The area of the Earth adjacent to the North Pole including the fringes of Eurasia and North America, the Arctic Ocean with its islands (except Norway’s offshore islands) and the adjacent portions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Arctic’s area is around 27 million square kilometres (if defined as north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33’N), the Arctic would cover 21 million square kilometres).
Today, the Arctic is divided into five sectors of responsibility between the US, Russia, Norway, Canada and Denmark, yet its precise boundaries have not been determined. In addition, Iceland, Sweden and Finland are also claiming Arctic status, even though they have no oceanic borders with the Arctic.
The Russian Arctic
The territory of the Russian Arctic begins at Franz-Joseph Land in the northwest and stretches to the Wrangel and Gerald Islands in the east, occupying around a third of the entire Arctic shelf. The Arctic territories are subject to federal law and are actively used to Russia’s economic benefit. In addition, the Northern Sea Route and the Northern Air Bridge linking Asia and North America cross the North Pole.
The Russian Federation’s Arctic zone includes territories of the Murmansk Region, the Nenets, Chukotka and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Districts, the Republic of Komi, several districts of the Republic of Yakutia (Sakha), the city of Norilsk, two districts of the Krasnoyarsk Territory and certain municipalities of the Archangelsk Region. Russia’s Arctic zone also includes some lands and islands in the Arctic Ocean.
The Arctic region is rich in a variety of natural resources, primarily oil and gas. The Arctic accounts for around 22% of the global unexplored hydrocarbon reserves, including 13% of the oil, 30% of the natural gas, and 20% of the gas condensate. Of these, 84% are located on the Arctic shelf and 16% on the landmass of the Arctic states.
Moreover, the Arctic area boasts unique nature, with more than 20,000 species of plant, animal, mushroom and microorganism. The Arctic is home to more than 25% of salmon species, 12% of lichen species and 6% of moss species. Wild northern reindeer, white hares, polar owls, terns, wolves, polar foxes and polar bears live there. Snow sheep, muskox and lemmings are the rarest representatives of the Arctic fauna. Stoats, wolverines and Arctic ground squirrels also inhabit the polar region. Marine animals include walruses, seals, fish and several kinds of whale, including orcas, white whales, narwhals and the famous bowhead whales.