L‘Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, The George Washington University (USA) a invité Yvette Vaguet à participer à la conférence annuelle du consortium Arctic Research Coordination Network, Building a Research Network for Promoting Arctic Urban Sustainability (projet NSF-ARCN):
Russia’s Arctic Cities: Sustainable Development and Challenges (Murmansk, Russia), June 27-28, 2016
Communication présentée :
VAGUET Y., Bykova A.G., Couillet A., 2016. More urban, less Arctic ? Convergence & Divergence – The case of the Ob river region
Western Siberia, lying mainly in a permafrost area, has been urbanized for two decades or thereabouts. Russia has had the most notable experience of urbanization within the circumpolar zone and the landscape bears the most consummate signs of this experience in the region. Oil extraction constitutes the major determinant of this urbanization with the construction of more than 20 towns.
One can wonder if these urban centers are sustainable or will remain only for short-term. As a matter of fact, a current debate concerns their future in particular beyond the peak oil or facing the risks of climate change such as floods of the marshy basin of the Ob river or collapses related to permafrost melting. However, their future could also be a flourishing economy with the prospect of oil-and-gas development northwards to the Arctic Ocean. Awaiting a response, the region still presents a positive migration balance. Nowadays western Siberian towns are trying to diversify their economic profile. Moreover, municipalities are also trying to improve the quality of life of their citizens in order to retain, if not attract, inhabitants, especially the high-skilled ones. These towns show evident signs of affective and financial investment of some residents, such as the spread of the detached house model, as in many parts of the world. From the pioneers’ towns they were a couple of decade ago, these towns have slowly moved toward global urban life model and in this way, they show some convergences with their western counterparts.
This paper discusses this change in terms of convergences with what is commonly admitted as ‘global’ and divergences with what is commonly admitted as ‘Arctic’. Then, it comes back to the definition of the Arctic and considers particularly the one of Louis-Edmond Hamelin (Hamelin, L.-E., 1968) that combines physical and human dimensions. This author made a nordicity index, which dropped in the Ob river region. This led to the northward shift of the Arctic boundary.