Report of a fact-finding visit to the Khanty and Nentsy in Russia by Govert de Groot, coordinator of Arctic Peoples Alert from November 30 to December 17, 1999.
Arctic Peoples Alert
Horizon Projects and North Without Conflicts
When we arrive in Muzhi in the northwest point of Siberia, it is warm for the time of the year. It is the beginning of December and it is about 10_C below zero when I step out of the helicopter. A week before it was still below 40_C. The geese which breed here in summer are now wintering in the Netherlands. With a jeep we drive over the frozen Ob to the Khanty people in Ust-Voikary. I enjoy eating the delicacies we are offered: mainly fish and a bowl full of Cloudberries (Rubus Chamaemorus) and Rock Cranberries (Vaccinium vitis idaea). Later we fly again via Moscow to the Nentsy in Naryan Mar in North Russia. Near Krasnoe I find myself standing between hundreds of reindeer...
From November 30 to December 17, 1999 I had the unique possibility to travel in wintertime to Moscow, Salekhard, Naryan Mar and St. Petersburg. It was my first visit to Russia. I travelled with project-coordinator Fernand Dhondt of the ngo Horizon Projects from Belgium and president Vladimir Dmitriev and vice-president Aleksej Poertov and coordinator of regional programme Boris I. Vdovin of the Belgium partner ngo 'North Without Conflicts'. speaks Russian very well and knows the customs of the country. Without him it would have been impossible to make this trip. Also the help of the local authorities was indispensable. It was also possible for me to join the EC-monitory trip to Salekhard. For this part of the trip the representative of the EC Tacis-Phare 'the LIEN Programme', project manager Mark Delmartino travelled with us. It was a special experience to witness the monitoring process. It was a pity that the helicopter flight from Naryan Mar to the coast was cancelled because of fog so we were not able to visit the small Nentsy-community where Arctic Peoples Alert would like to support a 'trading post'. In this report I will focus on the experiences in the indigenous communities.
It was a trip with a lot of impressions and experiences. It will take some time to cope with all these experiences. This report has not the intention to be complete, but to be an impression.
I would like to thank the Royal Embassy of the Netherlands, the office of the Agricultural Council, which has made this trip possible. Special thanks is deserved by dr. Gerard C. Boere, Senior executive officer international affairs of the Department of Nature Management of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries for his efforts to help this fact-finding trip materialise.
I hope that this report will contribute to a more active role of the government of The Netherlands towards ameliorating the position of the indigenous peoples of North Russia, Siberia and the Far East.
Govert de Groot coordinator Arctic Peoples Alert
The Hague, January 2000
From 30 November to 1 December we visited Moscow.
We had meetings with:
- Russian ngo RAIPON (Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North), vice-president Mr. Pavel Soeljandziga (Udegeytsy) and Mrs Tamara Semyonova;
- Mr. Jan Jaap Hooft, Agricultural Counsellor of the Royal Netherlands Embassy.
From 1 December to 5 December we visited Salekhard, Muzhi and Ust-Voikary in the Shuryshkarsky District of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (District).
In Muzhi we stayed with:
- Anatoly Rotchev (Komi), the juridical official (legislation kinship communities) of the Shuryshkarsky Municipality;
We had a meeting with:
- Mr. Valery F. Eleskin (Khanty), head of the Shuryshkarsky municipality to which Muzhi, Vasjachovo and Ust-Voikary belongs, in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug and other municipality members;
- Mr. Valerij Koniev (Komi), head of Vasjachovo;
- Mr. Piotr Ozjelov, pilot-project coordinator in Ust-Voikary and other members: Mr. Andrey Togatsjev, Mr. Albina Ozjelov, and others (all Khanty);
- Mr. Dimitrij Tarayoepta (Khanty), journalist and board member the ngo Jamal Potomkam (member RAIPON);
- Mrs Vera Rotsjeva (Khanty), project coordinator of a small woman's workshop.
- Mr. Sergey A. Vassiliev (deputy governor), Mr. Alexei Artejev (minister of foreign relations), Mr. Jefim Kerpelman (vice-chairman of the Duma and the chairman of the committee for Juridical Questions), in the Duma of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.
From 5 to 7 December in Moscow.
We had a meeting with:
- Mr. Jan Jaap Hooft, Agricultural Counsellor of the Royal Netherlands Embassy. Introduction of president Mr. Vladimir Dmitriev, 'North Without Conflicts' and report of the first part of the trip.
