English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов - живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World - Living Arctic) No. 14, 2004

Letter from the village of Tupik

To: Mr.P.V. Sulyandziga,
Chief Editor of the Journal
“Mir korennykh narodov – Zhivaya Arktika
Copy to: O.A. Murashko

Dear Pavel Vasilevich:

Galina Vasilevna Abramova is bothering you with this letter. I live in the village of Tupik, in the Tungiro-Olekminskiy district of the Chitinskaya Oblast. In 1984, I graduated from the Khabarovsk Teachers’ Training Institute. You studied there at the Physics and Mathematics Faculty. I have read in the journal “Mir korennykh narodov” that you are dealing with problems of indigenous peoples. Please, continue to mail your journal to us, since we are in a state of ignorance, not knowing whether our Russian Association is still alive, if there is any progress or we are “nobody” in this country.

I used to be a chairwoman of the local association of indigenous peoples, worked as a specialist in the local administration. We built houses, trained specialists, carried out social work among the local population, and struggled to save the environment… In 1994, I started to organize an Evenk cultural center in the district center (village of Tupik). Prof. of Geography Gail Fondahl from Canada visited our district. She was focused on the problem of reindeer herding in Transbaikalia. She saw how we suffered and invited me to visit the village of Bagdarin (Buryatia) and attend the children’s festival of “Bolder”. They had an Evenk center. The head of the local administration was helping them. Having seen the center, I was all for making something like that in my district. But what a painstaking effort it was! I had to fight hard, persuade the head of administration, the head of the cultural department, the head of educational department; I wrote to the State Duma, the Committee of the North, regional structures, haunted thresholds here and there…

It took time and effort to get a suitable building by pleading. Mr. S.S. Melekhov, head of the artel “Tungir” helped me a lot. Kids used to come to us running in the morning and in the evening alike because an instructor of the so-called hunting and environmental pathway, a choreographer, a teacher of painting as well as a shop producing souvenirs were waiting for them. However, nobody felt up to taking us under their wing, really, though there were 19 vacancies in the club at the time. And now Anatoliy Mikhaylovich Yushchenko, specialist on Northern indigenous peoples in the administration tells me that I have tried to do something I am not fit for. And the people’s education department of the district was against our Center as if we had been involved in criminal activities. An excellent center for a variety of functions was made, specialists were found to work there, and everything went down the drain. I had to close the Center. Everything was directed against us; the stoker ruined the heating system (now I believe that he did so just to make things worse). I had to leave the district, take up residence at my sister’s in the Kalganskiy district and work as a schoolteacher of English. At present, I had to once again change my lodgings and move back to my native land. My sister died, I help my elder sister and raise my niece’s son because she was killed last August. I am out of work, and I do not want even to live. I cannot be indifferent to any problem. Our regional and district associations practically do not function, and moreover, the Committee of the North has been done away with. There is no one to go to for an advice; there is no place to communicate with anyone of kindred spirits, of our own kith and kin. We live as if on a desert island, face to face with our problems. What have we achieved? In that way we are definitely going to die waging the eternal struggle for our existence.

I have learnt from the journal that you are training people in many aspects for future work. And we know nothing. In the past, chiefs of all sorts used to put obstacles in our way; today it is all over again. If they do not want the Evenk culture, let them enhance their own, Russian culture.

We are begging you, Pavel Vasilevich, to visit us, please, get to our land to support our people. We cannot afford to reach Moscow any longer.

In 1995, I visited Canada with a group of people from our district and Buryatia on the invitation of Gail Fondahl to exchange experience with Indian tribes. The state does help them over there, while our state is not interested in us.

Meanwhile, our people are losing their lives, four of them died this year alone.

Best wishes.

G.V. Abramova