Extraordinary meeting of the Presidium of the State Council of the Russian Federation in Salekhard, 28-29 April 2004

Prepared by G. Diachkova on material from http://sl.yamal.ru/territory/tarkosale/2004/05/07/36zsoflwf3.mtml.

After the speech of the President of the Russian Federation, V.V. Putin, the fundamental report "Basic State policy of the Russian Federation in Northern regions" was presented by the head of the working group of the State Council, President of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Vyacheslav Shtyrov. In his opinion, state regulations are needed to carry out legal acts which fully take into account the specific features of Northern regions: division into districts and state support of small-numbered indigenous peoples.

The governor of the Yamalo-Nenetskiy Autonomous Okrug, Yuriy Neyolov, suggested in his speech that the President of the Russian Federation should create a Federal agency to deal with questions of the Northern territories . It is now extremely important to establish a specialised federal body, which engages in regional initiatives and makes sure that topics concerning the Northern administrative areas are continuously part of the agenda of the central ministries and departments.

During the debate the Governor of the Chukotskiy Autonomous Okrug, Roman Abramovich, put forward the thesis that traditional subsidence branches of Northern, small-numbered indigenous peoples do not have a sufficient economic basis, and therefore depend on state support. Subsequently Putin added: "Hence, they demand state grants". He emphasised that "the biggest wealth in the North is not oil and gas at all, but the diversity of cultures of the Northern peoples".

After the speech of V. Shtyrov the word was taken by the chairman of the State Duma of Yamal, president of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Sergey Kharyuchi. In his report he led attention to the need to reform the federal legislation, so that it would take into account the interests of Northern, small-numbered indigenous peoples. "It is necessary to adopt a number of measures at the federal level. These measures must eliminate gaps in the federal legislation on questions of social responsibility of business and traditional land use. These questions also include the payment of compensations for the damage put to territories of traditional nature management through industrial exploitation. There is a need of support of ethnic communities and enterprises dealing with traditional economies, which must be paid from the federal budget for compensations, stipulated by the federal legislation.” Addressing to the President of the Russian Federation , Kharyuchi said: "We believe that it is necessary to create a state structure focused on solving problems of the North, problems of development of small-numbered indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East , or to create an institution with special representation of the President on problems of the North. We are absolutely sure that only by means such uniform state body it will be possible to achieve a balanced economic development in the Northern territories and normal living conditions for all northerners, including the small indigenous peoples". The President consented to Kharyuchi's proposals and asked to direct them to the Administration of the President and the Council of the Federation.

The speech of the chairman of the State Duma Committee of the Federal Council on problems of the North and the Far East , Valentina Pivnenko, to the assembly became one of the most conceptual ones. She supported the previous speaker, Sergey Kharyuchi, in practically all aspects. Valentina Pivnenko especially emphasised the necessity of an immediate approval of the law "On reindeer breeding". She also suggested reconsidering a system of interbudgetary relations in view of the entire complex of northern problems. She rested in detail on the legislative problems of pensions, premature delivery of perishable goods, migratory processes, and proposed to revive the federal program "Children of the North".

Concerning premature delivery of perishable goods to northern provinces , the President of the Russian Federation said that in many northern regions of the country this is not a problem anymore, and when it occurs, it is normally the fault of the leaders of the regions.

The President of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), V. Shtyrov, paid attention to the necessity of raising the social responsibility of resource-exploiting companies towards the regions in which they operate. The companies should also worry about the condition of the cities, about the indigenous population, and about the entire complex of infrastructure development.

In the final session of the assembly, representatives of associations of indigenous peoples of the North, representatives of other public organizations, scientists, leaders of enterprises, etc., gave their contributions. A prominent contribution was held by the president of the Association of Polar Explorers, Artur Chilingarov, a man who is familiar with the problems of the North; he also insisted on the necessity to forma governmental body with the aim to solve the problems of the northern territories .

Deputy of the President of the Russian Federation in the Uralskiy Federal Okrug (UrFO), Petr Latyshev, stated that the discussed questions are significant for his territory, where small-numbered indigenous peoples reside in four administrative regions. In the Yamalo-Nenetskiy and Khanty-Mansiyskiy autonomous okrugs, regional legal acts and programmes for social and economic development of the peoples of the North have been adopted.  In 2003 in the Sverdlovskaya Oblast a 5-year programme of social development for the Mansi people was adopted for the first time. He noted that in spite of the fact that for last years a number of positive social and demographic tendencies among the indigenous peoples in the UrFO are marked, there are a number of acute social and economic problems influencing their development which need to be solved. Among them are the destruction of traditional ways of life and the difficulty of these people to adopt to modern society, housing problems, and a low standard of living. A separate problem is the underfinancing of the Federal Target Programme “Economic and Social Development of Indigenous Peoples of the North until 2011”.

At the closing of the meeting of representatives of northern territories , Vladimir Putin again emphasised that of all northern problems the problems of the indigenous peoples have topmost priority.