BULLETIN # 15 - 16

VII group of interns


Parliamentary Hearings on State Provision for the Northern Regions of Russia
The Altai Republic
Hardships of Teleut People
The Shor's Folklore
What Will Happen to Us?

Parliamentary Hearings on State Provision for the Northern Regions of RussiaOn May 19, 1998 at the State Duma of Russian Federation the urgent hearings on “State financing for the supply of goods and energy sources for the Northern Regions of Russian Federation” took place. The following federal ministries gave reports on status of the operation : Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry for the North, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Extreme Situations, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Regional Affairs.

The provision and delivery of goods and fuel to the North and Arctic is one of the most acute problems for the indigenous communities. As a rule they are situated in very remote areas where are no roads. The situation is made worse by general lack of funds and those few that are allocated by the federal authorities are being more often than not misused by the regional and local authorities. But without the help of the state the poverty and unemployment stricken communities are doomed to starvation and freezing.

During the hearings it became clear that almost all of the officials from the federal ministries are totally unfamiliar with the actual situations in the Northern regions. It was appalling to watch as, instead of looking for solutions, the federal officials were accusing the regional and local authorities in all deadly sins and the latter did the same to the former.

At the end all agreed that the much close attention must be paid by all authorities to the situation and bigger part of the federal budget should be allocated the next year. Several recommendations to increase the efforts were officially addressed to the federal and regional governments. Let’s hope that that will bring some positive results.

Just one more thing. Such hearings on that very subject at the State Duma are taken place every year. The reports are made, people are blamed, recommendations are being officially dispatched but people in the Northern and Arctic communities survive every winter not because but in spite of the government’s actions.

Maybe that what they called the “state support”?

Arat Khaidyp,

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The Altai Republic


The total population of the republic is about 210 000 people. Altai - the indigenous people of the republic number only 64 000. The republic is unique in many ways but one thing makes it truly stand alone - the used parts and fuel from the rockets that take off from the Baikonur Space Field in Kazakhstan fell mostly on the territory of Altai republic.

Mostly they land on Kosh-Agatchsky, Ulagansky, Turatchaksky, Ongudaisky, Ust-Kansy and Ust-Koksinsky districts. Most of the population in those districts are Altai indigenous people. Since the Russian Space Agency is thoroughly oblivious to the complaints of the districts and the republic there never have been a full scale study done on the environmental and health damage.

A small group of scientists from the Gorno Altaisk research institute and one doctor (specialist in genetics) in 1996 did a monitoring survey of indigenous population of Kosh-Agatchsky district. The study showed an unusually high number of children with ailments of the central nervous system, mental retardation and child cerebral palsy.

If also consider the added factors of the nuclear polution from the test sites in Northern China and chemical air pollution from the neighboring Kusbass region the sum total effect on the population of Kosh-Agatchsky and Ulagansky districts is the life expectancy for men 42 and women - 43 years. Plus the jump up in cancer related death and high % of heart diseases. The most terrifying is the rise of infant deaths.

Svetlana Tiukhteneva,

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Hardships of Teleut People


There are 2 indigenous peoples whose traditional territories are in Kemerovo region of Russian Federation. They are - Shors and Teleut. The Teleut are smaller of the two. They number just under 3 000 people.

During the last few years of the changes in Russia Teleut have come dangerously close to the verge of physical and ethnic extinction. Rampant unemployment, total collapse of postal and telephone systems, disappearances of medical and social services in Teleut communities - all that have made the every day life an every day struggle for physical survival.

Teleut people do not have official demarcation and protection of their traditional territories by the authorities. As the result almost 90% of their lands is under total control of mining industries. Needless to say there is no compensation of any sort. But the state of the mining industries in the district is in pitiful state. Many coal mines are closing down. Due to the flooding of the closed down mines many Teleut villages are left without the underground springs that used to supply the drinking waters.

Poverty and political impotence, distraction of the environment, oblivious attitude of the local and state authorities lead to the devastating drinking among Teleuts. That resulted in spiritual degradation, loss of traditional culture, moral collapse. The very existance of Teleut as a nation is under the question mark. Many villages are abandoned.

Absence of quota for indigenous peoples in executive and legislative institutions on local and federal levels alike does not provide us with any mechanism to influence our situations. If the State government does not make any real practical steps to provide the long lasting solutions our people as many other in Russia are doomed.

Marina Todysheva,

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Nanai indigenous people is one of the Tungus-Manjurian group. The total number of Nanai is 12 000. Most of Nanai live in Khabarovsk region 11 000, about 1000 - in Primorsky region and another 1000 on Sakhalin island of Russian Federation. In their own language “Nanai” means “a man of the Earth”. Traditional religion of Nanai is Shamanism.

The main traditional activities of my people are fishing and hunting. Only in 19 century, after Russians came, Nanai began to have vegetable gardens and livestock. The most popular food is fish. My people still have many ways to keep fish for long time - smoking, freezing, salting, sun-drying and many other. Nanai also like meet of wild animals. We consider a delicacy raw bone marrow, liver and nostrils of moos and deer.

