Understanding recent Arctic climate change requires detailed information on past changes, in particular on a regional scale. The extension of the depth–age relation of the Akademii Nauk (AN) ice core from Severnaya Zemlya (SZ) to the last 1100 yr provides new perspectives on past climate fluctuations in the Barents and Kara seas region. Here, we present the easternmost high-resolution ice-core climate proxy records (d18O and sodium) from the Arctic. Multiannual AN d18O data as near-surface air-temperature proxies reveal major temperature changes over the last millennium, including the absolute minimum around 1800 and the unprecedented warming to a double-peak maximum in the early 20th century. The long-term cooling trend in d18O is related to a decline in summer insolation but also to the growth of the AN ice cap as indicated by decreasing sodium concentrations. Neither a pronounced Medieval Climate Anomaly nor a Little Ice Age are detectable in the AN d18O record. In contrast, there is evidence of several abrupt warming and cooling events, such as in the 15th and 16th centuries, partly accompanied by corresponding changes in sodium concentrations. These abrupt changes are assumed to be related to sea-ice cover variability in the Barents and Kara seas region, which might be caused by shifts in atmospheric circulation patterns. Our results indicate a significant impact of internal climate variability on Arctic climate change in the last millennium.