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 working language of the webinar was English.
The event took place in connection with the exhibition of the same name at the prestigious Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) in St. Petersburg, which was ceremoniously 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. The Consuls General of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia and Turkey took place in the opening. “Czechia in the Arctic / The Arctic in Czechia” is a traveling panel exhibition of Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, Julius von Payer Institute for Arctic and Subarctic Research, the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø, the Centre for Polar Ecology at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, the University Centre in Svalbard, the Scandinavian Studies Department of the Germanic Studies Institute at Charles University in Prague and the Fund for Bilateral Relations within the EEA and Norway Funds 2014–2021. The exhibition 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.
Consul General Jan Čížek inaugurated the exhibition Czechia in the Arctic / The Arctic in Czechia on 7 April 2021 at AARI.
The almost three-hour-long programme of the webinar was opened with a short introductory speech by Consul General Jan Čížek, followed by a greeting from Mr. Aleš Chmelař, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. Mr. Chmelař started his speech with a few sentences in Russian. Then he emphasized the importance that the Czech Republic attaches to the Arctic and justified the Czech application for Observer Status in the Arctic Council. He 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 AMAP (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program), CAFF (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna) and Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG). He mentioned, among other things, the third issue of the traditional Arctic Festival in the Czech Republic, which introduces both professional and non-professional audiences to science, history, culture and traditions of the Arctic.
Opening of the webinar
Greetings by Mr. Aleš Chmelař, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic
The webinar participants were then welcomed and greeted by Mr. Vítězslav Pivoňka, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Russian Federation, and Professor Alexander Sergeyevich Makarov, Director of AARI.
The scientific part of the webinar was opened by polar explorer and translator 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 about Josef Svoboda was followed by a video clip by the Czech Television 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 – not national – approach of Czech researchers to solving research projects in the Arctic.
Czech Television editors and moderators Daniel Stach and Vladimír Piskala
Mr. Vladimír Piskala, scientific editor of the 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, focused on evaluating almost two years of 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 and collaborators from Norway, Russia and the United Kingdom were given the opportunity to deliver 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), Head of the Excellence Support Unit at the 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 (specifically with Josef Svoboda in the Canadian Arctic) and then focused on describing the establishment, functioning and extention of international research stations network called INTERACT, which this year already includes 89 working sites around the world.
Scientific part of the webinar (from left to right, from top to bottom): Consul General Jan Čížek, Dr. Richard Pokorný (Julius Payer Institute – Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem), Dr. Marie Šabacká (Centre for Polar Ecology – University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice), Zdeněk Lyčka (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic), Professor Josef Elster (Centre for Polar Ecology – University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice), Dr. Olga Shaduyko / Morozova / (Tomsk State University, Russia), Vladimír Piskala (Czech Television), Professor Kim Holmén (Norwegian Polar Institute in Longyearbyen, Norway)
After finishing the scientific guests’ discussion with TV editor Vladimír Piskala, the seminar programme continued with 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. He described the current issues of the Arctic Festivals: At Home in Svalbard 2018 in Longyearbyen and Pyramiden in Svalbard, the Arctic Festival 2019 in Prague, České Budějovice, Teplice and Pilsen and the Arctic Festival 2020–21 in Ústí nad Labem, Teplice, Prague, Dačice, České Budějovice and Hradec Králové. Mr. Miroslav Wanek, frontman of the music group Už jsme doma (UJD), which co-launched the Arctic Festival in Svalbard three years ago and continues this tradition to this day, performed as a guest in the cultural block. At the end of this part of the seminar, a video clip by UJD entitled “The Journey”, shot in 2018 in Longearbyen, was screened.
Concert by Už jsme doma at Huset Cultural Centre in Longyearbyen on 8 September 2018
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” is described in detail above. From 7 to 16 April 2021, it could be seen at AARI and its other “physical” installations will take place in the autumn and winter in Prague, Ústí nad Labem and Dačice. The webinar participants had the opportunity to take a virtual tour of the exhibition on the website of the Consulate General in St. Petersburg in two hours which followed the webinar’s end.
“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”. To emphasize Payer’s artistic genius, the exhibition introductory panel includes a reproduction of one of the four canvases of the so-called Franklin Polar Cycle. The painting entitled “Starvation Cove” depicts the tragic end of Sir John Franklin’s polar expedition in 1845. The webinar participants had the opportunity to take a virtual tour of the exhibition on the website of the Consulate General in St. Petersburg in two hours which followed the webinar’s end.
A traveling exhibition of illustrations and paintings by Julius Payer, currently only online
Within the Questions and Answers part of the programme, positive responses by the participants were heard. They highlighted the quality and reliability of Czech researchers. There were proposals for expanding international cooperation and study exchanges.
Mrs. Jana Lolić Šindelková, Director of the Western Europe Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, delivered the closing speech, thanking the organizers of the webinar for its preparation and implementation and the participants for interesting contributions. She praised the international cooperation of Czech scientists in the Arctic and the potential for its further continuation.
The video recording of the webinar is here.