Transborder Café: The Vaccine’s Political Effects

Project Spotlight: Russian and Norwegian journalists, entrepreneurs, and politicians examine the effects of border closures and international vaccine politics on cross-border communities

Territoire Collaboration circumpolaire Avenir possible
An image of a border crossing in the Schengen area, with a road at left and a blue road sign for the border crossing in English, Norwegian, and Russian.

Like a hard pull on the handbrake, the restrictions put in place during the recent pandemic brought all but a stop to cross-border mobility and freedom of movement. These measures have caused an upheaval for almost everything: from the everyday lives of individuals, to the appearance of our neighbourhoods, to how we think about travel and tourism. They also continue to have a stark effect on larger topics such as governmental strategy and international relations and politics.

Note: This event was organized prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See Pikene på Broen’s statement on the invasion here

An image of a border crossing in the Schengen area, with a road at left and a blue road sign for the border crossing in English, Norwegian, and Russian.

While COVID-19 tests have now become so commonplace that they are something we can add to a shopping list, the world continues to face a common global challenge within the inner workings of the multinational cooperation system: a global health crisis still requires global health cooperation. At the same time, borders in many places have gone from being open to becoming strictly controlled, and previous liberal market values have been set aside in favour of protectionism, with the result of more internal and closed nation states.

In our Northern communities, regional cooperation with our neighbours in Russia comes under strain when international vaccine policies only add to existing challenges related to freedom of expression, the economy and military rearmament on both sides of the border. While some of us dream of reopening tourist shops, traveling, shopping and living according to “the old normal” again, others predict lasting changes and a less open, less prosperous world with increasingly reduced freedom.

Mobility in spite of boundaries is what gives our border areas their character, and their feeling of centrality. What are the consequences if the borders, in practice, remain closed, and turn our border areas into peripheries once again? What effect have the pandemic and international vaccine politics had for the North and the relationship across the Norwegian-Russian Border?

To end the debate, the duet Struny Struny take the stage in Kirkenes. This new project by Ekaterina Efremova (guitar and vocals) and Irina Volokoslavskaya (kantele)performs its own songs based on 20th-century poems, creating a unique blend of guitar and kantele.



Sverre Lodgaard (Oslo)—Norwegian political scientist and Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

Magnus Mæland (Kirkenes)—Managing Director for Kirkenes Chamber of Commerce.

Tatiana Britskaya (Murmansk)—Journalist for the pro-democracy magazine Novaya Gazeta.

Maxim Belov (Murmansk)—Entrepreneur, public person, politician and member of the Murmansk regional parliament (Duma).

Rune Rafaelsen (Kirkenes)—Politician and former mayor of Sør-Varanger Municipality.

Credit: This event was originally broadcast live on February 25, 2022 as part of Barents Spektakel. COURTESY PIKENE PÅ BROEN. 

This story is part of the Pikene på Broen Spotlight. View more content from the Spotlight here.