Lassi Heininen, Heather Exner-Pirot & Justin Barnes
This year’s theme, “The Russian Arctic: Economics, Politics & Peoples” was chosen, at the turn of 2021-2022 and prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, due to the high relevance of the Russian Arctic in every aspect of Arctic politics. The region comprises over half of the Arctic’s land surface area, mostly covered by permafrost, and almost half of the coastline and the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Arctic Ocean. Its population consists of almost 70% of the total number of Arctic inhabitants. The volume of its economy with multiple fields of exploitation is 73% of that of the Arctic. Despite being largely covered by permafrost, the Russian part of the Arctic contains large cities and numerous towns and villages, as well as road networks and even railways.
These populated centers, many of them ‘mono-towns’, are surrounded by advanced infrastructure – both old and new – and consist of mines, smelters and other factories, harbors, airports and other transportation means, research stations, as well as navel and other military bases. Since the time of tzardom, Russian scientists and scholars have explored the Arctic and conducted field work studying geography, Arctic ecosystems, climate, cryospheric sciences, glaciers, the Arctic Ocean, and sea-ice. The Russian Arctic is also home to diverse groups of Indigenous peoples with their unique languages, cultures and livelihoods. Research done by and with Russian scientists, scholars and academic institutions is an invaluable part of international Arctic research.
The Russian Arctic is therefore an incredibly important part of the entire Arctic region to understand, not only because the Russian Federation is the biggest and largest of the eight Arctic states. And yet, the region is often either not known, and/or misunderstood to external audiences and stakeholders, with superficial characterizations proliferating due to a lack of up-to-date information. There is thus a need for sophisticated English-language scholarship on the Russian Arctic, especially from Russian authors themselves. That is the intent of the Arctic Yearbook 2022.
Is this endeavor more or less urgent after February 24, 2022, when Russia initiated a war against Ukraine? Unlike after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the response of the seven other Arctic states to pause all Arctic cooperation with the Russian Federation, though it holds the Arctic Council Chairmanship (2021-2023), is one of the most significant events in Arctic politics since the founding of the Council in 1996. The implications of the war in Ukraine, to world geopolitics and Arctic geopolitics, will be felt for years to come. And as security dynamics between Russia and the West harden, and less proper information across borders is available, better understanding the Russian Arctic has already begun to take on new levels of importance.
Impacts of the war
The conflict in Ukraine is changing European security dramatically. Bringing a (hot) war into Europe has been a game-changer in European and Arctic geopolitics. The consensus not only in the West, but amongst the states of the United Nations, is that the war violates international law, the integrity of a sovereign state. Others perceive, however, a state of constant imbalance and warfare in world politics, as well as the madness of cruel wars without justification, and with longlasting impacts and legacy, due to a few basic reasons. Among them the existing structures of world politics based on great power rivalry and new East-West grievances, which neither prioritize solidarity nor support the thinking that cooperation and trade strengthening interdependence decrease tension and increase stability. Further, that the unified-state system, occupied by a cluster of crises - from the crisis of democracy to the climate crisis - and its main actors are politically unable to resolve the great social equality and global environmental challenges of the global age (Hurrell 1995; Nayeri 2022). Finally, a new phase of fighting over resources, markets and power between different (western, eastern, state) capitalistic systems and blocs with competitive and conflicting interests. All this leads to armed conflicts and wars, and growing risks of irreversible or other collapses of our industrial civilization and modern societies due to multiplied crises, which could be interpreted as substitute actions, when the hard decisions on climate change mitigation and protection of biodiversity are neither being made nor implemented.
The pause of the Arctic Council transferred cooperation among the A8+ to another format overnight. Other inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations – such as the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) – have also followed this procedure, as have many universities and research institutes. On the other hand, however, a few non-governmental organizations and forums – such as the University of the Arctic (UArctic), the Calotte Academy, the Thematic Network (TN) on Geopolitics and Security (the publisher of Arctic Yearbook), High North Talks by Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP), and University of Southern California (USC) & NSF Arctic Conference – continue scientific and academic cooperation and discussion with Russians across borders on an individual level. Interestingly, there are a few international forums which have neither condemned Russia for the war nor (de facto) accepted Russian participants. This has been, and is becoming increasingly, a sensitive issue among experts of the seven Arctic states, especially after Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO-membership applications, positioning this group as a united NATO-Arctic.
