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.
The Case of Nenets Autonomous Region
This article presents the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to the ongoing urbanization of the Nenets indigenous communities (“communities-in-transition”) in the Nenets Autonomous Region. Focusing on the preconditions for “indigenous flight” from traditional rural settlements to urban areas, the article analyzes key indicators—demographics, language proficiency, education level, and occupational sector, as well as social cohesion, interethnic relations, and political inclusion in the larger urban context—to describe the adaptation and integration processes of these new city dwellers. Based on the fieldwork in the region, the article also presents individual life strategies and career choices of indigenous youth and describes the role of gender in indigenous urbanization.
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.
Russia is unique on the circumpolar landscape in that indigenous communities constitute only a small percentage of its Arctic population. Whereas they represent 80 percent of Greenland’s population, 50 percent of Canada’s, 20 percent of Alaska’s, and 15 percent of Norway’s Arctic regions, they make up less than 5 percent of the population of Arctic Russia. Although indigenous peoples have a more solid demography than Russians and have therefore seen their share of the Arctic population slowly increase over the past two decades, their rights remain fragile. Moscow does not consider the Arctic to have a specific status due to the presence of indigenous peoples, and its reading of the region is still very much shaped by the imperial past, the memory of an easy conquest (osvoenie) of territories deemed “unpopulated,” and the exploitation of the region’s subsoil resources.
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.