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Article

Mastering the Arctic marine environment: organizational practices of Pomor hunting expeditions to Svalbard (Spitsbergen) in the eighteenth century

Acta Borealia. 2017. No. 1. P. 50-69.

The paper is focused on the practical issues connected to the organization of Russian hunting expeditions to Spitsbergen in the 18th c. including some administrative regulation of Spitsbergen shipping. Using the wide range of archival materials, the authors study the social status and geographical origin of organizers and participants of Spitsbergen hunting. The hunting expeditions were organized by both private persons and institutions, and the town-dwellers were the most numerous group of the organizers. Among the institutions the monopolistic trade companies established under Peter the Great rule for the colonization of the region played a significant role. The organization of expedition required large investment and included a number of mandatory bureaucratic procedures.  The core of the hunting teams consisted of professional hunters who mainly were born in several well-defined zones of the White Sea coastal area. The crew was usually recruited from the relatively small part of the population who for different reasons were excluded from the communal economy typical for the Pomor peasantry. From the archival sources it is calculated that the shipping to Spitsbergen was about only 1% of the total commercial shipping in the White and Barents Sea basins excluding foreign vessels.