These ‘pauses’ placed on the various venues for Arctic cooperation, though understandable, have already caused damage. Even if person-to-person scientific and development work is broadly accepted, a lively cross-border cooperation, including multiple activities between Indigenous peoples and other local communities, local and regional authorities, and students and researchers from the eight Arctic states and several non-Arctic countries, have been, if not totally, abandoned by the restrictions of the governments of the seven Arctic states and the sanctions by the European Union and EU member-states, the USA and other NATO member-states. Those non-governmental organizations/forums and their members are having real difficulties in logistics and communication, including many obstacles for finding ways and funds to continue in-person cooperation between individuals. Behind this are not only many restrictions, sanctions and the closing of borders to Russians, but there is also a level of intolerance by state (agency) authorities for many kinds of social scientific discussions and personal opinions that were commonplace before. It feels like a very long time since the Arctic states agreed to reaffirm their “commitment to maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation in the Arctic”, though it was only 1.5 years ago at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in May 2021 in Reykjavik (see Reykjavik Declaration, 2021).
Cooperation and trade, in particular functional cooperation in fields of low politics, has been argued by several IR theories to decrease (military) tension and increase (political) stability and security between states/nations. Though this is not determined, the post-Cold War Arctic is an example of this possibility, as was discussed in the introduction of our 2019 volume.
Surprisingly, there has been, so far, less fundamental changes in Arctic security, although the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO may alter this balance. Nuclear weapons systems of both the USA and the Russian Federation are deployed in the region, but they have been since the early stage of the Cold War period. The global nuclear deterrence system guaranteed the capability to conduct a revenge strike between the two major nuclear weapon powers (e.g. Heininen, 2018). It has been known and discussed, at least since the 1980s, that an armed conflict/war in any other part of the globe that involves the USA and/or the Soviet Union/Russian Federation could have spill-over effects in the Arctic. The meaningful change concerning Arctic (military) security is that the important issues of arms control and nuclear disarmament are lower on the agenda of the USRussian relations, as the new START is the only arms control treaty in force (until 2026); interestingly, Russia informed the USA about its nuclear drills in October 2022 under the treaty (The Economist, Oct. 29, 2022). There are no new initiatives, or real discussions about denuclearization and nuclear-weapon-free-zones in the Arctic for the foreseeable future, unlike the initiatives launched by the then President of Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev (who passed away in September 2022) in his Murmansk Speech in 1987 (e.g. Exner-Pirot, 2020).
Long-range air and water pollution and grand environmental challenges, such as the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, are continuing to heavily impact the terrestrial and marine ecosystems, as well as peoples and societies of the Arctic. The most important cause of changes in Arctic security since the end of the Cold War period, has been long-range (air and water) pollution, in particular ‘nuclear safety’ in the 1990s and early-21st century, and later climate change (e.g. Heininen & Exner- Pirot, 2020). Arctic states, particularly the five coastal states due to the importance of the Arctic Ocean and its sub-seas, have benefitted from trans-boundary cooperation on environmental protection, including through the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) for nuclear safety between Norway, Russia, and the USA. The environmental and climate situation is becoming worse, and we already face multiple ecological catastrophes and climate-related crises which impact people’s everyday security, as we have seen this summer with various fires, storms, floods and droughts. These issues also threaten the national security of Arctic states, and their origin is not the war in Ukraine.
Regular cross-border cooperation of environmental monitoring and impact assessments, field operations, data sharing and exploration between Russian and Western scientists, scholars and research institutions have helped us understand and mitigate some of these processes. Now it is on hold, which acts as barrier to efficient international action against climate change, which is much required at the COP 27 Summit.
All in all, it is too early to say what the impacts of the paused Arctic cooperation will be in the long run. It depends on how the major Arctic stakeholders – states, Indigenous peoples, regional governments, the scientific community, and civil societies – will interpret the situation and act; as well as to the extent that relations with Russia improve or worsen in the coming months. Many questions remain about whether the eight Arctic states will still have interest in continuing the beneficial multilateral Arctic cooperation, including the possibility for more strict environmental regulations. If state-to-state relations seem unlikely in the near term, to what extent will scientists, civil society, Indigenous organizations and individuals want to, and be able to, continue cooperation? This is particularly relevant to Arctic Indigenous peoples and their representatives, who live in the region - their homeland - now and in the future. Correspondingly, this is dependent on how each stakeholder and individual defines the value and necessity of Arctic cooperation.
How to maintain / continue cooperation
Questions about “future Arctic cooperation” and how to maintain peace and stability in the Arctic have been asked and discussed since February 2022 by many individuals and institutions (e.g. Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), UArctic and its thematic networks, IASC and its working groups, Calotte Academy). Behind these discussions, on the one hand, is awareness of the high value of constructive international cooperation in the Arctic for bringing a high level of geopolitical stability that has been mutually beneficial. The first preamble of the Arctic Council Ministerial meetings’ declarations – “to maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation in the Arctic” – has been indicating and manifesting the main aim of the eight Arctic states to keep low tension in the high latitudes for years. This was reaffirmed in the first line of the US National Strategy for the Arctic Region released in October 2022 in which it identifies its vision for an Arctic that is “peaceful, stable, prosperous, and cooperative” (The White House, 2022).
