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Lured by oil and gas: Labour mobility, multi-locality and negotiating normality & extreme in the Russian Far North

Authors:
  • University of Vienna (AT) University of Bern (CH) and Austrian Polar Research Institute (APRI)

Abstract

This paper analyses the notions of extreme and normality among highly mobile and multi-local people who contrast themselves with the sedentary population: long-distance commute (LDC) workers in the petroleum industry of the Russian North. It explores how mobile and multi-local people negotiate emotionally and geographically distant spaces which are meaningful in their lives and suggests the concept of conscious acts of separation and connection as prerequisites for integrating the trio of distinct realms of a long-distance commuting life: home–journey–on duty. This article rethinks the problematization and exoticism of highly mobile and multi-local life-styles and considers the embeddedness of LDC in macro-political and macro-economic processes in contemporary Russia.
URN:NBN::tsv-oa0000
DOI: 10.11143/xxxx
“To you, to us, to oil and gas” – The symbolic and socio-economic
attachment of the workforce to oil, gas and its spaces of extraction
in the Yamal-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Districts in
Russia
GERTRUDE SAXINGER
Saxinger, Gertrude (201X). “To you, to us, to oil and gas” – The symbolic and
socio-economic attachment of the workforce to oil, gas and its spaces of extrac-
tion in the Yamal-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Districts in Russia,
Fennia 19X: X, pp. xx–xx. ISSN 1798-5617.
This article examines ways in which workers and the people around them be-
come enmeshed with oil and gas resources, the extractive industry and the so-
cial and geographical space of the Russian Far North: in particular, the Yamal-
Nenets and the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Districts (YNAO and KMAO). It
highlights how both the local workforce and the long-distance commuters who
travel back and forth from all over Russia develop strong attachments to the so-
cial and economic meaning and symbolism of oil and gas. New labour condi-
tions and a new conguration of the labour market have emerged in the context
of privatization and out-sourcing in the last two decades. These changes have
created new certainties and uncertainties for the future in a region that until now
has been conceived as harsh, but stable, and as conferring both prosperity and
privilege on those who can cope with the extreme conditions. This study is
based on ethnographic long-term eldwork in YNAO and KMAO.
Keywords: extractive industry, mobility, long-distance commute work (FIFO),
place attachment, actor-network theory, Circumpolar North
Gertrude Saxinger, Department for Social and Cultural Anthropology, University
of Vienna, Austrian Polar Research Institute (APRI), Universitaetsstrasse 7/C412,
A-1010 Vienna, Austria, E-mail: Gertrude.Eilmsteiner-Saxinger@univie.ac.at
Introduction
It is rare to nd occasions when vodka is drunk with-
out an accompanying toast ”to oil and gas”. This toast
is heard throughout those regions of northern Russia
with links to the petroleum industry. People live di-
rectly or indirectly with oil and gas as workers, engi-
neers, managers or CEOs and as the inhabitants of
mono-industrial towns in the Russian North – such as
the Yamal-Nenets and the Khanty-Mansi Autono-
mous Districts (YNAO and KMAO) – or as long-dis-
tance commute (LDC) workers coming to the North1
from all over Russia. ”Oil is feeding us and Russia”,
they say, and the advertisements of companies and
city administrations show how gas makes ”lives sun-
nier and brighter”. The geographic location of the
resources and the adjacent industry towns in the tun-
dra or taiga of western Siberia means working and
living under severe climatic conditions and in remote
areas. To compensate for this, workers typically re-
ceive higher salaries, along with supplementary pay-
ments according to a legally dened “northern coef-
cient” (Kozlinskaya 2009). This prospering sector
demands a highly qualied workforce. The large
companies in the mono-industrial cities, many of
them the direct or indirect successors to former state
enterprises and most still fully or partly state owned,
provide their employees with satisfactory working
conditions, extra social benets, and (compared to
sub-contracting companies) sustainable employ-
ment. Furthermore, through corporate social respon-
sibility programs, these companies are active in the
towns’ social and cultural life. Subsequently, the in-
habitants have a high level of loyalty and commit-
ment to “our oil and gas companies” which have
come to symbolise the cities and their prosperity.
2FENNIA 193: 2 (2015)Gertrude Saxinger
At the same time, employment in the petroleum
industry is becoming increasingly unpredictable
due to the rise in the number of short-term con-
tracts in the North, particularly in the construction
sector. – This is a signicant development com-
pared to the Soviet period up until the early 2000s.
A further degradation in employment conditions
stems from the increase in outsourced work from
major to sub-contracting and sub-sub-contracting
companies, leading to decreasing social benets,
lower salaries and, longer shift-rosters. These con-
ditions particularly impact young, low qualied
workers who are about to start their careers, result-
ing in lower social mobility, nancial dependence
on parents, and in many cases the necessity of ac-
tually living at their parents’ place with their own
young family. Nevertheless, they are fortunate in
being employed; a much more favourable situa-
tion compared to other remote regions of central
Russia, where socio-economic development still
lags behind even two and a half decades after the
dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Despite these changes, the rich hydrocarbon re-
sources of north-western Siberia, which are the
focus of this article, are still symbolically and so-
cio-economically meaningful to the labourers, the
industry and the state.
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the
ways people relate to oil and gas and the spaces of
extraction. The following questions will be ad-
dressed: in which ways do long-distance commut-
ing petroleum workers from central Russian re-
gions and those who are residents in the YNAO
and KMAO build up symbolic and socio-econom-
ic relationships to oil and gas? What are the factors
that cause people from central Russian regions to
work as long-distance commuters or to stay as per-
manent workers living in the North?
These questions are analysed through the theo-
retical prism of actor-network-theory (Law 1992;
Latour 1993), and Ingold’s (2011) theory of mesh-
works of people and their material environment as
well as experiences. Furthermore, an examination
of the perception of the materiality of resources
and their symbolic meanings on the ground must
also look at entanglements with the political econ-
omy (Nash 1979; Wolf 1982; Ferguson 2005,
2006) and broader socio-economic and political
processes (Burawoy 1998). The interpretation of
spatial relations to the resource rich North is in-
spired by the works of Löw (2001, 2008) and the
geographers Massey (2005) and Cresswell (2004)
in terms of understanding how people experience
this northern space – exemplied by YNAO and
KMAO in this article – as both ‘extreme’ and ‘nor-
mal’ at the same time (Eilmsteiner-Saxinger 2013a,
2013b).
This paper is based on my anthropological-geo-
graphical research – eleven months in total, begin-
ning in 2007 – in several mono-industrial towns of
YNAO and KMAO, with a special focus on the city
of Novy Urengoy in YNAO as well as on small and
large shift-workers’ camps in this region. Further-
more, I visited workers and their families in the
central Russian Republics of Bashkortostan, Chu-
vashia and Tatarstan. The ndings also result from
my mobile eldwork on long-distance commuter
trains between Moscow and Novy Urengoy, on
which I travelled several times back and forth
(25,000 kilometres in total; one way is three and a
half days on the train). This allowed not only in-
depth participant observation but also a wide
range of informal talks with oil and gas workers
about their life, their work and the meaning of oil
and gas to them.
