision of land plots and real estate objects located on them”. A delegation of the management company’s administrative powers carries certain risks since the company is directly interested in expanding business activities in the Arctic zone, which may affect the objectivity of considering the region’s social and environmental characteristics when allocating land plots. Land plots are leased to residents on a preferential basis without bidding for the duration of the investment agreement unless the resident declares a shorter period (clause 39, clause 2, article 39.6). Decree of the Russian Federation dated February 1, 2021 No. 91 approved rules for the provision by the Arctic zone management company of state or municipal land plots (Samonchik, 2021).

The simplified procedure for providing land plots established by the Federal Law is not sufficiently justified. According to Samonchik (2021) the law pays little attention to the region’s vulnerable land. No criteria are established for refusing applicants to provide the requested land, which can harm the interests of Arctic Indigenous peoples (Samonchik, 2021). Concerns over land management and relations with the Indigenous peoples in the AZRF mirror challenges in the SEZs in India (Akon, 2018; Sundar 2011; Chaudhuri & Yabuuchi 2010). Lessons learnt from the development of SEZ elsewhere shall be taken into account for the future of AZRF business incentivizing programmes.

Federal Law does not include separate provisions on environmental responsibility. The capital construction projects that require environmental assessments are listed in the Federal Law of November 23, 1995, N 174 FZ “On Environmental Assessment” and the “Town Planning Code” of the Russian Federation. Article 16 of Federal Law states that capital construction projects that are not subject to “On Environmental Assessment” and the “Town Planning Code” of the Russian Federation and do not cause significant harm to the environment and its components, can be carried out from the date of submission of project documentation prepared for capital construction projects.

The universalization and unification of state support measures for conducting business in the harsh Arctic conditions and other Russian SEZs located in other regions of Russia do not take into account the particulars of conducting business in the Arctic (Koshkin, 2020). Various federal and regional legislative acts govern a variety of Arctic Indigenous peoples and land management issues. However, the nature of such regulation is neither consistent nor adequate. Although all territories of the Russian Arctic inhabited by Indigenous peoples are designated as specially protected natural areas, those territories continue to engage in commercial activities (Lipski & Storozhenko, 2019).

The state program of the Russian Federation “Socio economic development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation” (State Program of March 30, 2021, № 484) prescribes indicators regarding

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the AZRF resident programme and by 2024 it is expected that there will be 320 residents. In November 2022, there were already 526 residents. Depending on their type of activity this will mean a higher impact on the environment. Evidence from China implementing SEZs calls for more considerate action in case of rapid expansion of economic activities (Zheng et al., 2016).

By analyzing the business support measures on the AZRF, it becomes evident that the economic pillar of sustainability prevails. The measures indeed provide residents with strong economic benefits and administrative support. At the same, less attention is paid to social and environmental responsibilities that come with the resident status. Several solutions are possible to raise sustainability on the agenda of support mechanisms. First, responsibility standards can become compulsory. Second, residents of AZRF could be required to provide reporting on their Environmnetal, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments. Depending on the size of the business requirements for ESG, reporting can be adjusted. The inclusion of the UN SDGs in the planning and execution of the projects and reporting on achieved indicators can be parts of individual projects. Reporting on the progress of the UN SDGs indicators on the municipal level of the AZRF can be potentially included in the Rosstat reporting.


The article investigated how the AZRF developed into a Special Economic Zone concept with a certain set of economic benefits. In the analysis, I focused on incentivizing programmes for business development and support from the standpoint of sustainability. In doing so, I highlight how economic, social, and environmental concerns are integrated into these projects. In addition, I evaluate the degree to which international sustainability frameworks, such as the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations, are included in these programmes.

The scope and scale of measures introduced in the AZRF are unprecedented. More time will be needed to see the efficiency and effectiveness of the programmes introduced. A managerial approach to the AZRF weighs on economic efficiency. For creating SEZ in the Russian Arctic all aspects of sustainability should be of equal significance. On the other hand, the social and environmental responsibilities that come along with resident status receive less attention. There are a few different approaches that might be taken to accomplish the goal of putting sustainability higher on the list of priorities for support mechanisms. These, for instance, may be raising the status of responsibility standard, requiring ESG commitments as part of granting the resident status and incorporating the UN SDGs principles in the support mechanisms. Lessons learned from SEZ programmes in developing countries can be used to develop more socially, environmentally and economically responsible business support mechanisms in the Arctic context.


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Arctic Conferences: What is the economic impact of choosing locations outside the Arctic to discuss Arctic issues?

Daria Mishina Arctic conferences are a unique setting where representatives of institutions/Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, politicians, scientist/young researchers, activists, and Arctic enthusiasts can meet while still having something in common. While there are hundreds of varied sizes, themes, and formats of Arctic conferences, before the global pandemic the number and variety of Arctic conferences were steadily growing in the world. But what are the impacts of these experiences and what is the value of holding these conferences in the Arctic itself? This article examines and analyzes the correlation between a number of Arctic conferences that were held specifically in the Arctic and in central regions of Canada, Finland, Norway, and Russia between 2012 and 2021. The data collection results identify a difference in the number of participants, focuses, investments, and potential regional impacts between conferences in the Arctic regions versus those in centers or major cities. This article seeks to answer the question does the economic impact of Arctic conferences contribute to Arctic regional development? Additionally, this article highlights potential economic losses of the Arctic regions due to the ongoing organization of international Arctic events outside of the Arctic region.


Apart from the major Arctic conferences that involve thousands of attendees ranging from early career individuals to professionals, such as the Arctic Science Summit Week, the Arctic Frontiers, the Arctic Circle Assembly, and the International Arctic Forum, there are many hundreds of others that take place inside and outside of Arctic countries which gather their attendees for international or local discussions on different interdisciplinary aspects. These include climate change, politics, geopolitics, security, indigeneity, science, technology, and youth. This aforementioned information raises the following questions: if an Arctic conference is held outside of the Arctic, then what about the Arctic regions? Are these conferences for the Arctic regions? What do all these people meet for? What are the major focuses of these conferences? Can anyone interested in the Arctic attend and participate in a conference? Why do some conferences last a couple of hours and others last several days? And what are the reasons to organize Arctic conferences beyond the Arctic regions?

Daria Mishina is a PhD candidate at the University of Lapland; Dr. Lassi Heininen is Professor (Emeritus) at the University of Lapland and Editor of the Arctic Yearbook.

Despite the diversity and relatively long history of the various Arctic gatherings conferences, forums, meetings, workshops, seminars, symposiums with diverse focuses, goals, participation, and locations the first analysis of the Arctic conferences had only been conducted in 2020 by Beate Steinveg. Steinveg’s exploration and further works brought innovative, highly important and valuable analyses of the Arctic conferences and their historical development, which then became the first steps in understanding the importance of Arctic conferences. However, there is still an enormous research gap about the impact and influence of Arctic conferences on the Arctic itself; nor is there any complete statistical data about the Arctic conferences and their venues.

In order to further steps towards bridging this research gap, this article provides an extensive dataset which examines the number of Arctic conferences which were held specifically in the Arctic regions, in comparison to those that were held in central areas. We argue that international Arctic conferences are not for the Arctic regions and while focusing on diverse Arctic issues, the Arctic regions lose not only economically but also miss opportunities to develop its human capital, infrastructure, tourism, and education. This article includes innovative statistical data regarding the international Arctic conferences hosted in Canada, Finland, Norway, and Russia between 2012 and 2021. Moreover, the database includes information about venues, attendance and focuses on the considered Arctic conferences. Additionally, we assume potential losses of the Arctic regions due to the hosting of international conferences outside of the Arctic region by answering the question of whether the economic impacts of the Arctic conferences contribute to the Arctic regional development.

Importance of Arctic Conferences

According to Iii Mark Hickson, conferences are opportunities for networking, presenting, exchanging, and evaluating ideas and projects. Gatherings help colleagues to get to know each other, meet and see those who are working on the same or similar ideas (Hickson, 2006: 3 4). Conferences are most likely the unique discussion platforms where stakeholders from different fields meet each other. The main principals of every conference are dialog and negotiation, when every speaker has time to present, and every attendant has a right to ask questions. Heather Exner Pirot and Joël Plouffe note the growth in the consolidation of people into different forums and institutions after the Cold War (Exner Pirot & Plouffe, 2013). Additionally, Iii Mark Hickson mentions that due to globalization the previous scientific focus of conferences has turned into “communication” (Hickson, 2006: 5). Today the format and focus of the conference are changing as well, and due to the vast range of conferences the largest and most internationally noteworthy events have turned into “exceptionalism”, which could be defined by participants affiliation and citizenship, presentations topics, and by national and international political agendas. Today’s Russian Ukrainian war revealed several weaknesses of Arctic conferences and forums. On February 25, 2022, representatives of Finland and Sweden cancelled their attendance at the Arctic 360 conference in Toronto, because of Russia’s participation there (Quinn, 2022). Additionally, the biggest International Arctic Forum in Russia “Arctic: Territory of Dialogue” was cancelled on March 14th, 2022 by Russian authorities even though the Russian Chairmanship in the Arctic Council was not cancelled, where Russia acts as the Chair. This current global exceptionalism and governance demonstrates how powerful institutions, forums and conferences could be, or want to be. As a result, the importance of the Arctic conference should not be underestimated and their agendas, venues, participation, and influences should be analyzed.

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In order to organize a conference, there are many details that should first be considered. To start, how is a conference funded, and who is it funded by? Usually, the answer to this question sets the agenda for the conference, because governmental or business money could not be against national policies or companies’ reputation. Secondly, a draft of the program or theme of the conference should be defined before the conference announcement, primarily because, based on the above information, potential speakers and participants will be able to submit their applications. The third factor is the location of the conference, because hundreds or thousands of attendees should be able to come to this site (via land, air or rail transport) and buy tickets for this trip, preferably online. Attendants will also need different types of accommodation (from cheap hostels to VIP suits), as well as some cafes and restaurants. Additionally, modern conferences should have technologically equipped space(s) for presentations and be able to conduct international video calls and online participation.

Taking into account the above mentioned factors, we assume that in terms of the Arctic regions with their remote locations, challenging infrastructure and inferior telecommunication systems, big international conferences are more likely to be held in easy to reach regions, with an already developed infrastructure. The location and logistics could be less important factors for some attendees, as well as the main reason for not traveling to the conference for others (Han & Verma, 2014; Falk & Hagsten, 2018). Comparing the three largest Arctic conferences: the Arctic Circle Assembly, the International Arctic Forum and Arctic Frontiers, the latter is less accessible, because attendees must first travel to Oslo and then on to Tromsø; however, it does not prevent 1500 participants from attending.

Moreover, in the case of holding a conference in a central region, all investments stay there including sponsors’ and partners’ investments, income from accommodation, restaurants, logistics, labor forces, and taxes. As a result, we see a vicious circle: there is a significant amount of money for international Arctic conferences, but this money is not for developing Arctic regional infrastructure without which regions cannot hold a similar level of conference. At the same time, centers have all the needed facilities to welcome thousands of international guests, gain financial support and further investment for managing a conference. Consequently, capitals become even richer due to attendees spending money during the conference; and Arctic regions remain in the same place or become even less developed (Sarabipour et al., 2020; Majaneva et al., 2016).

With a deep understanding of inability for most of the Arctic regions to hold an international conference, the fact is that far away from the Arctic people, the “south”/capital/center takes different decisions on Arctic related issues, which highly concerns Arctic inhabitants. As a result, this vicious circle strengthens the idea of continuation, of colonialism, and regional independence. In light of this this inequality and persistence of regional dependence from the center, we argue that Arctic issues should be discussed in the Arctic region, and it should gain all the possible benefits.

Theory and methods

For many researchers, the Arctic region is a site for international discussions (Heininen et al., 1995; Steinveg, 2020) and international Arctic conferences are the sites for these negotiations. According to Geoffrey M. Hodgson, an institution is a formal social structure with certain rules/behaviors (Hodgson, 2006: 4); similarly, every conference has its own set of guidelines and focuses. A conference’s administration follows this set of rules and coordinates the program, the participants,

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and the sites. The major Arctic conferences International Arctic Forum, Arctic Frontiers, and the Arctic Circle are usually connected to federal governments and sponsors Consequently, these conferences become more commercialized and political, rather than scientific (Depledge & Dodds, 2017; Steinveg, 2020; Steinveg, 2021; Safonova et al, 2021; Marchenkov, 2020). Taking into account the importance of international Arctic conferences and the high interest associated with it, we can assume that an Arctic conference is a form of Arctic institution and in this article, Arctic conferences will be analyzed through liberal institutionalism and neo regionalism, which identifies regions as a valuable and important unit of governance, with an important role within the Arctic region for institutions and conferences (Hettne & Inotai, 1994).

The article is based on a comparative analysis which has been conducted qualitatively and quantitatively. The data collection and the analysis had been conducted by the following criteria:

• Field study: Canada, Finland, Norway, and Russia.

• Arctic regions: Canada: Yukon, Northwest Territory, Nunavut; Finland: Lapland, Norway: Finnmark, Troms, Nordland; Russia: Yamal Nenets region.

• Centers: Canada: Ontario, Québec; Finland: Uusimaa, Southwest Finland; Norway: Østlandet, Vestlandet; Russia: Moscow, St. Petersburg.

• Status of a conference: international.

• Format of a conference: offline, minimum two days of its program.

• Attendance: public with an open call.

• Timeframe: within 2012 2021.

• Data searching key words: “Arctic” and its synonyms in a title of conferences: Polar, North, Northern, Circumpolar, Nordic etc. Conferences define as “conference”, as well as forums, summits, international seminars, and symposiums.

These criteria were based mainly on limited data about Arctic conferences, its venues, participants, and agendas. Due to the variety of Arctic events and the inability to analyze all conferences’ agendas with Arctic related presentations, the main selective criteria were found by searching key words in the title of conferences. In order to analyze the impact of international conferences on the Arctic regions, only conferences with a minimum two day duration have been taken into account. The start of the research period was defined as 2012 because according to Beate Steinveg, the first sharp increase in number of Arctic conferences was in 2013 (Steinveg, 2020: 39). Therefore, the analyses from 2012 will outline the growth in more details. Analyses of conferences until 2021 also enable the research to indirectly outline one of the biggest impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic on travelling, change of format, and number of Arctic conferences.

Literature and data analysis

The existing literature regarding conferences is usually focused on a specific conference(s), which is more of a report rather than an analysis. Nevertheless, there is ample research about virtual and hybrid conferences, their effectiveness, and attendance of conferences in general. There is, however, a lack and a gap regarding the analysis and evaluation of Arctic conferences. Interestingly, only after twenty years of an annually increasing number of Arctic conferences B. Steinveg and M.


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Safonova started to analyze the events in 2020 2021. Steinveg analyzed Arctic conferences through historical perspectives, Arctic governance, and global interest to the Arctic. Meanwhile, Safonova et al (2021), examined the influence of Arctic projects and conferences on the image of the Russian Arctic. All the authors highlighted a research gap in the analyses of Arctic conferences, but they also emphasized the importance of the increasing number and forms of Arctic projects/events.

During the data collection phase, we were faced with an enormous gap of statistical data regarding the Arctic conferences. Unfortunately, only a handful of conferences have websites and even less have archived information or reports about the previous events. One of the main problems in searching for the information was the inability to use working hyperlinks, especially for webpages from early 2010s. Even when we found a link for a conference there was an error because some links/links of the conferences or its organizers were no longer available. This is most likely due to the termination of websites or domains because if a conference was held once or several times in the early 2010s, to keep the website running today would require ongoing maintenance and payment for storage and domain hosting services. Therefore, the main goal to collect all the data regarding the number of participants, represented countries, information about further or previous conferences was not fully succeeded. Additional limitations appeared after February 24th, 2022, when sanctions were placed on Russia and therefore Russian sources in general. These sanctions meant that some websites, especially administrative ones, appeared to be unavailable or hacked. Ultimately, by utilizing different browsers, accessing social media posts, applying a variety of search techniques, and requesting information from the organizers, more than 300 different Arctic events were analyzed and the main data pertaining to international Arctic conferences had been collected1. Clicking and turning hundreds of open sources one by one showed information about existing conferences, but on the other hand, only a few of them include details about actual implementation of conferences, participation, program, or previous experiences. Therefore, the additional goal of this paper is to provide an open access to the conducted database by the support and official policy of the University of Lapland; meanwhile the existing lack of data gives space for future researchers who aim to analyze the Arctic conferences.

Summarizing all criteria, definitions, and sources in the Appendix, you see four tables for each country by every year within the considered period of time (2012 2021). The colours in the tables help to visualize the difference in the number of conferences where “blue” is a conference, which was held in the Arctic region and “pink” is a conference in a central region. In order to determine the probability of the economic impact of a conference held in the region on the regional development a formula was developed. The final formula enabled us to understand the minimal losses for the Arctic regions, in case these conferences were organized in a central region:

X * Y * 2 * 100 = Z

X Number of Arctic conferences outside of the Arctic region.

Y Average number of participants at an Arctic conference inside the Arctic region. The calculation was based on accessible collected data.

2 Minimum days of the conference.

100 euro*2 an estimated sum, which every participant (individually or by an organization) minimally spends during a two day conference (includes accommodation, meals, transportation, tourism, and other additional costs, depending on the region and currency exchange).

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Z euro, the minimum loss of potential regional income.

The common practice of participatory fees for some conferences were not taken into account, due to the inability to accurately track if this income went to organizers to cover expenses or to some other beneficiary.

The following paragraphs determine the main aspects, tendencies, forms, and features of international Arctic conferences in Russia, Canada, Norway, and Finland, as well as demonstrates the potential losses for the Arctic regions.


After the analysis of 70 various names of the Arctic conferences in Russia, less than a half have been selected for the database (see Appendix 1) due to the considered criteria. The outlined correlation between the number of Arctic conferences in the Arctic and central region within the last ten years is 21 and 53 respectively. The main reasons for this difference are usually explained by Russian centralization, willingness to attract more speakers and attendees. For the past several years, Russia has had a tendency to make each conference international and Arctic related, even if there is one participant from a foreign country (regardless of if that participant is a Russian citizen or not) this conference might turn to an international level. Another reason for holding conferences in centers rather than in Yamal is infrastructure: transportation variety, roads, airport, labor, accommodation capacity etc. There is no doubt that the hosting capacity of Moscow (10 million) and Salekhard (60 000) could not be compared; even though the Yamal region has ample experience in welcoming international and high level guests. According to the data received, the maximum number of participants in Yamal was 700 people3 in 2013 at the International Arctic Forum “Arctic: Territory of Dialogue”, whereas the maximum number of attendees in the central region is 3600 participants at the same conference and it has become the largest international conference globally (in terms of the number of participants) and the most important Arctic event for Russian Arctic policy 4 The second biggest international Arctic conference in Russia is “The Arctic: present and future” forum, with around 1500 participants on average. These two platforms gather Arctic international leaders, academics, business representatives and specialists. For the last three years these conferences have been held in St. Petersburg and attracted more than 11,000 attendees and speakers. In the history of these conferences (15 all together), only three of them had been held in the Arctic regions: twice in Arkhangelsk and once in Salekhard.

Arkhangelsk’s regional experience in hosting the International Arctic Forum in 2017 gave rise to a number of local and organizational problems for the conference. More than 1500 participants from many different countries arrived in the city which was faced with several infrastructural challenges: the small capacity of the Northern (Arctic) Federal University, and a lack of transport and personnel to maintain the international level of the conference. Due to this experience in 2017, organizers decided to move the forum to St. Peterburg. Initially, Archangelsk was supposed to be a regular host for the International Arctic Forum and for this purpose the Russian government planned to invest 500 million rubles, specifically for the region and the University’s renovation.5 The plans for this investment were later halted and ceased due to the decision that it was too complex of a project to be implemented and would be inefficient. Similar problems also arose in 2013 in Salekhard, Yamal with the International Arctic Forum “Arctic: Territory of Dialogue” Fundamentally, due to the lack of high level accommodation, organizers had to limit the number of participants.


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As for the constant international Arctic conferences in Yamal, there is only the International Forum and Exhibition Yamal Arctic Oil and Gas, which annually holds around 200 participants from national and international oil and gas companies, related institutions, and other specialists. Interestingly, in the long history of the aforementioned conference, it has always been held in Yamal (Salekhard then Novy Yrengoy); however, in 2022 it is going to be held in Tumen, which is a relatively big, non Arctic, Russian city.

The organizer of this conference is “Vostock Capital,” a consultation and event managing company registered in Moscow with a third party agency for organizing major international and local events, this is a common practice in Russia. An example of this practice brings to mind the Roscongress Foundation, a government oriented Russian institution and main high level event company. There is no doubt that the special and experienced agencies are able to organize conferences on a high level, but in terms of regional conferences this practice limits regional labor work as well as all taxes that are leaking out of the region.

Reportedly, among all of the analyzed international Arctic conferences in Russia there are seven regular ones, and 22 different conferences which are held irregularly. Most of the conferences cover a diverse range of Arctic related issues and involve a large variety of participants: from young researchers and activists to experts and high level authorities. The next most popular focus of the international conferences in Russia are those pertaining to the economics, investments, and Arctic natural resources, which usually welcomes business, industrial and political representatives. Other issues such as ecology, culture, indigeneity, youth, health, architecture, legality, permafrost, polar bears have been covered in the last ten years, but these conferences have been held only once or twice (see Appendix 1).

By using our aforementioned formula, we can compare the international Arctic conferences in Yamal with those in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Through this calculation we can estimate the regions economical loss, which is in the realms of 2,862,000 euro.6 This sum of almost three million euro is a potential income which could have been spent on different regional needs, such as infrastructure, education, youth work and other fields. It should be noted that Yamal is the most developed Arctic region in Russia but there are other Arctic regions in Russia that do not even have proper water supply, adequate internet connection and health care infrastructure or other basic human needs. Of course, there is no guarantee that the above sum of money, if obtained by the region, would be spent on these essential needs but at the same time it could be a valuable support for local small businesses, social entrepreneurs, and other regional activities.

By summarizing the analyzed data and calculated potential loss as seen above, the differences between venues become clear. Most of the international Arctic conferences are held in Moscow and St. Petersburg and all of them involve many times more participants, through this added capacity there are more obvious local benefits. The preference to suit capacity over geography extends to the previous conference in Yamal, the “International Forum and Exhibition Yamal Arctic Oil and Gas” in 2022, which was shifted to a bigger city Tumen. This proves that organizing larger conferences with around 1000 participants needs more infrastructural considerations, such as: accommodation, transportation, labor force, presentation rooms, and equipment. Unfortunately, due to this venue’s difference, as well as Russia’s internal centralization of power, the discussions concerning the Arctic usually take place in central regions. Consequently,

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Russian Arctic inhabitants and Arctic Indigenous peoples are not involved in the discussions about the Arctic regions and lose the potential benefits.


Due to several infrastructural, geographical, and political factors, the Russian Arctic could be only compared with Canada. The remoteness of the Canadian Arctic region leads to high costs for participants to attend a conference, if at all. The analysis of more than 50 Arctic conferences in Canada transformed into the detailed analysis of 28 international ones. In the analysis of the Russian conferences the main obstacle was a choice of the Arctic region, due to the wide geographical spread and Arctic conferences’ locations (for instance Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Salekhard). Yet, in Canada’s case, zero conferences have been held in or above the Arctic Circle and only three conferences have been held in the Canadian Arctic regions at all: Yellowknife (Northwest Territories), Whitehorse (Yukon) and Iqaluit (Nunavut), and the Arctic Indigenous Investment Conference is the only one among those, which was held more than once.

In contrast to the European conferences, where usually all the conferences could be defined as international because the participants come from closely located countries, in Canada and Russia there are many local and national Arctic conferences which were not taken into account in this paper. By utilizing the criteria and analyzing conferences within that criterion, ultimately only 16 international conferences were found to be applicable. However, outside of the considered central territories there are various international Arctic conferences, hosted in almost all of the Canadian provinces (see Appendix 2). Although, if we look at the number of conferences held outside the Arctic region in the last 10 years 56 compared to the 6 hosted in the Arctic regions (see Appendix 2) this difference demonstrates how much the regional limits could be. Additionally, due to the wide spread of Canadian conferences outside of the Canadian Arctic we can see a statistical significance, which has been included in the additional calculations section of the database. Analysis of the Canadian international Arctic conferences has shown that the relatively regular conferences are:

• The ArcticNet’s Annual Scientific Meeting hosting a diverse focus on Arctic issues and gathering around 500 scientists, policy makers and various stakeholders.

• The International Arctic Change with the largest average participation (1350 representatives of northern communities, government, industries, educational institutes)

• The Arctic Shipping Summit which used to be held in Montreal.

Looking at the additional section of the database there are three more regular conferences, those being: the Marine and Arctic Security Conference, the AMOP Technical Seminar and the Arctic Oil & Gas Symposium; as well as the largest one, the Arctic Oil and Gas North America Conference. It is interesting to note that according to the obtained data, there are more conferences on energy resources and engineering in the Canadian Arctic than their Russian counterpart. In terms of attendees, Canada does not hold any big international Arctic conferences with over 1500 participants from diverse Arctic and non Arctic states.

The inability to find all of the required data regarding number of participants and the regularity of conferences allowed us to only estimate a calculation of the Canadian Arctic regional economic losses. According to the formula, we get: 56 conferences outside of the Arctic region; 120


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participants on average (according to the existed data); and Z 1,344,000 euro the minimum amount of potential regional losses. This approximated sum is less than double that of Russia’s (2,862,000 euro). Nevertheless, this estimated sum indicates that the actual regional economic loss is much greater.

The Canadian experience of the international Arctic conferences is not so data rich in comparison with the European examples, even though the existing conferences are usually held outside of the Canadian Arctic and very few welcome participants in the Canadian Arctic. Yet, in Canada there are many national Arctic conferences that should be also analyzed in terms of their efficiency and value toward the Canadian Arctic regions. Unfortunately, the limited available data regarding the international Arctic conferences in Canada does not provide the whole picture of the Canadian Arctic tendencies and focuses, at the same time it proves that Canada underestimates the Arctic conferences and their possible benefits/influences on the Arctic regions.


Upon analyzing the Norwegian international Arctic conferences hosting experience, we see a very different picture in comparison to Russia and Canada. The main difference being that most of the Arctic conferences are held in the Arctic regions: Finnmark, Troms, and Nordland. The collected data of more than 60 international Arctic related conferences in Norway allowed us to include 26 conferences and add them to the final table (see Appendix 3). Among those is one of the main global international Arctic conferences “Arctic Frontiers,” which averagely welcomes 1000 participants in Tromsø. Every year for five days, this city turns to the international platform where international guests (scientists, experts, industries, and institutional representatives) meet each other in the Arctic. Additionally, Tromsø is a venue for other international Arctic conferences, such as:

• The Nordic Forum for Security Policy 2014: The Arctic and Barents region Cooperation, Human Rights and Security Challenges.

• The Barents Indigenous Peoples’ Congress & Conference 2015.

• The ESSAS Ecosystem Studies of Subarctic and Arctic Seas.

• The Understanding Peace in the Arctic.

• The 11th Polar Law Symposium, A Changing Arctic Conferences (see Appendix 3)7

The High North Dialogue Conference and the Kirkenes Conference are annual conferences which are regularly hosted in Bodø and Kirkenes respectively. The latter of which is the most northern conference in Norway, annually involving politicians, NGOs, academics, and various other organizations. In contrast to the Canadian or Russian experiences, most of the Norwegian Arctic conferences are focused on the Arctic environment and sustainable development (7 out of 26), the most popular themes of which are natural resources, logistics and economy, and Indigenous culture and knowledges (8 examples). The other 11 conferences are focused on either diverse or very specific issues, such as Svalbard, geopolitics, polar law, innovations, and international collaboration. Due to the lack of data and unsystematic storage and maintenance of this data, as perpetrated by organizers/host institutions, we have been faced with a lack of data on the number of participants. Nevertheless, Appendix 3 demonstrates the difference in the number of conferences held in the

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region vs those held in the center: 42 and 14, respectively. This difference is conditioned not only by the Norwegian Arctic policy the focus and development of the Arctic regions, but also by the presence of Arctic institutes and universities in those Arctic regions: the Norwegian Polar Institute, The University of Tromsø The Arctic University of Norway, University of Bergen, and International Barents Secretariat. Involvement from these institutions determines the development of these regions, the participation of specialists and investments, contribution from residents, as well as holding international Arctic conferences.