- Hunger striker against the war in Chechnya by Memorial.
From 7 to 12 December in Naryan Mar and Krasnoe in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug.
We had a meeting with:
- Mr. Alexander I. Vyucheisky, president of the ngo Yasavey and member of the Duma of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (District), Arkhangelsk Oblast (Region);
- Mr. Petr A. Khabarov, Krasnoe settlement, director of the project: 'Pa-Jakha' trading station;
- Mr. Alexander Beloegin, director Jasavej.
- Mrs. Loedmila Beloegina, worker on the skin factory and workshop;
- Mrs. Eline Vergoenova, director of the ethno-cultural centre;
- Mrs. Tatijna Zhuravlev, director of the museum;
- Theatre collective 'Ilept';
- Mr. Ardeyev Jilip Ni, artist;
- Doctor Mrs Marys Ebelina Michalojna (woman's diseases).
We witnessed a Duma commission meeting with professor Mr. Vladimir A. Kryazhkov, doctor of law, counsellor of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and Nataha Novikova of the Moscow ngo Rodnik ('Spring')
We participated in the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Nentsy ngo 'Yasavey'.
From 12 to 17 December in St. Petersburg.
A follow-up meeting with:
- president Mr. Vladimir Dmitriev, vice-president Mr. Aleksej Poertov and Mr. Boris I. Vdovin of the partner ngo 'North Without Conflicts'.
Visits to the:
- Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (two buildings);
- Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic.
During the meetings among other items, the following points were on the agenda:
- purpose of our trip (Arctic Peoples Alert fact finding trip and monitoring the project and pilot-project of Horizon Projects);
- Visit delegation of ngo 'North Without Conflicts' and Piotr Ozjelov to Boechout and The Hague in March 2000;
- Proposed workshop at the University of Groningen in cooperation with the Arctic Centre and public event on May 12, 2000 in Groningen (probably postponed to October 2000);
- General Assembly of Taiga Rescue Network in Moscow, September 17-22, 2000 and in parallel the Second Chum-meeting;
- Olivier Brunel (1584) Internet Expedition by the Dutch Historical Expedition foundation (SNHE) in April 2000 (postponed);
Arctic Peoples Alert
Arctic Peoples Alert is a small non-governmental organisation (ngo) (a non-profit organisation) supporting indigenous peoples in the Arctic and sub-Arctic with a special focus on human rights, environmental protection and nature conservation. We are working independent of governments. The 'Moscow Recommendation on the Conservation of Arctic Natural and Cultural Heritage', nr 10 during the ''Willem Barents Memorial Arctic Conservation Symposium'' in March 1998 refers to Arctic Peoples Alert.
The government of the Netherlands has a policy document entitled 'Indigenous peoples in Foreign Policy and Development Cooperation' and has ratified ILO-Treaty 169 concerning Indigenous Peoples. Besides the Arctic Council, the Netherlands is observer at different Arctic organisations such as Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), Conservation Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP). The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries is very active in endorsing the protection of nature areas in the Russian Arctic. For their sustainable development, indigenous peoples are dependent on these nature areas. The indigenous organisations, Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), Sami Council and Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) and the Aleut-organisation, are permanent member of the Arctic Council and the different other Arctic organisations. This all has been the reason for Arctic indigenous representatives to ask for the establishment of a small ngo in The Netherlands: Arctic Peoples Alert.
The coordinator of Arctic Peoples Alert, which is still officially called Foundation Innu Support Group, has experience with working for recognition of indigenous rights, mainly of peoples in the Arctic started with the Russell Tribunal in November 1980 on the rights of the Indians in North, Middle and South America. Besides that he has worked for Greenpeace The Netherlands and as a director for Greenpeace-Denmark.
In July 1998 Arctic Peoples Alert visited the general assembly of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Nuuk, Greenland where we came in contact with RAIPON. In 1998 we also participated in two seminars in Sweden with indigenous peoples from Russia.
Arctic Peoples Alert has among others good working contacts with the Arctic Council - Indigenous peoples' Secretariat (IPS) and ICC.
In October 1998, Arctic Peoples Alert started its campaign for indigenous peoples in Russia and organised a symposium day in co-operation with the Arctic Centre of the University of Groningen: 'Nuclear pollution in the Arctic: a concern to the Netherlands?' For that occasion, we invited mr Alexander Vyucheisky, with financial support of the Royal Embassy of the Netherlands.
