(Trude Pettersen/Barents Observer, 8 March 2013) -- The national park “Russian Arctic” could have had 20-25 000 more tourists if it had been easier to get a visa and if there had been a border-crossing point on Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, the park’s administration says according to the web site travel.ru. The national park lacks every kind of infrastructure, but this is precisely what the tourists come to experience. The Russian settlements of Svalbard are other places that many foreign visitors would like to visit if it was easier accessible. Norwegian hotels on Svalbard are visited by nearly 80.000 people every year, with an annual growth of 10 percent over the last years. Meanwhile, the Russian settlements of Barentsburg and Piramida draw less than 2500 people annually. The niche of Arctic winter tourism is booming as the world opens its eyes for the combination of winter, ocean and northern lights, and tourists are willing to pay a high price to experience the untouched nature. Russia has big plans for developing tourism in the Arctic. The national park “Russian Arctic” was established in 2011. It includes the northern part of Novaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land and Victoria Island and covers almost 1,5 million hectares of territory. The Russian Federal Tourism Agency is planning to develop a brand that can help promote the Russian part of Svalbard as a tourist destination, as BarentsObserver wrote.
Posted 10 March 2013; 6:51:04 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/Barents Observer, 13 February 2013) -- The Sami population on the Kola Peninsula is in a hard demographic situation. Their numbers have declined nearly 10 percent in eight years. According to the 2010 population census there were 1599 Sami living in the region. This is 170 less than in the 2002 census. The sex ratio in the Sami population is changing for the worse; while there were 1173 women for every 1000 men in 2002, the ratio was 1236 to 1000 in 2010. The Sami are the youngest nationality in Murmansk, with an average age of only 31.6 years. The average age of the total population is 37 years. While the majority of the Russian population on the Kola Peninsula lives in towns, most of the Sami in are living in non-urban areas. The settlement of Lovozero in the center of the peninsula is known as “the Sami capital of Russia”. The Sami language is also in a difficult situation in the Murmansk region. Only 17 percent of the Sami population in Murmansk considered Sami language to their native in the 2010 census, m51 reports, citing Murmanstat.
Posted 18 February 2013; 2:50:05 PM. Permalink
(Nick Hopkins/The Guardian, 19 December 2012) -- s of the Arctic convoys that supplied Russia with vital fuel, food and munitions during the second world war are finally to be awarded their own medal after years of campaigning for proper recognition of their bravery. David Cameron has announced that a review by the former diplomat Sir John Holmes, who was asked to look at rules on military decorations, had concluded the Arctic veterans should have their own medal to mark "the very difficult work they did". The review also said that veterans of Bomber Command had been "treated inconsistently with those who served in Fighter Command" and should also be entitled to a special RAF clasp. ... The Arctic convoys are credited with having played an important role in buoying Russia as Hitler mounted an invasion. ... More than 3,000 seamen were killed during 78 convoys that delivered 4m tons of cargo. Eight-five merchant ships and 16 Royal Navy vessels were destroyed. It is thought 66,500 men sailed on the convoys, but only 200 are alive today. One of them, Commander Eddie Grenfell, said it should not have taken 67 years to get the recognition of a star medal.
Posted 20 December 2012; 2:08:45 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/BarentsObserver, 4 December 2012) -- Shopping has flourished in Murmansk in course of the last ten years. The town has several large shopping centers, the largest for the time being is “Forum” with its 22.000 m² and four floors of shops, restaurants and cinemas. The new mall will be located in the center of Murmansk next to the O’key supermarket, which opened in 2008 and has become a huge success among Murmansk citizens. The mall will have three floors with chain shops like “Zara”, “H&M”, “Pull&Bear”, a cinema with nine screens (two of them IMAX), a food court and a large playground, B-port writes. The mall is being built by the investment company “Dorinda Invest”, a company specializing in building malls all over Russia. Update: People from Tromsø have called and reminded the BarentsObserver that the Jekta shopping mall in Tromsø is also 65,000 m². So the two towns will be competing in having "the world's largest shopping mall north of the Arctic Circle."
Posted 11 December 2012; 2:58:53 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 12 April 2012) -- Russia is planning to launch a tourism project on the Franz Josef archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, Russian security chief Nikolai Patrushev said on Thursday. “We want to use it [the archipelago] for tourism purposes in the very near future,” Patrushev, the head of the Russian Security Council, said during an international conference dedicated to security and cooperation in the Arctic held in the northern Russian city of Murmansk. One of the most remote and rugged Arctic landscapes in the world, Franz Josef Land is located to the north of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago and consists of 191 ice-covered islands with a total area of some 16,230 square miles. The islands are almost uninhabited, except for several hamlets built by Russian settlers. Patrushev, along with a group of foreign participants in the conference, visited the archipelago on Wednesday. He said it was the first time foreigners have set foot there. Environmentalists say the move will not damage the unique Arctic ecosystems, as high costs of $15,000-$20,000 per person and a short tourist season lasting from mid-July to mid-September, will serve as a natural limit for the number of visitors. “This is quite a normal occurence. This summer we will organize a similar tour for our supporters with stops at the Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land. This would be a predominantly sea cruise with minimum time ashore. Tourists would mainly watch bird colonies or, for example, walrus breeding grounds from the ship,” Mikhail Stishov, a WWF Russia coordinator for Arctic conservation projects, said.
Posted 18 April 2012; 12:57:21 AM. Permalink
(Atle Staalesen/BarentsObserver, 23 March 2012) -- The establishment of a national park is a first step of a comprehensive plan to protect the Khibiny mountains, a regional official says. According to Aleksey Smirnov, the territories of a so-called nature park will be defined in the course of 2012. Later, the area will be turned into a national park, the representative of the regional Duma Committee on Industrial Development and Environment says. The status as national park will facilitate the efficient protection of the Khibiny eco-system, Smirnov maintains. As previously reported, the Khibiny mountains are part of the federal protection plans of the Ministry of Natural Resources until year 2020. The establishment of the Khibiny natural park is a key component in the regional nature protection plan, which was adopted in December 2011. The park is to be fully established by 2015, Rossiiskaya Gazeta reports. The Khibiny mountains are under increasing pressure both from expanding industrial activities and tourism. While big industrial companies with great appetite look at the hugely rich metal and mineral reserves of the area, the tourism industry attract increasing number of tourists.
Posted 25 March 2012; 9:06:44 PM. Permalink
(BarentsNova, 23 March 2012) -- For the 78th time, Murmansk starts over its traditional sport races. Though not in its prime, the festival is still an attraction for Russian and foreign sportsmen. Friday, at 19:30 on the Five Corners Square, an opening ceremony will officially launch Murmansk traditional competition. At 20:45, fireworks will light up the sky. The city centre will be cleared off from cars. Racing spots are scattered all over the Kola Peninsula: Murmansk, Tuloma, Lovozero, Kirovsk, etc. The string of competitions will wind up with a ski marathon on April 01. The prize fund is around one million roubles that are to be distributed among the winners. The biggest money trophy will go to marathon runners. The sad thing is cancellation of a “Friendship ski-track” marathon that would normally start at Rajakoski and cross borders of Russia, Finland and Norway. First started in 1994, any person who has a pair of skis could join the competition without any passports or visa formalities. 2011 was a record-breaking year in terms of attendance: 3,300 skiers joined the show, however year 2012 did not give much snow and this international tournament had to be cancelled this time (in 2003, it was cancelled on the same grounds). The tradition of the festival was born in 1934 and was never interrupted even by atrocities of World War II.
Posted 25 March 2012; 5:21:53 PM. Permalink
(Jonas Karlsbakk/Barents Observer, 19 March 2012) -- In eight years the number of inhabitants in the Murmansk Region has decreased by 97,000 people. Depopulation due to young people who migrate south is a huge problem for Murmansk region, says Igor Chernyshenko in Murmansk Regional Duma. Today the number of inhabitants in Murmansk Oblast is 795,000 people, which is an 11 percent decline over the last eight years. However, if we look at the population decline since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the population has dropped from 1.2 million inhabitants in the late 1980s. According to Chernichenko there is nothing that indicate that the situation is about to change. "In the Soviet Union there were a lot of extra benefits for people living in the north. The wages were higher and we had an extra week of holiday. The benefits are now gone and the wages are the same as elsewhere in Russia," says Chernyshenko. With loss of benefits there has been a huge migration southwards, which also is the main reason for the population decline. Of the overall population decline, 84 percent is due to migration. The Murmansk region is also highly urbanized, with 93 percent of the people living in urban areas. Chernyshenko says that of the 795,000 people living in Murmansk Oblast, 243,000 people are senior citizens. The growing population of senior citizens has become a big challenge for Murmansk, as the main groups of people who migrate are young people. "When young people can have the same annual salary in more southern and central parts of Russia, they see no reason to stay in the cold Murmansk climate any more. So they move."
Posted 20 March 2012; 12:10:50 AM. Permalink
(Anna Kireeva/Bellona, 4 November 2011) -- Last week’s joint seminar that Bellona and Norilsk Nickel’s Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company (Kola MMC) held in Russia’s Zapolyarny, seeking ways to collaborate on curbing cross-border pollution, has brought the two sides on the same page, encouraging further cooperation. “We are happy to see that Kola MMC is ready for a constructive dialogue. We had an interesting seminar, and the heated debates during discussions served to underscore once again the importance of the topic at hand,” Bellona-Murmansk’s chairman of the board Andrei Zolotkov said after the seminar. Last week, Bellona and Kola MMC sat down together in the Russian town of Zapolyarny, on the Kola Peninsula, to discuss the serious environmental problems surrounding the Russian smelting giant Norilsk Nickel’s metal works on the peninsula and the effect the company’s environmental pollution has across the border in Norway. Bellona and Kola MMC were joined at the seminar by municipal authorities from Pechenga Region of the Kola Peninsula and those of the northern Norwegian county of Finnmark, as well as scientists and researchers. At the seminar, Bellona’s representatives made sure to emphasise that the environmentalists’ goal was not to demand that Kola MMC close down its operations – but that it ensure a significant reduction in harmful emissions produced by its enterprises. “Norilsk Nickel’s products are needed all over the world. The metals they produce are needed, among other things, for the development of clean energy technologies and renewable energy sources,” said Bellona President Frederic Hauge. “But the company must reduce its sulphur dioxide emissions dramatically. Today’s emission levels are unacceptable.”
Posted 8 November 2011; 1:03:20 AM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/Barents Observer, 17 October 2011) -- A Trans-Arctic fiber optic line connecting Tokyo and London is planned to go through Murmansk. The Russian company Polarnet Project plans the construction of a Russian trans-Arctic cable line, Rotax, with the cost of nearly $2 billion. The Governmental Commission for Federal Communications and Technological Issues approved the project last Friday. The 17,000 kilometer submerged line is planned to extend from Russia’s Arctic to Pacific coast, with an expected capacity of 9.6 terabits per second, Interfax reports. The project is planned to be implemented in three steps. The first stage implies the laying of a cable line in the Russian economic zone of the Arctic and Pacific Oceans from Bude (the UK) to Tokyo via Murmansk, Anadyr and Vladivostok. The first stage cost is preliminary estimated at $860 million. The second stage implies the laying of cable line extensions to the coast of the Russian Arctic and Far East territories and has the cost of $500 million. The third stage will lay the land segment of the cable line as an element of the national optical fiber network in the strategic partnership with Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft. It will cost $500 million.
Posted 21 October 2011; 12:21:02 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 24 August 2011) -- Thousands of people are moving away from the Russian part of the Barents Region. Population decline with 13.4 thousand in the first half of 2011. ¾ of this amount is a result of negative migration outside the region. Komi Republic and Arkhangelsk oblast show the worst results in this dynamic, but also Republic of Karelia and Murmansk oblast have negative figures. Murmansk oblast lost 1886 people due to negative migration and Karelia showed only minus 262. The highest negative migration balance has Komi Republic – minus 4153 for the first six months of 2011. Arkhangelsk oblast lost 3824 of people due to negative migration processes in the same period. Murmansk oblast also experience negative migration. Over 14 thousand moved out of the region this year, while 12.3 thousand people moved in. Totally the Barents Russian regions (Arkhangelsk and Murmansk oblasts, Komi and Karelia republics) lost over 440 thousand of population during the last ten years. Population of Komi Republic decreased by 11.7%, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk oblasts – by 11%, Karelia – by 10%, according to the figures by Russia’s Federal Statistics.
Posted 29 August 2011; 1:51:22 PM. Permalink
In light of solemn accolade to move Northern Sea Route administration to Arkhangelsk, the region is planning a construction of a deep-water sea port of 28 mln tons cargo capacity. Arkhangelsk is reporting the plans to construct a deep-water sea port in Sukhoye More bay of the White Sea. The new port is believed to become a crucial link in logistics system and to develop Russia's foreign trade transportation. The port will also contribute to development of Northern Sea Route, say Arkhangelsk authorities. These days, the official public gathered up in Arkhangelsk to praise the idea of entitling the region with a status of the capital of Northern Sea Route. "We have an ice-breakers fleet, and we can deliver a vessel to any place in the Arctic area," said Artur Chilingarov, a Russian polar explorer. There needs to be a proper base point; and I think the capital of Northern Sea Route should be Arkhangelsk again. The city has all possibilities for that. Boris Gryzlov, the chairman of Russian State Duma and the mainstream political party — the United Russia — was also there to support this idea: "When we were considering a revival of the Northen Sea Route, we were connecting it with Arkhangelsk. ... Arkhangelsk is definitely the place where Arctic exploration will start from." Noteworthy, the United Russia puts the development of the Northern Sea Route on the priority projects list of the political party, while some experts believe that speculations about the port construction is nothing but pre-election campaign of the party that presently faces a rating plummet down to 46%. There are no calculations or deadlines available to public for the deep-water port construction; few media sources reported 2011 to be the start for construction works, however the information is not confirmed.
