The Conquest of the Russian Arctic

The Conquest of the Russian Arctic

Paul R. Josephson
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Conquest of the Russian Arctic
    Book Description:

    Spanning nine time zones, the Russian Arctic was mostly unexplored before the twentieth century. Paul Josephson describes the massive effort under Stalin to assimilate the Arctic into the Soviet empire--effects still being felt today, as Putin redoubles efforts to secure the Arctic, which he sees as key to Russia's economic and military status.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-41982-7
    Subjects: History, History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    The emergency evacuation of the Russian polar drift station NP-40 (“North Pole-40”) in May 2013 was a vivid reminder of the century-long presence of Russian explorers and scientists in the Arctic, the risks and uncertainties they faced in charting the landscape, and its growing fragility because of global warming and other human impacts. Stretching roughly halfway around the world, the Russian Arctic covers nine time zones from Norway to the Bering Straits. Roughly one-fifth of the Russian landmass is north of the Arctic Circle. Of fourteen million square kilometers that comprise the entire Arctic region (along with landmass of Canada,...

  7. 1 Charting the Arctic Landscape
    (pp. 21-63)

    In winter, the persistent Arctic night; in the summer, the unending Arctic sun. Under those two extremes lay a landscape rich in natural and mineral resources, but with inadequate infrastructure to develop them. Beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century, Russian explorers turned their attention increasingly to the polar regions of the empire to chart them. In some cases they followed expeditions of Norwegian, Danish, and British explorers and businessmen who recognized the vast natural and mineral wealth of the northern regions, especially fish, but also lumber, graphite, and some diamonds and gold. The Russians followed not because...

  8. 2 Neither Cod nor Coal
    (pp. 64-114)

    Soviet leaders sought to industrialize production across the Arctic Circle. They invested extensively in smelters, mills, and mines. They used icebreakers and airplanes to identify and tap resources that were effective both symbolically in demonstrating state power and physically in enabling economic growth. They supported the rapid expansion of the scientific enterprise in the industrialization effort. Yet they faced endless problems of technological lag and were forced to rely heavily on ideological exhortation and gulag slave labor in the massive undertaking.

    When Stalin rose to power in the late 1920s he and the Communist Party leadership introduced significant changes in...

  9. 3 The Role of the Gulag in Arctic Conquest
    (pp. 115-169)

    The vast tundra and taiga of the north were home to fisherman and trappers, peasants and Old Believers who had escaped persecution of the Tsar and the Russian Orthodox Church, and Nenets, Saami, and Komi people who also trapped, fished, and raised reindeer. The region was sparsely populated, with perhaps one or two people on average per every square kilometer in Arkhangelsk and one person per every four square kilometer in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Soviet rule added two kinds of settlers: exiles and gulag slave laborers. Many of the scientists, explorers, pilots, and captains who explored the Arctic fell...

  10. 4 The Arctic Sciences of Places and People
    (pp. 170-237)

    Soviet leaders and scientists reached an accommodation in the 1920s that permitted rapid expansion of the scientific enterprise. Most senior researchers and professors and many of the students were representatives of the middle or upper classes and so remained mistrustful of the Bolsheviks and their public commitment to cultural and political revolution. Yet they welcomed financial and administrative support from the new leaders that contrasted with the inattention of the Tsarist regime. Soviet leaders in a variety of commissariats and bureaucracies supported the growth of the modern scientific enterprise, intervening directly in many cases to support representatives of the physical,...

  11. 5 The Nickel That Broke the Reindeer’s Back
    (pp. 238-284)

    A distinctive feature of Soviet urbanization was the “company town.” Owing to a centrally planned economy, forced settlement, and unwavering determination to harness resources no matter climate or geography, Soviet scientists, engineers, and planners and officials joined together in the belief that the best way to exploit natural and mineral resources was through the establishment of towns and cities dedicated, at least initially, to the manufacture of one major product. Soviet citizens might find work in Asbest (Asbestos), a town of 70,000 in the Ural Mountains, or Magnitogorsk, which grew from a few thousand residents to 140,000 inhabitants in the...

  12. 6 Transformation of Taiga and Tundra
    (pp. 285-330)

    The heroic Soviet effort to industrialize the Arctic, modernize small fisheries, establish large-scale forestry operations, overlay taiga and tundra with centralizing technologies of production, communication, and transport, and collectivize reindeer herding—simultaneously transforming the local and indigenous people—so that the vast region operated according to plans commenced under Joseph Stalin. While in many cases the industrialization and collectivization efforts that spread across northern latitudes resembled those in other regions of the empire, the uniqueness of the Arctic climate, the need to settle vast regions, and the challenges of building transport and communications infrastructure ensured a difficult, distinct, and costly...

  13. 7 Rediscovering the Arctic
    (pp. 331-382)

    In August 2007, Russian parliamentarian and explorer Artur Chilingarov, long connected with AARI, engaged in what some observers called a publicity stunt by planting a Russian flag on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean at the North Pole. The government supported the expensive expedition as part of the Russian contribution to the third International Polar Year. All of the components of Russia’s quest for strategic advantage, economic growth, and superpower symbolism were present. A nuclear-powered icebreaker,Rossiia, cleared the way for a research ship,Akademik Fedorov, staffed by approximately 130 scientists, to get into position for Chilingarov’s descent. President Putin...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 385-432)
  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 433-434)
  16. Index
    (pp. 435-441)