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General Secretary Gorbachev’s Speech in Murmansk, October 1987

Speaker: Mikhail S. Gorbachev
Published October 1, 1987

General Secretary of the Community Party in the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev spoke in Murmansk on October 1, 1987, at the ceremonial meeting on the occasion of the presentation of the order of Lenin (the Soviet Union's highest honor for service to the State) and the gold star to the city of Murmansk. This speech is often credited as the basis for intergovernmental cooperation in the Arctic.

In an entry of the Barents Encyclopedia, Lassi Heininen of the Arctic Centre described the speech's six proposals and their influence: "The first two dealt with the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in northern Europe, reducing military activities, and the stimulation of confidence-building measures in the northern seas. The other proposals concerned civilian (economic) co-operation in developing natural resources, co-ordination of scientific research, co-operation in environmental protection, and the opening of the Northern Sea Route to foreign ships....

[The speech] started a process that led to the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) in 1991, when ministers of the eight arctic states for the first time signed a common document in Rovaniemi (the process was initiated by Finland, but the proposal originally came from the Murmansk Speech). Secondly, the initiation of AEPS subsequently led to the establishment of the Arctic Council in 1996, and to a new era of arctic international co-operation between the eight arctic states (concerning environmental protection and research in particular). The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) had been established already in 1990.

The Murmansk speech thus laid a foundation for new connections and can be seen as an early indicator of a change in the closed nature of the Soviet north; the collapse of the Soviet Union further accelerated this change. The speech represented an important turning point for the Arctic states since it started a new rapid process 'from confrontation to co-operation.'"

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