Posted 10 August 2011; 4:47:56 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 29 June 2011) -- Komi is the region in Northwest Russia with the biggest number of wildfires this year. So far, a total of 138 fires have put major areas ablaze, Komiinform.ru reports. The biggest fire, one in the Sosnogorsk area, is now covering a territory bigger than 1000 hectares. A state of emergency has been declared in the region, Rossiiskaya Gazeta informs. Firefighters had just got a 900 hectare fire in the Pechora municipality under control when the Sosnogorsk fire started spreading with alarming pace. A total of 18 fires are now reported to rage in the region, of which six have been localized by the authorities. Many Russians now fear another year with serious wildfires. Last summer, several huge fires left major parts of the country under a thick cover of smoke.
Posted 1 July 2011; 12:24:58 AM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 6 May 2011) -- UPDATED: Taimyr was Friday evening escorted by the the nuclear powered icebreaker "Rossia" into a bay on the Vaigach island. "Ongoing leakages of cooling water from the reactor can evolve into a serious accident with potential for radioactive leakages," says nuclear physicist Nils Bøhmer in Bellona. The nuclear powered icebreaker was earlier this week escorting vessels on the Yenisei river north of the port-town of Dudinka when increased levels of radiation were detected in the air ventilation system of the reactor. The icebreaker aborted its mission and started Thursday to sail back towards the homeport in Murmansk on Russia’s Kola Peninsula.
Posted 7 May 2011; 1:49:26 PM. Permalink
(Thomas Nilsen/Barents Observer, 17 February 2011) -- Norilsk-Nickel, the biggest air-polluter in the Barents Region, says the upgrade of smelting facilities in Nikel is assessed to 4,6 billion rubles. Norilsk-Nickel proudly announces the results of its environmental activities for 2010 in a press-release. But, the reduction in emission over the last year is only at the metal-giant’s plants in Norilsk in Siberia. For the plants on the Kola Peninsula, emission cuts are still to come. Like in the 2009, Norilsk-Nickel also this year says the new briquetting lines in Zapolyarny will be launched and consequently emissions of sulphur dioxide will be cut with 95 percent. In a press-release dated September 24, 2009 Norilsk-Nickel said the start-up and adjustment of the first line would start in August 2010. Today, the company says it will be launched in first half of 2011. But, as BarentsObserver previously has reported, the modernization in Zapolyarny will only “move” the emission to the smelter in Nikel, just some few kilometers from the border to Norway. Instead of being emitted from the briquetting process, the contained sulphur will be emitted as SO2 from the smelter in the neighboring town of Nikel. At least until the plant in Nikel gets new technology and cleaning facilities. In January, BarentsObserver reported that a modernization deal for Nikel soon will be signed with the Finnish company Outokumpu. In its press-release today, Norilsk-Nickel says the modernization costs is preliminarily assessed at 4,6 billion rubles (€120 million). The smelters and processing plants in Monchegorsk, also on the Kola Peninsula, is not mentioned in the environmental press statement for 2010.
Posted 20 February 2011; 2:01:55 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 17 February 2011) -- Norway, Russia send joint expedition to the dump sites for submarine reactors in the Kara Sea this summer. Will it be safe to lift the old reactors and bring them safely onshore? A total of 16 naval reactors were dumped east of Novaya Zemlya during the Soviet period. Reactors were dumped because accidents with them caused high levels of radiation. Naval yards in Severodvinsk and along the coast of the Kola Peninsula wouldn’t dare to keep them stored near populated areas, nor less to decommission them in a proper way. The “easy” solution was simply to dump them in remote Arctic waters. Most scaring are the six reactors that were dumped with their highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel still onboard. In the early 90ties, several expeditions with Norwegian and Russian radiation experts onboard sailed to the dump-sites in the Kara Sea. Their findings were just partly without worries. Some samples indicated small leakages in the near vicinity of the reactors, while some reactors were not found. The last joint Norwegian, Russian expedition to the Kara Sea took place in 1994. Since then, only Russian scientists have been given permission to enter the dump-sites areas. This week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) holds a workshop in Oslo with participants from several of the countries involved in nuclear safety operations in northwest-Russia. The objective is to initiate further investigation on sunken submarines and reactors in the Arctic Oceans and strategies to solve the problems. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Agency reports today that the goal is to send a new joint expedition to the sites of dumped reactors and sunken submarines. Such expedition will take place later this year, and is supposed to include Norwegian and Russian team members in addition to experts from IAEA. The big question is: Will it be possible to lift the sunken reactors and bring them safely back to a naval yard without releases of radioactivity? In the ’90s nobody demanded to lift the Kara Sea dumped reactors. Those days, experts and the public were far more concerned about the 120 rusty nuclear powered submarines that were laid-up at the different naval bases and shipyards on the coast of the Kola Peninsula and in Severodvinsk. Today, most of the old laid-up subs are decommissioned and their reactors are safely stored onshore in the Saida Bay, west of Murmansk.
Posted 17 February 2011; 8:58:51 PM. Permalink
(Atle Staalesen/BarentsObserver, 10 January 2011) -- The Northwest Russian region of Arkhangelsk in 2010 had an economic growth of almost 11 percent. More positive results are expected in 2011, regional experts say. According to the regional Ministry of Economic Development, the Gross Regional Product of Arkhangelsk in 2010 grew by 10,9 percent. That is more than the double of the average in Russia, Dvinainform.ru reports. The GRP now amounts to 240 billion RUB while per capital GRP is 201,000. The figures do not include the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the closely associated and richer region in the north. In the Nenets AO, the GRP in 2010 grew by 1,9 percent, the ministry says. The regional growth in Arkhangelsk comes after a period of serious crisis. As described in the Barents Monitoring reports, the Arkhangelsk economy in 2009 suffered a serious setback both with regard to the industry and the regional administration. In 2010 industrial production picked pace with a 18 percent growth (January-November). Investments however increased only four percent. Experts predict a continuation of the positive trend in 2011. The region is expected to significantly boost its regional revenues, Dvinainform.ru writes. Read more about social and economic trends in Barents Russia in the Barents Monitoring reports
Posted 12 January 2011; 10:28:28 PM. Permalink
(Atle Staalesen/Barents Observer, 3 January 2011) -- The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources is likely to give the picturesque Khibiny mountains in the Kola Peninsula status as natural park. The establishment of the natural park is included in the ministry’s plans for the period until year 2020, the ministry confirms in a letter to the Murmansk regional government. The project will be assessed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Regional Development before it will be handed over to government for final approval, a press release informs. The Khibiny national park will be a victory for environmentalists in Murmansk Oblast. As previously reported, the environmentalists have repeatedly warned against devastating pressure from industry and called for the establishment of the national park. The Khibiny mountains are highly rick on valuable minerals and metals and the mining industry has several major projects under planning in the area. Also the oil industry pushes for the development of projects in the area, and first of all the laying of the Shtokman gas pipeline from Teriberka to Volkhov.
Posted 8 January 2011; 6:41:18 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/Barents Observer, 3 January 2011) -- Parts of the money from a privatization of Russia’s largest shipping company Sovcomflot can be used to build new icebreakers, says Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov. Sovcomflot will be partly privatized in course of the next three years. 25 percent of the state’s shares in the shipping company will be sold in 2011, while another 25 percent minus one share will be sold in 2012-2013, RIA Novosti reports. In a meeting in the government in the end of December, Ivanov said that parts of the money from the sale will be used for the building of new nuclear icebreakers. Prime MInsiter Vladimir Putin has earlier instructed the Ministry of Transport to consider construction of three nuclear icebreakers within 2015. The vessels will probably be built in Murmansk. The next generation of nuclear icebreakers, named project 22220, will be able to operate both in rivers and in the Arctic Ocean. New technology will make it possible for the vessel to stick from 8,5 to 10,5 meters, said Vorobyov. It will be put into all-year operation in the Barents, Pechora and Kara Seas.
Posted 8 January 2011; 6:28:46 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 25 December 2010) -- MURMANSK - Some 50 athletes dressed as Santa Clauses hit the streets of Murmansk, in northwest Russia, on Saturday to welcome the city's main Christmas tree. The Santa Claus race was initially expected to gather some 100 athletes. The organizers planned to put Santas on skis. However, they failed to find enough costumes for the action. After the run finished, the downtown tree and Christmas lights were turned on as fireworks exploded overhead. The Christmas tree will stay on Murmansk main square for several months until spring.
Posted 25 December 2010; 1:12:03 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/BarentsObserver.com, 15 December 2010) -- The Russian Government has allocated RUB 23.4 million to the establishment of a state institution called “Russian Arctic National Park”. This institution will create conditions for regulated tourism in the Arctic. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin informed about the new state institution at the Russian Geographic Society’s congress last week, RIA Novosti reports. The institution is administrated by the Ministry for Natural Resources. The national park covers the northern territory of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, an area known for its rich bird cliffs and large populations of walrus and polar bears. The new state institution will be engaged in ecological monitoring in the national park.
Posted 16 December 2010; 9:24:51 PM. Permalink
(Barents Indigenous Peoples, 13 December 2010) -- The first Assembly of the Saami people in Murmansk Oblast, Kuelnegk Soamet Sobbar, was established on December 12th 2010. The 2nd Congress of the Saami people of Murmansk Oblast was held in Murmansk, and 73 delegates of 89 elected ones, representing Saami communities in Murmansk Oblast, elected 9 representatives for the Assembly. Kuelnegk Soamet Sobbar is established on a preliminary basis, as its prior task is to work out a draft law proposal regarding the Assembly, which is to be dealt with by regional authorities and later adopted as a law. The President of the Saami Parliament in Norway, Egil Olli, participated in the Congress, as did Stefan Mikaelsson from the Saami Parliament in Sweden and Erkki Lumisalmi from the Saami Parliament in Finland. In 2008, the 1st Saami Congress of the Saami people of Murmansk Oblast was held in Olenegorsk, and the Council of Authorized Representatives of the Saami people of Murmansk Oblast (referred to as SUPS MO), which was elected by the 72 delegates, has been working continuously with the establishment of a democratically elected Saami Assembly in Murmansk Oblast. ... Valentina Vyacheslavovna Sovkina was unanimously elected Chair of the Assembly at its first meeting immediately after the closing of the Congress.
Posted 15 December 2010; 8:53:34 PM. Permalink
(Indigenous Peoples of the Barents, 26 November 2010) -- On December 12, the delegates of the Second Saami Congress might elect the First Saami Assembly of the Saami people in Murmansk Oblast, Russia. Delegates representing the Saami inhabitants of Murmansk Oblast will gather in Murmansk, as they did in Olenegorsk in 2008, when the Council of Authorized Representatives of the Saami people in Murmansk Oblast (referred to as SUPS MO – Совет Уполномоченных представителей Саамов Мурманской Област) was elected by altogether 72 delegates. Representatives of the Saami people in Russia have been working towards their goal for since 1992, and the establishment of the Saami Parliaments in Norway, Sweden and Finland has certainly set out the grounds for this work. The political cooperation between the Saami in the Nordic countries and the Saami in Russia is strong. It is formalized through the participation in the Saami Parliamentary Council, in which the Saami Parliaments in Norway, Sweden and Finland are represented, and representatives for the Saami non-governmental organizations in Russia are permanent observers. The Presidents of the Saami Parliaments in Norway and Finland, as well as representatives from the Saami Parliament in Sweden, took part in the First Saami Congress in 2008. In 2008, the 72 delegates gathered in Olenegorsk elected Valentina V. Sovkina as the Head of the SUPS MO, which consists of 11 representatives. SUPS MO has led the work towards the establishment of a democratically elected Saami Assembly since the Congress. Human rights, reindeer husbandry, management of fishing quotas and codetermination in issues concerning the Saami people in Murmansk Oblast are the main issues for the SUPS MO. The Regional Administration of Murmansk Oblast participated in the First Saami Congress in Olenegorsk, and the Regional Government of Murmansk Oblast established a separate Council of Representatives of Indigenous Peoples at the Government of Murmansk Oblast. This Council is led by the First vice Governor of Murmansk Oblast and consists of altogether 11 persons, representing various obshina communities and the Regional Public Chamber, appointed by the Regional Government. The President of the Saami Parliament in Norway, Egil Olli, will take part in the Second Saami Congress in Murmansk, together with the Chair of the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region. Other guests from Saami institutions and organizations in the Nordic countries are also expected as observers to the congress.
Posted 3 December 2010; 4:49:17 PM. Permalink
(Thomas Nilsen/BarentsObserver, 1 December 2010) -- Snow hotels and even snow villages are under construction at nine locations in the Barents Region. November has been extra cold this year and the first snow hotel has already welcomed its first overnight guests. The Jukkasjärvi snow hotel in northern Sweden opened two weeks ago with 60 rooms, a month earlier than previous winter season. The Jukkasjärvi hotel also has a large main hall, an ice bar and a special designed snow- and ice entrance. More than 50 people – ice and snow sculptors, lighting designers and others were involved in the construction of the near 600 square meter building. Snow hotels are also under construction in Kirkenes and Alta in northern Norway. In Finnish Lapland four snow hotels will be open this winter. The Lainio Snow Village Hotel has in addition to 20 igloos and seven ice suits also a snow-restaurant and Europe’s largest ice-bar. Three other snow hotels are located near Kemi, in Ylläs and just south of Saariselkä. This winter season’s largest snow- and ice construction will however be at the Levi ski-resort in Finland. Opening on December 17th, Europe’s largest ever ice-sculpture village will open. Named “Wonderworld of Ice” it will contain ice huge sculptures of buildings lighted with special colours LED-lights. The ice-models are well-known sights from China and other parts of the world, including the Beijing Olympic Stadium, a labyrinth and a Pagoda of ice are the most recognisable examples of architecture. Sixty professionals are currently building Levi’s Wonderworld of Ice. In Kirovsk on Russia’s Kola Peninsula, another snow village are under construction. The fairytale-look snow constructions include both buildings and activities for children, including a large number of slides, reports GTRK Murman. The snow village will also get a real theatre with a large screen. An ice-sculpture festival will be arranged in late January. The southernmost snow hotel in the Barents Region will be opened in the village of Kononvskaya in Arkhangelsk Oblast. Last winter season was the first time this snow hotel was built, decorated with many fascinating ice-sculptures and designed specialities.
