Far North

   The Russian Far North (Dal’ nii Sever) or Extreme North (Krainii Sever) is the area of Russia that lies in the northern periphery of the Eurasian landmass. Located mostly above the Arctic Circle, the Far North includes the federal subjects of Murmansk, Nenetsiya, Yamaliya, Taymyriya, northern Sakha, and Chukotka, as well as the Arctic Ocean islands of Novaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land, Severnaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, and Wrangel Island. Informally, the northerly portions of Archangel, Komi, Evenkiya, Magadan, Koryakiya, and Kamchatka are sometimes included as well.
   The region is defined by tundra and harsh climate, and, as a result, lacks major population centers. During the Soviet era, many of the country’s gulags were located in the region; this preserved secrecy but also allowed forced labor in the harsh conditions. The Soviets paid very high wages (the “northern bonus”) to those willing to locate voluntarily to the region for employment, resulting in a demographic revolution in the region. Since the institution of perestroika, native peoples have become increasingly active in their attempts to protect the region’s environment and traditional cultural and economic practices.
   Today, laborers continue to be entitled to higher levels of compensation due to the harsh, even dangerous working conditions. However, the cold temperatures and high prices associated with consumer goods make life very difficult for the local population. Life expectancy, particularly among the indigenous peoples of the north, is dramatically lower than in the rest of the Russian Federation. As a result, emigration is reducing the region’s population in the post-Soviet period. Oil and natural gas extraction and mining are the primary industrial occupations, while indigenous peoples tend to engage in traditional forms of labor including reindeer herding, fur farming, fishing, and seal and whale hunting. The region’s fragile ecosystem has been negatively impacted by industrial pollution, particularly from aluminum smelting. As part of the Arctic Ocean basin, the region has received renewed geopolitical interest in the past decade as Vladimir Putin has sought to strengthen Russia’s position as an Arctic power.
   See also Norilsk Nickel.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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