The attraction of oil and gas
If I turn on the gas stove in my Viennese kitchen, I am
directly connected to my eldwork region. It takes a
week for natural gas to travel from Novy Urengoy –
which its inhabitants affectionately call the ”Russian
gas capital” – through the so-called ”friendship pipe-
line” that travels via the Ukraine to the Baumgarten
gas distribution hub, to the east of Vienna/Austria
(Zirm 2007). In particular the Urengoy gas eld at the
Arctic Circle is the Russian source of the natural gas
supply for Europe.
Industry, the Russian state, and the people working
in the petroleum industry are embedded in the sym-
bolic, social and socio-economic conditions of the
North as a physical and social space. Both the buyers
and sellers of oil and gas are tightly connected with
these rich resource spaces: for instance, the EU Com-
mission estimates that 60% of all gas imports come
from Russia up until 2013 (Euractiv 2010). In 2009,
36% of the European Union’s natural gas imports, as
well as 31% of its crude oil imports, came from Rus-
sia (Directorate-General for Energy and Market Ob-
servatory for Energy 2011; Eurostat 2011). Between
2000 and 2008, imports of crude oil from Russia to
the EU rose by 59% (Eurostat 2011). Russia is in turn
dependent on steady markets like those in the EU, as
well as on stable crude oil prices. 70% of Russian
natural gas exports and 80% of crude oil exports go to
FENNIA 193: 2 (2015) 3“To you, to us, to oil and gas”
the European Union (EU Commission 2011). Despite
political discussion in Russia about the need for ur-
gent modernization and re-orientation towards new
technologies and the development of other branches
of industry and the economy, natural resources and
the energy sector remain the main drivers of the Rus-
sian economy, and the main source of income in the
national budget. In 2011, 52% of the income from all
exports came from oil and an additional 12% from
gas. The scal revenue from oil and gas rose between
2001 and 2011 from 20% to 49% of the entire na-
tional revenue of Russia (Gustafson 2012: 4–5; cf.
Moe & Wilson Rowe 2009; Moe & Kryukov 2010).
Oil and gas are also amongst the most socially mean-
ingful natural resources and subjects to wide global
uctuation related to price, availability, extraction
and processing technologies, as well as geo-political
interests. Due to the wide range of usages of fossil
fuels, oil and gas rank among the most precious ma-
terials that humans use. The North, so rich in natural
resources, and the petroleum industry built around
had allowed the Russian state to avoid necessary eco-
nomic reforms relating to economic diversication.
The existing deposits in Russia will remain a geopo-
litically relevant player in the long term (cf. Stern
2005; Gustafson 2012).
The development areas of oil and gas in Russia
continuously shift towards the North, beyond the Arc-
tic Circle and into the peripheries of Siberia (Saposh-
nikov & Chudnovskiy 1988; Gerasimchuk 2012).
Due to the increasing distance of the extraction sites
from urban areas and from the densely populated Eu-
ropean part of the country, long-distance commuting
has become an increasingly popular response. The
people making a living migrate along with the mov-
ing oil and gas development areas and companies.
The life cycle of many extraction sites has already
come to an end, but as they diminish, new ones open
elsewhere. However, the petroleum industry is not
only spatially, but also temporally dynamic. The ex-
traction of oil and gas is either reduced or boosted
depending on their uctuating prices. Workers are
considered as depersonalized ”human resources”,
and like the fossil resources they are also subject to
the laws of pricing according to accessibility and
availability. A boom period makes the industry more
dependent on qualied professionals while a period
of bust reverses this dependency. Beyond that, a de-
cline makes the development of new deposits and
thus of new employment more difcult, because in-
vestments in exploration and development are tend-
ing to decrease (cf. Moe & Kryukov 2010). Depend-
ing on the geographical position, the geological con-
ditions, the available technology and infrastructure,
prospected elds are sooner or later transferred into
the exploitation process. This also depends on the na-
ture of the workforce currently available. These mac-
ro-economic and institutional conditions signal to the
workers that they are directly bound up with the dy-
namics constituting the value of this natural resource,
i.e. the oil and gas prices. Furthermore, the phenom-
enon of the mobile workforce forms a part of state
discussions about demographic issues. These discus-
sions turn on whether northern towns should increase
in order to meet the demand for workforce, or if they
should consequently shrink through resettlement of
pensioners and the unemployed while increasing the
number of long-distance commuters (Hill & Gaddy
2003; Heleniak 2008, 2009; Nuykina 2011).
Long-distance commuters as well as local oil and
gas workers are as closely connected to oil and gas
and their socio-economic value, as are the industry
and the state. These natural resources are emotionally
and symbolically a part of everyday social life, not
only for workers in the industry but for the entire re-
gion. The widely used drinking toast – ”to you, to us,
to oil and gas” – reveals the strong emotional connec-
tion to these natural resources “for Russia” (Fig. 1),
that “feed Russia” and that “are serving the people”
(Fig. 2); this is shown excessively in the advertise-
ments in towns and along the roads in the tundra and
taiga.
Fig. 1. Adver-
tisement:
“The energy
from natural
resources for
Russia”.
4FENNIA 193: 2 (2015)Gertrude Saxinger
The immediate social and emotional connec-
tion of the industry to oil and gas goes also beyond
the economic dimension, and can be best under-
stood through the prism of its advertisement and
PR strategies. The advertisement images establish
an emotional connection to the area and the
ground. The motifs have remained almost the same
for decades and across generations. The ideologi-
cally charged video of the Gazprom company
hymn very powerfully illustrates this: the “sun be-
neath the earth […] stores the energy for the na-
tion” and “heats our ofces and houses”. It “warms
us from within the earth”. The chorus calls people
to toast ”to you, to us, and the all-Russian gas”
(Tumayev 2009). These motifs have been selected
because they evoke particular positive feelings
and people identify with them so readily. This is
not only true for those who live in the northern
mono-industrial towns, but also for those who
commute there from a long-distance. People reit-
erate these images that date back over decades:
many old songs abound about the resource, the
hard work necessary to extract it and the experi-
ences of life and work in the extreme cold.
Gas workers, oil workers and engineers are
proud of their professions and their efforts in ex-
tracting the wealth for the nation, and of course for
themselves. Festivities for the various professions
with patriotic ideologically laden speeches are
regular events in the course of the year. The gas
ares emitting from the reneries, visible from
afar, are symbols of the on-going production day
and night. The sight makes people feel condent
that all is right with the world. Several times, peo-
ple pointed out to me these are stacks as the sym-
bols of which they are ercely proud.