In 1999 we have focused on the Greenlandic situation connected to the exhibition: ''Past, present and future of the Greenlandic Inuit: Eskimoland. An art of surviving''in Museon in The Hague. In connection to this exhibition, we have organised events as an 'Arctic Day' regarding the situation in Qaanaaq and 'Podium Greenland' regarding the sealing in Greenland.
As preparation for our public awareness campaign regarding the situation of indigenous peoples in North Russia and Siberia, we participated in the first Chum-meeting in Hundested, Denmark in May 1999. Governmental and non-governmental organisations informed each other about their activities. During this meeting we came in contact with the Belgian ngo 'Horizon Projects' which has a project in co-operation with the Russian ngo 'North Without Conflicts' (sometimes translated as 'Non-conflicts North') in St. Petersburg financed by the Tacis-Phare 'the LIEN Programme' of the European Commission. On their request, we did a workshop during the training for indigenous representatives in June 1999 in Boechout, Belgium. During this meeting we met also the representatives of North Without Conflicts for the first time. I tried to visit the Reindeer Festival near Naryan Mar this summer on the invitation of Mr. Alexander Vyucheisky but due to unforeseen circumstances my trip was cancelled.
Arctic Peoples Alert is participating in the internet 'Chum-list' and has a site on the internet: http://www.hello.to/arctica
For 2000 Arctic Peoples Alert is preparing an awareness campaign in cooperation with the Arctic Centre of the University of Groningen.
On November 30, 1999 directly after our arrival in Moscow we visited the office of the Russian ngo RAIPON (Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North). We had a meeting with vice-president Mr. Pavel Soeljandziga (Udegeytsy) and Mrs Tamara Semyonova. Arctic Peoples Alert has been cooperating already for some time with RAIPON. RAIPON is an umbrella organization of the branch-organisations of the different indigenous peoples in the Russian Federation, as for example the Nentsy organisations 'Yasavey' based in Naryan Mar, and 'Jamal Potomkam' (Yamal for the new generations) based in Salekhard, which we have visited. The board is elected.
Today there are 30 indigenous groups in the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation that number a total of approximately 200,000 people. These people live in 27 regions of Russia covering about 64% of the total territory of the state. Especially indigenous peoples in the Russian Federation have a hard time. Some nations are so much marginalized that only a small group still exists. For example this is the case with the Udegeytsy. Languages and cultures are dying. Through support of the so-called Danish-Greenlandic Initiative for Assistance to Indigenous Peoples of Russia and the Canadian/Russian project, RAIPON was able to strengthen its organisation and is now the main ngo for indigenous peoples in Russia. RAIPON is still developing and Western support is needed. For example, RAIPON is not always able to send representatives to (Arctic) international meetings and their voice is missing. They are not able to inform all indigenous peoples about their existence, let alone their mission and policy. RAIPON simply lacks the resources to inform everyone. They have just started a web-site - http://www.raipon.org - and they will publish a magazine. The edition, however, is limited to only 1000 copies.
Of course the ngo-member organisations of RAIPON may have developed other policy lines than the head organisation. We see that phenomenon also among other umbrella organisations like the Assembly of First Nations of Canada or Inuit Circumpolar Conference. Another general problem of ngos in Russia is that the ngo concept is not understood. In general there is distrust of ngos. ''A Dutch or Belgium ngo must be sent as agents by their government. Why should they otherwise have interest in our problems?''
My conclusion is that RAIPON is the main organisation in Russia regarding indigenous rights matters. With regard to regional projects, the best approach seems to be to contact the regional branch of RAIPON. This is for example the case in the nature protection programme of the department of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fishery.
During our meeting with RAIPON we were informed that the very same morning the different ambassadors of the Arctic Council countries were presented a plan to promote twinships between the (Arctic) towns. We received a copy of the proposal and we have presented this to the Dutch embassy. We have recommended to RAIPON to inform also the observers of the Arctic Council, such as The Netherlands, knowing that we have a long history of twinships between cities.
Horizon Projects and North Without Conflicts
During the first Chum-meeting in Hundested, Denmark in May 1999, Arctic Peoples Alert came in contact with the Belgian ngo 'Horizon Projects' from Boechout, Belgium. They are working out a project in co-operation with the Russian ngo projectorganisation 'North Without Conflicts' from St. Petersburg which is financed by the Tacis-Phare 'the LIEN Programme' of the European Commission.
