A polar bear on an ice field. By Anatoly Kochnev
Conservation, Без рубрики

Polar Bear Emergency State at Novaya Zemlya

Many news sources worldwide reported on the state of emergency declared on the Russian archipelago Novaya Zemlya. The reason for the emergency is that there are over 50 polar bears ‘terrorizing’ the township of Belushya Guba. The animals stay near residential buildings in spite of all attempts to scare them away. The local residents are afraid to leave their homes, and some bears even began to penetrate the buildings. Rosprirodnadzor (controlling body for environment protection) did not authorize killing problem bears. Instead, they formed a commission which was to fly to the islands Tuesday and make a decision on the spot.

The information presented in English-language news sources is accurate (although slightly incomplete), and there wouldn’t be any need in my comments on the issue, if it weren’t for the reaction of the hunting community. “Time to thin the herd”. “Weren’t the polar bears supposed to die because of global warning?”, “bad government won’t let good people kill bad bears”, and comments on these lines seem to fill the hunting pages in social media. And, I have to respectfully suggest that these commenters might be jumping to conclusion without first properly informing themselves of all aspects of the issue.

I covered this situation for Russian Hunting Magazine, and we have asked for commentary from Anatoly Kochnev, a person with tons of field studies in maritime mammals under his belt. He has been closely observing polar bear and walrus (and by “closely” I mean close enough to reach out and pet the animals) for decades on end, he does not receive financing from any group of interest, and he’s already lost one job because of his harmful habit of saying things as they are.

Here’s what he said:

“There’s nothing unusual or sensational in what happens in the township of Belushya Guba on Novaya Zemlya. Even though it’s mid-winter, the Barents Sea near Novaya Zemlya is almost entirely free of ice. In the Kara Gates and the Pechora Sea the ice is still thin, and it’s difficult for bears to hunt on it. However, the Kara Sea is still covered by thick year-old ice that is carried by small fields to the Barents Sea coast of the archipelago. On clear water the fields break down, and the bears that sailed on them try to return to the Kara Sea. They walk north along the Barents Sea coastline of the Novaya Zemlya, and on this route they simply can’t miss the Belushya Guba. There the abundance of food in the township’s trash heaps can’t fail to attract the bears’ attention. In winter in the Arctic a bear has to work hard to catch a seal. And there you have a free buffet! Naturally bears drop by for a bite, and won’t leave until they’ve eaten everything there is to eat. Here on Chukotka it happens all the time, but the bears also often find carcasses of whales or walruses that remain on the shoreline since summer, and don’t visit settlements in such numbers. Novaya Zemlya is not as reach in natural food sources, but there’s a magnificent trash heap, that’s an adequate replacement for a whale carcass.

I should say that similar situations near the Belushya Guba happened more than once during the last decades, only they didn’t involve just as many bears. But hope for the best is perhaps the most important part of our mentality. This is why the township, just as many other settlements in the Russian Arctic, wasn’t ready for the bear invasion. Declaring states of emergency won’t help things, what’s needed is preventive measures that are long overdue. Otherwise, both bears and humans will get hurt…”


An important case in point, and one that is often ignored, is that Novaya Zemlya is a top secret military site. You can’t enter the islands without a special permit, and they are effectively out of reach and control of the civilian administration, including Rosprirodnadzor (controlling body for environment protection). The Russian Military has a strong history of total and blatant disregard for the environment (“the nation’s defense is more important than flowers and bees”) and  misinforming the public (“if we tell the truth, the enemy might use it against us”). So I totally understand that Rosprirodnadzor doesn’t want to make any decisions without first seeing everything with their own eyes. I wouldn’t be surprised either if it turns out that the very declaration of the state of emergency has been made only to make it easier for the commission to obtain permits to visit.

In any case:

  • No matter how much I support hunting in general, and hunting as a management tool for endangered animals in particular, the current situation on Belushya Guba is not evidence for one or the other.
  • It doesn’t prove that polar bears are overpopulated. It doesn’t mean there’s more bears, it means that the population that used to be spread over thousands of square kilometers of ice fields is now concentrated on one trash heap.
  • It is not evidence against climate change. Just the other way round, the bears could not disperse over ice fields because ice fields are melting.
  • The situation is a people problem, not a bear problem. You should see the pics of the trash people on Novaya Zemlya throw around.
  • Killing one or two problem bears might be a temporary solution, but it won’t change polar bear migration routes, and won’t get rid of trash heaps.
  • Hunting or culling is not the solution for the general problem: environmentally questionable and intransparent Russian presence in the Arctic.



Russian MP-155 Shotgun in "Profi" grade.
Без рубрики, Russian Hunting Shotguns

MP-155 “Profi” Grade

Since 2018 the Baikal MP-155 semiautomatic shotgun is available in the “Profi” grade. The difference from the standard model amounts to a) Ceracote-coated receiver, and b) hand-checkered walnut stock and fore-end. Everything else is your regular MP-155, and even the plastic-tipped fore-end, as far as I know, is now standard for all wood-stocked MP-155.

