Eastbound Cod – the Pomor trade

The Pomor trade was the trade carried out between the White Sea area in Russia and Northern Norway for 150 years. Read more about the history of trade.


The harbour in the town Honningsvåg in Finnmark.

The Pomor trade began as a barter trade between people in the area, trading grain products from Russia with fish. Over time it developed into a regular trade with money. The Pomors were skilled traders and sailors and came sailing to settlements and places of trade along the coast of North Norway.

The fish landed in July and August was difficult to conserve because of summer temperatures and there were no market southwards for the fish. The Russians recognized this opportunity and sailed west. They bought stockfish or salt fish, or they salted fresh fish themselves in the cargo hold of their vessels. It was cod and pollock, but also halibut and haddock. The fish was then shipped to Archangelsk and other harbours along the White Sea. Fish was in demand in Russia due to the Russian Church’s frequent fasting days.

In addition to the main trade with rye and wheat flour, the Pomors carried other food, such as oatmeal, salt, peas, meat and dairy products. Other useful merchandise was also carried, such as iron, timber, tar, birch bark, candles, cooking pots, hemp, rope and canvas. They also brought some luxury items such as candy, soap, porcelain and wood carving.

The trade also led to other relations, personal acquaintances and cultural exchange. Between Norwegians and Russians, a special pidgin language developed.

The trade between the Pomors and the northern Norwegian population was considerable, especially during periods of war, and years with supply problems from the south. In the 19th century, when the Russian trade was at its greatest extent, more than 300 Pomor ships came annually to the northernmost regions of Norway.

In 1900, Russia was Norway’s fourth most important trade partner, and it was still rye flour that was the main commodity. After 1910, less flour was traded, the Russians paid for the fish with money instead. After the Russian revolution in 1917, the Pomor trade was ceased. This had negative effects on the economy in North Norway, and especially for the settlements along the coast. The fishermen no longer had a possibility to sell their summer catch.

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