Contributing to Urban Sustainability in Russia’s Arctic Cities

By Marya Rozanova

Social scientists Marya Rozanova and Andrey Gretsov, representing a collaboration between the GW Arctic team and the Russian State Hydrometeorological University, visited three Russian Arctic cities – Naryan-Mar, Salekhard, and Novy Urengoy from January 25 to February 24, 2018. The purpose of the trip was to meet with local stake-holders dealing with ongoing climate change and its impact on Arctic urban communities and the labor market, as well as to launch educational programs to mitigate upcoming challenges and minimize possible side-effects on people’s lives.

Key activities included discussing the establishment of new educational programs, reaching out to regional government officials to get a better understanding of their positions, as well as meeting with indigenous community leaders and experts in the Arctic regions of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO) and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YaNAO).

Marya Rozanova reaches out to Russian students in the Arctic. Photo: Andrey Gretsov


The educational outreach component included three modules for over 400 teachers and students in local schools and vocational colleagues:

  • A series of seminars and workshops entitled “New Technologies for Career Guidance in the Arctic” for specialists in the sphere of education and employment services.
  • A series of seminars called “Strategies to Build Your Career in the Arctic” for vocational college students.
  • A series of seminars “Your Career Choice” for high school students, including indigenous students whose families pursue traditional nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyles in the Arctic.  


The TV Channel “Rossia 1. Naryan-Mar” broadcast a report about the education programs in Naryan-Mar (in Russian). In Novyi Urengoy, the city’s Department of Education prepared a blog posting on the educational programs in the city (in Russian), as did Salekhard School #3.


Meetings and networking with high-ranking Arctic officials, experts, and practitioners to gain an understanding of local concerns and encourage engagement with our research activities in developing an Arctic Urban Sustainability Index (AUSI).


In Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, we met with representatives of the:

  • Department of International and External Economic Relations,
  • Department of Population Social Protection,
  • Department on Indigenous Affairs,
  • Novy Urengoy Mayor
  • Department of the Population Employment Services,
  • Department of Culture,
  • YaNAO Department of Education,  
  • Novy Urengoy Department of Education,
  • Arctic Research Center,
  • Salekhard schools administration.  


In Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO):

  • Department of Education, Culture, and Sports,
  • Department on Indigenous Affairs and Ethnic Policy,
  • Ethno-Cultural Center,
  • Center for Business Development,
  • Administration of schools in Naryan-Mar.


In St. Petersburg:

  • State Commission for Arctic Development of the Russian Federation.


Rozanova also met with leaders of the indigenous communities, including representatives of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) in Moscow, representatives from “Yasavei” in Naryan-Mar (NAO), as well as meeting in Salekhard (YaNAO) with Eduard H. Yaungad–the “Yamal–potomkam” association’s leader and member of the YaNAO Parliament. RAIPON prepared a blog on the educational programs for indigenous youth.

In the context of ongoing climate change resulting in a new epoch of Arctic exploration for economic purposes, the emergence of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) for international shipping, and the intensification of migration inflows, the task of training specialists in the Arctic regions for the needs of the Arctic labor market is key to strengthening sustainable socio-economic development in Arctic urban areas. Nowadays young people in these regions have little understanding about future changes in the North, and how these changes will affect labor market needs for specialists with knowledge of the port and shipping industry, the oil and gas sector, water resources management, climatology, and many other fields. Many local school students are inclined to obtain degrees in law, economics, and business and will likely experience difficulties in finding positions on the changing Arctic labor market in the near future. Ultimately, they contribute to the migration outflows from the North, further labor market imbalances, and residential instability of the urban social environment.


Special attention should be paid to local nomadic and semi-nomadic indigenous communities – especially young people – in the remote Arctic areas who are particularly at risk and will inevitably become involved in the process of transition from their traditional way of living to the urban lifestyle of the Arctic cities. In this process, the preservation and development of the human and cultural capital of the indigenous peoples of the Russian North will largely depend on the quality of the education and vocational training they receive in order to provide their successful integration into the Arctic labor market.


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