Geography plays an important role in the Arctic, due to the remoteness of the Arctic regions and distance from those remote areas to the center, it can be a sizable distance and transportation opportunities are relatively limited. While there is no railway to the northern part of Norway, there are 2 3 flights from Oslo to Tromsø per day; transportation difficulties do not stop the conference participants from attending. The attendees’ willingness to travel explains that if there are not any other options for a conference’s site, people will come to a remote region, and after having a long travel, those who attend will usually stay for a couple of days to explore the surrounding area and rest. One interesting Norwegian case should be noted the Svalbard Science Conference, which is biennially held in Oslo, remarkably the remotest Norwegian region, Svalbard is discussed in the capital. Of course, for attendees it is easier and cheaper to come to Oslo than to Svalbard; however, the main attendees are researchers, scientists, and stakeholders, who are more likely to be interested in a visit to Svalbard instead of to Oslo.

Despite the lack of data and the small difference between locations of regional and central conferences, the calculation of Norway’s potential loss of holding international Arctic conferences outside of the region will be made according to the following data: 14 outside conferences * 495 attendees * 2 day * 100 euro = 1,386,000 euro. Almost one and a half million euro has been lost by the Norwegian Arctic regions due to the venue choice. The estimated sum is relatively small but could be a means of supporting some local projects in Finnmark or other regional needs/Arctic educational programs.

Although the Norwegian Arctic policy is quite active, and within the Norwegian Arctic there are several universities and institutions, there is always a way to develop and improve. Finding a way to maintain conferences in Tromsø, Bodø and Kirkenes would allow international guests to visit other Norwegian cities aside from Oslo and shifting some small Arctic conferences to other areas would extend their touristic routes and develop needed facilities; as a result, more attendees will come to the Norwegian Arctic regions to stay, use, and buy local services.


International Arctic conferences in Finland play a diverse and important role in the country. The first statistical analysis opened up more than 100 conferences within the last 10 years. Compared to the other analyzed countries, Finland has the largest number of Arctic conferences (as well as in the Arctic regions). Like Tromsø for Norway, Rovaniemi is the main city to held Arctic conferences in Lapland and Finland as a whole.

After the detailed evaluation of those 100, 40 international Arctic conferences with more than one day of its program have been selected for the final database (see Appendix 4).8 There are several major Arctic conferences that are taking place constantly and attract hundreds of scientists, experts, authorities, and young researchers. For the Lapland regions the main three conferences are:


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• Biennial Rovaniemi Arctic Spirit.

• Annual Arctic Business Forum.

• Annual Arctic Design Week.

When analyzing the focuses of these 40 international Arctic conferences in Finland, a quarter of them bolstered emphasis on environmental issues, another 9 conferences gathered very diverse aspects and the second half highlighted the following topics: art and design, digitalization, law, media, education, and international cooperation.

The largest of these conferences, which have been held in Rovaniemi, are the Arctic Biodiversity Congress in 2018 (500 attendees) and the Arctic Art Summit in 2019 (400 attendees), whereas the annual Rovaniemi Arctic Spirit attracts 250 participants on average. For the Arctic conferences in the central Finnish regions, the collected data demonstrates that these conferences have double or an even greater number of participants. For instance, in 2019, 7655 participants attended the Nordic Business Forum9; the next two conferences with 600 and 500 participants are the UArctic Congress 201810 and Arctic Science Summit Week 2014, respectively 11

There are two academic events that should be noted: the biennial Media Education Conference and the annual Northern Political Economy Symposium. The latter had been held in various Lappish locations: Pyhätunturi, Suvanto, Salla, Loma Vietonen and Rovaniemi. The diversity of these venues allows participants to visit these places, since they are less likely to visit for purely pleasure. Such conferences provide an opportunity to combine work with valuable and useful travel.

Our statistical analysis of the Finland based experience of an international Arctic conference revealed that the majority of the Arctic conferences were held in the Arctic region. However, it is important to calculate how many conferences could have been hosted if the rest of the 29 conferences were moved from the central regions to the Arctic. According to the formula, the minimal losses within the last 10 years is 1,241,200 euro12, this sum is the smallest when compared to the other countries in this research. The above total is a minimal estimation and additionally to money and economic perspectives, there are many other long and short term aspects that regions might gain due to the hosting of more international conferences.

When comparing Finland to Norway, Canada, and Russia we discover that Finland is the most Arctic regional oriented country. Finnish Arctic regions are active in their policies and more importantly they initiate and maintain these activities. The University of Lapland and the Arctic Center play the biggest role of these active conferential policies, since they are usually initiating and organizing many different Arctic events. Even the COVID 19 restrictions have not changed the picture dramatically in Lapland but moved to involve more participants online, which made the conferences a hybrid affair. An interesting note is that the conferences in Rovaniemi have been held even under the COVID 19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021 but none have been organized in Helsinki. Moreover, International Arctic conferences in Lapland have important agendas and attract high level visitors to Rovaniemi. Infrastructural solutions, such as railways provide an environmentally friendly alternative for international guests and low cost flights (as for Norway’s case as well) make these trips affordable for many participants, including young career researchers and Arctic enthusiasts.

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Best practices and experiences of regional Arctic conferences : Comparative analysis

Summarizing the conducted data about the international Arctic conferences in Canada, Finland, Norway, and Russia we see a common correlation between the numbers of participants and the venues of conferences. A larger conference will more likely be held in the central region, for instance:

• The International Arctic Forum “Arctic: Territory of Dialogue” with 3600 attendees.

• The Nordic Business Forum 6500 participants.

• International Arctic Change conference with almost 1500 average attendance

None of the 57 considered names of conferences in the Arctic regions have more than 500 attendees, except the Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø (average 1000 participants) and Arctic: Territory of Dialogue in 2013 in Salekhard (700 attendees).

Combining the summaries of each considered country we begin to see that the largest number of Arctic conferences within the Arctic regions are hosted in Finland, meanwhile, almost the same number of conferences were held in Canada and Russia, but in central regions (see Table 1 and graph 1). According to the data, during the last 10 years there were 124 international Arctic conferences that had been held in the Arctic regions and 152 in the central areas of the four countries. Despite active Finnish and Norwegian Arctic regional policies, the total difference in venues demonstrates Arctic regional dependence on central political agendas. From a logistical point of view, holding an international conference in the center is easier to organize, implement, accommodate, and entertain but the vicious circle of “fewer existing facilities less opportunities” limits the Arctic regions with possible benefits as well as makes them more dependent on their non Arctic counterparts.

The database shows that there is a motivation from attendees to participate in the international Arctic conferences even if held in some remote Arctic areas (for example Tromsø, Rovaniemi, Salekhard, Yellowknife and others). We think that there is no need to organize all the Arctic conferences only in the Arctic, for example, The Nordic Business Forum in Helsinki is more focused on business and leadership rather than in the Nordic and Arctic issues. However, we strongly believe that main Arctic events with policy/decision makers should be held inside the Arctic. The Arctic regions and its inhabitants (including Indigenous peoples) should be able to participate in the ongoing discussions, as well as representatives for the centers should be aware of local needs and be able to see with their own eyes the current local situation.

Among all the analyzed conferences the most popular focus of the international Arctic conferences was multidisciplinary. These conferences, with highly diverse programs, usually welcome a variety of participants: from young researchers to high level authorities. Until the middle of the 2010s, one of the most popular themes of the international Arctic conferences was “Arctic natural resources and logistical issues”, comprising of exploration, engineering, industries, transportation etc. Luckily, this tendency had been changed and for the last five years the main focus has transformed to discuss environmental issues, which covers climate change, Arctic nature, and sustainable development.

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Table 1. Summary of all conferences by years

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Total

Conferences in the Arctic regions

Russia 2 3 2 1 1 3 2 2 1 4 21 Canada 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 6 Finland 5 6 5 9 5 7 5 8 2 3 55 Norway 4 4 4 6 5 6 4 4 3 2 42

Total 13 13 11 16 11 17 12 16 6 9

Conferences in the central regions

Russia 2 5 4 5 6 8 6 5 4 8 53 Canada 6 8 7 9 7 5 7 5 1 1 56 Finland 2 5 4 2 3 4 4 5 0 0 29 Norway 1 3 1 1 0 1 3 3 0 1 14

Total 11 21 16 17 16 18 20 18 5 10


Number of conferences






2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021

Figure 1. International Arctic conferences inside and outside of the Arctic regions

Regions Centers

The statistical analysis of this paper demonstrates the differences in Arctic policies of the considered countries. The goal of this paper was not just to accumulate the number of conferences, but to see where Arctic conferences were actually held. The estimation of economic potential losses of Arctic regions was based on the assumption that if the number of conferences that took place outside, in the centers, would have taken place in the arctic region itself, multiplied by the average

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number of participants that region could have hosted, this is then multiplied by a minimum of two days of a guests’ visit and 100 euro, the minimum sum that they could spend in the region. Due to the lack of accessible data, we can assume that the full loss sum could be even higher. The total estimated sum = 6,833,200 euro of Arctic regional losses, where almost a third of the sum is attributed to the Russian Arctic, whereas Norway and Canada share a nearly equal amount over 1.3 million euro, meanwhile Finland has a relatively minimal loss around 1.2 million euro. These minimal estimated sums were earned through the discussion and participation of topics relating to Arctic issues but have stayed outside of the Arctic regions.

It is important to note that despite economic factors, there are other indirect outcomes for the Arctic regions if these international conferences were held there: for local people it turns into an opportunity to participate, meet colleagues, exchange their thoughts, discuss openly about their needs, and advertise awareness of ongoing international Arctic discussions. For participants, being inside the Arctic is always a benefit to be inclusive, especially for politicians/decision makers and youngsters who sometimes, due to a lack of experience or deep Arctic understanding, rarely visit the real Arctic and do not see all of the regional potentials and challenges from the inside. One of the best practices of such an inclusive platform is the Calotte Academy. This Academy is an early career focus event which gathers young scholars together in order to exchange their experiences. For more than 30 years the Calotte Academy has hosted hundreds of participants who attend the seminars and visit different Arctic regions in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. Among the various and important goals of the seminar is the aim to function as a support for young researchers and instigate/maintain cross border cooperation. It is incredibly important to hold this Academy directly in the Arctic regions and not in the capitals of these countries. Staying in the local hotels or guest houses, having meals in local cafeterias and restaurants, visiting different institutions, organizations, and companies, talking with locals, and seeing the Arctic reality are extremely important aspects for the future of Arctic regional development. Although the Calotte Academy is not considered a conference, it is one of the best examples when participants annually come to different Arctic regions, get to know the sites better, support local businesses and services, see everything with their own eyes and, most importantly come to understand in practice the real needs and challenges of the Arctic regions. Therefore, we strongly believe that holding more conferences in the Arctic regions will contribute to regional development: local business will become more active, companies from big cities will see the business opportunities in the regions, more people will be involved in the organization of the conferences, and more participants will be able to visit the site, and more likely, to adjust their projects and research.

From a scientific point of view, the analysis of international Arctic conferences is highly significant due to the importance for Arctic stakeholders to participate. Every attendee follows their interests in the conference: from meeting new people, to declaring internationally important political statements. However, we also see a scientific need to analyze the outcomes of these Arctic conferences, and in order to do this there is a high demand for accessible data and structural storage of this data. This approach would aid future scientists, as well as project and event managers, and avoid the duplication or even multiplication of ideas, projects, or conferences with slightly different titles. Proper data organization procedures will increase the value of further conducted work and would fit in well with the Arctic conference’s values of “implementation,” “knowledge application” and continuation of joint communication.

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Analysis of international Arctic conferences inside and out of the Canadian, Finnish, Norwegian and Russian Arctic regions indicated a difference in numbers, participants, focuses, investment, and potential impacts, as well as similarities in the main regional Arctic challenges. The idea that all the Arctic events in the world should be held in the Arctic is unrealistic and there is no need because this in turn would lead to Arctic exceptionalism, and there is a need to keep the Arctic diverse whilst maintaining interest and importance of Arctic based research. However, the governmental centralization and active policy making towards the Arctic strengthens the ideas that the Arctic related issues decided outside of the Arctic region. Central governments of the Arctic countries, especially in Canada and Russia accumulate their Arctic institutions and organize big international Arctic conferences in their major cities. As a result, Arctic regions become even more remote, requiring more investment for infrastructural changes, and their dependence on the center increases. The European Arctic, in the example of Finland and Norway, has a slightly different picture. There are many Arctic institutions and universities in the countries’ Arctic territories, which are actively engaged in their activities, including initiating various international Arctic conferences, and conducting active international cooperation.

Answering the question of this paper whether the economic impact of Arctic conferences contribute to the Arctic regional development; our answer will be yes. Even a small amount of money, which is running out of the Arctic region is valuable for Arctic inhabitants and their current or potential local projects and initiatives. Small social enterprises and businesses, schools and youth projects, Indigenous initiatives, etc. all of these small puzzle pieces are parts of the big Arctic picture. The regions should be involved in the decision making processes pertaining to the Arctic, or at the very least, be the venue for these important meetings. Delegates and conference participants should see the picture in person, talk to local people and try to understand their factual needs in order to achieve the common interests between visitors and Arctic regional inhabitants.


1. Taking this opportunity, we would like to thank the University of Lapland, the Arctic Center, the UArctic, the ARCUS, NARFU, the Northern Forum, the Calotte Academy teams, for saving and storing the data year by year, as well as for some honest replies on conferences’ data requests that they do not have and did not save the information from the previous years.

2. Inflation rates were not taken into account.

3. “Third international forum Arctic Territory of Dialogue to consider ecological security issues”, 24 SEP. 2013, TASS. URL:

4. Gorbacheva, E. (2019). “Jussi Huotari reflects on the Arctic: Territory of Dialogue forum”. URL: huotari reflects on the arctic territory of dialogue forum/

5. Nilsen, T. (2019). “Russia Relocates Prestigious Arctic Conference Away from Arkhangelsk.”. URL: The Independent Barents Observer. relocates prestigious arctic conference away arkhangelsk

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6. X * Y * 2 * 100 = Z, where X 53 conferences outside of the Arctic region; Y 270 average number of participants in Yamal conferences; Z 2 862 000 euro the minimum lack of possible regional income.

7. In order to continue the work of statistical analysis in future, there is additional section in the dataset with six Arctic conferences, that match the criteria, but were held in other Norwegian regions as southern Agder and eastern Trøndelag. These conferences were not considered in the potential economic loss formula.

8. Three additional international Arctic conferences were included to the final database but were not included to the statistical calculations.

9. Nordic Business Forum. Past Events. URL: events/

10. “UArctic Congress 2018 Concludes in Finland”, 07 Sep. 2018. URL: congress 2018 concludes in finland/

11. Remarkably, one of the main Arctic institutions UArctic favored and chose St. Petersburg and Helsinki as venues of its congresses, rather than Arctic regions.

12. 29 outside conferences * 214 average participants * 2 days * 100 euro = 1,241,200 euro


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Appendix 1: Russia

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Appendix 2: Canada

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Appendix 3: Norway

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Appendix 4: Finland

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Examining the Maritime Activities and Environmental Effects of The Ice Class Ships

The Russian Federation has a great advantage in the Arctic Ocean because of its long coastline which also has less sea ice concentration in summer to allow vessels to pass with ease. Due to newly opening polar routes in the Arctic, maritime logistics, port and maritime affairs have become more sensitized for Arctic Council countries. But this increase is coming with various anthropogenic effects on Arctic Environment. Polar Code aims to control, force and advice for ships with many environmental applications to ensure safety. Arctic Council's Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) report emphasizes the increase in vessel traffic in the Arctic due to climate change and eight recommendations were made to take steps for Arctic Environment. Also, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) working on the same issue. Nevertheless, the Arctic Environment is still vulnerable to increased maritime activity and many more steps including increasing scientific research will be on the agenda.

As a result of this, this study aims to provide the latest overview of the situation to the regional and international lawmakers for the sustainability of Arctic maritime activities and its environmental effects by the ice class ships within the scope of the polar code with a statistical approach, using the database of the Russian Northern Sea Route Administration (NSRA). However, the uncertain results of the war between Russia and Ukraine could change the Arctic’s future different from the results of these study.


Global changes in the climate have started to show evident impacts on daily life and the environment. Within this scope, especially in the oceans, there are many critical changes such as reduction of sea ice extents, melting of glaciers, sea level rise, ocean acidification, carbon capture and storage, migration of animals, increase in ocean temperature and ecosystem change (Capurro et al., 2021). All those changes at sea are also affecting maritime transportation, especially in the Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic Ocean covers many seas and has borders with five different countries namely Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. The

Efecan Özcan is affiliated with Istanbul Technical University, Graduate School, Maritime Transportation Engineering Programme. Sinan Yirmibe şoğlu is affiliated with Istanbul Technical University and TUBITAK MAM Polar Research Institute, Kocaeli/Turkey. Burcu Özsoy is affiliated with Istanbul Technical University, Maritime Faculty, Maritime Transportation Management Engineering, Istanbul/Turkey.

Efecan Özcan, Sinan Yirmibeşo ğlu & Burcu Özsoy

longest coastline of the Arctic Ocean belongs to the Russian Federation. When the size of the territory of the Russian Federation was examined, it was seen that 18% of its area is located in the Arctic Region (Yatsenko et. al., 2022). Since the underground and surface resources of this region constitute the largest export goods of the Russian economy, logistics has the most important place in the development of the Russian Arctic (Shestak et. al., 2020). When considering maritime logistics, ports and maritime affairs on the Arctic Ocean have strategic importance (Pahl & Kaiser, 2018). Sea ice loss in the polar regions due to global climate change is mostly experienced in the Arctic Ocean when compared with the Antarctic (Southern) Ocean (Steiner et. al., 2021). The Northern Sea Route (NSR) lies between the Bering Strait and North Cape and it is one of the most important routes in the Arctic Ocean. The NSR has been used with the help of icebreakers since the 1980s, on the Arctic coast of Russia from east to west. Although the NSR and NWP are suitable for maritime transport due to the thinning of the sea ice in summer, fast ice formation is observed which can block the passage of ships, especially in the northern route following the Russian coast (Pastusiak, 2016). According to the modelling studies and international reports mentioned in the IPCC, experts predict that the Arctic Ocean will be an ice free zone during the summer by the middle of the 21st century due to increasing temperatures (IPCC, 2021).

The first review of Arctic shipping was provided by the “Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment” (AMSA) using vessel traffic data of the Arctic countries for 2004 (AMSA, 2009). This assessment aimed to identify the vessel traffic in the Arctic and to determine the potential environmental impacts of maritime activities in the region (Gunnarson, 2021). With the establishment of the Russian Northern Sea Route Administration (NSRA) in 2013, studies on maritime traffic along the Russian Arctic coast have increased. Russia determined the definitions of the NSR and its sea borders in national legislation with the NSRA and supported the preparation of the Polar Code (Todorov, 2021). Figure 1 shows the available routes of the NSR, Russian exclusive economic zone limit, Russian territorial waters and other marine boundaries (Brubaker & Ragner, 2010).

Figure 1: Northern Sea Route (Brubaker & Ragner, 2010).

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Studies in the literature examining the ship traffic in the Arctic are based on Automatic Identification System (AIS) data. Eguiluz et al. (2016) analysed maritime activities in the Arctic between 2010 and 2014. Eriksen and Olsen (2018) evaluated the cruises that took place in the same years. Similarly, Silber and Adams (2019) studied maritime activities in the Arctic between 2015 and 2017. By analysing the ship traffic data provided by the NSRA, Humpert (2014) evaluated the Arctic shipping for the NSR transit for a season in 2013. Lasserre and Alexeeva (2015) evaluated the transit ship voyages on the NSR by year. Zhang and Meng (2016) examined the maritime activities of ships using NSR between 2009 and 2014. Li and Otsuka (2019) assessed maritime activities between 2013 and 2017. Lasserre et al. (2019) compared the voyages made over the NWP and the NSR. Marchenko (2014) examined the safety of navigation in Arctic waters, sea ice statistics, economic and political predictions within the scope of NSR, as well as evaluating the shipping activity. Moe (2014) discussed the use of NSR in terms of maritime law and made elaborations regarding Russian national legislation. Zhang et al. (2016) examined Arctic sea routes in terms of the economical appropriateness of using NSR for shipping companies. Zhang et al. (2019) stated that the inadequacy of available ship data poses a challenge in conducting risk analyses for NSR transit. Gunnarson (2021) provided an empirical update on studies of ship traffic analysis on the NSR. All of the studies on the ship traffic of the Russian Arctic Region in the literature were based on international transit voyages. Studies carried out based on domestic voyages in Russia are very limited.

Considering the AMSA 2009 report, the increase in ship traffic in the Arctic region due to climate change has revealed the necessity of discussing its effects on the environment. Eight recommendations were made to legislators in the Arctic environment section of the report, and six of these recommendations were revised in 2021, thanks to concrete steps taken by the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) over the past 12 years. However, despite the steps taken such as the 2020 sulphur restriction and ballast treatment, the Arctic Ocean environment is still vulnerable to increased maritime activity due to climate change. Because of that, this study aims to provide suggestions to policymakers for the sustainability of the Arctic maritime region by examining the maritime activities and environmental effects of the ice class ships within the scope of the polar code with statistical methods, using the database of the NSRA.

Sea ice conditions

Winds from North America, Asia and Europe trap sea ice in the Arctic Ocean between 60° and 90° north latitude. There are connections to other seas from only two main parts of the Arctic Ocean. One of them is the Bering Strait and the Pacific Ocean, while the other is the connection between Greenland and the European Continent to the Atlantic Ocean. Since the water temperature in these regions is warmer than that of the Arctic Ocean, when the sea ice drifts to these parts, it melts and forms the ice limits. Sea ice is the main object in the Polar Oceans but it’s very dynamic and attracts many scientific research questions such as the different patterns of sea ice in two Polar Regions, the role of the feedback of ice and climate, etc. To find answers to these questions many studies on in situ, remote sensing and modelling continue (Holland & Kimura, 2016).

Satellites constantly monitor the area covered by the Arctic sea ice and many institutions share various data on an up to date basis. However, in these data, the thickness values are not as up to

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date as the extent values. The National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) shares daily Arctic Ocean Sea Ice coverage data, both graphically and visually (NSIDC, 2022). Within the scope of the current data, the data of the maximum (NASA, 2021a) sea ice on 21st March and the minimum (NASA, 2021b) sea ice on 16th September in the Arctic and the extent values according to the months of 2021 is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2:


Ice Extents in 2021 (NSIDC, 2022).

When Figure 2 is examined, it is seen that the Arctic sea ice reached its widest extent on March 21, but this level was the lowest winter extent examined since 1981. This scenario shows that sea ice is not freezing enough, and signals that more open seas will be seen as the summer melts increase (NSIDC, 2022). In addition, as seen in the figure, the melting of sea ice in the summer months is quite remarkable.

In the special report (page 7) published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for policymakers in 2021, it was emphasized that between 1979 1988 and 2010 2019 Arctic sea ice was melting by 40% in September (maximum melting period / minimum extent) and 10% in March (maximum freezing period / maximum extent), mostly due to the anthropogenic effect. In the same report page 10, the annual average of Arctic Sea Ice between 2011 and 2020 was observed at its lowest level since at least 1850. It is also stated that the extent of sea ice formed in the Arctic in late summer has been the smallest in the last 1000 years. According to the IPCC, many changes in the global climate system are directly related to the increasing global temperatures and show that there will be more frequent droughts, increased precipitation amounts, decreasing snow levels, and increased melting of Arctic sea ice and permafrost in the coming periods. Also, the report expresses that this melting trend provides the basis for the predictions that the Arctic Ocean will have no sea

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ice in summer in 2050 (IPCC, 2021: 21) which will create many sea ice free conditions for ships in the Arctic.

Sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere, which broke a record with a volume of 0.05 million km3, is almost twice the volume of ice formed in the Southern Ocean. The average thickness of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is around 3 meters, while in Antarctica this ratio is between 1 and 1.5 meters (Sandven & Johannessen, 2006). While there is little data on Antarctica on these measurements, sea ice volume measurements in the Arctic Ocean have been made in research with submarines since the 1960s. Nevertheless, these are also insufficient to see the whole picture (Rothrock et al., 1999). In addition to the area covered by the sea ice, its thickness is also important for the ships and ship classes that will interact with the sea ice Sea ice, which can spread over an area as large as the surface area of Russia on the Arctic Ocean during the winter months, has been followed almost daily by satellite data since 1978 (Rodrigues, 2008). Since satellites with passive microwave and radar sensors are less affected by conditions such as weather conditions and cloudiness, they enable us to record more data in larger time series than images taken from optical satellites (Parkinson, 2014). Volume information is derived by trying to understand the thickness of the sea ice from the height of the above water parts of the sea ice, and ICESat (Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite) satellites were developed especially for this issue and sent to orbit (Zwally & Yi, 2004). Many different technological sensors are used in satellites today, and most of them can take images without being affected by atmospheric conditions. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), an active microwave equipment for sea ice observation, is widely used in this context. In short, SAR images present images with reflections from the sea surface (Wager et al., 2020). However, first year sea ice and old ice can present similar or dissimilar images in terms of their different physical properties. While the windless sea appears darker, rough sea and sea ice can resemble each other. When the backscatter values taken from the Earth Resources Satellite (ERS) SAR images are examined in the research conducted in the Barents Sea, the newly formed sea ice has almost the same backscatter coefficient as the open and windless sea; while the fresh ice, new ice with crystal flowers and hummock that has lost its smooth surface by deforming has same values equal to rough sea (Sandven et al., 1999). In the light of technological developments, it is important to have expertise in sea ice and to gain experience by confirming some images in terrestrial studies in order to analyse many different satellite data and images, which are created as a result of the use of new satellite sensors and equipment in the development of technology. In this way, sea ice forecast will be more accessible to ships at a more accurate rate. Accurate data is important for ships to save time, protect the environment and predict hazards, especially in the Arctic seas. Nowadays, the sea ice forecasts are reachable from different sources such as the long term ice forecast published by the Northern Sea Route Administration with the data produced by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of Russia (Moe & Brigham, 2017).

Maritime activity

The list of ships that were permitted to navigate through the NSR between 2016 and 2021 was retrieved from the NSRA database. Centre for High North Logistics (CHNL) information office’s data analyses were also used in order to evaluate ice class ship passages. The effects on the environment of voyages according to the types of ships were analysed using the statistical method (NSRA, 2022)

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Datasets were collected to evaluate the annual changes in ice class ships’ voyages across the NSR over a five year period. Ship data was digitised for annual changes in ship characteristics. Similarly, the number of voyages by years made it possible to assess the environmental impact of ships navigating in the region, especially ice class ships. These data also enabled the differentiation of transit voyages according to the point of origin and destination.

Types of Ice Class Vessels

Ice class vessels can be divided into three groups: low class (no ice, ice1), medium class (ice2 arc6) and high class (arc7 arc9). Low class vessels may navigate in ice free waters where the ice concentration is lowest and can sail with an escort during the winter period. On the other hand, medium class vessels navigate on the NSR at an optimum speed during the summer months and can perform the transit voyage in 15 days. As the higher class ones are icebreakers, they complete their voyage on the NSR on the fastest route, providing the maximum economic speed both in the summer and winter seasons (Sibul et al., 2022).