The project started in May 1998 for a period of 18 months, but it was extended with six months until March 2000. The first contact between Dhondt and North Without conflict was already in April 1994 about medical aid to the population on the Taymyr peninsula.
The projects goal is the 'reintegration of indigenous populations of the Russian North into the traditional (reindeer breading, hunting, fishing, handicrafts) and non-traditional (fish and meat processing, small business, ecological tourism) types of economic activity', with a particular focus on the indigenous youth. The project is special because it is aimed at a marginalised section of the population, the indigenous peoples, which has hitherto not been covered by the LIEN programme. The project consists of regional seminars, an interregional seminar in St. Petersburg for 20 people and an international seminar in Belgium for 10 trainees. One of the projects that was selected for a pilot-project was started in a kinship community of the Khanty, who are setting up a small fish-processing factory. The results of this pilot-project will be disseminated to the other indigenous communities. In February 2000, an evaluation seminar will take place in St. Petersburg. There is no funding for the other proposed projects. The expertise of North Without Conflicts is strengthened by this project. Also for Horizon Projects it was a new kind of project and their expertise was strengthened as well. The total cost of the project is 245.274 Euro. The EC contribution is 196.219 Euro. As far as I know is this the biggest project besides the Danish-Greenlandic Initiative for Assistance to Indigenous Peoples of Russia.
The purpose of the first part of our trip was to join in the project monitoring by the EC Tacis-Phare 'the LIEN Programme' project manager, Mr. Mark Delmartino. For 'the LIEN Programme' it was the first time that they went so far north. It was a special experience to witness the monitoring. A long list of questions about the project and pilot-project were asked. It took several hours, even days to answer them elaborately. Some of the questions could have been answered by yes or no, but North Without Conflicts chose to answer them more elaborately. Due to the different psychological and cultural backgrounds there were some misunderstandings regarding the interpretation of the spending of the budget, the custom to ask for and to compare different price offers and the practice of proving spendings by showing bills. In Russia they are not used to these practices, especially that far north. My impression is that the conditions of the EC-programme are quite strict and are getting even more specific due to the changes of the regulations. Of course it is good to learn the Russians our way of administration but on the other hand we need to be a little more flexible. My experiences about indigenous problems and rights were highly appreciated. During the trip I had a good opportunity to get to know the people and the work of North Without Conflicts. Arctic Peoples Alert gave North Without Conflict a contribution of US$ 250 for their activities. We, that is North Without Conflicts, Horizon Projects and Arctic Peoples Alert, agreed to be each others future partners.
The Khanty inhabit the Khanty-Mansii and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs (Districts) of the Tyumen Oblast (Region). They number approximately 22,500. Their language belongs to the Finno-Ugric linguistic family. In the past they have been called the Ostyaks. In Dutch we call them Chanty. (From: The Small Indigenous Nations of Northern Russia. A guide for Researchers. Åbo Akademi University: Social Science Research Unit. Publication No. 29; 1999).
We arrived by helicopter on 2 December after one night in Salekhard 1999 in Muzhi, in the Shuryshkarsky District of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (District). The local authorities were waiting for us with Russian jeeps. For the coming days we were dependent on both of them. In Salekhard, Mr. Vladimir Dmitriev, the president of North Without Conflicts had already joined us. Now Mr. Alexsei Purtov (vice-president of North Without Conflicts and lawyer) and cameraman Mr. Sergei Landoz attended our arrival. A part of the Horizon Project was making a documentary about the project. Landoz had made videos this summer already and the current visit during winter also provided some interesting new video material.
Muzhi is located just across the Ural in the northwest of Siberia, on the side of one of the tributary rivers of the Mountain Ob. As far as the local people know, the water is clean and there is enough fish. There is two hours of time difference with Moscow, which means four hours of difference with the Netherlands. We stayed with the legal official (legislation kinship communities) of the Shuryshkarsky municipality, Mr. Anatoly Rotchev (Komi). The authorities considered it too cold to stay in the cultural house of the village Ust-Voikary, but a more likely reason for not going there was that they wanted us to stay as short as possible in Ust-Voikary.
The purpose of this part of our trip was the monitoring of the project in general and the pilot project from Horizon Projects and their Russian partner North Without Conflicts by Mr. Delmartino, the project manager of the EC Tacis-Phare 'the LIEN Programme'.
