REECAS Lecture Series
Russia in the Arctic
The Ellison Center’s 2022-2023 Lecture Series
This three-part lecture series presents new research on Russia in the Arctic.
As the largest country in the Arctic, Russia has a long history of northern settlement. It is also the most ambitious player in renewed international competition for natural resources and control of sea routes in the Far North. What role do various actors in Russia play in the transformation of the Arctic? How do they respond to the radical changes in this region caused by global climate warming? The 2022-2023 REECAS lecture series addresses these questions by exploring the different meanings of the Northern Sea Route, the environmental history of the Chukchi Peninsula, and the assumptions behind an ambitious science experiment in Arctic Siberia aimed at climate change mitigation. The series presents recent studies of the region by Russian and U.S. scholars who have approached it from the disciplinary perspectives of anthropology and history.
The Northern Sea Route: The Anthropology of Russian Arctic Mega Infrastructure
Valeria Vasilyeva, Research Fellow, Center for Arctic Social Studies, European University at St. Petersburg (Russia) and Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Boise State University
December 1, 2022 at 3:30-5:00 PM (PST) | HUB 214
ABOUT THE LECTURE
The Northern Sea Route (NSR) is a shipping passage with clear geographical boundaries officially defined by Russian legislation. It runs along the Russian coast from the Novaya Zemlya archipelago to Cape Dezhnev in the Bering Strait. At first glance, it seems to be a typical transportation infrastructure, but there is much ambiguity if we look closer. Is the Northern Sea Route intended for transit, export of hydrocarbons, or supplying of remote areas? What ports does it include? What infrastructural objects are necessary for the stable exploitation of the NSR? What are its navigational regimes, and to what extent is shipping engaged with local communities? Even its geographical definition is not as undebatable as it seems. A configuration of answers depends mainly on the respondent’s local and professional belonging, but at the same time it is influenced by the modern official discourse on the NSR. It has become a commonplace in infrastructural studies that political discourse is the most potent source for determining infrastructure’s geographical and functional content. However, for some groups, the gap between their practical observations on its development and political rhetoric is significant. For some coastal settlements that owe their very existence to the Soviet period of the Northern Sea Route’s functioning, the political promise of the NSR’s development is shaping expectations for the future while at the same time colliding with the current slow decline of these settlements.
The lecture will present the results of the project dedicated to the history and anthropology of the Northern Sea Route. The project was carried out by a group of researchers from the European University at St. Petersburg and the Tyumen State University in 2017-2021. Field data to be discussed in the lecture have been collected by Kseniia Gavrilova and the author in Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Indiga, Amderma, Sabetta, Dikson, Dudinka, Khatanga, Tiksi, Pevek, Provideniya, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Vladivostok.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Valeria Vasilyeva (Ph.D. in Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences) is a research fellow at the Center for Arctic Social Studies, European University at St. Petersburg, Russia. Currently, she is a Fulbright visiting scholar at Boise State University. Her research focuses on mobility practices, social construction of space, and perception of infrastructure in the Russian North. She has conducted fieldwork in several regions on the Arctic coast, but her primary region of interest is the Taimyr Peninsula.
The Reindeer at the End of the World: Climate, Apocalypse, and Soviet Dreams
Bathsheba Demuth, Dean’s Associate Professor of History and Environment and Society at Brown University
February 27, 2023 at 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM (PST) | Online via ZOOM
Pleistocene Park: Engineering Wilderness in a More-than-Human World
Anya Bernstein, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University
The annual REECAS Lecture Series is organized by the Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies at the University of Washington in partnership with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation.