University of Oulu

Middleton, A. (2023). Norwegian and Russian settlements on Svalbard: An analysis of demographic and socio-economic trends. Polar Record, 59, E14. doi:10.1017/S0032247423000050

Norwegian and Russian settlements on Svalbard : an analysis of demographic and socio-economic trends

Saved in:
Author: Middleton, Alexandra1
Organizations: 1Oulu Business School, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.1 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Cambridge University Press, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-04-14


The Svalbard archipelago is a centre of global research on climate change and also an example of a rapidly changing Arctic area with tourism replacing the traditional mining industry. We compared the different development paths of the Norwegian (Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund) and Russian settlements (Barentsburg and Pyramida) on Spitsbergen as part of the Svalbard archipelago using demographic and socio-economic data until 2022 when available, but not focusing on the impacts of COVID-19 and changing geopolitics after 2022. We analysed strategy documents produced by Norway and Russia and by organisations connected to Svalbard. The analysis continued by scrutinising the statistical data available to ascertain if this supported the strategic goals outlined in the documents. Data collection was by direct enquiry to national statistical bureaus, agencies and institutions in Norway and Russia. Secondary data were collected from media publications and social media accounts. Statistics Norway provided very detailed data on demographics and industrial structure, turnover, investments and comprehensive statistics on employees by industry on Norwegian settlements on Svalbard. The results revealed disparities in socio-economic development, striking differences in data availability and in transparency between the Norwegian and Russian settlements. The population in the Norwegian settlements continued to grow during the period 1990–2022 with an increasing number of foreign nationals, and the population in the Russian settlements decreased by 85% at the same time period. The Norwegian settlements exemplify a diversified economy with a growing private sector, and the Russian settlements continued to rely on the town-forming Russian state unitary coal mining enterprise, Trust Arktikugol. While Svalbard presented a prime example of open data and transparency in the environmental sciences, the socio-economic and demographic statistics were lagging behind. Several practical proposals are presented for improved data collection on the Svalbard settlements.

see all

Series: Polar record
ISSN: 0032-2474
ISSN-E: 1475-3057
ISSN-L: 0032-2474
Volume: 59
Article number: E14
DOI: 10.1017/s0032247423000050
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 511 Economics
Copyright information: © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.