First we needed to visit Mr. Valery F. Eleskin (Khanty). He is elected head of the Shuryshkarsky municipality to which Muzhi, Vasjachovo and Ust-Voikary belong, located in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Our priority was to visit Ust-Voikary as soon as possible, to get an early impression of the pilot project and also because of the few hours of daylight during this time of the year. We were dependent of their cooperation and jeeps. Eleskin introduced us to the more or less complete town-council of Shurysharsky. After having given a short explanation of the purpose of our trip, we insisted upon going as soon as possible to Ust-Voikary. Eleskin tried to postpone our trip to the next day. Finally he came along with us as a guide, together with some other council members. The site of the pilot project is situated just below the Arctic Circle in the most Northwestern angle of Siberia, an area previously unserved by Tacis. The conditions for project implementation are therefore very different from more mainstream LIEN projects, because a minimal infrastructure is lacking: there is no road to Voikary, and is no telephone! The project partners could have made the project circumstances more easy by selecting a different project site and by concentrating on an other more geographically accessible kinship communities with access to means of communication. Ust-Voikary is about an hours drive via a difficult road on the frozen river. Halfway we stopped in a small village and Mr. Valery Koniev (Komi), the mayor of Vasjachovo, joined us. In the mean-time it got dark, but we got our first impression of the situation of the pilot project, a small fish-processing factory of the Khanty kinship community of Ust-Voikary. Mr. Piotr Ozelov, pilot project coordinator, and other members of the project - Mr. Andrej Togachev, Mr. Albina Ozjelov, and others (all Khanty) - were waiting for us. Ozelov was not able to visit the seminar in Belgium and will come now in March 2000 en will visit The Hague also. In the summer a small wooden building was built and, this autumn, the roof was put up. They needed to buy all the necessary wood and they are still waiting on the rest of the wood. The main part of the building is for storing the new generator. The local generator was not able to provide enough power for the machines of the project, such as a deep-freezer, a smoke installation, a vacuum packaging machine, etc. The generator had not arrived yet. The first one was broken, and the second one arrived too late, in the sense that they need to wait until the ice on the river is strong enough to transport it. Transport in general is difficult and takes a lot of time. It means that besides performing some tests, the pilot project has not taken off yet. They promised to start by the first of January in 2000. Eventually, there will be work for twelve people. Through the pilot project, they will be able to conserve several kinds of fish and sell the fish in the cities, even for example in St. Petersburg.
Eleskin had many questions regarding the situation of indigenous peoples elsewhere in the Arctic and I have tried to answer them. You can compare their situation with that of the Innu (Indians) in Canada and of the Inuit (Eskimos) in Alaska, Canada and Greenland. One of the differences is that the Inuit in Greenland have experienced twenty years of self-government, and part of the Inuit in Canada were just granted self-government through the creation of Nunavut. Another difference is the big shortage of resources in Russia to be able to do something about the problems. Further, that there is a real lack of special knowledge regarding indigenous problems and that creates misunderstandings. I noticed a distrust of the ngos working in the filed. It seems like they do not really know how to deal with the concept of 'ngos'.
The next day we returned to Ust-Voikary. In Vasjachovop we picked Koniev up again. He was going to be at our disposal the whole day, or rather, perhaps liked to witness what we were doing. The regional TV journalist, Mr. Dimitrij I. Tarayoepta (Khanty), joined us also. He is board member of the ngo Jamal Potomkam (member of RAIPON). Later we discussed different issues with him. He has a TV programme in Khanty. Now we had enough daylight to see the village. Everything was covered by snow so we could not see the mess under it. In this kinship community, about 100 people (25 families) are living, mostly Khanty. The majority has no work. In the past they worked in the kolchoz (collective farm). We saw many dogs. Quite a few families have a cow which is walking free in the summer and which they now - in wintertime - keep in a small stable. Many also have a horse which is used in winter or, when not used, is standing partly outside. The villagers collect grass along the rivers or on the islands in the river. Last year there was not enough hay for the animals because of the high level of the water so they needed to slaughter some of them.
