Environmental and Social Impacts of Industrialization in Northern Russia (ENSINOR)


The overall aim of ENSINOR was the co-production of knowledge that stems from different traditions among both scientists and herders and their respective ways of knowing about contemporary social-ecological systems. The project undertook a multidisciplinary analysis of the social and environmental consequences of energy development in northern Russia. A comparative study of effect of two key federal districts in northwest Russia - Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO) and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YNAO) -  was made with links to the global level on the basis of scientific and local knowledge.

NAO and YNAO contain Russia’s most productive proven energy sources for the present and the foreseeable future. The extensive gas and oil fields overlap with the homelands of indigenous peoples whose traditional livelihoods – reindeer herding, augmented by fishing, hunting and gathering – are at risk from changes in land use associated with petroleum exploration and exploitation, in addition to climate-related changes.

Declaration of Coexistence

Representatives of research, reindeer herding, local authorities and industry contributed to a ’declaration of coexistence’ between reindeer nomads and the oil and gas industry in the Russian North. The declaration is among the results of  the project. An international workshop in December 2007 had brought together the above mentioned stakeholder groups, which contributed to the declaration.

The decaration is available in English and Russian .

The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a drastic restructuring in the national economies of both Finland and Russia throughout the 1990’s. In the first years of the 21st century it is clear that a new relationship has emerged, one in which Russia has again become a critical trading partner, in particular as a major source of energy. Arctic energy development has become an increasingly multinational domain driven by a high-tech, expensive and growing network of extraction and transport infrastructure. The world’s No. 2 oil exporter, Russia is also considered the Saudi Arabia of natural gas and recently has become the prime gas supplier of the enlarged European Union with almost half of all gas imports. As such, Russia is working hard to secure the investments necessary to get its supplies of petroleum to European and even North American markets through a combination of tanker traffic, via the Northern Sea Route, and pipelines across eastern Europe. Another possibility is a new ice-free tanker terminal at Murmansk. It is of utmost important that Finland analyzes and determines its own role in this rapidly developing global-economic map. Furthermore, as both a partner and a client in these ventures, Finland has a responsibility to see that the development proceeds in a manner that minimizes negative impacts in the affected areas.

One intensive study site has been selected within each district. A team of researchers started undertaking intensive fieldwork on reindeer pastures that have experienced extensive development in the past 20-30 years, and among the communities of herders managing the grazing of domestic reindeer on these pastures. The disciplines represented are geography, biology and anthropology, all geared toward the policy implications of energy development. The group works closely together with indigenous stakeholders to produce a state-of-the-art assessment of the role of this development.

The project:

    1. promotes sustainable development by providing expert knowledge on the collective benefits and impacts of development;
    2. prepares scenarios for Finland’s future roles in this process and for traditional livelihoods in the source areas affected by development;
    3. disseminates this knowledge to the public and policy makers via Arctic Centre’s science exhibition, scientific publications, and data and information services, and a final public symposium.

The project lasted 48 months. Arctic Centre (AC) recruited three PhD students to handle the main field and laboratory research and to make their dissertations as part of the project. Their disciplines are: (i) Anthropology; (ii) Geography; and (iii) Biology. Prof. Forbes coordinates the overall project with strong research and supervision support on the social sciences from Drs. Tuula Tuisku and Florian Stammler. The project has been funded by the Finnish Academy during the period 2004-2007.