The port city of Murmansk
The port city of Murmansk

Russian Chairmanship Youth Envoy: “The Arctic is full of young talents”

22 September 2021
Strengthening the potential of Arctic youth stands high on the Russian Chairmanship agenda and one of the first initiates was to launch a call for a Chairmanship Youth Envoy for International Cooperation in the Arctic. With this interview we would like to introduce the successful applicant, Mikhail Uksusov – a lifelong Arctic inhabitant and a hands-on international cooperation professional.

Mikhail, could you briefly introduce yourself?

My name is Mikhail Uksusov and currently I’m working as manager of the international cooperation office at Murmansk Arctic State University. For my whole life, I’ve been living in the North. I was born in Murmansk, and I have studied both here and in Northern Norway. Now I’m developing science diplomacy in the North through different kinds of projects.

My first education was as an English and French teacher. In Norway, I got enrolled in a bachelor’s program in Northern Studies at the Finnmark University College in Alta back in 2010, followed by a masters in translation theory in Murmansk. During my studies I started teaching English to the first-year students at the university and soon I was invited to join the international cooperation office of the university.

Now I’m enrolling in a PhD program, which is called regional economics. I’m planning to devote my work to smart cities of the Arctic. While I’m not deeply engaged in this topic yet, I find it very interesting, so I think it will be a good motivation for me to learn something new and useful.

Youth envoy Mikhail Uksusov

How did you become the Chairmanship Youth Envoy for International Cooperation in the Arctic?

I saw an announcement on our university website for a contest run by the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Federation Youth Affairs Agency. The joint call was a contest for the position of a Chairmanship youth envoy for international cooperation in the Arctic and I thought: who if not me? I applied for the contest, filling in some basic information about my background and what I would like to do as an envoy. I actually had forgotten that I had sent my application, when the organizers contacted me and invited me for an interview. During the interview, I had to present myself and speak some English to prove that I could represent the country in an international arena. The same evening, they offered me the position, telling me that I was the best candidate – although there had been other good applicants with a background in international politics. While I haven’t studied politics, I am a hands-on person, I write applications, run projects, etc., and this was apparently what they were looking for. I’m really honored and happy to have this position.

How will you give Arctic youth a voice?

I don’t think I’m here to give someone a voice – that sounds one-directional. My role is to facilitate that youth voices are being heard. People who are active, caring about the Arctic and have something to say, need platforms and channels to deliver their messages. I see it as my mission to promote their initiatives and projects, and to create an environment for young people for personal and professional development. The Arctic is full of young talents. I’m here to represent my country but also to support and give a boost to more international dialogue between young people.

What do you want to achieve as youth envoy?

My desire is to be useful to the best of my ability for an international dialogue on the Arctic agenda – economic, ecological, social, cultural.

What will your tasks be?

My tasks are to facilitate this international dialogue and I’ve already started to think of some projects. Already before the Russian Chairmanship began, I applied for a grant to develop educational courses for young researchers in the humanities to synchronize the methods of research. When it comes to dialogues in the scientific arena, I see that people across borders sometimes do not understand each other although they speak the same language. Most of this happens because we use different methods. Another project I was thinking about is an online course about the Russian Arctic that would create an interest in the Arctic among young people in Russia – and beyond if it is translated into English. I have lots of things on my mind, but I’ve only just begun in this role.

What would you say, connects youth across borders?

Most of the Arctic territories are similar when it comes to their youth agenda. A lot of young people are migrating from the North to Southern regions – that is one thing that connects people: their dissatisfaction with the climatic conditions, the environment, the opportunities.

One cannot generalize this of course; many young people love the area and would like to continue their professional lives here and their care for the environment is another thing that connects them. People who live in the Arctic would like to see their future as healthy, green, and prosperous – and this will not be achieved without implementing an environmental agenda.

Another thing I find is that most people in the North are quite romantic. These struggles inside of them, fighting with the environment, not being satisfied, but at the same time loving their families, their motherland, makes being in the Arctic very romantic. The Arctic is full of controversary.

Why is youth engagement in the Arctic important?

The presence of youth is crucial for sustainable development in the Arctic and for the young people themselves. Young people and youth are an indispensable part of sustainable development and human capital. Engaging young people in the agenda will help to illuminate the challenges and good practices that are linked to globalization and current trends. It’s important to know the trends and to understand how they can be used in a positive way for the area and the people. I think, youth and the environment should be threads running through all other issues concerning the Arctic.

How do you hope to engage with other ongoing youth initiatives in the Arctic?

First and foremost, I would like to get more acquainted with their agendas. I know about the Arctic Council’s Indigenous Permanent Participants Network and the Arctic Youth Network. I think there’s a potential to come up with joint initiatives, working on documents together. There will be a young Arctic leaders’ forum in Salekhard on 6 to 9 December this year, so I would like to invite everyone to participate in order to get acquainted and plan initiatives.

Could you please complete the following sentence: By the end of the Russian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council I want to have…

…the feeling that I was of use for the international cooperation of my region, for young people, and for the Arctic; and I want to continue to be useful but with more skills and with more experience.