The City of Murmansk was founded in 1916 as the capital and administrative centre of Murmansk Oblast. Murmansk Oblast is home to around 900,000 people and the City of Murmansk has a population of approximately 337,000. Other cities located in the region are Apatity and Kandalaksha.
Situated on the Kola Peninsula, Murmansk is also Russia’s northernmost town, as well as being the world’s largest town lying north of the Arctic Circle. The town is located at the bottom of the Kola fjord, and its harbour is open for traffic throughout the year. The region is also home to a navy base for nuclear vessels and submarines. In addition, Murmansk has an international airport.
The town has two universities: the Murmansk State Technical University and the Murmansk State University of Pedagogy. The city also has numerous educational establishments and scientific facilities that provide higher education. Both universities and other higher education establishments are in partnership with the University of Lapland and the Polytechnic of Rovaniemi. The most significant cultural offerings of Murmansk are the theatre, Culture House and museums.
The Murmansk Oblast holds an abundance of natural resources, minerals in particular, and the region’s most important industry is mining. The second largest form of industry for the Murmansk Oblast is energy production, which is mainly in the form of nuclear and hydropower.
The most important businesses in the City of Murmansk are fishing, fish processing, maritime transportation, shipbuilding industry, foodstuff industry, and geological and marine geological research. Tourism to the Murmansk Oblast is also on the increase, despite the fact that its share of the total structure of the regional economy is very small. Compared to Lapland and Rovaniemi, the number of tourists travelling to the region is rather modest; in 2004, approximately 30,000 tourists visited the region, 13,000 of which were foreign tourists.
The world’s largest gas field, Shtokman (Shtokmanovskoje), is situated approximately 600 kilometres from Murmansk. Preparations with the intention of utilising the gas field have progressed in such a way that Russia’s largest energy company, Gazprom, will be selecting its main partner by the end of the year. Production has been estimated for realisation in 2010.
The significance of the Murmansk Harbour has increased due to the increase in oil freight. The Kola fjord has three terminals in operation to which oil is transported from Western Siberia to Murmansk by rail and sea. From Murmansk, the oil is forwarded on to the United States. There are plans to construct an oil pipeline from Western Siberia to Murmansk.
Industry has made a great deal of investment in the Murmansk region. Furthermore, a number of rail and harbour investments are currently in the planning stages. The already initiated investments and planned large projects have strengthened economic activity throughout the Murmansk Oblast. The majority of investments and construction focuses on industry, but a number of investments are also expected in the trade sector. Housing production is also on the increase.
The rate of inflation in the Murmansk Oblast is even higher than the Russian average. As a consequence of this and the minimal increase in salaries, real incomes have fallen on average in Murmansk. The purchasing power of the City of Murmansk has, however, increased.
The people residing in the Murmansk Oblast are poorer than the Russian average. In 2005, the proportion of people living on minimum income was 23.4 %. The employment situation has recently improved, and the unemployment rate is currently at 10.1 %. The population of the region is on the decline: strong negative migration occurs in the region, the birth rate has fallen, and the region has a high death rate.
Murmansk’s other friendship towns are Vadsø and Tromsø in Norway, Luleå in Sweden, Jacksonville in the United States, Groningen in the Netherlands, Akureyri in Iceland and Szczecin in Poland.
Friendship town activities
Rovaniemi and Murmansk signed the friendship and co-operation agreement back in 1965. Co-operation with Murmansk has so far concentrated on cultural exchange, and visits by sports teams and schools. There has also been some co-operation between the two towns in the field of social work and health care.
In the 1990s, the Rovaniemi based companies visited the Murmansk Expo Fair and a construction export project was directed on the region. As far as tourism is concerned, the friendship town co-operation has mainly involved Santa Claus visiting Murmansk and correspondingly, the Snow Queen has also visited Rovaniemi.
In 2005, the towns of Rovaniemi and Murmansk signed a memorandum, according to which co-operation will be realised:
- by exchanging experiences and information related to town administration, technical servicing, environmental conservation and the development of the social support system for young disabled persons.
- by expanding co-operation in cultural activities that link the two regions, joint preservation of cultural heritage, enhancing co-operation in the fields of teaching, sports, youth work, bilateral tourism, and with the mass media representatives of the towns.
- by strengthening capabilities to promote projects that would increase intercommunication between the inhabitants, direct connections and bilateral knowledge.
- by strengthening the civic organisations operating in the two towns and co-operation with the civic organisations of other towns.
- understanding that the point of departure for economic co-operation is to provide support for individual companies and institutes that have bilateral interest in working together and the benefits it brings about, such as with for instance, commercial, financial and other joint projects.
- making sure co-operation is also developed in the future with joint efforts within the scope of specified and long-term action plans.