20 percent more people crossed the Russian-Norwegian border in the first six months 2010 compared with the same period last year. The main reason is Russians going to Kirkenes for shopping on Saturdays.
60,089 persons crossed in or out of Norway at Storskog border station from January to June, shows the statistics presented to BarentsObserver from the passport control authorities. Storskog is the only land border crossing point between Norway and Russia.
In figures, 9.859 more people crossed the border in the first half of this year compared with the first half of 2009. The increase has never been higher in a half year period since the early 90-ties.
- It is especially on Saturdays we see more people and more cars coming, says Bjørn Tharaldsen at Storskog border station to BarentsObserver. It is popular among Russians on the Kola Peninsula to cross over to Norway for shopping in Kirkenes; the border town located some 20 minutes drive from the border crossing point. The shopping centers and other stores in Kirkenes have over the last years specialized themselves with the Russian customers in mind. Most shops have Russian speaking employees and sells products that are popular among the new customers from the east.
Also, the number of people crossing the border shows an increase the other way. For all the first six months of 2010, there were more Norwegians that crossed the border than in same months last year. In total, 9,564 Norwegians crossed the border, mainly on their way to Murmansk or to the local border towns of Nikel and Zapolyarny.
The numbers of cars, trucks and busses also increased in the first half of 2010 by some 4-500 more per month than last year. In total 18,221 vehicles crossed the border from January to June.
More and more people in the near border areas in Norway and Murmansk Oblast holds multi-entry visas, making it easier to visit each other’s countries.
- We issues more so-called Pomor visas, says Lars Fordal, head of the visa-section at the Norwegian Consulate General in Murmansk to BarentsObserver. Pomor-visas are designed for inhabitants in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Oblasts, making it possible to obtain multi-entry visa to Norway without an invitation.