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Vladimir Vasiliev: "No one canceled the English language as a worker in Yakutia"

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Minister of Federal Relations and External Relations of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Vladimir Vasilyev, told how India developed solar batteries for the Arctic, do we need Singapore tankers and how to strengthen the image of Yakutia in the international arena.

- Vladimir Nikolaevich, the delegation of Yakutia recently returned from Reykjavik, where the Arctic Circle assembly took place. What was the purpose of your visit?

- This year the assembly "Arctic Circle" was held for the second time. The idea of ​​the President of Iceland O.Grimsson to involve the world community in discussing various aspects of development and cooperation in the Arctic is, in my opinion, very successful. In the age of globalization, each country seeks to find its niche, including in the Arctic regions, which are gaining more and more influence, and from this point of view it was interesting for us to learn about new ideas, initiatives and trends in the Arctic. The Arctic territory in Yakutia is quite large, in the republic within the framework of the Year of the Arctic, the Comprehensive Program for the Development of the Arctic Territory has been adopted, the Arctic strategy is being developed, so it is important for us to know the main directions of the state policy of other countries.

- What trends did you see?

- When Canada took over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council (in May 2013), it identified the quality of life and, of course, environmental issues as one of the priorities - the pressure on the Arctic ecosystem is increasing every year. Yakutia has been participating in the Northern Forum since 1993 (Northern Forum is an international non-governmental organization of the northern regions, formed on the initiative of the regional governments of Hokkaido (Japan), Alaska (USA), Magadan and Kamchatka regions (USSR) in 1991 -, Whose mission is to improve the standard of living in the North. It turns out that we foresaw in advance that it will become a priority in the development of such remote regions of the world. We hope that our experience, the experience of the regions, will be useful to the whole world.

- Are not you surprised that countries like Singapore, China are interested in the Arctic?

- Not. These are rapidly developing countries (especially China, which is now recognized as the first economy in the world), and they need resources. The data of recent years show that in the Arctic, for example, huge hydrocarbon reserves, and climate change and melting of ice open up new opportunities for the development of big business and industry. At the same time, we are all well aware that the nature of the Arctic is extremely vulnerable. In order not to destroy the delicate balance that has been created in this region for thousands of years, cautious approaches and the latest environmental and energy-saving technologies should be used in the development of its territory. Everyone is concerned about this, but they seek to get resources. Small countries may not need minerals, but they understand that when large companies come to the Arctic, it will be necessary to create infrastructure. Singapore, by the way, occupies a place in the world for the construction of tankers 4, and if we open the Northern Sea Route (NSR), the need for such vessels will increase annually. In this, Singapore sees its place in the Arctic. Large countries - Japan, Korea, China - are struggling either for resources or for experience, knowledge, technology, etc., which they can use in such harsh conditions for the maintenance of the Northern Sea Route, the creation of infrastructure related to the transportation of goods.

- How to divide the Arctic at all?

- The question is extremely complicated. Each country will use its methods of conquering the market. We understand that China will always strive for the application of "soft power", that is, it is quite active to offer the construction of scientific stations, to improve the infrastructure of those arctic settlements and cities that are in a rather neglected state, especially in the Russian Arctic. China has ample opportunities and experience in this direction: they are actively involved in research activities not only in the Arctic, but also in the Antarctic. Japan and Korea are also there, but to a lesser extent. But these two countries have high-precision technology (Samsung, Sony) and from this position look at the Arctic. The Arctic G8 is trying to limit their influence. When at a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in 2013 in Kiruna (Sweden) there was a talk about giving observer status to non-Arctic countries, a serious struggle erupted. Not wanting to cause interstate conflicts, a compromise decision was made to grant such a status to all countries that applied for it - Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, India, Italy. However, the European Union was denied, because a number of European countries are already permanent members of the Arctic Council. Many European countries, of course, could be unhappy: they expected to receive from the EU an additional voice in their support. Next year, when the ministerial meeting is held in Canada, it is expected that the European Union will still insist on obtaining such status. Let's see how the position of the countries will change.

- It turns out that the European Union is also trying to impose its policy on the Arctic Council?

- The European Union has developed its Arctic strategy and is positioning itself as a very strong player in this space, as if uniting the strategies in relation to the Arctic of all its countries - not only being Arctic, but also southern. The opinion of the EU that European countries should occupy one of the key positions in the Arctic as a united Europe, members of the Arctic Council, in my opinion, are not ready to accept.

- While a number of countries are trying to use the Arctic in their political interests, what does the Arctic Council do?

- The Arctic Council began with environmental projects, then projects to support socio-economic development were launched. The big block of questions is connected with public health services - it is monitoring of infectious diseases and development of telemedicine. There are projects related to the social status of the inhabitants of the North, prevention of alcoholism and drug addiction. Considerable attention is paid to issues of climate change, reduction of risks in the implementation of navigation, development of the shelf zone, elimination of the consequences of emergency situations, etc. Within the framework of the Arctic Council, the countries are testing various approaches to jointly resolve issues requiring joint efforts. In the Arctic Council, on an equal basis with states, 6 organizations of indigenous peoples have the right to vote, which allows them to take their interests into account when carrying out any activity in the Arctic.

