Photos of the incident went viral, with some observers blaming officials for ignoring a sprawling garbage dump nearby where the animals feasted on food waste.
But polar bear experts say the main reason the Arctic predators came so close to humans was the late freezing of the sea. It was this that kept them from hunting seals and sent them looking for alternate food sources.
And as Russia increases its footprint in the Arctic, pursuing energy projects, Northern Passage navigation and strategic military interests, experts expect more clashes between humans and bears.
"Development in the Arctic will definitely increase conflict with humans, especially now that the polar bear is losing its life platform in several regions and coming ashore," said biologist Anatoly Kochnev, who has studied polar bears in the eastern Arctic since the 1980s.
Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago of two islands between the Kara and Barents seas, is a good example of Moscow's new frontier that falls inside the polar bear habitat.
"Ice monitoring shows that previously, ice near Belushya Guba formed in December," said Ilya Mordvintsev from the Severtsov Institute in Moscow, who was in a group of scientists flown out to aid the village. "For thousands of years, they migrated this time of year to hunt seals. This year they came to the shore and there was no ice."
Since the incident, ice has formed and the bears have left land to hunt, he said. "But it's impossible to rule out a repeat of the situation in the coming years." And as more humans come to Novaya Zemlya, the likelihood of human-bear conflict increases.