MSTU / MHI, Murmansk, Russia

Contact: Sergey Zavalko
Date: July 2003

MSTU International Environmental Center and MHI Environmental Center: Main directions of research and practical activity in the “Sápmi” project
(for the period 2003 – 2006)

MSTU: Murmansk State Technical University
MHI: Murmansk Humanitarian Institute

The activities of the Environmental Centre of the Murmansk Humanitarian Institute started up quite recently, in September 2002. It is mainly run by students specialised in humanities – law, economy, linguistics, and journalism.

The first step to be taken was the participation in the international project “Northern Environmental Student Forum” (NESF), in which students of the Murmansk State Technical University, the Tampere Polytechnic (Finland) and the Fraser Valley College (Canada) also participated. Students studied environmental conditions at major enterprises and aquatic ecosystems, and then posted their results on the Internet.

The group further dealt with studies on the influence of global climate change on the situation of the indigenous peoples of the Kola Peninsula, the Saami. At first this was a collection and organisation of observations of reindeer herders and hunters, and of Saami experiences of the changes in the tundra. The first summary and analysis of the collected data showed that the situation is significantly more complex and the problems of survival of the indigenous people by far exceed the range of simple climatic influence.

It became clear that it was necessary to also take into account aspects like legal regulations on the use of nature, influence of reindeer-breeding conditions on the preservation of Saami culture, problems of industrial influence on the tundra ecosystem and Saami life, as well as problems of education of the Saami youth.

For this reason, the subsequent work of the Centre on the study of the problems of indigenous people was restructured into collective groups. Each group (2-3 people) works within one definite orientation (legal, cultural, or medico-demographical). In the end, the results of each study are collected within one general scheme. In the beginning this general scheme showed only the problems of the Saami (see figure). However, it was soon understood that solving the problems of the indigenous people simply was not possible without the consideration of the entire population (indigenous and non-indigenous) living in the respective regions. Therefore, our final study programme was extended to also consider the non-indigenous part of the population.

But, extending the project also meant extending the study groups. At present, studies are conducted within the frame of activities of the Environmental Centre of the MHI and the International Environmental Centre of the MSTU. We are striving to realise the results of the studies in practice. From February to November 2003 a series of informational seminars were held in Murmansk and the Saami village of Lovozero for the representatives of the Saami people, organised within the frame of a Danish-Russian project. The aim of the seminars was to assist the Saami in the organisation of traditional occupations and activities in organisational forms like clan communities. Those participants of our Centre who are concerned with legal problems took part in a juridical-consultative seminar, in which they dealt with questions of legal procedures concerning the registration of clan communities and the organisation of various traditional ways of nature use. This was our first attempt to apply our studies in practice, which hopefully will be continued.

Project description


A. Assessing sustainable development potential for the Murmansk region based on:
· use of renewable resources;
· natural resource management;
· principles of harmonious human existence in nature, as practiced by indigenous people;
· determination of common interests of the indigenous and non-indigenous population of the Kola Peninsula.
B. Actions which will assist in realising the sustainable development model.

Main orientation:

One land – common interests of all people that live on it.

Main objectives and tasks:

I. Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), the most important component of the official ecological monitoring

1. Using interviews and mapping to collect, systematise, and analyse indigenous people’s observations of changes in the tundra under the influence of global climate changes and industrial damage.

2. Collection of general scientific, hydrometeorological and ecological information concerning climate conditions in natural tundra ecosystems, surface water bodies and the coastal zone under conditions of global climate changes and local industrial influence. Methods: survey of archives and libraries, use of official hydrometeorological data, own measurements of soil, water, biomass’ chemical composition in tundra ecosystems with the MSTU Environmental Laboratory.

3. Systematisation of TEK information received by other researchers (from Canada, Scandinavia, Alaska).

4. Analytical comparison of official environmental and hydrometeorological data and TEK. Establishment of a unified scheme to monitor and generalise TEK for its use in the official environmental monitoring system.

