Project Overview

Desolate legacy or hopeful future? Unraveling discourses about the Russian Arctic

Faculty Sponsor

Jessica Graybill (


Russian & Eurasian Studies


This project will explore cultural portrayals of the Russian Arctic through both Russian and Western film and media. The arctic is a region garnering worldwide attention as one of the most rapidly changing regions due to global climate change and new actors, such as transnational corporations and non-Arctic nations, who are increasingly interested in what the “opening up” of the Arctic will mean for business and international relations. For example, shipping companies and China are two new actors with much interest in the Arctic today. New actors are especially interested in coastal Russian Arctic regions because of the viability of the Northern Sea Route that runs largely through the Russian Arctic and the proximity of this sea route to the locales in which goods for global consumption are produced (i.e., China and other parts of Asia). For these reasons, understanding the production of specific local-global discourses about the Russian Arctic is important because they are shaping new and possibly long-term perceptions of this region. I note two dominant discourses developing about the Russian Arctic on local-global scales: as a desolate place with legacies of problems (e.g., Gulag and Soviet military-industrial development) and as a place full of hope for the future (e.g., new opportunities due to climate warming, especially related to extractive resources). This project involves creating a database of film and media that support or refute these discourses and analyzing them, thereby providing more nuance to understand their origins, trajectories, and possible futures.  

Student Qualifications

  1. Students must have at least some knowledge of the Russian language (even one year would be fine).
  2. Students must be willing to seek out and watch movies and TV series and scour the internet for any media that represent the Russian Arctic (such as on YouTube, in advertisements, and any other kinds of media that can be considered)
  3. Students must be willing to conduct a thorough search of the academic literature and upload annotated findings into Zotero
  4. Students must be willing to write an analytical research paper that uses the results of their academic searches to contextualize the database and their conclusions about media and film about the Russian Arctic.

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

8-10 weeks

Applications open on 01/03/2021 and close on 03/22/2021

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (