The Barents Region consists of northernmost parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and North-West Russia. Sometimes the area is also referred to as the Euro-Arctic Region. The geographical area covers 1,75 million km² of which about 75% is located in Russia. The Barents region has over five million inhabitants, including several indigenous peoples: Sami in all the four Barents countries, and Nenets and Veps on the Russian side.
The first human settlement in the region is estimated to have occurred 40 000 years ago in today’s Komi Republic of Russia. The Barents region remained an uncharted territory where fishermen, hunters and nomadic people coexisted without the presence of nation states until the 13th century. Throughout centuries of explorations, economic and national developments, wars and peace, it has developed into a region of cooperation between Finland, Sweden, Russia, Norway and the indigenous peoples.
The geographical borders of the Barents region stretch from the northern Norwegian coast in the west to the Russian city Vorkuta in the east. This vast territory covers an area of 1 755 800 km², which equals the combined area of France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. The Barents Sea borders the Norwegian and Greenland Sea in the west, the Arctic Sea in the north and the Kara Sea in the east. The Barents Sea is divided between Russia and Norway as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The region is characterized by its remoteness, harsh climate and varied nature with the Scandinavian mountain chains in the west, the Arctic tundra in the Kola Peninsula, the Nenets Area and Novaja Zemlja in the east. The midnight sun lights up the northern parts of the region twenty-four seven from May to July and in the wintertime, the northern lights can be seen on the pitch-black sky. Furthermore, no other part of Europe contains as much forests, fish, minerals, oil and gas. All these components of the region combined create the backbone of economic and business development in the Barents region.
Population and cities
The Barents region is sparsely populated with approximately 5.2 million inhabitants living within its geographical territory, but it is nonetheless the most populated area in the Arctic. Due to the extreme climate and limited infrastructure, the population is largely concentrated to certain cities.
The two largest cities are Arkhangelsk and Murmansk in Russia, with 349 000 and 285 000 inhabitants respectively. The largest Nordic city in the region is Oulu, Finland, with over 200 000 inhabitants, followed by Umeå, Sweden, with a population of over 120 000.
Sápmi and indigenous peoples
The Barents region is home to several indigenous peoples. There are around 85 000 Sami inhabitants living in Sápmi, the traditional area of the Sami people, that comprises parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Around 7 000 Nenets live in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russia, and approximately 6 000 Vepsians in the Republic of Karelia.