Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Physical geography and climate
Population, economic development and infrastructure
Indigenous land use and dependence on the environment
Environmental threats
Map (1997)
Article collection

Population, economic development and infrastructure

The okrug’s total population dropped from 495,000 in 1989 to 480,000 in 1995, and increased again – mainly due to oil and gas development - during the present decade to 504,000. 83% are urban. The indigenous peoples of the okrug are the eastern (West Siberian) branch of the Nenets and the Khants. Both ethnic groups join in southern Yamal and at the lower Ob River around the town Salekhard, with common subsistence patterns. The Nenets (4.2% - 21,000) occupy most of the tundra areas, while the Khants (1.5% - 7500) live in the forests and along the Ob river in south-western parts of the okrug. Selkups (0.3% - 1500) live in the forests of the south-eastern part of the okrug. Komi are mostly urban residents here, but live also spread within ethnically mixed areas along the Ob River and the southern part of the estuary.

The considerable Russian population has long been confined to the urban or near-urban areas of Salekhard and the southern, wood-covered areas, where oil development started in the 1960s. The Yamal Peninsula has experienced a very high growth of the indigenous (mainly Nenets) population, which has increased ca. five-fold during the past 300 years. Due to hydrocarbon discoveries since the 1960s, the total population has increased ten times. The ongoing gas development on Yamal is causing a restructuring of the local Nenets population due to environmental impacts on pasture lands and social impacts through the immigration of foreign populations.

Industries are mainly restricted to timber (Salekhard, Labytnangi), fish processing (e.g. Salekhard, Novyy Port , Tazovskiy), and construction materials (Labytnangi, Nadym). The southern part of the okrug comprises the outer regions of the oil and gas province of the Middle Ob River (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug) that mainly has been developed since the 1960s, where the oil boom has caused a major infrastructure development as well as immense environmental and social problems. The economic and social crisis of the 1990s as a result of land devastation by ruthless oil development since the 1960s also retarded the demographic growth of the indigenous people, mainly the Khants. They were forced to leave subsistence areas (forests, rivers and bogs) due to infrastructure development, devastation and pollution. Villages were closed or abandoned, and migration to urban areas took place. The region around Nadym, Pangody and Urengoy in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug  is the northern end of this developed area. At the present time, the oil fields of the southern and middle part of the Yamal Peninsula , as well as the area around the Taz estuary (Tazovskaya Guba) are developed. A railway line from Salekhard to Yamal and a pipeline from the Middle Ob to the Taz and Yamal oil fields are under construction.

The infrastructure of the tundra areas outside the developed oil regions is very poor and used by native people for their subsistence occupations.