My focal impression is that the experience of
the physical aspect of oil and gas not only exists as
an economically relevant material, but as an emo-
tionally evocative one that causes people to feel
enmeshed with (Ingold 2011) based on its value,
and by which they establish an emotional, lived
relationship. Thus, the natural resource – oil, gas,
gas condensate – becomes an actant, because it
forms a network with people, spaces and institu-
tions (Law 1992; Latour 1993).
The ascription of meaning to experienced spac-
es takes place within an amalgam of local and na-
tional practices, of agents and the global political
economy. People travel half of a week to Novy
Urengoy and gas travels one week to the European
gas distribution hub Baumgarten in Europe (Zirm
2007): fossil resources to the south-west, human
resources to the north-east. Both categories – ma-
terial and social – are on the move. They are inter-
woven mainly by people who become dynamic
objects as human resources, such as the long-dis-
tance commuters. Thus the fossil-fuel resources
are, for those who earn their living and draw yields
from them, highly signicant in a social sense.
They are no less signicant and socially construct-
ed for the Russian state. For both the sellers and
Fig. 2. Advertisement: “The energy from natural resources for the people. The great mission: welfare”.
FENNIA 193: 2 (2015) 5“To you, to us, to oil and gas”
the buyers, they are of geo-political interest. They
are signicant – consciously or unconsciously –
also for the users of oil and gas to a certain extent.
Like other natural resources, oil and gas, along
with the areas in which they are extracted, not
only have a material dimension but also a signi-
cant social, economic and symbolic dimension.
These dimensions relate to dynamic pricing as
well as to the limited amount of these natural re-
sources. This nite nature produces an immediate
dependency on its availability, and a global com-
petition for it. This is accompanied by the above
mentioned uctuating economic value for the en-
ergy carriers and the meaning of its supply for the
local community immediately affected by it, as
well as for global society. Oil and gas and their
production sites are dynamic, and so the people
delivering these natural resources are mobile and
socially organized in a dynamic way.
As has been said, there is a social, economic
and symbolic entanglement of oil and gas, the
North, and the long-distance commuters in Russia.
There is therefore a tight connection between the
workers’ emotions and experiences and the mate-
riality of oil and gas and their space of extraction.
Attracted by the North
This section discusses northern residents who are
either working locally or who are intra-regional
long-distance commuters to the extraction sites in
greater distance to the northern cities. Since the
1970s people from the broad swaths of the Soviet
Union were recruited in order to cover the work-
force demands of both the fossil-fuel deposits to be
developed and the construction of mono-industrial
cities in north-west Siberia – a planning paradigm
that was dominant up to the beginning of the 1980s.
Although indigenous inhabitants of the North are
working today in the petroleum industry (Dudeck
2010; Rouillard 2013), they were not explicitly
considered as a part of the workforce when the ex-
ploitation of natural resources in the western Sibe-
rian basin began. The reason underlying was that
they were regarded as physiologically and cultural-
ly unsuited to jobs in this sector2.
The huge deposits in north-western Siberia,
which had already been explored in the 1930s,
were only continuously developed from the 1960s
onward. In the course of this development, the mo-
no-industrial cities were built to house workers. Al-
though it was considered, the Soviet regime did not
decide on the system of long-distance commuting
(Eilmsteiner-Saxinger & Aleshkevich 2008; Aleshk-
evich 2010) as it was already implemented in, for
example, the arctic Canada and in Alaska, but in-
stead elected for the erection of permanent settle-
ments and large cities. The long-distance commute
workforce lives and work at the extraction sites far
from home for shifts ranging from two weeks to two
months, alternating with an equivalent rest periods
at home. This is the predominant mode of labour
organisation in remote areas today. Soviet bureau-
crats contended that mobile people might more
easily evade state control than sedentary ones (cf.
Fillipov 1982), and furthermore, the sedentary para-
digm should be seen in the context of a state-run
process of domestic colonization, as well as within
the paradigm of the submission of nature by tech-
nology for the industrial and social development of
the socialist state.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the Soviet
Union entered into a second phase of urbanization
and industrialization of the northern peripheries. In
this phase, a high economic price was paid for the
construction of a complete social, cultural and
technical infrastructure for these mono-industrial
cities. The living costs per inhabitant of the cities in
the permafrost areas of taiga and tundra are esti-
mated to be three to four times higher (Hill & Gaddy
2003: 125; Martynov & Moskalenko 2008; An-
dreyev et al. 2009: 104) than in comparable cities
of the densely populated central regions. This fact
was already prompting criticism by the economists
at the beginning of the 1980s when the signicance
of long-distance commuting was rst discussed
(Bogudinova 1981). Only in the 1980s did the So-
viet Union, like other circumpolar countries before
it, turn towards the system of long-distance com-
muting (Pashin 2004; Eilmsteiner-Saxinger &
Aleshkevich 2008; Aleshkevich 2010). Although
the local workforce is still being recruited from the
mono-industrial cities of the North, today long-dis-
tance commuting from all over Russia is an estab-
lished system for delivering workers to the Russian
natural resources industries.
The second industrialization period of the North
did not claim as many human lives as the Stalinist
industrialization by forced labourers in the Gulag
system (cf. Stettner 1996; Stark 2003). The mobile
lifestyle is not a new experience for many of the
northern workers. Mobility and migration became a
part of the identity of families due to their earlier
voluntary or forced resettlement. In particular, my
interlocutors from the Caucasus Republics, who
6FENNIA 193: 2 (2015)Gertrude Saxinger
were recruited as a qualied workforce from the tra-
ditional petroleum regions to work in the industry of
the North, recount the waves of migration in the
course of the last two or three generations. People
from Chechnya in particular can recount another
history of collective mobility besides the deporta-
tions that occurred towards the end of World War II,
and their resettlement in the 1950s; the mass-exo-
dus in the turmoil of the rst and second Chechen
War in the 1990s and 2000s.
Today the North, consisting of resident workers and
those who long-distance commute in and out, is a
melting pot of numerous nationalities, ethnic groups
and languages. Besides the indigenous population of
the North, there are inhabitants who have migrated
from all parts of the former Soviet Union and Russia.
Some of them stay for a few years, others until their
pension or their death. As is often said, both long-
distance commuting and the North of Russia are per-
ceived by the workers and their families as both ex-
treme and normal at the same time (Eilmsteiner-Sax-
inger 2013a, 2013b). An important caveat, however,
is that the extreme in this sense not only connotes
something arduous or negative, but also something
positive.
The extremity of this place is a source of identity
that is dened by participating in something special;
for the long-distance commuters as for the northern
residents. For those who came under the ideological
conditions of the development of the North, it was a
participation in a project of civilization (tsivilizatsiya)
and of exploitation (osvoenie) for the prosperity of the
motherland (rodina) and the socialist nation. For many
it was also romanticism and adventure that drew them
to the North, and, besides the opportunities to make
money, these are still the main reasons why people
may decide on a life as long-distance commuters go-
ing back and forth between the southern regions and
the North, in particular to YNAO and KMAO.
