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Indigenous peoples: development for the sake of conservation

Indigenous peoples: development for the sake of conservation

Valery Tishkov

Director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology named after N.N. Miklouho-Maclay RAS, Academician of RAS

Valery Tishkov, director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology named after N.N. Miklukho-Maklai RAS, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, shared his vision of the future of the indigenous peoples of the North, spoke about the problems of their integration into modern society.

- Valery Aleksandrovich, how do you see the future of the indigenous peoples of the North, and does it make sense to protect the natural habitat of the traditional peoples of the Arctic?

“On the one hand, the indigenous peoples of the North have lived in this zone for thousands of years, have developed a special lifestyle, in part the genetics of these peoples are adapted to this environment. They live and will live in familiar habitats, partially preserving the traditional economy, some cultural traditions, including languages.

But still, in my opinion, the strategic line should be for a cultural-oriented modernization. That is, indigenous peoples can not and should not turn into a unique isolated civilizational complex. They still have to find their place in modern life, including economic development of the Arctic regions, to occupy a niche in production. This will improve their living conditions, gain new skills, and master new professions.

Already, only a part of the indigenous peoples of the North leads a nomadic lifestyle, and more than half of the population lives in permanent urban-type settlements. Therefore, it is now difficult to say whether they will preserve the nomadic way of life based on reindeer husbandry. But they will certainly retain their distinctiveness, because for them the traditional economy is not just a source of food: neither reindeer husbandry, nor fishing, nor hunting for sea animals are sufficient for modern life, including motonarts, computers, transmitters, stationary housing, modern weapons, when it comes to hunting. For indigenous peoples, this is part of their identity, their self. If they lose this, they will lose a lot, even the language. That is why these traditional farms are supported all over the world.

- Is the development of the Arctic a threat to the indigenous peoples of the North, and are investments in the northern regions a boon to the indigenous peoples?

- There are supporters of the idea that one should not learn anything. For millennia people lived in harmony with nature and were happy. In fact, it is a myth: there were epidemics, diseases, high mortality - especially before the epoch of vaccination and modern medicine - they were a scourge for the indigenous small peoples of the North. There were problems with the environment, with excessive use of natural resources.

However, that lifestyle is a thing of the past. In the 20th century, the period of Soviet modernization began, based on the system of ethno-territorial autonomies in the form of national districts. Boarding schools were created, special efforts were made to preserve the literacy of the population, general medical examination and state subsidies were introduced. It was possible to avoid the extinction of the indigenous peoples of the North, but the general backwardness of the economy did not allow progress to be made.

Then a period of intensive development of the Arctic began. The Soviet Union condemned the Western method of the rotational development of the North. It was believed that it was necessary to build cities, bring people there (the non-indigenous population of the North was also brought in), and that the Western method of rotational “come, take and leave” was not suitable for us.

Indigenous peoples can not and should not turn into a unique isolated civilizational complex. They still have to find their place in modern life, including economic development of the Arctic regions, to occupy a niche in production. This will improve their living conditions, gain new skills, and master new professions.

But the Soviet development of the North - a barbaric attitude towards nature, an inefficient economic method based on the delivery of a permanent population, had a disastrous impact on the fragile culture of the northern Arctic peoples.

The last 20 years after the collapse of the USSR is a period of self-awareness, self-organization of the Arctic peoples. They fit into the international context, into international organizations, movements, founded their own association. Indigenous peoples of the North managed to formulate and promote a number of federal and regional laws that protect their rights and interests.

A business that has recently been very active in the Arctic (especially oil and gas companies) have also become more aware of their responsibility and focus on international requirements.

But there is still a lot to do, because there is no well-established system of accounting for interests, it is believed that indigenous peoples can be "bought off" - it is enough to provide them with small subsidies. However, if such a model is followed, there will be a social degradation of the peoples of the North.

It is necessary to involve them in production, to create conditions for mastering new skills and applying old ones. There are many opportunities that have not yet been fully exploited.

- What steps does the international community take to preserve indigenous peoples? And what is Russia's role in international cooperation on this issue?

- Various international declarations have been adopted. There is the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It applies to all the indigenous peoples of the world, not just the Arctic. There are also World Bank directives for corporations (primarily resource-producing), which require taking into account the characteristics of the environment and the people living in it. Finally, there are international organizations that unite the Arctic peoples, in particular, the ICC (International Circumpolar Conference) is an international organization that unites all the circumpolar peoples.

We are faced with a kind of romanticism of enthusiasts who are striving to preserve the unique Arctic civilizations - do not touch, leave as is, only save. And do less emphasis on development. But the majority of the population of the Arctic peoples want to be equal members of a large society, live in large cities, receive higher education. The international community sometimes goes about romantic mythology and stands for the blind preservation of the traditions of the peoples of the North.

Some scientists, for example, are in favor of preserving a language in order to preserve a language. Although many representatives of indigenous peoples, without losing their identity, are switching to Russian, which gives them more life opportunities. This problem is still not fully resolved. It seems to me that it should be resolved along the lines of bilingualism.

- Valery Aleksandrovich, how serious is the problem of migration of young indigenous representatives to the cities? How does the self-perception of youth change after leaving traditional habitats, and do they find use in the new environment?

- Migration from settlements is a trend that has probably been taking place since the beginning of the 20th century. And not only in Russia, but in other countries. Today, out of a quarter of a million who are indigenous to the small indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East in our country - more than half live in cities. This process is inevitable, as is the growth of urbanization in Russia and in the world.

There is a mixed type of population - they live in the village for a part of the year, and some of the time of the year they wander in the tundra, engage in reindeer herding, or go fishing or fishing for the sea or fur animals.

Due to population migration, demographic problems arise: girls more often migrate than men, which creates a gender imbalance. Girls more energetically and quickly receive higher education, find a job. In addition, it is young men who are engaged in reindeer herding and hunting, it is more difficult for them to get an education. To solve this problem, so-called nomadic schools are created: teachers for children of several families live in tents, wander along with them.

To solve the problem of linking rural settlements, settlements or communities, and sometimes individual nomadic families with urban settlements, small aviation is needed. It is necessary to develop infrastructure, transport in the Arctic. This will help to solve the problem of outflow of population.

Departure to the city has certain risks associated with social problems, primarily with alcoholism and drug addiction. Representatives of the indigenous peoples of the North are more prone to alcohol dependence, this is the scourge of all the Arctic peoples of the world.

It is necessary to provide assistance to the representatives of the indigenous peoples of the North who moved to the city: to provide for them special privileges or subsidies.

Interviewed by Nikolai Markotkin, program coordinator of the Russian Council for International Affairs (RSMD) and Daria Khaspekova, program coordinator of the INF.


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