Posted 1 December 2010; 11:46:35 AM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 25 November 2010) -- Test your knowledge about the Barents Region. Every day during the Advent period, from December 1st until the 24th, we present five new questions about numerous topics related to the Barents Region. Every day we draw one winner who will be awarded a BarentsObserver memory stick, a Barents 2011-calendar, and a notepad. In the end, one out of the 24 winners will be awarded a BarentsObserver hooded sweat.
Posted 26 November 2010; 12:07:53 PM. Permalink
(Barents Indigenous Peoples, 22 November 2010) -- Barents Press International reports that in April 2010, the Selection Body of the Joint Programme approved a list of 24 organizations — grant receivers — for project realization in different regions of Russian Federation. State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company “Murman” was among the winners. It presented its project under the name “Sami time: preservation and protection of the traditional way of life of the indigenous people in Murmansk Region.” The project started on the 1st of July, 2010, and it will last till the 1st of February, 2011. Our work implies making and demonstrating TV series of video-films about livelihood of Sami people: about their history, cultural and business traditions, about Sami language preservation, about Sami position in the modern society, about vital problems and last achievements in development and preservation of Sami originality. The main purpose of the project is to draw public attention on issues of cultural, social-economic and language development of the indigenous people of the Kola Peninsula, on the issue of protection and preservation of Sami traditional way of life. All the episodes of the “Sami time” series will be recorded in DVD format in Russian and Sami languages. TV/Radio Company “Murman” will distribute the video among educational institutions, cultural-educational centres, museums, and archives both in Murmansk Region and in the countries of Barents Region, where Sami communities also live in Northern parts.
Posted 22 November 2010; 8:33:16 PM. Permalink
(Nordic Council News, 22 November 2010) -- The Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers will be opening the Nordic Week in Archangel on 23 November and visiting Moscow for talks with the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Nordic countries and the Northwest Russian regions are traditional partners due to geography and historical links. This year marks the 15th anniversary of official cooperation between the Nordic Council of Ministers and Northwest Russia. Over a thousand projects in many fields have been implemented and almost one million people have participated in various joint Russian-Nordic initiatives since the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Information Office was set up in St. Petersburg in 1995. The Nordic Council of Ministers Contact Centre was set up in Archangel in 1998. On 23 November Halldór Ásgrímsson, the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, will be opening Nordic Week, which then runs until 26 November.
Posted 22 November 2010; 2:10:34 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 8 November 2010) -- The Russian company Trust Arktikugol has restarted coal mining at the archipelago of Svalbard after a two-and-a-half-year break. The production halt came after a fire in the local mine in 2008. Sea water was pumped into the mine to extinguish the fire, which subsequently destroyed equipment and required a major overhaul of production. Production restart was further complicated by low coal prices, NRK reports. In 2009, Svalbard had a population of 2,753, of which 423 were Russian and Ukrainian, Wikipedia informs. In Barentsburg, mining is the only livelihood, while the neighboring Norwegian settlement of Longyearbyen in addition to mining also has a well-developed tourist industry and a significant presence of polar researchers.
Posted 8 November 2010; 11:09:53 AM. Permalink
(Pierre-Henry Deshayes/AFP, 17 October 2010) -- MURMANSK, Russia - An electronic sign along a busy street posts the outside temperature, the wind strength -- and the radioactivity level. Welcome to Russia's Kola Peninsula, a region that still bears the scars of its dubious past as the Soviet Union's "nuclear dump". When the USSR imploded, the northwestern Russian peninsula was left with ageing nuclear submarines and spent nuclear fuel abandoned in not always airtight containers. The Soviet breakdown posed a significant threat to the nearby fish-filled Barents Sea, as well as flourishing opportunities for traffickers of nuclear materials. Two decades and just as many billion dollars later, the "dump" looks a bit less shabby, thanks to funds supplied mostly by the West. "What is positive, or should I say, least negative, is that the situation is under control when it comes to nuclear safety," said Sergei Zhavoronkin of the region's public council for the safe use of nuclear energy. "It has not always been the case." A common practice until the mid-1980s, dumping radioactive waste into the sea is a thing of the past, and the 100 or so submarines once rusting around the peninsula have now almost all been disposed of. ... According to Valery Panteleyev, who leads public authority SevRao that is in charge of cleaning up the peninsula, a first batch of containers filled with fuel rods was shipped to the Mayak waste treatment plant in the Urals in June. "That is the easy part," said Koudrik, adding that while authorities may be able to move the containers, they "still don't know how to empty the tanks." Another problem is a support vessel for icebreakers that has been sitting in Murmansk for 20 years waiting for a way to be found for its load of often broken radioactive fuel tubes to be extracted and disposed of. The floating wreck, Lepse, was built in 1936 and is threatening to sink. Although Russian authorities pledged transparency about the region's nuclear issues, foreign journalists are denied access to a number of sites. In Murmansk, meanwhile, the radio still informs listeners to the weather updates of the level of radioactivity, and at the Russian-Norwegian border vehicles are scanned to detect any illegal exit of nuclear material.
Posted 17 October 2010; 4:28:45 PM. Permalink
(Norwegian Barents Secretariat via BarentsObserver, 7 October 2010) -- Nenets Autonomous Okrug has among the youngest population in North-West Russia. The explanation of the Nenets phenomenon is high birth rate and migration of old people to warmer places. The share of population under working age in Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO) is 22.4 percent. This is the highest figure in the North-West federal district of Russia. In Karelia, for example, the share of population under 18 years old is only 15.7 percent, in Murmansk region it is a little more – 15.8 percent, in Komi - 17.5 percent and in Arkhangelsk region altogether 16.6 percent. Also in NAO there are less old people – inhabitants over active working age – than elsewhere; only 13.9 percent. In Karelia there are by 7 percent more senior citizens. In Murmansk region the share of people over active working age is 16.8 percent, in Komi – 16.4 percent and in the Arkhangelsk region – 20.6 percent. This situation can be explained by stable rise of the birth rate in Nenets: 587 people in 2006, 653 in 2007, 691 in 2008 and 695 in 2009. In course of the 8 first months of 2010 already 495 babies have been born in NAO, that is 24 people more than during the same period last year. The same tendency is in Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions: rise of birth rate in January-August this year is by 6 and 97 people correspondingly as compared to the same period last year. However, in Komi and Karelia Republics correspondingly 66 and 35 babies less have been born this year compared to January-August 2009. The small number of people over active working age in NAO is accounted for by the fact that internal migration is directed from the North and the East to the central part of the country, i.e., some people move to places with more comfortable climatic conditions in other Russian regions and also within the North-West federal district after retirement. This is proved by the dynamics of the number of people who have been leaving NAO over the recent years: the figure has been growing by about 100 people every year over the last three years (593 people in 2007, 698 in 2008, 788 in 2009).
Posted 8 October 2010; 2:20:52 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 17 September 2010) -- Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre see the opening of the honorary consulate in Arkhangelsk as a completion of some of the visions launched with the establishment of the Barents cooperation in 1993. This Friday the honorary consulate in Arkhangelsk was opened. With Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and the Governor of Arkhangelsk Ilya Mikhailchuk present, Norway's honorary consulate to Arkhangelsk was opened on Friday in front of nearly 200 Norwegians and several Arkhangelsk citizens. The officially opening was performed by the Foreign Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Støre. It is the director of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat’s Arkhangelsk office, Andrey Shalyov, who has been appointed as new honorary consul. It is 72 years since the last Norwegian Consulate in Arkhangelsk was shut down, under tragic circumstances in the late 30ties. Foreign Minister Støre said that since the establishment of the Barents cooperation in 1993, there has been a close cooperation on all levels between Norway and Arkhangelsk. "The opening of this honorary consulate is the completion of the Norwegian presence in all parts of the Barents Region. We can see this as a completion of the visions launched by the establishment of the Barents cooperation in 1993. At the same time we see the need for this office due to the increased activities and the possibilities of development which we see in this region," said Jonas Gahr Støre.
Posted 19 September 2010; 5:57:55 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 9 September 2010) -- Russia will build a new port near Belomorsk by the White Sea to boost Arctic shipping capacity. The port will be ready by 2014 and have a capacity of 9 million tons of cargo, according to the Voice of Russia. Belomorsk is located on the main railroad from Moscow and St. Petersburg towards Murmansk.
Posted 11 September 2010; 11:25:56 PM. Permalink
(News24, 28 August 2010) -- Moscow - Eleven Russian sailors have drowned in the Arctic after going to the rescue of a fishing boat that got into distress, the Moscow daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on Saturday. The Alexey Kulakowski sank in the early hours of Friday as part of a rescue mission in the Laptev Sea, around 35km outside the port of Tiksi. However, the captain of the ship, and two engineers, were rescued from the sinking vessel. According to some reports, there were only two life-jackets onboard for the 14 crew members.
Posted 28 August 2010; 11:21:52 PM. Permalink
(Voice of Russia, 21 August 2010) -- A thousand kilometers north of Moscow on the White Sea coast lies an ancient land belonging to a sea-conquering people – the Pomors. The so-called “traditional Pomor way of life” is certainly not just something out of a history book. They still construct wooden boats using old techniques, make their own fish nets and braid the ropes used for those fish nets with their own hands. “This is a karbass, a coastal kind of boat,” explains boat builder Viktor Zamyatin. “It's very stable on seas, rising and falling smoothly with the waves.” In the village of Patrekeevaka the houses are unique, dating back 300 years, and are very well preserved. All of them have a big fireplace which they use not only for cooking and baking. On top of it there is a warm bed – something you cannot do without in during the harsh winter conditions. For the Pomors, adapting to whatever Mother Nature throws at them has become second nature. This resilience is also what has kept their culture alive throughout the centuries. “I have been singing my whole life. My mother still sings. We collect old rituals and songs and revive them,” says local resident Maria Gorobtsova. She is wearing a traditional costume. It is certainly not an everyday outfit, but she says it helps her keep her ties with her people. “This dress belonged to my grandmother. When I put on this dress, I feel very good and have this desire to sing old songs.” A desire she hopes to pass on to her young grandson.
Posted 21 August 2010; 8:19:58 PM. Permalink
(Barents Indigenous Peoples, 30 June 2010) -- Yasavey, in cooperation with Norway and Canada, is looking into the possibility of establishing a Nenets radio station in Nenets Autonomous Okrug, North-West Russia, aiming at bringing Nenets language, culture and news to the Nenets, inhabiting the large tundra areas. The indigenous peoples in Canada know how to do this, and have shared their knowledge and experiences with the Nenets during a one-week study trip in Ontario, Canada. In June, Yasavey (the Public Association of Nenets People in NAO) visited several media enterprises and culture organizations and institutions in Toronto, Brantford, Six Nations and Ottawa, Ontario. Lewis Cardinal, who is the Vice-President of Aboriginal Voices Radio Network, has been involved in the project since the beginning, and he hosted the Nenets delegation together with Metis Elder, Wil Campbell, who has long experience from indigenous media work, in particular film making. The study tour was financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the project is a result of the Dialogue on the High North between Norway and Canada. In autumn 2009, the two states decided that this pre-project was to be implemented, and the Norwegian Barents Secretariat is currently responsible for carrying out the activities. This study tour will be followed up by a seminar on the establishment of a radio station, and the establishment itself will constitute the main project. Yasavey will host the seminar in Naryan-Mar in March/April 2011, in cooperation with the Nenets Autonomous Okrug Regional Administration, as well as with the Norwegian and Canadian partners. Development of the Nenets language and culture is the core of the project, as Nenets, like several other indigenous languages, are threatened by extinction. Currently, the regional radio station broadcasts in Nenets a few minutes every week, but the signals from this radio station does not reach beyond the city boundary of Naryan-Mar. Approximately 8,000 Nenets inhabit the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, whereas only 746 Nenets live in the city of Naryan-Mar, according to Yasavey.
Posted 12 July 2010; 9:14:26 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 9 July 2010) -- Russian scientists have released some 200,000 king crab brood off the coast of the Kola Peninsula. "It can only be described as voodoo and sabotage," says Igor Pakholkov, deputy director of a Murmansk based fishing company. The release of near 200,000 small King Crabs happend earlier this summer from the marine research station at Dalniye Zelentsy east of Murmansk on the coast of the Kola Peninsula. It is the first time Russia release artificially reared king crab brood in such great numbers. The red king crab (or Kamchatka crab) was first introduced to the Barents Sea from Russia’s Far East in the 60-ties. The initiative of scientific institutions to enhance the population of red king crab in the waters of the Barents Sea can only be described as voodoo and sabotage, says Igor Pakholkov in an interview with Regnum. Pakholkov is deputy director and fleet manager of Murmansk fishing company Zolotaya Rybka. The company is a member of the coastal fishery association and focused on coastal Kamchatka crab hunting. The king crab has no natural enemies in the Barents Sea and the stock has increased rapidly since the late 80-ties. In the early 90-ties the king crab started to appear in the fjords of Eastern Finnmark in Norway. Since then, the population has grown immensely. Some estimates say there are more than 20 million in the Barents Sea. Many environmentalists and scientists say the species negatively alters the sea’s natural biodiversity. The consequence of the king crab explosion may be that native species disappear. Igor Pakholkov says the king crab is not a natural inhabitant of the northern seas, and they violate the natural balance in the marine ecosystem. They destroy the traditional fish species, he says. "There is only one way to deal with the king crab, that is, allowing free fishing," Pakholov says in the interview with Regnum.
