Around the turn of the century knowledge of the Arctic increased rapidly. Countries like Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, the United States and Germany sent expeditions to the North which investigated the possibilities of fisheries in the Barents Sea, coal mining on Spitsbergen and a revival of whaling. Under these circumstances Russia was forced to a more aggressive northern policy. Like Norway, Russia believed certain Arctic areas to be hers by right from time immemorial. Foreign expeditions were thus seen as unlawful intruders. This perception of foreign exploration was reinforced by two factors. First, there were strategic considerations. A foreign power could use Spitsbergen to interdict the sea lanes to Northern Russia. Such a power could be Germany, which was also able to close the Baltic Sea. This made it unthinkable to St Petersburg that Spitsbergen should become part of a country like Norway, which would make it impossible to protect from foreign occupation in times of war (Vaultrin 1908: 103). Russian concerns were therefore purely negative and aimed at avoiding foreign settlement. Sweden, for instance, was showing its interest by actively taking part in the exploitation of Spitsbergen. It was therefore suggested that Russia should follow Sweden's example. Indeed, at the tum of the century, Russia took that stand and began to involve itself more in Arctic exploration. In consequence, the first sea-going icebreaker in the world, the Yermak, visited Spitsbergen in 1899. At the same time Russia and Sweden began a joint exploration programme which lasted several years, from 1899 to 1901. In 1912 Russia's foreign ministry decided to take part in the coal mining on Spitsbergen in order to strengthen Russia's foothold. In 1912 a first expedition was sent out, but after that the plan was delayed by the First World War. Finally, in 1919 a Russian mine began to operate, but during the Revolution its ties with Russia were severed and it became a private enterprise (Pasetsky 1964b).