About a “healthy lifestyle” of Andryushkino villagers
from Reader’s letters, “Mir Korennykh Narodov – Zhivaya Arktika” No. 9-10, 2002
The letter signed by 95 villagers of Andryushkino situated in the northeast of Yakutiya has reached our journal’s editorial department in a roundabout way. A French ethnologist, Boris Shishlo, handed it over to our journal after he had visited Andryushkino, described the situation in that outlying village and suggested publishing it in order to persuade the authorities to get down to sorting out the village’s problems.
The document published below, this desperate outcry of people inhabiting one of the Arctic districts of Yakutiya has been delivered to us from Andryushkino, a village situated on the bank of the Alazea River. Its publication by our journal is now even more vital since out of all the top officials the Andryushkino villagers tried to approach last year only Dmitry Begunov has kept his position as chairman of a local association of indigenous peoples, unfortunately, having no possibilities to exercise their rights stipulated by its charter. Two other officials after their scandalous election campaign in Yakutiya echoed as far as Paris would not care less about Andryushkino… So, today the voices of Evens, Yukagirs, Chukchis, Northern Sakhalar, in the absence of other means of communication, should be transmitted via the “Living Arktika” to Yekaterina Ivanovna Kormilitsina, first deputy head of the president’s administration and the Government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutiya) as well as Afanasiy Vasilevich Migalkin, head of the department for the affairs of peoples and federative relations of the Republic who have just entered upon their duties in the newly formed bodies of power.
“In the 1990s, I happened to visit Andryushkino three times and I can see clearly and understand well the problems its villagers – my friends and acquaintances – speak about quite openly. Their stories could be supplemented with one thing only – local “drinking water” – which in fact is not good enough for people to drink since all the sewage in the village is dumped into the river. Nonetheless, everybody, starting with unweaned babies, drinks this water since there is no other available. Hence, cases of gastro-intestinal disturbances and other diseases have become more frequent. Since the 1980s, the village administration has begged for construction of water and sewage works to no effect (the Olerinskiy nasleg - local administrative office gave me the document concerning this problem way back in 1995 and I passed it over without delay to the corresponding offices in Yakutsk).
It would be worthwhile informing the journal’s readers about the “Supreme Convention” and the Andryushkino villagers’ appeal timed especially to that event at which, as they hoped, it would be read out. The congress entitled “The Healthy Lifestyle is the Way for Survival of Indigenous Peoples of the North” was convened on November 22-26, 2001 at the village of Cherskiy, the Nizhnekolymskiy Ulus (district), without any doubt, as convenient stage scenery in the developing pre-election drama of many acts with Mikhail Nikolayev, having arrived there from Yakutsk yet unaware that in a fortnight he would have to “voluntarily” throw up the game, playing the leading part. The indigenous peoples of the North, invited to the stage of the “Congress” were treated as extras for the prearranged “crowd scene”. It is significant that the former leadership of Yakutiya went to great pains with bringing delegates from 21 uluses (districts) of the Republic as well as guests from Chukotka, Moscow, Alaska and Finland to the village of Cherskiy at the same time failing to find transportation means to bring representatives of Andryushkino along. And it is quite clear why: the producers of the play did not envisaged participation of critically disposed indigenous villagers intending to read out their appeal. Instead, the puppeteers wrote a text with a bombastic title: “Kolyma Charter” (likely to have been copied from the twenty-year old “Code of Builders of Communism”) at the end pathetically addressing an abstract “inhabitant of the Arctic”: “Be proficient in the knowledge and culture of the world community, value and watch over your honor and health while you are young!”… A week after the “Supreme Convention” was over some scumbag got battered in Cherskiy, the very same place and killed Oleg K., a 30-year old Yukagir from Andryushkino. The victim’s body was kept in a warehouse for a month because there was no helicopter to take it away to be buried in the village.
It goes without saying that it is far too easy to convene propaganda “circumpolar” congresses than to create normal conditions of life and restore sanitary infrastructure, but it is expedient for the Republic to get down to this work after all. Is it really impossible to use a small share of profits gained in selling Yakut diamonds to improve without delay the everyday life of neglected Arctic settlements and to watch over their inhabitants’ health from their youth onward?
Doctor of Ethnology
National Center of Scientific Research,
Andryushkino villagers’ appeal
“To: Ye.S. Vasileva, Chairman of the Organizing Committee
of the Congress of Indigenous Peoples of Circumpolar Countries,
Chairman of the Government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutiya)
Copies to: A.M. Ishkov, Minister for the Affairs of Peoples and
Federative Relations of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutiya);
D.N. Begunov, Chairman, Association of Northern indigenous
peoples of the Nizhnekolymskiy ulus (district)
We, the villagers of Andryushkino, Nizhnekolymskiy ulus of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutiya), where representatives of Northern indigenous peoples – the Evens, Yukagirs, Chukchis – have densely resided, appeal, hereby, to you with a request to help us, interfere in the prevailing situation and take measures to improve our position.
Our village, the remotest settlement from the ulus center – the Cherskiy settlement – seems to be in isolation for the second year running with no communication with the outside world having neither telephone nor transportation facilities.
The life in Andryushkino becomes harder and harder with every year though A.N. Sharin, head of the ulus administration, makes promises on every visit to sort out all our problems in a positive way, but so far we have not seen any improvement in our life.
