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Webinar Czechia in the Arctic / The Arctic in Czechia


On 13 April 2021, as part of Candidacy of the Czech Republic for Observer Status in the Arctic Council, an online scientific and cultural seminar, Czechia in the Arctic / The Arctic in Czechia– Echoes of Arctic Festivals 2018-21, was hosted by the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in St. Petersburg.

The event took place in connection with the exhibition of the same name at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) in St. Petersburg, which was officialy opened on 7 April 2021 by Mr. Jan Čížek, Consul General of the Czech Republic in St. Petersburg, and Professor Alexander Sergeyevich Makarov, Director of AARI. “Czechia in the Arctic / The Arctic in Czechia” is a panel exhibition that presents the achievements of Nordic and Czech scientists in Arctic research, joint Czech-Arctic research, educational and cultural projects and activities in the Czech Republic and the Arctic, introduces Nordic languages’ teaching and lectures on Arctic indigenous peoples at Charles University, the role of “Norway funds”, etc.

Mr. Aleš Chmelař, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic launched the webinar by his opening speech emphasizing the importance that the Czech Republic attaches to the Arctic and justified the Czech application for Observer Status in the Arctic Council. Mr. Chmelař pointed out the existence of two Czech scientific polar stations and the readiness of Czech scientists to cooperate within the working groups of the Arctic Council. Mr. Vítězslav Pivoňka, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Russian Federation, and Professor Alexander Sergeyevich Makarov, Director of AARI, then welcomed the webinar participants.

The scientific part of the webinar was opened by Zdeněk Lyčka from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic introducing Josef Svoboda, Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto, a prominent Czech-Canadian Arctic plant ecologist who was a political prisoner in the former Czechoslovakia in 1949–1958 and received the Order of Canada in 2019. The Czech Arctic Scientific Infrastructure in Svalbard took its name in Josef Svoboda’s honour.

The presentation was followed by a video by Czech Television's scientific editor Daniel Stach, who visited Longyearbyen in Svalbard on the occasion of the grand opening of Julius Payer House, part of the Czech Arctic Scientific Infrastructure, in 2014. The TV editor emphasized the consistent international approach of Czech researchers to solving research projects in the Arctic.

Mr. Vladimír Piskala, scientific editor of Czech Television, moderated the presentations of three Czech and three foreign Arctic scientists, followed by a discussion. Dr. Marie Šabacká, Head of the Centre for Polar Ecology at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, presented the international cooperation of Czech scientists in the Arctic, the main directions of Czech Arctic research, polar ecology courses and follow-up scientific conferences. Professor Josef Elster, founder of the Centre for Polar Ecology at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, in his presentation “Contribution of Czech Science to the Sustainable Arctic” informed about Czech scientific research at the Krkonoše National Park and at the Swedish Polar Station in Abisko, about the Czech Arctic Scientific Infrastructure in Svalbard and the Arctic Science Summit Week in 2017 in Prague. Dr. Richard Pokorný, Head of Julius Payer Institute for Arctic and Subarctic Research (JPI) at the Faculty of Environment of Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, presented JPI’s activities, research projects and published materials, including the latest book “Mineral Resources in Iceland: Coal Mining”.

After the presentations of the Czech scientists, their colleagues from Norway, Russia and the United Kingdom continued with their presentations. Professor Kim Holmén, International Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway, focused on the history and activities of the NPI, the position of the Czech Research Station in Svalbard, the heating of permafrost and the Atlantic Ocean, and on the global impact of Arctic climate change. Professor Olga Shaduyko (Morozova) from Tomsk State University (Russia), focused on explaining the origin and functioning of the Siberian Environmental Change Network in her presentation entitled SecNet. The network has 15 members, 19 research stations and more than 300 field sampling and monitoring sites. The Indigenous people of the North are also included in the research. Professor Terry Callaghan, CMG, founder of the INTERACT research stations network, University of Sheffield (UK) and the Tomsk State University (Russia), first highlighted half a century of collaboration with Czech scientists and then focused on describing the establishment, functioning and extension of international research stations network called INTERACT, which this year already includes 89 working sites around the world.

The last part of the programme was devoted to culture. Zdeněk Lyčka explained the idea of ​​cultural and scientific Arctic Festivals, which connect polar scientists from different countries and enable the Czech and international public to be familiar with the work of Czech and Nordic scientists in the Arctic and with the culture of the Arctic’s indigenous people. Zdeněk Lyčka then invited the participants of the webinar to an online tour of two exhibitions from the programme of the Arctic Festival 2020–21:

The exhibition “Czechia in the Arctic / The Arctic in Czechia”could be seen at AARI from 7 to 16 April 2021, and its other “physical” installations will take place in the autumn and winter in Prague, Ústí nad Labem and Dačice. “The North Pole Expedition” is an exhibition of book illustrations and copies of paintings by Julius Payer (1841–1915), the greatest Arctic explorer from the Czech lands and the most famous painter of the polar landscapes. The exhibition is based on a travelogue by Julius Payer published in 1876 in Vienna entitled “The Austro-Hungarian Expedition to the North Pole in 1872–74”.

Within the Q&A part of the programme, the participants expressed positive responses. They highlighted the quality and reliability of Czech researchers. There were proposals for expanding international cooperation and study exchanges.