Conclusion

Polar exploration has been profoundly influenced by the Stalin period. In the first place it became much more important than it had been previously. Before the Revolution, interest had arisen relatively late; at the turn of the century Russia began to take part actively, on more than a strictly scientific level and this only because it was forced to by other countries. Even after the Revolution polar exploration had remained of secondary importance. The Soviet view that immediately after the Revolution polar exploration rose to a new level has an ideological basis and dates from about 1938. The early research institutions, such as PLAVMORNIN, were in fact meant to resolve the urgent need for food in Soviet Russia by stimulating fisheries. Polar exploration after 1917 was merely a continuation of tsarist policy, without any long-distance expeditions. Any discontinuity in 1917 is therefore artificial. The turning point in Soviet exploration, as elsewhere, was the introduction of aircraft. Air routes gave a new value to the Arctic and caused a revision of all political and economic ideas about it. The occupation of Ostrov Vrangelya by Stefansson's expedition left especially deep marks. The fact that the Canadians were apparently willing to sacrifice human lives for such islands as Ostrov Vrangelya deeply impressed the Russians. It now became clear that more exploration was the only way to safeguard the Soviet Arctic. The general public readily accepted this and polar expeditions soon enjoyed a popularity comparable with that of the first manned spaceflights. Men like Nobile and Amundsen became universal heroes. A great deal of literature about polar travel appeared and met a great demand.

Until the thirties the position of the Soviet Union was in fact very unfavourable, as can be learned from the legal literature of those days. The almost explicit incorporation of the sector theory of the division of the Arctic in Soviet law, the most extreme kind of recognition of this theory in law in the world, closely followed and went beyond the British example in Antarctica. In 1926 the Soviet government assumed that the sector theory would be accepted universally and, besides, the Soviets could not do much more than introduce this law, since the country lacked the means, technically as well as financially, to join in the development of a new Arctic air route. Joining the Aeroarctic expedition of the Graf Zeppelin in 1932 was a substitute for this, regarded with the necessary

-170-

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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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