Urban Sustainability in the Arctic. Measuring Progress in Circumpolar Cities

A new book “Urban Sustainability in the Arctic. Measuring Progress in Circumpolar Cities” was published this summer by Berghahn Books. The book is edited by Robert W. Orttung and is a result of the Arctic PIRE project.

Urban Sustainability in the Arctic advances our understanding of cities in the far north by applying elements of the international standard for urban sustainability (ISO 37120) to numerous Arctic cities. In delivering rich material about northern cities in Alaska, Canada, and Russia, the book examines how well the ISO 37120 measures sustainability and how well it applies in northern conditions. In doing so, it links the Arctic cities into a broader conversation about urban sustainability more generally.


Stephanie Hitztaler and Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen wrote a chapter for the book titled “What Do ISO Indicators Tell Us about Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability in Cities of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russia?”

This chapter uses several ISO 37120 indicators to measure the contribution of corporate social responsibility to the cities of the natural-gas-producing Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Some of the indicators show the benefits of such programs, especially in the area
of building new sports facilities. But despite this improvement in the sustainability ranking as measured by this indicator, the ongoing fossil fuel extraction and Gazprom’s overall impact on the area reduce the city’s sustainability. In this sense, ISO indicators can be cherry
picked in ways that are deceptive in terms of a corporation’s overall impact on urban sustainability.

You can learn more about the book and order it online from the publisher’s website.

51st Annual ASEEES Convention, San Francisco, USA

Our team is participating in the 51st Annual ASEEES Convention, held on 23-26 of November  in San Francisco, USA.

On 23 November Dmitry Yagodin chaired a panel “Emergent Energies and their Intersection with State, Society and Culture in the Russian Arctic”. Stephanie Hitztaler presented there a paper “A Sustainable Yamal? A Critical Look at Corporate Social Responsibility and its Contribution to Short- and Long-Term Urban Vitality in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug” and Sohvi Kangasluoma talked about “Masculine Industry, Feminine Environment? A Gender-Based Look at Media Representations of Arctic Hydrocarbon Companies”.

Later that day Stephanie Hitztaler was chairing a panel “The Politics and Perception of Climate Change and Renewable Energy Discourse from the Russian Far North to Central Asia”. Dmitry Yagodin gave a talk about “Convenient Truth: The Roots of Climate Denial in the Official Discourse in Russia” and Hilma Salonen presented her paper “Is there Life after Fossil Fuels?”.



On 6th-9th of December ASEEES 50th Annual Convention is taking place in Boston, United States.
From our team, Stephanie Hitztaler is taking part in the conference. She is a participant at the roundtable “Doing Research in Post-Soviet Spaces: Reports on Recent Fieldwork” today, on Friday, 7th of December.

Coming up with research questions is only one part of our work as academics; the ways in which we answer them is another major aspect. This roundtable panel will discuss strategies for adapting to the varied landscapes—political, social, and cultural—of doing research in the former Soviet Union, touching on working with local academic communities, technological limits and capabilities, and specific challenges at research sites. Panelists from history, sociology, geography, anthropology, and interdisciplinary fields will discuss the ever-evolving constellation of research methods and methodologies, including the value and mechanics of doing mixed-methods approaches, the impact of the rising emphasis on interdisciplinarity, and the role and importance of recognizing researcher subjectivity, in their recent fieldwork in Ukraine, Russia, and Central Asia.

Stephanie will also chair the panel “The Soviet Anthropocene” on Sunday, December 9th.

More information can be found on the
conference website.

Research group on the Russian environment at the 18th Annual Aleksanteri Conference

From 24 to 26 of October Aleksanteri Institute organised the 18th Annual Aleksanteri Conference. This year’s theme was “Liberation – Freedom– Democracy? 1918–1968–2018”. Several members of our team participated in the conference.

Sakari Höysniemi chaired the panel “FRRESH (Finnish-Russian Network in Russian and Eurasian Studies) Perspectives to Russia and Beyond” on Thursday, 25th of October and Sohvi Kangasluoma chaired the panel “Peace Movement and the Third World” on Friday, 26th of October.