“I came here for romantic reasons, like so many of us.
It was fascinating. We were young and many of us
weren’t married yet. Young people met here and
found a partner for life. We lived an adventurous life
in an utterly unknown region we knew nothing
about, and where there was nothing. Back home
there were adverts everywhere which promised good
jobs in the North. We were young and wanted to
experience something and see the country.” (Marina
Filipovna)3
For many employees the migration or long-distance
commuting to the North was often the only possibility
to move within the Soviet state, or to move away from
home.
The central signicance of the North for people,
state and industry lies in the ascription of attributes
such as ‘hostile’ and ”climatically harsh”, which
became clearer in my investigation. The North,
with its unimaginable, fascinating but also dull
vastness is not a normal, but rather an unfavoura-
ble living space that requires a large amount of
effort to adjust to (adaptatsiya) and turn it into nor-
mality. These terms can be found today in the lit-
erature of many scientic elds about the North of
Russia (cf. Rouillard 2013). At the same time, pre-
cisely these ascriptions are the positive moment of
many identity constructions. Without the hardship
of this extreme place, the identity-dening attrib-
ute of accomplishing something special, which is
especially honoured by the family, cannot be
achieved (Eilmsteiner-Saxinger 2013a, 2013b).
According to the view of the non-indigenous
population, the North has to be made into a place
for living and working through industrialization:
“When we got here there was practically nothing.
I had no idea what this North was. Although I
knew that it was going to be cold, the clothes I
had brought were totally inadequate. We built a
city and a civilization here under the most adven-
turous conditions.” (Marina Filipovna)
Awareness among both the residents and the
long-distance commuters that the North has been
a living and working place for the indigenous pop-
ulation for millennia is not considered a relevant
factor in the discourse of the development of the
North as a civilized place (Stammler & Wilson
2006; Stammler 2011). In this way, a clear bound-
ary is drawn between the indigenous and the in-
dustry-related population. The perspective of im-
perial colonization imposes a severe limitation
onto the traditional ways of life, e.g., that of the
reindeer-herding nomads. On the other hand, the
view that defends folklore is protectionist. The co-
lonial view sees itself as bringing the civilization
and this is understood as a legitimate reason to ac-
quire natural resources for the good of the nation.
The workers thus perceive the North as a place
which was built with their own hands under ex-
treme conditions and with the spirit of ‘pioneers’;
again this is true for the older long-distance com-
muters as well. My research, and that of Bolotova
and Stammler (2010) (cf. Stammler & Eilmsteiner-
Saxinger 2010), demonstrate this. This generation
still calls themselves ‘pioneers’ (pioneri), and in
many cities of the North street names such as the
”street of enthusiasts” (ulitsa entuziastov) bear wit-
FENNIA 193: 2 (2015) 7“To you, to us, to oil and gas”
ness to this self-assessment. Medals like the one
for the ”hero of labor” (geroy truda), or awards
within the ”Stakhanov movement” signify individ-
ual prestige and measures taken by the state to en-
hance careers (Ljapin 1952). The history of this
period is honoured in the museum of the Gazprom
Dobycha Yamburg company (this operates with
long-distance commuters only) in the camp of the
Yamburg gas eld with a permanent and themati-
cally specic exhibition. The museum exhibits
both the uniforms of the ‘Stakhanov’ groups and
the medals and numerous photos of the ”people
who rst moved there” (pervoprokhodtsy)4, those
who travelled the 200 kilometres from Novy Uren-
goy to Yamburg in ten days with heavy-duty vehi-
cles (today it takes four hours by car):
“The atmosphere was fantastic and the people in
the collective were close friends. This was neces-
sary for survival because we lived together in an
extremely conned space. It is different today. The
successive generations of workers came here when
everything was already built, and the young ones
can no longer imagine how we had to build every-
thing from scratch. Today Yamburg is an excellent
[commuter] city with all the most up-to-date fea-
tures. There is even a church.” (Eduard Stepanovich)3
But it was not only these ideological factors that
led people to the Northern centres including YNAO
and KMAO. A patriotic attitude was also necessary
in order to be selected by the recruiting procedures
(komsomolskaya putevka) of the youth organization
of the Communist Party (the Komsomol) for employ-
ment in the North.
“Perhaps I am still a communist. (Laughs). But I was
ready at all times. After my studies at the technical
university I went to Mongolia, then I married and
our rst daughter was born. I remember when her
mother stepped out of the helicopter with her still
in the basket. We still lived in Nadym, the rst city
here at the Medvedze gas eld. At rst we were
staying in the large tents, but when my family fol-
lowed we were given a balka [a small wooden
house] and when they were built we moved to the
derevyaska [a two-storey wooden barracks with
small ats and one common kitchen on each oor].
The city developed and life became more civilized.
Our second daughter was born in 1986, when we
were in the North. We already had a hospital. Eve-
rything was already normal. In the 1980s careers
could be made in the North, and I wanted to work
my way up. I went where the [communist] party
sent me. [...] In 1986 I came to Chernobyl as a likvi-
dator. Just as we did not know what to expect in the
North, so we either did not know what to expect in
Chernobyl. But there was no question that I would
go for my motherland.” (Vyacheslav Antonovich)3
With the inconvenience and difculties of the
sub-Arctic climate of the tundra and taiga, and of
the construction of a feasible living environment,
comes a feeling of legitimately gaining substantial
privileges that are the social and nancial reward
for the hardships endured in the special and ex-
treme conditions (ekstremalnye usloviya) of the
North. These privileges were developed in the So-
viet Union and include both the privileged access
to general consumer goods, which were made ac-
cessible in the North, and the car for which one did
not have to wait ten years, even though the streets
only stretched a few kilometres in the island cities
of the tundra, as I was humorously told in a conver-
sation. Take on work in the North meant, both then
and today, a guaranteed career. The state companies
provided housing for their employees in the central
regions as second homes with the intent to lure
people back south after retirement. Earlier, there
generally were – and in some companies still exist,
although adapted to contemporary needs – special
non-nancial benets (sotspaket), such as free ac-
cess to holiday camps or sanatoriums at the Black
Sea, as well as access to living space and goods that
in the ”economy of scarcity” were not normally
available, or could only be gained via informal con-
nections. There were also special shops at the rst
long-distance commuter camps, as my companion
in Yamburg recounted during a walk through what
is still the largest long-distance commuter camp in
Russia (and the Soviet Union):
“The shops were packed here. We were able to buy
perfume, radios, electronic goods, clothes and
many other things. There were all sorts of sausage
and cheese. It was of course expensive but we
earned well. When shopping, we bought as much
as we could carry home to the south. In the 1990s,
when the economy went down and money was not
worth much anymore, we also used these things to
barter with. That was of course a problem at some
point. Then, before boarding a ight back to the
South your bags were inspected, because the lug-
gage was much too heavy and it was absurd that all
these things were transported to the North and then
people ew it back again. That food was meant for
living well here and not for feeding all the relatives
back home.” (Tamara Dmitrovna)3
Thus, there was primarily a personal socio-eco-
nomic motivation for people moving to the North.