Polar Code

Although positive effects have occurred on world maritime trade as a result of the melting sea ice in the Arctic, it should not be ignored that lack of sea ice could lead to various effects and environmental disaster in Arctic (Hungington et. al., 2022). Within the scope of maritime trade, new routes have been opened in the Arctic Region and it is obviously seen that Russia will gain in economic and commercial dimensions as more offshore regions are formed along the northern coasts of Russia. In addition, the largest icebreaker (nuclear powered and diesel electric) fleet in the world belongs to Russia which will help contribute assistance through icy waters to the passage of commercial vessels (Moe & Brigham, 2017). Navigational safety and economic new trade routes in the Polar Regions are also on the agenda in the summer months when there is no sea ice. When the “Polar Code Regarding Ships Operating in Polar Waters” published by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is examined, it is seen that rules are set for both polar regions; however, due to commercial reasons, while giving details about the Arctic region, various rules were introduced by ignoring the Southern Ocean conditions. As a result of the Arctic region’s creation of a route that provides time and money in intercontinental trade, countries that direct maritime trade such as China have turned the route to the north and started to follow sea ice more closely. In fact, the Chinese call this route the new Polar Silk Road (China’s Arctic Policy, 2018; Peng et al., 2022). Studies are also increasing within the scope of the presence of sea ice on these new routes and meteorological forecasts and notifications to sailors. In the study of Wagner et al. (2020), the delivery of sea ice forecasts to the stakeholders in the maritime industry, the shortcomings in the forecasts, satellite sensors and innovations, socio economic impacts and the needs in the coming years were examined in detail.

On May 15, 2015, the IMO adopted amendments to the International Convention for The Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973/1978 (MARPOL) annexes to prevent environmental pollution in polar waters (IMO, 2015). Polar Code consists of Part I on maritime safety and Part II, which regulates the protection of the marine environment. Part II prohibits the discharge of oil and harmful liquid substances and the discharge of animal carcasses, as in the MARPOL annexes. There are also restrictions on the discharge of sewage, garbage and food waste. While developing Polar Code, it received support from the Russian maritime industry and Russian scientists. However, since the Russian Arctic fleet is old and its capability to comply with new environmental

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Özcan, Yirmibeşo ğlu & Özsoy

regulations seems to take long period. As a result, the prohibition of the discharge of oily waste in the Arctic region was opposed for economic reasons. Despite the opposition of the Russian maritime industry, a ban on discharge was implemented and a transitional period was provided for vessels that are constantly in the Arctic (Todorov, 2021).

Environmental Effects & Challenges

Vessel traffic and increasing maritime activity are going to affect the Arctic environment in different ways. These environmental effects could include emissions, Black Carbon (BC) (Zhang, et al., 2019), ballast water (Rosenhaim et al., 2019), oil and gas explorations (Henderson et al., 2016), etc.

According to a study which used a fully coupled Earth system model (CESM 1.2.2), increasing vessel passage in the Arctic Ocean will reduce the warming by approximately 1°C until 2099 while creating clouds by its sulphate driven liquid water cloud formation. (Stephenson et al., 2018). In addition, they stated gas and particulate emissions caused by ships would strongly affect the regions of the Arctic.

Ballast water

Most vessels visiting the Arctic region to load cargo contain ballast water from the last port, as they come from a temperate region. Therefore, although the ballast water contains non indigenous species released by discharging ballast into Arctic waters, the survival of these species is expected to be low due to the climate of the Arctic Ocean. However, as the Arctic gets warmer, the survival potential of these species will increase (Goldsmit et al., 2018). Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) also cover in Arctic Ocean and ratified by all Arctic States. Also, Russia is one of the Lead State & Partner to BWMC and ballast water exchange requirements applying in all Russian Arctic Ports (AMSA, 2017).

Black carbon

Black carbon (BC) which is a result of ship emissions could lead to worse environmental effects such as faster melting sea ices in the Polar Regions. BC emission rates are lower in the Arctic rather than in other seas for now but increasing maritime activity in the vicinity is showing that it is going to grow (Corbett et al., 2010). Many other studies completed and still continue on the impact of BC emissions especially in Arctic due to shipping (Li et. al., 2020; Kong et al., 2021; Chen et. al., 2022).

Oil spill

Drilling operations and tanker voyages in the Arctic are the main causes of risk of oil spills. If the necessary precautions are taken and prepared for emergencies, the potential of the risk will decrease (Heininen et al., 2014). The International Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic, signed under the auspices of the Arctic Council in May 2015, is a useful step toward addressing environmental threats due to oil pollution. The Russian Federation incorporated this agreement into its national law with the Federal Law on the NSR (2012) and the Ministry of Transport Rules for Navigation over the NSR (2013). These laws explain the transit conditions on the Russian Arctic coast and determine who is responsible for environmental accidents that may occur. It also imposes insurance requirements on the owners of

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the polluting vessels. Costly tariffs were determined as a deterrent for aid and logistics that may be required in an emergency (Dushkova et. al., 2017).

Anthropogenic effect

Numerous marine and industrial pollutants are reported from the Arctic Ocean (Nuttall 2018; Fetisov et. al., 2020; Svavarsson et. al., 2021; Lian et. al., 2022). It is observed that these pollutants increase significantly due to the rise of fossil fuel consumption with the development of maritime activities in the region. Most of them are transported to the Arctic waters by oceanic currents or air currents, including pollutants that are highly harmful to the environment in the Arctic region, such as organochlorines, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (AMAP, 2017). As a result of intensive industrial activities in the Russian Arctic region over the last 80 years, negative effects have occurred on the environment. The anthropogenic impact on the Arctic ecosystems covers 5 10% of the total area of the Russian Arctic. Although the population density is much lower than in many regions, anthropogenic pollution is much higher than in other Arctic areas (Dushkova et. al., 2017).

Sea ice changing; albedo effects

One of the three main factors affecting the energy flow in the climate system of the Earth is the albedo effect. Albedo is defined as the amount of radiation from the Sun reflected from the surface. The Arctic Circle is the region with the highest albedo on the earth’s surface after Antarctica. Areas covered with snow or ice have maximum albedo because of their high reflectivity. For this reason, as the sea ice and glacial areas melt, the albedo of the oceans or the soil under this layer decreases day by day (Acker, et al. 2014). Changes in the rates of absorbed, emitted or reflected radiation affect the world’s climate system, causing instabilities and disasters in weather events. Today, BC, which is produced as a result of fossil fuel use, can absorb light strongly (Lack et al., 2014). Due to this feature, it is classified as a pollutant that changes the temperature, precipitation frequency, surface albedo and snowfall rates and increases climate change (Pino Cortés et al., 2021). Urban, industrial, and maritime activities in the Arctic also increase other greenhouse gas emissions, including BC.

Nuclear waste

Nuclear waste is another environmental challenge for the Russian Arctic. About half a century ago, facilities were built in the Russian Arctic region to carry out fuel operations and maintenance of nuclear submarines. Especially around the Kara Sea and the Barents Sea, where the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago is located, radioactive waste and ship parts were buried in the sea (Stepanets et. al., 2005). In addition, nuclear submarines that sank due to maritime accidents also caused serious environmental impacts in the Russian Arctic. Various radioactive wastes buried in the Kara Sea are known, but there are also many unfound objects. Moreover, extensive nuclear bomb tests in the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, including Barents and the Kara Sea region, led to significant environmental pollution. Between 1955 and 1990, a total of 132 atmospheric, underwater and underground nuclear test explosions were held here (Yakovlev et al., 2021). Even after the cessation of nuclear tests in the archipelago, radiation levels are still above normal reference values. Seabed sediments along the archipelago’s coastline revealed an increased content of caesium and plutonium, with high concentration throughout the Barents Sea (Nikitin & Shchukin, 2014)

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Results and discussions

Ships navigating along the Russian coast in the NSR make more voyages, especially during the summer season between June and October. The NSRA gives voyage permission to vessels wishing to navigate through the NSR if they apply in advance. According to the duration of the permits, the permitted ship may navigate with more than one permit in the same year, or it may not navigate on the NSR with permission. Therefore, not only the number of ships and the number of permits but also the number of voyages that took place in the NSR were analysed and compared. Table 1 provides the number of ships, permits, voyages and transits that occurred between 2016 and 2021. It is obviously seen that the number of ships, voyages and transits increases each year and that causes increased maritime activity, which could lead to environmental problems for the vulnerable Arctic Ocean. The transit voyages in this table refer to ships coming from a port other than Russia and passing through the NSR to another port without stopping in Russia. The total number of voyages, on the other hand, indicates the ships coming from outside Russia and calling at the Russian port, departing from the Russian port and going to another port abroad or making voyages in the Russian cabotage. All of these ships definitely use the NSR for any part of their voyages.

Table 1: Total voyages of all ships through the NSR including transits.

Year Ice Class Ships All Ships Permission Numbers by NSRA Voyage Transits

2016 330 622 718 1705 19

2017 319 591 662 1908 27

2018 268 584 792 2022 27

2019 301 625 799 2694 37

2020 361 716 1014 2905 64

2021 439 882 1229 3225 86

It was determined that emissions are reduced for vessels navigating over the NSR as the distances are much shorter compared to the classica l Panama and Suez Canal routes. However, although there is a decrease in emissions, many companies have declared that they will not use the Arctic route due to the possibility of environmental disasters that may occur due to ship accidents, especially oil spills (Gunnarsson and Moe, 2021). But, when the data is examined, it is seen that the voyages increased and accordingly the number of permitted vessels increased proportionally.

Vessels opt for the routes according to the ice class level and navigation depends on the seasons. Since the ice concentration decreases in the summer season, the shortest alternatives on the NSR are preferred. In the winter season, because the ice conditions are a direct factor in the rotation, the speed of the vessels decreases, and the voyage time and distances increase as well. While low ice class vessels are directly dependent on ice conditions, high ice class vessels operate on the NSR regardless of the season. Medium ice class vessels have the opportunity to sail independently during periods when the ice concentration is relatively moderate, but the voyage may be longer as their speed may be slower depending on the ice. In addition, it may have to navigate a longer route to avoid thicker ice (Sibul et al., 2022). In that case, fuel consumption will also increase due to the rise

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in distances and the prolongation of the voyage times. Therefore, there will be a negative environmental impact due to emissions from ships in the winter season. Furthermore, air pollution will be observed in the summer season as the ice conditions soften and ship traffic increases. Since the boost in traffic will double the risks of accidents such as oil pollution in the region that will damage the Arctic ecosystem.

Contributing to scientists, international organizations highlight the importance of sea ice, support ongoing research and create budgets for new ones. One of them, the United Nations’ Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, was created by the UN to cover the ten years between 2021 and 2030. In this context, the Arctic and Southern Oceans will also be scrutinized in the upcoming period, especially in the climate environment ecosystem as main headings (Ocean Decade, 2022).

While all those shipping and environmental challenges takes place on Arctic, surprisingly the war created a new era in Arctic shipping (Kirchner, 2022). Due to the situation, the logistic operation of maritime trade will change and many new consequences such as increasing Russia and China collaboration will be on the agenda (Vicik, 2022).


This study summarised the latest updates on environmental challenges including policies related to polar shipping, especially on the Russian Arctic coast. Due to decreasing sea ice extent, more ice class ships will be operating in the near future. However, this will bring new consequences to anthropogenic effects on the Arctic environment. Like many other research projects related to Arctic shipping, there is a need for an integrated analysis of climate and maritime transportation to clarify the relationship between anthropogenic effects on the climate in the Arctic.

While the results of many scientific studies carried out in terrestrial and small areas emphasize that the climate is changing rapidly, the large scale sea ice change scenarios mentioned in this section show that ship traffic will increase especially in the Arctic Under the scope of the Ocean Decade studies carried out by the UN, the importance of the oceans in the polar regions will be revealed to a great extent, and it can be predicted that sea ice research will further increase. There is a need to carry out sea ice studies and to increase measurement stations such as buoys, especially in the Polar Regions where people cannot make in situ measurements in winter, with autonomous systems to improve maritime trade. To sum up, the Polar Regions will be more on the agenda in the future with their unique and pure environment.


Authors thank Dr. Atilla Yılmaz and reviewers for their precious comments and technical advice about the publication.


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Nikitin, A., & Schukin, A., (2014). Remediation of Nuclear and Radiation Legacy Sites in Russia’s Northwest: An Overview of Projects Carried Out as Part of International Cooperation. St. Petersburg.

NSIDC, Sea Ice News and Analysis, Access Site:, Access Date: 10.04.2022.

NSRA, 2022. Northern Sea Route Administration., Access Date: 02.04.2022.

Nuttall, M. (2018). Arctic environments and peoples. The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, 1 7.

Ocean Decade, Access Site:, Access Date: 09.04.2022.

Pahl, J., & Kaiser, B. A. (2018). Arctic port development. In Arctic marine resource governance and development (pp. 139 184). Springer, Cham.

Parkinson, C.L., “Global Sea Ice Coverage from Satellite Data: Annual Cycle and 35 yr Trends”, Journal of Climate, 27, 2014, 9377 9382.

Pastusiak, T. (2016). Variants of the Northern Sea Route. In The Northern Sea Route as a Shipping Lane (pp. 131 152). Springer, Cham.

Peng, Y., Li, Z., Zhang, X., Bao, Q., & Li, X. (2022). Prediction on freight function structure of China’s coastal ports under the Polar Silk Road: a cargo attraction potential perspective. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 63(2), 147 179.

Pino Cortés E., Díaz Robles L. A., Cubillos F., Cereceda Balic F., Santander R., Fu J. S., Carrasco S., Acosta J. (2021). The black carbon dispersion in the Southern Hemisphere and its transport and fate to Antarctica, an Anthropocene evidence for climate change policies, Science of The Total Environment, 778, 146242,

Rodrigues, J. (2008). The rapid decline of the sea ice in the Russian Arctic. Cold Regions Science and Technology, 54(2), 124 142.

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Rosenhaim, I. L., Riemann Campe, K., Sumata, H., Koeberle, C., Brauner, R., Herber, A., & Gerdes, R. (2019). Simulated ballast water accumulation along Arctic shipping routes. Marine Policy, 103, 9 18.

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Sandven, S., Johannessen, O.M., Miles, M.W., Pettersson, L.H. & Kloster, K., “Barents Sea Seasonal Ice Zone Features and Processes from ERS 1 Synthetic Aperture Radar: Seasonal Ice Zone Experiment 1992”, Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 104, No. C7, 1999, 15,843 15,857.

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Homesteading in the


The Logic Behind, and Prospects for, Russia’s “Hectare in the Arctic” Program

Kara K. Hodgson & Marc Lanteigne

Moscow launched its “Hectare in the Arctic” program in summer 2021, allowing Russian nationals to obtain a free hectare of land in the country’s northern regions. This plan is the latest attempt to address the chronic problem of outmigration and to attract new settlers to the Russian Arctic. Yet, multiple obstacles stand in the way of making the scheme a viable demographic solution. The primary obstacle to success with this program, we argue, is the logic that undergirds it. This article unpacks Moscow’s logic by applying Foucault’s “security, territory, population” analytical triad. We conclude that the program is Moscow’s reaction to perceived threats to Russia’s sovereignty in the Arctic, particularly the perceived “China threat” that has been brought on by warming relations between the two countries. This logic undermines the potential of the program by neglecting substantive consideration of the needs and socio economic conditions for Arctic residents. Ultimately, this case illustrates the challenges and central policy contradictions that Putin’s regime faces in making the Russian Arctic an effective zone of economic growth.


In the summer of 2021, the Russian federal government launched the “Hectare in the Arctic” program, (also called the Arctic Hectare, or AH, program).1 Under this scheme, any Russian citizen can receive a one hectare plot of land (approximately 2.5 acres) free of cost for five years. If the citizen has done something productive with their hectare during that time, they will then have the option to either own the land or lease it for a period of forty nine years. Activities considered “productive” include building a home, starting a farm, or launching an entrepreneurial enterprise such as a tourist resort. The only criteria for eligibility are that the applicant must 1) be a Russian citizen or a person in the federal Program to Assist Voluntary Resettlement of Compatriots Living Abroad and 2) must have a plan for how they intend to use their hectare.

To an outside observer, a homesteading act in the twenty first century, moreover one in the Arctic a region that many would say is less than ideal for such a task invites confusion and prompts the question, why is the Russian government seeking to colonize its northernmost periphery? The answer to this question is situated within the greater geopolitical context of Russia’s

Kara K. Hodgson is a Research Fellow and Marc Lanteigne is an Associate Professor at UiT The Arctic University of Norway.

fears vis à vis China in the Arctic. To unpack this mystery, we employ Foucault’s “security, territory, population” triad (Foucault, 2009) to elucidate the logic behind the emergence of the AH program, and conclude that it is a reactionary measure against demographic decline in the face of an existential fear that the Russian state perceives from external actors, especially China, in this era of Arctic “opening.”

The article proceeds as follows: first, we introduce the broader geopolitical context of the Russian Arctic and Russian Chinese relations. Next, we introduce the AH program and the Foucauldian concept of “security, territory, population” (STP). Then, we apply the STP analytical framework to the AH case in an attempt to explain why Moscow has embraced such a program. Finally, we conclude with some thoughts about the prospects for the AH program’s success, as a microcosm of the broader Sino Russian relationship in the Arctic, and particularly in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian Arctic

During the Soviet era, the Russian Arctic became heavily populated as towns were built to house workers who migrated to various areas of the macro region, primarily for the purpose of extracting natural resources from fixed locations. Many of Russia’s modern northern cities were thus created from scratch, including the country’s third, fourth, and fifth largest Far Northern2 urban areas. Norilsk (pop. 184,645) was founded in 1935 to develop the nickel industry; Novy Urengoy (pop. 118,667) was founded in 1975 to facilitate development of nearby natural gas fields; and Vorkuta (pop. 71,279) was established in 1932 to develop the coal industry.3

When the Soviet Union dissolved, these far flung, and heavily subsidized, locations came to be seen as a burden on a nascent Russian Federation that did not have the sufficient budgetary means to continue supporting them. As a result, employment opportunities dried up and many of those migrant settler workers returned to their familial support systems, primarily in “the mainland” (materik) of Central Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

Since Vladimir Putin assumed power, his regime has sought to bring the Russian Arctic back under stronger centralized control. Thanks to its natural resources and potential as a maritime corridor, Russia’s Far North has come to be officially viewed as the key to the country’s future wealth, status, and prosperity. Under Putin’s direction, Russia has sought to regain its great power status and, more specifically, to solidify its status as the dominant power in the Arctic. To this end, Moscow had declared, through a variety of decrees and policy documents over the past decade, ambitious targets for developing the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as a set of viable commercial shipping lanes, as well as plans to exploit the country’s Arctic Zone as a strategic base of natural resources.4

Russia jealously guards its sovereignty in the Arctic, both those portions that are internationally acknowledged, as well as those that are subjectively perceived, as belonging to Russia. In addition to ever present fears of NATO military domination (Petersen & Pincus, 2021), Moscow feels that its perceived control over the NSR is also at risk. In policy documents, this set of shipping lanes is considered to be “the Russian Federation’s competitive national transportation passage in the world market” (emphasis added). The word “national” is significant because it “indicates that Russia intends to maintain control over the navigation of foreign civil ships and warships through the NSR” (Koshkin, 2020: 444). This stance puts Russia at odds with the United States, which views the NSR as international waters (Todorov, 2022). Similarly, while being more circumspect about

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its stance on the NSR’s legal status, Beijing supports the idea of the Arctic as subject to international law but also as a de facto international space, given its importance from an economic and scientific viewpoint (Lanteigne, 2017). The perceived threat of “internationalizing” the NSR are therefore taken very seriously.

In tandem with this risk is the fear that the abundant Arctic mineral wealth will create a race for resources in areas that Russia considers to be its own national territory and waters. As numerous non Arctic states have begun to intensify their Arctic engagement, fears have emerged of international especially Chinese corporations “buying up all the resources” (Hønneland, 2020; Paul & Swistek, 2022). China, being the largest and most visible non Arctic actor, has argued that there can and should be a place for non Arctic stakeholders to assist in the study and development of the circumpolar north (Lanteigne, 2020; Lim, 2018). Moscow views China as an essential partner in much of its Arctic development plans, especially in light of its increased isolation as a consequence of its invasion of Ukraine beginning in February 2022. However, there is still a degree of distrust in Moscow as to China’s long term intentions for the region. Due to the centrality of Arctic development for Russia’s future economic stability, “this is perceived as a threat aimed at the heart of Russian well being” (Petersen & Pincus, 2021: 499). Moreover, Moscow, and a variety of Russian scholars, perpetuate the narrative that low population numbers in the Russian Arctic are “weakening…the geopolitical and defense interests of the country” (Lagutina, 2019: 22). According to this narrative, without a massive influx of Russian bodies on the ground, the country’s Arctic periphery remains vulnerable to external threats.

The China-Russia Relationship

The term “frenemy” might best encapsulate the current Russia China relationship. Historically, it has been precarious, as reflected predominantly in the region of their mutual border (Fei, 2011). Since the 1990s, Russia has sought economic partnerships with China and has opened its side of the Sino Russian border to Chinese migration, in order to stimulate economic growth (Zhao, 2020) However, there have been worries about “Sinicization” of the Russian Far East (RFE) (Guo & Wilson, 2020) and the lopsided population distribution on the Sino Russian border remains a source of anxiety. The RFE has a population of approximately eight million, compared to over 79 million in the adjacent Chinese regions (Simes & Simes, 2021). Even Putin himself was not adverse to using a “China threat” narrative (Liou, 2017) These concerns are spilling over from the RFE into the wider Russian Arctic, which are also facing demographic strains, economic uncertainty, and expanding interest from China.

Prior to its actions in Ukraine in 2014, Russia was actively trading with, and receiving investment from, its preferred Western partners. When Russia annexed Crimea, it provoked international censure and brought sanctions upon itself as a consequence, resulting in the withdrawal of funding, technology, and resources by many Western businesses. Since then, “Moscow has had no choice but to seek alternatives to the losses of its technological partnerships with the West, and so open up to China” (Laruelle, 2020: 20). While both countries have placed a great deal of emphasis on developing cross border trade and overall economic cooperation, the historical distrust between the two states has not healed. With the knowledge that China is Russia’s largest trade partner, while Russia is only the eleventh largest trading partner for Beijing (FMPRC, 2020), Moscow is suspicious of China’s potential to “buy” influence in Russian domestic affairs and fears potential Chinese infiltration into its sovereign borders.

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Most recently, the Putin and Xi Jinping administrations have sought to maintain the impression of a strong and evolving bilateral relationship, despite Russia’s pervasive distrust of China’s intentions and potential influence in the Federation, and despite ongoing Chinese misgivings about the Ukraine conflict and its long term strategic and economic implications (Troianovski & Bradsher, 2022). Days before the Russian invasion began, the two leaders met in Beijing and co signed a joint statement which included the declaration that ‘friendship between the two States has no limits, there are no “forbidden” areas of cooperation’. 5 Yet, despite such assertions of goodwill, there nevertheless remain several points of division between the two governments that are spilling over into the Russian Arctic.

China in the Russian Arctic

Beijing promotes the idea of the Arctic as an international space. Although China has deepened its Arctic engagement policies since the turn of this century, the country nonetheless remains a relative newcomer in the region. At present, China’s interests in the Arctic are threefold: the country wishes to develop relevant scientific expertise in the region, preferably in cooperation with other Arctic and non Arctic nations, to expand its economic interests in the Arctic, and to play a greater role in emerging areas of far north governance. Its 2018 White Paper on the Arctic, “China’s Arctic Policy” (Zhongguo de beiji zhengce), states that while no non Arctic state has the right to claim sovereignty there, they do have the right to engage in economic and scientific endeavors within the boundaries of international law.6 It also promotes the idea of itself as a “near Arctic state” (jin beiji guojia) (Zhao, 2021), but because it does not possess any Arctic territory, Beijing remains heavily dependent on the goodwill of the eight member governments of the Arctic Council for its far northern policies.

At the center of China’s Arctic policy is the Polar Silk Road (Bingshang Sichou Zhilu), or PSR. It was designed in 2017 in partnership with the Russian government to place the Arctic within China’s greater Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China initially sought to develop a pan Arctic PSR, but its partnership with Russia is the only one to have somewhat succeeded so far. However, even in the Russian Arctic, some ambitious projects, such as the long discussed Belkomur railway and associated Arkhangelsk port, have failed to progress beyond the drawing board stage “due to the delays and concerns from the Russian side,” (Gao & Erokhin, 2021: 20).

The “crown jewel” of the PSR endeavor was to be the Yamal LNG project the first BRI energy project in the Arctic. Initially worth approximately US$27 billion, the project commenced in 2017 on Russia’s Yamal Peninsula, and is overseen by Novatek, a private Russian energy firm. Partners included France’s Total (which suspended operations in May 2022 in response to post invasion EU sanctions on Moscow), the China National Petroleum Corporation, and the Beijing based Silk Road Fund (SiLu Jijin). In the beginning, Yamal was lauded in Chinese policy circles as being a primary source of much needed natural gas for Chinese markets, a means to assist Russia in competing with other giants in the global gas market, and a way for Chinese commercial interests to become better integrated into the Russian Arctic (Yang, 2019). However, the double blow of the coronavirus pandemic, which depressed fossil fuel prices to near unprecedented levels (Lanteigne, 2020), and the widespread post invasion sanctions placed on the Russian economy have cast doubts on the short term viability of Arctic energy projects. Various Chinese firms contracted to work on the Arctic LNG 2 project in Siberia reportedly suspended their operations for fear of sanction penalties (Zhou, 2022). Reports also appeared that China had no plans to send

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cargo vessels through the NSR during the summer of 2022 (Staalesen, 2022). As the war in Ukraine continues, Beijing has found it more difficult to maintain a non aligned stance between Russia and the West, and the Polar Silk Road may be an early casualty of this diplomatic conundrum (Lanteigne, 2022).

Going beyond strictly state to state relations, Chinese influence is also a factor in the emerging debates about Russian Arctic development. A number of scholars believe that China’s investment in the Arctic is an existential threat to Russian sovereignty.7 They see it as an avenue for “creeping conquest of the Arctic: gaining access to the region’s natural resources…and taking control of the Northern Sea Route” (Koo, 2020, emphasis added). Some have even expressed fear that, “Russia may…become a ‘vassal of China’” (Sheng, 2022: 64).

Even tourism has been a factor in this equation as the number of Chinese tourists to Russia’s Arctic regions had been rising prior to the pandemic, and this has frequently been cited as a major facet of deepening bilateral Arctic cooperation. For its own part, China also sees tourism as necessary toward legitimizing its claim to being a “near Arctic state” (Bennett and Iaquinto, 2021) and consider it as “part of the ‘soft power’ propaganda and popularisation of Chinese culture abroad [which in turn solidifies] the image of the state as an Arctic actor welcomed in the region” (Kobzeva, 2021: 46). However, greater numbers of Chinese tourists had caused strains with local citizens and governments, while raising concerns about economic dependency (Midko & Zhou, 2020; Khurshudyan, 2020; Niu et al., 2020).

That Russia feels threatened in its Arctic has been established. Why Russia feels threatened is a bit more of a mystery. As Baev (2013: 489) notes, “With its large population centres (like Murmansk and Norilsk)…and huge resource extraction industry, Russia is objectively the Arctic superpower” (emphasis added). Despite depopulation, Russia’s Arctic is still the most heavily populated of any of the Arctic countries and, as stated above, the largest Arctic cities are all in in Russia. So, why does Moscow feel that (re )populating these areas will bolster its security?

The “Hectare in the Arctic” program

As mentioned above, the outmigration of residents from Russia’s Arctic region since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been a regular source of concern for Moscow. The proposed solution offered by Moscow and various Russian scholars is twofold. First, the country’s military capabilities need to be revamped (Sergunin, 2019). Secondly, the civilian population needs to increase. One of the most readily observable ways Moscow is trying to incentivize the latter is through the creation of the “Hectare in the Arctic” program.

