The Thirteenth Big Geographical Festival 2017 (BGF 2017) was held at St Petersburg University. This year the traditional meeting of young geographers was dedicated to the 220th anniversary of the outstanding Russian marine explorer Fyodor Litke, Vice Chairman of the Russian Geographical Society.
Students from different cities of Russia and CIS countries came to the conference of future geographers. "Once again the University has gathered young specialists in an attempt to find new ways of developing geographic and environmental research. BGF is not a mere scientific and practical conference, where future specialists just present the results of their work year after year. This is a meeting point for like-minded people. It is here that long-lasting contacts are established and new dissertation subjects are born," Kirill Chistyakov, Director of the SPbU Institute of Earth Sciences and Vice President of the Russian Geographical Society, noted in his welcome address to the BGF 2017 participants.
During the opening session, Renata Abdulina, Chairman of the St Petersburg Government Committee on Youth Policy and Interaction with Public Organisations, noted that geographers had always had a broad outlook and applied innovative methods in solving scientific problems. "Russian science needs specialists who, like Fyodor Litke, will be open-minded and ready to cooperate with the global scientific community," Renata Abdulina emphasised.
Development of the Arctic was the main issue of the plenary session. Dmitry Tulupov, SPbU senior lecturer, told the audience how the political and economic landscape of the Arctic had changed in the recent forty years. According to the expert, 1 October 1987 marked a new era of international cooperation in the Arctic region. On this day Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, made new foreign policy proposals in Murmansk. In addition to creating a nuclear-free zone in Northern Europe, the so-called "Murmansk initiatives" were primarily aimed at peaceful cooperation in rational management of the Arctic resources, taking into account the vulnerability of the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic, scientific study of the region and opening of the Northeast Passage.
Alexandr Makarov, Deputy Director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), described in detail the current development of the Northern polar region. In his report "Modern Research in the Arctic" he outlined the main problems in the study of the Extreme North and new methods of fieldwork.
After the plenary session the participants continued their conference work at various sessions that covered a wide range of problems in modern geography, from regional politics and socio-economic geography to geomorphology and hydrometeorology. However, each sectional meeting included several Arctic-related reports. Traditionally, the best reports have been selected for each field.
Within the framework of BGF 2017 two round-table discussions were organised, one of them being devoted to the search for new opportunities and prospects in Arctic and Antarctic studies. The participants shared their experience in carrying out expedition research and spoke about the existing international organisations bringing together polar explorers. For instance, the students of the Master's programme "Polar and Marine Sciences (POMOR)" told the audience about their summer fieldwork experience jointly organised by SPbU and AARI on the Svalbard Archipelago in August 2016.
In addition to the broad-range conference programme, BGF 2017 hosted a traditional brain ring competition in geography and a friendly football match.