The population living in the North still has the
right to an additional pension as well as additional
8FENNIA 193: 2 (2015)Gertrude Saxinger
salary of up to 80% of the standard wage depend-
ing on the regional latitude. Similarly, the inter-re-
gional long-distance commuters can claim a high-
er pension, calculated according to an equated
coefcient that depends on the worker’s number of
earning years, and the additional salary as men-
tioned above. However, for them this counts only
for the duration of the shift while they are actually
located in the North (Kozlinskaya 2009).
As a result, the systems that make working life in
the North appealing have remained pretty much
the same since the time of the Soviet Union. As the
ndings of my research show, there are strong sim-
ilarities between the reasons embedded in the cur-
rent free market economy to work in the North
(primarily but not exclusively economic factors)
and those of the Soviet times. However, back then
the reasons could not only be attributed to the
ideological enthusiasm of the young Komsomol
members, but also included the privileges and -
nancial rewards to be expected, which were part
of a general socialist work ideology whose aim
was to boost productivity by competition between
the workers (Ljapin 1952).
As mentioned above, for many the motivation
for remaining in the North is the notion of belong-
ing to the group of the so-called pioneers and be-
ing strongly rooted there. This rst generation of
immigrants has built its social networks in the
North and raised its children there, who now also
work for the companies of the city or as intra-re-
gional long-distance commuters. Many of the sec-
ond generation studied in the central region, lived
in the apartments mentioned above which were
built by the employing companies, and came back
to the North in order to build a career and start a
family. The social benets available to the employ-
ees of companies close to the state include an an-
nual free ight to the central region for them and
their families, which enables interaction between
the residents of the North and their second home
in the central region.
The mono-industrial cities in the petroleum re-
gions of the North today offer a consistently high
quality of life for all generations with a well-func-
tioning cultural and social infrastructure. Com-
pared to those of the central regions the wages are
high. They can be compared to the average wage
of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. For well-trained
people there is an employment market that is
searching for highly qualied professionals. The
high wages – compared with those in jobs in the
public or service sector – are not only a result of
the highly paid petroleum sector, but also of the
extra wages and pensions mentioned above,
earned in the course of a professional life in re-
gions which are legally qualied as the ”Far North”
or ”equivalent to the Far North”. Although I met
many people who left the North immediately after
becoming pensioners, and who want to move
back to their apartments or houses in the central
regions, there is also a discourse which favours
staying behind. It is not uncommon for those who
have lived many years or decades in the North and
who have adapted to the climate to die of a heart
attack a few years after returning to the central re-
gion. At this point however, it is difcult to prove if
early death – in this context it is mainly men – is
connected to the return to the mild climate or to
the general low life expectancy of Russian men,
which is approximately 60 years. The connection
with the return to the central region is not medi-
cally proven, but this fear nevertheless exists (cf.
Rouillard 2013).
The employees located in the North benet
from the contracts negotiated between the enter-
prises and the regional government (Eilmsteiner-
Saxinger 2011), which in cases of equal qualica-
tion provides for a preferential recruiting of the
local population5. The cities of the North that are
connected to the petroleum sector have a young
demographic and almost total employment. Last
but not least, the successful adjustment to the cli-
mate of the tundra and taiga is the main reason for
wanting to permanently live in the North such as
in YNAO and KMAO.
There are numerous mixed forms of mobile life of
long-distance commuters and their families. Some
start their careers in a Northern city and switch over
to inter-regional long-distance commuting; alterna-
tively, inter-regional long-distance commuters may
settle in the cities of the North and work locally, or
commute long-distance intra-regionally.
Commuting from the Central Regions
and the enlarged mental map
Inter-regional long-distance commuters mostly, al-
though not exclusively, come from traditional petro-
leum regions. They come from places like the bor-
der city Belgorod, the hub leading into Ukraine,
from Moscow, Samara, Yoshkar Ola, Cheboksari,
Kazan, Omsk, Tomsk, Tobolsk, Kurgan, Perm and
many others (Fig. 3). The socio-economic signi-
FENNIA 193: 2 (2015) 9“To you, to us, to oil and gas”
cance of this can be demonstrated by the example
of the Volga region where, according to the vice-
prime minister Balabanov of the Bashkotorstan Re-
public, about 100,000 people (out of a population
of four million) work as long-distance commuters
(Regnum 2011).
As in most Russian regions outside of Moscow
and Saint Petersburg, the Volga region, to which the
Republic of Bashkortostan belongs, has still massive
social and economic problems, such as low wages
and a high unemployment rate, twenty years after
the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In the Volga
region, the average monthly income is 21,788 ru-
bles (€438), while in KMAO and in YNAO – the
Russian centres of oil and gas production – the aver-
age monthly income is 50,575 rubles (€1,016) and
67,194 rubles (€1,350), respectively (Rosstat 2014).
In this way, employment in the petroleum industry
of the North has become an important factor in the
local and regional economies of the long-distance
commuters’ regions of origin. Compared with the
working population in the local labour market, the
families of long-distance commuters have an above
average household income.
This in turn has a positive effect on the local mar-
kets in areas with a weak economy. In Russia, the
labour market in the natural resources areas of the
North is of considerable signicance for the popu-
lation of the peripheries – i.e., regions outside of the
prospering centres of Saint Petersburg or Moscow,
and in particular for small cities and rural areas.
In addition, both the centres and the capitals of
these regions benet enormously from the incomes
of the North through the increased consumption of
this stronger economic group, as well as by the in-
ux of people from the villages and small cities into
the regional centres. In many cases, this inux is
caused by the increased education available for
children and better chances in the labour market for
the non-long-distance commuting family members.
Furthermore, travel from the regional centres to and
from a work place in YNAO and KMAO is easier.
Let us take as an example one of Russia’s, and
indeed the world’s, best paid jobs in this sector for
blue-collar workers: the welders. This is a profes-
sion that is primarily performed by men and that
often comes up in my research. It does not refer to
automotive or domestic welding, but that per-
formed in industrial complexes with tasks whose
quality requirements demand practice and certi-
cation of several years. These workers are highly
paid, for example up to 35,000 and 40,000 rubles
(€800) per month in the central Russian Republic
of Bashkortostan for the most highly qualied
Fig. 3. Main travel routes of the long-distance commuters.
