In 1920, within the framework of a peaceful Paris conference, an agreement concerning Svalbard was signed. According to it, Norway was given the sovereignty over the archipelago, but thereat, it underlined a special status of
, which meant that in addition to Norway, any other state could carry out scientific, commercial and research activities in these Arctic islands. However, the background of this agreement was quite interesting.
Svalbard was allegedly first discovered by the Vikings or Pomors in the 12th century, and since 1194 it was mentioned in the Norwegian annals. "Undoubtedly," the islands were discovered and documented in 1596 by the Dutchman Willem Barents, who gave the name Svalbard to the main island. It translates as "acute mountains". Around the same time, the archipelago appeared on Russian maps under the name "Holy Russian island." A few years later, Britain and Denmark had presented a claim to Svalbard. Whaling fishery began to develop in these regions shortly after the "official" discovery. Svalbard was the main base of the whalers of different countries in the 17th – 18th centuries.
During 1765-1766, Mikhail Lomonosov organized two scientific marine expeditions to Svalbard shores, but the harsh climate did not allow for a permanent Russian settlement.
After whaling industry began to decay, Svalbard was actually abandoned and considered an unadopted land for over a hundred years. A new wave of interest in the archipelago appeared in the late 19th century when the year-round access to sea ports and a relatively mild climate made Svalbard the main base for polar expeditions. At this time, the main contenders for this archipelago were Norway and the Russian Empire.
Norwegians hurried to appropriate a disputed territory in the absence of main rival (Russian empire). It had determined the unprecedented conditions of the agreement. In spite of the sovereignty of Norway, all member countries of the treatise preserved the right to mine on the archipelago. In 1935, the Soviet Union joined the agreement.
By the end of 1980, coal reserves significantly depleted in Svalbard. The Norwegian government refocused the archipelago on the development of tourism, science, and expeditions: currently, the economy of Svalbard is 100% profitable and sustainable.
Since 2006, the settlement extracts coal exclusively for its own consumption.
are virtually absent, and public ownership is in decline, used very inefficiently and requires fixed costs for the maintenance and preservation of jurisdiction (Norwegian laws allow for the maximum time limit of abandonment of objects).
Currently, projects on the further development of Russian settlements, infrastructure recovery, and future economic payback in Svalbard are periodically put forward.
In the meantime, our ship went by Barentsburg without any stopover. Thus, Barentsburg is the center of Russia's geopolitical presence on Svalbard.
I hope that the Russian settlement in Svalbard will one day turn from an abandoned settlement to an economically developed one.
What a sunny day! It’s so beautiful!