We took a look at the village generator which provides the village with electricity but has not enough power for the fish-processing factory. If one neglects the commercials and the cars, Moscow looked like Holland in the Fifties - and here it looked like being in theTwenties. With hesitation I have also witnessed among other northern indigenous peoples, the inhabitants slowly came to the general meeting in the culture house. It was as if I was back at the Innu Nation in Sheshatshit (Labrador-Canada). Finally, three-quarters of the inhabitants came to the meeting. In the past they have had different Western and Russian visitors who promised them a lot, but did not meet up to their expectations, a practice that happens in many places. That is the reason that I repeated many times that I cannot promise anything but that I will look into the matter. Behind the table were seated: Koniev, Delmartino, Dhondt, Dmitriev and I. After a short explanation of the purpose of our visit, slowly the dialogue with the people started. The people are sceptical about the project but, nevertheless, they slowly start to see positive developments. They are aware of the fact that it is them that must carry the pilot project together if it is to be successful. Again it appeared that they do not understand the concept of 'ngo'. They are used to the custom that the authorities decide for them. Some raised concerns about general problems in the village, such as the housing shortage and the problem of the uncared-for children. Later we visit one of the neglected houses where six people live. People are quite passive and I have the impression that they do not get so much opportunity to speak with the authorities. I have brought two vacuum-packed fish with me and hope to be in the occasion to have them investigated on their nutritional quality. After a demonstration of fishing techniques on the ice, a traditional lunch was offered to us by Mrs. Albina Ozelov. We returned to Muzhi, where we were invited by Mrs. Vera Rotsjeva (Khanty). She is project coordinator of a small traditional clothing manufacturing project for Khanty woman and had just returned from an indigenous women's workshop for small enterprises in northern Canada. She had also visited the seminar in Belgium and used her experiences their productively. A good result for Horizon Projects.
After having returned in Salechard, we had a meeting with Mr. Sergey A. Vassiliev (deputy governor), Mr. Alexei Artejev (minister of Foreign Affairs), Mr. Jefim Kerpelman (vice-chairman of the Duma and chairman of the committee for Juridical on Legal Questions), in the Duma of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District. Mr. Artejev is quite supportive of the project of North Without Conflicts. We discussed the different issues and our experiences. They had just had a visit of a delegation of the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador. We discussed the special problems regarding indigenous peoples and my point of view that the government of Newfoundland and Labrador is not providing the best example of how to deal with indigenous rights. I also informed them about the international forum 'Rangifer' where problems are discussed related to over-grazing by reindeer. For projects of indigenous peoples in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, there is a special tax regulation. That circumstance creates feelings of jealousy among other residents. Furthermore, recently a special regulation has been created that young indigenous boys do not need to go into the army, which has a great impact on their life. We heard from one case, but not the details. And also this creates jealousy. A follow-up of the monitoring of the pilot project of North Without Conflicts will be necessary. We got a copy of the book of the new law regarding indigenous rights in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District. The provisions in this law seem to go beyond what is stipulated in the Russian constitution. This will most likely lead to further debates in the future. We also got a copy of a book with a red list of endangered species (animals and plants) in the District. We left the book with North Without Conflicts.
The Nentsy occupy a vast territory of the North from the Mezen River in de west to the Lower Yenisy in the east. The total number of the Nentsy is 34.200. Of these, 6,400 inhabit the Nenets Autonomous Oblast (Region). 20,900 reside in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (District), and another 2,400 live in the Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug. Small groups of Nentsy also live in the Taimyr Autonomous Okrug, the Autonomous Republic Komi, the Murmansk Oblast and on the Kolguev en Vaigach island. Linguistically, the Nentsy belong to the Samodiisky language family. The self-identifying name for Western Nenets group is Nenets, which means 'human being'. In the eastern parts of the region, the Nentsy call themselves Nenei, Nenets, ('real person') The Eastern Nentsy are often called Yuraki; in the past they have been called the Samoyedy. In Dutch we call them Nenets. (From: The Small Indigenous Nations of Northern Russia. A guide for Researchers. Åbo Akademi University: Social Science Research Unit. Publication No. 29; 1999).
After a short stop in Moscow, during which we made a quick visit to the Dutch embassy from 7 to 12 December, we visited Naryan Mar and Krasnoe in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. In the plane we had already met Mr. Alexander I. Vyucheisky, president of the ngo Yasavey and member of the Duma of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (District), in the Arkhangelsk Oblast (Region). Yasavey is member of RAIPON and Vyucheisky is its vice-president. He was returning from a RAIPON-meeting in Moscow about indigenous peoples in the new millennium. In October 1998 he participated in the symposium day Nuclear pollution in the Arctic: a concern to the Netherlands? organised by Arctic Peoples Alert in co-operation with the Arctic Centre of the University of Groningen. After having installed ourselves in the hotel we met Vyucheisky with , Mr. Petr A. Khabarov, the director of the project 'Pa-Jakha' trading station, and Mr. Alexander Beloegin, the director of Jasavej in Vyucheisky's office in the Duma. We exchanged information and discussed our plans. He will look into the possibilities to rent a helicopter and visit the Nentsy camp were they have planned to establish the trading station. In comparison to Salekhard, there are no regular helicopter flights to this area. One needs to rent a helicopter and this is very expensive. As part of the project of Horizon and North Without Conflict a text book for the Nentsy schools, pedagogical colleges and institutes was published.