Posted 11 July 2010; 11:29:20 PM. Permalink
(Itar-Tass, 6 June 2010) -- THE ICEBREAKER ROSSIA - Russia’s High-Latitude Arctic expedition is heading for the northern port of Murmansk. Russian polar explorers, members of the “High-Latitude Arctic-2010” expedition and the crew of the icebreaker Rossia officially closed the North Pole–37 drifting station in the Arctic on Saturday. “Over the past nine months fifteen polar explorers represented the interests of Russia and the whole mankind in the extremely harsh conditions of the Arctic,” Vladimir Sokolov, the head of the high-latitude expedition, said. “The scientists who worked on the North Pole–37 Arctic station have done a huge amount of work vital for the development of science and the exploration of the Arctic. The research they carried out is particularly important in conditions of changing climate,” Sokolov went on to say.
Posted 7 June 2010; 1:14:41 AM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 7 April 2010) -- Regional authorities in Murmansk want to limit the free movement of reindeer herds to 100-200 km wide zones. In an interview with newspaper Vedomosti, regional Governor Dmitry Dmitriyenko said that his administration plans to establish 100-200 km wide zones for the regional reindeer herds. This will help raise productivity, the governor argues. Today, reindeer herds migrate over major parts of the peninsula. Governor Dmitriyenko says the changing climate makes it increasingly difficult to gather the herds at slaughter time because the rivers now freeze later than before. It is the indigenous Sami population which has the reindeer herding as its main industry. The main Sami settlements are located in the central parts of the peninsula with the town of Lovozero as the main centre.
Posted 12 April 2010; 12:25:10 AM. Permalink
(Siku News, 12 April 2010) -- A Finnish movie by Anastasia Lapsui and Markku Lehmuskallio has won the Grand Prix at the Festival International de Films de Femmes in Créteil, France. The film, Last of the Line, tells the story of a young Nenets girl in the 1960's who must leave her home to go to a Russian-language school. The film explores the girl's life as she is stripped of her identity as a member of the Nenets community in a Soviet school. The story is based on the area where director Lapsui spent her childhood, on the Yamal peninsula. Last of the Line débuted at the Berlin Film Festival in February and was shown for the first time in Finland on February 26. This is the second time that Lapsui and Lehmuskallio won top prize in Créteil. They also took home the Grand Prix in 2000 for Seven Songs from the Tundra. The Festival International de Films de Femmes is a festival designed to showcase the work of women filmmakers.
Posted 12 April 2010; 12:21:25 AM. Permalink
(Alissa de Carbonnel/AFP via Yahoo! News, 27 February 2010) -- LOVOZERO, Russia (AFP) – In a billowing cloud of white, Russia's Arctic herders drive thousands of panting and wild-eyed reindeer through the knee-deep snow to the first slaughter this year. But warm winters in recent years have forced herders here in the far northern Kola Peninsula to delay for months the rounding up of their reindeer from the vast tundra — at great economic cost. "We've had to move the slaughter forwards from December to February because the lakes haven't frozen over," said Vladimir Filippov, an ethnic Komi herder who heads the farm Tundra, the main employer in this remote village. These reindeer have lost roughly 20 percent of their weight during the extra months spent in the tundra while herders waited for the ice to thicken enough for the forced migration. "It's not a small but a huge problem for us and a constant worry," said Filippov. With meat sold at 4.34-6.01 dollars per kilogram (2.2 pounds), it can amount to a loss of up to 167,000 dollars per year. "That's a huge loss," Filippov sighed. Over the past decade average temperatures have risen by 0.7 degrees C (1.25 degrees F) and satellite images show melting ice cover on the Arctic pole, said Anatoly Semyonov of the regional Murmansk state climate monitoring agency. Even though 2010 has been relatively icy, herders who have faced more than a decade of mild winters dismiss the general scepticism amongst the Russian public over global warming. Climate changes has also disrupted the breeding cycle and made it tough for reindeer to feed on lichen beneath the snow as late thaws and freezing rain create an impervious ice coating, veterinarian Vasili Pidgayetsky said. At Tundra, global warming is forcing innovation. Last year, the farm entered a proposal to build freeze-storage sites powered by wind turbines near grazing grounds to avoid the need to cross the vast tundra for slaughter in a grant contest run by the World Bank. "We could kill the reindeer in situ in December and carry the meat back to the village by snowmobile," said Tundra's director Viktor Startsev. It is a radical idea that is not without opposition amid the indigenous Saami and Komi-Izhems herders clinging fast to age-old way of life on the peninsula. "Of course, the older generation says this isn't right," admitted Startsev.
Posted 28 February 2010; 12:15:54 AM. Permalink
(Anna Kireeva with Maria Kaminskaya/Bellona, 23 February 2010) -- MURMANSK - Legislators in Russia’s Far Northern Murmansk Region, on the Kola Peninsula, have signalled a green light to the interment of liquid radioactive waste in their region – brushing aside the public and environmentalists’ concerns and, effectively, giving Moscow authorities a carte blanche to create nuclear repositories in Murmansk, while the costs of handling the already accumulated stockpiles of radioactive waste will have to be borne by regional and municipal budgets. The questionable bill “On Management of Radioactive Waste” was passed in its first reading in the federal parliament in the Russian capital during a plenary session on January 20 and raised a storm of objections from Russia’s ecological organisations. Non-governmental organisations decried the bill as a means for the Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom to attend to its own narrow interests while going bluntly against the interests of the nation. In an open letter to lawmakers in Moscow, they urged them to halt on passing the bill without making serious amendments. They praised the attempt to better regulate the issues of radiation safety in Russia – the country still has no law governing the management of radioactive waste – but the new law, environmentalists said, will allow injecting liquid radioactive waste underground, which runs contrary to other Russian legislation already in force – namely, the Law on Protection of the Environment and the Water Code. It will, they said, place all responsibility for the disposal of liquid radioactive waste on the shoulders of local municipalities and absolve Rosatom of any accountability for the handling of waste already accumulated. It will also allow authorities to disregard the public’s opinion when making decisions to create radioactive waste repositories, environmentalists warned. The bill probably affects Murmansk Region more than other constituent territories of the Russian Federation. Vast stockpiles of radioactive waste have been accrued on the Kola Peninsula in the decades since atomic power has been used commercially and for military purposes in the Soviet Union and Russia. These activities have engendered quite a number of most urgent problems in terms of radiation safety, including storage of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste at former naval bases, such as the infamous Andreyeva Bay, issues associated with decommissioning Soviet and Russian nuclear-powered fleet and refuelling vessels, just to name a few.
Posted 28 February 2010; 12:04:23 AM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 19 February 2010) -- The world’s smallest language, Ter Sami, is only spoken by two persons. Also, Ume Sami and Pite Sami will not last long. According to Pravda, there are only two people left speaking Ter Sami, a Sami dialect spoken in villages in the eastern part of the Kola Peninsula. In the end of the 19th ventury, there were six Ter Sami villages, with a several hundred inhabitants. Now, there are some 100 ethnic Ter Sami in the area, of whom only two elderly persons speak the original languages. The rest have shifted to Russian. The Sami languages are also challenged in the southern part of the Barents Region. In, Sweden there are only some 10 people who can still speak the Ume Sami, traditionally a Sami language spoken on the course of the Ume River. Also Pite Sami, traditionally spoken on both the Norwegian and Swedish side of the border in the Arjeplog area, is a dying language. According to Wikipedia, there are only some twenty native speakers left and only on the Swedish side of the border. In Finland, a severe lack of teachers could threaten the future of Sami people in the north, YLE News reports this week. A study carried out at the University of Oulu says that an investment is needed in training Sami language teachers and other educators who speak the language. It suggests that teacher training be organized at one of the universities in the north of the country and in Sami-speaking areas. It calls for special attention to be given to the future of the languages spoken by the Inari Sami and the Skolt Sami, YLE News reports.
Posted 21 February 2010; 10:57:51 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 5 February 2010) -- The North of Russia is under the threat of depopulation. Since the year 2000 the population in the Russian part of the Barents region decreased by 462,000, or by almost 11 percent. According to the yearly demographic report of the State Statistical Committee the Russian territories of the Barents region in the beginning of 2009 had 31 thousand inhabitants less than one year ago. That is 0.8 percent less than in 2008. In the three-year period from 2006 to 2008 the total population of the Russian Federation decreased by 317,000 people. This is approximately as much as the population of the biggest city in the Barents region; Arkhangelsk. During the ten-year period from 2000 to 2010, the population of the Russian Federation was reduced by almost 5 million citizens, or -3.4 %. At the same time the population in the Russian part of the Barents region declined by 54,000 people from 2006 to 2008, or by 1.4 per cent, according to the 2009 edition of the Demographic Yearbook of Russia. The biggest population decline in the ten-year period since 2000 was observed in Murmansk Oblast (by 10.4 percent), in Komi Republic (by 9.3 percent), and in Arkhangelsk Oblast (by 9.2 percent). The population of Karelia decreased 6.5 percent. One year ago, in the beginning of 2009, the total population of Barents Russia was 3,793,000 people. Today, according to the preliminary data of the State Statistical Committee the population in these five territories decreased again by 24,000. The greatest declines occured in Murmansk oblast and the Republic of Komi.
Posted 6 February 2010; 11:10:04 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 22 January 2010) -- Nearly one quarter of the population has moved from Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk Oblast in course of the last 16 years. Every sixth inhabitant is now over 60 years. The latest demographic statistics for Severodvinsk are worth some reflection, local newspaper Northwestern Worker writes. The town’s population is constantly shrinking, and the average age of the remaining people is increasing. The population has shrunk from 258.600 people in 1991 to 188.000 in 2009. Severodvinsk has always been regarded as a young town. In the Soviet period this was an industrial center where the best specialists from all over the country came to work. Severodvinsk is the second largest city in Arkhangelsk Oblast. Its main industry remains defense related - Russia’s largest shipbuilding company Sevmash is located here, as well as the major ship repair yard Zvezdochka. Nearly 70 percent of the working population is employed in the ship building or ship repair industry. The main factor in the population decline is migration. The number of people moving from Severodvinsk exceeds the number of people moving to the town by 2-3 times. Only in 2008, 2583 people moved from Severodvinsk, while 431 decided to settle there. Many of the people leaving Severodvinsk are young people who decide not to come back after having finished university or college. The situation got somewhat better in 2009, Northwestern Worker writes. The economic crisis did not have such a big impact on Severodvinsk as on many other Russian towns, and many young people found it more profitable to stay home. At the same time, the remaining population is getting older. For every 1000 persons in active working age, there are 450 children, juveniles and pensioners. The number of pensioners is growing every year, and now every sixth person in Severodvinsk is 60 years or older. Most of the elderly people in Severodvinsk are women, as the average life expectancy for men is only 59 years, while it is 73 years for women.
Posted 23 January 2010; 10:44:55 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 12 January 2010) -- A six-hectare area used as dump site for oil wastes from the shipping industry now threatens to seriously pollute the Northern Dvina River. The area located near the river bank has been used as a storage site for waste waters from the Arkhangelsk Port since the 1960s. According to Regnum, a significant part of the dangerous substances has already been washed into the river. The sandy ground in the area contains up to 95 times more oil substances than what is allowed. Up to 180 tons of oil is believed to be stored at the site. According to the regional Environmental Committee, pollution from the site threatens both local and regional environment. The Rambøll Barents company has been commissioned with finding alternative solutions for the problem.
Posted 12 January 2010; 11:12:23 PM. Permalink
(Mia Bennett/Foreign Policy Blogs Arctic Blog, 7 January 2010) -- The small border between Norway and Russia all the way up in the high north has been Russia’s most stable border for the past 1,000 years. Now, that border may disappear, in a sense, as Norway and Russia consider doing away with visas for residents. Right before the annual meeting of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), which begins today, the Prime Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Støre, noted that he hopes an agreement will be forthcoming later this year. The agreement would affect people living within 30 kilometers of the border: that is, 55,000 Russians and 9,000 Norwegians. The county of Finnmark in northern Norway is suffering from a lack of labor, and it is hoped that visa-free travel could help to shore up the labor deficit by allowing Russians to work.
Posted 7 January 2010; 10:01:59 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 12 December 2009) -- Are you curious about the Norwegian-Russian borderland? BarentsObserver now launches its BorderZone project, a web portal with comprehensive news, contact data and practical information from the two neighboring municipalities of Sør-Varanger and Pechenga. The new portal offers extensive contact information to shops, offices, business, organizations, media, schools, culture organization, places to eat, hotels and much more. It is also offers a comprehensive introduction to cross-border travelling, visa issues and transport, and keeps you updated with news information from the area. The BorderZone website is located at the address:www.barentsobserver.com/borderzone The two municipalities of Sør-Varanger and Pechenga are neighbors across the 196-km-long Norwegian-Russian border. For decades, Cold War tensions made cross-border contact between people in the area almost impossible. The 1990s saw a major increase in cross-border travelling. Still, contacts between Sør-Varanger and Pechenga even today remains at a modest level. The new portal is made to facilitate cross-border knowledge and contacts between people living in the borderland area. It is however also a useful tool for other people interested in the area, be it business people, officials, researchers or other. The BorderZone website is established with project support from the Norwegian Barents Secretariat.
