The Arctic Studies education in Saint Petersburg

Dr. Nikolai Vakhtin, Professor at the Department of Anthropology in the EUSP delivered a lecture on the Arctic Studies at Saint Petersburg, their origins, development and perspectives.  When did the Arctic Social Studies occur in St. Petersburg and why exactly there? How do these studies look like today? Some used to think of Arctic Studies as the study of indigenous people who inhabit the Far North of our planet. As opposed to this common view it needs to be clarified that the Arctic Social Sciences primarily focus on the people living in the Arctic regions regardless of their belonging to indigenous communities. Secondly, Arctic Studies are not exclusively about learning languages, ethnography, folklore, archeology, some relics of the past. This discipline aims at grasping not antic traits of these societies, but their modern ways of life in all their aspects.

The Arctic Social Sciences appeared in St. Petersburg at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, and have undergone lots of upturns and downturns. A crucial role in the development of this discipline played the Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897-1903) headed by Franz Boas.

At the beginning of the 20th century two prominent participants of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition –Waldemar Bogoraz and Lev Shteirnberg–founded the Arctic Studies education in Saint Petersburg. They managed to prepare the whole generation of scholars. However the isolation from the world science in the 1930-1980s coupled with an ideological pressure upon scientists led to the huge gap and divergence between the national school and world Arctic Studies. Today we again observe a new convergence and the formation of several schools.

Nikolai Vakhtin became interested in linguistics at the Leningrad State University, after graduation  he was admitted as a postgraduate student to the Institute of  linguistics, Department of  Eskimo-Aleut languages. He is an author of Native Peoples of the Russian Far North as several article in Russian and international peer-reviewed journals. From 1996 he was a rector of the European University at Saint Petersburg.