Indigenous information centres in Russia and the use of modern information technologies

Galina Diachkova, ANSIPRA Secretariat

Increasing cooperation between national and international indigenous peoples’ organisations, sharing experiences , and the necessity to participate in the political scene of the country have made it necessary to use modern information and communication technologies. The first years of this millennium saw the formation of an informational arena for the indigenous movement on the Internet.

Representatives of indigenous information centres met in Moscow, April 2005

The RAIPON[1] Information Centre promoted the creation of a network of regional information centres (ICs) located with regional indigenous peoples’ associations. These information centres are connected through partnership and cooperation agreements:

In 2005 the Information Centre of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) and the Center for Cultural Preservation and Development of Northern Indigenous Peoples “Kykhkykh” (‘Swan’, village of Nekrasovka, Sakhalin) joined the network [2].

The names of the information centres indicate their primary activity. In general , those centers concentrating on juridical activity respond to the present legal situation in the country. Indigenous peoples need information about their rights, and support must be provided to indigenous peoples’ movements in smaller areas, in larger regions or as a whole in the country. For example , the basic purpose of Juridical Information Centre “Sibir-Dyu” (created in Februar, 2003) is the organisation of territories of traditional nature use , to render assistence for the official registration of applications of indigenous communities , to consult on project development , and to  offer additional education to indigenous individuals. The Information Centre in the Magadan area, created in 2003 within an IWGIA-supported project , specialises in the economic development of indigenous peoples’ villages, and plans to create a legal database , to elaborate documents for national villages, and to hold seminars for indigenous peoples’ representatives.

The Youth Information Centre “Northern Center”, established in March 2003, is devoted to informing indigenous student organisations on the indigenous peoples’ movement , with the support of the Information Bureau of the Nordic Council of Ministers in St. Petersburg.

Besides spreading information through the Internet the centers produce printed material. “Lach” issues a supplement to the newspaper Aborigen Kamchatki. “Yasavey Manzara” issues the monthly information bulletin “Yasavey Vada”. The Information Centre of Khabarovsk issues the quartery newsletter “Bagulnik[3] in the Wind”. And the Information Centre of Magadan puts out the monthly bulletin “Toren”. Print runs vary between 200 and 600; readers are mainly inhabitants of indigenous peoples’ villages , indigenous communities and other indigenous peoples’ organisations (for instance , councils of elders) , who have limited or no access to the Internet.

The problem of legal rights protection for the numerically small indigenous peoples of the North in terms of industrial development has become one of RAIPON’s main issues, which is reflected on the organisations’ web-site and in its magazine “Indigenous Peoples’ World Living Arctic”. The issue is tackled in the form of publications of legal acts, comments to federal laws , and reports on activities like round table meetings and conferences.

The current legal challenge is to reform the federal legislation, particularly legislation affecting the numerically small indigenous peoples, with respect to a new delimitation of authorities at all levels. An intervention by RAIPON into the work of the “Commission on the Draft Preparation for the Delimitation of Responsibilities between Public Authorities at all Levels” in 2002-2003 has led to working discussion of fundamental laws concerning indigenous peoples and to the preparation of proposals for modifications and amendments to 18 federal laws [4].

Information given by the information centers on the Internet and in printed publications reflects not only the legislation concerning indigenous peoples’ issues in Russia and the indigenous peoples’ movement , but it also supports the protection of the areas which indigenous peoples inhabit from the activities of oil and gas companies and other intensive resource exploiters. At the beginning of the 2000s, a wide information campaign through the indigenous peoples’ mass-media illuminated the conflict between the Primorsk Association of Indigenous People with the transnational corporation “Khendey” and the company “Primorsklesprom”[5]. This resulted in the support of the case by legal defense and nature protection organisations. Similar cases in which information campaigns supported indigenous peoples in conflicts occurred in Sakhalin, Kamchatka and other regions of the country.

[1] Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North.
[2] Information from I. Kurilova, RAIPON Information Centre.
[3] A wild shrub in the heath family, known in English as “Labrador Tea”, from which an aromatic tea is made.
[4] P. 254 in M.A. Todyshev: Perfection of the federal legislation on the rights of numerically small indigenous people of the Russian North. Federalism in Russia and Canada : legal and economic aspects. V.E. Seliverstov and A.V. Novikova (eds.). International Center for Projects and Programmes of Federal Attitude and Regional Policy Development, Мoscow 2004. 280 pp.
[5] P. 78 in O.V. Aksenova: Numerically small indigenous peoples of the North: Lessons in self-organisation and social partnership. Series: Library of indigenous peoples of the North. Vol. 2. IC RAIPON/RITC, Moscow 2004. 115 p.