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Arctic Circle

30 Years of the Calotte Academy: From Scholars’ Journey into a School of Dialogue

By Lassi Heininen, Professor Emeritus & Chairman of the Calotte Academy


This is the first version of a written Calotte Academy’s history, the completed version will be published in the autumn of 2021 as part of the book “Selected Articles from Calotte Academy”. As history is often told chronologically, the story starts from the first event and goes towards the present time. Each annual academy, grouped into three phases, is briefly described including theme(s), route, locations and feelings, as well as a summary of presentations and discussions.

After this retrospective overview the aims, methods, procedure and structure of the Academy are analyzed, and finally, outcomes and achievements specified and discussed.

In a nutshell, the Calotte Academy is an annual international travelling symposium and an interdisciplinary academic seminar on Northern and Arctic issues with high expertise and policy orientation, as well as strong educational and training components.

The first event took place on May 23-24, 1991 at Jeera (of Saami Education Institute) in Inari, Finnish Lapland - and since then it has been organized annually. This makes the Academy one of the oldest on-going international academic institutions on circumpolar northern issues, and the oldest with sessions located in the Arctic region. An Inari-based project from the outset, the Academy acted as Inari’s special higher education component. It is a perfect example of the interplay between science, politics and business, and a ‘global- local’ interplay.

The Academy has also been surprisingly resilient. It has endured as an international scientific seminar and school of dialogue on a wide variety of overarching themes of circumpolar and Arctic studies addressing globally, regionally and locally relevant issues.

In a nutshell, the Calotte Academy is an annual international travelling symposium and an interdisciplinary academic seminar on Northern and Arctic issues with high expertise and policy orientation, as well as strong educational and training components.

Three Phases and Several Places

When looking chronologically at the annual events of the Academy, it is possible to identify the following phases within the initial 30 years run:

1st phase (1991-1999/2000): The Academy was established to act as a seminar of the Tampere Peace Research Institute’s international research project, and a platform for public discussion on relevant issues, covering security, ecology and sustainable development, between scholars and local and regional stakeholders, and also educate younger generation of journalists.

2nd phase (2001-2011): It acted as an international forum for scientific and policy-oriented dialogue on relevant issues – globally, regionally and locally – among members of the research community and a wide range of other stakeholders, and served as a regional sub-forum for the NRF & its Open Assemblies, and an interdisciplinary seminar for international organizations (e.g. Barents Press) and new institutes (e.g. Barents Institute).

3rd phase (2012- ): The Academy became mature enough to act as an annual travelling symposium & ‘school of dialogue’ for early-career scientists (PhD candidates and post docs) from the Arctic States and Central Europe, as well as served as a forum for UArctic Thematic Network on Geopolitics and Security and Arctic Yearbook brainstorming.

Among the Academy’s co-organizers are the Sámi Education Institute, Municipality of Inari, Arctic Centre & Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Lapland; Barents Institute and the Department of Sociology, Political Science and Community Planning at the University of Tromsø, The Arctic University of Norway; the Luzin Institute for Economic Studies of RAS at Kola Science Centre and the Faculty of Geography at The Lomonosov Moscow State University; and NRF & TN on Geopolitics and Security. It has been financially supported by the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the International Arctic Science Committee, and Municipality of Inari, as well as by in kind support of co-organizers.

Aims, Methods, Procedure & Structure

Even though substance is the most important thing, it also matters what kind of procedure and

structure is in place. In the case of the Calotte Academy it is simple and non-bureaucratic. This unorthodox and flexible format is neither common in the scientific community nor easily accepted by established academic and funding institutions.

As a unique academic ‘school of dialogue’ the Academy’s aim is to create, promote and enhance a lively and inclusive dialogue. To facilitate this, the sessions are structured on an ‘open dialogue’ format which is understood as a cumulative and open-ended process, a direct engagement with the arguments of others, and a focus on issue domain. Open discussions follow each presentation and participants listen to the argumentation of others having expertise in other disciplines or fields.

Each annual event consists of a core group of talented, open-minded people who are committed to dialogue. In each location, an active local audience participates.

