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Franz Joseph Land.1999

«SMALL PROBLEM OF THE LARGE ARCTIC»

How much fuss do the volunteers of high ratings for their guardians around national subjects about power and might of Russia create. They don't forget to work out whole doctrines and programs of long-term development. Men of science, sitting in their magnificent, well-deserved offices are working on creation in modern economical conditions of Super state with proud name RUSSIA, not forgetting also about one of the most sore problems - Russian North, the Arctic, Russian Arctic sector.

Right about this Russian Arctic sector we are going to speak now. Rather not about the whole sector, but about its small part, from which everything had started - Franz Joseph Land, or as it is called by experienced circle - abbreviated FJL.

Not going into historical details, I shall tell only that this remarkable archipelago, the most western in Russian Arctic sector, was discovered in 1873 by Austrian (take a note not Russian, but later on about this situation) polar explorer Julius Pyre. In 1929 the Soviet flag was raised over the archipelago. Opened by O.Shmidt first polar station on FJL gave start to heroic epic of scientific and applied pioneering of the Arctic.

Extraordinarily beautiful, rich in flora and fauna, having numerous deep-water straits - this archipelago, consisting of about 190 islands, have always attracted explorers and not only them. One by one there have appeared scientific stations with not only peaceful aims - wise were our forerunners. The most western of all our northern borders. A bit to the left -and there is Spits Bergen, and if directly along meridian - you will find the shortest way to America. Not mentioning WHAT one can hide in numerous straits and fiords of the archipelago. We have managed to find the German war base of the Second World War times only several years later the Victory.

During the cold war and the period before Perestroika the archipelago lived severe but full and satisfied life. Stations, airfields, and outposts served only one aim - the Arctic was, is and will be the part of Russia. Russian arctic sector was a large triangle with its peak on the North Pole - it was a firm and steadfast truth. Great investments we re made in science and defense there, but then dashing years of Perestroika came.

Science on FJL died first - of all the programs only one with difficulty is kept, that is meteostation on Heis island with minimum of winterers (only 4 persons left). And at one time it was a huge scientific base - Krenkel's observatory with its own installations for rockets launching.

Following the science in 1994-95 urgently cutting down the work, as though retreating in the face of perfidious enemy, leaving all the equipment in working state, went away servicemen.

Only frontier-guards true to Honor and Motherland stayed there. Small outpost on Alexander's Land island, the most northern and the nearest to eastern hemisphere, protects itself and our peace. Yet it is not a hot, but rather cold point of the Russia' map, but it is our land, because there our compatriot serve.

Amazing, but reading newly published works on economic development of the Arctic and especially on wildly discussed problems of Northern Sea Route, I can't stop thinking: «And what's about our Arctic island territories. Whether our Arctic ends with Kolsky peninsula and Archangel region»

Not a single word about islands, whether we need them or not, or it will be just another our present to western partners in living on this transitory Earth? Norway restricts us by any possible way in fishing in Barents Sea and on Spits Bergen; the parties concerned persistently remind that Wrangle's peninsula somehow belongs to the USA and FJL is Australian land at all.

Where are we moving? There exists a good tactics of slow but sure annexation of territory. It means not military operations but slow, gradual submission of all vigorous spheres - ACTIVE PRESENCE. Fine term. Well, we have no active presence at this moment on FJL to our regret. And already voices from abroad are heard - «what for do you need that waste lands at the world's end? We shall find application to them». Certainly they will find, just give a finger and they will bite the whole hand. And our side (even at very top) echoes their words - «and really what for do we need these islands, that is not Bahamas, we have only troubles with them. It will be better to sold them and that will do».

Strange position referring to FJL is kept at the present moment be military forces.

Everybody understands, that it is a unique strategic region, which may be and should be used in the purpose of Russia's defense from the North. But what is going on in reality? After their flight, military forces absolutely forbade any visits and activities on FJL. What are the reasons? Probably just unwillingness to admit, that all great investments spent on military infrastructure creation are left and lost. It is easier not to allow to go than to solve [problems. Prohibitions only redouble the situation with destruction of remaining infrastructure, which have been created with superhuman efforts.

The only thing, which stays inunderstandible to military forces, is that the longer we will hide the problem of our presence on FJL from ourselves the more expensive will be consequences. Ask any representative of Main Operative Board in Ministry of Defense - when lately anybody has visited FJL? What information do they have about the situation there: what is still alive and what is completely destroyed and robbed? The answer is obvious, but there is old directive - not allow to go there because of strict confidence, which one can use to hide reluctance or fear to examin4e situation and try to change it in our (I mean national interests) favor.

At the same time there s an instruction of Russian government dd 10th of May 1999 N 730-r, (by the way agreed with Ministry id Defense, FBS, FSS) which clearly allows freighters under foreign flags to enter arctic ports. The list of such ports includes main islands of FJL as well and among them the most strategic -Graham-Bell Island. And what is the result of it; left hand doesn't know what is right hand doing.

FJL is closed only for us and foreigners are welcomed. What are you wishing to have on our abandoned bases? Just take it, it will be easier for us to clean them. All these are certainly emotions, but I wish the officials of military forces answered: what were they guided by when approving this instruction. Who and why is interested in such organization of affairs? Where is reasonable approach to defense of Russia's national interests in the Arctic?

Let the military forces doesn't be offended with my words, I respect them much and I have spent all my life among them, but how I wish that in Ministry of Defense appeared a person who could take the responsibility of taking radical decision. Because we speak not about military activities connected with deaths and tragedies of thousands of people, but about quite opposite thing - about reinforcement of influence and presence of all concerned federal organs at the very western of Russia's entire arctic region. Moreover it doesn't demand great expenses, which are spent now for urgent patching of holes, which appear first of all because of the mess going on in the North. Also all the investments of the Soviet period made by force and other departments in the Arctic would not be spent in vain. And probably this wrecking of the Arctic is to somebody's benefit?

The latest experience of work in the Arctic and in particular on FJL showed that successful cooperation between state and instate structures was possible and brought real results. Ask arctic frontier-guards, those who alone represent national interests on FJE, how is it possible to solve own departmental problems without detriment of national security, at the expense of attraction out-of-budgetary funds, and not only to declare from high tribunes researches of new management forms in modern economic conditions.

Obviously that today only if cooperating the efforts of all concerned departments in work in the Arctic is possible to change the situation of active presence in our favor. Only reasonably approaching the questions of territory's safety and observing the interests of ALL - military forces, front-guardians, scientists, we can shift the restoration process of our past presence on FJL. And to spend money we should reasonably, attracting mostly out-of-budget money. Soon the time will come, when oil monsters stretch their tentacles to our Arctic shelf. And they will have to provide vital activities and safety of their works. It is only one hint where we can take money.

Let us discuss all the aspects of the program of our return to FJL with concerned state officials nevertheless. Then probably military men will not be astonished at learning the facts of unsanctioned and not agreed with them visiting FJE by foreigners. - You see we have written to you, notified, advised, but who have paid attention to it?

One should start with a small, then the great will shift too. If we start to put things in order on FJE, the Norwegians will probably stop being rude, Northern Sea Route will be closed from northern end, aviation will be able to fly over transarctic route without fear to disappear, scientists will be occupied with their ices, polar bears, walruses and all large and small problems of the Arctic will be overcome much easier..

I ask for nothing of authorities but only give us possibility to make contribution within our powers to rehabilitation of life in the Arctic for our common benefit and you will be repaid hundredfold.

 

Oleg Prodan

Moscow - Franz Joseph Land.

August,1999

Federal newspaper "Polyarniy krug", 10, 2000, page 10

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