SPbU’s campus “Mykhaylovskaya Dacha”: The second day of the UArctic Congress’s research session.

The plenary session, with Professor David Hik, University of Alberta, Canada, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Terry Callaghan, University of Sheffield, UK and Tomsk State University, Russia, as  its key speakers, focused on the Arctic’s future. The only way how we can ensure its sustainable development, according to the experts, is to adopt a holistic approach to the Arctic’s natural diversity. “A scientist should connect the parts to make a whole, to find what is common for different regions”, — said Prof Terry Callaghan. The Arctic researchers, to his mind, have to respond to unique challenges, which require using the full capacity of their intellectual abilities. “Importantly, researcher should realise that the problem is not what they explore, rather the approaches they adopt.  This is a crucial question and it poses some difficulties. The more we explore the Arctic, the more challenges it poses», — said Professor Terry Callaghan.

The plenary session particularly focused on how to collaborate with the indigenous peoples of the North.   “Active engagement of the indigenous peoples of the North holds the key to gain a deeper insight into the Arctic, — said Professor David Hik. — The Arctic is their home and they know a lot more about it than we, the Arctic’s occasional visitors”.

The indigenous peoples, as the UArctic Congress concluded, are the key to its tourism development as well. It was of a particular concern at the “Arctic Tourism: The Interplay between Supply and Demand, Culture and Environment” in the section “New Markets for Arctic”. “Tourism in the Arctic should be both affordable and environmentally-friendly, — said the Russian News Agency TASS North-West director Aleksandr Potekhin. — To make it more popular with the public primarily requires collaboration with the locals, along with local authorities, tourism business, state, and mass media. The main thing here is that locals should be interested in meeting the guests and earn money, which would promote sustainable development of the region, as it creates job opportunities”.

Today, the Russian North seems to be rather a hard to reach place and remains, essentially, a “closed” territory. Still, the local authorities are working towards viable solutions. In Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, for example, there was a “digital inequality” experiment: to eliminate inequality it provides Internet access services (at least 10 Mbps) in the remote and hard to reach towns with 250-500 residents. In 2015, 8 towns gained the Internet access.

If the tourism in the Russian North is just beginning to flourish, Norway and Sweden, in particular, have been long since generating a secure income from it. The Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, is exemplary: the local authorities and businessmen, including “Arktikugol”, a Russian coal mining unitary enterprise) have successfully made it a demilitarised zone, with its virgin landscapes, unsullied wildlife and advanced infrastructure, which attracts myriads of tourists across the world. “It is primarily for challenging, active holiday for those who absolutely adore the Arctic nature, as well as for those who are eager to go on a glacier trip and fossil expedition, — said Agneshka Legutko in her report on “Tourism as an Economy Changing Factor — Case Study of Svalbard” from  Cracow University of Economics. — The archipelago can boast more than 20 hotels and hostels, as well as museums and cultural centres”. Also, the Norwegian entrepreneurs are striving to attract more tourists from Russia:   when the Murmansk passenger ship terminal has been reconstructed, the Norwegian tourist companies are to open a cruise “Murmansk – Svalbard” (Tourism Unites Murmansk and Svalbard, News Agency “Arctic-Info”, September 14, 2016).

Background Info:

The University of the Arctic (UArctic) is a cooperative network of 180 universities, colleges, research institutes and other organisations from 16 countries concerned with education and research in and about the North. UArctic builds and strengthens collective resources and collaborative infrastructure that enables member institutions to better serve their constituents and their regions. Through cooperation in education, research and outreach we enhance human capacity in the North, promote viable communities and sustainable economies, and forge global partnerships.