The article discusses the history of research in the Arctic; it raises the issue of the future role of Russia in this strategically important region of the world, the availability of technology and infrastructure in our country for the implementation of the plans for its development, possible rivals Russia in the struggle for strategic resources, their capabilities and plans.
Keywords: the Arctic, the North Pole, the Northern Expedition, the Arctic Ocean, Arctic Council
Arctic — is the northern polar region of the Earth, which is adjacent to the North Pole, which includes the suburbs of North America and Eurasia, as well as almost the entire Arctic Ocean with numerous islands (with the exception of the coastal islands of Norway), and adjacent areas of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. It is this interpretation of the word «Arctic» given to us by dictionary, but we all know that for the majority of ordinary people it is the word associated with cold, snow and great white open spaces, where day and night are replaced only once every six months. Although the Arctic is not a continent or even the mainland, and is, for the most part, open water, clad in eternal ice for thousands of years, it has always attracted the attention of man and has beckoned him over. The history of the study of the Arctic began to be writing in the Middle Ages, when sailors from different countries (Russia, Spain, Denmark and England) tried to pass through the Arctic. Some of them were looking for the way to China and India, others went up to the North Pole, but none of the expedition reached the goal. Scurvy was carrying life during the winter, ice hummocks was stopped the schooners and dogsleds. The first step in the study of Russian northern territories was the Great Northern Expedition. In 1733 Peter the Great sent seven groups of scientists of the Russian Academy of Sciences on the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Ten years they were exploring the coast of the Pechora to Chukotka: they measured the depths of the sea, described the rivers, the ice and the northern reaches of Russia, making the first maps of some remote regions. In the second half of the 18th century, Mikhail Lomonosov stated that the ice in the north made the cyclic movement — the general drift under the influence of winds and currents. In 1893 this hypothesis confirmed Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930). He secured a wooden schooner in the ice in Novosibirsk islands and the ice moved the boat nearly three years in the middle of the Arctic island from Spitsbergen to the Boiler. This great experiment has allowed a number of scientific measurements, but it is not brought Nansen to the North Pole. Nobody still knew where the Pole was. At the end of the 19th century Russian Admiral Stepan Makarov has built the first icebreaker in the world. On 4 February of 1899 this icebreaker descended from slipways of English shipyard. It was a great ship «Ermak» which could broke easily meter of ice rescuing stranded ships, but that was in the Baltic Sea. Russian Admiralty disallowed it to access to the Arctic after two accidents in Svalbard. North Pole was conquered on foot. In 1908, two Americans, Robert Peary and Frederick Cook said about its attaining. Disputes about who was first dragged on for years. In 1912 (the centenary of victory in the Patriotic War of 1812 and the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty) three Russian captains prepared three expeditions to the Arctic. Vladimir Rusanov led his schooner to explore for coal copies of Spitsbergen, Georgy Brusilov went by sea to the Far East, and Georgy Sedov went to the North Pole through Svalbard. A year later, the news stopped coming on from them. In the summer of 1914 the Admiralty organized the search operation and the plane climbed above the Arctic for the first time in the history. But the planes were still very imperfect and the era of air conquest of the North Pole was opened by dirigibles. In 1926, the Norwegian airship had flown over the North Pole. Then the Italian one had done that. But the flight of Italian dirigible was unsuccessful. The airship had iced on the way back and he had fallen to the ice. More than 18 ships had participated in the rescue operation, but only the Soviet icebreaker «Krasin» was able to break and save the aeronauts. It showed in 1928 to the world the true power of icebreaking vessels. The second phase of development of the Arctic had begun from that moment. In the summer of 1932 the icebreaker “Alexander Siberians” passed through the Northern Sea Route without a single winter for the first time in the history of navigation. In 1933, “Chelyuskin” left on the route «Sibiryakova» to go for single navigation. It was an experiment, whether the cargo ship could pass the Northern Sea Route. But it could not. On 23 September the ship got caught in the ice of the Chukchi Sea, and it had been drifted during 5 months. On 13 February ice took ship with such force that the body could not resist. Soon it sank. But the crew was able to escape and organized a camp on the ice. The first aircraft had flown to them only on 5 March, but the crew had not only survived, but also was conducting research that was useful for the organization of the first drifting weather station. On 6 June of 1937 planes delivered four explorers under the command of Ivan Papanin on an ice floe, 20 km from the North. Nine months they had been living on the ice, moving from pole to the Greenland Sea. Papanins led more than 4,000 studies. The expedition was very successful therefore scientists continue to use this method of research in the Arctic now too. During the war, the information received earlier has helped to organize quickly food supplies, equipment and weapons from the allies. After the war the third stage of development of the Arctic began — sea routes planned to be used, despite the climate and weather conditions.
Nowadays, importance of the Arctic increases. The growth of interest in the region has caused by the hypothesis of global warming, which is supposed to make huge reserves of natural resources in the Arctic, including hydrocarbons, more accessible. In this situation, the country began to take an interest in any overseas territory, even in uninhabitable because of the harsh climate and remoteness from the economically developed regions of the world. Meanwhile, in this region of the world the boundaries between the economic zones of neighboring countries still weren’t clearly defined. The relationship of rivalry and competition, military confrontation and clash of economic interests with the aspirations for a peaceful and mutually beneficial co-operation agreement of all the complex issues are intertwined in the Arctic.