Posted 25 December 2009; 12:18:48 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 23 December 2009) -- The village of Revda in Murmansk Oblast will probably be closed and its inhabitants moved. The reason for this is the collapse of the mining industry in the area. The company Lovozersky Mining and Processing Plant has struggled for several years, and the only department still in operation is the souvenir shop, Vedomosti reports. The Russian Government plans to initiate a program for relocation of the 9500 inhabitants. The Russian Government’s anti-crisis commission has put together a list of 27 one-company towns that need state financial support. 20 of these can count on federal allocations already in 2010. 10 billion RUB will be transferred to the towns as budget subsidies, while another 10 billion RUB will be given as three years credits. Revda is the only town on this list that is planned to be shut down.
Posted 23 December 2009; 2:57:51 PM. Permalink
(Indigenous Peoples of the Barents Region, 15 December 2009) -- On November 23rd 2009, Sami Nurash, the Murmansk Regional Saami Youth Organization, was established and registered. "November 23rd is a great day of joy for us, as it is the day all our efforts are rewarded," says Anna Afanasyeva, who is elected chairperson of the Saami youth organization. The Saami youth living on the Kola Peninsula have struggled for ten years to have a Saami youth organization registered, and they succeeded on the third attempt. Throughout the later years, Saami youth in Russia have been cooperating with Saami youth in the Nordic countries, through joint seminars and conferences and the Working Group for establishing an All-Saami youth organization. Saami youth are organized through Noereh (Norway), Sáminuorra (Sweden), Suoma Sámi Nuorat (Finland) and Sami Nurash (Russia).
Posted 21 December 2009; 2:17:54 AM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 12 December 2009) -- SEVERODVINSK - The Zvezdochka shipyard in northern Russia said on Friday that a recent minor radioactive leak at its storage facility posed no threat to people or environment. According to a Zvezdochka statement, the "radiation incident" took place on Thursday when about two cubic meters liquid radioactive waste leaked through a seam in a pipe connecting a storage tank and a waste treatment facility. "The pipe itself is located in a leak-proof tunnel and the waste did not spill outside," the statement said, adding that the tunnel has been drained of the waste in two hours following the leak. "The radiation levels around the tunnel are normal. The causes of the leak are being investigated," the shipyard said. Severodvinsk-based Zvezdochka is Russia's biggest shipyard for repairing and dismantling nuclear-powered submarines. It has the capacity to scrap up to four nuclear submarines per year.
Posted 11 December 2009; 9:52:59 PM. Permalink
(Barents Indigenous People, 8 December 2009) -- Yasavey is the Public Association of Nenets people in Nenets Autonomous Okrug, and the indigenous NGO celebrates its 20th anniversary on December 12th 2009. Events are planned in Naryan-Mar for the entire weekend.
Posted 9 December 2009; 4:50:20 PM. Permalink
(Charless Digges/Bellona, 3 December 2009) -- As Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation beings to apply a stranglehold on information about the country’s nuclear energy programmes, the public is less and less likely to find out about how the Kola Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is operating at 104 percent capacity on reactors that have outlived their prospective life-spans. They are also less likely to know that it was advised by nuclear inspectors that these reactors never surpass 70 percent capacity, and that the current capacity they are running at could lead to Chernobyl—take two. Further kept in the dark is the fact that the Kola Peninsula, home to Murmansk, has an energy surplus making it entirely unnecessary to run the Kola NPP’s second generation reactors—which have received 10 year engineering life span expansions—at such a volume, making the risks of a radiological catastrophe entirely avoidable. The public of Northwest Russia is also lacking in the knowledge that there have been 53 radiologically hazardous incidents aboard nuclear powered surface ships since 2002—though probably more as the government stopped access this kind of information. And more generally, the public of Russia as a whole is most likely in the dark about the 15,000 plus tons of spent nuclear fuel that has filled Russia storage capacity to a seam-bursting 90-97 percent. Such were just a fraction of some of the facts that were revealed at a seminar Bellona held yesterday in Oslo on radioactive and nuclear problems in Russia’s northwest. This discouraging information was brought to light by a Bellona panel of Alexander Nikitin, chairman of Russia’s St. Petersburg offices, energy author and Bellona contributor Vladislav Larin, and Professor Vladimir Kuznetsov, a senior researcher at the Vavilov Institute of the History of Natural Sciences and Technology. He is also a former Russian nuclear regulatory inspector and member of Rosatom’s Public Council. They were joined by Johnny Almsted of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and Ingar Amundsen of the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority who participated in the debate portion of the seminar.
Posted 5 December 2009; 5:47:31 PM. Permalink
(Bellona, Charles Digges, trans., 17 November 2009) -- MURMANSK - Bellona presented two documents dealing with radiation safety in Northwest Russia on the eve of a dialogue forum between Bellona and Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom, and which question a state fund for radiation safety and the situation at the notorious Northern Fleet nuclear waste dump at Andreyeva Bay. The two documents were aimed specifically at the Russian Government Federal Target Plan on “Nuclear and Radiation Safety,” and at the history and current state of affairs at Andreyeva Bay, one of the most dangerous radiological hazards on the Kola Peninsula. At Monday’s press conference in Murmansk, Bellona experts spoke of their hopes for the forum with Rosatom. Bellona said it hoped to get answers to questions on the Federal Target Programme—a special extra-budgetary expenditure—on nuclear and radiation safety. “For the first time Russia has earmarked a significant amount of money—150 billion roubles ($5.2 billion) from the federal budget—to solve such problems,” said Alexander Nikitin, chairman of the Environment and Rights Centre Bellona, Bellona’s St. Petersburg office. ... The situation at Andreyeva Bay still remains dangerous as its emergency spent nuclear fuel facilities continue age. At the forum with Rosatom, Bellona presented a document entitled “Nuclear Bay Andreyeva” (2.5 MB), in which Bellona cites a detailed list of accidents at the Andreyeva Bay facility, analyses of the present environmental situation, lays out its own position on the applied technology, technical and economic solutions, and gives an evaluation of what has been done to make the shoreline technical base safe over the 14 years since Bellona first sounded the alarm about the facility. [The other document is “The Most Expensive Programme to Save Russia from its Atomic Past” (1MB).]
Posted 18 November 2009; 3:12:12 PM. Permalink
(Siku Circumpolar News, 18 November 2009) -- The director of the Kola Saami radio has disappeared and the employees
have not been paid for the past four months, reports the Barents
Observer. The employees are now fear a closure of the Kola Saami Radio will make it impossible to start up again later. But tax officials and the state attorney are seriously concerned about how the radio station will cover their debt of 270,000 RUR ($10,000), reports NRK Sami Radio in Norway. NRK has tried to get in contact with the director of Kola Saami Radio, Aleksandr Paul, without success. Another journalist with the Kola Sami Radio, Jevgenij Kirillov, says director Paul is in a dangerous situation right now. "The authorities are suspecting him of not paying the debt and salaries, and therefore are threatening to put him in jail," Kirillov told NRK. Kola Saami Radio has been in economic trouble for a long time. In February the Norwegian Barents Secretariat gave the radio 45,000 NOK (€5,000) and said they also hoped other organizations would assist the only radio station in Russia broadcasting in the Saami language. The radio also has received money from the Norwegian Saami Parliament, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the European Union's Interreg program. In total, Kola Sami Radio has got millions of roubles during the last decade. The grants provided were supposed to be used for the start-up costs for the radio programs in Kildin Saami language—not for day-to-day operations.
Posted 18 November 2009; 2:52:37 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 2 November 2009) -- When the new Northern (Arctic) Federal University opens in Arkhangelsk, it will be Russia’s center for education and research on the Arctic. The main motives for the establishment are protection of Russia’s geopolitical and economic interests in Northern Europe and the Arctic. The Northern (Arctic) Federal University will conduct research and educate specialists within development of natural resources, including oil and gas, timber industry, onshore infrastructures, information and communication technologies and ecology. As BarentsObserver reported, Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev on October 21 signed a presidential decree stating that the State Technical University in Arkhangelsk will be transformed into Northern (Arctic) Federal University. The new university will have a student population of 30 000 students, Pro-rector at the Arkhangelsk State Technical University Yury Kudryashov told BarentsObserver in an interview in Arkhangelsk last week. -The university will have a special role both in securing Russia’s geopolitical interests in the Arctic and in education of specialists for development of oil and gas deposits on the Arctic shelf. According to Kudryashov, a brand new university campus will be built to house the Northern (Arctic) Federal University. The Pomor State University, the Northern State Medical University and the shipyard Sevmash’ own technical college Sevmashvtuz will also be included in the new federal university. Arkhangelsk Oblast is the largest subject in the North-Western Federal District in order of size. Arkhangelsk is called “The gateway to the Arctic”.
Posted 2 November 2009; 7:36:25 AM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 23 October 2009) -- These days towns on both sides of the Norwegian-Russian border mark the 65th anniversary of Soviet troops’ defeat over the Wehrmacht's forces in the Arctic. The Petsamo-Kirkenes offensive started October 7th 1944, when Soviet forces started a counter-offensive against the German strongpoint line just 70 kilometers northwest of Murmansk. The German forces were driven back into Norway, and the first Soviet troops crossed the border to Norway on October 18th. On October 25th Soviet troops liberated the Norwegian town of Kirkenes from the German forces. Yesterday the anniversary was marked in the Russian border town of Nikel, with Mayor of Kirkenes Linda Beate Randal as guest. See video from the event on TV21. Murmansk is celebrating the occasion on Saturday with a military procession to the Alesha memorial. The same day Kirkenes is honoring the anniversary with several different events for the local population and the many invited guests from Russia and Norway. Read more about the offensive on Wikipedia or in Major James F. Gebhardt’s detailed book “The Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation : Soviet breakthrough and pursuit in the Arctic, October 1944”. (For a short summary of of Gebhardt's book, scroll to the bottom of the page, to the “Synopsis of Leavenworth Paper 17.”)
Posted 23 October 2009; 7:50:58 AM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 15 October 2009) -- Gazprom will make Murmansk the base for its expansion into the Arctic, company CEO Aleksei Miller highlighted at the Murmansk Economic Forum today. The forum, which opened in downtown Murmansk today, has “the conquering of the Arctic” as its slogan and puts prime focus on the development of the huge Shtokman gas field, located about 600 km off the Barents Sea coast. "Shtokman is strategically important for all of Russia," Mr. Miller said in his presentation at the forum. The Shtokman field was also the key component in the new cooperation agreement between Gazprom and Murmansk Oblast signed today. That agreement includes cooperation guidelines for the Shtokman development process, including for the laying of pipelines, construction of the LNG terminal and other facilities. Aleksey Miller after the signing ceremony stressed that Gazprom will build roads and develop infrastructure, establish staff training programmes and seek to take maximum advantage of the regional industrial supply potential. He also stressed that the company will spend significant sums on social projects in the region. The Shtokman field will also result in the gasification of the region, and thus open up for new industrial establishments, Miller said. In the forum session, Miller stressed that Shtokman is a Russian project and that the partnership with foreign companies Total and StatoilHydro will expire after the first field development phase. At the same time, he praised the cooperation model of the project, saying that it should be used also in other offshore projects in Russia.
Posted 16 October 2009; 3:48:24 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 5 October 2009) -- A new Saami textbook for children is published in Murmansk. The publication is sponsored by Shtokman Development. The publication of the new textbook, called Voafskhess (Northern Light), is part of the celebration of the 20 year anniversary of the Kola Saami Association, the oldest Saami organization on the Kola Peninsula, web site B-port.com writes. With regional authorities being unwilling to pay for production of the book, Shtokman Development AG and the International Saami Language Committee sponsored the project. There are about 2000 persons registered as Saami in Murmansk Oblast. Four Saami languages have been spoken among the Saami in the Russian side; Akkala, Ter, Skolt and Kildin Saami. Akkala Saami seems to be extinct as a language, where as below 20 understand or speak Ter Saami. Skolt Saami is spoken by less than 20 individuals in the Russian side, and Kildin Saami is spoken by 300-700 individuals, BarentsIndigenous.org writes.
Posted 8 October 2009; 1:34:50 PM. Permalink
(Christina Henriksen/Barents Indigenous People, 30 September 2009) -- Saami rights in the Kola Peninsula is the hot topic of the seminar, which takes place in Murmansk on October 1-2 2009. The work towards establishment of a democratically elected political body representing the Saami population in Murmansk oblast is in progress, and this will be presented by the representatives of the Council of Authorized Representatives of the Saami in Murmansk Oblast, elected at the first Saami congress in Olenegorsk last December. The seminar will take place in Polyarny Zory Hotel and the program includes discussion on self-determination for Saami in Murmansk Oblast and self-determination in the Nordic and international perspective. The Saami Council plenary session is scheduled to October 3rd and 4th.
