The Outpost – Life and Love in Tikhaya Bay | Polarjournal
Dmitry Kiselev has spent years gathering facts and images from old Soviet and Russian sources to write an exciting and insightful book about the first Soviet Arctic station. On 488 pages and 150 illustrations, he shows the pioneering achievements that were made there and how humanly things were nevertheless done. Image: Dmitry Kiselev

Russia’s ambitions in the Arctic have always been great. This is because a significant part of the country lies above the Arctic Circle. The Arctic regions are important not only economically and militarily, but also scientifically. Especially the archipelagoes like Franz-Josef-Land have always been of great importance. The first Soviet research station was also built on this archipelago. A newly published book takes us on a journey back in time to this era and tells of joys, sorrows, life and love in the Arctic.

Edited by an independent expert on the Soviet history of Franz Josef Land, this volume is a very special book. The northernmost archipelago of the European Arctic does not have much literature to show. Apart from classic travelogues by Frederick G. Jackson and Anthony Fiala, the list of specific monographs on the subject comprises little more than four titles. In 1930, the prominent Norwegian geologist Gunnar Horn first produced his comprehensive work “Franz-Josef-Land”. Sixty-five years passed thereafter before the Norwegian Polar Institute published a collection of international studies under the same title. In 2011, the Russian publishing house “Paulsen” presented a joint study of the scientific team of the Arctic Marine Interdisciplinary Expedition, which was devoted to the various peculiarities of Franz Josef Land. Finally, in 2016, American historian P.J. Capelotti published “The Greatest Show in the Arctic” – a brilliant study of early U.S. explorations in the archipelago.

The author of the book, Dmitry “Mitya” KIselev is a historian by training and has also worked as a guide on expedition ships for almost 10 years. The historical aspects of polar exploration are his world and the book “The Outpost” his first book. Image: Dmitry Kiselev

None of these books dealt substantially with Soviet activities in the islands. But now something has appeared to fill that gap. Mitya Kiselev’s book tells a detailed and colorful story of the Russian presence in the Franz Josef Land archipelago through the history of a single place – Tikhaya Bukhta (Rest Bay) on Gukera Island. The author is an independent scholar, professional polar guide and a great fan of polar history. The narrative begins with the discovery of Tikhaya Bukhta by Frederick G. Jackson and proceeds through the dramatic episodes of the first wintering on its shores, when the Russian team under Georgy Sedov spent ten months there on its futile expedition to the North Pole. With the Soviet annexation of the islands in 1926, Stalin’s government decided it wanted a permanent observation facility in the Franz Josef Land archipelago, which was eventually established at Tikhaya Bukta.

Opened by the Soviets in 1929, the station played an important role in the Arctic history of the Soviet Union. From here, for example, Ivan Papanin started his flight to build the first ice camp near the North Pole. Today the station is a popular port of call for expeditions to the Russian Arctic. Picture: Michael Wenger

In the years 1929-1960, the small settlement was the hub of human presence on the remote archipelago. The station pioneered many aspects of Soviet polar research, including aerology, testing of the earliest automatic meteorological instruments, wind energy use, and participation of women in field work in the High Arctic. The Tikhaya Bukhta station, abandoned for fifty years, has finally come into the hands of the Russian Arctic National Park and become its seasonal base and one of the main attractions for cruise passengers.

On 488 pages and with 150 illustrations the life on the first Soviet Arctic station is brought closer by Dmitry “Mitya” Kiselev. For the station was a pioneering act in many respects, including equal rights for men and women. Image: Dmitry Kiselev

The book is the world’s first study to focus precisely on the Soviet history of Franz Josef Land. The author has obtained rare data from a variety of sources, including Russian archives spread from St. Petersburg to Krasnoyarsk. The book contains nine chapters, fifteen tables, three appendices, over 150 black-and-white illustrations, and nearly 500 references. The book is aimed at polar historians, researchers, and a general audience interested in the Russian Arctic and its history.

Title:The Outpost – Life and Love in Tikhaya Bukhta
Author:Dmitry “Mitya” Kiselev
Number of pages:488
H229mm x W152mm x D26mm
638 g

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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