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Map 1: Territories included in the “Hectare in the Arctic” program. Source: http://n v pervyy den realizacii programmy arkticheskiy gektar v arhangel skoy oblasti podano 315 zayavleniy.html

The AH program is administered by the Ministry for Development of the Far East and Arctic, and is an expansion of the government’s 2016 Far Eastern Hectare (FEH) program, which was designed as one way to discourage depopulation from the country’s peripheral areas and, hopefully, to encourage in migration. Approximately 1.1 million hectares were made available through the AH program. The land plots were “donated” by six of the sub federal administrative units that are listed as Arctic territory. The Murmansk oblast’ has approximately 730,000 available plots, the Republic of Karelia approx. 337,000, the Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug approx. 17,000, the Republic of Komi 4261, and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug 1293. Krasnoyarsk krai is included in the project and intends to offer up 2500 hectares, but has yet to launch the program in its territory (Voronova, 2022). The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug are also considered to be Arctic territory, but are not included in the AH program because they are already included in the FEH program. The benefit to participating municipalities would be that “the unused plots of land [would be put] into economic turnover and therefore increase tax payments to the local budgets” (The President signs.., 2021).

To an outside observer, this program may seem reminiscent of nineteenth century American land races. In fact, several Russian scholars have commented on the historical similarity (Maksimov, 2021; Sokolov & Volkova, 2022). As well, with the knowledge that the AH program includes land available on the island of Novaya Zemlya, an island north of the Russian continental mainland which has never been permanently inhabited,8 one might recall the Canadian government’s Cold War era “High Arctic relocation” program, which attempted to bolster sovereignty by colonizing the extreme northern islands of Ellesmere and Cornwallis with “human flagpoles” (Jull, 1994). However, Russian news reports were quick to assure that the needs of current Arctic residents were taken into consideration, for example, Indigenous peoples’ reindeer herding areas have been

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removed from consideration for the program (MRFDVA, 2022). Furthermore, it seems that localities can opt out of the program entirely, as did two village councils in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (Makarova, 2021).

While it seems that the government hoped that “free” land would be as enticing a prospect in the twenty first century as it was in the nineteenth, thus far the scheme has not proven too popular. Cynicism towards the initiative has come from internet commentators and experts alike. For example, when a 2020 RIA Novosti article announced the government’s decision to expand the FEH program to the Arctic, comments ranged from quips about penguins and polar bears to predictions of corruption by local officials seizing the best hectares for themselves (“Polyarniy gektar,” 2020). Experts interviewed also expressed pessimism about the program’s viability, such as an economist who opined that the AH’s purpose was for government officials to justify their salaries without actually accomplishing anything (Zakharchenko, 2021).

For those who have considered obtaining a plot, the biggest obstacle has been lack of infrastructure, the most frequently cited being lack of roads and electricity to the hectares (Lezhneva, 2021). It is unsurprising, then, that the most popular areas have been in the Murmansk oblast’ and the Republic of Karelia (KDVA, 2022), both of which have the most developed infrastructure and relatively milder climates, compared to other AH areas. As of 1 June 2022, just over 100,000 people have taken the government up on its offer of either an FEH or an AH plot. According to the operator of the programs, the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and Arctic, 103,800 people have received an FEH plot (out of 140 million available plots) and 2,500 (of the 1.1 million available plots) have received an AH plot (KDVA, 2022). Given that the population of Russia is over 144 million, this means that less than 0.001% of the population has chosen to participate..

Based on the outsized number of promotional articles highlighting participants who chose to create “glamping” sites, hunting/fishing lodges, and even a military sports complex (NaDalniyVostok, 2022), government and media sources seem to be pushing people to consider launching tourist enterprises. One likely reason for this is that, unlike natural resource exploitation, tourism is not a capital intensive industry and, in theory, provides for greater economic diversity. Another reason is that tourism is a soft power “technology defining and reassuring sovereignty over a certain territory…tourism may serve as a political mechanism of territorialization and sovereignty maintenance” (Zelenskaya, 2018: 37). According to Zelenskaya, the Russian state engaged in such a territorialization already in 2009, when it created the Russian Arctic National Park, which was intended to demonstrate to the world that Russia had not abandoned its Arctic region after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, the state is expanding opportunities to small businesses to help it with its work in asserting Russian sovereignty in the Arctic.

Despite its best efforts though, so far, most plots granted are designated for building private houses (Golubkova & Matsiong, 2021). Herein lies the conundrum. Since the majority of AH participants are building homes, rather than starting a business, an external source of income is necessary to develop and maintain it. One of the biggest reasons for outmigration has been the lack of employment opportunities in these regions. To be sure, there are areas in the Far North where labor is needed, such as in the hydrocarbon exploitation regions like the Nenets and Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrugs. However, these areas have underdeveloped infrastructure and therefore are attracting few participants. Furthermore, most of those taking advantage of the offer

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have been local residents, tempering hopes of in migration and a potential influx of labor from more densely populated central regions of the country (Ivanova, 2022).

Security, Territory, Population

In a series of lectures from 1977 to 1978, Michel Foucault articulated the precursor to his groundbreaking governmentality concept as “security, territory, population.” In this triad, he understood security as an attempt by the state to limit “what the state might be called to account for or what the state might intervene in and how” (Salter, 2019: 360). This decidedly neoliberal security concept is operationalized as a devolution of responsibility for potential future negative outcomes onto non state entities (private enterprises, individuals). The AH program is an ideal case to demonstrate this concept in action. Rather than investing in education or (re )training northern populations for economic development opportunities beyond raw material extraction, the government is offering land for people to develop on their own. The government will help them get set up (registering a plot, financing the building), but will not assume responsibility for individual level consideration such as, how can participants pay back the loans if they do not have jobs or how people can develop their plots in the absence of sufficient infrastructure.

While Foucault’s focus of inquiry was not on territory (and its attendant concept, sovereignty) on the international level, many scholars in the following years have developed this dimension (Bonditti et al., 2017). This is important, especially in our case, because as prominent Foucauldian IR scholar Mark Salter (2019: 360) notes, “sovereignty does not simply occur in relation to an absent audience or to an international metasovereign authority. Rather territory and sovereignty are both asserted somewhere in relation to other competing actors” (emphasis added). So, in Foucauldian terms, territory involves “the consolidation of territorial claims through the assertion of sovereignty” (Salter, 2019: 360) for the benefit of potential international rivals (real or imagined) for ownership of that territory. Here, Russia is demonstrating this understanding of territory in a rather antequated way colonizing its Arctic region to assert effective occupation over it, despite the fact that no challenges to its sovereignty have been mentioned by its perceived rivals (primarily NATO and China). While it is true that the US considers the NSR to be international waters and that China is investing in Arctic enterprises, it is worth noting that no challenge has been made to Russia’s sovereignty over the continental mainland (or Novaya Zemlya) which is included in either the AH or FEH programs.

In Foucauldian terms, population refers, not to people, but to quantitative groups that are socially constructed “through knowledge practices and governed indirectly through cases, rates, and statistics [and from which] populations came to be constructed, known, and managed” (Salter, 2019: 361). In our case, Russia is demonstrating this understanding of population through its constant worry about demographic decline. The remedy that Russia is proposing the Arctic Hectare program demonstrates the government’s intense desire to control its Arctic territory and population, primarily for the benefit of an international audience, as well as its tone deafness to the needs of its Arctic residents.

The overall situation is one of contradictions. The contradictions involved in, and surrounding, the AH program are numerous. In an attempt to generate more local revenue, Moscow is attempting to attract more people to a region of the country that is expensive to subsidize. The preferred areas in Murmansk and Karelia are not where labor is needed most, which could potentially result in higher budgetary commitments from the center. Moreover, the federal government is intent on

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pursuing both the FEH and AH programs, despite low levels of interest and even lower levels of participation. These programs suffer from an overemphasis on reaction, based on a “top down” Moscow centered view of its peripheries. Rather than taking substantive (as opposed to declarative) action to improve the developmental status of the Russian Far North by delivering on the general needs of Arctic residents for jobs and economic security, quality schools, improved transport infrastructure, increased broadband, etc., the government is offering them bare plots of land. Finally, the AH program is one attempt to signal to NATO and to China that Russia is effectively occupying its northernmost territory and is therefore immune to any external threats. However, Russia’s sovereignty over the areas in the AH program are uncontested. The federal government is responding to a challenge that has not been issued about Russia’s sovereignty of the continental mainland of the Russian Far North. Such logic will continue to undermine Moscow’s domestic Arctic ambitions. Ultimately, this case illustrates the challenges, and central policy contradictions, that Putin’s regime faces in making the Russian Arctic an effective zone of economic growth.


In this article, we have attempted to use Foucault’s “security, territory, population” analytical model to explain the logic behind the Arctic Hectare program as a reactionary measure of the Russian federal government, in the face of both internal demographic decline and a perceived external threat to its sovereignty in its Far North, primarily by China. In line with the Foucauldian understanding of security, the Russian state has devolved responsibility for its Far Northern economy onto Arctic residents in the hopes that they can build a living, literally from the ground up. Moscow has demonstrated a Foucauldian understanding of territory and sovereignty assertion through an old fashioned settler colonization campaign. And finally, Moscow’s anxiety over demographic decline in peripheral areas, and the need to boost numbers, underscores the Foucauldian understanding of population.

It is still too early to evaluate the outcomes of the AH campaign. At the program level, as a reasoned assessment would need to wait at least five more years until 2026/2027, when information will be available regarding which recipients actually fulfilled the “productive use” criterion with their hectare. Macro level developments are also likely to have a significant impact on Russian citizens’ desire to “take the leap” into homesteading. Some effects of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine are already being felt. Economic sanctions have caused a halt to Western investment in Arctic partnerships and hesitancy on behalf of Chinese partners, for fear of sanctions being levied against themselves as well. With the NSR being shunned by Western concerns as well as (quietly) by China, Moscow’s visions of the Russian Arctic developing into a major transit and energy hub have collided with hard political realities (Solski, 2022). This could lead to another unemployment induced exodus of residents from the Arctic. With regard to the heavily promoted tourism opportunities, experience shows that people are less likely to migrate or start a business during times of uncertainty. Those considering establishing a tourist destination have two negatives working against them: the tourism industry has not recovered from the coronavirus pandemic and as Russia is “closed” to international flights and travel.

The greater Russia China relationship, often contradictory, is the wild card in gauging the future of the AH program. The Putin regime has sought to build an Arctic partnership with Beijing, viewing China as an essential provider of economic and logistical support for the Polar Silk Road, while at the same time pressing its Arctic sovereignty and allaying concerns within Russia about

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possible outsized Chinese influence in the Russian Far North. For its part, China has, since February 2022, sought a middle ground between ostracizing Russia and deepening relations with the Putin regime which could result in Western punative measures. From Moscow’s viewpoint, there is the potential for the “worst of both worlds” scenario whereby Russia is forced to increase its dependence on Chinese economic support in the face of Western pressures, which might open the door to greater Chinese influence on Russian policies, including in the Arctic, regardless of the results of the AH initiative.

Only time will tell.


1. Federal Law of 28 June 2021 N. 226 FZ “On Amendments to the Federal Law 'On the Peculiarities of Provision to Citizens of Land Plots in State or Municipal Ownership and Located on the Territories of the Subjects of the Russian Federation that Are Part of the Far Eastern Federal District, and on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation' and Certain Legislative Acts Russian Federation.” [in Russian]

2. For the purposes of this article, the terms “Russian Arctic” and “Far North” will be used synonymously.

3. With a population of 349,190, Arkhangelsk is currently both the largest Arctic city in Russia, as well as the biggest city in the pan Arctic region. However, it is an historical settlement whose growth was not connected to natural resource exploitation. The Arctic’s second largest city, Murmansk (pop. 279,064) was and still is a major military outpost. Statistics source: “Resident population of the Russian Federation by municipalities as of January 1, 2022,” Federal State Statistics Service, format: Excel spreadsheet, uploaded April 29, 2022. [in Russian].

4. Presidential Decree of 5 March 2020 No. 164 "On the Foundations of the Russian Federation's State Policy in the Arctic for the Period Up to 2035." aM.pdf [in Russian].

5. ‘Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development,’ President of Russia, 4 February 2022,

6. White Paper on China's Arctic Policy. State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 26 January 2018. [in Chinese].

7. One extreme example can be found in Ananskikh et al. (2019). Although the article’s academic quality is questionable, the facts that it was published in a scholastic journal and that the lead author is a member of the State Duma, indicate the pervasiveness of the “China threat” narrative.

8. The Russian Imperial government did attempt to settle a group of Indigenous Nenets people on Novaya Zemlya in the late nineteenth century, but they eventually returned to the mainland (Engelhardt, 1899).

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Permafrost Thaw and Adapting to its Multiple Effects in the Arctic

Outi Meinander, Mikael Hildén, Hanna K Lappalainen, Claire Mosoni, Reija Ruuhela, Eeva Kuntsi Reunanen, Timothy R. Carter, Stefan Fronzek, Nina Pirttioja, Ali Nadir Arslan, Kaarle Kupiainen, Ketil Isaksen, Heikki Lihavainen, and Juha Aalto

In the Arctic, climate warming causes permafrost degradation. Thawing permafrost has significant effects on human health and well being, infrastructure, ecosystems, and climate, from local to global scales. Here we provide examples of the many consequences of permafrost thaw in the Arctic permafrost region, paying particular attention to conditions in the Nordic and Russian Arctic, and interactions between the different effects. We discuss approaches used in adaptation to permafrost degradation from technological solutions to institutional and behavioural change. Our findings suggest that in depth understanding of the various feedbacks and cross border effects are required to adapt to the multiple effects of the thawing of permafrost. Successful adaptation requires coherence between the approaches and dialogues between stakeholders.

Introduction: Arctic warming and permafrost thaw

Permafrost is defined as ground (soil or rock and embedded ice or organic material) that remains at or below 0°C for at least two consecutive years. Permanently frozen ground underlies roughly 15% of the exposed land areas in the northern hemisphere, most of the Arctic land area and extends under parts of the Arctic Ocean (AMAP, 2017; Ran et al., 2022).

In the Arctic the climate warming exceeds the global average due to the Arctic amplification (Pithan & Mauritsen, 2014), and causes permafrost degradation (IPCC, 2019). Permafrost thaw has been investigated using in situ measurements, various modelling approaches and analysis of

Outi Meinander1, Mikael Hildén2, Hanna K. Lappalainen1,3, Claire Mosoni2, Reija Ruuhela1, Eeva Kuntsi Reunanen1, Timothy R. Carter2, Stefan Fronzek2, Nina Pirttioja2, Ali Nadir Arslan1,4, Kaarle Kupiainen5, Ketil Isaksen6, Heikki Lihavainen1,6 and Juha Aalto1

1 Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland 2 Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, Helsinki, Finland 3

University of Helsinki, Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research, Helsinki, Finland 4 Arctic Space Centre, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Sodankylä, Finland 5 Ministry of the Environment, Helsinki, Finland

6 Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System, Longyearbyen, Norway

satellite data (Guo & Wang, 2016; Aalto et al., 2018; Biskaborn et al., 2019; Udawalpola et al., 2021). Severe thawing, i.e., accelerating abrupt permafrost thaw, takes place in locations which have been identified as hot spots of permafrost thaw (Miner et al., 2022), e.g., Greenland, Siberia, and Svalbard.

Temperatures in the permafrost have risen by up to 2°C over the past two to three decades, particularly at colder sites (Romanovsky et al., 2017). The depth of soil above the permafrost that seasonally thaws each year, i.e., the active layer, has increased in Scandinavia, Arctic Russia west of the Urals, and inland Alaska, according to the assessment of Miner et al. (2022). Furthermore, the southern limit of the permafrost retreated northward by 30 to 80 km in Russia between 1970 and 2005, and by 130 km during the past 50 years in Québec, Canada (AMAP, 2017). The observed trend of ground temperature in the continuous permafrost zone follows the air temperature trend in the Northern Hemisphere (Lappalainen et al., 2022). IPCC (2019) concludes that about 20% of Arctic terrestrial permafrost is vulnerable to abrupt permafrost thaw and ground subsidence, which is expected to increase small lake area by over 50% by 2100 for RCP8.5 (medium confidence). Permafrost thaw can increase topsoil conditions favourable for dust emission and thus create new environmentally and climatically significant high latitude dust sources (Meinander et al., 2022). This is explained in Meinander et al. (2022) to result from climate change (warming) which causes permafrost thaw, decreases snow cover duration, and increases drought, glacial melt, and heatwave intensity and frequency all leading to increasing the frequency of topsoil conditions favourable for dust emission (increasing soil’s exposure to wind erosion) and the probability of dust storms. In their example on Svalbard, the accelerated ablation of Svalbard’s glaciers and the permafrost thaw are causing accelerated growth in periglacial and proglacial areas and increasing morphogenetic processes of deflation, denudation, and sediment transport on slopes and in river channels in glaciers’ marginal zones. Thus, according to Meinander et al. (2022), these areas have become potential sources of dust.

Thawing permafrost has important effects on human health, infrastructure, ecosystems, and climate, from local to global scales (Arneth et al., 2010). As permafrost thaws, greenhouse gases are released, which enhances climate warming. This is one of the several Arctic feedback mechanisms which amplify Arctic climate change (Koven et al., 2011). MacDougall et al. (2012) have estimated that permafrost thaw would induce an additional impact of 0.24 (0.10 0.69) °C by the end of this century (rcp4.5).

General effects of permafrost thaw have been assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC (IPCC 2019; 2021) and of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, AMAP (AMAP, 2017). Effects on ecosystems have been assessed in reports of the Arctic Council’s working group Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF). The European Arctic EU INTERACT program also provides recent updates on permafrost (Callaghan et al., 2021). Regionally, effects of climate change can be investigated with the help of the IPCC WGI Interactive Atlas (IPCC, 2021), available at http://Interactive There is high confidence that the cryosphere amplifies climate changes through snow, ice, and permafrost feedbacks, and thawing of permafrost involves thresholds (state changes) that allow for abrupt, nonlinear responses to ongoing climate warming (IPCC, 2019). The same report also points out that projected permafrost thaw (and decrease in snow cover extent and duration) will affect Arctic hydrology and wildfires, with impacts on vegetation and human infrastructure (medium

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confidence). Even as the overall regional water cycle intensifies, including increased precipitation, evapotranspiration, and river discharge to the Arctic Ocean, decreases in snow and permafrost may lead to soil drying (medium confidence), and wildfire frequency is projected to increase (medium confidence). By 2050 70% of Arctic infrastructure is projected to be in regions at risk from permafrost thaw and subsidence, and it is estimated that adaptation measures taken in advance could reduce by half the costs arising from thaw and other climate change related impacts, including increased flooding, precipitation, and freeze thaw events (medium confidence IPCC, 2019).

In the Arctic, hydrological changes, overall greening, and regional browning of tundra and boreal forests, are expected to follow from permafrost thaw and snowfall decrease (IPCC 2021, high confidence). Examples of other permafrost thaw impacts listed in IPCC (2021) include: disruption to economically important transportation and supply chain infrastructure to remote Arctic settlements; increasing risks to economies and to Arctic tourism including tourism to cultural heritage sites; changes in submarine permafrost, critical to mining infrastructure such as pipelines and offshore structures, which are expected to increase production costs and impact worker safety; and increased vulnerability of Siberian nomadic reindeer herding and fishing livelihoods. Hence, there is a broad general understanding and there are numerous examples of the consequences of permafrost thaw, but analyses of the possibilities to adapt to permafrost thaw are only emerging. The aim of this study is to provide examples of the effects of permafrost thaw in the Arctic permafrost regions, paying special attention to Greenland, Siberia, and Svalbard, and to discuss options for adapting to the thawing of permafrost. We focus on effects that have immediate societal relevance, i.e. impacts on infrastructure (including the built environment and communities), environment (including ecosystems and ecosystem atmosphere feedbacks), sources of livelihood, economy, and health. The literature survey was prepared by the members of the IBA Permafrost project ( project).

Effects of permafrost thaw

In this section we systematically examine the effects of permafrost thaw on societies and ecosystems, based on literature, and including the Eurasian Arctic permafrost thaw hot spots of Greenland, Siberia, and Svalbard. We explore the following topics: effects on infrastructure; effects on health; effects on ecosystems and ecosystem atmosphere feedbacks; examples of recent findings in Siberia, Greenland, and Svalbard. We conclude with a section on cross border impacts of permafrost thaw and interactions between the different effects (Figure 1).

Effects on infrastructure

Permafrost change imposes various threats to infrastructure through warming, active layer thickening and thaw related hazards, such as thermokarst and mass wasting. Permafrost thaw can demolish buildings and roads, potentially causing tens of billions of dollars additional costs to Arctic infrastructure in the near future. Poor design in the past may also be a contributing factor and the process of construction can itself thaw permafrost, but the effects are greatly exacerbated by climate change. Transport and energy infrastructure, such as railways and oil and gas pipelines, appears to be the most vulnerable. Infrastructure maintenance and repair costs related to the loss of permafrost’s carrying capacity could reach approximately $30 billion USD in the Arctic by 2060 (Hjort et al., 2022).

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Access to many areas becomes more difficult as ice roads melt earlier and freeze later and as permafrost degrades (AMAP, 2017). Consequently, industrial operations relying on ice roads and frozen ground will need to concentrate heavy load transport into the coldest part of the year. Shorter seasons where ice and snow roads can be used impact communities that rely on land transport of goods to maintain reasonable retail costs and ensure economic viability. In the Eurasian Arctic region, this is the case particularly in Russia (AMAP, 2017). New design methods are being developed that consider the likelihood of environmental change.

Hjort et al. (2018) project that risks from permafrost thaw will be disproportionately high for industrial infrastructure along major pipeline systems in Alaska and natural gas extraction areas in the Yamal Nenets region in north western Siberia, Russia, by mid century. In Russia, 54% of residential buildings are projected to be affected by significant permafrost degradation by the mid century (Streletskiy et al., 2019).

Except for the negative economic effects of thawing permafrost on infrastructure, economic opportunities also arise. Engineering solutions can mitigate the effects of degrading permafrost, although their economic cost is often high. The large scale physical changes that are underway in the Arctic are likely to lead to substantial investments into new infrastructure in the Arctic region, with the potential to generate multi billion dollar annual revenues over the coming years and decades. However, investment decisions in the Arctic are particularly difficult due to its restricted geographic access, environmental concerns, highly contrasting seasons, and constrained markets, as well as the fact that many projects are transborder in nature since they include several Arctic states, giving rise to sensitive geopolitical issues (Alvarez et al., 2020).

Effects on health

Climate change and related changes to ecosystems may impact human health in various ways, including through infectious diseases (Parkinson et al., 2014). In a review for the Arctic, increasing temperature and precipitation were projected to have the greatest health impacts via infectious diseases such as tularemia, anthrax, vibriosis and various tick borne diseases (Waits et al., 2018). For instance, the dynamics of environmental factors that led to an anthrax outbreak in the Yamal Peninsula, Siberia, during 2016 have been investigated by Ezhova et al. (2021). They found that the local permafrost was thawing rapidly for the previous 6 years before the outbreak, supporting the hypothesis that permafrost thaw contributed to this outbreak, and that the spread of anthrax was likely intensified by the extremely dry summer of 2016 in the region.

Thawing permafrost may also lead to the release into the environment of biological, chemical, and radioactive materials that have been sequestered for tens to hundreds of thousands of years, which also could pose a risk to human health (Miner et al., 2021). Thawing soils may release viable viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. They may belong to previously unknown microbial species, unknown genotypes of present pathogens, already eradicated pathogens, or even known pathogens that gained extremely robust characteristics due to their subjection to long term stress (El Sayed and Kamel, 2021). Moreover, it has also been suggested that a significant sub Arctic population could be exposed to radon levels dangerous to health because of climate change thawing of permafrost, with implications for health provision, building codes, and ventilation advice (Glover and Blouin, 2022). Permafrost thaw may also adversely affect mental wellbeing issue through changes in environment and livelihoods in the Arctic (Hueffer et al., 2019; Cunsolo Willox et al., 2015).

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Permafrost thaw leads to amplification of climate change in the Arctic and Northern areas, and therefore impacts on human health should be considered more widely. Changes in the exposure to thermal stress result in changes in temperature related mortality and morbidity. In the last decades there has been an increase in occurrences of heatwaves in the terrestrial Arctic, and since 2002 the probability of experiencing heat waves in the Arctic is similar to lower latitudes (Dobricic et al., 2020). People adapt to the climatic conditions of their living environment. Therefore, adverse impacts of heat stress appear in the Arctic at lower temperature levels than in warmer regions to the south, and more frequent and intense heat waves due to climate change will increase heat related health impacts (Ruuhela, 2018). However, in high latitude countries people presumably can adapt to gradually changing average thermal conditions, and the health risks are related to hot and cold extremes of the future climate.

Ma et al. (2021) identified six climate sensitive infectious diseases relevant for the Arctic and northern regions, namely borreliosis, leptospirosis, tick borne encephalitis (TBE), Puumala virus infection, cryptosporidiosis, and Q fever. In another study, Campylobacter infections (commonly associated with contamination of food and leading to diarrhoea) are expected to increase due to climate change and Nordic countries may experience a doubling of cases by the end of the 2080s (Kuhn et al., 2020).

A regional One Health approach has been suggested (e.g., Ruscio et al., 2015; Hueffer et al., 2019) for assessing interactions at the Arctic human animal environment interface to enhance the understanding of, and response to, the complexities of climate change on the health of the Arctic inhabitants.

Ecosystem processes and ecosystem atmosphere feedbacks

Permafrost thaw has a wide range of effects on ecosystems and ecosystem services (Schuur and Mack, 2018). In some cases, the impacts may change ecosystems in different directions. For example, with increasing air temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, the thawing of ice rich permafrost is expected to increasingly alter hydrological conditions by creating mosaics of wetter and drier areas (Kwon et al., 2016). Some wetlands may drain and dry out, whereas elsewhere thawing may create new wetlands (AMAP, 2017). In the long run, ecologically valuable permafrost habitats such as palsa mires may totally disappear from northern Fennoscandia during the 21st century (Fronzek et al., 2011; Aalto et al., 2017). The decline of cryospheric habitats such as sea ice and wetlands over permafrost can have far reaching consequences by affecting the habitats and populations of migratory species of mammals and birds (AMAP, 2017).

Fewster et al. (2022) have recently presented that permafrost peatlands (i.e. palsa mires) in sub Arctic Europe and Western Siberia would soon surpass a climatic tipping point, i.e. the complete loss of their suitable climate envelope) under scenarios of moderate to high warming. Of the ecosystem services, forestry may benefit from thawing permafrost in areas where there is enough water for trees to grow, but at the same time the heating may increase damages from insect pests (AMAP, 2017).

The links between permafrost thaw and fluxes of greenhouse gases are complex. Lappalainen et al. (2022) summarise and discuss the rate of permafrost thaw, and how it will affect ecosystem processes and ecosystem, with atmospheric feedbacks, including hydrology and greenhouse gas fluxes. The summary is based on studies published in the last five years (based on observation

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from longer periods) in the northern Eurasian region, focusing on the Russian Arctic, northern Eurasian boreal forests (Siberia) and peatlands of the PEEX programme.1 The importance of surface and soil conditions for the energy balance and thawing is given in Göckede et al. (2019) presenting their findings on shifts in energy fluxes from paired ecosystem observations in north eastern Siberia comprising a drained and corresponding control site. Drainage disturbance triggered a suite of secondary shifts in ecosystem properties, including alterations in vegetation community structure, which in turn influenced changes in snow cover dynamics and surface energy budget. First, the drainage reduced heat transfer into deeper soil layers, which may have led to shallower thaw depths. Second, the vegetation changes due to the drainage led to an albedo increase, which decreased the total energy income, or net radiation, into the system. Third, the drainage reduced water content available for evapotranspiration, which resulted in a reduced latent heat flux and increased sensible heat flux, transferring more energy back into the atmosphere. The reported effects led to surface and permafrost cooling. In another investigation, Kukkonen et al. (2020) compared ground temperature data from several shallow boreholes in the Nadym region, Siberia, and predicted permafrost evolution for different climate scenarios. The Nadym area represents a typical site located in the discontinuous permafrost zone. Locally, in sites with a thin snow cover (e.g., hilltops) a higher resistance to the thawing was demonstrated (Kukkonen et al., 2020). To follow up on the development of permafrost thaw in different soil types requires continuous and comprehensive observations during the coming decades.

