Sunday, July 18, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Amalgamated Minority Districts in Krasnoyarsk Seek Moscow’s Protection

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 18 – Representatives of the numerically small peoples of the Taymyr and Evenkia whose autonomous districts were amalgamated with Krasnoyarsk kray say they need a federal law to force the powers that be there to live up to the promises then-Russian President Vladimir Putin made to them when they agreed to become part of the kray.
At a meeting last week in Turukhansk, the Social Chamber of the Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of Krasnoyarsk Kray said that “the goals specified in the message of the President of the Russian Federation and in the October 14, 2005 law [concerning their amalgamation] have not been achieved.”
Moreover, the members of the Chamber said, “the positions and preliminary agreements on the basis of which the unification process took place have not been observed” (
As Aleksey Bolin of the Association of Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the Taymyr notes, in 2005, President Putin said that the unification of the three was being carried out “not for unification alone but for optimizing administration, enhancing the effectiveness of social-economic policy and in the final analysis for improving the well-being of the people.”
None of those things have happened. Instead, “the ‘special status’ of the former autonomous districts in fact has not been regulated and up to the present has not been defined in the norms of law and therefore is only a declaration” rather than a description of reality. And events since 2005 show just how important such steps are.
Consequently, he and his colleagues say, there is a need for “the immediate adoption at the federal law which will regulate the more important aspects of the special status of the administrative-territorial units” that the Taymyr and Evenk districts had been prior to the 2005 voting.
There must be established “a federal standard,” they continued. Such “a federal law will not allow the powers that be of the current Krasnoyarsk kray to restrict the rights of the districts.” Instead, it will allow for the region as a whole to develop in ways that will work for the benefit of all.
Anticipating objections, Bolin says, “it is important to specify that the adoption of such normative acts will not threaten the national security of the Russian Federation, not contradict the geopolitical interests of the country in the Arctic,” and will block “regional separatism, local nationalism and the division of those living on the territory into ‘arrivals’ and ‘indigenous.’”
He argues that “the need for such regulation arises out the specific nature of the indigenous numerically small peoples of the North, their unique way of life, essential differences in their mentality, the vital importance for them of the land and renewable natural resources.” And it is required both by the Russian Constitution and various international treaties.
The Association of the Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the North living in the Taymyr and Evenkia has come up with a draft which calls for setting up “administrative districts in Krasnoyarsk kray in the borders of the former autonomous districts – the Taymyr (Dolgan-Nenets) autonomous district and the Evenk autonomous district.”
Moreover, the draft legislation calls for transferring to them “plenipotentiary government power” in order to “guarantee the traditional way of life and carry out the traditional types of economic activity of the indigenous numerically small peoples and also the authority connected with the achievement of these goals.”
Like the districts which existed before 2005, the districts this law would set up would have full state authority, would be involved only with the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, and would be independent of the kray government as far as the realization of those powers and responsibilities are concerned.
Such an arrangement, Bolin says, “would fully correspond to the interests of the federal center” by showing Russia to be advanced on numerically small peoples. It would correspond to the interests of the numerically small peoples. But clearly, it would not correspond to the interests of the kray government or those, like Putin, who want even greater amalgamation.

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