The meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society was held on April 14, 2021, in the building of Lomonosov Moscow State University on Mokhovaya Street in Moscow. During the event, the results of the work done by the Russian Geographical Society last year were summed up and plans for 2021 were presented.
President of Russia, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society Vladimir Putin addressed the participants with a welcome speech. The head of state reminded that the pandemic and related to it restrictions had coincided in 2020 with the 175th anniversary of the Russian Geographical Society. At the same time, the Society had tried to fulfill the extensive program planned for that period to the maximum extent and had not interrupted its work.
"You did not postpone expeditions, field research; published books and made new films. And very interesting ones, at that. I will also note the educational projects that the Russian Geographical Society has implemented, including in the online format," Vladimir Putin stressed.
Putin noted the "invariably attentive" attitude of the members of the Board of Trustees towards the Russian Geographical Society. Thanks to their support, "a significant number of scientific achievements, outstanding initiatives" were made possible.
"Your help is sincere, from the heart. It is based on a deep understanding of the full significance of the activities of the Russian Geographical Society and its enthusiasts for our country, for the whole society," the Russian president stressed.
The RGS President Sergei Shoigu noted that no pandemic could "stop the life of the organization" which in 175 years had gone “through two world wars, a series of revolutions and other cataclysms" while not stopping its work for a single day. He spoke about the achievements and the most significant projects of the Society over the past ten years, noting that the restored regional network of the Russian Geographical Society had held over 35 thousand events, which exceeded the same indicators during the heyday of the Geographical Society of the USSR.
Shoigu reminded of the creation of youth clubs of the Russian Geographical Society in 75 regions of Russia and stressed that priority was given to mass educational events, which in ten years had been attended by more than 50 million people in 100 countries of the world. Significant projects on an international scale were the photo contest "The Most Beautiful Country", which collected more than 570 thousand photographs, as well as the Geographical Dictation, which can rightfully be called a global educational initiative.
“Let me remind you that the Russian Geographical Society does not receive government funding, so all of the above has become possible thanks to your personal participation, dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, and the support of the members of the Board of Trustees,” Sergei Shoigu said.
The participants of the meeting of the Board of Trustees got acquainted with the brightest and most significant achievements of the Russian Geographical Society in 2020. The first was the joint project of the Society and the Northern Fleet "The Main Face of Russia. History, Events, People", which helps in organizing long-term comprehensive scientific research of the Russian Arctic.
As part of the project, the ships of the Northern Fleet, performing regular work in the Arctic seas, are taking on board groups of civilian and military researchers. This allows scientists from leading scientific and educational centers of Russia to study the most remote coasts and islands of the Arctic archipelagos, places associated with the discoverers and pioneers of the development of the Arctic, its defense during the Great Patriotic War.
The project started in the spring of 2018, when the first complex expedition to the Novaya Zemlya archipelago was organized with grant support from the Russian Geographical Society. Since then, joint research has been carried out annually on land and at sea, and its geography has been constantly expanding.
In 2020, cooperation was continued within the framework of a complex expedition to the Arctic archipelagos, during which two expeditionary teams operated simultaneously. Complex studies were carried out, which produced new scientific data on marine biology, ornithology, geology, seismology and glaciology. Unique finds were made. Among them are astronavigation signs in the form of wooden crosses of the expedition of Georgy Sedov, the food depot of the Austro-Hungarian expedition of Julius von Payer and Karl Weyprecht, as well as personal belongings of polar explorers from the 1769 party of Fyodor Rozmyslov. On the instructions of Sergei Shoigu, some of the artifacts found will be transferred to the Central Naval Museum named after Emperor Peter the Great.
During the implementation of the project, in three years, six expeditionary teams of the Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society covered 1,600 kilometers by land and 21,800 miles in the waters of eight seas of the Arctic Ocean. Landings and research were carried out at more than 70 points on the coasts of the mainland and islands of all Arctic archipelagos.
A sunken vessel "Vaygach" was found 100 kilometers south of Dikson. The remains of the legendary ship, on which Severnaya Zemlya was discovered in 1913, were examined using an underwater drone. More research and diving inspection are required to confirm the find. The ship "Chelyuskin", which sank in 1934, was examined in the Chukchi Sea.
According to Pavel Filin, deputy director of the Arctic Museum and Exhibition Center, existing laws do not allow state registration and protection of underwater objects of cultural heritage, such as the vessels "Vaygach" and "Chelyuskin". In February 2020, the State Duma adopted the corresponding draft law in the first reading, but the second reading is constantly postponed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to resolve the issue of protecting underwater monuments. He reminded that many ships had sunk together with their crews, which meant that, according to naval traditions, they were burials. It is necessary to determine the areas in which they are located, as well as the order of work and tourist activities in these places.
