Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

A black and white photo of fisherman from the Soviet Union.



“Warming of the Arctic” in the 1920s – 1940s: Influence on Marine Environment and Resources, and on the Soviet Understanding of Climate Change
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Location Note

1219 International Affairs Building
420 W 118th Street, 12th floor

This is a hybrid (in-person/virtual) event. Registration required for attendance. Please note that all attendees must follow Columbia’s COVID-19 Policies and Guidelines. Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community. To that end, all visiting alumni and guests must meet the University requirement of full vaccination status in order to attend in-person events. Vaccination cards may be checked upon entry to all venues. All other attendees may participate virtually on Zoom or YouTube.

Please join the Harriman Institute, the Department of History, and Columbia Global Centers for a lecture by Julia Lajus, Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of History. Moderated by Valentina Izmirlieva, Director of the Harriman Institute.

The arctic climate is currently changing faster than the climate of the planet; this phenomenon is known as ‘Arctic amplification.’  However, even before the beginning of the anthropogenic global climate change, the Arctic climate was quite changeable. The observations of the rapid warming of the Arctic caused by natural factors in the 1920s-1940s led scientists to acknowledge the possibility of short-term changes of the climate in general. Warming of the Arctic in that period was mostly pronounced in its part adjacent to the North Atlantic Ocean, including the Barents and the White Seas in Russia. Russian scientists along with Scandinavian ones played a crucial role in the observation and analysis of this process. This talk, on the one hand, illustrates climate as a driver for changes in abundance and migrations patterns of fish species important for the ecosystems of these seas and for the economy. On the other hand, the talk focuses on Russian scientists and their international networks, through which new knowledge on the changes of Arctic climate circulated. In addition, the legacy of this period for the Soviet / Russian climate science is discussed.

Julia Lajus received her degree in the history of science (the Russian equivalent of Ph.D. degree) from the Institute for the History of Science and Technology in Moscow in 2004 with a dissertation devoted to the history of relations between fisheries science and fisheries in the European North of Russia/Soviet Union. She is now working on a book manuscript, “Linking People through Fish, Climate and Environment: Transnational Connections of Russian/Soviet Science and Their Mediators,“ which explores encounters between international and national interests at governmental, institutional and individual levels, in which all parties needed to craft strategies for successful scientific cooperation.  In 2001-10 she led a Russian team on the large-scale project “History of Marine Animal Populations,” part of the global Census of Marine Life, and participated in the international project “Boreas: Histories from the North,” which resulted in publications on the history of science in the Arctic. She continued studying the history of Arctic science and environment in several projects in cooperation with scholars from Sweden. In 2009 Lajus was a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham (UK), and later cooperated with that University on the project on the history of Soviet climate science. In 2011-15 Julia Lajus served as vice-president of the European Society for Environmental History. Until spring 2022 Lajus led the Laboratory for Environmental and Technological History at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg. In 2014-19 she also served as an Academic Head of the International MA Program in Applied and Interdisciplinary History “Usable Pasts,” Russia’s very first MA program in history taught completely in English.