Posted 30 September 2009; 3:04:38 PM. Permalink
(Christina Henriksen/Barents Indigenous People, 18 September 2009) -- The 80th anniversary of Nenets Autonomous Okrug was celebrated by locals and guests throughout a whole week filled with various events. Exhibitions and concerts exposed the local Nenets and Komi culture, and culture groups from other regions also took part in the events. The Nenets culture group, Mayimbava, from the village Nelmin-Nos, played a vigorous part in these events, mixing local Nenets culture with Russian pop culture. Governor Igor Gennadyevitch Fyodorov hosted the cultural events, emphasizing the importance of the local indigenous peoples' culture, but also pointed to the prosperity which the oil and gas industry has brought to the region. Among the guests were the President of South Ossetia, Mr Eduard Kokoity, Polar researcher and Member of the State Duma Arthur Nikolayevitch Chilingarov and President of RAIPON and Speaker of the Duma in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Sergey Nikolayevitch Kharyuchi. A delegation from the Norwegian County of Rogaland, led by the County Mayor Tom Tvedt,visited Naryan-Mar during the week of celebration, as the two counties renewed their agreement of cooperation. In addition to their excursion to the Varandey oil terminal, they also got to experience local food and culture. Nenets Autonomous Okrug was established in 1929, and was originally inhabited by the reindeer-herding Nenets people, which is the indigenous people of the region. Naryan-Mar is the only city, with approximately 20,000 inhabitants, but there are several villages and settlements in the tundra, in which the Nenets is a majority. The Nenets living in the tundra herd reindeer together with the Izhma-Komi, migrating from the inland to the coastline and back again. Russia Today visited the Nenets Autonomous Okrug during the same week. Have a look at their experiences.
Posted 25 September 2009; 12:20:49 PM. Permalink
(MBnews.ru via BarentsObserver, 4 September 2009) -- The Murmansk Sea Port is modernizing its radio communication equipment. That will make entries to the busy port safer. It is the company Alvis Plus which has got the contract on the equipment delieveries, MBnews.ru reports. The port of Murmansk is the second biggest in Northwest Russia. It handles major volumes of metal and mineral ore, fish and other goods. It is also used extensively by the Northern Fleet and will be the key port in the development of Russian Arctic hydrocarbon fields.
Posted 4 September 2009; 10:11:59 AM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 31 August 2009) -- An ATM machine has been opened in the village of Belushya Guba at the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. That is probably the world’s northernmost. The heavily militarized Novaya Zemlya, the site of dozens of nuclear test detonations in the 1960s and 1970s has got its first ATM machine, Rokfeller.ru reports. The cash machine will be used primarily by the military personnel at the far northern archipelago. The Belushya Guba town is located on the 72th latitude. The population of Novaya Zemlya totals about 2,700 (2002), of which about 2,600 reside in Belushya Guba. According to Wikipedia, a total of 224 nuclear detonations with a total explosive energy equivalent to 265 megatons of TNT were made at the archipelago between 1954 and 1990.
Posted 31 August 2009; 1:27:40 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 25 August 2009) -- Next Monday will mark the removal of the last radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) from a lighthouse on the Island of Vaigach. State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elisabeth Walaas, will go to Vaigach to overlook the removal. Since 1998 Norway has, in consultations with Russian authorities, financed the removal of RTGs and replaced them with environmentally friendly solar cell technology. The Norwegian Government has spent more than $20 million kroner on the RTG removals with the aim to avoid radioactive contamination of the marine and terrestrial environments. Also, it is important to remove the strong radioactive sources from the remote—and unguarded, areas to prevent unwanted access to sources of radioactivity. According to information from the County Governor of Finnmark in Norway, there have been four attempted thefts from lighthouses powered by strontium batteries in the northern areas. The County Governor of Finnmark is the project manager on the Norwegian side, while the removals are coordinated by Rosatom on the Russian side. After removal the radioactive sources from the RTGs are sent to the Mayak plant in the South Urals for long-term storage. The first lighthouses with RTGs to be removed were those near the border to Norway west of the Fishermen’s Peninsula on the Barents Sea coast. Originally there were 180 RTGs in the Barents Region. Half of them were removed before 2006.
Posted 26 August 2009; 12:45:04 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 19 August 2009) -- Murmansk is getting ready for this year’s most important event, the first Murmansk International Economic Forum. More than 300 persons have so far registered as participations in the forum, which takes place in Murmansk October 15-17 and focuses on the theme “The Arctic in the 21st century – development strategies”. The aim is to initiate discussions on the economic development strategy of the North, the forum’s web site reads. Several conferences will be covering issues like development of the energy sector, the fishing industry, cross-border cooperation in the Barents region, management of natural resources in the North of Russia. Special attention will be focused on further development of Shtokman gas condensate field. As BarentsObserver reported earlier this summer, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will take part in the forum.
Posted 19 August 2009; 10:29:00 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 11 August 2009) -- It is now very important to develop transport infrastructure in the North – between Murmansk Oblast and the province of Lapland, Finnish Transport Minister Anu Vehviläinen stressed during her visit to the Russian Arctic city last week. "We have actively developing transport connections between Helsinki and Moscow and Sankt Petersburg, but now it is very important to develop transport infrastructure also in the North, between Murmansk Oblast and the Province of Lapland," the minister said, according to a press release from the Murmansk regional administration. Minister Vehviläinen for the first time visited Murmansk, the site for major planned infrastructure investments over the next years. “The visit of the minister shows that the whole world including Finland is following the development of the Murmansk Transport Hub, the Shtokman project and the trans-border cooperation”, the press release from the regional administration reads.
Posted 10 August 2009; 10:56:48 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 24 July 2009) -- Cows are grazing in the streets and the only decent building is the one currently renovated by the Shtokman Development AG. Welcome to Teriberka, the future hub of the world’s biggest offshore gas field. A two-hour drive towards the northeast from Murmansk will take you to the fishing village of Teriberka. 120 km on a bumpy road takes you across Arctic tundra landscapes to the more rocky seaside where Gazprom and its partners Total and StatoilHydro will build its huge Shtokman gas reception centre and a LNG plant. Teriberka was earlier this year taken out of the Russian border zone, thus opening up for unrestricted access to the area. Still, it took only five minutes after the arrival of a delegation this week to be approached by the FSB. The security officers wrote down the visitors’ passport data and made inquiries about the visit, Barentsnova.com reports. "Like many other old Russian settlements, Teriberka has saved its own atmosphere and a certain charm in spite of Soviet time changes and the recent years desolation. Picturesque costal line, wide sand beach in a bay and projecting rocks make a strong impression on visitors," Aleksey Filin, leader of the Barents Secretariat's Murmansk office told BarentsObserver after this week's visit. About 1400 people live in the town which might soon lose its cozy image to the rough landscapes of the oil gas industry. They will be heavily outnumbered by the about 10000 people who are expected to be involved in the construction part of the project. The permanent field staff is believed to be about 600. New housing quarters and service facilities are to be built near the site.
Posted 24 July 2009; 4:52:46 PM. Permalink
(Maria Kaminskaya, trans./Bellona, 16 July 2009) -- MURMANSK - Russia’s northern region of Murmansk will start producing wind energy converters—this was the gist of an informal agreement reached between the local submarine repair yard Nerpa and the Dutch company Windlife Energy. A formal deal between the two parties is to follow soon. As has been previously reported by Bellona Web, Murmansk was recently the host of a business seminar visited by the heads of over 30 Dutch companies. The delegation also included the Netherlands’ Minister of Foreign Trade Frank Heemskerk. In the two days the visitors spent in Murmansk, the Dutch businessmen met with the governor of Murmansk Region, Dmitry Dmitriyenko, and representatives of the region’s largest enterprises. The seminar put its primary focus on cooperation in the energy sector—issues such as the development of the Shtokman natural gas field in the Barents Sea or the construction of the Murmansk Transport Hub were on the table. And, of course, participants discussed the only project already under way—the construction of the first wind park on the territory of the Kola Peninsula, an endeavour led by the Dutch-based Windlife Energy. Investments into the project will come from two European banks and a jointly held Dutch-German banking group.
Posted 16 July 2009; 3:31:08 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 13 July 2009) -- The strictly closed and militarized islands of Novaya Zemly are located 360 km closer to the Shtokman field than the coast of the Kola Peninsula. That makes the archipelago the most suited place for base activities for the Shtokman developers, leader of the local administration Vladimir Smetanin writes in the latest issue of the Sozvezdye journal. "If one looks at the map of Russian Arctic hydrocarbon fields, it is easy to be convinced that Novaya Zemlya has the most favorable location for field development," he argues. Mr. Smetanin writes that the islands have well developed social and transport infrastructure ready to be applied by the Shtokman field developers. The area has five mooring points capable of handling all kind of vessels, and the Amderma-2 airport, which is in the process of being extended and modernized, he maintains. It also has schools, kindergartens, hotels, restaurants and shops, he adds. The local mayor does not however touch upon the strictly militarized status of the area and the ban on foreign visitors. As BarentsObserver has reported, several places now step up bids for base functions in the Shtokman development. Among them is the Norwegian border town of Kirkenes, which maintains that its ice-free and deep-sea fjord can provide valuable service functions for the gas field development.
Posted 13 July 2009; 4:37:34 PM. Permalink
(Christina Henriksen/Barents Indigenous People, 9 July 2009) -- B-port.com reports about local Saami gathering at Malyi Zimnik Island in Lovozero Rayon for a language camp this July, 10-24. According to Aleksandra Artieva in OOSMO (Official Organisation of Saami in Murmansk Oblast), the aim is to strenghten the informal style of Kildin Saami oral speech. Another goal is for the participants to overcome the psychological barrier, which often prevents people from putting the language into practice. Participation in the language camp is free of charge, as the project is financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion and executed by the Centre of Saami studies at the University of Tromsø and the initiative group on establishment of a Saami language centre in Lovozero village The initators have long experience from working with Saami language in the Russian side, and a similar language camp took place last summer, with great success. According to the data from the Kola Saami Documentation Project (KSDP), only around 200 out of the 2000 Saami living in Russia speak Kildin Saami, so measures must be taken in order to keep the language alive.
Posted 12 July 2009; 5:43:58 PM. Permalink
(Jonas Sjøkvist Karlsbakk/Norwegian Barents Secretariat, 20 May 2009) -- The BarentsIndigenous.org website will provide news and further information about the indigenous peoples of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region. Activities and projects involving indigenous peoples of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region are key items of the website, as well as promotion of the activities of the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region. A Russian version will hopefully be ready soon, as the website has a particular eye on the Russian side. Information across the state borders is crucial for extended cooperation, and the Norwegian Barents Secretariat has a pronounced focus on indigenous peoples and aims for increased activity and border-crossing cooperation between the Nenets, Saami and Veps of the region. The website is administrated by the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, in cooperation with the Barents Indigenous Peoples' Office (BIPO) in Lovozero, Russian Federation.
Posted 29 May 2009; 3:09:10 PM. Permalink
(BarentsIndigenous.org via BarentsObserver, 29 May 2009) -- The administration of the Sami-dominated Lovozero Rayon in Murmansk Oblast plans to turn the town's National Sami Culture Centre into a tourist centre. The new Head of Administration in Lovozero Rayon, Mr Dmitry Pisarev, has stated that the National Culture Centre in Lovozero will be transformed into a Centre of Tourism, and that the current institutions situated in the centre must remove their activities from the building, BarentsIndigenous.org reports. The centre was reopened after a major renovation in 2003, and it is currently an important arena for cultural activities in Lovozero.
Posted 29 May 2009; 3:03:58 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 25 May 2009) -- The composition of Murmansk Oblast regional government is finally ready, two months after Dmitry Dmitriyenko entered the post as Governor. The process of forming a new regional government has been ongoing since Dmitry Dmitriyenko entered the post as Governor of Murmansk Oblast two months ago. Today a complete list of the members was published on the regional government’s web site.
Posted 25 May 2009; 3:04:18 PM. Permalink
(Itar-Tass, 19 May 2009) -- BARVIKHA - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev calls on Norway for a coordinated stand on Arctic development. At the meeting in his out-of-town residence with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Soltenberg, he noted that Russia and Norway “are northern, Arctic countries, and the development of the region as a whole depends on their taking a close, coordinated stand on matters of Arctic development. ... I believe this is one of the most important trends of cooperation,” the Russian president said. He noted that on the whole relations between Russia and Norway had been developing “quite well” of late. “There has been a substantive growth of trade turnover recently,” Medvedev added. “This year does not promise to be very easy, but our colleagues are working, and a regular session of the intergovernmental commission was held recently. I do hope that this will allow us to reach new economic milestones, despite the current economic difficulties,” the Russian president said. He noted that economic matters would be discussed during the talks. “I hope that your visit will be useful and productive; I mean a number of important documents will be signed during the visit, new results will be achieved that will strengthen friendly interaction between our countries,” Medvedev said. According to the information of the Russian side, trade turnover between Russia and Norway decreased by 36.4 percent in January-February 2009 as compared with the same period in 2008, making up 237 million dollars. Russia’s export dropped by 54 percent, making up 96 million dollars, while import decreased by 13 percent, amounting to 141 million dollars. Some 120 enterprises with the participation of Norwegian capital are registered in Russia, its volume being nearly 1.5 billion dollars. Norwegian capital is developed mainly in Russia’s north-western regions, particularly in the Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, and Leningrad regions, with industry, wholesale trade, services, telecommunications and the mass media being the priority areas.