The next day, we met Mrs. Loedmila Beloegina, a worker at the skin tannery and atelier. It is a very primitive factory. They do not have enough reindeer skins to make products. The next meeting was with the new director of the ethno-cultural centre, Mrs. Eline Vergoenova. She informed us that there are different activities in the community and that there are two groups. One is a song group consisting mainly of Russians. The other is a theatre collective called 'Ilept' ('life' o 'reindeers'). The last group received an invitation to come to the Dutch town Brunssum for the yearly parade. There was some confusion caused by the idea that we represented Brunssum. They need to pay their own travel costs but lack the money. The next day we met members of the theatre group. They are all Nentsy. We saw a video about one of their performances. I will look into the possibility to invite them to the public event in Groningen. All the time of our visit, Mr. Ardeyev Jilip was present. He is an artist and joined several expeditions with sledgedogs through the Arctic. He is a grandson of a shaman. All the shamans of that time have disappeared, were killed or died in prison during the Stalin regime. From him, I bought unique copies of a shamanic drum and a jacket with artifacts. Perhaps Dutch museums are interested in obtaining these items. On Thursday, we drove to Krasnoe with a taxi. Khabarov was waiting for us with his jeep which we needed to continue our trip to a place where they had gathered hundreds of reindeer which were owned by the kolchoz (the cooperation) and by private people. About forty people were selecting the reindeers for slaughter. I went in the different corrals and in the last one, hundreds of reindeer were running around me. Very impressive. This time of the year is too late to slaughter. The reindeer have lost already too much weight and the ones which will be transported to the slaughter house in Krasnoe will even lose more weight. Later we visited the slaughter house. The killing of the reindeer is done quite primitive, as well as the slaughter. Fortunately it is not new for me to see the slaughter of animals. We heard that at other places, the slaughter is done even more primitively. They really need support to improve the way the kill and the slaughter is performed. The reindeer has different kind of diseases. Radio-activity, after the nuclear tests on Novaya Zemlya and the accident in Chernobyl, is for men and deer still a problem. This creates problems for the export of the meat, besides the already existing transport problems. Only Norway (or Sweden?) accept the meat. Another problem is the preservation and transport of the meat - even in Russia. Adjacent to the slaughter house in Krasnoe there is a fur farm which we visited as well. In poor circumstances some foxes are kept in dirty cages. There is no market for furs. We finished our visit to Krasnoe with a lunch consisting of, among other things, again frozen raw planed fish. With his jeep Khabarov brought us back to Naryan Mar were we had a meeting with Vyucheisky in which we related our impressions and we received the business plan for the trading station. He made a reservation for a helicopter trip to the coast on Saturday. After that, we witnessed a Duma commission meeting with proffesor Mr. Vladimir A. Kryazhkov, doctor of in law and counsellor of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and Mrs. Nataha Novikova of the Moscow ngo Rodnik ('Spring'). The Russian government just recently accepted a new law regarding indigenous peoples, but this one does not have as far-reaching implications as the regional one has. Kryazhkov informed the commission about the new law. It could be a problem of languages, but I got the impression that he was not informed very well about the international legal agreements regarding indigenous peoples. The Nenets Autonomous Okrug also has several special laws pertaining to indigenous peoples. I expect that in the near future, several law-suits will be filed in Russia, e.g. regarding landrights. Rodnik is a very young ngo with a lot of legal expertise in helping indigenous peoples, it recently received a start fund from the organisation Environmental Contact Eastern Europe in Amsterdam. The next day we visited a regional TV journalist. She showed us some of her videos, among others one that tells the story of some Nentsy that managed to stay out of contact with the authorities for decades, because of the repression of the regimes. We visited also the local museum and had the opportunity to speak with director Mrs. Tatijna Zhuravlev, who is our e-mail contact for Vyucheisky. We participated in the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Nentsy ngo 'Yasavey'. Many governmental, provincial and local officials, and representatives of different organisations or companies congratulated Yasavey and, as international guests we also got that opportunity. Many gave certificates of merit to Yasavey or to specific people of the organisation who had done a special job. During the festivities we saw several performances. Later Arctic Peoples Alert gave Yasavey a contribution of US$ 500 for their activities. In the ten years of its existence, Yasavey has become an important ngo of the Nentsy under the chair of Vyucheisky. It was a difficult start, considering turbulent times of the last decade in Russia. Others are still critically monitoring the ngos activities. When the 500 years of existence of the town Poestozjersk were celebrated, it proved difficult to put up a monument commemorating the resistance of the Nentsy, five centuries back, against the establishing of this town. They are not allowed to publicly call it the start of their colonization by Russians. In their election talks, some Russian politicians compared the Nentsy with the 'terrorists' in Chechnya. After the celebrations we met doctor Mrs. Marys Ebelina Michalojna (a specialist on woman's diseases). She requested me to seek anti-conception for the women in the Nentsy camps, and I said her that I will look into this matter. It was a very foggy day so a helicopter flight was not possible. On our departure day I had a good meeting with Vyucheisky in which we concluded that Arctic Peoples Alert will cooperate in the near future, and would look into the possibilities to have a workshop and public event in Groningen. I also offered him to look for support for the trading station, but I did not make any promises in that regard.
