4

In Stalin's time 1932-53

THE NORTHERN SEA ROUTE AS A LEGITIMATION FOR THE SOVIET SECTOR?

Even in Lakhtin's conception, Russian sovereignty in the Arctic depended to no small extent on the economic and scientific activity that the Soviet Union developed there. Complete and effective occupation was impossible, but this meant that as much as possible should be done. Much had been done already, since there were polar stations on Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa, Novaya Zemlya, Severnaya Zemlya and Ostrov Vrangelya. Each year freighters went to the Yenisey and the Kolyma. Nevertheless, the Soviet North remained a huge region without any significant population. How could such an area be occupied effectively? The solution was simple as well as brilliant: by increased shipping. This provided a comprehensive framework for all Arctic exploration. Polar stations served to protect and coordinate the shipping route. The focus of Soviet exploration shifted from aviation, for which the Soviets still depended heavily on the West, to shipping, a field in which the Soviets clearly had a head start, thanks to their icebreakers. The rescue of Nobile and his crew had clearly demonstrated this.

At the same time, the development of a new East-West line of communication was needed for strategic reasons, since the relationship with Japan was rapidly deteriorating. In 1931 Japan had occupied Manchuria, and sharply changed its attitude towards the Soviet Union. In view of the Japanese presence near the Soviet border, a military organization was built up in the Far East, which in the spring of 1932 obtained a navy, the Pacific Fleet. Consisting of only a few vessels and submarines, every single vessel was sorely needed. Even if only one or two could be slipped through the Arctic, this might well prove helpful (Erickson 1962:338). According to Mikhail Belov strategy was one of the most important arguments for organizing the shipping route (Belov 1959:410). Finally, shipping put polar exploration at the service of the national economy, which made investments more acceptable and fitted in with political theory.

In view of these considerations, it had been decided in 1932 to establish a central government organization that was to be responsible for shipping and polar slations in this area, as well as for the economic aspects of the development of the

-53-

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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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