National rivalries, personal ambitions and scientific pursuits became deeply entangled, so that researchers such as Nansen and Amundsen became national heroes as the final chapter in European exploration of the Arctic was written.
2.2 Political and Social Background
The Soviet Union's (and later, Russia's) Siberian policy with respect to the NSR shifted numerous times over the past century. After the Russian Revolution, Peter the Great's imperial administration gave way to a Soviet regime which emphasized national defense and the creation of a nation unified under socialism. After economic upheaval and the end of the Cold War, the Russian Republic was founded and power devolved toward regional governments. The complexity of the resulting situation makes the future direction of development of an international shipping route unclear.
One of the most significant outcomes of the recent collapse of the Soviet system is the disintegration of its federal system, with had boasted strong bonds of national unity. Ostensibly, according to article 72 of the "Brezhnev constitution," promulgated in 1977, each of the Soviet Union's 15 republics belongs to the federation with the free assent of all of its various ethnic groups, which enjoy equal rights under the constitution. This meant that each constituent republic was free to secede from the Union at any time. In fact, it was assumed that such secession was never to happen, and no legal provisions were made to enable secession to occur. When the Baltic republics issued their joint declaration of secession, the Soviet federal system began to unravel, giving way to a new era of multipolarity in the international community that required the adoption of a new doctrine to handle relations among the republics. Secretary General Gorbachev had set the stage for this realignment at the Warsaw Pact Summit in July 1988, when he renounced the Brezhnev Doctrine, advocating a new approach linked with the program of perestroika ("national reconstruction"), Gorbachev envisioned a new interdependence among economic and environmental issues that transcended the conventional systems of socialism and capitalism, giving precedence to values common to all peoples. Issues of national security were to be determined through due political process. Military resources were to be streamlined, so that a military capability sufficient for defensive purposes would be deemed adequate. In short, Gorbachev's goal was to strip ideology out of international relations.
In an address in Murmansk on October 1, 1987, Gorbachev declared the NSR open as an international shipping route. This did not signify the opening of the seas to all comers, but it did represent an end to the old, cold-war mechanisms previously in place. At the very least, Gorbachev's declaration constituted a recognition that the NSR had lost most of its strategic/military value. In fact the NSR declaration was inevitable, given the Soviet Union's urgent need to recover from its long and steep economic decline that began in the latter years of the Brezhnev regime, and in particular to build up the country's depleted foreign-currency reserves.
Russia convened a National Council, composed of the President of the old Federation and the leaders of each of the republics, in a bid to create a replacement for the supreme decision-making body that had just been swept away. It was hoped that, by recognizing the independence of the Baltic countries and starting afresh, a new federal treaty could be concluded. This effort reached an impasse, however, when elements of Ukraine's brittle ruling alliance rejected it. Next a treaty on economic union called the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), aimed at defusing an economic crisis and effecting the transfer to a market economy, was mooted among 11 of the republics (the Baltic countries and Georgia did not participate).