The University of Oulu is one of the reasons why the region of Northern Ostrobotnia is a demographic winner.(Photo: University of Oulu)
Regions with powerful universities and research centers are the only population growth areas in the Barents Region, data from the last 20 years show. On top of the list are the regions of Oulu, Västerbotten and Tromsø.
It is only the regions with powerful academic environments and technology-driven economies, which manage to boost their populations. Data assembled by BarentsObserver show that the Finnish region of Northern Ostrobotnia is the winner in regional demographic development with a population growth of 14,2 percent in the period 1990-2012. The region is followed by the Norwegian County of Troms, which in the same period grew by 8,2 percent and the Swedish region of Västerbotten (3,3%).
All the three regions have successful universities and quickly developing technology industries. The city of Oulu, the regional capital in Northern Ostrobotnia, is by many called one of Europe’s “living labs”, where residents experiment with new technology. Troms County, spearheaded by the city of Tromsø, has been turned into a powerful Arctic research center with high-level scientific environments. In Västerbotten, the city of Umeå can boast with a one of Sweden’s biggest universities and world-leading researchers in a number of science areas.
Not surprisingly, the three regions are also among the regions with the youngest and the best educated populations. In Västerbotten, a total of 34 percent of the inhabitants have higher education. In Northern Ostrobotnia, 41 percent of the 394 thousand population are under the age of 30.
In the other end of the scale is the Russian part of the Barents Region. Murmansk Oblast in the period 1990-2012 got its population slashed from almost 1,2 million to 788 thousand (33,9%), while the Komi Republic and Arkhangelsk Oblast dropped respectively with 28,7 percent and 23 percent. Also the Russian regions have institutions of higher education, and Arkhangelsk even hosts one of seven Russian universities with special federal status. Still, these regions have so far not managed to take a leap into a technology-driven development. The five Russian Barents regions are consequently losing also on several other parameters, among them on higher education. According to data from the Russian Federal Statistics Service, a total of 17,5 percent of the Arkhangelsk Oblast population has higher education.
The Barents Region has some of the last largest areas of intact natural woodlands in Europe. Scientists, bureaucrats and environmentalists from all four Barents countries cooperate on preserving the forest, but an international initiative is needed.
August 9th, the Barents Region celebrated the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The day was commemorated in several parts of the region, including Karasjok in Northern Norway and Teriberka in Northwestern Russia.