Critical conditions in Chukotka

November 1999

(Inst. of Ethnology and Anthropology, Moscow, )

In the Autonomous Okrug of Chukotka live more than 11,000 Chukchi; their self-designations are ^Lyg"oravetlat^ or ^Lauravetlany^, which means "the real people". Their main traditional occupations are reindeer herding (70%) and marine hunting (30%). 25% of the domestic reindeer population of the Russian Federation, that is, 550,000 animals, were concentrated in Chukotka in the beginning of the 1990s. At present, the number of reindeers has dropped to 112,000 because of the rash reorganisation of the reindeer farms. For instance, at the reindeer farm "Vaezhskiy", in the community of Anadyr, reindeers numbered 27,000 in 1989, but dropped to 2,700 by 1999. The bases of reindeer farming are the national villages*, in which about 90% of the Chukchi and other indigenous peoples live.

In addition to Chukchi, the 40 national villages of Chukotka are also home to Yupik, Evens, Yukagirs, Koryaks and Chuvans. The total population of the indigenous population is 14,500. Socio-economic and transportation problems make it difficult to supply food and vital industrial products to the national villages. The people live at the edge of survival. They depend on humanitarian aid in the form of food, medicine, clothes and shoes. Thanks to the ICC (Inuit Circumpolar Conference), such help was recently provided to the 1500 Yupik (Eskimo group at the Bering Strait) of Chukotka.

The problems confronting reindeer husbandry and marine hunting in these areas are severe. Investments into these trades are absolutely necessary. We would gladly cooperate with all organisations and individuals that wish to provide their kind help to the indigenous peoples of Chukotka.

* National villages are communities dominated by indigenous population with traditional occupations, where special land-use rights are applied.

-- The Editor