During that time, Fedorova, head of Sakha State University’s (Yakutsk Russia) International Programs Department, met a young Canadian student who was doing working on his master’s degree at the university.
“The young man spoke broken Russian, but very soon no one could tell him from the rest of the Russians,” says Fedorova. “He looked Russian with a broad smile and honest blue eyes and a central Russian accent.”
The student’s master’s degree focussed on political and social issues of the North and indigenous peoples. Needless to say, Fedorova didn’t know at the time that her and this student would have a partnership in the future. The student was Greg Poelzer, UArctic’s current Dean of Undergraduate Studies.
After Poelzer’s time in Russia, he returned to Canada and earned his PhD. It was one of his students which told Fedorova, who is the vice-chair of the Council of UArctic, about the idea to create a partnership among universities in the Circumpolar North. She says after hearing about the idea, Sakha State University sent a delegation to the Circumpolar Universities Association conference in Aberdeen Scotland in 1997.
“There had never been a question about why we should get involved,” says Fedorova. “Enormous territories, long distances, and endless dark winters have taught us Northerners to appreciate partnership because alone no one can survive in the North.”
Fedorova says she has many fond memories of UArctic over the years. One of them was during the first Council of UArctic meeting at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George, Canada. She says the meeting began a UArctic tradition of international sandwich nights.
“The university campus was far away from the city and the shopping centre,” she says. “So, when we felt hungry we had to interrupt the discussions to pack ourselves into a taxi and rush to a supermarket to buy some food.”
Fedorova attended UArctic’s official launch in Rovaniemi Finland on June 12, 2001. She says she remembers a lot about that day including the special blue t-shirts everyone received, and also the people who spoke and attended the event. She says she remembers clearly the reaction of members of the Russian delegation which included representatives from RAIPON and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Their reactions were a mixture of surprise, interest and admiration,” she says. “I felt a part of a circumpolar brotherhood sharing the pride and responsibility.”
Fedorova says she always had a strong belief in UArctic since its inception. She says she always knew that the organization would have an important role in the North, which is why it has had a lot of success these past five years.
“UArctic is the model of regional cooperation, which fosters the social and economic development of the Arctic,” she says.
For Fedorova, an excellent example of this cooperation is UArctic’s Circumpolar Studies (BCS) program. The program was created by scientists from Russia, Canada, the USA, Greenland and other arctic countries. Secondly, the students gain the same knowledge regardless where and how they take the courses. She believes the program is one of UArctic’s greatest accomplishments.
“I am proud of the circumpolar students and northern academics that put together the BCS program,” she says. “I feel a very deep respect towards the organizations that support the activities of UArctic.”