Examples of recent findings in Greenland, Siberia and Svalbard

In Greenland, permafrost thaw has been found to cause erosion of land, damage to infrastructure and buildings, and increased pollution risks for drinking water and food safety in Arctic communities (Rautio et al., 2020). The main concerns are that there might be a release of contaminants and heavy metals (such as mercury) and infectious agents (especially anthrax from old burial places), that have been hidden for a long time, even hundreds of years, in frozen ground. All this is a serious risk for both human and wildlife health (Rautio et al., 2020). There can also be indirect effects of permafrost thaw on mental, physical, and social health and wellness via associated socioeconomic changes in the Arctic (Rautio et al., 2020). These authors stress the importance of developing appropriate new research methodologies for understanding the dynamics of re mobilising pollutants (contaminants, infectious agents) from permafrost thaw in the Arctic, and for estimating their risks for human and wildlife health. Ideally, such methodologies would be highly participatory, multidisciplinary, and culturally sensitive, combining social and physical science with indigenous knowledge.

In the Arctic tundra region of Siberia, the expansion of shrub vegetation in response to climatic changes has been widely reported, but how such vegetation changes contribute to stabilisation or destabilisation of the underlying permafrost has been unknown, because field studies on tundra vegetation changes in Siberia are scarce (Heijmans, 2020). Their experiment at the Chokurdakh Scientific Tundra Station in North East Siberia showed that damaging the tundra vegetation can trigger abrupt permafrost thaw (Heijmans, 2020). Outside their experiment, in the same drained thaw lake basin, they found ‘natural’ thaw ponds with drowned shrubs, but it was unclear to them what had triggered the abrupt permafrost thaw there. At the same time as they witnessed abrupt permafrost thaw, they also saw recovery of vegetation and permafrost, probably assisted by the establishment of Sphagnum mosses. Their birch (Betula nana) removal experiment showed

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how important the tundra vegetation cover is for protecting the permafrost. Removal of a part of the vegetation resulted in a literal collapse of the ecosystem, demonstrating how fragile the Arctic tundra ecosystem can be (Heijmans, 2020). Several other local studies have also explored the differences introduced by vegetation, soil, and hydrological characteristics at the same site (Göckede et al., 2019). In far eastern Siberia, Alexander et al. (2020) sampled burned forests near Yakutsk and Cherskiy, Russia, to understand the causes and consequences of larch forest loss after fire. They found that the greatest levels of larch forest recovery in forest stands that had the highest severity of crown fire (fire damage at the top of the trees). Another recent permafrost study on gas emission craters (GEC), revealed the existence of mounds above subterranean methane that may disappear abruptly through explosive depressurization under climate warming, to form deep craters known as gas emission craters (GEC) (Leibman et al., 2020). All the known GECs appear to have formed in north western Siberia, in the Central part of the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas close to 70° North, located in the continuous permafrost zone of West Siberia, known for its natural gas resources and layers of ground ice. These are due to climatic fluctuations and air temperature extremes associated with the warming trend over the last decade and have caused an activation of permafrost processes due to thaw of ground ice. The researchers determined, through analysis of Digital Elevation Models around each GEC, that all craters were preceded by mound predecessors, 20 to 50 m in diameter and 2 to 6 m high. Sampling frozen crater walls showed that lake successor water contained very high concentrations of methane. They suggest that mound predecessors explode when pressure due to the dissociation of gas hydrates finally exceeds the strength of the ground layer covering the growing gas reservoirs. At that moment, this cover of frozen deposits breaks into very icy blocks which are ejected out into the air and thrown into the tundra where they melt, leaving small hollows filled with water or pieces of ground. The central void that formed as a result of this explosion is then flooded, and at the same time, crater walls collapse, filling the void together with rain and melting water from snow. This mixture freezes up from the bottom. Thus, in a few years, a small diameter deep hollow turns into a big shallow lake (Leibman et al., 2020).

In Svalbard, permafrost soil has been used to protect the seed strains. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a store for duplicates of seed strains collected from crops around the world in a safe environment, thus ensuring that the seed duplicates are safe from extinctions during large scale regional or global crises. Instanes (2020) worked at Svalbard Global Seed Vault which is located near Longyearbyen, Svalbard (78°13’N, 15°33’E) at 130 metres above sea level. Their work was to construct a storage facility for seeds, that will remain cold, dry, and dark for the next centuries, even under the most extreme climate warming scenarios. This design was achieved by a combination of construction procedures including watertight concrete, low permeability backfill material and artificial cooling of the permafrost soils and rock (e.g., Zolkos et al., 2018).

In addition to these examples from Greenland, Russia and Svalbard, results from the H2020 EU project NUNATARYUK, “Permafrost thaw and the changing Arctic coast: science for socio economic adaptation”, available at, provides a wide collection of 68 peer reviewed articles on permafrost, including Greenland, Siberia, Svalbard, as well as studies across the Arctic.

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Cross-border impacts of permafrost thaw

Permafrost thaw in the Arctic can have consequences for regions outside the Arctic through effects that cascade across borders. These include impacts on infrastructure on permafrost used for international trade: transport routes and airports, energy infrastructure such as pipelines (cf. section ‘Effects on infrastructure’) as well as economic opportunities presented by improved access to natural resources (Carter et al., 2021; Mosoni et al. in prep.). Infrastructure damage linked to permafrost thaw can also impact the financial and insurance sector. Adaptation measures and policies to counter the effect on trade and finance by the impacted actors is necessary to address these changing conditions.

Connections of the effects of permafrost thaw to other impacts caused by warming and their cascading consequences are summarised in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Illustration of the impact transmission system for permafrost thaw and related impacts in the Arctic addressed in this study (modified from Mosoni et al., in prep., symbols based on Carter et al., 2021).

Planning and taking adaptive action

The many effects of permafrost thaw call for equally diverse adaptation actions. Permafrost thaw is a ‘structural’ change in the arctic environment and a seasonal phenomenon. As noted in Section ‘Effects of permafrost thaw’ it may, however, change ecosystems permanently. Relevant adaptation actions can be classified as follows:

1) Engineering approaches: the thawing of the permafrost is taken into account in construction designs and standards. (Schnabel et al., 2020).

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2) Behavioural change: Practices are modified in such a way that activities cope with the relevant changes. This is one of the main options for many indigenous peoples that depend on traditional livelihoods (Takakura, 2016).

3) Organisational responses: By modifying regular activities, societies can address permafrost thaw. This may take the form of increasing funding for maintenance of infrastructure, the development of warning systems for the acute dangers that permafrost thaw may cause or participatory planning of suitable responses (Jungberg et al., 2022; Vogel and Bullock, 2021).

4) Regulatory and policy response: By modifying laws, rules, and other forms of regulation the capacity to adapt to permafrost thaw can be increased. These may include new regulations for buildings or infrastructure, rules on land use to maximise the protection of permafrost or rules on resettlement (López Carr & Marter Kenyon, 2015)

The different actions are obviously not fully independent but making a distinction between them is useful as the processes by which they can be adopted differ greatly. For example, engineering approaches can be used almost independently of the others in the case of industrial sites, where the owner has strong incentives to avoid technical failures. Robust constructions require detailed understanding of the different processes affecting permafrost and thawing (Vincent et al., 2013).

Behavioural adaptation is a form of autonomous adaptation that has been a necessary feature of many indigenous peoples and local communities (Schlingmann et al., 2021). In general, these climate adaptation strategies involve a modification of existing livelihood systems, which in the case of permafrost thaw may, for example, involve finding new sites for traditional ice cellars or water sources (Brubaker et al., 2011) and other ways of coping with the change that is not only physical, but also mental and cultural (Doloisio & Vanderlinden, 2020). The adaptation patterns may include gender based differences (Potravnaya & Kim, 2020).

The behavioural adaptation may be supported or hindered by organisational responses to permafrost thawing. A crucial feature in developing institutions is the involvement of indigenous and local knowledge, that can offer important insights into the actual changes brought about by permafrost thawing (Wilson et al., 2015) and into the vulnerabilities of arctic communities (Furgal & Seguin, 2006).

Regulatory response involves active modifications of institutions that guide behavioural and organisational adaptation and the application of engineering responses. The regulatory responses may include, for example, strategic plans or zoning regulations (Jeff Birchall and Bonnett, 2020) which can address hazards but also long term development. Regulatory response may also involve the modification of existing regulations. For example, existing regulations may limit the opportunities for funding if the community fails to qualify for emergency funding because they have not been declared a national disaster area or because they have not approved disaster mitigation plans (Government Accountability Office, 2009).

To be effective, the different responses to permafrost thawing need to be coherent. As noted by Jungserg et al. (2022) there is a risk that “individuals and institutions engage in autonomous adaptation on an ad hoc basis, rather than pursuing an overall strategy to increase the adaptive capacity in advance of future permafrost degradation”. At a local or (sub)national level the coherence in responses can be achieved by systematically recognizing the different types of

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adaptation to permafrost degradation and by creating fora for debating and exploring options, underlining the importance of dialogues between stakeholders (Fig. 2). In order to develop such dialogues, there is a need for institutional development that brings together both public and private stakeholders, with a strong emphasis on the role of indigenous peoples, whose livelihoods and even health are key victims of permafrost thaw.

Figure 2. The interaction of responses to permafrost degradation. The two way arrows indicate that all actions need to be based on interactions between stakeholders. Rounded boxes illustrate responses which tend to be incremental, gradually modifying existing structures, whereas ovals illustrate responses in which negotiations and awareness raising are p articularly important.

The responses to permafrost degradation must be effective at the scale that is relevant for the (local) actors whose activities depend on the permafrost. However, permafrost degradation is also a circumpolar phenomenon that has cross border impacts. This means that there is also scope for cross border learning and policy response. Thus, Leonard et al (2021) have proposed that the EU should initiate and lead a global coalition for the permafrost, aimed at funding research to better assess the current status of the problem and at funding measures to urgently contain permafrost thaw. This could open possibilities for innovative solutions on a larger scale than is possible with local community adaptation. Currently, for example, the EU Arctic PASSION project (Pan Arctic observing System of Systems: Implementing Observations for societal Needs, considers permafrost (or living on frozen ground) as eligible to be included within the concept of a Shared Arctic Variable (SAV) as part of the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks’ (SAON) Roadmap for Arctic Observing and Data Systems (ROADS) (Starkweather et al., 2021).


This study has provided a literature based summary of the multiple effects of thawing permafrost permanently frozen ground in the Eurasian Arctic. The literature demonstrates diverse and interacting effects of permafrost thaw (or degradation). The complexity of the effects, which span ecological, cultural, economic and health impacts, puts specific demands on adaptation to climate change in the Arctic. We identify several different categories of response to permafrost degradation but argue that they have to be considered and developed in a coherent manner in

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order to be effective. This implies that there is a need for institutional development that supports action to reduce permafrost thaw and actions that help in adapting to inevitable degradation. We argue that there is scope for such institutional arrangements at different levels of governance from the local to the international.


1. The Pan Eurasian Experiment (PEEX) Science Plan, released in 2015, addressed a need for a holistic system understanding and outlined the most urgent research needs for the rapidly changing Arctic boreal region (Laappalainen et al. 2015)


This work was funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (IBA project No. PC0TQ4BT 20) with additional funding provided through AASCO Arena gap analysis of the existing Arctic science co operations (Contract 2858), the Academy of Finland (ACCC Flagship funding grant No. 337552; CHAMPS project grant Nos. 329223 and 329225), the European Commission H2020 (CASCADES project, number 821010), and the PIFI Grant (H.K Lappalainen) "Development to the In situ Component by the Digital Belt and Road (DBAR) Program and Pan Eurasian Experiment (PEEX) jointly".


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Miner, K. R., Turetsky, M. R., Malina, E., Bartsch, A., Tamminen, J., McGuire, A. D., Fix, A., Sweeney, C., Elder, C. D. and Miller, C. E. Permafrost carbon emissions in a changing Arctic. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 3, 1, 55 67, 021 00230 3, 2022.

Miner, K. R.; D’Andrilli, J.; Mackelprang, R.; Edwards, A.; Malaska, M. J.; Waldrop, M. P.; Miller, C. E. Emergent biogeochemical risks from Arctic permafrost degradation. Nat. Clim. Chang , 11, 809 819, doi:10.1038/s41558 021 01162 y, 2021.

Mosoni, C., T.R. Carter, S. Fronzek, M. Hildén, P. Kivimaa, S. Pitzén and M. Sivonen, Policy responses to cross border impacts of climate change in the Arctic, in prep.

Parkinson, Alan, J., Birgitta Evengard, Jan C. Semenza, Nicholas Ogden, Malene L. Børresen, Jim Berner, Michael Brubaker, Anders Sjöstedt, Magnus Evander, David M. Hondula, Bettina Menne, Natalia Pshenichnaya, Prabhu Gounder, Tricia Larose, Boris Revich, Karsten Hueffer & Ann Albihn. Climate change and infectious diseases in the Arctic: establishment of a circumpolar working group, International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 73:1, doi: 10.3402/ijch.v73.25163, 2014.

Pithan, F., & Mauritsen, T. Arctic amplification dominated by temperature feedbacks in contemporary climate models. Nat. Geosci. 7, 181 184, 2014.

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Potravnaya, E., & Kim, H. J. Economic Behavior of the Indigenous Peoples in the Context of the Industrial Development of the Russian Arctic: A Gender Sensitive Approach1. Region, 9, 2, 101 126., 2020.

Ran, Y, Li, X, Cheng, G, Che, J, Aalto, J, Karjalainen, O, Hjort, J, Luoto, M, Jin, H, Obu, J, Hori, M, Yu, Q & Chang, X, ‘New high resolution estimates of the permafrost thermal state and hydrothermal conditions over the Northern Hemisphere’ , Earth system science data , vol. 14 , no. 2 , pp. 865 884 . 14 865 202, 2022.

Rautio A., Timlin, U., Emelyanova A. & Abass K. Thawing permafrost and human health. In: Callaghan, T.V, Hannele Savela and Margareta Johansson (eds). INTERACT Stories of Arctic Science II, published in 2020 by DCE Department for Environment and Energy, Aarhus University, available at https://eu, 134 p., ISBN 978 87 93129 17 7, doi: 10.5281/zenodo.4497683, 2020.

Romanovsky, V., Ketil Isaksen, Dmitry Drozdov, Oleg Anisimov, Arne Instanes, Marina Leibman, A. David McGuire, Nikolay Shiklomanov, Sharon Smith, Donald Walker, 2017. Changing permafrost and its impacts. In: Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) 2017. pp. [65 102]. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), Oslo, Norway. ISBN 978 82 7971 101 8, 2017.

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Schlingmann, A., Graham, S., Benyei, P., Corbera, E., Martinez Sanesteban, I., Marelle, A., Soleymani Fard, R., & Reyes García, V. Global patterns of adaptation to climate change by Indigenous Peoples and local communities. A systematic review. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 51, 55 64. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2021.03.002, 2021.

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III. Chinese – Russian Cooperation

The War in Ukraine as a Crit ical Juncture:

China, Russia, and Arctic Collaboration

up to 2035

The outbreak of the war in Ukraine in February 2022 marks a major watershed in Arctic politics. Declining West Russia relations have transformative implications for the region’s stability, practices of governance, and economic policies, including a potentially rapid green transition. Moreover, China’s ‘neutrality’ in the West Russia axis adds on to the high level of uncertainty about the future of the Arctic. Unsurprisingly, this dynamic has sparked a newfound interest in mapping the region’s futures in an analytical and rigorous manner, and, consequently, spawned a growing pool of scenario analyses. Unlike most of these exercises, this article abandons the business as usual style of reasoning that guides the envisioning of predominantly alarming futures. Instead, it uses the futures research technique of backcasting to construct three scenarios on the continuation of the Arctic cooperation with Sino Russian relations as the focus. More specifically, the article produces a set of alternative futures that despite the differences in their actual content and ethos all picture an Arctic of 2035 where at least the eight Arctic states collaborate regularly, and in which climate change mitigation and adaptation constitutes a key driver of collaboration. With this research strategy, the article seeks to contribute to the efforts to alleviate regional tensions by immersing the readers into a future world of possibilities and hope despite our deep condemnation of Russia’s war in Ukraine.


Hardly any Arctic analyst could have imagined that the Arctic Council (AC), the key intergovernmental regional forum, would halt its work in early 2022. Although Russia’s war in Ukraine has not spread to the Arctic, it nevertheless marks a major watershed in Arctic politics. Declining West Russia relations will have transformative implications for the region’s stability, governance, and economic policies, including a potentially rapid green transition. Moreover, China’s complicated status in the West Russia axis adds to the high level of uncertainty about the future of the Arctic. Due to these reasons, there is a growing need to map the possible dynamics of the post February 24 Arctic region, which can be seen in a newfound interest in scenario building (e.g. Riedel et al., 2022; York, 2022). Given the dim prospects for peaceful coexistence, it

Liisa Kauppila is a Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, Contemporary History and Political Science, University of Turku, Finland, and a PhD Candidate at the Centre for East Asian Studies, University of Turku. Sanna Kopra is a Senior Researcher in the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law of the Arctic Centre at University of Lapland, Finland, and a Senior Fellow at The Arctic Institute Center for Circumpolar Security Studies in Washington D.C.

is unsurprising that these scenarios offer little, if any, hope for the advocates of the global Arctic. Yet, and despite our deep condemnation of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, we argue that cooperation is a necessity in a global world. Therefore, we offer a different take and construct three scenarios for the Arctic collaboration up to 2035 with the Sino Russo relations at the core. This way, we seek to empower Arctic stakeholders to consider different means that could enable more encompassing Arctic cooperation to continue in the future.

Although China does not possess sovereignty in the Arctic, it has emerged as one of its key stakeholders during the past decade (e.g. Bisley, Gad & Zeuthen, 2018; Kauppila & Kopra, 2021; Koivurova & Kopra, 2020). Moreover, its engagement can be anticipated to alter the Arctic dynamics by the mid century (Kauppila & Kopra, 2022). Against this backdrop, and given that Russia is the largest Arctic country, it is clear that Sino Russo relations have decisive implications for the entire region’s dynamic (e.g. Kirchberger et al., 2022). Yet, until now, rigorous futures oriented studies mapping the alternative ways in which their changing relationship might affect Arctic politics have been missing a particularly striking gap in the literature of the post February 24 world. By treating the outbreak of the war as a major yet different watershed in all three scenarios, we ponder, in a pluralistic manner, various directions into which the Sino Russo relations in the Arctic may develop and that way, shape the regional collaboration within the next 13 years.

To escape the business as usual trap that currently colours most Arctic scenarios with realist undertones, this study utilizes a futures research technique of backcasting, which encourages imagination and anticipation of great changes clearly different from what seems probable from today’s vantage point (Tuominen et al., 2014). Implicitly, backcasting thus defies the attempts to foresee the future and offers a ‘recipe for people who hate to predict’ (Robinson, 1990). By using 2035 as the endpoint of our exercise, we build scenarios that constitute medium to long term futures in global politics. This way, we ponder sequences of events that have a considerable scope of time to unfold, and which are cognitively manageable for readers. In terms of data, we base this intellectual exercise on our previous Arctic research, related scenario work, and media materials.

Our argumentation proceeds as follows. Next, we introduce our five step scenario building methodology and theories that form the backbone of the alternative futures. Then, we review the Sino Russian relationship in the Arctic and beyond and briefly introduce the geopolitical dynamics of today’s Arctic. Next, we proceed to formulate the scenario endpoints by identifying the key elements of alternative Arctic futures in 2035. After that, we seek pathways ‘logical sequences of events’ (Jantsch, 1967) from 2035 to 2022, and present the scenarios in a narrative form. Finally, we conclude that the technique of backcasting is an empowering tool to discuss and hopefully advance desirable Arctic futures.

Methodological and theoretical framework

Our scenario building approach is based on a futures research technique of pluralistic backcasting (Tuominen et al., 2014), which starts by defining several possible scenario endpoints and then constructs logical pathways from the future to the present. To cover cooperation based futures only, we also drew inspiration from a specific backcasting method, participatory backcasting from value principles, whose very first step is to draft a set of minimum requirements that characterize all endpoints (Kauppila, 2018). This way we crafted an approach that produces a set of scenarios that

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all meet certain shared defining principles but which yet differ from each other in their actual content. In formulating the endpoints and bridging the gap between the future and the present, we relied on the methodological insights of our previous study (Kauppila & Kopra, 2022), in which the particular backcasting method, in turn, was inspired, inter alia, by Tuominen et al. (2014) and O’Neill et al. (2020).

We implemented the scenario building process in five steps. In Step One, we identified forces of change that may shape the futures of the Arctic collaboration and the Sino Russo relations in particular by 2035. Without these insights, it would have been impossible to formulate the scenario endpoints in Step Two and Step Three: it was necessary to understand what could plausibly take place during the timeframe of the exercise. In Step Two, we defined collaboration and the shared commitment to climate change mitigation as the guiding principles of our scenarios, and in Step Three, we used the futures table method to build three alternative hypothetical futures of 2035. In Step Four, we ‘worked backwards’ (Robinson, 1990: 820) from 2035 to the present (2022) by pondering imaginary future developments that would ‘signpost’ (Bengston, Westphal & Dockry, 2020) the path from the future to the present. In Step Five, we turned the futures table and the signposts into narratives with immersive elements to facilitate ‘mental time travel’ (Cuhls, 2017).

To create a variety of scenarios for the Arctic collaboration of 2035 with a special focus on Sino Russo relations, we relied on insights from three IR theories: realism, liberalism, and relationalism. These theories or, rather, families of theories offer coherent explanations for social change by suggesting alternative models of interaction between states. As we have suggested elsewhere (Kauppila & Kopra, 2022), together they form a nuanced and pluralistic take on global life. First, realism assumes that international politics is about struggles for (hard) power and hence the potential for conflict can never be avoided. Although diplomacy is an important tool in balancing states’ competing interests, military force is the most important asset in a system of self help; states rely on their own capabilities, especially in terms of military resources, in their attempts to maximize their national interests. In such a system, solidarist cooperation among states is rare, if not impossible (e.g. Mearsheimer, 2001). Second, liberalism assumes that human beings are perfectible and ideas matter in world politics. Liberalism is interested in both state and non state agency in politics and economics and believes that states can cooperate and it is indeed in their interest to do so to resolve wicked global problems (e.g. Keohane & Nye, 2012). Third, relationalism emphasizes the significance of establishing, maintaining, and sustaining actor to actor relationships by, for example, managing one’s reputational profile (e.g. Kavalski, 2018). The Chinese faction of the relational school departs from inherently Eurocentric bias and collective memories of the postwar United States embedded in the mainstream IR theories (e.g. Qin, 2018), and thus offers a fruitful starting point for anticipating possible future developments with China at the core.

Building the scenarios

This section provides a step by step take on the process of building scenarios for the Arctic collaboration up to 2035 with a special focus on the Sino Russo relations.

Step 1: Scanning the present: China and Russia in the Arctic and beyond

Today, three key megatrends climate change, globalization, and power transition make the future of the Arctic open to alternative developments (Kauppila & Kopra, 2022). As the outbreak

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of Russia’s war in Ukraine has sadly demonstrated, the Arctic collaboration is not isolated from global developments and tensions. Particularly, the seven other Arctic states paused their collaboration with Russia, the current chair of the AC, in early March 2022 as a form of critique of Russia’s illegal military actions (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 2022a). In early June 2022, however, seven Arctic states announced that they will resume the AC’s important work on environmental protection and sustainable development without Russia’s participation (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 2022b). Moreover, Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in May 2022 a clear signal of the changing security dynamics of the Arctic (e.g. Urban, 2022). As this paper elaborates on the future Arctic collaboration with a special focus on the Sino Russo ties, this section reviews the key aspects of that relationship in the past and the present.

In the first half of the 1900s, socialist movements strengthened in Eurasia, and the Soviet Union (1922) and the People’s Republic of China were established (1949). Despite the bilateral Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance (1950), the relationship between the newly founded socialist states was complicated due to Mao’s distrust of Stalin, and his successor Khrushchev (Shen & Xia, 2015). In the 1950s and 1960s, the Sino Soviet relations deteriorated due to different interpretations of Marxism Leninism and Mao’s ‘manipulation’ and exaggeration of these differences for domestic gains, and the two countries had political disagreements over the Korean war, the Sino Indian border war, and the Cuban missile crisis, for instance (Li, 2012). What became known as the Sino Soviet split continued until the 1980s, when Gorbachev sought to normalize the relationship. Yet, the Chinese were skeptical of Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost policies, and the collapse of the Soviet Union was seen as a warning example of what could happen in China (Radchenko, 2014: 159 197).

Due to historical distrust, the relationship between China and Russia remains complicated. Driven by shared antipathy toward the West and NATO, however, they have organized bilateral naval exercises since 2012 (cf. Paul, 2019). On the one hand, Russia has welcomed China’s increasing economic interests in the Russian Arctic; on the other hand, Moscow does not want to let China play a strong political role in its northern backyard (e.g. Sørensen & Kilmenko, 2017). Following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, however, Russia had to cope with economic sanctions that stopped Western cash flows to its Arctic energy and infrastructure projects: it turned to the Chinese and started to emphasize its pivot to Asia (e.g. Gabuev, 2016). In 2013, China National Petroleum Corporation invested in the Novatek run Yamal Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Project, and in 2016, China Silk Road Fund also joined the scheme (Novatek, 2020a). Since China added its vision of the Polar Silk Road (冰上丝绸之路) to Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2017 (State Council of the PRC, 2017), the two countries have intensified their economic and scientific cooperation in the Arctic. For example, in 2017, Chinese companies joined the Arctic LNG 2 Project (Novatek, 2020b).

Since the late 2010s, the increasing great power rivalry between China and the United States has tightened Sino Russo relations. In early February 2022, Vladimir Putin visited Beijing for the inauguration of the Winter Olympics and discussed a wide range of global issues with Xi Jinping. In particular, Putin and Xi released a joint statement reassuring that their strong partnership has ‘no limits’ and unveiled new deals on energy and wheat imports. The Arctic was also explicitly mentioned in the document, which emphasized the devotion to intensify ‘practical cooperation

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for the sustainable development of the Arctic’ (President of Russia, 2022). In contrast to the West, which very soon strongly condemned Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China found it difficult to choose its side in the war, and emphasized ‘objectivity’ (e.g. Qin, 2022). While Putin’s aggression was clearly a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity some of China’s key foreign policy principles China has criticized Western sanctions against Russia and Belarus (Xi, 2022). In line with China’s rhetoric support for Moscow, many Chinese corporations continue their operations in Russia.

Step 2: Drafting the basic principles

In Step Two, we formulated rough frames that make our scenario endpoints/future states of 2035 different from what current business as usual scenarios would suggest. More specifically, we identified two conditions that all scenario endpoints should meet: 1) Arctic collaboration at least among the Arctic Eight (A8)1 as a precondition, and 2) a shared interest and commitment to mitigate and adapt to climate change as a (pragmatic) primary driver for the collaboration.

