2019.04 Indigenous peoples in Russia. A curse of the resources

1. The map of indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia and the Far East

2. Small numbered indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia and the Far East

The definition of “indigenous” without the numerical qualification does not exist in Russian legislation.

According to the Russian law, the term “Indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation” is a collective term for more than forty Indigenous peoples with a population of less than 50,000 each.

The total number of the Indigenous peoples of the Russian North is less than 0.2% of the Russian population in total and about approximately 250 – 300 thousand individuals.

Indigenous peoples of the Russian North historically inhabit huge territories covering around two-thirds of the Russian territory from the Kola Peninsula in the West to the Bering Strait in the East.

Their traditional livelihood is based on fishing, hunting, reindeer husbandry, and gathering.

More than two-thirds of them continue to live in rural areas where these activities are indispensable sources of food and income.

3. The map of the small numbered indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia and the Far East

4. Way of life

Due to their traditional livelihoods, most of the Indigenous peoples of the Russian North, especially those who preserve a nomadic way of life, need much more territory for subsistence than the other populations.

Most territories which are inhabited by Indigenous peoples in Siberia, Russian Arctic, and the Far East are rich in natural resources.

The main source of the Russian state budget is the income out of natural resources trading. 60% of Russian natural resources are producing in the Russian North.

Within the natural resources trading, the main state budget income item is the oil income and 76% of Russian oil goes from the Russian North, Siberia, and the Far East.

At the same time, the Indigenous peoples in Russia remain one of the poorest parts of the population and their social and economic development, as well as their life expectancy, is far below the national average.

5. Kazas village

Photo credits – Nelly Tokmagasheva

6. Kemerovo region

Kemerovo Oblast is situated in the southern part of West Siberia. The Oblast is one of the most industrially-developed regions of Russia and has a population of over 2.5 million people.

Its economy is based on the coal and smelting industries. The total geological coal resources of Kuznetsky Basin (Kuzbas) are estimated at over 700 billion tons, which amounts to approximately 70 percent of all the coal resources of Russia.

The region produces approximately 300 million tons of coal annually, which is around 60 percent of all the coal in Russia.

Coal accounts for over 70 percent of the Oblast’s foreign trade.

7. Kemerovo region on the map of Russia

8. Local indigenous peoples

The small numbered indigenous peoples that historically populate Kemerovo Oblast are the Shors and the Teleut. 

Around 13,000 Shorts live in Russia in all, of which 11,000 live in Kemerovo Oblast. There are approximately 2,500 Teleut living in the Oblast. 

These Turkic peoples mostly live in the south and southeast of the Oblast, generally in the mountain taiga area, known since the early 1900s as Shoria Mountain. 

The Shorts’ main occupation today is agriculture, including cereal crops, cattle farming, and bee farming. They also continue to live according to their traditional livelihoods, however, which includes hunting,  fishing, and cedar nut harvesting. 

These indigenous peoples account for only 0.5 percent of Kemerovo Oblast’s population. 

There are no purely Shorts or Teleut settlements in the Oblast—settlements usually have a mixed population. There are, however, several dozen settlements with a dominant Shorts or Teleut population; in most cases, these are very small villages. 

Today, they are a classic example of people suffering from the “resource curse” of modern civilization.

Heavy industry is at the core of the regional economy and it is the main factor that has a negative impact on the environment.

According to an evaluation of the Russian Federation Ministry of Natural Resources, the town of Novokuznetsk is among the most polluted in the country.

9. Novokusnetsk is one of the most polluted cities in the world

Photo credits Yury Lobachyov

10. Shor villages around Novokusnetsk

Today, the Shor are the most urbanized of Russia’s indigenous minority peoples, with three-quarters living in urban settlements and only around 25 percent in rural places.

By implication, they are particularly affected by cultural and linguistic assimilation. As a vernacular, the Shor language is used exclusively in small settlements. These settlements are those most endangered by coal mining today.

Kazas is located on the confluence of the Kazas and Mras-su rivers. Until the early 1970s, the Mrassu was still relatively clean although the water of the Kazas River, fed by mountain sources, was considered cleaner.

The current ecological state of emergency in the Shor territories along the river Mras-su has developed since 1971 when the “Sibirginski” mine started operating along the river.

11. Shor villages Kazas and Chuvashka and coal mines around on Google map

12. Destroying the village Kazas

The formerly pristine stream in Kazas village turned into a dead sewage course whose muddy water was poisonous to fish, cattle, and humans

Gardens and crops of the Shor people living around are constantly covered in yellow dust, carried over by the explosions to which they attribute increased levels of disease

Freedom of movement was violated as a checkpoint was erected on the road leading to the mine through the village. Armed security men would prevent anyone from passing unless they subjected to inspections of their cars and/or other quasi-police measures

Mining operations used heavy explosions and destroyed the Shors’ sacred mountain, the Karagay Nash

Now the village Kazas is destroyed. All families moved to the city or neighbor village Chuvashka. Five houses were burned after arson attacks by unknown criminals. Five families didn’t receive any compensation and still fight to rebuild the village.

13 Destroying of the Kazas village

14 Shor activists protested against coal mining

Shor activist united into the local civic organization “Revival of Kazas and the Shor people” and protested against coal mining.

Petitions to the Russian Government, UN, applied to the court, made films about Kazas and Shor community, made different kinds of protest actions.

They were harassed by the government, police and security services of the Russian Federation. Local pro-government media organized a smear campaigns against them.

Several Shor activists were lost their jobs, some had to leave Russia.

15 Protest actions

16 New coal mines around Kazas and Chuvashka

17 Coal companies try to nobble and corrupt indigenous leaders

18 Coal business goes to the Arctic

19 Coal oligarchs have good relations with Russian high levels

Categories: Chuvaska, Dikson, English, Kazas

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