Amphibious Trilogies

The passages of culture

Historically, Arkhangelsk is one of the key strategic cities in the Arctic. For centuries it has been a nexus of riverine and maritime trade: for the movement of vast swathes of felled timber from the region; for the operations of regional, Russian imperial administration and admiralty; then later key Soviet bureaucracy and military operations.

Prior to the epic terra forming of St Petersburg from swamplands, Arkhangelsk was the most powerful northern arctic city. Astride the sprawling delta of the Dvina river, the city has a long maritime and related technological infrastructural and communication history. This is evident from the air, from the ground and from the water. The city is a central passage point, where salt and fresh water mingle, where land and water rise and fall, channels and routes, sandy deposits and shifting currents.

There is something enchanting about the flatness of the area, the nearness of the horizon. Yet his is a city that is anything but flat. It’s a strategic point of passage that has shifted between its liquid and frozen states between the seasons, open and flowing, icy and bound. A cityscape and an environment that has been a venue of intensive development, use, change, and productivity. It has been a location and destination for urbanisation over the centuries, from early religious settlement to its current mark on the future map of the Northern Sea Route (NSR). 

The city. Classical. Sovietistic. Contemporary. A mosaic of architectures that have grown out of the sandy deltaic setting. Reputed to be a site of arctic climatic inhabitation for population of about 350 000, this is also a cultural hub for the region with its medieval history and future facing location for wider Arctic development. It is now also a strategically positioned arctic oriented university city, with 20 000 students, and sizeable international student profile, including medical students from India. This is a city that has long been connected to Moscow by rail and to the vast interior by rivers and canals, and to the open sea for half the year.

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