Murmansk business strain their eyes towards Norway

Murmansk and Norwegian businesses discuss how to develop cross-border trade. Photo: Alexey Filin

Small businesses in Russia look at the Norwegian neighbor as a potential business field for their ideas.


The contemporary business world makes new challenges for freshmen enrolled there. But on the foul of Norway-Russian border relations it seems to be fewer obstacles for the business flow both ways. We are still strangers to each other but eager to learn more and cooperate in various spheres especially in business.

“We are happy to see Norwegian companies working in Murmansk, but we also enjoy the fact that Russian businessmen come to Norway. This feedback is very positive,” said Øyvind Nordsletten, the Consul General of Norway.

Today 36% of the Norwegian businessmen confess that the Russian market is considered as very promising for the business development while 24% are already working there. And it is quite understandable that there are a number of factors that impede the development of trade relations between the Murmansk region and the Northern Norway - territories with a centuries-old tradition. 

Today Norway is one of the key trade partners of Murmansk and more Russians look at our neighbor as at a potential business field for their ideas. Inevitably they showed keen interest in the context of SIVA business seminar, organized in Murmansk at the end of March.  

“While preparing the seminar about 30 participants were expected. But the theme turned to be so interesting that finally we got more than 80 entrepreneurs registered for participation,” says Anna Filina, international project manager, SIVA IM Murmansk.  

An export oriented city recently revealed the increase in trade turnover is a result of export of floating constructions and import of fish fodder. Some time ago, Russia was taking off in joint ventures. Many of companies couldn’t tolerate the serious differences in mentality. Now with the development of Russian business the position becomes closer and this form of cooperation may be a new development. Stability in political relations provokes local small and medium businessmen to join the Norwegian market. Is it really so easy to open a company in Norway?

“Unlike Russia, opening business in Norway gives the following benefits: easier registration procedure, less bureaucracy and barriers on administrative level, says to Barentsnova Pavel Zychkov, a Murmansk businessman eyeing a market access across the border.

However, few Russian companies work in Norway today.

“Norwegians look at Russian businessmen still with concern. Serious differences in planning, conducting the affairs seem strange and unclear for the Norwegian businessmen,” said Natalya Mikalsen, an authorized financial expert of KN Regnskap AS. “We have 20 years difference in planning periods which makes Russian business ideas less attractive from the point of stability,” added Natalya. 

“After graduation from the University and a couple of years spent in Norwegian accounting service I decided to start her own business. What is it to be a businesswomen in Norway? Well, rather favorable conditions. I enjoy it. Today women’s role in economy has seriously increased, so it seems to be normal. You do not need a man to be a face of your business,” explained Natalya.

Family business in Finnmark
Natalya and Pavel Romanovs have run a successful business in Norway within quite many years. They are the owners of a publishing office “BarentsForhlag” in Kirkenes. 

“When we started our publishing business in 2003 we lived in Norway,” says Pavel. Natalya had already been working in different Norwegian companies. It is difficult to say that it was easy, but we found our place at the market and do not have competitors even now. Today “BarentsForlag” is well-known and dynamically develops due to numerous orders.  We publish books mostly connected with Russia but targeted at the Norwegian readers.

Romanovs are rather optimistic about their future. “Several years ago we bought the rights for translation and publication of a series of Russian illustrated learning books for small children. We supplied the Norwegian schools with them and finally we succeeded.  Today we have hundreds of books sold.” 

To illustrate principal difference between Norwegian and Russian business principles Pavel speaks about an old Russian saying: “To be like a cat on a hot tin roof”. “In Russia “a hot tin roof” is the Government, in Norway you have to think about your development on your own.

Wider marker opportunities
Denis Kreminsky has been running IT business in Russia for many years and recently registered his company in Norway. Without special knowledge in legal issues, Kreminsky spent about 2 months for registration procedures and today his Norwegian company has got 2 clients already.

“I have wide experience in different IT-projects’ realization in Russia and this business seems to be rather successful. But I’d like to enhance my business opportunities via coming to the European market. It’s not a secret that it is easier for the European customers to work with a company registered in Europe. It is true from the practical point of view – easier way of making a contract, make bank operations together with simple trust. It was the reason for registration of my company in Norway.” 

“Of course, there are some difficulties. The market and customer needs are rather limited in the Northern Norway, so I plan to enlarge the client circle at new territories. By the moment we have had about 30 Russian projects and I believe it is the beginning only.

Two years of waiting may spoil everything
Many other young entrepreneurs from Murmansk are afraid of the Norwegian business reality. Favorable conditions with easy and clear registration are so often spoiled with long period of partners’ search and even longer terms of conviction in their stability and reliability. Konstantin Fedoseev has a small business in metallic constructions’ segment. They worked out new cheaper ways of work and hope it will attract the European industrialists, as well as attract more Russian customers because of serious reduction in price.

“We need a rapidly developed Norwegian market to develop our business opportunities. Our business faced the lack interest at the local market. Our region is too small to be capable of our technologies’ implementation. Of course, if we relied only upon the Norwegian perspectives for our business after two years of waiting we’d be completely destroyed. In such situation Norwegian-Russian business incubator “Polar Star” became our “guiding star” and provided help to our business.”

Norway is attractive for the Russian business ideas not only as an industrial neighbor. Sergey Stoletov has a small business in the Murmansk region and now thinks about investments into a tourist camp building for sea fishing fans in the North of Norway. The idea is to create the camp together with his Norwegian partners and attract Russians to spend free time there.

“I have lived near the sea from my childhood. My story started when I first came to fishing in Norway and fall in love with this fantastic activity. I told my friend how interesting and evolving it was. They asked me to organize trips for them and then other clients appeared. Today I get regular calls from compete strangers interested in fishing in Norway.” 

“Finnmark has brilliant opportunities for tourism development. So many Russians simply don’t have information about it, but ready to pay good money for such activities!”