English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World Living Arctic) No. 9-10, 2002

Indigenous peoples of the North and the authorities in 2002

Dear readers:

The flood of events affecting the fate of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East has been so diverse and plentiful since the beginning of this year that we have been forced to publish the current issue of our journal combining the resources of two regular issues.

During the past four months the Association has convened several representative forums, workshops, and training courses on the problems of indigenous peoples; answers have been received and given to dozens of letters from regions; some of these letters have formed the basis for preparing and sending the Association’s appeals to the supreme state bodies of the Russian Federation. RAIPON, hand in hand with the Association ‘Yamal To Its Descendants!’, has organized and conducted the first socio-cultural impact assessment of a project envisaging industrial development of natural resources with an impact on the environment of Yamal’s indigenous peoples. You can read about all of that in this issue. The many-sided activities of RAIPON have been focused, as ever, on creating the conditions for the development of indigenous peoples, and rendering assistance within its powers to all their undertakings.

At the same time, the direction of actions taken by the supreme state bodies with respect to indigenous peoples has remained unclear to us.

On the one hand, taking into account the international significance of the problems connected with the state of indigenous peoples of Russia’s North, international recognition of RAIPON’s prestige and the stir among the public in the world caused by events involving indigenous peoples, the government of RF has expressed its readiness to enter into cooperation agreements with RAIPON. Prime Minister M.M. Kasyanov promised to strengthen the indigenous peoples-oriented bloc in his government. On the other hand, four months after that promise was made the only agency surviving the break up of the Ministry of Nationalities and still dealing with problems of indigenous peoples of the North within the framework of the Ministry of Economic Development has suddenly been abolished. Representatives of indigenous peoples of Russia’s North are being invited by foreign organizations instead of their own government to join the Russian delegation to the Economic Forum in Switzerland due to discuss the problems of development of Russia’s North.

The Federal laws on the legal status of indigenous peoples adopted during the last three years, having failed to be carried into effect in the regions, as explained by the government itself (see ‘Case of TST “Tkhsanom” in this issue), due to the lack of the RF Government’s enforceable enactments determining the mechanism of making these laws effective, have been nearly declared null and void as a result of their incompatibility with the recently introduced innovations in the Federal legislation (see ‘Changes in the federal laws on indigenous peoples’ in this issue).

Strange times, strange people… The government seems to have been joined by young leaders, new politicians and managers – Democrats of the ‘New Wave’; however, nothing has changed with regard to indigenous peoples. The same policy of hypocrisy: one thing is declared at the international level and quite the contrary is being done internally. The same paternalistic approach with a still more perverted conception: you want more freedom – go get it without any rights to land, natural resources, their traditional use and survive however you can.

Everybody (the RF President, RF Government, society) now is preoccupied with the anti-terrorist campaign, problems of global economy, construction of stable development schemes, challenge of falling or rising oil prices, integration of Russia into either Europe or whatever. However, the governments of the states whose communities Russia is striving to join have found a way of handling their indigenous peoples’ issues with special departments to do the job. Unfortunately, there is nothing like that in our case.

Nonetheless, we are pretty sure that indigenous peoples of the North will go through this new ‘glacial epoch’ and survive while RAIPON and our journal will help them take a bearing under the changing conditions of their life.

Olga Murashko

Pavel Sulyandziga