Novaya Zemlya is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in the north of Russia.

Novaya Zemlya consists of two major islands and a number of smaller ones. The two main islands are Severny (northern) and Yuzhny (southern), which are separated by Matochkin Strait.

Indigenous peoples of the archipelago are Nenets. When the Soviets established Novaya Zemlya nuclear test site in 1950s, they forced all Nenets to move to the continent.

Supposedly, Russians knew of Novaya Zemlya starting from XII-XIII centuries. That time Novgorod merchants explored Arctic and could reach the archipelago, though there is no written evidence about it.

In 1553 English voyager, Sir Hugh Willoughby visited the archipelago with the expedition of the Muscovy Company.

Dutch explorer Willem Barents rounded the north point of Novaya Zemlya in 1594, and stayed for one winter on the northeast coast. His expedition found a ruined Russian settlement and other traces of human activity.

During the later voyage by Feodor Litke in 1821–1824, the west coast of the archipelago was mapped.

The first permanent settlement was established in 1870 at Malye Karmakuly.

Nowadays the archipelago administratively belongs to Arkhangelsk region. According to the Census of 2017, the population comes to 2,910 people, of which 2,149 live in the village of Belushya Guba.

Novaya Zemlya is washed by the Barents Sea in the west and by the Kara Sea in the east. The total area of the islands is about 90,650 square kilometres.

The Strait of Kara separates the archipelago from the mainland. The terrain is mostly rugged and mountainous. The mountains reach the height of 1,070 meters. There are many glaciers on the northern island.

Natural resources include copper, lead and zinc.

The climate of Novaya Zemlya is quite severe. Winter lasts for 180 days with a long polar night period (from November 17 till January 26). There are strong winds and snowstorms. The lowest temperatures are in February-March (average -17°C). Summer is very short; the highest average temperature is +7 °C in July. In autumn, there is a lot rain.

Tundra plants mostly represent the vegetation of the archipelago.

There are many bird species on the islands, including glaucous gull, arctic tern, snow owl, white grouse, geese, eider, etc.

Lemmings, arctic foxes, reindeers and polar bears represent the mammals. Marine species that inhabit Novaya Zemlya seas and shores include Bowhead whale, Minke whale, Beluga, Walrus, Narwhal, Greenland seal, Bearded seal and Ringed seal.

Novaya Zemlya Test Site

In July of 1954, Novaya Zemlya became the Novaya Zemlya Test Site. It had existed for more than 35 years. "Zone A", Chyornaya Guba (Black Bay), was used in 1955–1962 and 1972–1975. "Zone B", Matochkin Shar, was used for underground testing in 1964–1990. "Zone C", Sukhoy Nos, was used in 1958–1961. In 1961 the testing of Tsar Bomba, largest thermonuclear weapon ever tested (50 megatons), was implemented there. Other tests were carried out throughout the islands.

During its entire history as a nuclear test site, Novaya Zemlya had 224 nuclear detonations with a total explosive energy of 265 megatons of TNT. The last nuclear test explosion took place in 1990, which was also the last test for the entire Soviet Union and Russia.

The Russian Air Force maintains presence at Rogachevo air base in the southern part of the island.