Jennifer Spence, Heather Exner-Pirot & Andrey Petrov


The idea for this special issue of the Arctic Yearbook started with the beginning of the COVID- 19 pandemic. As we all tried to come to terms with the magnitude of this event, we realized that the pandemic was global, but the experiences and impacts in the Arctic would be distinct.

Early on, we recognized that understanding the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Arctic would require a broad lens. We needed to consider the health impacts of the pandemic, but we also wanted to understand the social, cultural, and economic implications. We wanted to assess the impacts of the virus, but we also needed to examine the impacts of the various risk management measures put in place in response to its spread.

We knew that the COVID-19 pandemic needed to be understood in context – in relationship to past (and future) pandemics, colonial injustices, existing infrastructure deficits, current and future impacts of climate change, and other distinct features of the region. We knew that communities in the Arctic would face unique challenges, but this would also be an opportunity to observe and learn from their resilience in the face of extensive and rapid change.

We were humbled to be able to draw together a strong editorial board from across the Arctic region to guide the creation of this special issue and mobilize their networks to encourage a variety of relevant, high-quality contributions. We are also particularly thankful to the Arctic Yearbook for their willingness and commitment to support this effort. It is through their innovative and flexible approach that we were able to invite a diversity of contributions (including academic peer reviewed articles, case studies, commentaries, and any other form of contribution people chose to submit) and make this collection accessible as an open-source volume. We wanted to reach and inspire dialogue between experts and knowledge holders, and we knew we could only be so successful with this project because many people believed that it was important.

The result is a collection of 15 peer reviewed articles and 10 shorter contributions that cover an impressive range of issues and experiences. We are particularly proud that this volume places an emphasis on Indigenous and community-based experiences and issues with pandemics. Our editorial board agreed that this was a critical aspect of the project and we are pleased that the final product respects this vision.

The contributions are organized into three sections: 1) state of knowledge, 2) Arctic responses from Alaska to Finland, and 3) Arctic impacts and innovations. It was not easy to separate these diverse contributions into distinct categories. In many cases, the placement of an article in one section over another is somewhat arbitrary. Many of the articles take a holistic approach in the scope of their research, analysis, and findings, which is perhaps another common (and valuable) feature of Arctic-related research. It was not our intention to force our authors into silos and we encourage community leaders, policymakers, researchers and other readers to review and take note of the important connections between the sections.

At the heart of all the articles in this volume is a desire to share the experiences and circumstances of Arctic communities with COVID-19 and other pandemics. This collection is grounded in a desire to expose what pandemics generally and COVID-19 specifically tell us about the unique strengths and vulnerabilities of Arctic communities. This special journal issue is an effort to remember and learn from Arctic experiences with COVID-19 and other pandemics in order to inform our responses to future pandemics and other regional and global shocks that we can expect to face in the future.

As COVID-19 increasingly is seen as a thing of the past that people prefer to move on from, it is critical that knowledge holders, researchers, and policymakers continue to dedicate time, effort and resources to learning from these experiences and ensuring that it informs our future actions. We hope that this volume is a useful contribution to this effort.

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