Northern Sea route (NSR) is a transport passage along the Arctic coastline of Russia . Regular usage of the route dates back to the 19th century, but the harbour settlements were mostly built as part of Soviet plan of developing the High North. Today the reviving of NSR is proclaimed as one of Russia's ‘national priorities’ and became part of the governmental discourse ‘to reclaim the Artic’. 

Does NSR ‘connect’ or ‘divide’ Russian Arctic? In official discourse, NSR ‘connects’: it is perceived as a ‘sea highway’, as a macro-region, a homogenous territory with clear geographical borders and similar living conditions. In reality NSR also ‘divides’: different institutions and different regions have different rights for NSR; parts of NSR have different shipping traffic (western part is industrially developed and thus intensely navigated, while in its eastern part almost only supplies are shipped). Geography of NSR is also perceived differently: legally, NSR is clearly defined, but mass perception of NSR sees it as a route from Murmansk to Vladivostok. In different periods of history, NSR was used for different purposes – from export of grain to transportation of hydrocarbons. People and infrastructure also connect and divide NSR: shipping technologies differ, as do local communities and professional groups that maintain NSR. The proposed panel will discuss these questions and present some preliminary results of the project “Harbours of Transarctic Route: Space and Societies of Russia’s Arctic Coast” (2017-2019)" done jointly by historians from Tyumen’ State University and anthropologists from European University at St. Petersburg.