Dmitry Yagodin was a discussant and a chair at the panel “Russian Media Lab IV: Internet Regulation, Online Censorship and Resistance” on Thursday, 25th of October. He also presented a paper “Climate change coverage in the Russian national and local media” at “Russian Media Lab V: Media framing and Conflict” panel same day.


While other presenters of the panel spoke about issues widely discussed in Russian media like Telegram messenger or the Ukranian conflict, Dmitry was talking, in his own words, about an issue that is unfortunately not on the agenda in Russia – climate change. He presented his ongoing research on the media coverage of the Anthrax outbreak in YNAO in 2016. Climate change as the cause of the accident was not as interesting for the press in the region as one could imagine – a sign of Russian climate skepticism. However, several months after the outbreak there was a scientific conference on climate change organised in Yamal. Yet, the purpose of it, according to Doctor Yagodin, was not to raise the awareness about climate change, but rather to transfer the responsibility for the casualties among the reindeer population and one child’s death to something that was out of control of the officials and scientists – record high hot temperatures and permafrost and peat thawing.

Stephanie Hitztaler, another postdoctoral researcher of our team, presented her work that she does in the frameworks of Arctic PIRE project –  “A fossil fuel empire and the recasting of people and place in the Russian Arctic” at the panel Regional Issues in Russia on Friday, 26th.


Stephanie was talking also about Yamal region, calling it a place of massive industrialization. Doctor Hitztaler presented mega projects of Gazprom and Gazprom Neft companies, that are parastatal. However, their decisions are not solely motivated by politics, they have also strategic agenda. Stephanie showed the “Rodnye goroda” project agenda and pictures of the street art of “Festival Stenograffia», that creates murals in this area – a pretty way to brighten up and change the community. With this kind of projects Gazprom and Gazprom Neft are really trying to make the case of empowering people to make a change in their communities. At the same time, the actual landscape is getting a rapid transformation because of Gazprom Neft (for example, shrub dominated vegetation transformed into grass dominated) but this art as in “Stenograffia” festival gives a sense of stability, it doesn’t change over time.

The presentations of both Dmitry and Stephanie showcased different issues in the same region and inspired the audience to think about the Arctic region and the change it is undergoing now.

More information on the conference can be read on the event’s webpage.

Professor Tynkkynen’s visit to the US

These days professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen is visiting the United States to attend the Arctic PIRE meeting at the George Washington University. Additionally, Professor Tynkkynen gave two lectures at the GWU – “Russia’s Hydrocarbon Culture in the Making” and “Arctic energy and the environment”.

Russia’s high economic and political dependence on oil and gas pushes the Putin regime to build a “hydrocarbon culture” to legitimize this very dependence. This construct seeks to convince Russians that, via hydrocarbons, Russia will be able to modernize domestically and expand its influence internationally, and therefore Russians should venerate energy and accept hydrocarbons as part of Russian identity. The lecture also discusses how this hydrocarbon culture links to the Arctic, Energy-Superpower discourse, energy as leverage in the domestic context, as well as Russia’s climate discourse.


Also Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen met with diplomats at the Finnish Embassy and gave a talk on EU-Russia energy relations at the US Department of State. According to Tynkkynen, there was a very interesting discussion, very responsive to his views: we need a common voice in EU’s energy policy to enhance energy security and promote responsibilities in energy trade and production.

Arctic PIRE conference in Helsinki

On 24th-25th of May researchers involved in Arctic PIRE project from the USA and Russia came to Helsinki for the networking event. The 2-day Arctic Sustainability conference consisted of a workshop and several external visits.

During the workshop, organised on 24th of May, the researchers presented their ongoing projects. Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen introduced his research group and its activities. Professor Robert Orttung talked about the Arctic Urban Sustainability Index, development of which is the goal of Arctic PIRE project. The Index is based on economic, social, environmental, governance, and planning indicators, which the project members try to evaluate. Graduate Research Assistant Nina Feldman presented her and Professor Nikolay Shiklomanov’s and M.S. Luis Suter’s work on the environmental indicators and showed a video from the summer 2017 field course in Salekhard, Labytnangi, and Vorkuta. Luis Suter spoke about his research on the second day as well. Professor Matthew Berman talked about his research on economic indicators, while Dr. Vera Kuklina and Dr. Marya Rozanova-Smith spoke about the social indicators, the data on which they collected during their field work in Yakutia and Naryan-Mar, Salekhard, Novyi Urengoy, respectively. Marya Rozanova, for example, did over 500 interviews with educational specialists, 14-16 years old school children, and governmental officials, and stressed the need for the regional Arctic University in the area.

