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Anna Rezyapova on her visit to Svalbard

October 13-19, 2019 in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, the SVF-8063 School of Society and Advanced Technology in the Arctic, organized by the Arctic University of Norway (UiT), was held. Senior colleagues and research assistants of the DeCAn lab participated in it. Anna Rezyapova shared her impressions on her visit to Svalbard.

SATA 2019. Memories from the Arctic trip

Society and Advanced Technology in the Arctic, this is the name of a PhD and Master course organized jointly by the Arctic University of Norway (UiT) and HSE University, which I was lucky to participate in. The course was held in Norwegian Arctic city of Tromsø in 2018 and in the northernmost settlement of the world – Longyearbyen (on Svalbard) in 2019.

The course consisted of the lectures by professors from HSE and UiT, as well as joint work on a project for the development of Svalbard and one of the cities in the Russian North.

The first lesson I personally experienced was that Svalbard is a special territory and is not a part of the Schengen area. This means that to visit Svalbard via Norway (we flew through Oslo and Tromsø), you need not a single-entry visa, which many of us had, including me, but at least a double-entry visa to be able to return. Fortunately, the Governor of Svalbard has the power to issue visas, and thanks to prof. Fuad Aleskerov and prof. Rasmus Bertelsen, we got our visas (and we didn't have to spend the rest of our lives on Svalbard).

Svalbard is a special territory in many ways. It is a place where it is almost impossible to be born (pregnant women are taken to the continent at a later stage of pregnancy) or die (because of the permafrost, it is not possible to bury people here). Also, there are special signs at the entrances to most of the shops to leave the weapons outside. Almost everyone who lives here more or less permanently has a weapon. This is because polar bears are frequent visitors to the settlement, and you can only go outside the settlement with a gun. We were lucky with this, too. The polar bears didn't visit us. But one day we met deers on the way to the hotel!

Let's return to our course. The course was focused on the interdisciplinary research. The lectures were delivered by experts in the field of decision-making and data analysis, as well as by specialists in international relations, demography and philosophy. This is a huge advantage of the SATA course, because it makes you think outside the box, not within one area.

Lecture by demographer Isupova O. G. on the population of the Russian North and Far East

Personally, I gained new knowledge in the Arctic international order from the lecture of prof. Rasmus Bertelsen. In particular, I acquired new information in changes in this order during the World War II, Cold War, Chinese influence and the collaboration of various international and multilateral organizations in the Arctic. Also, I learned about the position of Svalbard in Arctic international order, the limitations it creates for the policy on the archipelago and the legal framework of Svalbard. Any interstate cooperation and communication assume the variety of opinions and certain risks of future misunderstanding. In this sense, the concept of supergrading introduced by prof. Michael Morreau during the school was valuable and thought provoking. Next, it was very interesting to explore how the cooperation between the states can be modeled with instruments of graph and game theory. The lecture by Nikolay Korgin on the crossborder energy cooperation introduced power of the states as multi-layer model. The influence of China in the Arctic is rising. Chinese political power and the changes it can bring on the bilateral, interstate and international relations is crucial. In this way, it was very useful to hear about the Sino-Russian Arctic relations from dr. Mariia Kobzeva.

The space technology is an implicit part of the cooperation in the Arctic. Svalbard has a unique position for the satellite stations and in this way the satellite services have an important place in the Svalbard business development strategy. The use of these technologies can vary a lot. Also, the Svalbard treaty regulations put severe restrictions on the use of such technologies. Space collaboration between the countries in the Arctic has a lot of potential applications, such as weather prediction and many other as I learned from the lecture of prof. Tone Bleie during the school. Also, the visit to the satellite station KSAT was very impressive. The opportunity to observe the satellites in the Arctic just before the eyes was wonderful.

It was fascinating how the topics on technology and hard sciences met the social sciences and anthropology during SATA course. The lecture on Russian Arctic and Far East by prof. Olga Isupova was very deep and inspiring. The life of people, their values and their attitudes are very important for policy planning. The visit to local university UNIS allowed to get familiar with the life of local students, the education and training they obtain. People in the Arctic have a unique character and values, in my opinion. To live in such extreme weather conditions and develop new skills a person should be very brave and persistent and know what exactly are the goals of his/her life in the Arctic that one wants to accomplish.

Visit to the Svalbard museum

Throughout the school, we worked in teams on a project of development of Svalbard and the Russian North. Our team was assigned with the city of Norilsk. I have not been to Norilsk, but according to the data and materials of the SATA lectures, the Russian North has a much lower standard of living compared to the Norwegian one, and the environmental situation is much worse. All the teams had original ideas about the development of the economy and international cooperation in the Arctic. The solution from our team was based on the improving of quality of life and strengthening the cooperation between the Arctic countries for easier mobility of foreign specialists.

The last (but not the less important) part of our trip is its organization. The school was held in very comfortable conditions despite the fact that we were in the far North. I am very grateful to the organizers of the school and its leaders – prof. Fuad Aleskerov and prof. Rasmus Bertelsen for this opportunity to visit Svalbard and get experience to work in the company of wonderful people.

Anna Rezyapova, DeCAn research assistant