Indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia, and the Russian Far East are increasingly demanding that proponents of industrial projects carry out an etnologicheskaia ekspertiza (anthropological expert review or ethno-cultural impact assessment) of their project, in order to assess the socio-economic and cultural impacts on local and indigenous communities living close to project sites. However, there is a lack of an appropriate legislative framework in Russia, no established methodology, and a lack of understanding among stakeholders about what an etnologicheskaia ekspertiza is. The established Russian environmental impact assessment process (requiring a state ecological expert review of projects) does not include assessment of socio-economic and cultural impacts on communities. In this article the author discusses the concept of etnologicheskaia ekspertiza and the context that gave rise to it, shares her practical experience, and makes recommendations for establishing a legal framework for etnologicheskaia ekspertiza, with reference to comparable Western concepts, such as social and cultural impact assessment.
Olga A. Murashko
Partnership or Conflict? A Reflection on the Etnologicheskaia Ekspertiza
For the indigenous peoples of northern Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East, Sovietization and industrial development—including onshore oil and gas development from the 1920s have resulted in the loss of language, ethnic homogeneity, and the lands where they practice traditional livelihood activities. Multinational offshore oil and gas projects commenced in the late 1990s. Sakhalin's indigenous people initially sought partnerships with the multinationals, but turned to protest in 2005, demanding among other things that companies complete an etnologicheskaia ekspertiza (anthropological expert review or ethno-cultural impact assessment). This is a relatively new Russian term and no methodological guidelines currently exist in Russian law. One of the offshore projects, the Sakhalin-2 Project, completed an international-style social impact assessment in 2003. The author compares this assessment and the World Bank social safeguard standards adopted by the Sakhalin-2 Project with the etnologicheskaia ekspertiza, arguing for the integration of Western and Russian approaches, in order to establish a sound scientific and legal basis for the assessment of socio-economic and cultural impacts of industrial projects on local communities.
An Exploration of Relations between Oil and Gas Companies, Communities, and the State
Florian Stammler and Emma Wilson
This introduction provides an overview of academic research and current practice relating to stakeholder dialogue around oil and gas development in the Russian North, Siberia and the Russian Far East. We discuss the two main strands of analysis in this special issue: (a) regulation and impact assessment; and (b) relationship-building in practice, with a particular focus on indigenous communities. We argue that an effective regulatory framework, meaningful dialogue, and imaginative organization of stakeholder relations are required to minimize negative impacts and maximize benefits from oil and gas projects. Self-interest, mistrust, and a lack of collective agency frequently lead to ineffective planning and heightened tensions in relations. We identify lessons to be learned from partnerships and initiatives already established in Sakhalin and Western Siberia, despite the lack of a stable legal framework to govern relations. This issue focuses on the academic-practitioner interface, emphasizing the importance of practical application of academic research and the value of non-academic contributions to academic debates.