The Academy is not an exclusive club by any measure as participants stand on an equal footing with the presenters - no keynote speakers – and are selected based on an open call for application. There is no registration fee and a small grant to support travelling and accommodation of early-career scientists, mostly PhD candidates, are sometimes given.

As a unique academic ‘school of dialogue’ the Academy’s aim is to create, promote and enhance a lively and inclusive dialogue.

Outcomes & Achievements

The Calotte Academy sessions in the European Arctic used to serve as platforms for scientific and other expert presentations, as well as open and lively discussions between different stakeholders. This ‘transdisciplinarity’ has been successful in reaffirming the social relevance of science, and has proven attractive to early-career scientists.

We can enumerate numerous outcomes to these three phases over 30 years: 28 annual academies in 19 locations in Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Sapmi, with several hundred active participants representing more than 25 nationalities. Altogether almost 600 presentations in 160 sessions, covering all relevant northern and Arctic issues and themes, and innumerable number of comments and counter-arguments, questions and answers in discussions after each presentation.

Based on the presentations and discussions final reports are published in the Arctic Yearbook, and eleven scientific books and proceedings have been published (in English or Finnish). More importantly, the Academy has become the vector for a strong educational component implemented through an open and cumulative dialogue with timely focus on issues and mutual confidence and respect. Its aims, methods and experimental nature have made it a democratic forum for academic and policy-oriented activities, an alternative model for conventional academic gatherings.

A participatory approach and by nature synergistic, not against anyone or anything (except maybe narrow-minded thinking and bureaucratic structures) has been taken as a welcome addition to the spectrum of existing platforms, fora, means and methods.


Though small and once a year only, the Academy has successfully acted as a school of dialogue between stakeholders, a platform and sub-forum for international research projects and conferences, and a springboard for international organizations & brainstorming meetings.

As an open, independent and autonomous entity, it is implementing synergy between different expertise and stakeholders, as well as between existing organizations and networks. An ‘Ecosystem’ has emerged, around the Academy consisting of the Northern Research Forum & Open Assemblies, TN on Geopolitics and Security, the Assemblies at Arctic Circle, the Arctic Yearbook and GlobalArctic Project & Handbook.

In these turbulent times in world politics, when faced with complex challenges and a multi-dimensional crisis, it is an absolute necessity to lean on high expertise and use unorthodox methods.

Behind is an understanding that our modern societies, including Arctic societies, benefit from having constant interplay between science, politics and business – that the social relevance of science is taken literally -, and that there are new and fresh ideas, and those who produce new scientific knowledge, as progress and changes are accelerated by crises.

The Calotte Academy with thirty years of experience in enhancing open discussion, and sharing knowledge with local communities, as well as bravery to believe in a dialogue as a confidence building measure, deserves to be recognized, heard and studied.

No. 10/2021, 8 July 2021

This article is a part of the Arctic Circle Journal Series which provides insight, understanding and new information. The material represents the opinions of the author but not those of Arctic Circle.

Lassi Heininen

Dr. Lassi Heininen is Professor (emeritus) of Arctic Politics, Editor of Arctic Yearbook, Director of Calotte Academy, Leader of UArctic TN on Geopolitics & Security. His research fields include IR, Geopolitics, Security Studies, Environmental Politics, Northern European & Arctic Studies. He is a supervisor of several PhD candidates, regularly speaks in international gatherings, and chairs the GlobalArctic Mission Council of the Arctic Circle.

He publishes in, and acts as a reviewer for, international journals & publications. Among his recent publications are ”Comprehensive Security” in Towards a Sustainable Arctic (WSPC 2023); “The Post-Cold War Arctic” in Global Arctic (Springer 2022); ”The Evolving Geopolitics of Polar Regions” (with H. Nicol) in Polar Cousins (UCalgary Press 2022); “Climate Change and the Great Power Rivalry” in Insight Turkey (2022); Arctic Policies and Strategies - Analysis, Synthesis, Trends (with Everett, Padrtova & Reissell, IIASA 2020); Climate Change and Security(with H. Exner-Pirot, Palgrave Pivot 2020).