About the work of public organisations in the Magadan Oblast

Irina Mikhailovna Yaschenko, head of clan community, village Ola
686010 Magadanskaya Oblast, p. Ola, ul. Lesnaya 3а, kv. 4; Phone: (+7) 41341-25271

After returning from the Constituent Congress of the Youth Union, I and Lesya Lavrishchuk presented interesting and detailed information to the mass media. It was about the conception of the youth movement among Northern indigenous peoples, which was calling upon the youth of our region to take an active part. Some meetings with indigenous students from various educational institutions, activists and informal leaders of grassroot associations were organised. In these meetings, aims and objectives of the movement were explained.

Unfortunately our work was not so effective; there was no real enthusiasm from the native youth. This was not an expression of the absence of problems, but of financial means. To solve this we tried to negotiate with the Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the Magadan Oblast, but this did not lead to any results. We made the following conclusions: Young people are interested in preservation and revival of traditional occupations and economy. The problem is that people are not competent enough to organise their own business under the competing conditions of the current market economy. Native enterprises are not capable of competing with large domestic and foreign ones who work in the Magadan Oblast because of a lack of elementary practical management, marketing and business skills. Therefore, with the aim to remove the legal and informational vacuum, the idea arose to implement the project “Informational and educational support for the indigenous miorities of the North which engage in traditional crafts in Magadanskaya Oblast” (see ANSIPRA Bulletin № 5, 2001).

To realise our project we decided to keep searching for sponsors in spite of some failures. We responded to any suggestion including those of participation in all kinds of competitions held by charitable foundations (Far Eastern Office of Eurasia Foundation, Open Society Institute of the Soros’ Foundation, MacArthur Foundation). Especially for participation in the programme “The Right” of the Open Society Institute, the project “Legal education and rendering free legal aid” was prepared. But the only reply to all applications for grants was always the same: the projects were acknowledged to be interesting but the foundations’ resources are limited, so they could finance only the most important projects.

Clearly realising that all our efforts were not effective, we decided to apply to ANSIPRA with a request to publish our project in its Bulletin. The request was fulfilled. A long time has passed since our project proposal had been published but there have been no sponsors’ offering. Understanding the significance of financial matters we still hope for a positive result.

Besides project development and co-ordination, our public organisation “Kadar” is experienced in carrying out several relevant actions. We consider these measures to be significant for our people: we nominated our candidates for elections, contested the abolition of the Native District and the local body of self-government through legal instances, we rendered help in establishing national associations of different forms of property. We also achieved positive results: the Supreme Court decided to hold a new hearing on the case concerning the illegal abolition of the Olskiy Native District. The new hearing resulted in the decision of the Magadan Oblast Court to restore the Rayon’s status and fixed the date of elections for December 1 of the current year. Now we have nominated our candidate, Mikhail T. Yaschenko, for the position of the Head of Olskiy District on behalf of the Association and the Magadan Public Organisation of Indigenous Peoples of the North, “Kadar”, because we believe that the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives in the election campaign is necessary.

A few words about the establishment of the public organisation “Kadar”: The idea was that of a group of Northern native enthusiasts [of Evens – ed.], including me. Why was it necessary to establish another organisation dealing with the problems of Northern indigenous peoples? The aim was to achieve efficiency in decision-making, courageous lobbying of indigenous people’s interests and to get into direct contact with representatives of different bodies of power as well as with non-governmental organisations. Unfortunately, it is impossible to defend our people’ standpoint under the aegis of the Association [Magadan Regional Associaition of Indigenous Peoples of the North – ed.] because it is politically and financially dependent on the authorities. The reason for this situation is the unrightful combination of the position of a specialist on Northern indigenous peoples with that of a public leader of the Association.

In view of our conception of civil rights and observance of regulations of the law, this contradicts democratic building of the legal system in Russia.

Today, the inactivity of the regional branch of the Association is still evident. Just recently there was a constituent assembly devoted to the organisation of Union of Communities and Native Enterprises in tye Magadan Oblast. Initiators of the assembly are activists – directors of firms who are forced to join their efforts to overcome the Association’s passivity and ineffectiveness. Its passivity is manifested as follows: native enterprises and communities cannot gain any real support in receiving land plots for free use in the traditional residence areas of their ancestors. Neither can they obtain a fair distribution of fishing quotas, or the determination of a firm quota on food limitation cards. There is an absence of training of indigenous personnel who would be able to participate actively in political activities and to work with executive and legislative bodies of power. The Regional Association does not inform its members of forthcoming actions (programmes, contests, seminars) in proper time, as RAIPON does it. We think that under such conditions RAIPON should work with indigenous peoples’ associations directly, not through intermediary organisations.

With our public organisation “Kadar”, the first indigenous clan community in the Magadan Oblast, “Nevte”, was established. Guided by the activities of “Nevte”, the public organisation “Kadar” controls the guarantees of indigenous peoples’ rights and shares its experiences among other associations. So, after a lapse of time, we conducted a certain amount of work (explanation and interpretation of laws promulgated, elaboration of constitutive documents, consultations) with enterprising people, which resulted in the establishment of several tribal communities, one of which is a neighbour community.

The tribal community “Nevte” tries to use different ways to promote its interests. Soon after its registration the Community Council decided to resettle community members to the native residence areas of their ancestors. To fulfil this it was decided to develop the project “Revival of the clan settlement of the community”. We asked the Magadan Oblast’s division of the Russian Association of Red Cross for help. The organisation provided the community with necessities (food and first-aid packs). It also suggested our project take part in the programme “Development of local communities”. Our project received a grant of $5,000. We consider the help by the Russian Association of Red Cross as a significant financial and moral support during the community’s formation, which gave us confidence and optimism regarding the realisation of our interests.

Our community had spent money to buy necessary fishing equipment and then successfully carried out salmon fishing during the season of 2001. With the fishing season completed, the Community Council decided to conduct the charitable action “Good without limits”. Within the framework of the action they offered fresh-frozen fish to different Oblast organisations: the boarding school, correction school, and children’s home of the Olskiy District, the Oblasts’ division of Russian Association of Red Cross for disabled persons, the central hospital of the Olskiy District, village and regional public organisations of indigenous peoples of the Olskiy District, and destitute residents of the village Ola. The aim of the charitable action was to develop initiative at the local level, to inculcate humaneness and to contribute to cooperation of different organisations.

In the period of our work we managed to establish contacts with some organisations dealing with indigenous peoples’ problems, in particular, the Legal Centre “Rodnik” and ANSIPRA.

My special thanks to the Legal Centre “Rodnik” that responds readily to our appeals, consulting skilfully on any legal matters and providing us with copies of documents. We are also grateful to Winfried Dallmann (ANSIPRA) who represents the informational Network and endeavours to coordinate our interests, giving hope to us.