Polar exploration is much more important to the Soviet mind than it is to the West Some of the Soviet Union's greatest successes have been achieved in the Arctic. For example, the sailing of the Northeast Passage was realized in less than a generation - a feat that for centuries had been considered impossible. Even today observers admire the frequent shipping along that passage, called the Northern Sea Route by the Russians. What to many had been a cold and empty area has been changed by icebreaker expeditions and polar stations into a miraculous empire, in which heroic battles were fought and records achieved. Polar exploration has been used as propaganda, with newspapers balancing stories about spies and sabotage with accounts of successful polar voyages. For example, the conviction of Bukharin was put in the shade by the last-minute rescue of I. D. Papanio and his three comrades, after their hazardous drifting voyage of seven months on an icefloe. Polar exploration has held, and to some extent still holds, the same fascination as space voyages did before an American spacecraft landed on the moon.