The TN on Geopolitics and Security - with expertise on IR / Political sciences, Geopolitics, Security studies, Strategic studies, Political geography, Environmental politics, Human & Environmental security - had in spring 2022 a brainstorming session on how to maintain peace & stability, and continue constructive cooperation across borders in the Arctic region, even in the face of needing to confront an aggressive and hostile Russia in Ukraine. It aimed to find answers, ideas & proposals for solutions to the challenging situation, in particular how to continue the existing functional cooperation on science and higher education at an individual level, and to avoid a fragmentation / split of academic networks and project teams. Finally, how to be ready to restart the pan-Arctic cooperation and revitalize connections after the war is over, and when the seven Arctic states feel able to re-engage with Russia in functional, scientific matters. If successful, the material was agreed to be used in constructive and respective ways (e.g. in Role Play Game at the 2022 Academy, at the TN sessions at the Arctic Circle Assembly, and for the 2022 Arctic Yearbook).
This modest action did not produce a miracle, as none expected, but was successful enough by bringing fresh material (questions, comments, ideas, hopes) which are useful as food for further thoughts. Among short contributions, there were good questions, critical assessments and fresh thoughts on Arctic cooperation and its structures and bodies, fruitful comments based on theory or practice, as well as learned lessons from history for best practices and examples for future cooperation (see Heininen's commentary in this volume). Furthermore, that an open discussion, an implemented method in too few other academic gatherings, is a simple and useful way to share information, correct misunderstandings, and create new knowledge and approaches when conducted with mutual respect and tolerance toward others’ arguments and perspectives. These dialogues should not be like a battle field.
To summarize, the most relevant learned lessons are: First, an open-minded and inclusive discussion with interplay between science, politics and business is not only needed but the most fruitful when trying to find solutions. Dehumanizing an “other”, or drawing an enemy-picture, is not constructive, and there are diverse viewpoints on the current war, as well as other recent wars. Here the role of academic events, such as the Calotte Academy, has been fruitful and meaningful to increase tolerance and implement that interplay. Second, the success of Arctic cooperation is human-made, based on the idea and implementation of functional cooperation, which due to its flexibility has been a practical means for cooperation in the past without a need to build blocs. The added value is its usefulness and ability, if the partners wish, to increase mutual confidence. Third, as Arctic states lean on science due to climate change, we academics should make clear that keeping the Arctic as “a region of geopolitical stability… is a precondition for sustaining Arctic research” (Toyama Conference Statement 2015), and that ‘focus on science’ includes freedom of science and that of expression, as well as mutually beneficial collaboration across national, sectorial and discipline boundaries. Fourth, looking at the multiple crises we face in regards to global environmental degradation and wars, protecting peace and the environment could provide common ground and be a priority for international politics while continuing functional cooperation across borders in the fields of low politics. Among these fields are maritime safety, including search and rescue, oil spill response, and fisheries management, as the USA and Russia in the Bering Strait area and Norway and Russia in the Barents Sea have continued cooperation since February 2022. This could be extended to the fields of nuclear safety, environmental protection, and science. Due to the high value of these areas, there could be space for differentiation and to separate scientific and practical cooperation from conflicting geopolitical interests and great power rivalry.
About Arctic Yearbook 2022
The original aim of the 2022 Arctic Yearbook, before the war started, was to explore, analyze, critique, and deepen our collective understanding of the Russian Arctic and its economy, politics and societies. As Russia was chairing the Arctic Council; as a coming oil, gas, and minerals boom was strengthening the Russian Arctic’s global influence; as pollution and climate change were reshaping the Arctic environment; and as Russian polities and peoples were demanding more attention and control, we saw it as critically important to collect open access, high quality, and informed studies on the Russian Arctic.
Although the Russian Arctic has not been (so) closed, as it was in the Soviet Era, the region is still not that well known by citizens of other Arctic countries and regions, partly due to the fact that it is a huge area and it is not easy to reach. Also, there is mis/dis-information, fault perceptions, stereotypes, prejudices, as well as a lack of real information and knowledge. In particular, as Russia is a co-founder and an active member of the Arctic Council and its Working Groups, as well as a few other international institutions, such as IASC, International Arctic Social Scientists Association (IASSA), BEAC, and UArctic Russian scholars, scientists and students have been contributing to the Arctic Yearbook and using its articles from the very beginning. At the time of writing, Professor Alexander Pelyasov acts as the chair of the editorial board of the Arctic Yearbook. These were the motivations for Arctic Yearbook: to respond to the need for more nuanced and sophisticated English-language scholarship on the Russian Arctic, especially from Russian authors themselves.