- Why, in your opinion, do people in the North depend on bad habits and are prone to depression?

- Unfortunately, the problem of alcoholism is very acute not only in Russia, but also in the West and North America. But, it would seem, in such prosperous countries as Norway and Sweden, just a terrible percentage of suicides. Regardless of whether you belong to indigenous small peoples or not, severe living conditions, especially the polar nights, have a strong depressive role. In Murmansk, people who have lived there all their life experience great depression when the polar night comes. They try even to take a vacation in winter, so that they can leave the region at this time. In the summer in the Arctic, on the contrary, the sun hardly ever sets, the regime of the day is completely broken. You can not sleep - you are in an excited state for a long time. In addition, some limitations of possibilities and space also affect - every day the same thing happens.

In the Russian Arctic, the situation is further complicated by the fact that we have a low standard of living. So it turns out that for many, one outlet is alcohol. How can you make the Arctic a point of growth with such a problem ?! It is necessary to help people. Not only decorate houses in bright colors, but also hold activities that will instill optimism in people, so that they believe that they are not isolated, not alone, that their lives are interesting to others. When we first arrived in the Lower Kolyma 10 years ago with a large international project "The Ecology of the Russian Arctic," the locals, of course, listened to us politely, then smiled and said: "Okay, you are unlikely to arrive here next year, next year ". Seeing that we come every year, we do specific things - for indigenous peoples, nature conservation - the attitude towards us has changed. It became more interesting for people to live, and we are pleased that we gave them a definite push.

- What can Yakutia boast in the framework of the Northern Forum, of which she is the chairman? What example can the Republic submit to other Arctic regions, especially if they have many common problems?

- Yakutia entered the Northern Forum in 1993 and from the very beginning positioned itself as a region that is able to both learn and teach. She showed her experience in supporting people, solving social issues, developing the economy. Thus, Yakutia proposed a project to support a healthy lifestyle in the context of the prevention of suicide. Various measures were taken in this direction.

Now in the course of active construction, not only houses, but also social facilities are being built in the republic. Earlier in the early 2000-ies. The first president of Yakutia, Mikhail Nikolayev, initiated the movement "2000 good deeds 2000 year." Then the movement acquired a new motto - "My Yakutia in the 21st Century." Its essence was that the residents of the districts themselves identified their needs in social facilities and set priorities, and then, using budgetary support through the movement, included the mechanisms of people's construction, where any help was welcomed. It turned out that the population itself built some social facilities - sports halls, the House of Culture, helped repair schools, etc. The movement encompassed the entire republic and was a good incentive for both municipalities and indigenous communities - together you can do great things. At the same time, we ourselves learn from the regions. Thus, the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District can boast of the cleanliness and thoughtful architecture of the main city. We do not have this, but we are striving.

- You are talking about the device of social infrastructure, including in the north. And how to ensure jobs in the Arctic regions? Earlier there were settlements (for example, Lazo), industry was developed - tin, gold was mined, then, in the 1990-ies, production was closed, people began to leave, villages were closed. What generally happens in the North, will production be revived?

- Yes, we know that our arctic territory lags far behind the central regions of the republic or from southern, western Yakutia, where life is boiling. In the north, industry is virtually collapsed. However, in the northwestern part of the large work is the diamond mining company Almazy Anabara (a subsidiary of ALROSA). This is a socially responsible company that is actively working to support municipalities that fall within the scope of their activities. The rest of the territory of northern Yakutia (closed settlement of Deputatsky, Chersky, Tiksi) is a sick place. Nevertheless, we hope that the Comprehensive Program for the Development of the Arctic Territory of the Republic should change the situation. If we are talking about the revitalization of the Northern Sea Route (SMP), we are obliged to restore the maritime infrastructure of the Tiksi Port, the port of Zeleny Mys in Cherskoye.

- What international projects are currently being implemented between the Arctic territories, for example, European countries or the United States?

“We had many projects with the Americans, but after Alaska’s withdrawal from the Northern Forum, their activities subsided a bit. The Working Group on Brown Bears, which included specialists from America, Japan, Russia, and Scandinavian countries, and projects on the prevention of alcoholism and other addictions have been suspended. Undoubtedly, the tense political situation in the world is affecting. This year we tried to organize a seminar on brown bears in Kamchatka, but the Americans secretly banned their specialists from traveling, cutting off the budget for business trips - in the end, they simply did not have the money to come.

With the countries of Northern Europe, we are working to support reindeer husbandry - to introduce new technologies into their lives. For example, we do not have our own solar panels used in the conditions of the north, therefore diesel fuel is brought into the tundra, and this is a very expensive pleasure. We offered reindeer breeders to supply a batch of solar batteries, they first refused: they say, why should we - they are fragile, and the batteries are probably heavy - drag them back and forth. But we still decided to organize the delivery as an experiment, so that people would know that there is light, that the connection is working and you can turn on the TV.

