Youth partying by the water in Neryungri. Photo: Florian Stammler, 2018.
In northern Finland and Russia, many places face the same challenge: how to attract young people to stay or return to their hometowns?
A Research project coordinated by the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland, investigated what makes an Arctic city or municipality viable to young people. One result of the project is a best practices guide that provides recommendations for educational organizations, municipal and civil society sector, business sector and regional government sector.
The recommendations are based on long-term field research in northern Finland and Russia, on interviews with young people living there, and on their understandings of wellbeing and the elements of a satisfying life.
Various structural conditions in Finland’s and Russia’s North continue to prompt young people to move to bigger cities. Among the most significant ones are limited education and employment opportunities as well as a lack of services, entertainment and adequate transportation.
– Leaving is also often considered to be simply cooler and more progressive among both Russian and Finnish youth than staying in the North, says research professor Florian Stammler from the Arctic Centre.
On the other hand, young people see many positive aspects of living in the North. Among the main attractions are the clean and peaceful nature, the possibilities for various nature-based activities and the convenience and comfort of living in small places in comparison to big, metropolitan areas.
The recommendations in the guide provide concrete practical examples from both countries. Examples also show that a lot can be learned from each other.
– Many young people may not be attracted by the idea of just distance learning in front of a screen. But the Russian combined model of distance and face-to-face studies where most of the studies can be done online and then travelling to the university towns a couple of times a year might be an attractive solution for some students in Finland too, says Stammler.
– On the other hand, what many young people miss in Russia‘s Arctic is just places where they can hang out and spend time with other youngsters, without any coordinated activities, competition or so called useful purpose. That problem did not come up in Finland that much, Stammler continues.
The best practices compiled in the guide reflect the specific characteristics of each country and town. The Finnish field sites were Kolari, Kemijärvi, and Pyhäjoki; the Russian sites Kovdor, Revda, Polyarnye Zori, Kirovsk, Novy Urengoy, Neryungri, Nizhnyi Kuranakh, and Tiksi. The guide is available in Finnish, Russian and English.
Online guide in English: Ensuring Thriving Northern Towns for Young People: a Best Practices Guide
Online guide and pdf in Russian: Молодёжь в северных городах: лучшие практики
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
+358 400 138 807