What Is the Arctic?

  • Vitt och blått hus med gräs och små berg i förgrunden. En torkställning står mellan husen, där fisk hänger på tork. Bild från Grönland, foto av Nordiska museet.
    Greenland. Photo: Nordiska museet
  • Ett strömt vattenfall med skog och karga klippor runtomkring. Foto: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
    Abisko. Photo: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
  • Hus i dimma, grönska runtom. Från Island. Foto Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
    Vatnajökull, Iceland. Photo: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
  • Gata i Reykjavik, Island, kantad av hus. I slutet av vägen syns kyrkan Hallgrímskirkja.
    Reykjavik, Iceland. Photo: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
  • Turkost vatten, brun växtlighet och höga berg i Kebnekaisemassivet. Foto: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
    The Kebnekaise massif. Photo: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
  • Mörk väg på Svalbard, Norge. En person syns gå med sin cykel under gatlyktornas gula sken.
    Svalbard, Norway. Photo: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
  • Ålesund. Photo: Tore Johnson/ Nordiska museet
  • Ett tält övertäckt med någon form av textil i Jamal, Ryssland. Runtomkring syns ett snöigt landskap och en vit hund. Foto: Dmitry Arzyutov
    Jamal, Russia. Photo: Dmitry Arzyutov
  • Vy från ovan av Arjeplog, Sverige. Foto: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
    Arjeplog, Sweden. Photo: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
  • Snöskoter i solnedgång i Arjeplog, Sverige. Foto: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
    Sunset in Arjeplog, Sweden. Photo: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
  • Sjö och berg i Vatnajökull, Island. Foto: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet
    Vatnajökull, Iceland. Photo: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet

Few places on Earth are as controversial as the Arctic. Few regions are as strongly affected by climate change. Its dramatic surroundings and rich natural resources have given rise to myths and fantasies, attracted explorers and exploiters, led to conflict and freedom.

An Area Without Borders

Exactly what the Arctic is and who has the right to define it is an open question. Without clear boundaries, this vast region stretches across several states, two continents, various oceans and a vast no man’s land. Across profound depths of water and ancient ices.

According to the Arctic Council, its southern boundary runs somewhere between the Arctic Circle and 60th parallel − exactly where is up to the individual member states to determine

The Nordic Countries - a Part of the Arctic

Much of the land and sea areas of the Nordic countries are located in the Arctic region, including Greenland and Svalbard, two of the places depicted in the exhibition’s documentary films.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs currently employs a definition of the Swedish Arctic that includes Norrbotten and Västerbotten Counties and the mountain chain.

– Peter Sköld, professor of history at Umeå University and director of Arcum, the University’s Arctic Research Centre

Indigenous People of the Arctic

There are regions defined by groups of indigenous people that cut across national boundaries in the Arctic. An example is Sápmi, home of the Saami people, which stretches across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Skogafoss, Iceland. Photo: Camilla Andersen/ Nordiska museet.

The Arctic Council

In 1996, the Arctic Council was established to protect the Arctic environment and the welfare of Arctic populations. Arctic Council members include the US, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Denmark, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands. In addition with these states, there are six organisations representing Arctic indigenous peoples.

Karta över Arktis olika ursprungsbefolkning.

Kuorpak, Jokkmokk Parish. 1968. Photo: Rolf Kjellström/Nordiska museet

A Place Governed by its Climate

The Arctic has one of the harshest climates in the world, with icy winds and stormy seas, active volcanos, towering mountains and drifting sea ice.

Arctic nature is shaped by cold and dramatic differences between summer and winter. Arctic winter is cold and dark. During the three months of summer, the sun shines round the clock. The average temperature during the coldest month of the year is -33°C degrees.

Despite the unforgiving climate, people have survived and thrived in the Arctic for millennia. Their existence bears witness to their inventiveness and adaptability to the harsh realities of nature.

The Arctic in Transition

The Arctic is changing in many ways. The way receiving the most attention right now is climate change. Other changes depend on economic or political interests and technological development.

Climate change is especially noticeable in the Arctic. The melting of snow and ice leaves a darker landscape which is more easily heated by the rays of the sun. Temperatures are rising almost twice as fast here as they are in the rest of the world. Glaciers are falling apart, ice is melting and sea level is rising.

A Warmer Climate Creates Growing Conflicts

Patterns of movement in the Arctic are changing. The warmer climate enables new transport routes and opens up access to natural resources that provide profits for local companies – but also for major world powers and foreign developers competing to take advantage of the new opportunities. The risk of armed conflict is increasing.

A Map of a Changing Climate

Based on scientific observations, we know that the future map of the world will look different from today’s. Climate change will affect the geography of the Earth. Shorelines will shift and be displaced, and major land areas will sink below the rising sea level.

Karta över Arktis. Illustrerad av Serge Martynov.