Russian Arctic

This study region is defined by the extension of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), a large-scale infrastructure that encompasses a maritime passage and numerous coastal areas, communities, and seaports. The NSR has been playing the key role for Soviet Arctic explorations, urbanization, and resource extraction and still has a strong symbolic and practical meaning for the transport of cargo. In addition, the NSR is increasingly being used as transshipment lane between East Asia and Europe. However, its functions for community supply and local development have changed under the conditions of the neoliberal resource-driven economy in the post-socialist period. While some NSR communities are experiencing development, most of them are stagnating or declining in terms of their transportation and urban infrastructure, living conditions and population numbers. While addressing the overall project research question, research in this macro-region will also focus on some specific issues. The role of Soviet infrastructural developments and of post-Soviet drivers, actors and effects of infrastructure projects; the roles of large- and small-scale transport infrastructures for local communities; and factors of sustainability in the context of securitization and militarization, and international trade in the Arctic. The following are potential case study areas:

  • The case study area Bering Strait includes the NSR port of Provideniya on the Russian side. Research in this area focuses on the role of existing and planned infrastructure projects in this bottleneck of international arctic maritime transport (the NSR and the Northwest Passage meet in the Bering strait). As the case study area Bering Strait also has a North American counterpart (with Nome as its central location), the impact of transnational cooperation and – increasingly – conflict and competition between the two sides is relevant for local communities here.
  • The case study area Northern Yakutiya includes the old sea port and military base Tiksi and the river port Cherskiy with similar characteristics. Both communities have been experiencing decline and are still awaiting the promised development and modernization of sea and river ports, and urban infrastructure.
  • The case study area Northern Yamal encompasses the recently established industrial town and modern deep-water port of Sabetta and neighboring indigenous settlements such as Seyakha in the booming oil province Yamal Peninsula. While the area has recently seen a lot of investments in transport and industrial infrastructure (connected primarily to the construction of the LNG plant), it is relevant to explore whether local (indigenous) communities can enjoy the benefits of such development.
  • The Russian part of the case study Barents Region includes the largest Arctic city and sea port of Murmansk and a much smaller potential research site Teriberka in the westernmost NSR segment. Murmansk has been an important hub for international maritime transportation, trade, and cooperation in the European Arctic, while the rural community of Teriberka has recently been drawing attention in connection with plans of large-scale offshore oil extraction in the area. Not surprisingly, existing and prospective infrastructure projects related to cross-border trade and exchange, as well as resource extraction, impact local actors both in the Russian and North European Arctic study regions.