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Arctic Circumpolar Civilization

Philosophical Approaches to the Concept

Sviatoslav Shachin

This article analyzes the concept of an Arctic circumpolar civilization and focuses on contradictions inherent within the concept. Some of these antinomies are the nomadic character of the traditional Arctic civilization and the traditional academic approach that takes a sedentarist perspective; the rich worldview of the Arctic residents and its inadequate reflection in the rational paradigm of cognition; and issues surrounding sustainable development and the global crisis of humanity, which leads to instability worldwide, including in the Arctic. The article proposes method of dialectical synthesis for resolving such antinomies.

TRANSLATED BY TATIANA ARGOUNOVA-LOW

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Indigenous Urbanization in Russia's Arctic

The Case of Nenets Autonomous Region

Marya Rozanova

This article presents the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to the ongoing urbanization of the Nenets indigenous communities (“communities-in-transition”) in the Nenets Autonomous Region. Focusing on the preconditions for “indigenous flight” from traditional rural settlements to urban areas, the article analyzes key indicators—demographics, language proficiency, education level, and occupational sector, as well as social cohesion, interethnic relations, and political inclusion in the larger urban context—to describe the adaptation and integration processes of these new city dwellers. Based on the fieldwork in the region, the article also presents individual life strategies and career choices of indigenous youth and describes the role of gender in indigenous urbanization.

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Protecting Indigenous Rights from Mining Companies

The Case of Ethnological Expertise in Yakutia

Violetta Gassiy

The Arctic is one of Russia’s treasures. However, Arctic economic development means that business is invading lands that are sacred to indigenous peoples. As a rule, regional authorities are interested in tax revenues from subsoil users, prompting them to decide the culture-or-mining dilemma in favor of the latter. But this does not mean that the price of this encroachment on indigenous lands remains uncalculated. Since its establishment in 2010, Yakutia’s Ethnological Expertise Committee has developed a tool for assessing the damage caused to indigenous communities by subsoil users. The problem of getting businesses to compensate indigenous communities has yet to be solved. This article seeks answers to the problem of fair compensation methods and explores modes of partnership and cooperation on traditional lands.

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Mobility and Infrastructure in the Russian Arctic

Das Sein bestimmt das Bewusstsein?

Nikolai Vakhtin

This special issue approaches the interrelated themes of mobility and infrastructure in the Russian Arctic. I will discuss the general topics covered in this set of articles and how these contributions help us understand the lives of people in northern Siberia today, and I will give some context on how these articles came about in the first place. Does being determine consciousness? Or does consciousness determine being? This special issue looks at the complex interplay between people’s perception of well-being and behavior, and their understanding and discourse around infrastructure. Several case studies examine the tension between perception, mobility, and infrastructure in communities across the Russian Arctic.

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Marlene Laruelle

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.

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Alla Bolotova, Anastassia Karaseva and Valeria Vasilyeva

This article explores how the mobility of young people influences their sense of place in different parts of the Russian Arctic. In globalization studies increasing mobility has often been set in opposition to belonging to place, and interpreted as diminishing local connections and ties. Recent studies show that the role of mobility in shaping a sense of place is more complex. The Russian Arctic is often considered a remote, hard-to-access area, despite the fact that local residents have always been very mobile. We compare three case studies from across the Russian Arctic—namely, the Central Murmansk region, the Central Kolyma, and Eastern Taimyr—showing how mobility shapes differently young residents’ sense of place. These regions have a different population structure (urban / rural, polyethnic / monoethnic) and different transportation infrastructure, thus providing a good ground for comparing the relationships between mobility and a sense of place in the Russian Arctic.

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Tatiana Vagramenko

This article discusses the contribution of the chronotope as an analytic category in studies of Christian conversion, applying it to postsocialist religious changes in the Russian Arctic. Looking through basic categories of human experience—space and time—the article focuses on the comparative analysis of the two missionary movements working in northwestern Siberia—neo-Pentecostalism and Baptism. The article examines postsocialist Evangelical missionary movement among the Nenets people who live in the Polar Ural tundra. The Nenets tried out multiple faiths on the emerging religious spectrum, choosing in the end fundamentalist Baptism. The article elaborates on possible conditions that made Christian fundamentalism appealing in this part of the Arctic. I suggest that Nenets historical experience as a colonized periphery of the Russian state, particularly the Soviet experiments with space and time, have bridged Nenets social expectations and a radical form of Evangelical Christianity.

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Arctic Earthviews

Cyclic Passing of Knowledge among the Indigenous Communities of the Eurasian North

Tero Mustonen and Ari Lehtinen

This article examines the mechanisms and manners of maintaining the communal knowledge systems of the indigenous peoples of the circumpolar North. This is accomplished by paying attention to the concerns of distinguished community elders who have experienced the entwining of indigenous traditions and modernization during their lives. The article also introduces the concept of earthview, identifying the ethical and spiritual insights that inform the community-specific everyday skills of living in the North. The conclusion highlights the human/nonhuman cycles of intergenerational knowledge renewal that are mostly practical and oral by nature. The emergence of new elders is therefore critically grounded on the personal and communal skills of passing on the intimate knowledge of sensing changes in nature. By emphasizing the role of oral communication we underline that this knowledge (of earthviewing) only remains while being shared in everyday conditions and routines of land and life. We dedicate this article to the memory of Professor Vasilii A. Robbek.

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Silvia M. Bell

Circularity, a salient theme in the film Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1999), is explored as a symbol that points to a consideration of issues central to psychic life. The movie sets up an expectation—two lives will be brought together to recreate a former blissful union, and complete a circle that defies finality, separation, and loss. It succeeds in creating a dialectic between two tensions, the experience of separateness where each person is a circle unto oneself, and the longing to be encircled with an "other" in a union that promises safety and permanence. The wish for fusion versus merger with the loved one is discussed in the context of traumatic loss and soul blindness. These early experiences interfere with healthy mourning and determine the reliance on magic and regressive compromise that contributes to a tragic outcome.

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Adaptation--Genuine and Spurious

Demystifying Adaptation Processes in Relation to Climate Change

Thomas F. Thornton and Nadia Manasfi

In climate change discourse and policy, adaptation has become a critical byword and frame of reference. An implicit assumption in much of the strategizing is the notion that adaptation can be rationally planned, funded, and governed largely through existing frameworks. But can adaptation really be managed or engineered, especially given the significant unpredictability and severe impacts that are forecast in a range of climate scenarios? Over millennia, successful societies have adapted to climate shifts, but evidence suggests that this was often accomplished only through wide-ranging reorganization or the institution of new measures in the face of extreme environmental stress. This essay critically examines the concept of human adaptation by dividing it into eight fundamental processes and viewing each in a broad cultural, ecological, and evolutionary context. We focus our assessment especially on northern indigenous peoples, who exist at the edges of present-day climate governance frameworks but at the center of increasingly acute climate stress.