The 2022 volume includes 18 high quality scholarly articles and nine commentaries & briefing notes on the Russian Arctic, and cover several fields and areas from different angles. All this is more important after February 2022 due to the war, and as the seven Arctic states paused their cooperation with Russia. Understandably, these two matters are influencing both the numbers and contents of the manuscripts and articles of the 2022 edition and its entire content, as well as the editorial work, though neither caused too much harm nor stopped the process.
We believe our goal has been achieved, as this edition is even more relevant today than it was when we decided on the theme before the war. We publish the contributions of both Russian authors and non-Russian authors with deep expertise and connections to the region. We have not sought to agree with every submission, but rather to respect them. All in all, the focus is not on the Russian invasion of Ukraine (although some authors point out that they deeply criticize this). Rather it is to do with what was our original intent: to better understand the peoples, economy and politics of the region. After reading through all of the articles and commentaries, we certainly have developed a better understanding. We hope our readers do, too.
Outline of AY2022
The Arctic Yearbook 2022 is organized into four overarching themes that cover a wide variety of interrelated topics and themes. These are: (1) People, Art, and Culture; (2) Climate, Society and Development; (3) Chinese -- Russian Cooperation; and (4) Russia and the World.
People, Art, and Culture
The articles in section one, People, Art, and Culture, discuss the ways in which life has been experienced by the diverse peoples and communities of the Russian Arctic. The authors approach this topic through different lenses, and in doing so provide valuable insights into historical and contemporary challenges being faced by local Indigenous peoples, researchers, artists, and other stakeholders contributing to life in the Russian side of the Arctic. Mining and extractive industries have influenced life in the region significantly, an issue that Maria Pavlova and Sardana Nikolaeva highlight from the view of their own experiences working as consultants with mining companies and Indigenous communities in the Sakha Republic. While Pavlova and Nikolaeva discuss the importance of accurately representing Indigenous views in this area and processes for doing so, Ksenia Barabanova describes how the influence of Soviet mining projects in the Russian Arctic has dominated the historical memory of the North of Western Siberia, a process which replaced local Khanty and Mansi figures with the narratives of the Russian pioneer oilman. These processes have implications on social memory and identity, a topic also discussed by Maria Fedina who approaches these issues by exploring the urbanization of Indigenous livelihoods and the experiences of urban Komi living in Syktyvkar. Shifting towards social structures of power, including those which shape individual experiences and identity, Maria Huhmarniemi and Ekaterina Sharova argue there is a need to decolonise and strengthen arts and culture organizations to advance human-to-human contact. From an ecofeminist, intersectional and biopolitical perspective, Sohvi Kangasluoma explores how women are present and presented within the heavily male dominated Russian Arctic oil and gas industry. In the context of climate change and related disasters, Daria Burnasheva explores existing power relations, social inequalities, and their gendered dynamics in responding to climate-related challenges from a Sakha Indigenous paradigm. By exploring the experiences of local firefighters and water protectors, Burnasheva argues that we need to shift our perspective from 'what to fight' to 'what to protect', a nuanced but important distinction. Finally, Robert Wheelersburg shares their experiences as an American conducting fieldwork with Indigenous communities in the Russian Arctic, and the valuable lessons they learned in the process.
Climate, Society and Development
In section two, Climate, Society and Development, these authors explore the social, economic, climatic, and environmental factors shaping life in the Russian Arctic. Pryadilina, Likhacheva and Chesnokova explore the natural and climatic factors of the region that influence human health. Building off of this, Dudarev and Dozhdikov provide an in-depth analysis of the living conditions and environmental factors influencing demographic processes, well-being, and health of urban and rural settlements of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Noting the vast challenges in developing the Arctic region of Russia, Alexandra Middleton explores the policy changes and incentivization programmes initiated by the Russian government to expand the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and encourage settlement and economic development throughout this 'special economic zone'. Kara K. Hodgson and Marc Lanteigne dig deeper into one of these initiatives, specifically Moscow's "Hectare in the Arctic" programme, and explore the reasons behind it as well as the challenges that lay ahead. Further exploring the topic of economic development, Daria Mishina challenges what has become the common practice of having Arctic-focused conferences in places outside the Arctic region, arguing that these conferences bring substantial and needed economic benefits to Arctic communities and people, when they take place there. Meanwhile, Efecan Özcan, Sinan Yirmibeşoğlu & Burcu Özsoy explore the implications of economic development from the perspective of growing maritime activity in the Arctic Ocean and Russia's Northern Sea Route, and provide an overview of how regional and international lawmakers are approaching the environmental effects of ice-class ships operating in the region. Finally, Outi Meinander and colleagues provide a literature review and analysis of permafrost thaw impacts in the Nordic and Russian Arctic, highlighting the many significant and interrelated effects on human health and well-being, infrastructure, and ecosystems on local, regional, and international scales.
