Poliarnaia kochegarka (Полярная кочегарка, Polar Furnace, 1934-1988; renamed Shakhter Arktiki [Шахтер Арктики, The Arctic Miner], 1989-1991) was an in-house weekly newspaper published in Barentsburg by the Soviet/Russian state-owned mining trust Arktikugol, which began operating on the Svalbard archipelago in 1931. The constant Soviet/Russian presence in this Norwegian territory was made possible by the so-called Svalbard (Spitsbergen) Treaty, which allows its signatories (currently more than forty countries) to engage freely in economic and research activities on the archipelago. During the Cold War, this led to the curious case of citizens of NATO and Warsaw pact countries coexisting peacefully side by side, with the Iron Curtain partially suspended (if not altogether lifted) in the otherwise potentially volatile and jealously guarded Arctic North.
Arktikugol was established to supply the Russian North with coal from Svalbard to help power the ambitious Soviet industrialization program. Poliarnaia kochegarka was created first and foremost to hold together the Russian-speaking mining community on Svalbard, which at various times was divided among the three Soviet settlements of Barentsburg, Pyramiden and Grumant. The newspaper also served to keep local citizens abreast of the news from the Soviet mainland and the rest of the world, something that used to be out of reach for several months each year (except for radio communication) when ice conditions and polar nights made navigation virtually impossible.
Poliarnaia kochegarka covered numerous topics of interest to its target audience, such as local and world politics and social problems, Svalbard’s history in the context of polar exploration and research, mining history and technology, coal production pledges, health and safety, tertiary education, Arctic tourism, Soviet-Norwegian relations, wildlife, fiction, poetry, memoirs, and more.Among the newspaper’s contributors were both amateur and professional journalists, with early instances of citizen journalism playing a considerable role in the coverage of all sorts of burning issues pertinent to life in the polar regions in general, and Svalbard in particular. As the standard employment contract in the region lasted for two years, it is interesting to observe changes in the newspaper’s style from one editor-in-chief to the next. Among such editors-in-chief were the well-known Erzya author Nikolai Irkaev (1934-1937) and the prominent Murmansk journalist Stanislav Dashchinskii (1967-1969). This digital archive contains the most complete collection available for this title, with over 4,000 issues total of Poliarnaia kochegarka and Shakhter Arktiki (excluding 1941-1947, when the publication was suspended).