JOURNAL OF GOVERNANCE AND POLITICS


SCHOOL OF GOVERNANCE AND POLITICS MGIMO UNIVERSITY RUSSIA

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№1(4), 2019

Contemporary Issues In Law And Politics

Legal Status of the Northern Indigenous Peoples in the Russian Federation: a descriptive analysis

Andrey V. Borodkin, School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University

Abstract

This article covers problems related to the legal status of indigenous minor peoples of Russia. Statistical data of All-Russian Population Censuses of 2002 and 2010 have been analyzed and modern tendencies of the development of the domestic legislation in the field of protection of the rights of minor nationalities of the Russian Federation have been discovered. The benefits and privileges guaranteed by the state to the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East are considered. The need to improve the current legislation in the field of protection of the constitutional rights of indigenous ethnic groups is identified and justified. New institutions should be established to provide these peoples with the necessary social and legal support and to promote the development of civil society.

Keywords: indigenous peoples, minor peoples, ethnic group, legal status, constitutional rights, civil society.

Main body

The Russian Federation is one of the largest multinational States in the world. According to the all-Russian population census of 2010, formed on the basis of self-determination of citizens, representatives of more than 190 nationalities live in the territory of the Russian Federation. In order to ensure the interests of the state, society, men and citizens "The strategy of the state national policy of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2025" (app. Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 19.12.2012 No. 1666)[1] is currently operating. According to it, the important directions of Russia's domestic policy are recognized: strengthening of  the state unity and integrity of the Russian Federation, preservation of ethno-cultural and linguistic identity of its peoples (which is also enshrined in articles 68 and 69 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation)[2], preservation and development of  the traditions of all peoples living on its territory.  At the same time, it is worth noting that the small indigenous peoples of the North and the Far East represent a special group of the population that needs some additional state protection and support. For effective interaction of the state and the small nationalities in 1990 the special public organization "Association of small indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation» was created. Why is the problem of the survival of indigenous ethnic groups in modern Russia given so much attention? The answer to this question can be found in history. As early as the first quarter of the 20th century a number of our peoples faced numerous problems: social, economic, cultural and demographic. The revolutions, social upheavals and crises that took place in the country, of course, could not but have a serious impact on them. In the 1990s, the question of the survival of small ethnic groups became acute. The relevance of the topic is also related to the fact that according to modern legislation, indigenous peoples have the right to receive a number of benefits and privileges, however, there are legislative gaps, and therefore requires a thorough revision of modern legislation. For example, one of the main problems faced by the state is the identification of national minorities. Difficulties arise in the fact that ethnic identity is not always clearly defined. Today there is no single register of indigenous peoples, and virtually any person has the right to declare his or her affiliation to a particular ethnic group. It turns out that during life people can change their ethnicity. There is a remarkable precedent in the Murmansk region, where a citizen born in Kirovsk, and then moved to the place of indigenous residence of the Sami people (also spelled Saami), in court defended his right to be ranked among the indigenous peoples of the North and receive the appropriate benefits due to the actual residence in the ancestral territories of the Sami and the conduct of the same way of life. The court decided to allow the citizen to identify with the Sami people and receive the benefits, but only on the condition that it was proved that the person had accepted the language and the culture of the Sami people (Polishchuk-Molodozhenya, 2017). Immediately there are questions about the process for such an identification procedure, as at the legislative level, such a procedure is not provided. Another problem concerns the rights of national minorities. The state provides a number of benefits to indigenous peoples, but what criteria must an ethnic group meet in order to claim special support from the state?

Let's try to define the word "ethnos". In the modern sense, it is a stable historically formed group of people living for a long time in a certain territory, having a common language, culture, way of life, self-consciousness and self-designation. The state adds another very important criteria to all of the above - the criteria of number. According to the Federal law of 30.04.1999 №82 "On guarantees of the rights of small indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation"[3] any people who belong to the group of small indigenous peoples must have less than 50,000 people. Thus, only those peoples who follow this criteria are entitled to state support.

In modern conditions, the question of the actual survival of small indigenous peoples is most acute. According to the Federal state statistics service, the total population of indigenous peoples in 2010 increased in comparison with 2002 on 9567 people and made 316011. However, for a given period of demographic growth was noticed only in large ethnic groups, such as Abini, Dolgans, Mansi, Evenks, Chelkantsy, Chukchi, Yukagirs, and Nganasansy, Nancy, Sutu(Seto), Telengity, Khanty, and others. As for the very indigenous peoples such as the Aleuts, Besermyan, Chylymtsy, Nivkhi, there is negative population growth, which puts them on the brink of extinction. During the period 2002-2010, their number decreased by an average of 30-40%. In addition, comparing the population censuses of 2002-2010, it can be seen that one ethnic group , whose number at the time of the 2002 census was 12 people, was not recorded in the 2010 census[4][5].

