Russian Arctic – no trespassing

A stroll along Russia's northern coastline could easily get you into trouble.

Russia is reviving its once-powerful civilian border brigades, even in its remotest Arctic.


You might be thousands of kilometers from Russia’s nearest state border, but you are still in a border zone. The FSB’s decrets on the extension of the Russian border zone from 2006 include major parts of the country’s Arctic coastline, including all archipelagos. In the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the oil-rich region situated by the Pechora Sea, a 20 km border zone belt stretches all along the more then 1700 km long coastline.

The Nenets units of the FSB are now getting assistance from a growing number of civilian border brigades. In 2011, regional authorities established a financial support system for the brigades, thus significanlty raising their status and popularity. According to regional authorities, there are now “3-4 brigade representatives in all villages situated in the border zone”. A total of 14 brigades have been established and the number of members has reached about 90, the regional FSB leader confirmes to a local newspaper.

According to Pavel Poletaev, the border brigades are keeping an eye on the situation in the border zone, not only on the people in the villages, but also at the oil and gas installations, the protected nature areas and key infrastructure objects.

The brigades have been empowered with the right to check ID documents of people located in the zone. In 2013, the brigades caught a total of 60 people violating the zone regulations, the Nenets regional authorities inform. 

Commenting on the role of the civilian brigaders, local FSB representative Aleksey Frolov says that “the territory of the Nenets region is a difficult accessible with major coastal areas of border zone, areas where both foreign and domestic companies operate”, adding that “it would be utmost hard for the FSB’s units to keep up control without the help from the brigades”. 

The vitalization of the border brigades in Russian regions come as the State Duma is in the process of elaborating a new federal law on the civilian law enforcement units.  The new legislation is expected to include additional financial support to the brigaders, which according to estimates for all of Russia may count as many as 190,000 individuals.