15th International Summer School in Karelia 14–19 May 2018, Petrozavodsk State University - Report

From 14 to 19 of May 2018 at Petrozavodsk State University (Russia) took place 15th International Summer School in Karelia. The event was organized jointly by Petrozavodsk State University, University of Lapland, and the University of Helsinki. The 2018 edition focused on discourses on the Arctic, as well as disciplinary theories and methods of Arctic studies. Theories and methods were discussed in the context of the Barents Sea area, and that of the global Arctic: on the one hand, theoretically and holistically from many angles and disciplinary approaches, from academic and policy-oriented ones (including political dimensions of cooperation, interests and standpoints of different stakeholders); On the other hand, from the perspectives of past(s), present(s) and future(s), and from global Arctic and local contexts in the European Arctic.    

This year’s edition was attended by HuSArctic researcher Gerald Zojer from the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law (NIEM) at the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland and Karolina Sikora (research assistant, NIEM).

The school was participated by a group of international students from Finland, Germany, Scotland and Spain as well as group of students from Petrozavodsk State University (PetrSU).

The overall programme of the course consisted of two lectures in the morning followed by workshop sessions in the afternoon, during which students were discussing issues and tasks given by lecturers. In total, students attended 9 lectures given by representatives of the organizing institutions as well as from the University of Northern British Columbia, the Karelian Research Centre, and the Swedish-Karelian Information Centre.     

Summary of the Summer School

Day 1

The Summer School started with welcoming words by the hosts, Sergey Verigin - Dean of the Faculty of History and Marina Gvozdeva - Director of the Institute of Foreign Languages from Petrozavodsk State University followed by an introduction to the methodology of ISSK by Tapani Kaakkuriniemi (Helsinki University, Aleksanteri Institute) and Alexandra Smirnova (PetrSU). The morning lectures served to introduce students to basic organizations and geopolitical aspects of the Barents cooperation. The first lecture by Gleb Yarovoy (PetrSU) was titled “BEARing the EU-Russian border. From the Pomor Trade to the last positively cooperating polity in the New North of Europe”. Gleb Yarovoy focused on the reasons and the beginnings of the Barents cooperation, explaining also the structure of Barents Euro Arctic Council. Next, Dr Natalia Loukacheva from the University of Northern Columbia continued with “Discourses on the Arctic”. Dr Loukacheva gave an overview of legal frameworks applied to the Arctic as well as discussed economic condition of the region in general. 

Day 2

During the second day of the ISSK students participated in the lecture given jointly by Pavel Petrov (Head of the Department for International Cooperation of Karelian Research Centre) and Igor Shevchuk (Director of Swedish – Karelian Information Business Centre). Their presentation was titled “Experience of implementing international projects (in the region) – practitioners’ approach”. They discussed the importance of international projects in strengthening international and regional cooperation and presented some of the regional development projects implemented in the Barents region. They also touched upon most popular funding opportunities used by different actors in the North of Europe and North-Western Russia.

In the afternoon, the program continued with Tapani Kaakkuriniemi´s (University of Helsinki) presentation concerning “Life in the Arctic: Conflicts of the Traditional and the Modern”. Tapani introduced basic assumptions of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and explained how indigenous peoples´ lands rights are protected regarding to the Declaration. He paid special attention to the current investments held in Barents Region that may infringe indigenous peoples´ rights.  During the afternoon workshop, the students were given a task to create their own project application, which should had regional (Karelian/Barents) dimensions and engage partners both from the Finnish and the Russian side.  

Day 3

The third day of the summer school started with a lecture by Lassi Heininen (University of Lapland), who concentrated on explaining the meaning of the summer school´s theme. He gave the presentation titled “Arctic Studies - Discourse(s) beyond mainstream IR?” Lassi Heininen raised the theoretical aspects of Arctic Studies as well as moral dilemmas of researches´ work. He explained the chain of interests of different actors involved.

The following lecture by Alexandra Smirnova (PetrSU) touched upon the concept of peace. In her presentation, Alexandra was “Looking for the peace discourse in 'Arctic peace': Some peculiarities of the peace movement in Russia, Finland and Norway.” She went through different methods of achieving peace, addressing them especially to the Arctic Region. Then, Alexandra explained the lack of peace movement in the Arctic discourse, with the exception of indigenous peoples´ protests and Greenpeace activism.

Day 4

That day, two speakers presented the concept of security in the two different aspects. In the morning, Jussi Huotari (University of Helsinki) addressed the issue of “The evolvement of (energy) security and the Barents Sea petroleum development”. Jussi introduced the challenge of perceiving the Barents Sea as a “next frontier” for oil and gas operations, something that actors both in and outside the region eagerly look forward to open for extraction.

The day continued with the presentation by Gerald Zojer (University of Lapland) titled “Conceptualizing Digitalization in the European High North as a Matter of Human Security”. Gerald approached the topic by discussing the rapid increase of digitalization in everyday life. He focused on opportunities as well as challenges that digitalization is bringing to the inhabitants of the High North, which is a very specific region e.g. due to its sparsely populated areas and long distances. Gerald argued that the human security framework may be useful while studying impact of digitalization in this region.   

Day 5

Last day of the summer school started with the lecture given by Ilya Solomeshch (PetrSU).  In his presentation he raised the question of “Finlandization 2.0. – a case of potential transfer of Nordic experience, or an empty signifier?” Ilya explored the notion of Finlandization as seemingly a bit outdated. He argued that in XXI century, this notion has experienced revival in the media discourse, applied as a potentially acceptable and helpful solution, for so-called frozen conflicts on the post-Soviet reality. The lecture aimed at suggesting the students to make their own choice, whether to take them as mere playing with a sonorous word, or as something reflecting substantial political project.

The day ended up with closing words by Lassi Heininen and Tapani Kaakkuriniemi. They invited all of the students for the next year´s edition of the Summer School. Students were also given certificates of participation.

Day 6

After the official program of the Summer School, the students were invited to participate in a guided tour to the Kivach Waterfall. The excursion was organized by Petrozavodsk State University. Students had a chance to see the natural reserve and the museum of Karelian fauna and flora, as well as to hear about the history of the Karelia region. 


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Sunday, July 22, 2018 - 20:57