The Russian presence in the Arctic is justified by geographical and historical factors, as well as a significant volume of scientific and research works, which was done in the past and continues today. The targets of Russian Arctic policy are as follows: expansion of the resource base of the Russian Federation; security of the favorable operational mode; maintenance of the necessary combat potential; protection of the environment; formation of the single information space; security of the adequate level required for control of the Arctic area; development of mutually beneficial cooperation with the Arctic states on a bilateral and multilateral basis. Now about 20 % of GDP and almost 25 % of exports are accounted for the Russian Arctic zone. The main reserves of country’s nickel, apatite, diamond, gold, silver, rare earth elements are located in the northern regions of Russia. That's why it needs to provide the necessary security. To this end, Russia sharply increased its military presence in the Arctic in recent years. The old Soviet bases are restored, the patrols of the northern territories are resumed, and the presence of naval forces in the region is reinforced. In October 2013 the group of ten warships led by the flagship of the Russian Navy, the nuclear cruiser «Peter the Great», and accompanied by the atomic icebreakers «Yamal», «Vaigach», "50 Years of Victory» and «Taimyr» made a 2000 mile trek through the Barents sea, Kara sea and the Laptev sea, covered with ice. The connection came to the New Siberian Islands in the area of the delta of the Lena River, bringing to the Boiler Island more than 40 pieces of equipment, large social and domestic units and more than one thousand tons of materiel, equipment and lubricants. The plan of a campaign intended landing on the northernmost point of the island archipelago of Rudolf Franz Josef Land. In addition to regular sea voyages in the Arctic region, Russia began to restore the Air Force Base «Temp» on the island of Boiler. This base will be upgraded with the use of new technologies that will give the possibility to use all year round and in all weather conditions transport aircrafts AN-26, AN-72, AN-74 and IL-76 perspectively. Today delivery of goods to the airport «Tempo» carries the Composite Air Group, which is based on the Tiksi airport in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). But strengthening the Russian presence from the military point of view carries a not only economic reasons, but also geopolitical. The Arctic is located between the US and Russia, which makes it strategically important to the case of a hypothetical confrontation (the region patrolling strategic bombers Tu-95 with the Russian side, there has also been decided to send strategic missile class «Borey», armed with stand missile «Bulava»). The Russian military presence in the region is increasing each year. But the presence of military force does not solve all problems of Russia. This region is very complicated for the development and economic use. This requires the availability of appropriate infrastructure and technology of the state that will allow Russia to achieve its goals. Russian undoubted advantage over all other countries in the region is the presence of the largest nuclear fleet in the world, which will also be replenished and upgraded in the coming years. That gives Russia almost a monopoly on the use of sea routes through the Arctic Ocean. In the coming years, also has been planned to build several new modern ports along the northern boundary for the use of northern sea route all year round. New airfields are creating for making not only light aircraft, but high transport and passenger aircraft. All these measures should help Russia confidently assert their interests in the Arctic region. But the other Arctic Council countries (it includes eight Arctic states) also are on the alert.
Denmark comes in the Arctic through its self-governing territory of Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The world's largest island after a 30-year period of self-government for Internal Affairs has received the right to full self-government in 2009. Status allows Greenland completely dispose their natural resources and to enter into international treaties and agreements. The same rights also have the Faroe Islands. However, Denmark retains control over foreign policy and the defense of both of these territories. Denmark annually allocates its overseas possessions subsidies, which will gradually decrease as the growth of their income from mining. In the future, Greenland can make itself completely free from its former mother country, despite the fact that its population in the amount of 57 thousand will be difficult to maintain the status of an independent force in international affairs and to protect the territory of the largest island in the world, which covers the area four times larger than France.
Attention of legislative and executive authorities of the USA to the policy of Arctic-European region increased in recent years. In autumn of 2008 the Senate adopted a position on the definition of the boundaries of the marine economic zone and continental shelf of the United States. The commission which includes the task of drawing up an accurate map of the territorial waters of the United States was created.
The program of development of the northern territories, called «Barents 2020", is considering as the basis of Norwegian policy in the Arctic. The actions of the authorities designated attempts to reduce foreign economic and scientific activities on Svalbard Island, putting it under the full national control and management. Oslo is trying to establish a one-sided regulation of the Norwegian archipelago adjacent to the water area and shelf.
The fears that the process of redistribution of spheres of influence in the Arctic will develop rapidly as hydrocarbon reserves in the most suitable for production areas decreased rapidly, and access to oil and gas deposits in the North Pole as the ice melting due to global warming will be facilitated are expressed in the expert and political circles of Canada. Canada, without having the military might of Russia or the United States is trying to use the means at its disposal (including political-legal) to prepare for such a development.
Thus, we can summarize that the Arctic will be a new place of confrontation and struggle for useful resources in the coming years.
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