Russia to open research center on Svalbard

The village of Barentsburg, Norway. (iStock)
Barentsburg, Svalbard. With 471 people, the settlement is the second largest on Svalbard after Longyearbyen, which has 2116 inhabitants. (iStock)
The center will be conducting meteorological research, Minister of Natural Resources Sergey Donskoy says.

“The finances for a scientific center on Svalbard are included in next year’s plans. If everything goes well, they will be conducting a whole range of meteorological research in the Arctic zone from there in 2016,” Donskoy said to RIA Novosti.

“Of course we will have to increase the number of specialists and the amount of research, but this depends on financing”. According to Donskoy, the building where the center will be located has been modernized, along with several other buildings in the main Russian settlement of Barentsburg.

Diplomatic controversy

Sergey Donskoy visited Svalbard in April this year, as part of the delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin that stopped on the Norwegian archipelago on its way to the North Pole. The visit sparked diplomatic controversies, as Rogozin is on the sanction list over individuals not allowed entry to the EU and Norway.

There were 471 people living in Barentsburg by the end of 2014, according to the Governor of Svalbard’s annual report. The largest settlement on Svalbard is Norwegian Longyearbyen, with 2116 inhabitants.

Research & tourism

Russia has been conduction scientific research on Svalbard since the 1960s, within fields like geophysics, glaciology, oceanography, biology, archeology and hydrometeorology. There have been plans to modernize existing research facilities for the last couple of years.

Development of tourism is another of Russia’s prioritized areas to secure its presence on the archipelago. In 2013 the coal company Trust Arktikugol, which stands for most of Russia’s activity on Svalbard, was registered as a tour company under the brand “Grumant”. The company has hotels and hostels in the Russian settlements of Barentsurg and Pyramiden and a tourist camp in Longyearbyen.

Related stories from around the North:

Denmark:  Nordics to step up security cooperation on perceived Russian threat, Yle News

Finland:  Survey – More than half of reservists in Finland pro-Nato, Yle News

Norway: Airlines instructed to turn over passenger lists to Svalbard, Barents Observer

Russia: Svalbard visitor list rules “unfriendly” says Russia, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Russia concerned by Finland, Sweden moves towards closer ties with NATO, Radio Sweden

United States:  Alaska stands to benefit as US takes reins of Arctic Council, Eye on the Arctic

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