Murmansk Oblast

Murmansk Oblast
   An administrative region of the Russian Federation. Murmansk occupies the Kola Peninsula and its hinterland on the Fenno-Scandinavian Peninsula of northeastern Europe. Murmansk is washed by the Barents Sea in the north and the White Sea in the east. It shares international borders with Norway and Finland; the latter was forced to cede Petsamo (now Pechenga District) to Soviet Russia after World War II, thus denying the Finns access to the Barents Sea and establishing a Soviet-Norwegian land border. Internally, Murmansk borders only Kareliya.
   Murmansk Oblast has a population of 892,500 and a land area of 144,900 square kilometers. It is part of the Northwestern Federal District and the Northern Economic Region. Due to competing influences of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, the region possesses a dichotomous climate with tundra in the north and maritime taiga in the south (two-thirds of the region is forested). The region is one of Russia’s more economically developed areas, possessing vast mineral reserves of quartz, cobalt, titanium, copper, nickel, zirconium, and other precious metals. Nonferrous metallurgy is the dominant sector of the economy, followed by power generation, the food industry (including fish), and petrochemicals.
   Nickel smelting in the region is responsible for environmental degradation and pollution in the Nordic countries and has been regulated since 1996. Oil and gas reserves are being developed in the Barents Sea, particularly by Lukoil. The region’s fisheries (cod, halibut, flounder, herring, and salmon) are some of the most productive in the world. While animal husbandry is well developed, the region does not support a sufficient crop yield due to its northern geography. The site of a large number of nuclear reactors, the region generates all of its own electricity and also exports to Finland and Kareliya; wind power generators have also been installed in the region in recent years. The region also possesses a significant military presence, including the nuclear submarine base at the closed town of Ostrovnoy.
   Ethnic Russians account for 85 percent of the population. The Saami, a group indigenous to Sápmi (Lapland), of which the Kola Peninsula is a part, account for less than 1 percent of the population. The regional capital, Murmansk, is Russia’s largest ice-free port and a central location of the country’s fishing industry. The region’s first and only popularly elected governor is Yury Yevdokimov. He took office in 1996 and soon signed a power-sharing deal with Moscow. Yevdokimov was reelected in 2000 and 2004 and reappointed by Vladimir Putin in 2007 (he had strongly defended Putin’s handling of the Kursk submarine disaster in 2000). The governor’s bid to have Murmansk designated as a Special Economic Zone like Khabarovsk was rejected by the Kremlin in 2008; however, Yevdokimov has expanded the power of the regional administration during a period when Moscow has been sapping authority from its federal subjects.
   In 2008, Murmansk residents gained visa-free travel rights to northern Norway. With the annual decrease of ice in the Arctic Ocean, Murmansk is poised to play a pivotal role in Russia’s economic and political expansion in the northern polar region in coming decades; Yevdokimov has emerged as an international advocate for Russia’s national interests in this domain.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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