Indigenous sacred sites in the Arctic – International pilot project in Russia

RAIPON, 17 September 2002

With financial support from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, a RAIPON/CAFF/IPS pilot project to map and identify the conservation value of sacred sites of indigenous peoples is being implemented. The first project phase, completed with participation of solely indigenous experts, has already had a positive impact on legislation work in the model areas in the Yamal-Nenets and Kamchatka/Koryak autonomous okrugs. In the case study (2001-2002) in the Tazovskiy Rayon (area of 174,000 sq. km, total population of 16,300) in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (Northwest Siberia) there were interviewed 66 elders, reindeer herders and fishermen of nomad Nenets people who documented and mapped 263 sacred sites. Simultaneously, in the Olyutorskiy Rayon (301,500 sq. km, total population about 29,300 people) in the Koryak Autonomous Okrug (Kamchatka peninsula of the Russian Far East) there were interviewed 30 representatives of Koryak, Chukchi and Itelmen peoples with documentation and mapping of 84 sacred sites. Standard methodology with photo documentation, audio- and video recording has been applied for the description of the sacred sites, a preliminary classification in each model area has been developed on the basis of existing publications, archives and research. First project outcomes have been presented by the project coordinator Mikhail Todyshev, a RAIPON Vice-President, at CAFF IX in Abisko, Sweden, 28-31 August 2002. The final report in Russian (150 pp., with executive summary in English) is available upon request from the RAIPON ( Other northern regions in Russia have expressed interest in conducting similar research.

The second phase of the project foresees the organization of the Circumpolar workshop and presentation of the CAFF Technical Report with the analysis of the project outcomes and recommendations. The background information to the final report in Russian contains substantial research materials, references and facts.