Problem number one is transportation. There has been not a single air flight on the route Cherskiy – Andryushkino – Cherskiy for months. It means that there has been no mail during this time and, most importantly, no money since all the money, including our pensions, wages and various allowances, is delivered from Cherskiy. There are no flights in three-four months, and accordingly we live half-starving, naturally, to the detriment of the health of the local population. Children, elderly, disabled and sick people suffer most because of that. Sanitary flights, even if there are some, are directed from other uluses, for instance, since June up to now sick people are flown to the town of Srednekolymsk but this is not a way out. The majority of our fellow villagers have neither relatives nor acquaintances there to assist them materially while the sick, apart from medicine, are in need of sound food to recover which in itself is quite costly.
In October, a batch of medicine was delivered to the local hospital though insufficient and not of all the types required, so the lacking drugs have to be ordered either in Cherskiy or Yakutsk.
We have no photofluorograph, promised but never delivered. It is impossible to fly to the village of Cherskiy to sort out the above problems, and even if one makes all ready for the journey there is a chance to be held up there for an indefinite time. Last year it was made known that there were people in Andryushkino suffering from tuberculosis, and it is an established fact that this disease is the consequence of eating food lacking vitamins and essential trace elements.
Fresh vegetables – potatoes, cabbage, onions, garlic have long been out of sale in our village to say nothing of fruit: if one is in a bad fix be content with very little… All there is to buy at the local Kolymtorg grocer’s store is bread. Of all cereals one can buy semolina only at the village trading post with pasta pale as ashes into the bargain. There has been no rice, millet, buckwheat or oatmeal on sale for six months. Instead, there are cans and tins, many of them with expired dates. There has been no baby food for three or four years, or any clothing and footwear for children.
To feed their families somehow or other and to train their sons in traditional occupations the male population would be happy to buy nets, cartridges, traps and other gear but there has been nothing like that on sale for over ten years.
Some villagers have boat engines, Buran propeller-driven sledges but there is hardly any use of them because there is no money to buy gas (otherwise there would be no cash to buy food) or no gas on sale.
How to live under such conditions? How to grow children and grandchildren and to grow them sound and healthy?
It would be worthwhile reiterating the subject of air services for the village of Andryushkino since this it is a problem of overriding importance for us: you know, one can reach the place of recreation or studies “by aircraft only”. Come and see the local folks to inquire who of them had a chance to spend vacations in a health resort or go for a convalescent treatment at a sanatorium in recent years? You can hardly find any among non-privileged folk.
Our children, Andryushkino school graduates enter various educational institutions of the Republic – it is parents’, teachers’, everybody’s joy and pride over here. However, these feelings are “bitter” because we are unable to support our students materially or morally.
We do not have telephone communication for months on end, and even if fixed, it would not let us talk easily because of poor audibility or frequent breaks of wire. And we are writing about telephone lines between the village of Cherskiy and Andryushkino only. We can only dream of talking with our next of kin residing in other villages of the Republic or outside!
Another thorn in the local folk’s flesh are the air ticket rates. The flight time is a little over an hour but the charge on the Cherskiy - Andryushkino is 1,900 (one thousand nine hundred) rubles by plane, and 2,500 (two thousand five hundred) rubles by helicopter. Whose authority is to prescribe the air rates like that? Who controls them? Is it really impossible to allocate at least some funds to subsidize the airfare in connection with announcing the Year of the Arctic? And, as a matter of fact, it would be interesting to find out of what earthly use this Year of the Arctic is to us, the Arctic population?
In 1998, as a result of a merger of Orolchan and Chaila kinship communities a Yukagir-Even community “Chaila” was established acknowledging the old debts of the dissolved communities, and as of January 1, 2001 Chaila’s credit indebtedness was 7 million rubles. The administration of the Nizhnekolymskiy ulus declared a state of emergency for the period of two years.
In case no urgent measures are taken right now, the Chaila kinship community, the major factor of the existence of Andryushkino, will be liquidated we, the Yukagirs, Evens and Chukchi will vanish from sight as representatives of indigenous peoples of the North.
The question is highly pressing: to be or not to be? But the authorities elected by us, our deputies and A.N. Sharin, head of administration, do not want or cannot deal with the problems of the people of Andryushkino. It looks as if it suits somebody down to the ground if we become social outcasts from our own historic motherland.
Despite the fact that the Russian people have been electing their deputies to all power bodies independently for the last ten years, everything remains as of old with someone from somewhere appointed from above, be it a head of nasleg (local administrative office) or delegates to the Congress of indigenous peoples of circumpolar countries.
We have no intention to keep our mouths shut and will not keep mum. We want to uphold our right to a decent human life before any power body and, if need be, we shall approach the President of the Russian Federation, V.V. Putin.
We would love to host the chairman of the Congress and members of its Organizing Committee at our village so that they would see everything with their own eyes, talk to the local population and make sure of the truthful presentation of the problems facing the people of Andryushkino.
We hope that our appeal will be read out at the Supreme Convention and that it will not leave our sore points without attention while we would like to learn about the measures being taken or those already taken to assist us from the pages of the ulus newspaper “Kolymskaya pravda”.
The letter is signed by 95 villagers of Andryushkino”
Note from the Editorial Board
A good deal has been done in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutiya) to develop Republican legislation regularizing the rights of indigenous peoples. A formidable effort is underway there to establish international cooperation in this field.
It is our hope that the authorities of the Republic of Sakha will succeed in finding organizational and material possibilities to solve real socio-economic problems of people inhabiting the small polar village of Andryushkino. Declarations are not enough to make a healthy lifestyle a reality. Efforts are required to create normal social, economic and medico-sanitary conditions.