Russian space meets western business practices: Understanding the law in the petroleum sector in Russia


  • Sander Goes UiT The Arctic University of Norway



Law enforcement, oil and gas, IOC, formal rules, informal practices, formal institutions, resource nationalism, (dis)obedience, Shell


This article discusses the relationship between the private international oil company (IOC) Royal Dutch Shell and Russia as an oil producing and oil exporting state during a period when oil prices were moving towards unforeseen heights (2005-2007). By examining this dynamic relationship, this study aims to contribute to an understanding of Russia’s discursive and culturally produced history. The history of a state-oil company interaction has shown that the use of legal instruments is a good indicator to determine the nature of the relationship between oil-producing states and IOCs – a relationship that often has been characterized by periods of cooperation or conflict.At the centre of inquiry is how the oil major understands the law in Russia, and in particular the enforcement of the country’s formal written rules during legal conflicts over the development of the Sakhalin-II oil and gas fields (in which Shell until December 2006 controlled a majority stake). After identifying the violations of formal laws, I conclude that Shell understands that the formal rules of the game are subordinate to the unwritten laws of energy politics and in particular the informal demands of contemporary Russian society. The article also illustrates that oil-producing states have the upper hand in conflicts over the development of oil and gas resources.

Author Biography

Sander Goes, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

Sander Goes is a researcher at the Barents Institute of UIT - the Arctic University of Norway. He received a PhD in the field of political science from the University of Tromsø in 2013. In his dissertation he discussed the role of formal and informal practices in contemporary Russian society, in particular how the former becomes a tool for public authorities to enforce informal norms but also how the regulated community (in this case IOCs) understand law enforcement strategies in Russia. Besides public management, his research interests include environmental and nature resource management, especially with regard to the Barents region. As postdoctoral researcher at Nord University (2013-2016), Goes has taken part in several joint Norwegian-Russian projects that involve research cooperation in these fields, such as the social and environmental impact of mining and the internationalization of higher education




How to Cite

Goes, Sander. 2017. “Russian space meets western business practices: Understanding the law in the petroleum sector in Russia”. Nordlit, no. 39 (October):18–32.