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Survival on Amur

The problems of those living on the banks of the Amur were exposed by the summer salmon fishing ground in the lower reaches of the river

In these parts - along the banks of the Amur - people have always lived by the river. But now a strange thing is happening here - the fishermen are trying not to hire locals, the bosses of local fishermen are puzzled over how to prepare hay, and everyone who can, by hook or by crook, is enrolled in the indigenous and small peoples. The author of EastRussia looked at how Nizovka lives.

Survival on Amur
Photo: EastRussia
“Fish processors are urgently required on the fishing season in the Nikolaev region. The salary is 40 rubles ", - I read the announcement on the post, while I wait at the bus stop at the exit from Khabarovsk for a friend with whom we are going to take a ride to the" nizovka "- this is the name of the Ulchsky and Nikolaevsky districts of the Khabarovsk Territory, located in the lower reaches of the Amur (but on 000-500 kilometers north of Khabarovsk). 


“Not a lot,” I thought about the indicated salary. “About the same amount they promised us as a student 15 years ago.”

However, a couple of days later, when we got along the completely killed Selikhino - Nikolaevsk-on-Amur highway to the village of Mago, which is in the Nikolaevsky district, the village head Vladislav Mavrovsky explained "why, and what and how." 

It turns out that fish processing and fishing enterprises are very reluctant to hire local residents. A local, after all, can go home when he wants, or into a banal binge as soon as he receives an advance, besides, he knows how much he can earn on red caviar, not to mention black caviar, and therefore requires an appropriate salary. A shift worker is practically a forced man, he will not ask for much. Newcomer, in a word.

“10-15% of the locals are hired, no more,” Vladislav Mavrovsky cites the figures.

Locals don't really like to work at all. At least officially. Arithmetic is simple in Lower Amur: why work officially for 30 thousand a month, if in a couple of months you can earn up to two million rubles? 

“People are not used to working. Do not want. They only want to receive money. The river taught me that you can take a lot of money quickly. In addition, if I do not work, accordingly, I have all sorts of preferences: the kindergarten is free, I pay 100 rubles for a comfortable three-room apartment, and the rest is compensated for because I am unemployed. And if I come to work with a salary of 27 thousand rubles, then I have to pay 10 thousand for a child in a kindergarten, 11 thousand for an apartment. And what to live on? Therefore, I will work for myself, and the state will still pay me extra. This is how they reason, ”says Vladislav Mavrovsky.


The head of the village makes a helpless gesture: with total unemployment, he cannot find performers even for paid public works. 

However, in recent years a lot has changed on the Amur: and the earnings are no longer so fabulous - that of the poachers, that of those who officially work on the river; and there are fewer fish - there is an eternal dispute over who is to blame: races in the estuary, poachers or floods? But in both cases, the money became less. And the first thing that was felt by the heads of those very villages located on the Amur: factories are close by, fish are caught under their noses, and practically all the money in the form of taxes “floats away” to Khabarovsk or somewhere else.

“If they were registered with us, then some taxes would go here, to us. But they are registered elsewhere. From them comes personal income tax, but it's a penny. But our budget is formed only from taxes. Previously, one enterprise gave us taxes up to two million a year. This is with a total budget of the settlement of 10 million, and then they "registered" in another place and that's it ... If there will be taxes, it means that there will be infrastructure, but today this is not happening, "complains Vladislav Mavrovsky.

A similar alignment, by the way, is observed not only in the fishing industry. For example, the budget of the Nikolaevsky area is 1 billion 900 million rubles. At the same time, the GOK alone, operating in the village of Mnogovershinny, pays 2,2 billion rubles in taxes. True, to the federal budget.

In the absence of tax revenues, the heads of villages have to bow to the “fishmongers”. The latter, as a rule, agree, but this is inaccurate and highly dependent on the catches. 

“Today we are negotiating behind the scenes. I come and say: guys, we need to help the hospital, we need to help the school. The state, it turns out, walks with an outstretched hand. Fishermen, of course, provide assistance, but not much - they can also be understood, because fishing is not always successful, ”said Vladislav Mavrovsky.

Even 10-15 years ago, such relationships were almost obligatory for fishermen, however, all this assistance was formalized and called a socio-economic partnership: representatives of fishing companies and local government every year concluded an agreement under which fishermen provided the necessary assistance to kindergartens. schools and other budgetary institutions.

In the village of Tyr - the very one that can only be reached by water - there was once a settlement-forming fishing collective farm "Memory of Lenin". Everything rested on it: social sphere, economy, life. Today the collective farm "is no longer a cake": to feed its own.

“If earlier the collective farm was formerly a settlement-forming one, now, alas, it is no longer possible to say so. After all, before everyone lived only on fish, but now, look at the outflow of the population, ”said the head of the Tyr village Tatiana Tochilina.

Tatiana Tochilina became the head of Tyr recently - in February. Prior to that, she worked as a teacher at a local school, and at times worked part-time in the same fish farm, accepting fish.  

“It was an interesting work experience,” Tatiana shares, “2019, September,“ osenka ”(the autumn course of the chum salmon - approx. EastRussia). I was just on vacation at my main job, well, and I went to receive fish, earn some money. This lasted for about three weeks. How does it feel? Yes, I'm no stranger to it! When I lived in Voskresenskoye, I also worked in a fish farm, in the 90s it was. " 

Residents of the Nizhneamur villages with bitterness recall the times when in almost every settlement there was a similar large fish farm. But today the income from fishing has fallen so much that in the same RK "Memory of Lenin" they decided to start ... animal husbandry. Last year, a small herd was brought in: two dairy cows, 22 calves and two dozen sheep. True, the fish producers themselves called this decision a hopelessness. 