Chinese – Russian Cooperation
The authors in section three, Chinese - Russian Cooperation, consider the growing relationship between these two influential states, as well as possible scenarios for future cooperation. This topic has become increasingly significant in recent years, and each of the authors consider how the current international context is shaping inter-state relations in different areas. In the context of the outbreak of war in Ukraine initiated by Russia and the war's vast implications for West-Russia relations, Liisa Kauppila and Sanna Kopra construct three possible scenarios on the continuation of Arctic cooperation with Sino-Russian relations as the primary focus. Also looking to the future, Gao Tianming, Vasilii Erokhin, Zhu Dianyong and Zhu Gexun discuss the important role that Russian and Chinese collaboration in Russia's energy sector plays in broader discussions of emission reductions and the decarbonization of Russia's energy sector. The war in Ukraine has shifted conventional formats for collaboration, and Tianming et al. explores new approaches for bridging the spatial development gap in the energy sector that could address the many challenges related to a low-carbon energy transition in the Russian Arctic. Taking a broader look at Chinese- Russian cooperation, Yu Cao explores the development agenda of the Polar Silk Road, and argues that increasing tension between Russia and the West is stimulating convergence of Russian and Chinese interests and collaboration in the Arctic.
Russia and the World
In section four, Russia and the World, the authors provide a wide view of Russia's place in the world in relation to its most recent actions as well as some broader political dynamics the Arctic has experienced in 2022. By applying a scenario development analysis, Tiziana Melchiorre explores possibilities for maintaining the Arctic as a space for cooperation in energy, environment, and science/research sectors, and argues that the strong geopolitical and economic interdependence that exists between Russia and the EU still provides avenues for beneficial cooperation. Taking a step outside the Russian Arctic, Lill Rastad Bjørst provides an analysis of Greenland's envisioned contribution to the green transition despite lacking a formal climate strategy, and does so by exploring Greenland's official statements and actions in comparison to other nation-states around the world. Section four concludes with seven commentaries and briefing notes from leading experts and early-career researchers who provide their views on the current international situation as well as updates on related workshop discussions. Michael Paul provides their Western perspective from Germany on the Ukraine war, highlighting what they see as the main effects of the war and prospects for dialogue and Arctic cooperation in the future. Writing from Russia, Valery Konyshev notes that there has been a clear shift in confrontation between the West and Russia, and that while there is no obvious answer about a return to Arctic cooperation at this time, the significance of the Arctic and of historical cooperation in the region could keep cooperation going in less politized areas such as scientific research. Pavel Devyatkin explores this question as well: can cooperation be restored? Devyatkin describes Russian reactions to the pause of state-to-state cooperation in the Arctic, Russia's pursuit of non-Arctic partners, possibilities for restoring circumpolar cooperation in certain areas, and lessons learned from the Cold War that includes a reminder of the important roles of non-state actors. Hiroyuki Enomoto digs deeper into what has been impacted in terms of Arctic science since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, and presents various possibilities for continuing important scientific activity that has global implications. Nicholas Parlato and colleagues provide an in-depth report on the outcomes of the USC-NSF Arctic Security Conference in Washington DC which engaged specialists from across different areas of expertise on the topics of climatic and environmental security in the Arctic domain, as well as the implications of the current international context on Arctic security and development. Celebrating the 31st year of the Calotte Academy, Eda Ayadin and Griffith Couser report on the meaningful dialogues that took place between early-career researchers and established experts throughout the week-long event in June. Finally, to close-out the volume, P. Whitney Lackenbauer and Rasmus Leander Nielsen discuss the history of the Hans Island / Tartupaluk territorial dispute between Canada and Denmark, and the agreement signed on 14 June 2022 which brought the long-standing dispute to a close. Lackenbauer and Nielsen describe the diplomatic activities that eventually led to the agreement as well as the final outcomes of the agreement, and note that in contrast to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, they remind the world that consistent multilateralism and the rules-based international order can produce peaceful resolutions during the most challenging of times.
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