Relations between Russia and Western countries have been chilly since the former annexed parts of the Crimean peninsula earlier this year, resulting in sanctions from the west that were met with a similar response in the east.
But The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) continues to collaborate unabatedly as if nothing happened and the Russians now account for 25 percent of the students in the Arctic Offshore Engineering program.
"Regardless of what happens on the political side, the cooperation in research and teaching goes on as usual," said Sveinung Løset, a professor who teaches at UNIS and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Løset has been instrumental in building up the course from 1995 to the present day and in 2008 the Russian students started becoming aware of UNIS. This year there were about 120 applicants for 60 places available and 15 of the students in the course are therefore Russian.
One of them is Darina Krotova. The 24-year-old from Moscow found space at the front of the auditorium and followed attentively while Anatoly Zolotukhin lectured about geological structures.
"My university collaborates with my UNIS," said Krotova, who came to Longyearbyen on Aug. 28 and will be here until Dec. 1.
"I know that this is important knowledge for me," she added.
"It is not unusual, but it is interesting to see that so many people are signing up," Løset said, referring to the applicants from Russia.
In the course of 14 hectic days, the students go through 45 hours of lectures before exams and the completion of a semester assignment in December.
"The students see enough development and activities to draw them northward," Løset said.