To stabilise and further increase the number and welfare of small peoples, as well as to protect their native habitat, the state has developed a set of benefits and privileges.

These include the right of indigenous minorities to:

  • use of natural resources in their place of residence;
  • implementation of control over the use of land necessary for the conduct of traditional economic activity;
  • receiving material and financial means for socio-economic and cultural development from public authorities;
  • delegation of their representatives to the councils of representatives of small peoples under the Executive authorities and local self-government bodies;
  • participation through representatives in the development and adoption of decisions by public authorities and local self-government concerning the protection of the natural environment and the development of natural resources in the place of residence of small peoples;
  • compensation for damages caused as a result of damage to their native habitat;
  • substitute military service with alternative civil service;
  • receiving social services in accordance with the procedure established by the state;
  • preservation and development of national languages.

This is not all the opportunities provided to small peoples by the state. It should also be added that all of them constitute the legal status of the small peoples of Russia. However, can we say that the existing system is really effective in achieving the goals set by the state? From the statistical point of view, it has not yet been possible to ensure the stability of the number of especially small indigenous ethnic groups in 20 years. What could be the reason? Back to the definition. According to the Federal law of 30.04.1999 №82 (ed. from 27.06.2018) "On guarantees of the rights of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation" indigenous peoples are considered to be "peoples living in the territories of traditional settlement of their ancestors, preserving the traditional way of life, economic activity and crafts, numbering in the Russian Federation less than 50 thousand people and aware of themselves as independent ethnic communities"[6]. Thus, the very definition establishes the so-called criteria of the small number of ethnic groups. It turns out that in order to the state pays attention to a people and begins to provide it with special support, the people must be on the verge of extinction. Thus, the ethnic group in exchange for its small number receives various benefits, which, according to R.Sh. Garipov, generates "dependent" behavior of all the people who is not interested in increasing its number under the threat of deprivation of special rights (Garipov, 2012). It can be concluded that the current legislation in itself is not able to solve the problem of extinction of small nationalities.

The next particularly important problem is the environmental problem. At present, the vast and mineral-rich lands of Siberia, the North and the Far East have become regarded as a resource base for the country's economic growth. In recent decades, the raw material component of the Russian economy has become dominant, and this, in turn, has led to further aggravation of environmental problems (air pollution, land degradation, destruction of wildlife habitats, deforestation, etc.). Unfortunately, such a policy could not but affect the lives of the indigenous peoples of the North, on whose lands new mineral deposits are being developed, factories are being built and industry is developing. Currently, private companies are not required to obtain permission of the indigenous population to develop mineral resources; and receiving a request via a tender, you can start the extraction of natural resources directly in place of traditional residence of indigenous minorities. Thus, the Constitution of the Russian Federation itself is violated. According to the article 72 (m)[7], indigenous peoples have the right to the protection of their native lands. It turns out that small peoples are deprived of their most basic rights of using their lands for free, as well as to the protection of their native habitat. Another problem is the lack of an effective mechanism to compensate indigenous peoples for damage to the environment. Indigenous minorities and their associations have to prove to the court each time that their claims for compensation for environmental damage have been justified. One of the negative factors is the legal illiteracy of a larger number of small ethnic groups.

It is necessary to develop legislation that will not only monitor the implementation of the guarantees provided by the state to the indigenous population, but also to develop special social support programs, taking into account the different characteristics of the regions. The Russian Federation has a Federal constitutional law of 26.02.1997 №1 "On the Ombudsman for human rights in the Russian Federation" (ed. from 31.01.2016)[8], according to which, a responsible person is appointed, whose main task is to protect the rights and freedoms of man and citizen. Thus, the small indigenous peoples of the North also fall under its jurisdiction. For more effective work of the Federal Ombudsman in each subject the Ombudsman for human rights who solves local questions is elected. However, there is no special law regulating the activities of regional human rights ombudsmen, which is a clear gap in the legislation. The adoption of such a law will not only improve the legislation, but also significantly increase the efficiency of interaction between the  federal and regional Ombudsman with public authorities. It should also be noted that the main function of the Ombudsman is called the restoration of violated rights. It follows that it can only respond to violations that have already occurred and its effectiveness is significantly reduced. The article 69 of the Constitution enshrines the special status of indigenous minorities. The establishment of an Ombudsman for the rights of indigenous minorities at the Federal and regional levels would be appropriate. The adoption of this legislation will be a big step in the democratic development of the Russian state. And the improvement of the institution of the Ombudsman will contribute to the improvement of the standard of living of the indigenous population and the development of civil society.

