Russian North – a natural and socioeconomic region of the RF (area 11 million km2, or 62 % of the Russian territory) and a zone of multiyear frozen ground and extreme and harsh climatic conditions. To 11.4 million people living there (1997), or about 7 % of the total population of Russia, social and economic benefits apply. Fifty-five percent of all the Northern territories and 80 % of the world population living in these regions account for Russia. Eleven of 12 northern cities of the world with the population over 200 thousand people are located in Russia. Russia’s geopolitical interests lie in the north, with its Northern Sea Route, strategically important airways, and channels of European countries’ access to Asia-Pacific Regions. R.N. includes the following territories: Republics (Karelia, Komi, Sakha (Yakutia)); Regions (Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Magadan, Kamchatka, Sakhalin); Autonomous areas (Nenets, Yamal-Nenets, Khanty-Mansi-Yugra, Taymyr (Dolgano-Nenets), Evenk, Chukotka, Koryak); northern parts of the territories (Krasnoyarsk, Khabarovsk, and Primorsky); and Regions (Tyumen, Sverdlovsk, Tomsk, Irkutsk, Chita, Amur). R.N. has the following economic subzones: European North, West Siberian North, East Siberian North, and Far East North. Now it is common and has a scientifically grounded term “R.N.” A vast territory; inhomogeneous environmental and climatic, social, and economic factors; and smooth transition from “northern” conditions to “not northern” ones complicate the determination of the region’s southern border. At the same time, it is necessary to determine it to solve scientific, economic, and social tasks, in particular, to define the territories which require state support for their development and are in need of additional expenses connected with the reproduction of labor, social benefits, guarantees, and compensations for those working and living in these territories.
First scientific attempts to define R.N.’s south border go back to 1920. A decree of All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic dated May 10, 1932, for the first time approved a ruling “On benefits for persons working in the extreme north of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic,” and decrees of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic dated October 26, 1932, and January 29, 1934, defined the territory to which these benefits applied. In 1945, with the aim of creating a differentiated preponderance in labor compensation, a term “Areas equated with the regions of the extreme north” was introduced. An approved “List of the extreme north regions and areas equated to the extreme north regions” is being elaborated and changed by decision-making authorities on a constant basis.
By now over 20 options of the region’s south border have been offered. S.V. Slavin was one of the first researchers to define the south border of the Russian North according to the aggregate physiographic, economic, and social features characteristic to the northern territories. Sometimes the south border of the region is considered as isoline of accumulated temperature over the vegetation period (with average daily temperature over 5 °C) to the north from which sustainable land use is not possible. According to constructional and climatic classification, the border of the Russian North is determined on the basis of climatic aspects crucial for construction and operation of engineering structures. The state standard defines the cold climatic zone by average isoline of absolute minimum air temperature (−45 °C), requiring materials and machines suitable for use under extreme north conditions. Some scientists specializing in the extreme north offer to use the south border of sporadic permafrost as the most common and sustainable from the scientific point of view as a criterion. There exists a Russian North border outlined by transport and geographical features, which lies along the northernmost latitudinal thoroughfare; in the territory to the north of it, no trunk transit system exists (combination of longitudinal and latitudinal roads) and the density of permanent traffic lanes is very low (less than 0.05 km/100 km2). Besides, there are various medical, geographic, and bioclimatic borders based on the harshness of environmental conditions for the population, as well as classification by conditions of the equipment operation.
In 1989, for strategic planning and productive power management, the North Commission of the USSR Academy of Science Research Council on Regional Economics tried to classify the region of the Russian North by the number of factors characterizing the influence of natural conditions over essential components of social and economic systems, namely, man, equipment, and structures. The south border of the region was marked along the south line of the cold climatic zone, to the north from which the climatic effect on man, equipment, and structures, as well as time limitations of various production processes, is at least 1.3–1.5 times higher than in the Moscow Region. Modern scientific offers on delimitation of the Russian North boundaries are made by the Institute of Economic Affairs of the Kola Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The criterion for the region’s south boundary determination was the level of the discomfort for the population, considering a number of factors. The final border of the Russian North is specified so as to comply as much as possible with the borders of administrative regions. All the borders mentioned above lie close to each other and sometimes match together, which proves that each option is close enough to real conditions.
The situation with the Arctic border is far less complicated, though there is also no unanimity. The astronomic boundary of the Arctic Region lies along the Arctic Circle (66°33′N), as well as 65th or 70th parallels, northern latitude. General climatic border of the Arctic Region is isoline of June +10 °C. Physiographical border coincides with the tundra’s south boundary. The Arctic Region border offered by the North Commission outlines the territory with the highest rise in price of all the types of activity.