“This is hopelessness! What to do with people? Say - go for a walk ?! Where will he go? They will become poachers, there are no other options. Or leave, but those who could have already left. Over the past 10 years, the village has lost more than 50% of its population. And qualified specialists leave, who are then very difficult to find. Therefore, we keep them, pay their salaries, even when they are not working, "said Viktor Knyazkin, chairman of the Pamyat Lenin RK.

At the expense of the farm, the "rybniks" decided to feed their own: all the same, it will not be possible to export the products due to the absence of that very road. The process, as they say, has begun: offspring have appeared, the herd has increased. True, this year the river let down: because of the high water, the mows located in the floodplain were flooded. Moreover, all over the lower Amur. 


“We don't have flood-free mowing, everyone is mowing in the meadows. And everyone was flooded. We are ringing the bells: where to get hay? Now the inhabitants of the village of Solontsy turned to us: they need 70 tons of hay. And where to get so much? Nobody can answer this question, "- complained the head of the Ulchsky region Fedor Ivashchuk.  


The Association of Fishing Enterprises of Ulchsky and Komsomolsky Districts of the Khabarovsk Territory believes that the regional authorities should come to the rescue here.

“For example, the regional agricultural fund takes a barge, centrally buys hay, loads it and carries it across the Amur according to needs. This could be a direct support for farmers and agricultural producers, ”said Maxim Bergelya, chairman of the Association of Fishing Enterprises of Ulchsky and Komsomolsky Districts of Khabarovsk Territory.

In his opinion, the state power, in principle, should look for a different approach to the distribution of water-biological resources. For example, make the access of mining companies to the resource directly proportional to participation in the socio-economic development of the territory. 


“When distributing volumes, it is necessary to take into account“ good deeds ”. The mechanism is as follows: the municipality applies in writing to the fishing enterprises with a request to provide this or that assistance, the fishermen, in turn, provide this assistance, then provide financial and accounting documents and receive proportionally additional volume of fish, "suggested Maxim Bergelya.

In the meantime, in practice, everything looks different and the “fishmongers” are forced to be a socially responsible business more than they are stimulated. A striking example is the project "Accessible Fish", widely advertised by the authorities (not only in the Khabarovsk Territory). Its essence lies in the fact that fishing companies undertake to put a certain percentage of their catch on the counters of the region at a reduced price. Sometimes, below the cost price. The authorities liked to “PR” on this project so much that the fishermen had to limit their participation in “Affordable Fish”. So, in the Nikolaevsky area, on the eve of the autumn fishing season, they decided to distribute free fish to all local residents over 80 years old, and for pensioners "younger" - at a reduced price: 100 rubles per kilogram. 

“We made a criterion for age: 80 and above. Let it be for now. Roughly figured that there would be 100 of these people. If we take, for example, pensioners below, then we have a lot of them: out of 1200 population of Mago, 800 are pensioners. If we take them all, the enterprise will operate at a loss, ”said the head of the village of Mago Vladislav Mavrovsky.

Another feature of the upcoming fishing season on the Amur is that residents of the Amur villages enroll en masse in the indigenous small peoples of the North (SIM) in order to receive all kinds of preferences. At the same time, representatives of Slavic nationalities, as well as immigrants from the countries of Central Asia, often refer to themselves as Nanais, Ulchi, Nivkhs and other small peoples.



“We have already enrolled in the indigenous peoples of the North. And they go with peace of mind to the river, not only for red fish, but also for small fish. If you take a license, you can fish in certain designated fishing areas, and indigenous peoples can fish all over the Amur, ”said Fedor Ivashchuk, head of the Ulchskiy region.

Freedom of movement along the river, more "hunting" fishing gear - this is what makes people sign up for the indigenous peoples of the North. Otherwise, local residents assure, you can be left without fish. In order to rank oneself as one of the peoples of the Amur, it is enough to notify the supervisory authority that maintains the so-called register of indigenous peoples. To do this, you must confirm your nationality. Now such a column has disappeared from official documents - a passport or a birth certificate, but in the archives of the registry office you can request information about the nationality of your parents and thereby prove that you are, for example, a Nivkh or Udege.

“They come to our administration and ask for a birth certificate to get into the register. Such people also came: dad was a Nanaets, mom was Russian. To whom should they refer their children? ”, - said Tatiana Tochilina.

However, the questions are not only about mixed marriages. Many are perplexed: how does a Russian who has lived for more than a dozen years on the banks of the Amur differ from any representative of the indigenous peoples of the North, who does not always live in the village, but, for example, is only registered there?

“We came out with an initiative so that all local residents who have a residence permit could catch fish on a par with the indigenous peoples of the North. How is Russian different from Nivkh? He also lives here, he also wants to eat fish, ”reflects Vladislav Mavrovsky.

According to official data, in 2020 in the Ulchi region, out of 14,5 thousand of the population, almost four thousand are representatives of the indigenous peoples of the North.

In theory, Maxim Bergelya is sure, if you offer people a well-paid job, they will no longer want to go to all kinds of tricks.

“The logic is very simple: an officially employed local resident is automatically minus one poacher on the river. Only the salary should be comparable to the income that can be obtained by poaching. Therefore, if an enterprise takes on social responsibility and employs the local population, then it has the right to rely on a certain resource, ”said Maxim Bergelya.

However, experts say that the fishing industry in the Khabarovsk Territory has long since shifted from a leading position. Judging by tax deductions, the forest industry is in the first place in the “lower ranks”, followed by the mining industry, and the fish industry only closes the top three.

“We live on fish, so we have to wear silk trousers, but we see neither money nor fish,” lamented Fedor Ivaschuk.

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