In the spirit of the United Nations Charter, states have a general responsibility to cooperate and contribute to the solutions of common problems and to promote international peace and security, prosperity, and well being (Perrez, 2000). Since the end of the Cold War, collaboration has indeed constituted the key organizing element of the Arctic, and environmental protection has lied at the core of it (e.g. Exner Pirot, 2013). As the collaboration among A8 has stopped altogether due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, they currently cannot fulfill this ‘responsibility’ at a regional level. This state of affairs does not only increase the risk of an outbreak of military conflict in the region but also makes the dealing with essential ecological and social problems, such as those of Indigenous communities living across the Sápmi, and the reduction of black carbon, very difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, the resumption of regional forms of collaboration constitutes a necessary condition for solving the key concerns of the Arctic. Notably, the general responsibility to collaborate does not entail how states should act or organize their relations and, therefore, drivers of collaboration vary from scenario to scenario.

Furthermore, we pondered what could plausibly enable the resumption of collaboration among A8, and more broadly, among the key Arctic actors. Climate change mitigation seemed the most likely driver for interstate collaboration in the future Arctic, where climate change proceeds much faster than in other parts of the globe and constitutes a critical security threat, causing ‘extreme consequences for Arctic communities and local ecosystems’ (Landrum & Holland, 2020: 7). Since the end of the Cold War, concerns over environmental degradation have already constituted a key driver of regional cooperation in the Arctic, as the mandate of the AC illustrates: the council focuses on sustainable development and environmental protection, and excludes military matters (AC, 1996). Simply put, the Arctic community would not start from scratch in terms of elevating climate change mitigation and adaptation into a cornerstone of collaboration, which could, in turn, plausibly spread to other contexts and that way reduce the risk of war. Most importantly, this functional basis for cooperation would also appeal to authoritarian states, such as China and Russia, who have pledged to pursue carbon neutrality by 2060 (cf. Russian News Agency, 2021; Xi, 2020).

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Step 3: Constructing alternative futures with a futures table method

In Step Three, we organized different elements of our scenario endpoints into coherent wholes by utilizing the futures table method. Developed from a Field Anomaly Relaxation method (e.g. Coyle, 2020), futures table is a basic matrix with variables (key uncertainties) on the vertical row and ‘values’ alternative entries for variables organized under a common denominator (here IR theory) on the horizontal row. Our futures table builds on the matrix created by Kauppila and Kopra (2022) and elaborates on the composition of regional life in the Arctic of 2035 from political, economic, and normative perspectives (Table 1).


The ethos of regional life stems directly from the core tenets of those IR theories that each scenario endpoint reflects. In a realist Arctic of 2035, competition and state survival guide state behavior, whereas in a liberal scenario, cooperation is the order of the day: states collaborate extensively and not only to make selfish gains benefiting their government and nation. In a relationalist Arctic of 2035, states collaborate by returning favors in the spirit of reciprocity or the Chinese idea of guanxi

The nature of the Sino Russo relationship in the Arctic of 2035 varies significantly depending on what the ethos of regional life is like. In the realist scenario, the primacy of competition and state survival means that although the bilateral relationship between the two Eastern powers may be tight, it is not necessarily based on genuine trust or even true like mindedness. Instead, their partnership seeks to promote the survival of both authoritarian states but does not bind them together to advance anything that is beyond either side’s immediate national interests. In the liberalist scenario, the Sino Russian relationship is more cooperative, and the two countries seek to institutionalize Arctic forms of collaboration. In a relationalist Arctic of 2035, the Chinese and Russian Arctic actors and especially the leading elites of both countries have thick interpersonal relations which they utilize to seek trade offs in Arctic economies and governance.


A realist Arctic of 2035 is characterized by bipolar regional order: the balance of power between the West and the East Arctic, i.e. the US led camp and Russia. Due to the shared security risks caused by climate change, however, there are no military conflicts but states are bound to manage these risks together. In a liberalist Arctic of 2035, regional power is more evenly distributed: in addition to the US and Russia, also smaller Arctic states are influential in regional institutions seeking to facilitate cooperation on climate change mitigation, for instance. In a relationalist Arctic of 2035, China’s role is most decisive due to its status as the largest greenhouse gas emitter and one of the largest economies, which gives it unrivaled leverage to participate in ‘games of guanxi’ (Solomon, 1995) in global climate politics and beyond. Yet the region itself is multinodal: it is a fabric of actor to actor networks whose nodes can be located either within or outside the geographic Arctic region (cf. Womack, 2014; Kauppila, 2022).

As for the Sino Russian relations, the realist scenario pictures an authoritarian partnership motivated by shared antipathy against the West. Given the rather deep distrust between China and Russia, however, Moscow does not allow China to increase its political role in the Arctic. In a liberalist Arctic of 2035, regional power is distributed via institutions in which especially Russia, but potentially also China, bargain over the means and costs of climate actions. In a relationalist

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scenario, China’s extensive leverage allows it to pave the ground for its authoritarian partner Russia’s participation in Arctic governance.

Variables3and4:Thekeyvalueofregionallifeandthedriverofclimatechangemitigation andadaptation

Each of the chosen IR theories suggests a distinct take on the key values that guide regional life: national security (realism), individual liberty (liberalism), and value pluralism (relationalism). These ideals explain why a shared effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change has emerged into a cornerstone of states’ coexistence in each scenario. In a realist Arctic of 2035, prevention of climate related hazards drives states’ commitment to climate change mitigation: states realize that it is in their selfish interests to collaborate to prevent global ecological catastrophes that pose risks to national security. In a liberalist Arctic of 2035, pursuit for human wellbeing is a fundamental motivation for states to jointly advance climate change mitigation: it is realized that liberty of individuals is globally at stake if the effects of the climate crisis on humankind, nature, and the global markets cannot be mitigated. In a relationalist Arctic of 2035, actors advance climate change mitigation to facilitate harmonious coexistence of civilizations, on the condition that all states can engage in global life in a manner that manifests their individual and distinct foundational values.

As for the Sino Russian Arctic relations, the realist key value of national security in the Arctic of 2035 implies the continuance of the business as usual path. In response to accelerating climate change, the Eastern powers maintain bilateral cooperation for broadly understood security reasons, especially to manage and adapt to climate related hazards. A Sino Russian relationship based on the liberalist value of individual liberty and the pursuit for human wellbeing, in turn, assumes that in 2035 health and social impacts of climate change are recognized in both countries. Although this may feel unlikely from the vantage point of today, we underline that democratization is not a necessary precondition for this kind of future to unfold: environmental awareness is already growing rapidly in China (e.g. Sternfeld, 2017), especially among the middle class that is politically the most important group in the country. In the relationalist scenario, China and Russia do not necessarily share a common normative basis but they maintain that recognition of value pluralism and not choosing sides based on normative arguments gives them the most room to maneuver in international affairs, including in Arctic politics.


From the viewpoint of realism, states are the key actors in international politics at a global and regional level. Therefore, in a realist Arctic of 2035 states possessing sovereignty over waters and lands above the Arctic Circle constitute the key actors of Arctic collaboration. Motivated by the shared interest to prevent climate related hazards and conflicts, the A8 are compelled to establish bilateral and minilateral agreements to manage geoengineering projects and other necessary means to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Although non Arctic China is not formally included in all these minilateral arrangements, the country’s status as the world’s biggest carbon emitter means that it is often accepted as an observer. While liberalism finds the agency of states important, it also emphasizes the role of international institutions, corporations, and non governmental organizations in global politics. In a liberalist Arctic of 2035, thus, key actors include states (both Arctic and non Arctic), non governmental organizations, and local communities, whose cooperation to mitigate climate change is institutionalized with the establishment of multilateral treaties and intergovernmental forums. Given the respect for liberal values, the voice of Indigenous peoples can be

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expected to be heard in those forums. Relationalism, in contrast, does not fully subscribe to the idea of Arctic/non Arctic states, and, therefore, not only the traditional Arctic but also (geographically) external actors can be imagined to advance collaboration based on climate change mitigation at a regional context. China’s role is decisive: given its unrivaled ability to mitigate climate change, China is powerful in those formal and informal forums and actor to actor networks in which Arctic affairs are debated.

As for the Sino Russo Arctic relations, the realist scenario proposes that Russia seeks to collaborate with China whenever it is in Russia’s own interests to get back up from its eastern partner: for Russia, China is either a key Arctic stakeholder or a non Arctic country. In a liberalist Arctic of 2035, China and Russia contribute actively to the establishment and workings of regional institutional arrangements on climate change mitigation and adaptation, but their mutual collaboration is somewhat downgraded from its golden days since the newly elected liberal government of Russia is, again, pivoting to the West. In a relationalist Arctic of 2035, in contrast, the Sino Russian partnership is particularly influential putting together various informal actor to actor networks shaping regional dynamics.


In the spirit of self help, states advance protectionism in a realist Arctic of 2035. Given their pursuit to prevent dangerous climate change, states invest in their domestic battery industry and non fossil energy, and compete for critical minerals needed in green technologies. In a liberalist Arctic of 2035, a mixture of liberal and welfare capitalist economic policies is guided by the shared commitment to mitigate climate change, and companies seek to make profits via investments in low carbon technologies and renewables needed for the green transition. Traditional livelihoods, virtual tourism, and scientific cooperation also play an important role in the diverse regional economy. In light of the strong global role of China and the participation of an equally authoritarian Russia in the relationalist scenario, the economy of the Arctic of 2035 is shaped by a mixture of authoritarian, welfare and liberal capitalisms. Especially the Chinese government uses carrots and sticks to guide its companies toward green practices and to develop sustainable Arctic technologies. Although reputational gains motivate all companies to mitigate climate change, they invest extensively in Arctic shipping, exploitation of natural resources and tourism.

As for the Sino Russo Arctic relations in 2035, the realist scenario anticipates a marriage of convenience advancing both states’ economic greed: more specifically, China’s interest in Russia’s LNG, minerals and shipping lanes via the Northern Sea Route, and Russia’s dependence on Chinese Arctic investments. At the same time, the competition over critical minerals embedded in the Arctic Ocean’s seabed intensifies, which inflames traditional distrust between Beijing and Moscow. In the liberalist scenario, Chinese and Russian companies collaborate in resource extraction, on the basis of market mechanisms that support investments in green growth. In a relationalist Arctic of 2035, Chinese and Russian companies collaborate to develop green technologies for Arctic shipping, for instance. For reputational reasons, the Chinese government allows its companies to collaborate only with those Russian companies that have a ‘green label’.

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Table 1. The political, economic, and normative foundations of the Arctic of 2035

Variable 1. Realism 2. Liberalism 3. Relationalism

1) The Ethos of Regional Life Competition, state survival Cooperation

Guanxi , reciprocity

Multinodality, China as a global superpower 3) The Key Value National security

2) Regional Power Distribution Bipolarity Multipolarity

Individual Liberty Value pluralism 4) The Driver for Shared Efforts to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change

Pursuit for harmonious coexistence of civilizations 5) Key Actors

Prevention of climate related hazards Pursuit for human wellbeing

Arctic states

Arctic and non Arctic states, non governmental organizations, Indigenous peoples

Non Arctic (especially Chinese) and Arctic governments, companies 6) Regional Governance Issue specific bilateral and minilateral contracts

Intergovernmental forums, multilateral treaties


Informal and formal forums, actor to actor networks 7) Regional Economic Policy/Ideology

Mixture of liberal capitalism and welfare capitalism

Step 4: Working backwards: Identifying key changes

Mixture of authoritarian capitalism, welfare capitalism and liberal capitalism

In Step Four, we identified key changes that make each scenario endpoint plausible. Given the scale of change an evolution from halted cooperation to the resumption of (all encompassing) Arctic collaboration suggested in our scenarios, we considered this task as the most important phase of the process.

To construct a plausible path that entails elements of the Sino Russo relations and the Arctic dynamics in particular, we identified necessary and sufficient changes in Russia, China, and the Arctic West, that is, the US led A7. While we found it necessary that a leadership change in Russia would take place in all scenarios, the content and timing of this key event varied across our alternative futures. Although radical changes shaking the status of the current political elites and

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factions in China were not needed, we considered it necessary to imagine chains of events that explain why China Arctic West relations are functional enough in 2035 given the growing mistrust that characterizes the current dynamic.


• Notable Chinese investments in the Russian Arctic

• Levying of long lasting Western sanctions on both Russia and China

• Emergence of a widespread (health) crisis caused by melting of the Arctic

• Signing of a Ukraine peace deal with concessions made by the Russian authoritarian government

• Establishment of bi and minilateral forums of collaboration on climate change mitigation


• Withdrawal of Chinese companies from Russia

• Collapse of the authoritarian regime in Russia

• Radical reversal of Ukraine policy by a liberal Russian government

• Acceleration of China’s greenification and rise into a global climate leader

• Intensification of Sino Russian collaboration in more sustainable industries

• Establishment of new multilateral Arctic forums on climate change mitigation


• (Non radical) leadership change in Russia

• Gradual resuming of business collaboration through China’s active mediating role

• Growing climate consciousness of the Chinese middle class

• China’s large charm offensive campaign

• China’s rise into a global climate leader

Step 5: Writing up the scenarios: Narratives

In Step Five, we formulated narratives by writing up and integrating the futures table (Step Three) and the identified necessary changes (Step Four). Since scenarios are more than sums of their parts, it is only at this stage that the plausibility of each alternative future can be evaluated. Adding a fictional component makes this task easier: by facilitating mental time travel, fictive immersion helps to forget the present reality that narrows one’s cognitive ability to think beyond business as usual pathways.

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The Arctic of 2035 is a theatre of fierce competition between the US led Arctic West, Russia, and the rest of the world Because the extreme temperatures and weather patterns make the Arctic livelihoods and operations very risky, Arctic countries have negotiated limited issue specific bilateral and minilateral arrangements to manage geoengineering and other technology driven efforts to hurriedly mitigate the impacts of climate change on their national security. Although an external actor in the Arctic, China Russia’s authoritarian partner, a technology superpower and the biggest carbon emitter in the world is often invited to these negotiation tables, especially if Russia needs backup. Although more comprehensive collective mitigation strategies are rare and protectionist economic policies further limit the scope of their mutual collaboration, Arctic stakeholders seek to secure the survival of the state by investing in regional early warning systems and other means for the prevention and adaptation to climate hazards harming social stability in their respective countries. As the outbreak of an armed conflict would severely downplay these efforts, states take drastic actions to prevent the escalation of military tensions despite notable ideological clashes and tensions arising from resource extraction.

After Russia attacked Ukraine in the early 2020s, the relationship between the West, Russia, and China deteriorated sharply for many years. Due to long term economic sanctions, the economy of Russia was close to collapse. Infuriating the West, Chinese state owned companies made notable investments in the energy and mineral projects of the Russian Arctic to secure the supply of critical raw materials for the country's industry and military. Although the war did not spread to the Arctic, the new kind of Cold War period characterized by frequent hybrid influencing operations made all international collaboration, including the Arctic, very troublesome. While unprecedented heatwaves in both polar regions caused alarm among climate scientists, and local communities struggled with extreme weather events, governments were occupied with strengthening their military capabilities. In the late 2020s, however, a lethal virus often called the ‘Siberia virus’ unknown to humanity emerged from the thawing permafrost in northern Russia and tens of thousands of people died within a month. Recalling the huge economic and humanitarian losses caused by the prolonged Coronavirus pandemic in the first half of the decade, the Russian government had no choice but to make concessions to hostile operations started by their predecessors and invite their Arctic neighbors and China to discuss strict collective means to stop the emerging pandemic. After Russia signed a Ukraine peace deal and agreed to fund the reconstruction of Ukrainian society, issue specific Arctic collaboration continued especially in the field of deep sea mining and the reduction of black carbon. Some Western companies were also eager to resume their investments in Russia.

Scenario Two: Let humankindenjoygreenprosperityandpeace

Driven by a shared goal to advance human well being in the face of a pressing climate crisis, the Arctic collaboration of 2035 is characterized by the spirit of multilateralism among the Arctic and non Arctic states and non governmental organizations. The willingness to mitigate climate change underpins vivid political and economic cooperation in many newly established intergovernmental forums, economic platforms, and other institutional arrangements. Local Arctic communities, and especially Indigenous groups, enthusiastically seek to get their voices heard in public debates about desirable political and economic means to reduce emissions. As the Chinese government pursues global climate leadership as a key component of its status as a responsible great power, and the

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Republic of Russia’s newly elected liberal majority government seeks to consolidate its relations with the rest of the world, Beijing and Moscow also actively contribute to these discussions. Both seek to introduce their best practices to other Arctic states, with whom they have well functioning economic relations. All in all, social norms related to climate change have instigated a global ‘we feeling’ and shared understandings of the urgency to protect humankind from ecological crises.

While Russia’s attack on Ukraine stopped Arctic collaboration for a few years in the early 2020s, the situation started to normalize in the mid decade with an uprising and the collapse of the authoritarian regime in Russia. A central driver for these developments was a large scale withdrawal of Chinese companies from economic collaboration with Russia, motivated by their fear of Western sanctions and security concerns. This not only closed the door on tourism but also stopped the flow of luxury products for Russian elites. To respond to the vocal demands of elites to get back to their consumption based lifestyles, the new government sought to normalize its international relations as quickly as possible. Therefore, they agreed to establish the International Criminal Tribunal for the Ukraine War to investigate and prosecute suspects for the genocide. Deeply concerned about the projected impacts of climate change on China’s food security and societal stability, the Chinese government intensified its active measures toward green transition and, by the end of the 2020s, sought climate leadership at a global level. In the Arctic, the Chinese companies never resumed their participation in Russian fossil energy projects but the two countries looked for opportunities in Arctic science, renewables industry, and tourism, and in the extraction of critical minerals needed for green transition. To respond to global concerns over the future of the melting Arctic, the Global Arctic Forum was established in the early 2030s to coordinate scientific, political, and economic efforts toward just green transition.


The Arctic collaboration of 2035 is characterized by the strong role of China, a country with the most to offer in the games of guanxi in a world of climate crisis. It uses its economic leverage and unrivaled ability to shape the implementation of climate change mitigation efforts as a currency in its relations with all Arctic states, sometimes to secure the inclusion of its authoritarian partner Russia, the largest Arctic country whose collaboration with the West is still somewhat plagued by the disastrous wars of the 2020s. Generally, Arctic stakeholders make their foreign policy choices on regional affairs less on normative but more on functional grounds: this makes it possible to coexist in a world of value pluralism. Although the shared interest in climate change mitigation has brought all key actors together to the same Arctic table, enabled East West collaboration in formal and informal forums and actor to actor networks, and mitigated the risk of an Arctic war, clashes of values and related occasional tensions between the authoritarian and democratic states and even among them cannot be avoided.

After a successful but not radical leadership change in Russia in the context of the early 2020s war in Ukraine, limited business collaboration between the Arctic West and East gradually resumed. China’s mediating role was crucial, as the country’s companies collaborated with both sides throughout the process. Although the ‘neutral’ stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine had deepened the damage to China’s already questionable reputational profile, the country managed to prevent an outright collapse of its overseas public image in the Arctic: in the mid and late 2020s, it carried out an unprecedented charm offensive, a massive ecotechnology campaign Green Innovation 2030 ( 绿色的创新2030) targeted at small Arctic communities and developing countries, which updated

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China’s panda diplomacy to the age of the climate crisis. Domestically, China’s ever growing middle class became more conscious of the health, economic, and social impacts of climate change, and consequently, put pressure on the government, which soon emerged as a global leader in the war against climate change. In the early 2030s, the new found climate leader China was able to bargain and pave the ground for its authoritarian partner Russia to return to forums of Arctic governance, which, by then, were primarily organized around climate change related norms.


In a response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the seven other Arctic states have concluded their (environmental) cooperation with Russia. When peace in Ukraine will be re established, Arctic interstate cooperation must be resumed. Otherwise, the future of the Arctic may be catastrophic given the accelerating pace of climate change, looming health security crises, and other risks whose tackling requires all encompassing collaboration, including advancing Indigenous rights. We have anticipated three alternative sequences of events through which extensive Arctic collaboration could resume by 2035. We have focused, in particular, on the role of the Sino Russo relations in this process since it constitutes one of its key driving forces.

To understand the potential for a regional transformation in a rigorous, analytical and pluralistic manner, we utilized a backcasting based scenario methodology, which allows for radical changes to be imagined and their plausibility to be tested by pondering whether and how they could actually unfold. Although this approach can produce a wider variety of scenarios, and perhaps more optimistic ones, it is important to underline that not all paths leading to Arctic futures with resumed collaboration are desirable themselves: sometimes a change for the better is not possible without drastic actions, crises, and shocks that themselves are undesirable. In this exercise, especially Scenario One has highly undesirable elements.

Ultimately, this article is an effort to facilitate peaceful future coexistence in a region that has once been considered a rare international zone of peace. The future is not predetermined but something that human actions profoundly shape even if its course seems grim and coloured with shades of gray only.


Liisa Kauppila wishes to thank the Academy of Finland (project no. 338145) for supporting her research for this article. The authors also wish to thank Kone Foundation for funding the research project Climate Responsibility as a Normative Cornerstone of Multilateral Cooperation?, part of which this article is.


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Can Russian Arctic Regions Benefit from Collaborating with Northeastern China? Current Challenges to the Low-Carbon Agenda

The need to boost economic growth and develop high tech energy intensive industries requires an all out effort to increase power generation. On the other hand, the human induced carbon footprint has become so evident that radical actions are needed to reduce emissions and decarbonize the energy sector. Russia’s attitude to the international carbon neutrality agenda is essential since the bulk of hydrocarbons and coal comes from the Russian Arctic, Siberia, and the Far East, where climate change is rapidly advancing. At the same time, Russia is facing a growing territorial imbalance between the demand for energy in the European part of the country and the extraction of fossil fuels which is shifting further to the northeast to the Arctic. Due to the abundance of local energy resources, most Russian Arctic regions prioritize further exploitation of oil, gas, and coal fields. Nevertheless, some territories have started turning to renewable energy in an attempt to overcome infrastructure gaps and to make local energy mixes more resilient to energy supply disruptions. Since the mid 2010s (the first international sanctions against Russia), part of Russia’s energy supplies has been redirected to China (the Turn to the East policy), while Chinese companies have increased their share in Russia’s energy sector. China is interested in expanding transboundary energy supply for domestic needs in the northern and northeastern provinces, making Russia’s Far East and the Arctic zone particularly attractive to Chinese investors. However, the heated conflict in Ukraine has disrupted conventional collaboration formats with Russian energy companies, cut Russia from Western technologies and equipment, and forced the EU countries to embargo Russian oil. The chapter attempts to feel around for the new reality mechanisms of Russia China collaboration which could contribute to bridging the spatial development gaps in the energy sector and address the contemporary challenges posed to the low carbon transition in the Russian Arctic.


One of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) states that “all people and businesses worldwide should get universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy and related energy services” (United Nations, 2022a). In recent decades, however, the increase in production and consumption of energy both for industrial and personal needs has significantly exacerbated global environmental and climate issues. As estimated by the United

Gao Tianming is Professor, School of Economics and Management, Director and Chief Expert at the Arctic Blue Economy Research Center; Vasilii Erokhin is Associate Professor, School of Economics and Management, Research Fellow at the Arctic Blue Economy Research Center; Zhu Dianyong is Professor, School of Foreign Studies, and Zhu Gexun is Lecturer, School of Foreign Studies, all at Harbin Engineering University, China.

Gao Tianming, Vasilii Erokhin, Zhu Dianyong & Zhu

Nations (2022a), the energy sector is the source of 73% of all greenhouse gases of anthropogenic origin. Many studies indicate that the carbon footprint of the energy sector is increasing (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2018; Panait et al., 2019; Andrey et al., 2021), while the average annual concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is breaking new records every year (not even every decade) (Klimenko et al., 2021). There is a growing sentiment (see, for example, Bansal et al. (2005), Khambalkar et al. (2010), Lundy (2019), and Sayigh (2021), among others) that the only way for humanity to avoid a climate catastrophe is to decarbonize all spheres of energy production and consumption. Decarbonization is a wide concept that involves not only reducing emissions of pollutants from traditional energy sources and increasing the energy efficiency of oil, gas, and coal, but also a systematic transition from conventional fossil fuels to renewable energy. Integrating the climate and environmental agenda into national and international energy development programs to ensure an accelerated green transition is one of the fundamental conditions for achieving the United Nations SDGs by 2030 and beyond (United Nations, 2022b, 2022c). In most developed countries and in many developing economies, the strategy of green growth through the decarbonization of the energy sector and by increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the national energy mix is becoming the dominant trend of long term sustainable spatial development and for smoothing the imbalances between energy abundant and energy scarce territories (Van, 2014; Sadiku et al., 2019; Kokorin, 2017; Nosko, 2017). In light of the increasing environmental and economic sustainability of spatial development, renewable energy based on local energy sources is turning into an important element in ensuring the energy security of individual territories (United Nations Development Program, 2012; Somani & Koenig, 2018; Avramenko & Baiguskarova, 2018) and an effective tool for stimulating green growth and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere, soil, and water areas (Dincer, 2000; Xu et al., 2018).

Commitment to decarbonization and low carbon development of the energy sector implies a fundamental transformation of the entire chain from the extraction of natural energy resources to the final consumption of goods and services. According to the United Nations Development Program (2022), achieving the global goal of curbing the pace of climate change within 1.5°C requires a radical reduction of carbon dioxide emissions globally by almost half by 2030 and the subsequent complete abandonment of carbon emitting energy solutions in the second half of the 21st century. It is natural that each country should make its individual contribution to achieving this global goal. Nevertheless, a reasonable chance of overall success can be achieved only in the case of concerted actions and coordinated low carbon policies of the largest producers and consumers of energy. Among these trendsetters are Russia, one of the world’s largest suppliers of oil, natural gas, and coal, and China, one of the world’s largest consumers of energy. The role of Russia is all the more important because a significant part of fossil fuels produced in the country falls on the Russian Arctic about 80% of all Russia’s natural gas and 17% of its oil. Russia’s section of the continental shelf contains more than 85.1 trillion m3 of natural gas and 17.3 billion tons of oil (including gas condensate) (Erokhin et al., 2019). Energy resources extracted in the Russian Arctic are supplied to China as part of both joint investment endeavors (Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG 2) and long term infrastructure projects (Power of Siberia pipeline) (Erokhin et al., 2022). The main entry points of Russian energy resources into China are the northeastern provinces of the country, namely, Heilongjiang Province and Jilin Province (Power of Siberia and oil and natural gas plants in Sakhalin), Liaoning Province (maritime supplies from Yamal, Novy Port, and Prirazlomnaya

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offshore oil platform), and Inner Mongolia Province (Power of Siberia 2 under construction) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Russia’s Arctic Zone and China’s Northeast: supplies of oil and natural gas

Note: 1 = Murmansk Oblast; 2 = Republic of Karelia; 3 = Arkhangelsk Oblast; 4 = Nenets Autonomous District; 5 = Komi Republic; 6 = Yamal Nenets Autonomous District; 7 = Krasnoyarsk Krai; 8 = Republic of Sakha (Yakutia); 9 = Chukotka Autonomous District; 10 = Heilongjiang Province; 11 = Jilin Province; 12 = Inner Mongolia Province; 13 = Liaoning Province

Source: Authors’ development

However, there are both strategic and tactical challenges to the existing spatial format of energy cooperation between Russia and China. The former ones center around the sustainable development dilemma: the need to maintain a certain relationship between the goals of economic and spatial development and the impact of such development on the environment and climate. Oil, gas, coal, and other natural resources are the core pillars of the economic and social development of Russia’s circumpolar territories (Gao et al., 2021). Energy consumption and massive imports of all types of energy are the fundamentals of China’s industrial development and economic growth. However, oil and gas fields being explored in Russia’s High North are being depleted. Exploration and development of new hard to reсover fields further to the north and the east of relatively densely populated territories in Central Russia incur not only substantial production and transportation costs, but also increasingly negative effects on the climate and the fragile Arctic ecosystems (Winzer, 2012; Lucas et al., 2016). Most recent studies, such as Luoto et al. (2019), Polvani et al. (2020), Cai et al. (2021), and McCrystall et al. (2021), show that the climate change in the Arctic outpaces the global average. Although it is hardly possible to quantify the individual

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contribution of the energy sector in the Russian Arctic to the acceleration of climate change in the High North as a whole, the existence of such an influence is to be admitted (Southcott et al., 2018; Nuttall & Callaghan, 2019; Gao & Erokhin, 2020b; Morgunova & Kovalenko, 2021).

