the biggest in territory of all Norwegian counties

The county of Finnmark is the biggest in territory of all Norwegian counties, but has the smallest population. The region covers an area of 48,615 square kilometers and has over the last decade had a population of about 75,000.

Finnmark borders on Finnish Lapland in the south and Murmansk Oblast in the east and has developed extensive cross-border relations with both Finnish and Russian partners. The region has always had an economy dependent of fisheries and this industry provides a lion`s share of employment in a number of the coastal settlements. Other industries include reindeer herding, mining, oil and gas, and tourism.

Finnmark county has a population with a significant Sami minority. The indigenous Sami people have political representation concentrated in the Sami Parliament and has in the Finnmark Law of 2006 got considerable powers over regional land issues.

Finnmark has a well-developed infrastructure, based on sea ports and ship transport, roads, and airports. There are as many as 11 regional airports, the biggest ones in Alta and Kirkenes.

The town of Alta has the biggest population and has over many years experienced a positive demographic development, much thanks to the local university college. Other population centers include Hammerfest, Kirkenes and Vadsø, of which the latter is the region`s administrative hub.


Regional stories

Colorful harvests from Arctic Earth
Despite a challenging northern climate, agriculture is rich in the Barents Region
By Birgitte Wisur Olsen, Kirkenes, freelancer/Sør-Varanger Avis

What crops can be grown in the North — where the spring is almost nonexistent, but the midnight sun shines twenty-four hours a day for two months?

"This is not bad," says Tone Aandahl with sheer joy in her voice as she grabs a good handful of potato grass, pulls it up and digs up almond potatoes from the soil. By the middle of August, these potatoes have a size siutable for the dinner table — even after a cold, wet summer.

The production of potatoes and crops for commercial use is almost nonexistent in Finnmark, in the northernmost part of Norway. According to Statistics Norway, Finnmark produced only a meagre two-hundered tons of potatoes in 2013. This figure is very low compared to, for example, Northern Ostrobothnia (Finland), which topped the list for the Barents Region...

Speak Russian at home, Norwegian at school
When raising their children in Northern Norway, Russian immigrants choose to keep both cultures
By Birgitte Wisur Olsen, Kirkenes, freelancer/Sør-Varanger Avis

«I felt an urgent need to understand - perhaps for the first time - how well these children who have moved to Norway from Russia in the post-Soviet period, live here, primarily in the northern part of Norway. The children were involuntarily facing important processes like integration, adaptation, culture shock and mental discomfort», says Victoria V. Tevlina, associate professor at the Barents Institute (The Arctic University of Norway) and professor at the Northern Federal University. She recently launched her book «From Russia to Norway and to its North - Real and Potential migration: Children, adults, families».

In her book, Tevlina examines trends in Russian migration flows to Northern...

«It`s not a Choice, it`s a necessity»
Northern Russian women may retire already at 50, but for some this is pure theory
By Birgitte Wisur Olsen, Kirkenes, freelancer/Sør-Varanger Avis

Russians have by far the lowest retirement age in the Barents Region, and also the lowest pensions. According to statistics published by Patchwork Barents the annual average pension in Finnmark, Norway, was 35,303 USD, and in Murmansk Oblast, Russia, 4,874 USD in 2012. The regional statistics also show a major gap in the average retirement age, a seventeen-year difference. 

Women in the Russian North may retire already at age 50, and northern men at 55. In the rest of Russia, the normal retirement age is 55 for women and 60 for men. In comparison, the retirement age in neighboring country Norway is 67. However, the public sector, and partly the private sector, allows pension on special conditions from age 62.

Russia also has a system that grants pedagogical...

Nenets oil gives boost to Norwegian port
Rapidly growing volumes of oil from the Varandey terminal are handled by the Norwegian town of Kirkenes.
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Norwegian company Norterminal and its subsidiary Norterminal Floating Storage AS will soon be able to handle up to six million ton of Russian oil at its ship-to-ship facility in a fjord outside Kirkenes, Norway.

In an application to the Norwegian Environment Agency, the company seeks permission for a doubling of the volumes of ship-to-ship operations. The previous permission included only three million tons, BarentsObserver reports.

If approved by the Environment Agency, Norterminal will be able to cover almost all of Lukoil's needs for Arctic trans-shipment capacity. Lukoil is the owner of the Varandey terminal, a key infrastructure object for the company's oil...

How much Arctic gas for Europe?
Gas production in northern Norwegian waters was the highest ever in 2014.
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Figures assembled by Patchwork Barents show that Norwegian gas production in waters north of the Arctic Circle in 2014 amounted to 7,46 billion cubic meters. That is the biggest volume from the region ever, BarentsObserver reports.

A lion's share of the Norwegian Arctic production comes from Statoil's Snøhvit LNG project, the world's northernmost of its kind, which in 2014 reached a production record of 5,22 billion cubic meters.

In the more southernly Norwegian Sea, the fields located in the waters off the county of Nordland in 2014 produced a total of 2,23 million cubic meters. That volume will increase significantly as Statoil opens its Aasta Hansteen field, presumably in 2017....

Too much Rudolf on the tundra
More than 900 reindeer die of hunger on the Russian Arctic island of Kolguyev following a critical lack of available local pasturelands. There is an excessive number of reindeers over parts of the Arctic, experts warn.
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

In few weeks, the number of reindeer at the Kolguyev island dropped dramatically by almost 15 percent, reports. The mass death is a result not only of difficult weather conditions on the island, but also of an excessive number of animals.

According to veterinary authorities in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the situation for the Kolguyev reindeer comes as local herders over several years have boosted the number of animals to a critical level. The local herders now have a total of more than...

Amid downslide, a boom for Norwegian Arctic oil
Production in northern Norwegian waters saw a significant decline in 2013. Still, energy companies like never before rush into the area.
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Figures assembled by BarentsObserver show that both oil and gas production in northern Norwegian fields dropped significantly in the course of 2013. The Snøhvit field, so far the only operating project in the Barents Sea, produced a total of 3,76 million sm3 of gas, a decline of 24 percent compared with 2012. Likewise, practically all of the fields located in the Norwegian Sea off the coast of the Nordland County had falling production figures.

In total, the north Norwegian oil production in 2013 dropped 16 percent to a total of 5,13 million SM3, while the regional gas production fell 16 percent to 6,06 million SM3, figures from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate show. The figures include production at the fields of Snøhvit, Heidrun, Morvin, Norne, Urd and Yttergryta.

The trend is in line with figures from the rest of the...