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The History of the Development of the Northern Sea Route as Presented in English- and German-Language Historiography. P. 5–14

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Section: History




Denis A. Anan’ev
Institute of History, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences;
ul. Akademika Nikolaeva 8, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russian Federation; e-mail:


This article aimed at evaluating the contribution of Western scholars (first of all, representatives of English- and German-language historiography) to the study of the history of navigation on the Northern Sea Route. As sources the paper used the works by R. Haklyut, S. Purchas and members of expeditions of the 18th and 19th centuries describing the early attempts of European sailors to explore the Northeast Passage. The first historical works on the topic were written by W. Coxe, J. Shillinglaw, P. Simmonds, W. Adams and others. In the first half of the 20th century, such American historians as F. Golder, R. Kerner, R. Fisher and others turned to studying the history of the Russian Arctic. Their interest in the topic stemmed from the successful development of the Arctic region by the Russian Empire and later by the Soviet Union, while foreign governments were more persistently raising the question of the status of northern territories, as they clearly understood the importance of these transport routes and the potential for using the region’s natural resources. After 1917, Western researchers (T. Lloyd, T. Armstrong, J.C. Webster and others) had limited access to documents related to the exploration of the Northern Sea Route and had to rely on publications in the Soviet press. Nevertheless, their findings were highly acclaimed by Soviet experts. During the post-Soviet period Western historians (J. McCannon and P. Horensma) paid much attention to the negative consequences of the economic development of the Arctic and shortcomings in governance. However, being based on a wide range of sources, works of Western researchers showed that exploration and exploitation of the Northern Sea Route had been crucial for the development of the Far North and for Russian presence in the Arctic region in general.


Western historiography, Arctic, Soviet Arctic, Far North, Northern Sea Route, Chief Directorate of the Northern Sea Route
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