The second group of tactical challenges (which are actually intrinsic to such countries as Russia and China, which significantly depend on the supply or consumption of a homogeneous range of resources) includes the desire to protect the energy sector from external force majeure events. These include fluctuations in prices on the global energy market (Galinis et al., 2020), disruptions of supply chains due to trade, economic, or political disagreements between counterparts (for example, trade tensions between China and the USA or between Russia and the EU), and, most recently, a sharply intensified international sanctions regime against Russia in connection with the military conflict in Ukraine. The sixth package of sanctions against Russia announced in June 2022, among other measures, included a partial embargo on oil supplies from Russia (European Council, 2022). It is planned that the EU will abandon purchasing oil from Russia before the end of 2022 and petroleum products and oil derivatives during the first quarter of 2023. The ban on the insurance of transportation of oil from Russia by sea may hurt oil transportation to China from oil sites in Yamal and the Prirazlomnaya offshore platform in the Pechora Sea via the Northern Sea Route (NSR). China has not yet declared joining international sanctions (most probably, such a thing would never be declared openly). It adheres to continuing cooperation with Russian companies under previously concluded contracts and agreements reached. Nevertheless, from an operational angle, maintaining everyday ties would become difficult mind at least restrictions on international settlements, sanctions against major Russian companies, banks, and energy tycoons, and the refusal of international insurers to service Russian vessels. In such a situation of extreme uncertainty, the natural desire of any consumer is to diversify not only the sources of supply, but also the means of generating energy to ensure its own energy security (Esfahani et al., 2021).

Such a two dimension strategic and tactical vision of the energy related issues currently shapes the spatial patterns of the Russia China energy agenda. Considering both the strategic focus on combating climate change by decarbonizing the energy sector, and current uncertainties in the formats of work with Russian companies against the background of sanctions and a partial embargo on Russian oil imports, one of the options for energy cooperation between Russia and China in the Arctic and cross border cooperation between Russia’s Far East and China’s Northeast may be renewable energy. In China, this sector is growing rapidly. The country is making a radical transition from the dominance of coal in the national energy mix to lower polluting sources of energy (Salygin et al., 2015). Many studies (Zheng et al., 2020; Turnbull et al., 2016) unequivocally link China’s current environmental problems with the rapid growth of coal based energy generation during the early industrialization period in the 1980 1990s. As Mastepanov (2020) demonstrates, in the northern provinces, atmospheric pollution triggers more frequent droughts and other extreme climate events. As part of the green growth and decarbonization agenda, China has doubled the share of renewable energy sources in the total energy mix over the past two decades. Since 2014, the share of renewable energy in China’s energy balance exceeds the global average.

In Russia’s energy sector, renewable energy is of minor importance. In the Russian Arctic, the role of renewable energy in establishing territorial energy balances is even smaller. Nevertheless, the development of small decentralized energy solutions based on local renewable sources is of critical

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importance for ensuring sustainable spatial development of remote Arctic territories and settlements. Such an infrastructure would make it possible to establish an energy reserve in case of supply disruption, reduce energy supply costs, and strengthen the overall energy security of circumpolar territories. In the Far East, trans border cooperation with China in generating and transmitting energy from renewable sources could diversify the energy balances of both sides. Despite the fact that until recently, the Russia China energy cooperation in the Arctic has been focused on mega projects in the conventional energy sector without due consideration of the specifics of sustainable spatial development, this study aims to explore the possibilities of diversifying such cooperation and triggering decarbonization processes in the Russian Arctic through renewable energy.

The Low Carbon Agenda in Russia and China

Along with the different dynamics of the development of the renewable energy sector in Russia and China, the national specifics of the green transition policies and the low carbon agenda also differ. Russia focuses on the climate and environmental effects of renewable energy development, while China also priorities the need to diversify energy sources and gradually move away from the dominance of fossil fuels in the energy mix (along with stressing the crucial importance of climate change mitigation and sustainable development of ecosystems) (Erokhin & Gao, 2022)

In Russia, the main directions of renewable energy development are determined by a document entitled “State Policy in the Field of Improving the Energy Efficiency of the Energy Sector Based on the Use of Renewable Energy” (Government of the Russian Federation, 2009). Being first adopted in 2009, the policy was substantially updated in 2021. The document defines the development goals in the renewable energy sector for the period up to 2035 and the fundamental principles of this development. It is assumed that by that time, the share of renewable sources in the country’s energy mix will reach 6% (currently about 1%). Russia wants to achieve such a significant breakthrough in the renewable energy sector through the implementation of a triple set of measures for the development of energy generation and transmission, economic incentives for the construction of new power generation and storage facilities, and improving the efficiency of government support and public regulation of the renewable energy sector (Table 1).

Table 1. Development measures in Russia’s renewable energy sector

Spheres Development measures

Infrastructure for power generation, transmission, and storage

Market environment and institutions

Scientific and technological services for the development of renewable energy Rational use of the potential of the domestic renewable energy sector Information support and introduction of advanced information technologies Training programs and dissemination of knowledge

Documentation for the construction and operation of power generation facilities

Stimulation of consumption of renewable energy and good produced thereof

Price regulation in the wholesale renewable energy market

Obligation to purchase a given amount of renewable energy

Improvement of the legal regime for the use of natural resources

State support for the renewable energy sector from the government budget

Improvement of the system of target indicators

Monitoring the achievement of targets in the renewable energy sector

Public governance in the renewable energy sector

Improvement of state statistical reporting in the renewable energy sector

Updating the allocation scheme of renewable energy facilities

Attraction of investment in the establishment of power generation assets

Support of small businesses in the renewable energy sector

Source: Authors’ development based on Government of the Russian Federation (2009)

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Russia mainly focuses on developing the infrastructure for producing and transmitting hydropower, solar, wind, and other kinds of renewable energy. In this sphere, the following measures are implemented (Government of the Russian Federation, 2009):

• increase in the efficiency of research and innovations for the development of the renewable energy sector and maintenance of power generating facilities;

• rational use of the potential of domestic industry for promoting renewable power solutions, including through providing state support for the export of basic and (or) auxiliary power generating equipment;

• establishment of the information environment, including assistance in the creation and development of an expert and consulting network of engineering and information support for developing the renewable power sector and introducing advanced information technologies to management;

• development and implementation of programs for the dissemination of knowledge about the use of renewable power and the training of specialists in the spheres of design and operation of power generation facilities;

• stimulation of economic entities and households to consistently increase consumption of energy derived from renewable sources and consume related goods and services.

The improvement of the governance system includes six kinds of measures (Government of the Russian Federation, 2009):

• elaboration and revision of target indicators in the renewable power sector;

• monitoring the achievement of established targets, including their periodic clarification based on Russia’s priorities in the economic, energy, and environmental spheres;

• better data collection, analysis, and state statistical reporting related to the use of renewable power facilities;

• development and regular updating of the allocation scheme of power generation facilities across Russia, taking into account the location of productive forces, economic development of individual territories, and available renewable energy resources, including a list of projects for the construction of new and reconstruction of existing power generation facilities;

• development and implementation of measures to attract non budget (private, foreign, etc.) investments in the construction of new and reconstruction of existing power generation facilities in the renewable energy sector to achieve target thresholds of capacity growth (including the attraction of venture capital);

• elaboration of a set of measures to promote the growth of small and medium sized power generating facilities in the renewable energy market.

In regards to market regulation of generation, transportation, storage, and use of energy obtained from renewable sources, the policy aims at creating a fair market environment and equal conditions for competition between producers and suppliers of energy (Government of the Russian

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Federation, 2009). Some of the public regulation measures include the obligation of energy market actors to purchase a certain amount of renewable energy, the establishment of rules for the use of natural resources for the construction and operation of power generation facilities, as well as various mechanisms of direct and indirect public support for the renewable energy sector. Similar to Russia and the international community, China aims to increase in every possible way the contribution of renewable energy sources to the country’s energy mix as one of the green transition measures and climate change mitigation efforts (Khazova, 2019). In particular, the development of renewable energy as part of the energy strategy and the quality growth trajectory of the power sector with Chinese characteristics in the new era (State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 2020) corresponds to the general principles of China’s development, which prioritizes “resource conservation and environmental protection” (Xi, 2017: 45). In 2017, President Xi Jinping underscored the commitment of the country to promoting low carbon development, preventing and controlling pollution of air, water, and soils, restoring ecosystems, and developing biodiversity protection networks (Xi, 2017: 45 46). The green development model is recognized to be an essential requirement of China’s new development concepts (Xi, 2017: 428). China “embraces the vision of a global community of shared future and accelerates its transformation towards green and low carbon development in economy and society” (State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 2020) and aims to “speed up the building of … an industrial system for green, circular, and low carbon development” (Xi, 2017: 429). In the international arena, China is one of the most active and action oriented global actors in terms of both achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and implementing the international climate agenda. In 2020, President Xi Jinping pledged that China would scale up its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by “adopting more vigorous policies and measures, striving to have carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060” (State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 2020). Such a vision of China’s role in building an “ecological civilization” (Xi, 2017: 47) is enshrined in China’s Arctic Policy 2018, which states that “the Arctic situation now goes beyond its … regional nature, having a vital bearing on … the survival, the development, and the shared future for mankind” (State Council of the People’s Republic of China, 2018: Foreword).

China’s commitment to the low carbon development agenda is the unifying thread in a set of documents on energy policy, such as the White Paper on Energy 2007 (State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 2007), Energy Policy 2012 (State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 2012), and Energy Development Strategies Notice of Action Plan 2014 2020 (State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 2014). The latter articulates five tasks of the energy policy:

• improving energy security based on the effective use of “clean” coal, further growth of oil and gas sectors, promotion of renewable power, and establishment of an emergency reserve of power generation capacities and strategic reserves of oil;

• transformations in energy consumption strict control over the use of energy, implementation of energy efficiency improvement plans, and changes in electricity consumption;

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• optimization of the power consumption portfolio (less coal, more natural gas, nuclear energy, and renewables);

• expansion and deepening of international collaboration, establishment of a regional energy market, and participation in the global governance of the energy related issues;

• development of energy related technologies and innovative energy systems.

According to the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China (2020), the country prioritizes further promotion and use of renewable power as a principal element of its transition to carbon neutrality. However, as we have already noted above, along with a purely climatic and environmental agenda, the role of renewable energy in China is considered more broadly. Renewable energy is one of the factors of diversification of the energy mix, reduction of dependence on fossil fuels, as well as the development of the economy and welfare of individual territories based on local energy sources. To increase its energy security, China emphasizes not only the diversification of the energy mix, but also the diversification of energy sources (local or foreign, conventional and alternative) and the localization of the engineering of appropriate equipment for the generation, storage, and transportation of energy obtained from renewable sources. In light of this vision of the energy agenda, measures to develop China’s energy sector can be divided into inward directed measures and outward directed measures (Table 2). The approach is somewhat different from that we observe in Russia, where the emphasis is on domestic measures, while exogenous factors are considered as threats rather than development opportunities.

Table 2. Development measures in China’s energy sector

Directions Development measures

Inward directed measures

Development of gas and nuclear energy to diversify renewable energy sources Energy saving and improving the efficiency of fuel and energy use Establishment of the strategic oil reserve Development of clean coal technologies for optimal use of domestic reserves of coal Development of infrastructure for generation, storage, and transmission of energy Market reforms in the energy sector

Outward directed measures

Diversification of energy cooperation and search for new markets Safety of transportation of imported energy resources Collaboration in the sphere of advanced energy technologies Diversification of types of energy imported from abroad

Source: Authors’ development based on Wu and Storey (2007), Fang (2010), and Mastepanov (2019).

Inward directed measures aim at (1) increasing the efficiency of using available energy sources and energy resources; (2) reducing dependence on energy imports through the development of domestic power generation capacities and the introduction of energy saving technologies in industrial production and household consumption; (3) attracting foreign investment and technologies to develop the competencies of Chinese companies in exploration and development of hard to recover deposits; (4) reducing the carbon footprint of conventional industries; and (5) increasing energy efficiency of renewable sources. Like Russia, China pays much attention to government regulation of competition, pricing, and market relations in the renewable energy sector (Energy Research Institute, 2015) and the establishment of rules and standards for the generation and consumption of energy from renewable sources (Zeng et al., 2018).

Outward directed measures focus on the diversification of energy suppliers (countries and companies), types of energy resources supplied (conventional coal, oil, and natural gas, electricity,

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and other types of energy carriers), as well as delivery formats (oil and gas pipelines, railway tanks (oil) and carriages (coal), cross border power lines, oil and liquefied natural gas supplies by sea tankers). Chinese companies are strongly encouraged to enter into joint projects for the exploration of oil, gas, and coal deposits, as well as investment projects in the renewable energy sector outside of China. One of the priorities for the development of the energy sector is the establishment of long term partnerships with major suppliers of energy resources.

Renewable Energy in the Russian Arctic Russia’s energy complex comprises the oil, gas, coal, and peat industries, nuclear power, electric power, and heat supply. Russia ranks among the world’s top countries in hydrocarbon reserves and production and export of energy (in various forms) and energy related technologies (particularly in the oil, gas, and nuclear sectors). Despite the abundance of fossil fuels, the country’s energy mix is one of the lowest carbon emitting among the world’s major energy producers. More than 30% of electric power generation is accounted for by nuclear power and hydropower and about 50% by natural gas. The share of hydroelectric power plants, including pumped storage power plants, in the power generation portfolio is 20%. Hydropower dominates in the renewable energy mix (Table 3). As of 2021, the installed capacity of solar power plants and wind power plants was 0.834 GW and 0.184 GW, respectively. The total capacity of small scale hydroelectric power plants exceeds 1.2 GW. The use of local fuels (peat, forestry industry residues, agricultural products, and household solid waste) plays a minor role in territorial energy mixes.

Table 3. Major parameters of the renewable energy sector in Russia in 2000 2020

Sectors / parameters

2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 Hydropower

Share in the renewable energy mix, % 98.41 98.24 98.04 97.78 96.89

Total generation, TWh 162.44 170.95 164.82 166.31 196.00

Electricity generation per capita, KWh 1,109.00 1,190.00 1,149.00 1,147.00 1,436.00

Primary energy consumption, TWh 456.00 464.00 434.00 425.00 524.00

Energy consumption per capita, KWh 3,113.00 3,232.00 3,025.00 2,931.00 3,591.00

Wind power

Share in the renewable energy mix, % 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.09 0.62

Total generation, TWh 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.15 1.14

Electricity generation per capita, KWh 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 9.00

Primary energy consumption, TWh 0.01 0.02 0.01 0.37 2.81

Energy consumption per capita, KWh 0.00 0.00 0.00 3.00 19.00

Solar power Share in the renewable energy mix, % 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.20 0.77

Total generation, TWh 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.34 1.86

Electricity generation per capita, KWh 0.00 0.00 0.00 2.00 11.00

Primary energy consumption, TWh 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.85 4.59

Energy consumption per capita, KWh 0.00 0.00 0.00 6.00 31.00

Source: Authors’ development based on Our World in Data (2022)

By 2024, Russia aims to increase the installed capacity in the solar energy sector and the wind energy sector to 2.24 GW and 3.42 GW, respectively (Table 4). The volume of technically available renewable energy sources in Russia is equivalent to 4.6 billion tons of reference fuel.

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Table 4. Targets for commissioning of generating capacities in the renewable energy sector in Russia by 2024, MW

Years Wind power Solar power Small scale hydropower Total 2020 500.0 270.0 16.0 786.0 2021 500.0 162.6 24.9 687.5 2022 500.0 162.6 33.0 695.6 2023 500.0 240.0 23.8 763.8 2024 214.7 238.6 41.8 495.1

Total 3,415.7 2,238.0 210.0 5,863.7

Source: Authors’ development based on Government of the Russian Federation (2009)

According to the updated Renewable Energy Strategy 2035 (Government of the Russian Federation, 2009), Russia aims at localizing at least 70% of solar energy equipment and technologies and 65% of those in the spheres of wind energy and small scale hydropower by 2024. International sanctions would probably enforce Russia’s attempts to substitute critical equipment and technologies across the energy sector. However, given the state of technology in the renewable energy sector, the exploitation of renewable sources of energy is cost inefficient without government support (with the exception of hydropower). Major reasons for the underdevelopment of the sector include the following:

• low competitiveness of renewable energy projects compared to fossil fuels (abundance of fossil fuels in Russia, focus on oil, gas, and coal in the Arctic, volatile oil and gas prices on world markets, sanctions and embargo on oil, but still at least a breakeven profit for largest oil and gas tycoons for example, Novatek in its LNG endeavors in Yamal);

• undeveloped renewable energy infrastructure, including (1) insufficient level and quality of research on renewable energy sources; (2) inadequate information environment, including information on potential energy resources and data on the parameters of ongoing projects and individual power plants; (3) weak regulatory framework and software tools in the design and operation of renewable energy facilities.

The power grid system (electricity, heating, and delivery of fuel to remote territories) is overcentralized. It primarily focuses on using fossil fuels to generate energy from conventional sources. Hydropower is part of the unified energy system, but the integration of other renewables into the power grid system remains weak. It requires the construction of power and heat supply lines, power accumulation facilities, and other kinds of renewables related infrastructure.

The most promising sectors of renewable energy in the Russian Arctic are hydropower, wind and solar energy, biofuels, and ocean energy (Gao & Erokhin, 2022). Long winters (up to 300 days a year) with temperatures down to 50°C produce strong and steady winds. Along the coastline of the White and Barents seas and the Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land archipelagos, the wind speed reaches 5 8 meters per second. With climate change, the strength and frequency of winds are increasing. The higher density of cold air compared to warm air results in the higher energy efficiency of wind farms in the Arctic compared to mid latitude zones. Scattered wind turbines within a territory can be integrated into a single network and then into the country’s united grid system (Gao & Erokhin, 2022), which significantly increases the spatial stability of wind energy

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development in remote Arctic territories. Several wind farms are operating in the Arctic: an experimental four turbine wind farm in Labytnangi (Yamal Nenets Autonomous District), a ten turbine wind farm in Anadyr (Chukotka Autonomous District), and a three turbine wind farm in Tiksi (Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)). In 2019, Enel Russia launched the construction of the largest wind farm in the Russian Arctic (201 MW, 57 turbines) on the Kola Peninsula (Murmansk Oblast).

The Kola wind farm is projected to generate about 750 kWh of electricity per year, while reducing emissions by 600 thousand tons of carbon dioxide. Currently, the total capacity of all wind power plants in the Russian Arctic is 210 MW. They are operated either separately or in combination with solar panels and diesel generators.

Solar power plants can be installed in Eastern Yakutia. In cold climates, the potential for solar energy production increases. The lower the temperature, the more efficient solar cells work. Thus, at 0°C, the efficiency of solar cells increases by 10% compared to a moderate temperature of 20°C. As a result, the average annual intake of solar energy in the Arctic during the daytime can reach 2 5 kWh (up to 6 kWh in some territories). Solar power plants operate in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) (Batagai, Betenkes, Batamai, and other localities) and the Yamal Nenets Autonomous District.

Hydropower plays a significant role in the energy mix of all nine territories of the Russian Arctic, especially the Western sector (Murmansk Oblast, Archangelsk Oblast, and the Republic of Karelia). There are seventeen hydroelectric power plants in Murmansk Oblast (including the Kislogubskaya tidal power plant in Ura Guba (1.7 MW)), two plants in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), and one plant in Arkhangelsk Oblast. Severny power plant is being built in the Dolgaya Vostochnaya Bay of the Kola Peninsula (12 MW, annual electricity generation 23.8 million kWh). The station will become the first tidal power plant in Russia to reach the industrial level of energy generation. Another tidal power plant will be launched in the Mezen Bay (the White Sea) (8 GW, annual electricity generation 38.9 billion kWh). However, the parameters of tides for stable energy production (intensity, frequency, constancy, water height, ice conditions, wind inertial currents, etc.) are poorly studied (Baumann et al., 2020). Due to technical issues, the production of both tidal and wave energy is geographically limited to ice free areas or offshore waters in open water (mainly the Western sector of the Russian Arctic).

Geothermal energy can be produced in the eastern territories bordering China (the Far East, the Eastern sector of the Russian Arctic, Sakhalin Island, and the Kuril Islands) (Butuzov, 2019). Approximately, the heat reserves in the artesian basin of Western Siberia amount to 200 million Gcal per year. In Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands, the generation capacity of geothermal sources and the thermal capacity exceed 2,000 MW and 3,000 MW, respectively. In Kamchatka, geothermal resources can generate from 250 MW (eastern part of the peninsula) to 550 MW (central and northern parts). On the Kunashir and Paramushir islands, the potentials of geothermal reservoirs are 52 MW and 100 MW, respectively. In regards to thermal energy, the potential resources are thermal waters (about 1 km below the land surface). Geothermal stations may supply energy to remote settlements. When there remain unused oil or gas wells, then installing power plants incurs no substantial capital expenditures.

Spatial Patterns of the Renewable Energy Development

Studying spatial patterns of renewable energy development in the Russian Arctic, we should emphasize the increasing territorial imbalance between the demand for energy and its production

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(Kudryashova et al., 2019). This applies to the entire energy sector, not specifically renewables. There is an increasing concentration of energy consumption in the European part of the country (60% of the country’s total energy consumption) amid shifting the extraction and production of energy resources further to the northeast (over 80% of the total extraction of energy resources in the Russian Arctic). From the point of view of the sustainability of the energy complex, the main challenges are the instability of energy supply (cut off from the unified energy infrastructure and gas supply system) and local electricity generation based on the use of inefficient (economically) and dirty (environmentally) diesel fuel (Zaykov et al., 2017). Energy resources extracted in the Russian Arctic are exported out of the region, processed, and returned to the Arctic in the form of motor fuel. The use of natural gas is limited to areas around oil and gas fields or small deposits developed specifically for supplying power to large industrial clusters, such as the Norilsk mining and metallurgical industrial district. There are plans to supply liquified natural gas from Yamal to settlements along the Arctic Ocean coast, but such an initiative requires the construction of regasification terminals and gas distribution networks throughout the Arctic zone. The comparative study of local development programs demonstrates that due to the abundance of local energy resources, most of the Russian Arctic territories prioritize further exploitation of oil, gas, and coal deposits. However, we see that the Western sector territories (not that rich in oil and natural gas) emphasize the need for developing renewable energy (Table 5).

Table 5. Regional priorities for the development of the energy sector in the Russian Arctic

Energy sectors

Western sector Central sector Eastern sector 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Coal X X X X Oil X X X X X Natural gas X X X X Offshore energy projects X X X Renewable energy X X Power generation and transmission X X X X X

Note: 1 = Murmansk Oblast; 2 = Republic of Karelia; 3 = Arkhangelsk Oblast; 4 = Nenets Autonomous District; 5 = Komi Republic; 6 = Yamal Nenets Autonomous District; 7 = Krasnoyarsk Krai; 8 = Republic of Sakha (Yakutia); 9 = Chukotka Autonomous District.

Source: Authors’ development based on President of the Russian Federation (2020a, 2020b), Governor of Murmansk Oblast (2014), Government of Murmansk Oblast (2013), Assembly of Deputies of Nenets Autonomous District (2019), Government of Chukotka Autonomous District (2014), Legislative Assembly of Yamal Nenets Autonomous District (2011), Governor of Yamal Nenets Autonomous District (2018), Government of the Republic of Karelia (2018), Government of the Russian Federation (2020a, 2020b, 2021), Assembly of Deputies of Arkhangelsk Oblast (2019), Government of the Komi Republic (2019), Government of Krasnoyarsk Krai (2020), Head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) (2020)

Western Sector of the Russian Arctic

The Western sector of the Russian Arctic includes Murmansk Oblast, Republic of Karelia, Arkhangelsk Oblast, and Nenets Autonomous District. Due to the combination of natural resources, landscapes, and climate, the Western sector territories enjoy the most favorable conditions in the Russian Arctic for the development of renewable energy. The relative density of population (compared to the Central and Eastern sectors) along with the high density of energy infrastructure make it possible to integrate renewable energy facilities into a centralized energy

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supply system. The development of renewable energy is mentioned among the development priorities in the Strategy of Social and Economic Development of the Republic of Karelia till 2030 (Government of the Republic of Karelia, 2018) and the Strategy of Social and Economic Development of Arkhangelsk Oblast till 2035 (Assembly of Deputies of Arkhangelsk Oblast, 2019). In Karelia, the flagship project in the renewable energy sector is the construction of cascades of small hydropower plants in rivers and lakes (Government of the Republic of Karelia, 2018; Government of the Russian Federation, 2020a).

Due to its specialization in the processing of timber, Arkhangelsk Oblast develops a project for the production of biofuels from timber industry residuals within the framework of closed cycle waste free production technology (Assembly of Deputies of Arkhangelsk Oblast, 2019). Another specialization of Arkhangelsk Oblast is the engineering and construction of marine equipment for various purposes, including equipment and sea platform blocks for exploring offshore oil and gas fields (Gao & Erokhin, 2020a). Together with the neighboring Murmansk Oblast, the two territories establish the largest technological and engineering cluster in the Western sector of the Russian Arctic in the spheres of building cargo vessels and icebreakers and the production of large marine engineering structures.

Murmansk Oblast establishes a center for constructing large capacity offshore structures for the production, storage, and shipment of LNG. The local government also supports enterprises engaged in the repair and maintenance of marine machinery and equipment used to develop offshore deposits (Governor of Murmansk Oblast, 2014). Another promising venue is the enrichment of minerals and other natural resources on the Kola Peninsula. The Strategy of Social and Economic Development of Murmansk Oblast till 2020 and for the Period until 2025 (Government of Murmansk Oblast, 2013) involves the transfer of local production clusters to more environmentally friendly sources of energy, the reduction of the carbon footprint by updating coal and fuel oil boilers, and the increase in the share of renewable energy sources in local electricity generation.

Nenets Autonomous District stands somewhat out of the Western sector’s low carbon and renewable energy agenda. The territory is much richer in natural gas and oil compared to neighbor Arkhangelsk Oblast. Among the energy sector priorities, the Strategy of Social and Economic Development of Nenets Autonomous District till 2030 (Assembly of Deputies of Nenets Autonomous District, 2019) emphasizes the development of gas condensate mineral resource centers (Korovinsky and Kumzhinsky gas condensate fields and Vaneyvissky and Layavozhsky oil and gas condensate fields) and oil and mineral resource centers (Varandeysky, Kolguyevsky, Kharyago Usinsky, and Khasyreysky).

