Letter from Varandei
Golovnev, Andrei V.
- Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
(issn: 1751-8369, eissn: 1751-8369)
Note. - In the 1980s, expectations of an oil boom in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug fueled dreams of economic development for the community of Varandei on the coast of the Barents Sea. The first oil tanker headed from Varandei to Arkhangelsk as an experimental voyage in 1985. In 1999 Aker MTW (a Norwegian-owned shipyard in Germany) delivered three new ice-breaking oil tankers to Lukoil Arktik Tanker, a subsidiary of the Russian company Lukoil (Aker MTW 1999), as part of a programme to build up a fleet. Designed to transport chemicals, oil products, vegetable oils and refinery condensates, these tankers are expected to be used for deliveries to towns along the Northern Sea Route and eventually to ship crude oil from the fields of northern Russia. In April 1998, the governor of the Nenets Autonomous District administration, Vladimir Butov, announced that a new oil terminal under construction at Varandei would be used to ship oil along the northern route to Russian and other European markets. Expected to ease the economic crisis of the region and solve the transport problem, the local administration committed to move forward with the 163 million US dollar project. According to press reports in February 1998, the Nenets Okrug government planned to create a Nenets Oil Company that would consider the interests of the local population and distribute 25% of its share of revenues to the local inhabitants (Intefax 1998; Tiurin & Vynder 1998). But inability to reach agreements with western partners (including Norway's Norsk Hydro, France's Total and US companies such as Texaco, Exxon and Conoco) has delayed investment in the harbour and exploitation of the reserves. Anthropologist Andrei Golovnev visited Varandei in the fall of 1998 in connection with a research project under the International Northern Sea Route Programme (INSROP). His report provides a close-up of Varandei through which we might better understand the conditions that characterize many small communities in the Russian North today (see also Ludviksen 1995). - Gail Osherenko1.