On the first day several other research areas of the Arctic PIRE were prsented. Post-doctoral researcher Stephanie Hitztaler from our research team talked about “Родные города” initiative by Gazprom – a new take on corporate responsibility that tries to attach people to the cities they are working in. Arctic PIRE alumni Carly Giddings spoke on SMEs and entrepreneurs in the Arctic region, and Professor Nadezhda Zamyatina touched the issue of place attachment. Dr. Timothy Heleniak, who is currently working at Nordregio, updated the participants on the work of the research centre. Graduate research assistant Beth Short talked about her project #60above60, which aims at enhancing student understanding of sustainability, action and solving problems of global significance. During her stay in Helsinki Beth met with some of school teachers, so hopefully this important social project will have representatives in Helsinki too.

On the second day conference participants first had a meeting at the Ministry of the Environment with Ministerial Adviser Henna Haapala and Arctic Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen. Henna Haapala introduced the work of the Ministry on the sustainable development in Finland, and Aleksi Härkönen spoke about the Arctic Council and its priorities. Their presentations were followed by the question & answer session. Both speakers urged the scholars to send their research results to the governmental stakeholders. They also noted the importance of sharing good practices in the Arctic between the Arctic states.

In the afternoon the participants went to the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation headquarters, where they met with FANC Head of the Environmental Policy Jouni Nissinen and Greenpeace Campaigner Laura Meller.

Jouni Nissinen spoke about the FANC, which focuses on the protection of nature and environment in Finland and the outside world too – according to Nissinen, Finland as a wealthy nation cannot stay aside. Nissinen talked about the organisation’s achievements, challenges it faces, the FANC symbol – Saimaa ringed seal + the only endemic animal of Finland. Laura Meller also talked about what her organisation does in terms of environmental protection, both in Finland and abroad, and Greenpeace perspective on the Arctic region and its projects in the area, for example, “Save the Arctic”, that was launched in 2012.

After the visits, the final meeting of the conference started. Professors Alexander Sergunin and Jim Powell spoke about the planning/implementation indicators, and research assistants Claire Franco and Katherine Weingartner about the governance ones. The meeting was concluded with Bob Orttung’s final remarks and planning for the next steps of the Arctic PIRE project.

The Arctic Sustainability conference was a success, as it brought together scholars from different countries and disciplines, who received two days of fruitful discussion. The conference will serve as a good foundation for future cooperation with the researchers, involved in the Arctic PIRE project.

Annual Artic PIRE meeting

Annual Artic PIRE project meeting was organised on 6-7 of November at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, USA.

From our group Stephanie Hitztaler attended and gave a presentation on Fossil Fuels and Sustainability – conceptual framework that she and Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen are working on.

The meeting programme is available here.

Sustainability of Arctic towns and the challenges of learning

A new book “Oppimisen tulevaisuus” (The future of learning) with a chapter “Arktisten kaupunkien kestävyys ja oppimisen haasteet” (Sustainability of Arctic towns and the challenges of learning), co-written by Stephanie Hitztaler and Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen, was published this month by Gaudeamus.

“Oppimisen tulevaisuus” is edited by Hannu Savolainen, Risto Vilkko & Leena Vähäkylä, more information about is is available here.

TULOS seminar

The 6th annual Academy seminar TULOS took place in Tampere on 6-7th of June. This year theme was “The Future of Learning, Knowledge and Skills”. The seminar’s programme can be found here.

Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen gave there a presentation titled “Arktisten kaupunkien
kestävyyden mittaaminen” (Measuring the sustainability of Arctic towns), where he presented Arctic PIRE project. The presentation is available online.