Archipelago, northeastern Barents Sea. Consisting of about 190 islands, it is the northernmost territory of Russia and the most northerly land of the Eastern Hemisphere. With a land area of about 6,229 sq mi (16,134 sq km), the islands comprise a series of lowland plateaus, 85% of which is ice-covered. The Arctic climate supports polar bears and the Arctic fox, with numerous bird species. The Soviet Union annexed the islands in 1926 and maintained permanent weather stations there.