The Spirit of Murmansk: How an Image of Cooperation shapes the Arctic
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When Mikhail Gorbachev proclaimed the Arctic as a zone of peace in 1987, many did not know what consequences this image of the Arctic would have in the future. The Arctic was imagined as a plain place, where the superpowers of the Cold War had their standoff with U-Boats and secret nuclear facilities. Gorbachev’s speech in Murmansk turned this image into something that can be understood through one word: cooperation. The Arctic became a region in which nation-states worked together to create international organizations, like the Arctic Council, to face common issues such as environmental protection and sustainable development. However, International Relations has not paid much attention to images and their impact in the international sphere. In the case of the Arctic, images had never been interpreted as a part of the international achievement contributing to the essence of what the region is today. Images have agency and are affecting the processes that shape the Arctic. The theory of Imagency explains how images become actors, as region-builders that take part in the discourse and shape the social world. Nation-states orient themselves at these images and have to interact with them to shape their own national identity in the international sphere. One region that displays this process is the Arctic and the Arctic nation-states. From 1989 to 2019, the image of Arctic cooperation heavily influenced the International Relations of the Arctic regarding that nation-states engaged with it. Nation-states took Arctic cooperation as a part of their own identity until the mid-2000, when this exact image was contested by the same states.