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Old July 12th, 2018, 01:21 AM   #11

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The name Svalbarši (Cold edge or coast) appears in Icelandic annals without any definite indication of its location, it could equally well refer to Jan Mayen Island or somewhere on the east coast of Greenland (or indeed even the edge of the Arctic ice rim). It is generally acknoweldged by historians that the question is uncertain. To cite two Norwegian scholars, "However probable the Viking hypothesis maybe, or tempting to the patriotic spirit, it lacks absolute proof in the form of material remains on Svalbard or yet undiscovered written sources which could confirm the scanty information we have". I belive that B.M. Keilhau was the first to draw the connection in his book on his journey to Bear Island and Spitsbergen, published in 1831. Norway rechristened the archipelago Svalbard for patriotic reasons when it gained control of them in 1925, in much the same way as Russia might have called them Grumant if it had gained control of them. No one knew anything about the islands or about 'Svalbard' when Barents and Jan Cornelisz. Rijp sailed there in 1596 and named the land 'Spitsbergen' after its jagged peaks. Spitsbergen (or Spitzbergen) was universally used as a name for both the main island and the archipelago in western Europe for more than four centuries, while it was terra nullius. When it was renamed as Svalbard, the name was retained just for the main island. It is historically inaccurate to say that is 'really' just the name of main island, that is something that has been imposed retrospectively and is not always observed in practice in the wider world.

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Old July 12th, 2018, 03:26 AM   #12
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The way I see it there has been several names for the archipelago over the years. Since it's Norwegian territory now and not Dutch it's only natural to call it Svalbard. You have a lot of information about this, so thanks for sharing.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 03:51 AM   #13

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Indeed, it's only natural, I was just joking when I made my initial remark on the matter! Russians like to claim that Russian hunters had been visiting the archipelago before Barents' visit, and perhaps archaeological investigations will throw further light on these matters (although it more likely to yield evidence on early Russian visits than early Norse visits). An interesting recent (negative) review of the evidence on early Russian visits can be downloaded here: https://vdocuments.mx/when-did-the-p...-svalbard.html
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Old July 12th, 2018, 08:51 AM   #14
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You mentioned the Russians. During the Cold war they had more people on Svalbard working in the coal mines. Svalbard is a demilitarized territory as you may know. They had a system for picking miners to go to Svalbard based on their national service. If few miners on Svalbard had served as a medic, they sent a ex- medic miners. If the ex- mortar crew miners were under-represented, they found some of those. That's what I've heard at least, I doubt I can back it up very well. It just seems likely.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 09:11 AM   #15

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I believe that coal-mining on Svalbard is a loss-making enterprise, and that the Russians just want to maintain a presence there for political purposes; they have a large military complex in Franz Josef Land, doubtless to defend Russian interests there against any threat from the seals and polar bears.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 10:12 AM   #16
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During the cold war there were two Russian settlements: Barentsburg and The Pyramid. The latter was evacuated in the 1990's.The Pyramid is now an arctic Soviet mining town, presser ed in the cold just as it was.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 10:29 AM   #17

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The Dutch seem to have shown characteristic good sense in making a swift a departure from Barentsburg.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 11:44 AM   #18
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Franz Josef's Land, Svalbard and the Arctic is getting more important - not less.
While sailing the North-east Passage was a risky venture for explorers a hundred years ago, that's no longer the case. Because of climate change the rute will get easier and easier for ships. It will be a shortcut from Europe to the far East (China, Japan etc.) and having control of the Arctic is getting important. Mining rare minerals and petrolium production will also become possible in this area.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 01:04 PM   #19

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Yes indeed, I appreciate that.
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