Posted 19 May 2009; 11:58:19 AM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 4 May 2009) -- The year 2008 was rather successful for the economy of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Retail trade turnover grew 10%. The incomes of the population also increased sufficiently – by an estimated 29 %. The annual growth of industrial production index was 4,1%. However, the volume of investments in the main capital showed negative dynamic with annual decline of 28%. Read about trends and developments in the Nenets AO in the regional Barents Monitoring report. BarentsMonitoring.NenetsAO2008
Posted 4 May 2009; 3:07:26 PM. Permalink
(IA Regum, 30 April 2009) -- Since the beginning of the year in the Arkhangelsk region the production of many types of industrial goods has declined. According to statistics, timber production in the area has decreased by 11.1%, and lumber is down by 30.4%. Furniture production has declined in consequence. Thus, since the beginning of the year the production of chairs fell 50%, sofas - 55%, and cases - more than 40%. A decline in food production is occuring, too. Since the beginning of the year the production of beer has declined by almost 60%, while meat products are down by 25%. The production of some commodities has grown. Liquor production, for example, is up by nearly 30%, animal fats by 26%, and oil by 35%. (Translation assisted by Google Translate)
Posted 30 April 2009; 2:40:05 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 24 April 2009) -- The Russian Border Agency (Rosgranitsa) calls for the modernization of several Russian Arctic ports following new oil and gas activities and the higher international focus on the region. In a meeting this week, the Rosgranitsa concluded that Russian Arctic ports like Murmansk, Kandalaksha, Igarka and Naryan-Mar will need to be better equipped in order to meet new challenges, Murman.ru reports with reference to Interfax. The development of regional hydrocarbon projects and the enhanced presence of foreign states and companies increases the need for better border customs regulations, the agency argues. Rosgranitsa does not want to develop new border customs stations, but rather develop existing units. In a recent presentation in the Russian Maritime Board, Rosgranitsa leader Dmitry Bezdelov said badly developed sea border points are major reasons why Russian ports are far less competitive than foreign ports.
Posted 25 April 2009; 1:36:27 PM. Permalink
(Plenty Magazine via Mother Nature News, 23 April 2009) -- This diary of a research team tracking dwindling herds in northwest Russia documents the devastating effects of global warming. For more than 10,000 years people have hunted reindeer in Europe and North America, making it “the species of single greatest importance in the entire anthropological literature on hunting,” says Canadian anthropologist Ernest Burch. Fittingly, an expedition during this International Polar Year, which for the first time includes the study of circumpolar people, is tracking the species and the humans who herd them. Two social anthropologists from the Max Planck Institute in Germany set out on snowmobiles and reindeer-drawn sleds a year ago to document the effects of climate change and socioeconomic pressures on the ancient tradition of herding and the ecology of the Kola Peninsula, in northwest Russia, just inside the polar circle. Lead researcher Yulian Konstantinov says that these pressures are challenging the long-held image of herders as “custodians of the tundra.”
Posted 25 April 2009; 12:41:10 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 24 April 2009) -- MURMANSK - The captain of a Russian fishing boat died on Friday after being rescued along with the rest of his crew after their trawler sank in the Barents Sea near Norway's northern coast, Russian officials said. A Russian fishing industry official said the Koralnes, part of the Sevrybkom-1 company fleet, sank shortly after sending a distress signal at about 9:20 a.m. Moscow time (05:20 GMT). Fifteen crewmembers drifted in an inflatable raft until another Russian trawler picked them up, while two men spent sometime in the arctic water. "A Russian trawler rescued 15 Koralnes crewmembers from a raft, while a Norwegian rescue helicopter picked up the ship's captain and senior mechanic from the water," Sergei Vaganov said. Norwegian police said one of the two sailors, who were transported by a Sea Hawk helicopter to a hospital in the Norwegian city of Tromsoe, died from hypothermia. Another Russian official later confirmed that the captain of the ship had unexpectedly died in the hospital, despite arriving in a stable condition. Alexander Savelyev, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Agency for Fishery, said that in his opinion the cause of the tragedy was the poor state of the vessel, which was built in 1987, and complacency on the part of the ship's owner. "This 'second-hand'...vessel had no watertight bulkheads and it took on water within seven minutes," he said. He also said that another reason for the tragedy was the inattentiveness of the Sevrybkom-1 company to the technical state of its ships.
Posted 24 April 2009; 4:34:12 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 21 April 2009) -- 17 billion rubles are allocated from Russia’s federal budget to the development of the third generation nuclear powered icebreakers to operate from Murmansk. According to Rosatom, Russia’s federal nuclear corporation, the first icebreaker of the new generation will be ready by 2015, RIA Novosti reports. However, the construction has not yet started. The Iceberg Design Bureau in St. Petersburg would prepare the design of the icebreaker by 2010. It will be a double-hull icebreaker capable of moving in both rivers and seas. Today, Russia operates two classes of nuclear powered icebreakers. The first is the river-class icebreaker, consisting of the two icebreakers Taimyr and Vaigach. They are mainly used to assist the shipping from Dudinka to the northern outlet of Yenisei River. The second is the ocean-going Arktika-class that consists of the icebreakers Arktika, Yamal, 50 Years Anniversary, Rossia and Sovietsky Soyuz. The nuclear powered icebreakers were operated by the Murmansk Shipping Company until Rosatom took over in August last year. Still, the service base is Atomflot, some few kilometres north of Murmansk. It is not given any information about what kind of reactors will be used onboard the third generation icebreakers. The current river class icebreakers have one KLT-40 reactor, while the icebreakers of the Arktika-class are equipped with two KLT-40 reactors.
Posted 21 April 2009; 12:38:54 PM. Permalink
(ESA press release via ScienceDaily, 10 April 2009) -- Arctic reindeer herders are facing the challenges of adapting to climate change as a warmer Arctic climate makes it harder for herds to find food and navigate. To help them adapt, the ESA-backed Polar View initiative is providing them with satellite-based snow maps. "Snow is of paramount importance for reindeer herding because its quality determines whether reindeer are able to access the pastures that lie beneath it for much of the year," said Anders Oskal, the Director of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR). "Detailed circumpolar snow information is, thus, becoming increasingly important following the recent changes in the Arctic climate." Oskal is working with Sámi reindeer herders in Finnmark, Norway, to help them maintain and develop sustainable reindeer husbandry. According to him, Finnmark is the area of Norway that is predicted to experience the largest temperature increases, raising concerns about whether ice layers will form over pastures preventing reindeer from foraging.
Posted 11 April 2009; 8:51:08 AM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 9 March 2009) -- STOCKHOLM, March 9 (RIA Novosti) - Norway's police have allowed a detained Russian dry cargo ship to leave the port of Bodø in the country's north. The Russian ship, the Mekhanik Tyulenev, is suspected of involvement in the collision with a Norwegian fishing boat, the Marina. The Mekhanik Tyulenev was ordered on March 3 to dock at Bodø to investigate a possible collision with the missing fishing boat. The Marina and its 68-year-old owner went missing off northwest Norway, near the island of Anda on the Vesteralen Archipelago on March 2. Norwegian police have radar data confirming that the Russian and Norwegian vessels were "very close to each other" before the Marina disappeared from radar screens. Police said the crew of the Russian vessel, en route to the Netherlands, were "surprised but cooperative." The vessel remained in Bodø until divers examined the hull of the vessel to check for marks left by any possible collision. "An inspection of the ship indicates that no traces of a collision with the Mekhanik Tyulenev have been discovered yet," Norwegian police said, adding that the Russian vessel has not been fully cleared of suspicion but that the suspicion has grown "much weaker."
Posted 10 March 2009; 9:31:17 PM. Permalink
(Arnews via BarentsObserver, 23 February 2009) -- New acting governor of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Igor Fyodorov, underlines that the Northwest Russian region will remain an independent Russian federal subject. Mr. Fyodorov, until now serving as deputy governor in the Arkhangelsk administration of Ilya Mikhalchuk, in a meeting with the Nenets AO legislative assembly last week highlighted that he will not seek to merge the region with Arkhangelsk Oblast. Igor Fyodorov was appointed acting governor of the region after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week dismissed Valery Potapenko who had served as governor in the region since 2006. Meanwhile, Arkhangelsk Governor Ilya Mikhalchuk has openly admitted that he wants a merger with the oil-rich Nenets AO, Arnews.ru reports. Although closely intertwined economically and administratively with Arkhangelsk Oblast, the Nenets AO has still managaged to keep its status as federal subject.
Posted 24 February 2009; 1:15:58 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 6 February 2009) -- Representatives of research, reindeer herding, local authorities and the oil industry have signed a “declaration of coexistence” in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The declaration on relations between reindeer nomads and the oil and gas industry was arranged for within the four-year research project ENSINOR, an initiative by the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, with Nenets reindeer herders. An international workshop in December 2007 had brought together the above mentioned stakeholder groups, which contributed to the declaration. We acknowledge that fruitful coexistence of indigenous livelihoods and oil and gas extraction is the expressed goal among all three interested sides in reindeer herding, industry and the state administration, the declaration reads. This declaration is one of several products of the research project ENSINOR (Environmental and Social Impacts of Industrialization in Northern Russia), which lasted 48 months and ran from January 2004 through December 2007.
Posted 9 February 2009; 11:37:14 AM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 21 January 2009) -- One of the most prestigious multilateral projects for indigenous peoples in the Barents Region, the Kola Sami Radio, may be forced to close. The establishment of the Kola Sami Radio is probably the project for indigenous peoples within the Barents Region which has got most funding this decade from international organizations and governments. The Norwegian Sami Parliament, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the European Union's Interreg are among the most prominent granters which have supported the Kola Sami Radio with millions of roubles during the last decade. Soon Kola Sami Radio may be forced to close its important radio-programs in Kildin Sami language. The grants provided were only for the start-up costs—not for the daily operations. From the studio in Lovozero, or Lojávri which is the native Sámi name, news from the Sami settlements on the Kola Peninsula are broadcasted both locally and to the Sami radios in Norway, Finland and Sweden. The radio studio is situated in the Sámi Cultural centre, the "Chum," named after its shape like a big Sámi tent. Kola Sami Radio is independent from both political parties and governmental agencies. No strong businesses controls what are broadcast. But the independence does not produce cash for the radio and its staff of journalists awaiting their salaries. Today Kola Sami Radio has accumulated debts of 256.00 roubles (Euro 7.000), reports NRK Sami radio in Norway. "If we are not able to find needed income soon to cover our debts soon, we may be forced to close our doors," says Aleksandr Paul in an interview with NRK Sami radio. He thinks it will be difficult to re-start the radio again if the doors are closed. ... The Sámi population in Russia is estimated to be some 2.000, many of them living in Lovozero.
Posted 22 January 2009; 12:38:48 AM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 2 January 2009) -- A new Russian national security strategy will be adopted in February, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolay Patrushev confirms. The new strategy, which will cover the period until 2020, includes a high level of focus on the energy potentials of the Arctic. Speaking in a recent meeting with the Russian Academy of Sciences Presidium, Mr. Patrushev said that the new strategy is planned adopted in February this year, Interfax reports. According to newspaper Kommersant, which has obtained a copy of the document, the new strategy presents the USA as Russiaâ€™s continued main competitor in global affairs. It also concludes that Russia has overcome the political, social and economic crisis of the 1990s and that it thus has "restored the possibility to protect its national interests" and that is now "a key player in a world of multi-polar international relations". The document underlines that Russia will protect its national interests with "a pragmatic foreign policy, [and] without engaging in expensive confrontation, including a new arms race". Despite the stress on averting armed confrontation, the strategy does however not exclude that the use of armed force is applied in the international fight for hydrocarbon resources, and that this could disrupt the power balance in areas near the Russian border. According to Kommersant, the new security strategy reads that the main attention of international politics in the period will be on the countriesâ€™ access to energy resources, and first of all in the Middle East, on the shelf of the Barents Sea and other parts of the Arctic, the Caspian Sea and in Central Asia. [Read the Russian Foreign Policy Concept of 2008 here.]
Posted 5 January 2009; 1:26:17 AM. Permalink
(B-port.com via BarentsObserver, 29 December 2008) -- The population in the city of Murmansk in 2008 dropped to 313,000 people, local authorities confirm. The drop from 316,100 (2007) to 313,300 in 2008 comes after a year with lower birthrates and high death rates, B-port.com reports. In addition to the negative natural population growth comes a net out-migration of 2100 people, local authorities told the news site. The biggest city north of the Arctic circle in the late 1980s had a population of more than 450,000, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union experienced major out-migration to regions further south in the country.
Posted 29 December 2008; 3:19:33 PM. Permalink
(Igor Kudrik/Bellona, 14 November 2008) -- Bellona yesterday presented a new report on the projected use of nuclear energy in exploration of Russian oil and gas industry in the Arctic, a topic that has been heating the environmental community since Russian gas giant Gazprom began to drop hints about using nuclear energy to power its vast development scheme for the Shtokman oil and gas condensate field under the Barents Sea, and the nuclear industry offered up nuclear submarines and icebreakers for transport and drilling purposes. The report titled "From Polar to Nuclear? ‘Nuclearification’ of the Russian offshore oil and gas industry" was presented at the hearing in the European Parliament hosted by Rebecca Harms, Member of European Parliament (MEP) Greens/EFA, Sirpa Pietikainen, MEP, EPP-ED, and Henrik Lax, ALDE. Russian research centres are working on designs to apply nuclear energy in developing oil and gas fields in the Russian Arctic. The drafts obtained by Bellona and presented in the new report written by energy security expert Vladislav Larin suggest usage of nuclear energy both to drill and transport oil and gas from the shelf fields located in the Barents and the Kara Seas. [Report here: From Polar to Nuclear - Bellona report (pdf, 3.10 MB)
Posted 14 November 2008; 4:45:41 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 15 September 2008) -- All the leaders of Russia's power ministries last Friday met at the far northern Franz Josef Land for an unprecedented meeting in the National Security Council. "The Arctic must become Russia's main strategic resource base," council secretary Nikolay Patrushev said after the meeting. There is a growing interest in the Arctic from a number of countries, and the competition between Arctic countries and trans-national corporations over access to Arctic energy resources is on the increase, the meeting participants said, a press release from the Security Council reads. The Security Council members also highlighted the increasingly important role of the Russian Arctic zone. "With the time, this must become our most important strategic resource base," Mr. Patrushev underlined. The Franz Josef meeting was unprecedented—never before has the whole national power elite assembled this far north. The meeting included Director of the FSB Aleksandr Bortnikov, Defence Minister Anatolii Serdyukov, Minister of Interior Rashid Nurgaliev, Head of the Presidential Administration Sergey Naryshkin, Minister of Regional Development Dmitrii Kozak, Minister of Transport Igor Levitin, Speaker in the Federation Council Sergey Mironov and Speaker in the State Duma Boris Gryzlov, a press release from the Security Council reads. The Franz Josef Land is a Russian archipelago located at latitudes between 80.0° and 81.9° north. The archipelago consists of 191 ice-covered islands with an area of 16,134 km2 and is largely uninhabited. The archipelago is only 900 to 1110 km from the North Pole, closer than all land masses except for Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland.
