Murmansk Oblast
A border region and military bastion rich in natural resources including various minerals and ores

Murmansk Oblast includes the whole Kola Peninsula, the about 100,000 square kilometer area connected with the Finnish Lapland province and the Norwegian Finnmark County in the west, and facing the Barents Sea and White Sea in the north, south and east. The region is governed from Murmansk City, the regional capital, which is the by far biggest city in the world north of the Arctic Circle.

Murmansk Oblast is rich in natural resources, including various ores and minerals, like apatites and nephelines; copper, nickel, and iron ores, as well as fish and other resources. A string of powerful industries has developed in fields like mining and metallurgy, fisheries and shipbuilding.

The region has several big rivers and a well-developed hydropower generating industry. The only nuclear power plant in the Barents Region, the Kola NPP, is located in the southern part of the peninsula. The location by the never-freezing  Arctic waters gives Murmansk a geopolitically central position in Russian military strategies. The Northern Fleet has its bases along the Kola coast from where it has easy access to the world seas.

Along with Navy, the fisheries and the shipping industry has always been the leading players in the waters off the Kola Peninsula. Today, the oil and gas industry is also gradually making its way into the regional economy.


Regional stories

Continued decline for Murmansk Port
Goods turnover in the Murmansk port is down more than 50% since 2010.
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

In five years, goods turnover at Russia’s leading Arctic port has dropped by more than 50 percent. The port, a cornerstone infrastructure object in Murmansk Oblast, in the first ten months of 2015 had a 3,8 percent decline compared with the same period 2014, the Independent Barents Observer reports.

That result brings goods turnover in the regional port to the lowest level in 13 years. In year 2002, the port handled 21,5 million tons, figures from Patchwork Barents shows. In 2015, the volume is likely to drop to below 22 million tons...

More fish, but less production
Fish stocks in the Barents Sea are richer than ever, but the fish industry in Murmansk still in state of decline.
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Figures from regional statistical office Murmanskstat, the regional branch office of federal Rosstat, show that regional fishery processing facilities the first six months of 2015 produced 19,3 thousand tons, 13 percent less than in the same period 2014, BarentsObserver reports.

The weak results for 2015 follows an industry decline also last year. In 2014, regional fish processing dropped almost three percent compared with 2013.

In addition, the Murmansk regional aquaculture industry is in crisis following mass death in salmon...

Great party, poor results for Murmansk Port
As it celebrates its 100-years anniversary, the Port of Murmansk records historically bad results.
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

The Murmansk Sea Port marks its 100 years of operations with a great party in the city downtown. However, as thousands of locals enjoyed the show, there seems to be less joy to find in the port accounts books, BarentsObserver reports.

Figures from the local Murmansk Statistical Service (Murmanskstat) indicate that regional ports are in a period of serious decline. In the first seven months of 2015, the ports had a drop in their goods turnover of almost 20 percent. That follows a downturn of as much as 40 percent in 2014 compared with 2013.

As illustrated by Patchwork Barents the Murmansk sea ports in 2014 handled 22,7 million tons of goods, compared with...

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...

Russian salaries falling
People are forced to cut costs as salaries are shrinking and inflation hikes.
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Figures from Patchwork Barents show that the salary level in the Russian north in 2014 declined, the first drop since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

 The figures, based on data from the Russian Statistical Service, show a similar drop in all the five Barents Russian federal subjects. In Murmansk Oblast, the average annual salary level dropped from $15,160 in 2013 to $13,400 in 2014.  In the Republic of Karelia, salaries fell from $10,360 to $9160, while the oil-rich Nenets AO had a drop from $23,280 to $20,870, BarentsObserver...

Russian Arctic ports down, Norwegian up
While the Port of Murmansk has its biggest downturn in more than a decade, neigboring Norwegian ports have their best results ever.
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Figures assembled by Patchwork Barents show that Norwegian Arctic ports for the first time in ten years have a bigger goods turnover than neighboring Russian ports, BarentsObserver reports.

The Murmansk regional ports in 2014 handled a total volume of 22,7 million tons, a 34 percent drop from the previous year, and the weakest result since 2003.

Furthermore, the negative trend continues in 2015. According to the ...

Stable employment amid economic strain
Russian economy is dipping into depression. But unemployment remains historically low.
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Russian economy is expected to dip into a three percent recession in 2015 and both private companies and public authorities experience increasing hardship. Figures from several regions indicate increasing problems also in the employment market.

Statistics show an increase in jobless rates in the first months of the year. In Murmansk, unemployment increased to 8,2 percent in February, an increase of about 1,5 percent compared with figures from 2014, BarentsObserver reports.

However, unemployment in Murmansk and the neighboring Russian regions is still historically low.

According to Patchwork Barents, average unemployment in the Russian part...

Good times for Murmansk miners
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Unlike competitors in Norway and Sweden, iron miners in Murmansk are making good money.

Severstal, the operator of the Olcon iron ore mine in Olenegorsk, Murmansk Oblast, and the Karelsky Okatish, a pellets plant in the Republic of Karelia, in 2014 had its best results in six years, BarentsObserver reports.

Commenting on the results, company CEO Aleksey Mordashov says that Severstal in 2014 delivered a 21.2 percent year-on-year increase in EBITDA to $2,203 million, up from $1,818 million in 2013. According to the company report, ouput from the Olcon mine in 2014 dropped 4 percent, while production at the Karelsky Okatish increased 2 percent.

Nickel output down, profits still high
By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Norilsk Nickel in 2014 produced less nickel in the Kola Peninsula than in more than a decade.

The company, the world's biggest producer of the valuable metal, in 2014 had a four percent drop in production. In the Kola Peninsula, one of two production regions in Russia, the production decline was three percent, a company press release reads.

The lower production and the falling raw material prices would have been a dramatic mix for the company was it not for the major weaking of the ruble, BarentsObserver reports.

"The decline in nickel and copper is causing a revenue decline," company CEO and majority owner Vladimir...