10 FENNIA 193: 2 (2015)Gertrude Saxinger
class. In YNAO and KMAO, they can earn up to
triple the amount for this job. For those who y to
the Far East or to Sakhalin tickets cost up to €800,
whereas train tickets to workplaces in north-west
Siberia cost about €80 to €100. Tickets are partly
paid by the companies, and partly not. Given these
circumstances, inter-regional long-distance com-
muting is still protable.
In the social group discussed here, cars and liv-
ing space are mainly procured via loans and mort-
gages, with interest rates in the Republic of
Bashkortostan being, for example, approximately
12% for accommodation and between 25% and
30% for consumer goods (UfaFinans.ru 2013a,
2013b, 2013c). Older employees carry the educa-
tion costs for children, which have been rising for
the last ten years, especially at universities and
technical high schools. When a mother stays at
home to look after her infant, her second income
to support the young family is missing. It has be-
come apparent that this is frequently the case:
“I am at home with the small children and cannot
earn anything. I get 2,800 rubles from the state6.
Furthermore, we are both on our second mar-
riage, and for this reason my husband has to pay
alimony for his child from the rst marriage. This
is not possible without the income [of the long-
distance commuting partner].” (Olesya Vladimi-
rovna)3
There are fundamental nancial reasons why
people decide, at moments where the need for a
higher income is the greatest, to take up work that
requires long-distance commuting into the harsh
climate of the resource peripheries. In the so called
long-distance commuting dynasties, these deci-
sions are made early and are determined on the
one hand by education, which is already directed
towards the petroleum industry, and on the other
by the fact that long-distance commuting is a fa-
miliar form of working life for these families (Sax-
inger et al. 2014). Both the possible problems and
the considerable advantages are well known to the
children of long-distance commuting families and
their communities. This makes their decision easi-
er, as ethnographic data shows. It may involve a
deliberate refusal to take up long-distance com-
muting or encourage a conscious decision of pur-
suing a long-term mobile career in the petroleum
industry.
Due to the comparably high wages and the
well-known fact that the oil and gas industry is one
of the most stable in Russia, increasing numbers of
people are choosing to study at technical universi-
ties and take special courses in the numerous pro-
fessions the petroleum industry has to offer. Two
tendencies in regard to long-distance commuting
can be discerned; parents with stable jobs help
their children and relatives to acquire jobs in their
companies, while others try to give their children
an education which will not lead inexorably into
the petroleum industry, so their children can have
a life different to theirs. As Gennadiy Viktorovich,
an older engineer, says, “my children study law
and economics. In this way, life in the South is
open to them”. The extent of readiness for long-
distance commuting is different in many families.
Although in some families all or one or two mem-
bers work in the North, other members of the fam-
ily categorically refuse to do likewise, mainly be-
cause of health concerns, as a daughter in a long-
distance commuting family told me.
Besides the economic connection of the North
and the central regions, they are also socio-spatial-
ly integrated through long-distance commuting. In
qualitative interviews, my correspondents re-
counted that they have close connections to the
North through relatives and acquaintances who
permanently moved there – for example to the
north-west Siberian industrial cities like Surgut,
Nishnevartovsk, Raduzhnyy, Kogalym, Nefteyu-
gansk, Novy Urengoy, Gubkiskiy, Noyabrsk and
many more. Inter-regional workers are not only
connected through relatives and friends who they
visit while they are on duty in the North, but also
establish a strong relation to the region, oil and gas
that gives them work and causes them to live part-
time in the North. Many told me that it became a
second home, a place of individual freedom and
an adventure, as well as a time-off from family re-
sponsibilities.
Although the topos of the North as a metaphori-
cal gold mine predominates, it is evident that this
is not the only contributory factor driving long-
distance commuting today. Two other things are
important, just as they were in the Soviet period:
the employees have to agree to the life-style in the
long term and identify with a life of mobility lived
multi-locally (Weichhart 2009). There are various
motivations for choosing this mobile lifestyle. To-
day, as in the Soviet Union, the high salaries and
other honorariums gained by long-distance com-
muting facilitate social progress. However, there is
also a motivation of travel as such, a desire to see
the country, an interest in the region of the North,
and, for some, an adventurous spirit. As argued
FENNIA 193: 2 (2015) 11“To you, to us, to oil and gas”
above, those who have been long-distance com-
muting for many years have put down roots in the
North. This is a relevant coping strategy for inte-
grating the sphere of home and the sphere of living
in camps into a meaningful life as a whole. Many
report that they can commune with nature while
they are in the North; walk in the tundra and taiga,
pick mushrooms and berries as a leisure activity.
Others engage with the native population and buy
sh and reindeer meat from them. And others
might again have a lover or a second family in the
North. Many variations of interaction with the
northern space occur and cause the North to be
incorporated as a meaningful part of life, to be-
come a part of the long-distance commuters’ men-
tal map. The North integrates in this way with the
central Russian and southern regions in an emo-
tional, symbolic and of course in a socio-econom-
ic way and expands the mental map of people.
The symbolism and meaning of the
North and the petroleum industry
The North of Russia – as well as Siberia – has
been ascribed a number of formal and politically
institutionalized as well as informal features dur-
ing its history. This spans from the time of the Cos-
sack colonization of czarist Russia – where it was
also a matter of generating resources (e.g. the fur
trade) – to the czarist ethnic-Russian settlements
into areas with an indigenous population, includ-
ing the period of colonization in the sense of the
institutionalized conquest of the areas of Siberia
and the Far East. This movement also included
settlement by banishment and convict colonies,
which continued within the framework of the Gu-
lag network of the Stalinist period. The geopoliti-
cal and territorial solidication of the incorpora-
tion of the sub-Arctic, Siberian and far Eastern
areas into the state occurred parallel with the ex-
ploitation of natural resources and the industriali-
zation of these resource frontiers. There have
been numerous political agendas behind the ex-
ploitation of natural resources in the North (os-
voenie severa) that go hand in hand with con-
crete demographic strategies and settlement
plans. These have originated from the period
since the 1960s, when the petroleum industry
rapidly expanded in the western Siberian lower
basin and the western Siberian North, as well as
from the 1980s onward when long-distance com-
muting became institutionalized. Thus the North
has a deep social signicance that comes from an
era that long predates the period of the exploita-
tion of natural fossil fuels or the history of czarist
banishment and Stalinist deportations. In this his-
tory of the signicance of the North, both the po-
tential wealth and the extreme and threatening
life conditions are inseparable from a colonial
point of view.
