M.V. Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University is hosting the X International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS), organized by the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA) every three years. In 2017, for the first time in its history, this globally recognized forum has chosen Russia, and Arkhangelsk with M.V. Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University, as its venue. Included in the Action Plan for Russia’s 2021-2023 chairmanship in the Arctic Council, the Congress is supervised by the Ministry of Research and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.
«This Congress marks the three remarkable decades of hard work and important achievements contributed by generations of Arctic researchers with background in social sciences,» said IASSA President Andrey Petrov in his opening address to the forum. «It is especially noteworthy that we are celebrating this anniversary here in Russia, where the very idea for IASSA was proposed. It was in 1988 in Leningrad. Back then, the idea was to set up an organization that would bring Western and Soviet scientists together for more intense international cooperation in the Arctic social sciences. Today, not only does IASSA connect research efforts internationally, it helps to overcome barriers other than geographic borders — the barriers that are more entrenched and should be no more in the interdisciplinary research and dialogue between Arctic-related knowledge systems.»
The Congress has brought together scientists and experts engaged in social research and humanities to address the challenges of sustainable development in the Arctic, as well as residents of the North — indigenous peoples, authorities and non-governmental organizations. Attending it are 800+ lead experts in more than 37 countries of the Arctic region, Central Europe and South-East Asia.
«The Arctic social sciences have made a noticeable progress over the past thirty years. From a small, even marginal field of research, they have evolved to take a leading role in the most important niches of the Arctic sciences — those that deal with issues that are vital for the residents of the high latitudes,» said Andrey Petrov. «We’ve made a long and difficult way, but the results are obvious: the number of Arctic-related publications in social sciences has increased four-fold, and an equally sharp increase is observed in the medical and human sciences. This by far exceeds the growth in natural sciences.»
In their opening speeches, speakers noted that humanities and social studies make a tangible contribution to understanding of the complex processes of the environmental and social changes in the Arctic. Today, scientists all over the world are working to raise public awareness and provide guidance to Arctic-related decision-making. The research communities are convinced that economic, social and cultural transformations occur in the Arctic faster than environmental changes.
«It is only through close interaction between social sciences, natural sciences and indigenous peoples that a holistic understanding of the complex processes occurring in New Arctic can take form in the context of cross-disciplinary studies and regional knowledge.»
The X International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences «Arctic Generations: Look back and looking forward» is exactly the venue for this interaction to start.
«The very choice of the venue is indicative of the strategic role Arkhangelsk plays in the Arctic development and research, which is intended to benefit this important region,» said NArFU Rector Elena Kudryashova in her open speech.
The Rector was supported by Mikhail Ipatov, Arkhangelsk Deputy Governor for domestic policy. In his presentation, Mikhail Ipatov stressed that «geographically and historically, with well-developed and diversified industrial infrastructure, Arkhangelsk Region has been an important part of the Russian Arctic. Its capital, Arkhangelsk, is one of the largest cities in the Arctic part of our country.»
«Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University, which is hosting this Congress, has a role as a concentration point for intellectual resources of the North. With an impressive research base and Arctic-related knowledge, NArFU is a productive participant in the international Arctic dialogue and a provider of training for better development of the Arctic areas,» added Mikhail Ipatov.
On Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University’s agenda, the topics of the Arctic are high. The statement of the interdisciplinary Arctic research having high relevance forms the basis of the University’s Development Program 2035, approved by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in March 2021. NArFU has been a prolific promoter of social sciences and humanities, facilitating research efforts and publications, and starting new departments and even museums.
Elena Kudryashova noted that even in seemingly purely natural science projects, such as Arctic Floating University, which has set off on its scheduled voyage on June 10, much focus is laid on studies into cultural, historical and natural heritage of the Arctic region. Scientists are working onboard the research ship Mikhail Somov to investigate the artifacts of human presence and activity on the Arctic islands.
Humanities are pursued also by world-class Research and Education Center «Russian Arctic: New materials, technologies and research methods», with human activity in the Arctic as one of the essential lines of research. Indigenous peoples of the North constitute a special focus. Their relationship with and the knowledge of the Arctic nature is centuries-old, recognized by the research communities as truly unique and crucial to correct interpreting the dynamics in the natural and social systems of the Arctic.
The Congress involves NArFU research teams in 185 sessions in 117 thematic areas. The majority of sessions has been moved online due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
«As a hosting party, we would like to see all scientists here in Arkhangelsk in the walls of our university,» said Elena Kudryashova. «But the pandemic restrictions force us to use hybrid format, while at the same time giving us the opportunity to involve the people unable to be in Arkhangelsk personally. Our broadcasts are being joined by participants all over the globe. The opening part alone was followed by more than one thousand people in many countries — it would be physically impossible to have them all here in this hall. We know that the Congress is being followed also by politicians responsible for the Arctic development strategies. Due to the difference in time zones, the sessions are running almost round the clock, attracting a large number of experts, scientists, and indigenous peoples of the North. It is great how modern technologies can make us able to discuss human presence in the Arctic, debate and come up with possible solutions.»
The interest in this international forum is truly great: welcome addresses have been provided by prominent politicians in Russia and abroad. Participating, though virtually, in the opening ceremony of the X International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences «Arctic Generations: Look back and looking forward» were Alexey Chekunkov, RF Minister for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic; Nikolai Korshunov, Ambassador-at-Large; Artur Chilingarov, RF President Special Envoy for International Cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic; Grigory Ledkov, President of the RF Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East; Konstantin Lobanov, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Thomas Dance of the US Arctic Research Commission; Patrick Pease, of the University of Northern Iowa; Dalee Sambo-Doro, Chairman of the Inuit Circumpolar Council; Christina Henriksen, President of the Saami Council; Anders Oskal, Secretary General at the Association of World Reindeer Herders; Larry Hinzman, International Arctic Scientific Committee President; Lars Kullerud, President of the UArctic.
The Congress has been given a start. Ahead are days of intense work — sessions and discussions designed to give a go to more projects and joint Arctic research initiatives. As was noted by NArFU Rector, Elena Kudryashova, «the X International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences is a meeting place for those sharing common interests.»