| FNI PROJECTS
Russian Perceptions of and Policy-Making Regarding
This study looks at Russian perceptions and
interests on the Svalbard archipelago and in the Svalbard Fishery Protection
Zone. Starting with perestroika, the Soviet and later Russian settlements were
suffering a reduction of activity and partly dismantled. By the end of the
1990s, however, Russia once again started to allocate federal investments to
the archipelago and is currently making efforts to open a new coal mine. At the
same time, the Russians have been increasingly concerned about the Norwegian
management of Svalbard and the Fishery Protection Zone. In April 2001, Norway
for the first time ever took arrest in a Russian trawler in the Protection
Zone. Russia claimed that Norway had no right to arrest foreign citizens in a
zone not recognised internationally as being under Norwegian jurisdiction. A
few months later, the Norwegian Parliament adopted the Svalbard Environmental
Protection Act, putting the Russian (and Norwegian) coal mining under question.
Unsurprisingly, the Russian reactions were severe.
The study asks what
interests Russia has on Svalbard, and how the Russian perceptions come about.
Arguably, while the fishery activities in the waters around Svalbard are
important for the fish industry in Northwest Russia, there is hardly any
economic reason to continue the mining activity in Barentsburg. Neither should
security issues play a significant role any longer. Norway, by 'domesticating'
Svalbard, has given broad responsibilities to the sector ministries. The
co-ordination of Svalbard politics under the control of the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs has loosened, the result of which is less attention to foreign actors.
In Russia, which already is highly sceptical towards its rich, western
neighbours, a realist discourse of 'us' against 'them' is central. The
Norwegian management of Svalbard and the Protection Zone has thus been seen by
the Russian administration as indirect means to pressure Russia out of the
At the same time, various bureaucratic structures in Russia pursue
their own interests in Svalbard affairs. In a rather effective way, they have
managed to use the general discourse in their efforts to present any unresolved
issue on Svalbard as a zero-sum game between
Geir Hønneland (project
Jørgen Holten Jørgensen
Jørgen Holten, Russisk
svalbardpolitikk: Svalbard sett fra den andre siden ('Russian Politics on
Spitsbergen: Spitsbergen Seen from the Other Side'). Trondheim, Tapir
Academic Press, 2010, 100 p. In Norwegian.
Jørgen Holten, 'Svalbard: russiske
persepsjoner og politikkutforming' ('Svalbard: Russian perceptions and
policy-making'). Internasjonal politikk, No 2, 2004, pp. 177-197. In
Jørgensen, Jørgen Holten,
Norge å presse Russland bort fra Svalbard?' ('Does Norway want to
pressure Russia away from Svalbard?'. Aftenposten, 4 Januar 2004. In
Jørgensen, Jørgen Holten, Svalbard og Fiskevernsonen: Russiske
persepsjoner etter den kalde krigen. ('Svalbard and the Fishery Protection
Zone: Russian Perceptions After the Cold War'). FNI report 13/2003.
Lysaker, FNI, 2003, 79 p. In Norwegian.
|Related focal points of
Arctic and Russian
Norwegian Ministry of
Related FNI document:
FNI ('FNI's Research on the High North'). Presentation brochure in
Norwegian (PDF , 0.6 Mb)