For the employees in the petroleum industry,
the North – in particular YNAO and KMAO – has
the meaning of afuence and social mobility. The
North attracts people and encourages them to put
down roots there. As shown above, even the in-
ter-regional long-distance commuters put down
roots. An interlacing of the central regions and
the regions of the North, rich in resources, takes
place at the level of the employees in both a so-
cio-economic and a more symbolic socio-spatial
sense. The practice of integrating the North into a
part of one’s personal life is not only signicant
for the individual who works in the petroleum in-
dustry in such a climatically, geographically and
symbolically extreme region, but also conveys to
the worker’s home region the realities of life as a
long-distance commuter. This is of central signi-
cance in explaining the readiness of people from
the central regions to commute long-distance to
the North. The North, which is commonly seen in
Russia as an unknown region, becomes, via the
long-distance commuters, a living reality for
those central Russian communities who share
this experience. The economically stagnating
central regions grow together with the North, rich
in the sense of the value of its natural resources,
and the work places in the North become incor-
porated into the lives of individuals and society at
large. Thus this integrated social space is charac-
terized by its material and socio-economic con-
ditions and by people positioning and institution-
alizing themselves in relation to goods – in this
case the valuable resources oil and gas. This is
also true for state institutions and industry, which
institutionalize the relational dependency on the
northern natural resource areas.
Those who entered the petroleum industry only
a few years ago – increasingly inter-regional long-
distance commuters from the central regions – do
not have a socialist Soviet memory of the petro-
leum industry. Hence, for them the North is still
the place where good money can be made, while
the older workers complain about degrading
working conditions.
12 FENNIA 193: 2 (2015)Gertrude Saxinger
However, the reality and normality of the indus-
try for those too young to remember the socialist
era is current neoliberal practice, with its sub-con-
tracting companies and privatizations. It is only
when working conditions are against the law, and
when a weak and inherently corrupt judiciary
does not offer help, that modern business practice
gains a new and extreme signicance. As a result,
it is not precise to speak of post-socialist condi-
tions. Rather the term “re-socialist-neoliberal pe-
troleum industry” would be more accurate. The
term also indicates that in the sense of the vertical-
power politics of President Vladimir Putin, re-so-
cialist stands for re-nationalization tendencies and
the state protection of resources and prots,
whereas neoliberal stands for the conditions under
which the employees, both stationary and long-
distance commuters, are working today. As a con-
sequence, employees as human resources are less
signicant in the eyes of the state than the natural
resources.
Conclusion
This paper highlights the strong ties between peo-
ple, the socio-economic potential of oil and gas
and the extractive industry, which together form a
network (Law 1992; Latour 1993) or dene a
meshwork in Ingold’s (2011) sense. Oil and gas
are associated with socio-economic well-being,
stable work life and a life lived under extreme
conditions. However, this symbolic and practical
meaning is increasingly challenged by new con-
ditions brought about by the industry and its con-
tinuous restructuring. Furthermore, the large
companies that are running the mono-industrial
towns are symbolically equated with the state
through their Soviet legacy. In this sense, people
are not only loyal to their companies but also to
the state. This loyalty, however, is being eroded
due to a diversied job market operating under
neoliberal labour conditions, which especially
disadvantages lower qualied people and in-
creases job instability. Nevertheless, the general
prosperity of the petroleum industry located in
the remote North, such as in the resource rich
districts YNAO and KMAO and their economic
potential, still engender a strong attachment to
these places and to oil and gas in general. People
expect to earn a stable livelihood, be it as resi-
dent or as mobile workers. Therefore, the hydro-
carbon industry of YNAO and KMAO still attracts
people to move or long-distance commute there,
especially from regions that were hit by the glob-
al economic crisis, which started in 2008.
The signicance of the rich, but climatically,
physically and psychologically challenging geo-
graphical zones has led me to focus on the theo-
retical conception of space in this paper. This fo-
cus is also a result of the numerous locations that
characterize the life of the long-distance com-
muters: the home and the camps on site. Mobility
does not only take place between geographically
and temporally distant physical places. It occurs
in places with specic material, ideal, economic
and socio-temporal characteristics, which are
constituted by relations between living beings
and goods (cf. Law 1992; Latour 1993; Löw 2001,
2008; Massey 2005). This relational setting con-
stitutes the human world and at the same time
takes place within it – a world where social agen-
cy and social structures are of equal relevance.
This aspect is signicant when thinking about the
integration of the regions of the North that are
rich in natural resources with the structurally
weak central regions that the long-distance com-
muters come from, both on a micro-level and on
a macro-state level, which are then in turn em-
bedded within a global structure.
How are people enmeshed with the natural re-
sources, the extractive industry and this social
and geographical space? A key sign of this rela-
tionship is the advertising of companies and the
city administrations that shape the identity of the
strong and reliable gas workers (gazoviki) and oil
workers (neftyaniki). People directly correspond
with these advertisements and messages, insisting
to me that “what we do is important for us, for the
industry and for the state”. It part-constitutes their
identity. Furthermore, the ‘extreme’ aspect of a
society dwelling in the North and exploiting its
valuable resource-commodities shapes workers’
attachment to the place and creates a specic
spatial atmosphere (Löw 2001, 2008). Identica-
tion with this place keeps alive the idea that peo-
ple are a part of a worthwhile endeavour under
extreme conditions. This extreme constitutes also
a masculine identity that involves the individual´s
condence of being capable feeding the family
(in a patriarchal sense). They move back and forth
according to their ideas regarding a successful
life and they do it for their families. This life in the
extreme has become normal for the people who
devote themselves to it long-term (Eilmsteiner-
Saxinger 2013a, 2013b).
FENNIA 193: 2 (2015) 13“To you, to us, to oil and gas”
The relation to oil and gas in the sense of a
meshwork (Ingold 2011) or network (Law 1992;
Latour 1993) is shaped by the signicance of this
material for economic prosperity and social mo-
bility. The materiality of oil and gas must be looked
at from the perspective of its social life (Appadurai
1988) as a commodity, meaning that the value of
natural resources is dynamic. It is dependent on
world market prices and delivery contracts made
in the context of geo-political relations. The pros-
perity and stability of the industry depends on
these factors and subsequently the people’s stable
employment. Once prices fall, investment into
new elds and therefore into new jobs is scrapped.
Furthermore, economic crises such as that of 2008
are often just an excuse to reduce salaries, and
workers complain vociferously about this fact. On
the other hand, the discovery and prospecting of
new elds, as is presently the case, parallelly fos-
ters also a spirit of optimism and a high level of
trust in the industry and the state. An awareness of
the limited nature of resources is not evident in
everyday and political discourse. Oil and gas are
essential material and symbolic parts of lives of the
long-distance commuters and the residents in the
resource rich regions of YNAO and KMAO. They
say that these materials are “feeding them” and
therefore foster social and economic prosperity for
individuals and their families.
Among people from the southern and central
regions of Russia, a feeling of “blue and black
gold-rush” is apparent. The North is promising in
both socio-economic and subsequently in sym-
bolic terms; to put it in Cresswell´s (2004) terms,
the North is constructed as a meaningful place – in
this case constructed by the people, the state and
the industry. Especially in remote regions such as
villages and small towns in central and southern
Russia, the economy is lagging behind, jobs and
especially well-paid jobs are rare, making people
desperate to go to the climatically harsh North.