"I ask the Government and the State Duma deputies to work on this and in the near future to adopt the appropriate rules formalized by law," the Russian president said.
The member of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society Frederic Paulsen spoke about the projects of the Russian Geographical Society connected with the future acquisition by Russia of the status of the country chairing the Arctic Council. He proposed to create an Ice Camp at the North Pole to receive international delegations, as well as organize a circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean with visits to all the islands. Such an expedition would go down in history and become a symbol of the beginning of Russia's chairmanship in the Arctic Council.
According to Vladimir Putin, despite all the difficulties in the international arena, Russia's attention to the study of the Arctic remains unchanged. The suggestions made are interesting.
“The Arctic is of interest not only for the countries of the Arctic Council, of course, because it is in this region of the world that we all observe climate change most vividly on the planet as a whole. There, these climate changes are most obvious. And therefore, research in the Arctic zone is of interest to all mankind, without any doubt," the president said.
Putin reminded that Russia was more and more often embarking on the economic development of the Arctic and the Northern Sea Route, was building the world's most powerful icebreaker fleet. In the very near future, the travel of ships in the Arctic seas may become year-round.
It is also important to understand how the climate will behave, since a large number of people live in the Russian Arctic, there are cities and infrastructure. Their functioning depends on permafrost; the consequences of it melting must be taken into account.
“Therefore, of course, we will work on this. I will ask colleagues from the government of the Russian Federation to study your proposals and make appropriate decisions. And, I invite you, your colleagues, to a forum on Arctic research in the fall within the framework of our chairmanship in the Arctic Council. I hope for your active participation in this work," Putin added.
Ecology of the Volga
Bernard Looney, executive director of BP Group, spoke about the unique educational project "Floating University of the Volga". An expedition of students and scientists from leading Russian universities on board a research vessel covered almost two thousand kilometers of waterways and took more than three thousand water samples, studying the ecological state of the Volga. One of the key results of the project was the development of a new approach to the organization of satellite monitoring. In the future, it is planned to expand the research.
Vladimir Putin noted the importance of the environmental study of the Volga and stressed the importance of cooperation between BP and a Russian higher educational institution and the involvement of young people in the work.
"This is a rather sensitive thing, because the Volga is not just a river, not just shipping, economic activity, which is also very important (as of late, we have also been working on this more actively than before), but the Volga is of particular importance for Russia. It is one of state-forming elements in our country, " said the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society.
Echo of war
Another major project of 2020 was the comprehensive study of airfields on the Alaska-Siberia (Alsib) highway. As Sergei Shoigu reminded, in order to ferry aircraft from the United States from Alaska through Chukotka, Yakutia to Krasnoyarsk during the war in the most difficult conditions, 26 sites with the necessary infrastructure had been built in six months. Many of them are still in use today. Sergey Katkov, the head of scientific projects of the Scientific Research Center for Contemporary History, spoke about the work on the legendary route.
Director of the Underwater Research Center of the Russian Geographical Society Sergei Fokin spoke about another significant project of the Russian Geographical Society – "Motor ship ‘Armenia’. Remember everyone". In November 1941, the Nazi aviation sank a ship on which wounded soldiers and civilians were evacuated from the besieged Sevastopol and Yalta.
The Russian Geographical Society is conducting research at the site of the ship wreck discovered in 2020. Another direction was the collection of data on the crew and passengers of the steamer that sank 80 years ago.
During the meeting, several more interesting projects and initiatives of the Russian Geographical Society were touched upon. Among them were the cooperation with Yandex, and work on the reconstruction of the Antarctic station "Vostok", the results of many years of work of the national park and reserve "Land of the Leopard".
At the end of the meeting of the Board of Trustees, Sergei Shoigu thanked Vladimir Putin for his constant help, support and attention to the Russian Geographical Society. In response, the Russian president promised a "face-to-face meeting" after defeating the pandemic and, for his part, expressed gratitude to all members of the Russian Geographical Society for their work.
"The work you are doing is very important and interesting. And if it is not interesting in some aspects, it is up to us to make it not only in demand, but also exciting, interesting. I am really counting on this. And I know that you are all enthusiastic, successful people. Some of you are striving for and some have already achieved outstanding results in the areas that you are professionally engaged in. And if you are engaged in solving the problems facing the Russian Geographical Society, then you are also the people who have a passion. I very much hope that this passion – very useful, and, I will repeat it again, interesting – will be the guiding star that will lead all of us together to a common goal. And the common goal is to preserve nature, to familiarize millions of people with nature," the president emphasized.
At the end of the event, the signing ceremony of the Russian Globe of Excellence took place. It was signed by the director of the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology Alexander Gintsburg, president of A.N. Bakulev National Medical Research Center of Cardiovascular Surgery Leo Bokeria, and an outstanding gymnast, the first nine-time Olympic champion in the history of sports Larisa Latynina.