The High North Tour 2021: Here, Norwegian and Russian Scientists Were in the Same Boat – Until the Pandemic Broke Out

Anne Wikan was born and raised in the Pasvik Valley on the border between Norway, Russia and Finland. Today, she is station chief at the Svanhovd research center.
Svanhovd, Pasvik: Anne Wikan was born and raised in Pasvik, on the Norwegian border to Russia and Finland. Today, she is station chief at Svanhovd research station, which has close collaboration also with colleagues on the Russian side of the border.

The research station in the Pasvik Valley is a part of NIBIO and has its own modern DNA lab in addition to a visitors’ and conference center. The station is located in picturesque surroundings by the Pasvik River, not far from the Russian mining town of Nikel. Several of the buildings in Pasvik were built in the 1930s as a part of Norwegian assertion of sovereignty in the area. The area is unique, geographically as well as environmentally – a kind of meeting place between the Russian taiga and the Norwegian forest.

“Demonstrating presence in this area is important, as history has shown ever since the borders were established in 1826. We are a high-competence employer with a permanent staff of 24 here on the border, 13 of whom have moved here for the job. That demonstrates our holding an important position. Nevertheless, we have to constantly conduct solid research in order to demonstrate our raison d’etre. We have to be an attractive meeting place”, says Station Chief Anne Wikan.

The station cooperates closely with Russian scientists, yet the border area and its cooperation towards the east have also been affected by the consequences of the pandemic.

Have met for 25 years

“The pandemic has made things difficult. For 25 years, we have been able to meet because the border commissariat opened the border for us. Norwegian and Russian scientists have been able to meet to count birds that migrate here in spring and autumn. We could not do that this year. Or rather, we were out in boats on our respective sides of the border. But being able to open the borders and having Norwegian and Russian scientists quite literally in the same goat is something quite different”, says Anne Wikan.

Watch the whole interview with Anne Wikan on top of this page and get to know this very special Norwegian research station in the Pasvik Valley.

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.

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