Many of them have never been there before. On
the other hand, long-distance commuter networks
have been established over time and established
workers act as gate-keepers for jobs in the North.
The economic motivation is at the forefront and
along with that resources like oil and gas become
symbolically meaningful. Working in the remote
North also allows people to experience freedom,
adventure and in many cases a life with a second
partner besides the ofcial spouse; these support
putting down the roots. Therefore, they have incor-
porated the North into their social space that no
longer consists of the home region in the south
alone.
People from the northern mono-industrial cities
who came there as pioneers (as did the inter-re-
gional long-distance commuting pioneers) expect
the continuity of a secure job that is well paid and
contains special social benets. Today however,
the restructuring of the industry is bringing about
unpredictability concerning sustainable jobs, and
salaries are no longer as generous as they once
were. People feel betrayed after what they have
done for their motherland over recent decades,
and the patriotism that was once strong is dimin-
ishing. In particular, low qualied workers or those
who do not want to enter the extractive industry, of
whom many are women, struggle with very low
salaries, particularly in the service sector and in
the state bureaucracy.
Today it seems that the state is trying to regain
control over natural resources and state-shares in
corporations are increasing. While state control
over the resources is prevailing, strong efforts to
protect labour conditions and the well-being of
workers and citizens in the North does not seem to
be on the state’s political agenda. This is what I call
a “re-socialist-neoliberal petroleum industry”
(Eilmsteiner-Saxinger 2013b). For the employees
and their families, however, oil and gas still sym-
bolise guaranteed prosperity and individual social
mobility. This fact exists alongside the feeling that
people have been neglected by the state in terms
of sustaining privileges that have been until recent-
ly provided to a much larger extent than today for
the northern as well as the southern and central
Russian long-distance commute workers. Never-
theless, the still high income in this sector means
that even the southern and central Russian workers
have part-time roots in the North and feel that they
owe their socio-economic mobility to the extrac-
tion of oil and gas – some of the most precious and
symbolically laden natural resources.
NOTES
1 The classication of the Russian North comprises
two spatial categories: Far North and regions equiva-
lent to the Russian Far North. This is based on legal,
socio-economical, political, demographical and so-
cio-cultural aspects (Slavin 1982; Blakkisrud & Høn-
neland 2006; Stammler-Gossmann 2007) that refer to
the territories of northern latitude with harsh climate
and environment, production costs and maintenance
of the northern towns above the Russian average
14 FENNIA 193: 2 (2015)Gertrude Saxinger
(Nuykina 2011). Henceforth the term North will be
used in this article and comprises both zones.
2 Interview with expert Gennadiy Bondarenko, Pro-
fessor of Philosophy, State Technical Petroleum Uni-
versity Ufa (UGNTU), Interview at Ufa, conducted by
the author, 2009.
3 Quoted interview partners are anonymized. If not
indicated otherwise, they are either intra-regional or
inter-regional long-distance commuters. While the
rst are dwellers of the North, the second are living in
central Russian regions. Interviews are taken in north-
ern and central Russia by the author between 2007
and 2010.
4 A street in Novy Urengoy is named after the rst
people who moved there: "ulitsa pervoprokhodtsev".
5 Interview with expert Vladimir Nuykin, vice mayor
of Novy Urengoy, interview conducted by the author
and Elena Aleshkevich (Project Lives on the Move),
2010.
6 On the current laws surrounding child support in
Russia, see ILO (2013) and Zanprim.regiontrud.ru
(2013).
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This study is funded by the Austrian Science Founda-
tion (FWF) [P 22066-G17] in the framework of the
research project “Lives on the Move” (project leader
Prof. Heinz Fassmann, duration 2010–2015) at the
Department for Geography and Regional Research,
University of Vienna, and at the Institute for Urban
and Regional Research (ISR) at the Austrian Academy
of Sciences: raumforschung.univie.ac.at/forschung-
sprojekte/lives-on-the-move. Funding is also provid-
ed by University of Vienna, Austrian Research Asso-
ciation (OEFG) and the Austrian Academy of Sciences
(OEAW). Furthermore, this research is related to the
ESF funded project BOEAS-MOVE INNOCOM at the
Arctic Center in Rovaniemi, Finland. Special thanks
to the anonymous reviewers, Prof. Peter Schweitzer,
Prof. Heinz Fassmann, Prof. Florian Stammler, Elisa-
beth Oefner and Dr. Elena Nuykina.
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Selten wird die Frage nach den Beschäftigten und ihren Arbeitsbedingungen in der Petroleumindustrie Russlands wissenschaftlich oder iiffentlich thematisiert, obwohl 2009 36% der Erdgasimporte sowie 31 % der Rohiilimporte der Europiiischen Union aus Russland kamen (Directorate-General for Energy 20 11; Eurostat 20 11). Zwischen 2000 und 2008 stieg der Import von Rohiil aus Russland in die EU urn 59% (Eurastat 20 11). Russland verkauft etwa 90% seines Erdgases ins Ausland (EJA 20 I 0). 70% der russischen Gasexporte und 80% der Rohiilexporte gehen in die Europiiische Union (EUCommission 20 11). Osterreichs Importe aus Russland setzen sich zu 84% aus Rohiil und Erdgas zusammen (BMEIA 2012). Sowohl fUr Russland als auch fur die Europiiische Union sind Erdiil und Erdgas zentrale Bodenschiitze; nicht nur fUr ihre Volkswirtschaften sondern auch fUr die Aufrechterhaltung des Lebensstils der Menschen. Aus diesem Grund kommt den Beschiiftigten in dieser Industrie eine zentrale RoUe zu (Eilmsteiner-Saxinger 2013).
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The aim of this chapter is to discuss how ideas of path dependence and lock-in (Grabher, 1993; Martin and Sunley, 2006) manifest in mono-industrial resource towns in Russia, the United States and Australia. Based on the views of inhabitants, resource companies and administration representatives, this chapter illustrates the lure of the ‘re-boom’, its constraints and downsides, as well as the attitudes of people towards new development paths. The chapter also identifies the various obstacles to alternative path development faced by mono-industrial resource towns. The four case study sites are characterised by heavy mono-industrial activities in renewable and non-renewable resources. The cases from the United States (fracking around Williston in North Dakota) and Australia (alumina production in Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory) are characterised by a long-term neoliberal political and economic regime, while the industrial paths of the two Russian case studies (the forestry town Baikalsk and the petroleum town Ust-Kut in the Irkutsk region) go back to the Soviet Union´s command economy. Although the Russian cases were subject to neoliberal industrial politics in the early post-socialist era, a re-nationalisation of the resource industry is again visible today; namely, a system called by Saxinger (2016a) ‘re-socialist neoliberalism’.
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