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Vera Kuklina, Sargylana Ignatieva and Uliana Vinokurova

This article explores the role of higher education institutions in the development of indigenous cultures in the Arctic city of Yakutsk. Although indigenous cultures have historically been related to traditional subsistence activities and a rural lifestyle, the growing urbanization of indigenous people brings new challenges and opportunities. The article draws on statistical data, as well as qualitative data from the Institute of Languages and Cultures of the Peoples of the Northeast (ILCPN) at the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) and the Arctic State Institute of Culture and Arts (AGIKI): annual reports, focus groups, interviews, and participant observations. The article argues that students and graduates contribute to the creation of a new image of the city as one in which indigenous cultures can find their own niche.

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Uliana Vinokurova

The article provides a review of various strategies the peoples of Siberia undertake to reestablish their identity, their cultural identity, and rights to their land. The article aims to analyze the modern challenges that the indigenous peoples of Siberia face and their responses to such challenges. The article presents five models of survival strategies used by the peoples of Siberia.

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Akulina Mestnikova

The article provides an overview of recent initiatives spearheaded by indigenous peoples in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) that seek to improve the existing language policy put forth by the state government. Although there has been some research conducted on the activities of public organizations and associations of indigenous peoples in the region, more must be done to better understand activities specifically related to language policy. The article presents a history of indigenous and minority organizing in the republic since the end of the Soviet era, with special attention paid to the campaigns regarding the status of native language and its presence within the educational sphere. It then analyzes the results of a 2011 sociological study regarding people’s beliefs about responsibility for native language maintenance and revitalization.

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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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The Representation of Childhood in Ethnographic Films of Siberian Indigenous Peoples

The Case of the Documentary Film Malen’kaia Katerina (Tiny Katerina)

Ivan Golovnev and Elena Golovneva

This article investigates the representation of childhood in ethnographic films among the indigenous peoples of the Russian North. The article focuses on the documentary film Malen’kaia Katerina (Tiny Katerina; Ivan Golovnev 2004), which depicts the childhood of a Khanty girl in northwestern Siberia. The article employs the concept of ethnocinema as a synthesis of scientific and aesthetic approaches for perceiving and understanding traditional culture. Based on field diary recordings, reflections on the anthropological knowledge of childhood are represented via the audiovisual medium. Particular attention is paid to the visual representation of the world of childhood in traditional Khanty culture, including the child’s relation to nature, the world of adults, games, and the development of gender identity.

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Kirill Istomin

Existing explanations of the high rates of alcoholism and suicide among the numerically small indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia, and the Russian Far East relate these social diseases to external factors such as state politics, or the economic, demographic, or socio-cultural situation. However, these reasons do not explain how exactly these factors influence the consciousness of indigenous people and determine the behavior patterns leading to alcohol consumption or suicide. This research report empirically tests the hypothesis that the group-specific attribution style that makes these people more pessimistically assess reasons and causes of events happening to and around them can play a role. The results of quantitative research conducted among teenagers representing both indigenous and non-indigenous populations of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region and the Republic of Komi generally confirm this hypothesis.

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Alena V. Ivanova

This article covers the process of identity construction in children; this process defines the focus of Russian educational policy, which also provides a venue for alternative ways to implement it. The article presents research on designing a system to form national, regional, and ethnocultural identity in children of the indigenous people of the North via the curriculum and teaching aids. The article examines regions of Russia inhabited by indigenous small-numbered peoples, as well as their distinctive features, which have a significant impact on the process of identity construction in children of the North. This has revealed the specific character of the large formation of positive types of identity within the educational system.

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Sergey V. Sokolovskiy

This article is a case study of the emergence and construction of politically salient social classifications that underpin such phenomena as ethnicity and nationalism in contemporary Russia. Official recognition of ethnic group in Russia often entails political visibility and special status with an associated set of legal provisions. In addition to 'titular peoples' of the republics, the Russian legal system has several legal categories based on ethnicity, such as indigenous peoples and national minorities, whose members claim and attain special status and associated rights. In order to ensure these rights, the state administration needs reliable information on the numbers of people in such categories.

The article analyzes ethnic and languages categorization in the population census of 2002, describes the related census technology, comments on legal definitions of indigenous peoples in Russia, and within this framework elaborates on the topic of indigeneity construction. It also provides an interpretation of the numerical threshold employed in federal laws on indigenous peoples.

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Russia's Indigenous Peoples of the North

A Demographic Portrait at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century

Dmitriy Bogoyavlenskiy

This article describes and contextualizes the current demographic status of Russia's indigenous northern peoples, considering their demographic transition and making comparisons with other indigenous Arctic populations and the entire population of the Russian Federation. Census data, public documents from 1959 to 2004, and birth and death certificates from 1998 to 2004, collected by the author, provide the source data for this demographic portrait. Russia's indigenous northern peoples are in a critical demographic situation. Extremely high and persistent adult mortality rates raise doubt about the "moderately optimistic" estimates made in some recent ethnographic accounts by Russian scholars.

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The social life of categories

Affirmative action and trajectories of the indigenous

Bengt G. Karlsson

In this article I examine the ways in which the term “indigenous peoples“ is reworked in a specific South Asian context. I focus on the new, hybrid category of “indigenous tribe“ in the Indian state of Meghalaya. I argue that we can think of the indigenous tribe category as a strategic conflation of two different regimes of rights or political assertions. The first relates to the existing nation-state framework for affirmative action as expressed in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, while the second relates to the emerging global framework for asserting the rights of indigenous peoples. While the benefits of asserting the status of indigenous tribes is obvious, for example, preventing other, nonindigenous tribes from owning land in the state, the long-term gains seems more doubtful. Both affirmative action programs and indigenous peoples frameworks are motivated by a moral imperative to redress historical injustices and contemporary social inequalities. To evoke them for other ends might eventually backfire. The larger point I seek to make, however, is that political categories tend to take on a life of their own, escaping their intended purposes and hence applied by people in novel and surprising ways.