2

Soviet sovereignty in the Arctic and the advent of flying 1917-32

ARCTIC FLYING AND ITS LEGAL CONSEQUENCES

By the beginning of the twentieth century a great deal more was known about the Arctic, and interest had increased accordingly. A beginning was even made with the political division of the area. The initial terra nullius concept was replaced by other ideas, now that fisheries, mining and radio stations began to mark national borders. Flying reinforced this development by opening areas which had been out of reach so far to exploration and exploitation.

To soar over the craggy pack ice like a sea gull, instead of plodding every mile on foot, had been a dream of many polar travellers. Incredibly, this dream was realized within the span of a few decades. In 1897 Salomon Andrée had tried to reach the North Pole by balloon. His expedition vanished into thin air, until in 1930 the remains were found on the easternmost island of Spitsbergen, White Island (Andrée 1930). The advent of the airship offered a new chance. In 1909 Walter Wellman reached a point 60 miles north of Spitsbergen. The rapid development of aviation in the First World War made it possible even to fly over the Pole. In 1919 the German Walter Bruns proposed the development of a trans-Arctic air route. In 1922 Amundsen began his attempts to reach the North Pole by air, and he succeeded in 1926 with the Norge, an Italian-built airship. That same year the American Richard Byrd achieved something similar with a Fokker air plane.

These flights attracted political attention to the North Pole. In the first place it now became possible to discover land in the Arctic Ocean in places which could hardly be reached by dogsled and not at all by ship. Second, there was the possibility of the trans-Arctic air route that Bruns had proposed. Such a route would have great strategic and economic consequences. Third, flying made it possible, at least in legal theory, to administer an area in which nobody actually lived. Colonization has already been mentioned as the best possible claim to an area, since this amounts to effective occupation. Now, aceording to some authors, effective occupation could be replaced by domination from the air. This would allow governments to control large uninhabitable areas without excessive cost. Consequently, the polar regions received new attention. This revaluation anticipated factual developments. Once a trans-Arctic route had been realized, there

-21-

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The Soviet Arctic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Russian Policy in the Far North 1897-1917 6
  • 2 - Soviet Sovereignty in the Arctic and the Advent of Flying 1917-32 21
  • 3 - The Stalinization of Arctic Exploration 35
  • 4 - In Stalin's Time 1932-53 53
  • 5 - Arctic Policy During the Cold War 67
  • 6 - Historiography in the Cold War 84
  • 7 - The Age of the Nuclear Submarine 109
  • 8 - Arctic Shipping Since 1953 120
  • 9 - The Western Section: Winter Navigation 127
  • 10 - The Season of 1983 139
  • 11 - Arctic Studies Since 1953 152
  • Conclusion 170
  • Appendix 175
  • Glossary 179
  • Bibliography 181
  • Index 222
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