Geography Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, Canada

Contact: Gail Fondahl <>

Indigenous land use and administration in the Sakha Republic and Russian Federation
Date: April 1999

The creation of institutions of local self-administration is central to the process of democratization in post-Soviet Russia. New laws on access to land, resources, local self-governance and environmental protection offer aboriginal peoples of the Russian North both opportunities and challenges. Native associations have actively sought legislative reform that addresses aboriginal rights to land and establishes local governance over traditional territories. Federal and regional level governments have responded with legislation that begins to define such rights. For example, aboriginal rights have been codified in the 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation and the 1992 Constitution of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia).

Within this context, aboriginal policy and legislation are shaped as much by the Soviet past as by the efforts to create a democratic polity and a market economy of the present. Analysis of historic land alienation and the imposition of non-Native territorial-administrative systems is especially important in that recent legislative initiatives summon a return to combinations of aboriginal, Tsarist, and early Soviet land tenure and administrative systems. For instance, the recent establishment of clan communes (родовые общины) alludes to traditional indigenous territorial organization, while the revival of national village administrations (национальные сельские администрации) and districts (национальные улусы) recovers early Soviet institutions.

Understanding change and continuity in past land tenure and governance systems is crucial to developing effective policy on aboriginal land use and administration today. To this end we are mapping and analyzing the consequences of the restructuring of aboriginal land tenure and

territorial-administration during the Soviet and post-Soviet periods and outlining the historic factors which affect current negotiations over land settlements and the establishment of locally-based, aboriginal self-administration. Concretely, the project compares the development of the administration and land tenure of aboriginal communities in four districts of the Sakha Republic. Comparisons will then be extended to other sites of recent and ongoing research on aboriginal land tenure and self-administration in the Russian North. Results of this project will provide a basis for specific recommendations regarding aboriginal territorial administration policy and implementation.

Update 29-11-2001