We and our Finnish colleagues worked together with India on one very interesting social project. Beafut Indian College has a program to promote solar energy in areas where there is no electricity at all, no roads - in isolated regions of Africa and South America. They invite women of these countries with children or grandchildren from these countries so that they, having received the specialty of a solar energy engineer, return to their village and can serve solar power stations there. Indians are interested in our idea of ​​providing solar panels for reindeer herders who wander in the Arctic at minus forty degrees. They invited two women from the northern regions of Yakutia to India. When they returned, the women taught their reindeer herders how to manage the stations. A year later, asking if our panels were working, the herders said that 40% diesel was being saved. The savings are obvious. People immediately liked that they are easy to use. At any point in the tundra they now have light, the generator does not make noise behind the tent, does not interfere, does not smoke. Now our Finnish partners are looking for grants to purchase a new batch of solar cells.

- How can the sanctions that are being imposed against Russia now affect Yakutia's relations with business partners?

- Sanctions in any case already affect the development of the region, because the republic has long-term agreements in different directions. For the same construction of kindergartens, there was an agreement with the World Bank that they will give us a loan for the construction of 100 kindergartens. But the project was put on hold. We do not know if this work will continue and where to find other sources of support. There is a baby boom in Yakutia, and there is a long queue for kindergartens. We hoped to solve the problem within 2-3 years, but the imposed sanctions hinder us a little. Nevertheless, for example, the Silver Bear Resource company does not intend to leave Yakutia, it is ready to invest. But the Swiss company "Gunver" is considering the possibility of selling its stake in the coal-mining company "Kolmar", which may also cause some slowdown in development. However, we do not feel these moments as keenly as in other industrial regions.

- Can we talk today about Russia's leadership in the Arctic region, considering и The extent of the territory, and the development of the NSR?

"I will not be able to ignore Russia in the Arctic because of the vast territories that belong to us. Although we say that the US dictates the rules of the game, but Russia takes its place in the world and stands very firmly. This can not be considered other countries can not. Of course, there is a "big politics", interstate relations, but at the same time, at the average level, all are ready to cooperate. Next year, the US will take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council and, as the US Arctic Special Representative and former US Coast Guard Commander Admiral Robert Papp said at the forum, will work closely with Russia, despite strained relations in other areas. That is, with respect to the Arctic, the dialogue is fully open, we feel it.

- Iceland has common interests with Yakutia. What kind?

- In Yakutia from the 1960-s. lives Alexander Argunova-Kyueregei. For us, she is a legendary person. For almost a quarter of a century, this woman had no ties with her homeland, but she did not forget her language, her culture, and propagandized her constantly. She founded the Society for the Development of Cultural Relations between Iceland and Yakutia (ISJAKI) and even built a real Yakut farce. 

In addition, the airline "Yakutia" purchased Boeing aircraft from the Icelandic airline for leasing. Both Iceland and Yakutia, as the largest Arctic region in the world, are striving to ensure that the dialogue on cooperation in the Arctic is as open and broad as possible, but at the same time, that the development of the Arctic goes with the interests of the indigenous people and not in harm to the environment .

- Vladimir Nikolaevich, you took office recently. What are your goals and objectives?

- The Ministry for Federal Relations and External Relations is responsible for 4 directions: international cooperation, federal relations, image policy and development of foreign economic activity (attraction of investments to the republic). All these areas will be fully preserved. I would like the ministry to more actively represent the interests of the republic at such high events as the "Arctic Circle", in order to improve both the image of Yakutia and the literacy of our specialists. I believe that we should work hard to prepare young cadres, so that representatives of the ministry work or have an internship at the headquarters of large organizations - we still lack international experience. Forums, like here in Reykjavik, pass without translation, which creates obstacles to those good undertakings that we would like to promote. In 1999, a decree was issued, according to which the English language was declared the working language of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). This decree has not been canceled yet, therefore we intend to work with both ministries and executive authorities so that they pay special attention to the knowledge of the language of at least young cadres.

Speaking about the image policy, the recognition of the republic is due to the fact that we do not use the opportunities of global networks at a rather low level. There are only a few enthusiasts who develop English-language sites about Yakutia. Our Ministry maintains the Yakutia Today website, but it should be developed. In terms of tourism development, Yakutia lacks not only hotels, but also an information component. Last year, PressPass, with the support of the ministry, published The first unique guide In Russian and English languages ​​- but there should be more such guides, and of a very different format.

It is also important in the republic to establish a regional export support center, which will provide information and consulting support to enterprises that are set to export their products. We will continue to present the investment potential of the republic.

- Events such as the "Arctic Circle" or other international conferences that promote investment in the region?

- Of course. This year we will present the Northern Forum and the projects that have been implemented or are being implemented within its framework. However, we are committed to more active business cooperation. Ecology is good, culture is fine, but business life between regions should be a priority. I would like the Northern Forum to abandon the practice of developing and supporting small projects. To achieve wide coverage, multi-level cooperation between experts and officials must be established. We will propose the creation of a Northern Economic Council at the level of regional ministers of economy, a working group on business cooperation, we also have an idea to create a youth Northern Forum. Well, and we will tighten the dialogue of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North. 

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