So far the “Profi” grade comes only in 12 gauge, with 760 mm (30″) barrel and 76 mm chamber. The regular grade guns are available with walnut or plastic stock, in 12 gauge with 760 or 710 mm (28″) barrels, and 20 gauge with 710 and 610 mm (24″) barrels. The 20 gauge MP-155 also comes with a “Lancaster” oval bore, that is effectively a rifle, for slug shooting.

To say the Russian public loved the “Profi” grade would be an overstatement. A number of experts immediately offered criticism, pointing out, for instance, that hand-checkering is not perfectly executed. Doubts also exist as to the durability of the Ceracote coating. One gun guru writes that he found a drop of Ceracote on the barrel, tried it with a penknife, and the Ceracote fell right off. Honestly, that doesn’t sound too convincing to me: you can’t judge adhesion to specially treated alloy surface by how well the coating sticks to untreated steel surface. On the other hand, the fact that excess Ceracote did end up on the barrel doesn’t sound too encouraging.

Anyway, just about any coating will be an improvement over the regular black thing they cover the receivers with, so in general the application of Ceracote technology is to be welcomed.  The real question is, does it justify the price increase?

The MSRP for the “Trophy” grade Baikal MP-155 is, at the time of writing, 46,190 Rubles (roughly $699), and cheapest regular grade gun goes for 30,690 Rubles (roughly $465). The most affordable 12-gauge gun with walnut stock is listed at 32,200 rubles (roughly $489).

Would you pay almost half again for hand checkering and Ceracote finish on the receiver?

Moscow arms hunting expo 2018
Без рубрики, gunmaking, Rifles, Russian Hunting Shotguns

A (somewhat belated) Report on the Arms&Hunting Moscow 2018 Expo

The Arms&Hunting Expo Moscow, which takes place annually in October in the Gostinny Dvor Expo Center, is, to quote Russian Hunting Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Mikhail Krechmar, a way to tell what the next year will be like for the Russian hunting and hunting gun industry. This is, of course, only partially true: like any attempted futurology, an analysis of the expo can’t account for black swans. Allowing for this, let’s see what’s going to be in store for the Russian civilian gun industry as of October 2018. Continue reading

Без рубрики, Rifles, Russian Hunting Shotguns

Auction Prices for TsKIB Guns in Europe

“How much does my gun cost?” is one of the most common question about Russian guns – especially MTs (a.k.a MC, a.k.a. MU, a.k.a. Vostok) by TsKIB, Tula. Usually, with high-end guns, the best hints on the gun’s price come from what the hammer falls on at gun auctions. But the produce of the “Soviet Purdey’s” seldom grace the halls of Holt’s, Julia’s, and other auction halls. However, as many as five MTs guns could be found in the catalogue of Joh. Springer’s Erben XXIII Classic Auction (Nov. 9, 2017, Vienna, Austria). Continue reading

Без рубрики, Hunting in Russia

A Hunting Poster from the USSR

Yes, there were times when hunting was not only not discouraged, but actively promoted at the state level. Scroll down for English translation.

охотничий плакат СССРOf course, there’s a fine print. This poster from the late 1920s, is part of Stalin’s campaign agaitst private enterpeneuship (or what little of it was allowed in the USSR by New Economic Policy). Its main purpose is to encourage hunters to take their furs to state purchasing units rather than private traders. However, this ideological load doesn’t make the facts stated in the poster less real. In fact, everything except the  take against private traders is perfectly true today.

Hunting poster USSR

Без рубрики, Russian Hunting Shotguns

“They Don’t Make’m Like That No More!” – endurance tests of Baikal MP-153 and MP-155

“How long will my gun last?” – an important question not just for a shooter on a budget.  Some brands measure estimated service life of their shotguns in thousands of shells the gun will fire. For example, Baikal MP-153 semiauto was guaranteed to last 3,000 Magnum rounds (1050 Bar service pressure), and so is its successor, MP-155. How well do the Russian autoloaders live up to these promises? In the natural course of events, the search for the answer would be long and difficult, as few hunters keep accurate records of shots fired and all hunt under different conditions. To make things faster and somewhat more scientific, some journalists and marketers run endurance tests, with thousands of rounds fired in the course of a few days.

But before I tell you how well (or badly) MP-153 and MP-155 performed at such tests (and show a couple of videos with MP-155), let me offer you something absolutely vital for correct interpetation of the results. Continue reading

Baikal MP 156
Без рубрики, Russian Hunting Shotguns

MP 156 – First Baikal Inertia-Operated Semiautomatic Shotgun

I have made it a fast rule never to write about a new Russian hunting gun until I personally see it in the shop. Too many times a “new development” failed to make it to the consumer at the last moment. That’s why, even though I’ve read and heard a lot that Baikal is working on an inertia-operated semi, MP-156, I haven’t written a word about it. But starting this autumn, you can actually buy one in a Russian gun shop. Not that it would be a good idea. Continue reading