It was a unique combination to travel with the representatives of Horizon Projects, North Without Conflicts and EC Tacis-Phare 'the LIEN Programme, and it gave me the opportunity to get a good impression of the situation of the indigenous peoples in the Russian North. Partly it can be compared to the circumstances I found during my trips to the indigenous peoples of Greenland or Canada. On the other hand, the situation of the indigenous peoples of Russia is more serious. During this trip Arctic Peoples Alert got to know its partners very well. As proposed by officials of the Dutch ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, we are not in need of a new Dutch project-ngo in The Netherlands. That is one of the reasons that Arctic Peoples Alert seeks co-operation with other ngos working on projects. We do not see ourselves as a new project organisation. We see our organisation as one that has expertise regarding the situation of indigenous peoples in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. We will use our expertise as a good networker. We will focus on informing politicians, officials and the general public about the situation of these indigenous peoples in order that an active support is generated. This mission brings along a major handicap. There are no funds available such as by the Matra-fund or NCDO for financial support of the activities of Arctic Peoples Alert.
- Arctic Peoples Alert will select one case to generate the attention of the Dutch public for the situation of the indigenous peoples. We have chosen to give priority to the Nentsy organised in Yasavey in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Of course we will monitor the situation of the other indigenous nations in Russia and in the Arctic in general as well and we will help as much as we are able to do, but due to our lack of resources we would not like to raise too high expectations.
- Arctic Peoples Alert would like to organise a workshop regarding the special problems that projects for indigenous peoples in Russia have to face, in close cooperation with the Arctic Centre of the University of Groningen and a public manifestation.
- Arctic Peoples Alert plans to publish a Russian-special of our bulletin Arctica about the situation of the indigenous peoples of Russia besides regular articles featured in Arctica;
- Arctic Peoples Alert will look for funds for the project 'Pa-Jakha' trading station;
- Arctic Peoples Alert like to participate in:
* the Seminar of North Without Conflicts in St. Petersburg, February 2000 (which trip is cancelled);
* the meetings of RAIPON in Moscow;
* the second Chum-Meeting in Moscow in September 2000 in connection with the TRN General Assembly.
Recommendations to the Royal Embassy, the Ministry of Nature Management of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Arctic Peoples Alert recommends
- To support the activities of RAIPON and regional branches of RAIPON;
- To support the 'Pa-Jakha' trading station in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug;
- To invite Mr. Alexander I. Vyucheisky, president of the ngo Yasavey and member of the Duma of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (District), Arkhangelsk Oblast (Region) to participate in the intended visit of The Netherlands minister of state Mrs Faber to Novaya Zemlya. He was one of the last Nentsy who left Novaya Zemlya;
- An introduction meeting with ngos of indigenous peoples and working for indigenous peoples at the Dutch embassy;
- A fact-finding trip by Mr. Jan Jaap Hooft, Agricultural Counsellor of the Royal Netherlands Embassy to Naryan Mar (the Nentsy) and Salekhard (Khanty and Nentsy);
- Assistance in obtaining visa for indigenous representatives;
- An active policy to the Arctic Council and other Arctic organisations as the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), Conservation Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP);
- To call to all Arctic Council members and EU-members to ratify the ILO-169 convention.