This report describes the status of Severovedenie (Arctic/Siberian social sciences) in today's Russia in the context of the worldwide growing interest in the Arctic region. It also presents a new educational program in Severovedenie launched in 2011 by the European University at St. Petersburg. The article discusses theoretical and methodological issues of contemporary approach to Arctic/Siberian studies.
New Program on Arctic/Siberian Studies
Philosophical Approaches to the Concept
This article analyzes the concept of an Arctic circumpolar civilization and focuses on contradictions inherent within the concept. Some of these antinomies are the nomadic character of the traditional Arctic civilization and the traditional academic approach that takes a sedentarist perspective; the rich worldview of the Arctic residents and its inadequate reflection in the rational paradigm of cognition; and issues surrounding sustainable development and the global crisis of humanity, which leads to instability worldwide, including in the Arctic. The article proposes method of dialectical synthesis for resolving such antinomies.
TRANSLATED BY TATIANA ARGOUNOVA-LOW
Alla Bolotova, Anastassia Karaseva and Valeria Vasilyeva
This article explores how the mobility of young people influences their sense of place in different parts of the Russian Arctic. In globalization studies increasing mobility has often been set in opposition to belonging to place, and interpreted as diminishing local connections and ties. Recent studies show that the role of mobility in shaping a sense of place is more complex. The Russian Arctic is often considered a remote, hard-to-access area, despite the fact that local residents have always been very mobile. We compare three case studies from across the Russian Arctic—namely, the Central Murmansk region, the Central Kolyma, and Eastern Taimyr—showing how mobility shapes differently young residents’ sense of place. These regions have a different population structure (urban / rural, polyethnic / monoethnic) and different transportation infrastructure, thus providing a good ground for comparing the relationships between mobility and a sense of place in the Russian Arctic.
This article discusses the contribution of the chronotope as an analytic category in studies of Christian conversion, applying it to postsocialist religious changes in the Russian Arctic. Looking through basic categories of human experience—space and time—the article focuses on the comparative analysis of the two missionary movements working in northwestern Siberia—neo-Pentecostalism and Baptism. The article examines postsocialist Evangelical missionary movement among the Nenets people who live in the Polar Ural tundra. The Nenets tried out multiple faiths on the emerging religious spectrum, choosing in the end fundamentalist Baptism. The article elaborates on possible conditions that made Christian fundamentalism appealing in this part of the Arctic. I suggest that Nenets historical experience as a colonized periphery of the Russian state, particularly the Soviet experiments with space and time, have bridged Nenets social expectations and a radical form of Evangelical Christianity.
Topographical Mementos in the High Arctic
This article explores the predominance of ice and the role of topographical mementos in the High Arctic environment. The ice is its own argument in complex ways: it is an actor in the human/non-human network, as well as in the hunter-scientist relationship. Whatever climate history one wants to tell, it begins and ends with the ice.
The Case of Young People Leaving Norilsk and Dudinka
The article is based on a questionnaire distributed among the pupils of eight high schools in the city of Noril’sk, the city possessing the most extreme environmental conditions among the large Russian Arctic cities. Here I claim that the choice of migration direction is based on individual experience and social status. The local geographic myths and institutional environment are also relevant in making these choices. The method of using the geographic preferences and choices as a key to understanding the sociocultural phenomena of the city of Noril’sk provides significant insights. Since the tendency to express the intent to migrate is very strong among Arctic cities’ residents, I propose using such intentions as a new method for studying social processes in the Arctic. The direction of migration plans can also be used as a marker of a person’s social position in the North.
Arctic Workshop of the University of Tartu, 28-29 May 2010, Tartu, Estonia
The mini-conference “World Routes: Arctic Workshop of the University of Tartu” took place on 28–29 May 2010 in Tartu, Estonia.
The Northward Course of Empire, The Adventure of Wrangel Island, 1922–1925, and “Universal Revolution”
Vilhjalmur Stefansson was an Arctic explorer and anthropologist. The article analyzes two of his books, The Northward Course of Empire and The Adventure of Wrangel Island, in the context of the “universal revolution” including World War I and the Russian Revolution at a time when Siberia, especially its Arctic region, was widely seen as separate from the rest of the former Russian Empire. Stefansson moved through the English-speaking world of Canada, the US, and Great Britain, while acting as an advocate of the colonization of the Arctic region. Later, Stefansson’s connections with the Soviet Union put him under suspicion of un-American activities, but a retrospective assessment of his career shows him to be a sometimes mistaken but often farsighted advocate of Arctic development.
Films and Stories from a Tundra Village
Narratives of globalization, conceived of as large-scale political, economic, and cultural processes flowing from metropolitan centers, often emphasize the loss of tradition and cultural originality in the remote and wild peripheries. All three television programs filmed in the past 10 years in Krasnoshchel’e, a remote Arctic village in Northwest Russia where I did anthropological fieldwork, are marked by such sentimental pessimism. Here, I juxtapose them with several local stories, which do not resonate with the melancholic and nostalgic notes of the media. The stories show how new inventions are welcomed and incorporated with laughter and astonishment into everyday life. The sentimental dissonance between mediascape and local imagination brings valuable insights about how globalization is accommodated on different scales and in different geographic settings.
Das Sein bestimmt das Bewusstsein?
This special issue approaches the interrelated themes of mobility and infrastructure in the Russian Arctic. I will discuss the general topics covered in this set of articles and how these contributions help us understand the lives of people in northern Siberia today, and I will give some context on how these articles came about in the first place. Does being determine consciousness? Or does consciousness determine being? This special issue looks at the complex interplay between people’s perception of well-being and behavior, and their understanding and discourse around infrastructure. Several case studies examine the tension between perception, mobility, and infrastructure in communities across the Russian Arctic.