Russia is unique on the circumpolar landscape in that indigenous communities constitute only a small percentage of its Arctic population. Whereas they represent 80 percent of Greenland’s population, 50 percent of Canada’s, 20 percent of Alaska’s, and 15 percent of Norway’s Arctic regions, they make up less than 5 percent of the population of Arctic Russia. Although indigenous peoples have a more solid demography than Russians and have therefore seen their share of the Arctic population slowly increase over the past two decades, their rights remain fragile. Moscow does not consider the Arctic to have a specific status due to the presence of indigenous peoples, and its reading of the region is still very much shaped by the imperial past, the memory of an easy conquest (osvoenie) of territories deemed “unpopulated,” and the exploitation of the region’s subsoil resources.
A Booming City in the Far North
Demographic and Migration Dynamics of Yakutsk, Russia
Svetlana Sukneva and Marlene Laruelle
Many cities of Russia’s Far North face a massive population decline, with the exception of those based on oil and gas extraction in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District. Yet, there is one more exception to that trend: the city of Yakutsk, capital of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, whose population is booming, having grown from 186,000 in 1989 to 338,000 in 2018, This unique demographic dynamism is founded on the massive exodus of the ethnic Yakut population from rural parts of the republic to the capital city, a process that has reshaped the urban cultural landscape, making Yakutsk a genuine indigenous regional capital, the only one of its kind in the Russian Far North.