Central Sector of the Russian Arctic

The Central sector of the Russian Arctic is the largest source of hydrocarbons in the Arctic zone and the entire country. Yamal Nenets Autonomous District alone produces 81% of Russia’s natural gas (1/5 of the world’s total output), 77% of gas condensate, and 6% of oil. The district ranks first in Russia in terms of reserves and volumes of natural gas production and second in terms of proven reserves of liquid hydrocarbons (oil and condensate). In total, 93 oil and gas fields out of 234 are being developed in Yamal Nenets Autonomous District. Obviously, natural gas is the top priority for the local energy sector. The Strategy of Social and Economic Development of Yamal Nenets Autonomous District until 2020 (Legislative Assembly of Yamal Nenets

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Autonomous District, 2011) underlines the development of natural gas fields in the Ob basin and the Ob Bay and the development of pipeline infrastructure (including the new Power of Siberia 2 pipeline that will connect the district with Russian South Siberia and then direct to Mongolia and China’s Northeast). Yamal LNG is currently the most successful joint investment project in the Russian Arctic with the involvement of Chinese and other foreign investments. Arctic LNG 2 has been partially commissioned. Other promising endeavors include the development of Novoportovsk oil and gas condensate mineral resource center, Bovanenkovo gas condensate mineral resource center, and Tambey group of fields (Governor of Yamal Nenets Autonomous District, 2018). However, now it appears to be questionable whether the new LNG projects in the Russian Arctic could be launched due to the sanctions. In April 2022, as part of the fifth package of sanctions, the EU imposed direct sanctions against the Russian gas industry and banned the supply of LNG related equipment to Russia. There is a ban on the sale, supply, transfer, or export to Russia, directly or indirectly, of goods and technologies used for gas liquefaction, regardless of whether such goods or technologies originate from the EU or not. The stop list includes installations for the separation of hydrocarbons during gas liquefaction, cryogenic heat exchangers and pumps, and other kinds of equipment for cooling and liquefaction of natural gas. Before the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict and the introduction of the sweeping sanctions against Russia, the share of foreign equipment in the Russian oil and gas sector averaged more than 50%, in particular, 48% in geological exploration, 49% in oil refining, 61% in increasing oil recovery, and 68% in LNG and offshore endeavors. The most painful is the ban on the supply of heat exchangers for large capacity gas liquefaction. Before 2014, Russian companies used to employ spiral heat exchangers by Air Products (USA). First Crimea related sanctions forced them to switch to using installations by Linde (Germany). Since then, the technology has not been localized (Gao & Erokhin, 2021). The first line of Arctic LNG 2 is 98% completed, but the launch is postponed until 2024. The second line (40% ready) can hardly be launched in the coming years, while the construction of the third line has not even started.

Krasnoyarsk Krai and Komi Republic also build their energy strategies on the exploration and exploitation of abundant mineral deposits, not only oil and natural gas, but also coal (Government of Krasnoyarsk Krai, 2020; Government of the Komi Republic, 2019). In the Komi Republic, the local government promotes deep processing of coal raw materials and coal chemistry in coal mineral resource centers in the Pechora coal basin (Government of the Komi Republic, 2019). In Krasnoyarsk Krai, eleven energy isolated territories have no access to central power supply networks. Local power generation facilities use fuel oil and diesel fuel imported from neighboring territories and regions. Fuel supply chains are vulnerable due to short supply windows (several weeks a year) and undeveloped transport infrastructure (mainly small scale deliveries by low water rivers). Imported fuel is expensive both in terms of delivery and its storage on site. The depreciation of power generation facilities in the energy isolated territories is about 70%. Therefore, the modernization of local power generation systems, including through the development of renewable energy sources, is a matter of time. It is hardly possible to abandon fuel oil and other fossils, but the pioneer hybrid solar power plants (Evenki district) show that diesel fuel consumption can be reduced by 15 20%. Taimyr has one of the highest potentials in the Arctic zone for the development of wind generation. Wind and wind diesel facilities can be effective across the peninsula. Wind generation on Taimyr may become one of the ways to ensure energy supply to the NSR infrastructure (ports and support on land facilities) and the Yenisey Siberia investment

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project. However, alternative energy is not considered the main type of power generation, but only one of the elements of the energy mix to increase the stability of energy supply in remote northern territories and compensate for failures in centralized energy supply or fuel delivery.

Eastern Sector of the Russian Arctic Territories in the Eastern sector of the Arctic zone (Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and Chukotka Autonomous District) face the most severe challenges to the sustainability of the spatial development of energy supply due to the weak territorial interconnectedness and a low level of energy infrastructure development. Therefore, both the Strategy of Social and Economic Development of the Arctic Zone of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) till 2035 (Head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), 2020) and the Strategy of Social and Economic Development of Chukotka Autonomous District till 2030 (Government of Chukotka Autonomous District, 2014) prioritize spatial development by forming networks of interconnected industrial and energy clusters is a key sustainable development goal.

Two thirds of the territory of Yakutia belongs to a decentralized energy supply zone (the Northern Energy District, an extremely sparsely populated area with less than 100,000 people). The main source of electricity in these territories is isolated local diesel power plants. The situation is similar in Chukotka, where three power networks (Anadyrsky, Egvekinotsky, and Chain Bilibinsky) are disconnected from each other. A characteristic feature of the Chukotka power system is no market for unclaimed power, except for the supply of about 16 million kWh of electricity per year to neighboring Yakutia. The Chukotka Autonomous District is an energy surplus region, but given the isolation of the territory, electricity cannot be exported or even redistributed within the district. Local power plants operate at low loads, which results in premature equipment wear and excessive fuel consumption. In general, for the Eastern sector of the Russian Arctic, the core issues of sustainable spatial development are the energy supply of remote territories and the development of local power generation facilities and power transmission networks. Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) became the first region in Russia to adopt the regional law on renewable energy (Head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), 2014). The regional program for the development of local energy facilities provides for the replacement of aging power generation facilities with cost effective modern equipment, including an increase in the share of lower cost renewable energy solutions in the energy mix. Examples of successful projects in the renewable energy sector are a wind diesel complex in Tiksi and a power supply to isolated settlements through the construction of autonomous hybrid solar power plants (Verkhoyansky district). The Far East territories develop local small scale renewable energy facilities in collaboration with Chinese firms (for example, agricultural and forestry biofuels, production of pellets and briquettes from wood and agricultural waste, and the conversion of boilers to biofuels). The development of small scale nuclear power is considered an option for localizing energy supply for extremely remote areas of the Arctic (floating nuclear power plant in Chukotka). But such projects are both expensive and excessive for individual settlements. They make economic sense only when a power grid network unites residential and industrial objects across territories.

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Russia- China Collaboration in the Energy Sector

The Room for China’s Northeast Russia China collaboration in the sphere of renewable energy in the Arctic is still scarce. Solar Systems LLC has built solar power installations across central and southern Russia, but not yet in the Arctic zone, where construction, accumulation, and distribution costs are substantially higher, while the demand for energy across sparsely inhabited territories is lower. Russian Rosnano Group together with Chinese Zhongrong Trust International have created a Russia China joint investment fund to promote joint projects related to the development of intelligent electric networks, improvement of the adaptability and efficiency of local and regional power systems, optimization of the allocation and distribution of power generation facilities, and stimulation of renewable energy consumption at the local level (wind farms in the coastal areas in the Russian Arctic and the Far East). RusHydro collaborates with Power China in the Far East and China’s Northeast. The estimated capacity of renewable energy sources in the region is 500 MW. The two companies have launched wind complexes in Kamchatka and Sakhalin. In total, RusHydro plans to build 139 solar power plants and 35 wind farms. RAO Energy Systems of the East (affiliated with RusHydro Group) signed an agreement with Dongfang Electric International Corporation on cooperation in the energy sector in the Far East. In June 2022, Zhongyu Xinxing Energy Industry Corporation announced establishing an LNG terminal in Primorsky Krai (about 7 million tons per year). A low tonnage LNG plant along with a logistics complex for the transshipment of liquid hydrocarbons will be built near the border (Khabarovsk Krai, Jewish Autonomous Oblast) to supply power generation plants and industrial enterprises in Heilongjiang Province.

Technological solutions that Russia needs to facilitate the low carbon transition in the Arctic (and potentially carbon neutral growth) include hydrogen energy technologies. There is a need for low carbon hydrogen production technologies (conversion, methane pyrolysis, and electrolysis). In its Energy Strategy (Government of the Russian Federation, 2020b), Russia admits that most critical technologies could be borrowed from abroad (despite the overall trend of every possible substitution of all kinds of equipment and technologies fueled by international sanctions). Among the priorities in the hydrogen energy sector is the development of fuel cells based on hydrogen and natural gas for transporting and using hydrogen and hydrogen based mixtures as accumulators and converters to increase the stability of centralized energy supply systems. A new promising source of energy is gas hydrates. Chinese research institutions and engineering companies lead the pack in this field. The Russian Arctic is abundant in near the surface gas hydrates. The exploration and exploitation of methane hydrates in permafrost zones across the Arctic require less sophisticated technologies than those Chinese engineers are testing in marine bottom gas hydrate deposits. There are no such technologies and equipment in Russia.

Chinese developers can compensate for the lack of digital technologies in the Russian energy market, including the Internet of Things, 3D modeling, modeling and forecasting based on big data analysis, neural networks, cloud computing, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning, computer simulation based on digital twins, intelligent sensors, production robotics, and additive technologies (Erokhin et al., 2018; Gao & Erokhin, 2020a).

In February 2022, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin issued instructions following a meeting with the Government of the Russian Federation on developing alternatives to natural gas in those remote territories where connecting residential and industrial facilities to a unified gas supply

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system is economically inviable (President of the Russian Federation, 2022). Most of the circumpolar territories with no connection to the centralized natural gas grid fall under this category. Local authorities were expected to submit proposals for the development of alternative sources of energy by September 2022. However, the autumn escalation of the Russia Ukraine conflict along with the start of the mobilization campaign in Russia on September 21, 2022, would delay many of the civil initiatives. Territories were requested to create targeted fuel and energy balances and monitor and forecast demand for all types of energy by various types of consumers (industrial, residential, municipal). It can be expected that when drawing up fuel and energy balances, local authorities will look for opportunities to use equipment and technical solutions offered by their Chinese counterparts. According to the Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, remote territories in the Arctic, Siberia, and the Far East must promote using renewable energy sources, small nuclear generation, clean coal technologies, liquefied natural gas, and electric boilers and heaters. Current Russia’s needs for equipment and technologies in the energy sector can be divided into three groups according to the dominant types of energy carriers: oil and gas (including LNG), coal (emission reduction and clean coal energy technologies), and power generation from renewable sources. Table 6 demonstrates the differentiation of needs per territory and sector.

Table 6. Russia's needs for energy related technologies and equipment in the Arctic

Technologies and equipment

Western sector Central sector Eastern sector 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Analysis of rock and reservoir fluid, data telemetry X X X

Automated control and monitoring, intelligent power networks, digital information transmission devices X X X X X X

Automated mining complexes and units X X X X

Automated transport vehicles, hydraulic transportation of coal X X X X

Autonomous power generators on gaseous and hydrogen fuel designed for continuous power generation X X X X X

Coal chemistry, including liquid fuels X X X X

Coal cleaning equipment and technologies X X X

Control systems for hydraulic supports for coal mining X X X

Design of large capacity modules for energy facilities X X

Development of hard to recover reserves, directional drilling X X X Digital twins, including means of conducting comprehensive digital tests of equipment and confirming reliability parameters X X X

Dust suppression and dust explosion safety systems integrated into tunneling and cleaning equipment X X X X X

Electrical energy accumulation systems, batteries and fuel cells X X X X Equipment and technologies for natural gas liquefaction X

Gas insulated electrical equipment X X X X

Geoinformation systems X X X X X

High capacity wind turbines X X X

High performance miner bolters X X X X X

High performance photovoltaic modules X X X

High voltage and generator circuit breakers X X X X X

Higher performance of turbines through changes in their parameters and the use of new working fluids, including CO2 X X X

Hydraulic excavators X X X X

Ice class drilling complexes X X X X

In situ conversion, kerogen conversion technologies


Monitoring and control of parameters of rock massifs X X X

Offshore and onshore seismic surveys, wireless data acquisition X X X X X

Power gas turbines (65 MW and higher) X X X

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Prevention of combustion of coal in rock massifs and storages X X X X Processing hydrocarbons, additives and catalysts for oil refining X X X

Reservoir stimulation, including hydraulic fracturing X X X X Rock properties analysis, boundary effects, phase transformations X X X X X

Shearers for high coal deposits X X X

Smart field equipment, pumps, flowmeters for multiphase flow X X

Static reactive power compensators, inverters, rectifiers X X

Stripping equipment and coal mining and quarry transport X X X X X

Subsea production units X X X

Tunneling combines X X X

Note: 1 = Murmansk Oblast; 2 = Republic of Karelia; 3 = Arkhangelsk Oblast; 4 = Nenets Autonomous District; 5 = Komi Republic; 6 = Yamal Nenets Autonomous District; 7 = Krasnoyarsk Krai; 8 = Republic of Sakha (Yakutia); 9 = Chukotka Autonomous District.

Source: Authors’ development

At the national level, Russia has adopted a procedure for supporting renewable energy in retail markets and in remote and energy isolated territories (the Russian Arctic and the Far East). There is practiced long term tariff regulation of renewable energy in retail markets. Regional authorities establish the procedure and requirements for the competitive selection of investment projects and their further inclusion in the development plans in certain territories. Therefore, the adopted regulations allow local authorities in the Arctic and the Far East to make decisions on supporting joint projects with China. In 2020, Russia’s Government approved the following mechanisms to stimulate the generation of renewable energy:

• competitive selection of investment projects in the renewable energy sector for the inclusion of such projects in regional development programs, including detailed regulation of tenders;

• price (tariff) ceiling based on tenders for energy produced from renewable sources, instead of direct price regulation;

• elaboration and unification of rules and procedures for qualification of power generating facilities;

• development of the procedure for concluding contracts for the purchase and sale of electric energy with grid organizations, standardization of contract terms, simplification of determining the volume of sales of electric energy under contracts;

• improvement of the rules for maintaining the register of certificates confirming the volume of energy generation from renewable sources.

New rules and principles for the implementation of investment projects in the renewable energy sector should be considered when concluding investment agreements between Russian and Chinese counterparts. The most significant change is that investment projects are now selected based on the principle of the overall effect of the project, rather than the costs principle. The government sets the highest possible amount of support and gradually reduces the bar when making its choice between projects. The government also established the criteria for determining the capacity of renewable energy facilities supplied to the market and payable by consumers. The support measures are conditioned by the need for investors to comply with the requirements for the localization of energy equipment components (forcing Chinese manufacturers to localize part

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of production and technology in Russia) and the requirements for mandatory export volumes (stimulating the entry of Russian companies into China’s energy market or the entry of joint Russia China enterprises into the world market where sanctions against Russian energy companies allow that).

Permanent Impediments and New Uncertainties

The following technical, spatial, economic, and political issues hinder or could potentially hinder the Russia China joint low carbon agenda and the collaboration in the renewable sector in the Arctic.

Technical issues center around the fact that the specific climatic conditions of the Arctic require significant adaptation of existing Chinese equipment and technologies. During the first deliveries and installations, the risks of equipment failure or a noticeable decrease in design capacity are particularly high. Most probably, equipment failures will force the Russian side to abandon transactions and put technical risks and related expenditures into contracts. Pre testing of the equipment at low temperatures is required to avoid icing of blades and moving parts of wind turbines and snow and icing of solar panels and increase the performance of solar panels and saving of energy during polar nights. Among the technical obstacles is the requirement to localize foreign technologies and equipment production in Russia. From 2025, localization requirements across the renewable energy sectors will almost double up to 90% in solar energy for the period 2028 2035, up to 85% in wind energy for the period 2031 2035, and up to 80% in small hydropower for the period 2031 2035. Starting from 2028, the permissible share of net imports in the solar energy sector is set at 5% (now 30%), in the wind energy sector 10% (now 35%), and in small hydropower 15% (now 35%).

The specifics of the spatial development of the energy sector in the Russian Arctic degrades the economies of scale from investments (Gubina & Provorova, 2018). Isolated markets are narrow and energy grid systems are poorly interconnected. Power generation facilities serve local needs, while the substantial increase in generation makes no economic sense due to spatial constraints to demand (Plisetskii & Plisetskii, 2019). Transportation of excess energy over extremely long distances between dense settlements and industrial sites is unprofitable, and the accumulation of energy in the Arctic climate is technically challenging. The implementation of large investment projects is possible only near cities or industrial facilities, but such large consumers need a stable centralized energy supply ensured by the use of conventional energy sources (Galtseva et al., 2015). For the foreseeable future, we can hardly expect a mass transition of large consumers to renewable energy sources.

A critical economic issue is that in the Russian Arctic, the profitability of renewable energy is extremely low. In one form or another, all of the current projects in the renewable energy sector have gained government support. Low profitability is due to high construction costs (climatic conditions, permafrost) and logistics in narrow isolated markets. Thus, investors could hope for returns if their projects are included in the government subsidy program. To approve joint investment projects in terms of localization, Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade uses a point rating system of compliance. Investors need to establish a project in such a way that it gains the qualifying number of points. Chinese companies which want to escape full localization of their production in Russia may involve more Russian partners so that the overall localization score for a project meets the requirements. From 2025, all renewable energy endeavors will have to export

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at least part of their output (4% of exports from capital expenditures in 2025 2030 and 8% in 2030 2035). To meet this condition, Chinese investors will either have to import energy or goods to China or enter the international market through Russian projects (again, if sanctions allow doing that), while creating competition with purely Chinese enterprises. Localization requirements do not take into account the narrow market for renewable energy in the Arctic. Deepening localization will result in the underutilization of the capacities of manufacturers of energy related equipment and components and an increase in the overall production costs. With the current low return on investment in the renewable energy sector, it may become unviable without substantial government support after the 2030s.

Finally, political or rather geopolitical issues. We finalized this text in early June 2022 and then revised in September 2022, so we cannot keep track of events around the Russia Ukraine conflict beyond that time. A sharp change in the geopolitical situation both in Russia itself and in Russia’ s political and economic relations with the USA and other Western countries has largely contributed to the expansion of the energy crisis. While the very focus on the green agenda is being discredited in Russia in a burst of political infighting with the West, in many countries (in particular, in Europe), renewable energy is becoming one of the few options to replace the missing supplies of conventional fossil fuels from Russia. In the conditions of external pressure and the rupture of economic and political cooperation with the West in many spheres, the low carbon energy agenda is losing its relevance for Russian authorities. Sanctions against Russia have remained and will remain the main political issue in recent years, which actually penetrates into all sectors of the economy, production, finance, technological development, and everyday life. The sanctions introduced after the 2014 events in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine have not specifically affected the renewable energy sector, but created a general background of uncertainty about the future of the energy sector. They have gradually forced Western energy companies out of the Russian Arctic and suspended Russian companies from accessing Western equipment, technologies, and competencies. In September 2022, Equinor withdrew from joint energy projects with Russia in the Arctic. After six months of negotiations, the company got rid of its Russian assets of about €1.2 billion and withdrew from all its joint ventures in Russia, including the Haryaga agreement (joint oil venture in the Nenets Autonomous District). The last portion of Equinor’s assets and investment obligations were sold to Rosneft for €1. Since March 2022, the sanctions regime has sharply tightened against the background of the Russia Ukraine conflict. It directly affects not only the cooperation on energy projects (including the flagship Yamal LNG and the about to launch Arctic LNG 2 projects), but also the export of energy resources from Russia in general. Russia, for its part, also resorts to translating the political confrontation with the West into the energy sphere most sensitive for European countries. In the run up to the 2022 2023 heating season in Europe, Gazprom stopped gas supplies via the Nord Stream, citing a malfunction of the last operating turbine at the Portovaya compressor station. It is unlikely that supplies can be resumed in the foreseeable future. After the shutdown of the Nord Stream, Russia supplies gas to Western Europe through Sudzha gas station in Ukraine (limited to 40 million m3 per day). In light of the ongoing firefights in the region and the new escalation of the conflict in the fall of 2022, such a route is extremely unreliable. Greece, Hungary, and Serbia are now supplied through the Turkish Stream. Supplies via the Nord Stream can resume only if sanctions are lifted, which definitely requires reaching a general political settlement between Russia, Ukraine, the EU, and the USA. It can be expected that the surplus of domestic production of conventional fossil fuels due to the partial

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embargo on purchasing Russian oil and petroleum products will hurt the economic prospects of Russia’s renewable energy sector. In the heat of confrontation with the West, Russia may withdraw from its international obligations to reduce emissions and decarbonize the economy, which will destroy the prospects for renewable energy in the Arctic.


It is a fair assumption to say that conventional fossil fuels dominate and will be dominating the energy balances of such large energy producers and consumers as Russia and China, respectively. However, in accordance with the global trend toward mitigating climate change and protecting the environment, both countries are making efforts to decarbonize their economies China has advanced much further than Russia on this path through the accelerated development of all types of renewable energy. Russia’s achievements are modest, which comes natural to energy abundant countries that build their economies and their foreign trade on the production and export of energy resources. For energy companies in such markets, economic incentives for green transformation and transition from conventional energy to alternative solutions are rather weak. For certain territories, however, it is renewable energy that can become the key to stabilizing energy supply, improving the efficiency of local energy and economic resources, and eliminating spatial development imbalances. Sparsely populated, remote, and energy isolated territories of the Russian Arctic are one of the most demonstrative examples of areas for the development of renewable energy. China’s competence and expertise in renewable energy technologies can spur the cooperation between the two countries, including interregional ties between the Russian Arctic, the Far East, and China’s Northeast.

Based on the comparative study of regional development strategies and specific needs of individual territories, promising avenues of Russia China collaboration in the energy sector in the Russian Arctic, Russia’s Far East, and China’s Northeast include the following:

• As part of the development of regional target fuel and energy balances in accordance with President Putin’s instructions, Chinese business development circles and officials should submit proposals to local authorities in nine Russian Arctic territories to replace natural gas and conventional energy with Chinese technologies and equipment.

• Establishment of joint industrial parks and solar energy parks. Russia’s Ministry of Energy and the State Grid Corporation of China are working on the development of wind generation in the northern Far East. The wind farm project provides for the transmission of electricity to China.

• Joint demonstration sites for testing equipment and technologies for generating electricity from the energy of sea waves and tides.

• The use of advanced Chinese technologies for the exploration of hydrohydrates and hydrogen energy in permafrost zones across the Russian Arctic.

• Processing of agricultural waste into biogas in Primorye, Khabarovsk Krai, and other territories and cross border transfer of energy to China.

• Digitalization of the energy sector by using Chinese equipment and technologies. One of the options is cooperation within the framework of the Russian National

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Technology Initiative EnergyNet. Potential areas: intelligent technologies and means of monitoring and diagnostics of energy systems equipment; intelligent energy systems (digital substation, virtual power plant, intelligent electricity metering systems, highly sensitive equipment, power electronics, relay protection and automation devices, fast switching equipment); intelligent real time energy management based on the integration of electrical and information networks (energy Internet); and cost effective large scale energy storage solutions.

The current geopolitical realities alter the accustomed collaboration formats. Many of them are either unavailable or significantly restricted by international sanctions against Russia. There are fears that in a heat of fierce confrontation with the West, Russia may withdraw from international climate agreements. Such a move would significantly undermine international climate change mitigation efforts and challenge the global low carbon transition. China has not declared support for sanctions against Russia and has consistently advocated every possible agreement and cooperation between all involved parties on global issues such as the sustainable development of the Arctic However, it can be expected that sanctions will inevitably distort existing Russia China ties. In order to prevent the negative effects of immediate geopolitical confrontations on the long term sustainable development of the Arctic territories, it is necessary to study the needs of individual territories and look for opportunities for interregional cooperation in the renewable energy sector.


The study is supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (project no. 2020YFE0202600) and the Grant of Central Universities of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (project no. 3072022WK0917, 3072022WK1201).


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Can Russian Arctic Regions Benefit from Collaborating with Northeastern China?

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Gao, Erokhin, Zhu Dianyong & Zhu Gexun

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Arctic Yearbook 2022
Can Russian Arctic Regions Benefit from Collaborating with Northeastern China?

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Gao, Erokhin, Zhu Dianyong & Zhu Gexun

Arctic Yearbook 2022

Implications for Sino-Russian Cooperation on the Polar Silk Road

Yu Cao This paper explores Russia’s cooperation with China on the development agenda of the Polar Silk Road (PSR). China formally introduced the PSR initiative in 2017 to jointly develop Arctic shipping routes, of which the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is a major focus. Russia and China have been cooperating on infrastructure building on both land and sea and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects as part of the development goals of the PSR. The research question is: what are the major goals and perspectives of Sino Russian cooperation in the Arctic? Moreover, what opportunities and risks does Sino Russian cooperation on the PSR present for the region and beyond? This paper seeks to understand how Russia’s eastern focus affects the Arctic West and how the shifting geopolitical environment affects the directions for Sino Russian cooperation. The questions are important to discuss amid the on going Western sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine. By identifying Sino Russian cooperation projects along the PSR in the energy, shipping and infrastructure areas, this paper discusses Russia’s development strategies in the Arctic and China’s contributions to the realization of these projects. The argument is: the increasing tension between Russia and the West stimulates the convergence of China and Russia’s interests in the Arctic region, especially along the NSR. The PSR serves as a “vehicle” for Russia to increase investment in building Arctic infrastructure and to expand resource exploration. Under the umbrella of the PSR, Russia has increased economic and security ties with the East. The Sino Russian cooperation in the Arctic reflects the two countries’ increasing influence over the geopolitics in the region.


Climate change, energy demand, shipping prospects, globalisation and the changing geopolitical order have become new driving forces for governance and cooperation in the Arctic region. With its abundant natural resources and development capacities, the Arctic region is becoming the focus of both Russia and China’s Arctic strategy.

Both Russia and China have long been seeking development opportunities for Arctic shipping routes. To export its energy products, Russia has been advancing its infrastructure both on land and along the Northern Sea Route (NSR). China expressed its interest in NSR during the construction of its first icebreaker “Snow Dragon” in 2009. In 2011, Russian Minister of Emergency Management Sergey Shoygu proposed the concept of “Silk Road on Ice”, as a joint investment initiative along the NSR during a conference (Tillman et al., 2018).

Yu Cao is a PhD candidate at Northern Arizona University, United States.

The concept did not raise much awareness then, but has slowly gained attention as China grows into a stronger player in Arctic affairs. In May 2013, after much discussion and speculation, six non Arctic states including China were welcomed to become new Observers at the Arctic Council at the Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna, which was held by eight Arctic states and leaders of Arctic Indigenous peoples’ Permanent Participant organizations (Chaturvedi, 2022). Since then, China has been actively cooperating with other Arctic states and participating in Arctic related dialogues (Chen, 2012).

In 2017, China formally introduced the Polar Silk Road (PSR) initiative as part of its international infrastructure development program the Belt and Road Initiative, or the BRI, which was originally launched in 2013 (The World Bank, 2018). The PSR initiative outlines China’s economic and infrastructure development goals on both land and sea in the Arctic region. It has a major focus in developing projects such as constructing port terminals and logistics centres along Arctic shipping routes that connect North America, East Asia and Western Europe (Gladkiy et al., 2020; Silk Road Briefing, 2021). Among the shipping routes, the NSR is of key interest as it reduces the time and cost for shipping between East Asia and Europe by maximum ~35% (Silk Road Briefing, 2021). China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a press meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that, “China regards Russia as an important strategic partner of the joint construction of the ‘Belt and Road’”, and that “China welcomes and supports the ‘Ice Silk Road’ initiative proposed by Russia in 2011” (Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America, 2017). Wang Yi expressed the alignment of China and Russia’s development strategies and China’s willingness to establish long term partnerships with Russia. In 2017, Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev agreed to jointly develop the PSR through the implementation of various connectivity projects (Biedermann, 2021). Also in 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin further stressed Russia’s intention to cooperate with China by saying, “the silk road has reached the North. We will combine it with the Northern Sea Route, and it will be what is needed, and we will make the Northern Sea Route Silk” (Gladkiy et al., 2020)

The Belt and Road Initiative Maritime Cooperation Plan, which was released in 2017 by China’s National Development and Reform Commission and the State Oceanic Administration defines the “Arctic Waterway” as one of the three major maritime channels of the BRI (Biedermann, 2021). In 2018, China published its Arctic Policy White Paper, which serves as a major government document for analysing its activities in the Arctic region. In this document, China claims itself as an important stakeholder in Arctic affairs. China’s goals in the Arctic region are: “to understand, protect, develop and participate in the governance of the Arctic, so as to safeguard the common interests of all countries and the international community in the Arctic, and promote sustainable development of the Arctic