Thus, it can be concluded that despite the positive trends in the protection of the rights of indigenous minorities, the current legislation does not cover the full range of problems faced by the state in this area. A number of international conventions deal with the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. The International covenants on human rights of 1966 ("On civil and political rights" and "On economic and cultural rights")[9] oblige all States to ensure the rights proclaimed therein to all persons without discrimination. The article 69 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation says that the state "guarantees the rights of indigenous minorities in accordance with the generally accepted principles and norms of the international law and the international agreements of the Russian Federation"[10]. Based on the analysis, it can be concluded that not all the guarantees provided to the indigenous population are respected. In this regard, it is necessary to develop effective mechanisms to protect the rights of indigenous ethnic groups. Therefore, further development of the Russian legislation should be aimed at:

  • definition of criteria for the classification of a person to indigenous minorities, as well as the creation of a procedure by which a person can be identified as belonging to an indigenous ethnic group;
  • establishment of a unified register of indigenous minorities;
  • legislating the right of indigenous peoples to deny private companies subsoil development on their native lands for the protection of the environment and their traditional way of life;
  • establishment of an Ombudsman for the rights of indigenous minorities to improve their standard of living and to make the protection their rights more effective.

References

  1. Constitution of the Russian Federation: adopted by popular vote on December 12, 1993 (subject to amendments made by the Laws of the Russian Federation on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation of 30.12.2008 №6-FCL, from 30.12.2008 №7-FCL, from 05.02.2014 №2-FCL, from 21.07.2014 №11-FCL)
  2. Federal constitutional law of 26.02.1997 No. 1-FKZ "on the Commissioner for human rights in the Russian Federation" (as amended on 31.01.2016)
  3. Federal Law of 30.04.1999 No. 82 (ed. of 27.06.2018) "On guarantees of the rights of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation»
  4. Garipov R.S. (2012) Indigenous peoples in Russia: guarantees of rights and freedoms// Journal of Russian law. 2012. No. 6. P. 67-73
  5. Grishaev. S.P. (2015) Evolution of legislation on legal entities P. 36
  6. International Covenant on civil and political rights (new York, December 19, 1966) // Vedomosti of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR - 1976 - №17(1831). - P. 291
  7. Ivanov V.M. "Actual problems of the legal status of indigenous numerically small peoples of the North"//Magazine "Young scientist" No. 23(103) December 1, 2015, Pp. 758-759
  8. Polishchuk-Molodozhenya T. R.(2017) article «Legal problems of determining the status of indigenous peoples of the North in Russia (on the example of the Murmansk region)". P. 115
  9. Results of the all-Russian population census of 2002. Volume 4. National composition and language skills, citizenship. Section 19. Accommodation of indigenous peoples in the territory of the Russian Federation. URL: www.gks.ru
  10. Results of the all-Russian population census of 2010. Volume 4. National composition and language skills, citizenship. Section 19. Accommodation of indigenous peoples in the territory of the Russian Federation. URL: www.gks.ru
  11. Strategy of the state national policy of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2025 (app. Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 19.12.2012 No. 1666)
 

[1] Strategy of the state national policy of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2025 (app. Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 19.12.2012 No. 1666)

[2] Constitution of the Russian Federation: adopted by popular vote on December 12, 1993 (subject to amendments made by the Laws of the Russian Federation on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation of 30.12.2008 №6-FCL, from 30.12.2008 №7-FCL, from 05.02.2014 №2-FCL, from 21.07.2014 №11-FCL)

[3] Federal Law of 30.04.1999 No. 82 (ed. of 27.06.2018) "On guarantees of the rights of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation»

[4] Results of the all-Russian population census of 2002. Volume 4. National composition and language skills, citizenship. Section 19. Accommodation of indigenous peoples in the territory of the Russian Federation

[5] Results of the all-Russian population census of 2010. Volume 4. National composition and language skills, citizenship. Section 19. Accommodation of indigenous peoples in the territory of the Russian Federation

[6] Federal Law of 30.04.1999 No. 82 (ed. of 27.06.2018) "On guarantees of the rights of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation»

[7] Constitution of the Russian Federation: adopted by popular vote on December 12, 1993 (subject to amendments made by the Laws of the Russian Federation on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation of 30.12.2008 №6-FCL, from 30.12.2008 №7-FCL, from 05.02.2014 №2-FCL, from 21.07.2014 №11-FCL)

[8] Federal Law of 30.04.1999 No. 82 (ed. of 27.06.2018) "On guarantees of the rights of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation»

[9] International Covenant on civil and political rights (new York, December 19, 1966) // Vedomosti of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR - 1976 - №17(1831)

[10] Constitution of the Russian Federation: adopted by popular vote on December 12, 1993 (subject to amendments made by the Laws of the Russian Federation on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation of 30.12.2008 №6-FCL, from 30.12.2008 №7-FCL, from 05.02.2014 №2-FCL, from 21.07.2014 №11-FCL)