We used fish and animal skin to make clothes and shoes. The type of clothe was different for women and men and also was vary depending on an occasion - every day, holiday, hunting and fishing, wedding, funeral and ritual.

Right now we are trying to revive our language. We publish books and school text books in our own language, put together festivals and culture events. It is important if we want to preserve our culture. And we will find the way.

What is still absolutely a problem and we see no solution yet it is the issue of our land, of our traditional territories. But maybe one day.

Yulia Pyzgun,

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Evenk is an indigenous people of Russia. We call ourselves “Orotchon”. We are spread throughout a huge territory from Enisey river to the Okhotsk sea, from the Arctic to Amur river. And yet we number only 30 908. Originally we came from the area of the lake Baikal.

My people not long time ago used to be nomads. The main activities were hunting, fishing, reindeer herding. Besides Evenk were known as skilled blacksmiths and bone and wood carvers. The typical dwelling was a tchum (a kind of a teepee) covered by reindeer skins during winter and by tree bark in summer.

The soviets forced the nomads to settle in villages and many aspects of our life were lost forever. But the same time we start grow vegetables and tend livestock. Many things have changed by we still the Evenk.

Alexey Flegontov,

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The Shor's Folklore


Not a long time ago Shors have an extensive and rich spoken culture. We had fairy tales (nybak), small legends (purungu tchook), sayings (kep sos), epic songs and heroic legends (saryn).

“Purungu tchook” are usualy of a historic nature. They tell of hunting, warrior parties, real fights with invaders, etc. Besides real people they talk about the “masters” of mountains and rivers - friendly and unfriendly spirits. These are small stories without the beginning and the end.

Many of “saryn” are about the Creation and legendary heroes.

“Kep sos” are usually a two line rhymes that mostly are parts of “saryn”. An example is a hero’s demand for a proper name :

Ki’ik tooktoog poltchan 
Kizhi adyg poltchan… 

As a deer has skin
Same a man must have name…

Old people used to use a lot of “kep sos” in their everyday talks.

Songs were sang about almost everything and most of the time were improvised. Sometimes people sang those songs in chorus. Very often the same melody was used for many different songs. Singing was accompanied by “komus” (a two string instrument).

A special place had “sogish” - songs that one clan made to make fun of another, or one village to make fun of the people of another. Some songs were sang in duet. Usually a young girl and a young man competed in wit and imagination. One would start a song the other answer. In old days competitions between famous singers were very popular. The competition was over when one of the singers could not continue literally being lost for words.

Epic heroic songs “kai” were sang in low throat singing with an accompaniment of a “kai komus”. These songs are very long and could last several days. They are rigidly structured with standard beginning and the end.

Shors people still have remnants of their ancient art of singing mostly due to the efforts of some enthusiasts but if we do not do something drastic we could lose those arts forever just in a few years.

Irina Ulagasheva,
Kemerovo Region

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What Will Happen to Us?


My generation has many who have got university degrees and moved from our tundra into big towns. Now most of us are moving back to our fathers’ lands, back to our fathers’ ways, back to the tundra. Many non-indigenous can’t understand it. But it is simple. Most of them who came to our Arctic from the main-land Russia are still longing for their homes. The same us. Only our home is not the same anymore.

During the last 5 years we are watching a horrible occurrence that is as constant as the change of the seasons. The fishing nets that we hang to dry in the evening by morning are covered with a silver white coating. Also our clan’s “tchum” (teepee) at the point where all 37 polls are connected and through which one can see only the clear sky and the stars is also covered by the same beautiful and misterious coating. For some reason the heart is pained and worried. Never in thousand years my people have seen anything like that. It is the new evil spirit - it is industrial pollution from the Nickel Plant in Norilsk.

Yes, many of us are leaving the towns and villages that we were forced to move to. We want to leave as our fathers did in harmony with Mother Earth. But it is not that simple anymore. We must to revive and recover everything that was lost. But it was lost and destroyed with the help of our mighty state. But the same state left us to our own now when we try to remedy what was done. What does it mean then when Russian constitution guarantees our rights and the way of life? What does it mean that President Boris Eltzyn is “ the guarantor” of our rights? All that is unclear. What is clear is that we can’t survive as a people without help of our state.

Many words are spoken and written in Moscow about the dire necessity to put money into the Norilsk Nikel Plant - “the biggest in the world”, “the future of the Russian Arctic”. And a lot of money is pump into that monster every year. And a lot of foreign investors are wooed into “helping” the “development of Northern industry”.

But not a single word is spoken about us - the Indigenous peoples of Norilsk tundra. The tragedy of my people continues. That tragedy is environmental. That tragedy is political. That tragedy is ethnic.

Liubov Ye. Naltanova,
Dudinka, Taimyr

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