Сеть Арктических Организаций в Поддержку Коренных Народов Российского Севера

Indigenous Peoples in Russia – importance of the forest for traditional way of life

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Indigenous Peoples in Russia – importance of the forest for traditional way of life

All laws which were passed in recent years concerning indigenous peoples had one thing in common: regulations on the protection of indigenous peoples are expressed in the subjunctive and have not been implemented so far because they do not include any implementation regulations. The law on “territories for traditional land use”, which is extremely important for the indigenous peoples, is a good example of this: after these types of territories had been formed in some regions, the law was suddenly put on the back burner and the areas were dissolved.

Another example is the 400 page law on the amendment of federal legislation of the Russian Federation, which repeals several articles of the protection of indigenous rights. The following articles were repealed from The Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation (Guarantees of Rights) Act: article 4 on socioeconomic and cultural development, articles 6 and 7 on protection of original habitat, traditional way of life, economy and handicraft of indigenous minorities, as well as article 13 on the right of co-determination of indigenous peoples in the legislative bodies. The law was signed by President Putin on 22 August 2004.

In Siberia, there are around 40 different indigenous peoples – in total 200,000 inhabitants. Only about 10% of them live according to their traditional nomadic way of life, compared to 70% 30 years ago. Many of them are reindeer breeders. Others live from hunting or gathering mushrooms, berries, roots or herbs. Clean rivers and an intact environment are necessary for fishing. Wood is the most important building material and the only heating fuel available. For most indigenous peoples, the forest is also a spiritual place. Without the forest they would not be able to survive as an independent people with their own history, culture and economy. For centuries, they have cared for and protected the forest’s delicate ecosystem. Their knowledge of preserving the forest is of incalculable value.

In the last decades, their habitat has been constantly under threat: oil production, the depletion of uranium, diamonds and oil and now the new forest code. The disastrous consequences can be seen today in an average life expectancy which is 20-25 years below that of the rest of the Russian population, as well as problems such as alcohol abuse, crime and being culturally uprooted.

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