Posted 15 September 2008; 3:20:06 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 4 September 2008) -- MURMANSK - Tu-142MK aircraft from Russia's Northern Fleet conducted on September 2-3 reconnaissance flights over the Barents and Laptev seas and successfully tested new electronic on-board equipment, the fleet's press service said Thursday. Tu-142 Bear-F is the maritime reconnaissance/strike version of the Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber, designed mainly for anti-submarine warfare. "The tests of new on-board electronic equipment and weapons-control systems showed their high effectiveness," the press service said in a statement. The flights have been conducted strictly in accordance with international agreements and the norms of international law, the statement said. Russia has recently stepped up regular patrols over the Arctic and said it may soon shift the focus of its military strategy toward the northern latitudes in order to protect its national interests in the Arctic, especially on its continental shelf, which may contain large deposits of oil and natural gas.
Posted 4 September 2008; 4:45:33 PM. Permalink
(Business Class via BarentsObserver, 1 September 2008) -- Healthcare personnel in the remote Nenets Autonomous Okrug have over the last eight months seen a 59 percent increase in their salaries. A medical doctor in the region now makes an average of 65,000 RUB (1800 EUR). The oil-rich region located along the coast of the Pechora Sea has become among the most expensive areas in Russia. State officials' salaries are already the highest in the country. Now, healthcare personnel are following. The 59 medical doctors in the region now make an average of 65,000 RUB, while the 140 nurses get 55,000 RUB, which is a salary increase of as much as 59 percent only since the beginning of the year. The higher salaries have stopped the last years' negative labour turnover in the region, newspaper Biznes Klass reports with reference to Itar-Tass. About 42,000 people live in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug.
Posted 1 September 2008; 8:09:14 PM. Permalink
(Anna Kireeva, Charles Digges/Bellona Foundation, 31 August 2008) -- MURMANSK - Officials with a joint Russia-Norwegian effort to rid the Kola Peninsula of radioactively dangerous and largely orphaned radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) said they have cleared all such units posing a threat to the environment and people as of last week and sent them for long term storage at the Mayak Chemical Combine. "This is an important event," said Bellona nuclear physicist and daily manager Nils Bøhmer from Oslo. "Bellona has been insisting on the removal of RTGs from the Kola peninsula since 1992." RTGs – the brainchild of the Soviet nuclear energy machine – are essentially nuclear powered batteries that convert thermal energy from the decay of strontium elements into electricity. Hundreds were positioned in Russia along coasts lines and remote areas to power lighthouses, navigation beacons, and meteorological data collection installations, but that was decades ago. In the upheaval following the fall of the Soviet Union, the bulk of these devices were abandoned as maintenance schedules were skipped and documentation on them lost. As a result, they have lain—several years beyond their decommissioning dates—like radioactive landmines strewn across Russia's distant regions. The past several years have seen incidents of RTGs being vandalised for the metal that encases them, wherein metal scavengers in the Murmansk area leave the strontium cores exposed. In other instances reported earlier this decade in the former republic of Georgia, hunters and shepherds in the mountainous region were turning up with radiation sickness after warming themselves next to RTGs. The joint Russian-Norwegian project on the Kola Peninsula has operated under the aegis of a radioactive-ecological agreement between the Murmansk regional government and the northeastern Finnmark province of Norway. As of 2007, Norway alone had poured NOK 54 million ($10 million) into the project of locating and removing the devices via the Kandalash port.
Posted 1 September 2008; 7:54:16 PM. Permalink
(Murman.ru via BarentsObserver, 20 August 2008) -- Over the next few years, Russia will invest 41 billion RUB in the development of the Murmansk port and turn it into the country’s new Arctic hub. In a recent meeting on the development of the Murmansk Transport Hub, regional industrial representatives said 41.4 billion RUB would be invested in the port by year 2020. Of that sum, 2.8 billion RUB will be invested before 2010, Murman.ru reports. The port will become a northern Russian hub for container shipping, oil reloading and coal and fertilizers terminals. Meanwhile, the Russian Railways will spend 8 billion RUB by 2010 on the upgrade of railways leading to Murmansk. This will help increase goods turnover of the Murmansk Port from today’s 16,5 million tons (2007) to 62,4 million tons by 2010, the representatives of the Murmansk Transport Hub, the management company responsible for regional infrastructure development, say. President of the International Transport Academy Aleksandr Kondratev says to Murman.ru that the Murmansk Transport Hub will have major importance for the good transport network in Russia. The Murmansk Transport Hub was established early 2008. It is headed by Transport Minister Igor Levitin. Stakeholders in the management company are the Murmansk Trade Port, the Russian Railways, Rosneft, Rosmorport and the Murmansk regional administration.
Posted 22 August 2008; 2:55:51 PM. Permalink
(Itar-Tass, 16 July 2008) -—Two long-range bombers Tu-22 of the Russian Air Force have test-fired missiles on targets based in the Barents Sea, head of the information and public relations service of the Russian AF Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Drik told Itar-Tass on Wednesday. According to him, "Two Tu-22 planes of the Long-Range Aviation performed a four-hour flight over the Barents Sea area where carried out tactical missile launches on sea-based targets." In the words of the AF official, simultaneously "two Su-27 and four MiG-31 fighters practiced escorting and protection of the Long-Range Aviation planes, they also test-fired missiles." The Tu-22M3 long-range bomber and missile carrier (Backfire under NATO classification) with variable-geometry wing has the flight range of up to 7,000 kilometres and is capable of carrying three X-22 cruise missiles of the "air-to-surface" class for hitting sea—or land-based targets. The maximum bomb load of the plane is 24 tonnes, maximum speed is 2,300 k/h.
Posted 16 July 2008; 1:36:49 PM. Permalink
(Rosbaltnord via BarentsObserver, 9 July 2008) -- Speaker in the Russian Federation Council, Mr. Sergey Mironov, says global warming poses a major threat to infrastructure and societies in the Russian far north. He now proposes the establishment of international institutions on Arctic risk management and catastrophe prevention. Commenting on this week's G8 session, which had the climate issue high on its agenda, Mr. Mironov said that international humanitarian projects of today are focusing mostly on catastrophe management and little on prevention. The parliament speaker also called for the establishment of a global fund prevention and handling of climate change risks. He believes the 16 leading industrialized countries of the world easily could provide 30-40 billion USD to the fund. At the same time, Mr. Mironov underlined that international institutes on climate monitoring must not act in the interests of a country or a group of countries, and should not be used to put pressure on national governments.
Posted 11 July 2008; 12:00:02 AM. Permalink
(Bellona, 7 July 2008) -- A fund managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) has agreed to grant aid in the amount of €70 million to four projects cleaning up nuclear contamination in Northwest Russia. As manager of the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) Support Fund, the EBRD signed the funding agreements with Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear energy corporation, Nuclear Engineering International reported. The largest contract is worth €43 million and covers dismantling a former service ship's damaged spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. The five-year project will involve dismantling Lepse at its Murmansk moorings after retrieving spent fuel and safely managing its radioactive waste. Another €20 million project involves creating local temporary services over three years for transporting, then storing, spent nuclear fuel from Andreyeva Bay, just 50 kilometers from the Norwegian border. There, 22,000 spent nuclear fuel assemblies from nuclear-powered submarines and icebreakers "are kept in unsafe condition," according to the EBRD. The project aims to create safe buffer storage, while a long-term "overall remediation plan to retrieve and ship the fuel for treatment or long-term storage" is developed, said a bank memorandum. A third project, of €5.6 million, involves the defuelling by Rosatom of 1960s-built Papa class nuclear submarines over two-and-a-half-years, with spent fuel being unloaded and stored safely. This will "improve the environmental situation and reduce risks of nuclear and radiological accidents," said the EBRD. And a fourth €5.1 million grant will help improve radiation monitoring and emergency response systems in the Arctic Arkhangelsk Region, which also has sites of substantial nuclear materials and devices. The money will over two-and-a-half years go toward installing modern monitoring and communications systems and develop emergency plans covering all nuclear hazards in the region. The Administration of the Arkhangelsk Region and the Nuclear Safety Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences will manage this project.
Posted 9 July 2008; 1:54:51 PM. Permalink
(Regnum via BarentsObserver, 24 June 2008) -- The population of Murmansk Oblast has dropped below 850,000, figures from regional statistics services show. Birth rates have decreased and out-migration is gradually dropping. Despite that, the population in Murmansk Oblast continues to shrink. In the course of the first four months of the year, the population dropped about 2300 individuals to 848,700.
Posted 24 June 2008; 9:02:48 PM. Permalink
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation press release 888-19-06-2008, 19 June 2008) -- A meeting of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council Committee of Senior Officials (BEAC CSO) was held on June 16-18 in Naryan-Mar under the Russian Chairmanship. The BEAC consists of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the European Commission. The discussion of current affairs bore out the high dynamics of practical Barents cooperation. Since the last meeting of the Committee content-saturated sessions of the BEAC working groups on economic cooperation, transport and ecology have taken place. Timed for June's session of the joint working group on culture was the meeting in Arkhangelsk of the culture ministers of the BEAC member states. Work has been completed on the text of an agreement on cooperation among the states' rescue services, which may be signed this year. A number of specific cooperation projects in the interests of the indigenous peoples of the Barents Region have been discussed. The Committee approved the decision of the Working Group on Economic Cooperation to extend the mandate of the Forest Sector Task Force for the year 2008. The BEAC Working Group on Trade Barriers was renamed the Working Group on Customs Cooperation. It is planned to hold a meeting of heads of customs bodies of the BEAC member states in autumn this year. There was stated the high level of interaction between the BEAC and the Barents Regional Council, made up of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Northwest of Russia. The next meeting of the BEAC CSO is scheduled to be held in September on the Solovetskiye Islands, Arkhangelsk Region.
Posted 21 June 2008; 3:58:51 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 20 June 2008) -- MOSCOW - Four Russian strategic bombers are carrying out a routine patrol over remote areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, a Russian Air Force spokesman said on Friday. "Two Tu-95MS Bear and two Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers based at Engels airfield in southern Russia's Saratov Region are conducting on Friday a routine patrol flight over the Arctic and Atlantic oceans," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said. Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans last August, following an order signed by former President Vladimir Putin. Russian bombers have since carried out over 80 strategic patrol flights and have often been escorted by NATO planes. Drik reiterated that all Russian strategic patrols are performed in strict accordance with international rules on the use of airspace over neutral waters without violating the borders of other states. Air Force commander, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said in April that Russia would drastically increase the number of strategic patrol flights over the world's oceans to 20-30 a month in the near future.
Posted 20 June 2008; 4:22:51 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 20 June 2008) -- Murmansk Oblast is one of the Russian regions most engaged in international cooperation. This week, the region’s legislative assembly made an important step towards enhanced political cooperation with neighbouring Norway. Murmansk Governor Yuri Yevdokimov is already a heavyweighter in international cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region. When he visited Oslo in April this year, he met with both the Norwegian king, four government ministers and a number of prominent business representatives. Now, the Murmansk regional parliament is stepping up its international cooperation efforts. This week, the legislative assembly co-organised a seminar for regional politicians in Murmansk Oblast and northern Norway. The seminar comes as part of a process with a generally bigger engagement of the regional duma in international affairs. In the seminar organised together with the Norwegian Barents Secretariat in Kirkenes, petroleum developments, environment, indigenous peoples and facilitated cross-border travel was on the agenda. The seminar clearly illustrated the need for a close cooperation between the legislative bodies in the region. Both the Russian and Norwegian parts of the region are likely to experience an increasing need for shared information and political rapprochement following the quick industrialization and internationalization of the Barents Sea. With this week’s seminar, the legislative assemblies in Murmansk and northern Norway also made clear that the popularly elected level of power must be part of the regional international cooperation. On both sides of the border, the legislative assemblies are the highest popularly elected bodies. Murmansk Oblast, located next to Norway and Finland, has over the last 20 years been firmly engaged in international cooperation with it western neighbour through the Barents Cooperation. Read more about the Barents Euro-Arctic Region at the website of the Barents Council.
Posted 20 June 2008; 4:18:44 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti via BarentsObserver, 20 June 2008) -- First deputy Minister of Emergency Situations, Mr. Ruslan Tsalikov, says global warming could bring “catastrophic destruction” in the northern parts of country by 2030. According to RIA Novosti, the melting of the permafrost could pose a major threat against northern airports, as well as underground reservoirs of oil and gas. Only a one-two degree warming will reduce the firmness of the permafrost with as much as 50 percent, the deputy minister says. He adds that already today, the thickness of the permafrost is reduced by about four centimetres per year and that the permafrost zone over the next 20 years is expected to move 80 km north. Mr. Tsalikov also says the climate change will increase the chances of flooding and that major amounts of metan might be released from the ground. The high-ranking official underlines to RIA Novosti that the primary job for the authorities will now be to help secure living conditions for the people living in the affected area. In the near future, two research expeditions will head towards Novaya Zemlya, Novosibir islands and several other sites along the coast of the Arctic ocean to study the situation.
Posted 20 June 2008; 3:14:09 PM. Permalink