Much of the strength of the Barents Region stems from its rich history. Hundreds of years of mining and forestry, and age-old traditions of international trade.

For thousands of years there have been extensive relations among the different peoples in the region, and the Pomore traders of Norway and Russia, as well as the borderless Sami people have laid the foundations for the Barents Region of today.

The earliest history of the Barents Region can be traced back to Stone Age cultures, in Mamontovaya Kurya in the Ural Mountains of the Republic of Komi. Sagas relate that Viking families in Northern Norway had regular dealings with the peoples in areas around the White Sea.

Interest in the Barents Sea and its costs grew in the 16th century when the Europeans were searching for sea routes to China and America. In the 16th Century, the market in Tornio became a meeting-place for trade in the region.  


Willem Barentsz (1550 – 1597) was a Dutch navigator, cartographer, explorer, and a leader of early expeditions to the far north.

The third voyage

On July 17, 1569 Barentsz stranded with his vessel and a crew of 16 persons on Novaya Zemlya  in an attempt to sail through the Northeast Passage. After having spent nearly a year trapped in ice, Barentsz and his crew tried to escape from Novaya Zemlya on two small boats. Barentsz himself died only seven days after starting out. The 12 surviving crew members were rescued by a Russian vessel nearly two months later.

The Death of Willem Barentsz (1836) by Christiaan Julius Lodewyck Portman

The wooden lodge where Barentsz' crew sheltered during the year spent on Novaya was found undisturbed in 1871. However, so far nobody has managed to find Barentsz' vessel “Mercury”.

The Barents Sea and Barents Region are named after Willhem Barentsz.



Storgatan 85 
953 85 Haparanda 

© Barents Reunion 2013.