II. TEK and traditional use of natural resources, based on culture and perspectives of indigenous people, under conditions of global climate change, as well as local industrial, socio-political and economic influence

1. Collection of information on TEK, traditional nature use lands, indigenous people’s tribal lands in the past and present. Method: interviews, mapping and survey of archives.

2. Research on the influence of climate, environmental and socio-economic factors on reindeer breeding and other types of traditional natural resources use. Method: interviews, mapping, archives and literature survey.

3. Saami culture under conditions of global climate change and local industrial and socio-political influence: language, reindeer breeding practices, attitude towards nature, succession of generations. Past, present and future perspectives. Method: interviews, mapping, archives and literature survey.

4. Research on various forms of influence through upbringing and education (state–centralised and traditional–family) on the TEK succession through the generations of indigenous peoples.

5. Demographic and medico-social research on the state of indigenous people living on the Kola Peninsula in the past and present, and their environmental and socio-political influence. Observed parameters: morbidity rate, birth rate, death rate, life span, population growth rate, typical migrations of populations, youth vocational guidance, employment perspectives. Method: interviews, mapping, archives and literature survey.

6. Investigation of the legal base in spheres as:
· natural resource use in the Russian Federation;
· rights of minor indigenous peoples to traditional ways of natural resource use;
· organisation of territories of traditional nature use and tribal communities;
· organisation of activity based on the use of renewable resources (reindeer breeding, offshore fishery, tourism).

7. Development of legal mechanisms to defend indigenous peoples’ rights to land and traditional ways of natural resource use, as necessary conditions to protect their culture.

8. Formulation of an economic assessment system for the protection of the Saami people, based on reindeer breeding, traditional trades and tourism.

III. Tribal community as a socio-economic model to protect indigenous peoples’ TEK and culture

1. Qualitative and quantitative development of a flow chart.

2. Legal and economic assessment of ways to protect indigenous people’s traditional ways of natural resource use and trades development.

IV. TEK and traditional ways of natural resource use as an ideological and economic basis of Kola indigenous and non-indigenous peoples’ common interests

1. Formulation of general principles and norms of human behaviour in the natural environment based on indigenous peoples’ TEK.

2. General economic and juridical assessment of sustainable (non-industrial) development potential on the Kola Peninsula with major development of tourism and sustainable natural resource exploitation based on traditional subsistence practices: reindeer breeding, hunting, sports fishing, sea fishery.

3. To investigate the interests of non-indigenous inhabitants of the Kola Peninsula in the sphere of alternative development perspectives:
· industrial expansion based on further non-renewable resource extraction (including mineral deposits, hydrocarbons on the continental shelf, hydrocarbon transport on the Kola Peninsula);
· realisation of a sustainable development model based on renewable resource use and traditional ways of natural resource use according to principles of TEK. Method: survey of public opinion, interviews with representatives of various sectors.

4. Publication of results in mass media.

V. Informational and consultative support for organising indigenous communities (legal information, fund-raising)

1. Collection and systematisation of normative–legal and economic information needed to prepare documents for the creation of territories of traditional nature use.

2. Creation of a normative–legal base in the sphere of natural resource use and associated indigenous peoples’ rights.

3. Free oral juridical consultations for indigenous representatives on rights to traditional natural resource use.

4. Arrangement of thematic seminars on the following questions:
· natural resource users’ rights and duties;
· indigenous people’s rights;
· methods of prevention and legal settlement of environmental conflicts.

5. Juridical assistance for communities in preparing documents for the registration of territories of traditional nature use.

6. Consultations on criminal cases connected with problems of traditional natural resource use.

7. Representation in court and other instances.

8. Legal consultative assistance with regard to organising eco- and ethno-tourism.

9. Informational guarantees for the introduction of a small grant programme on the protection of TEK and traditional natural resource use.