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Arctic Indigenous People’s Summit Addresses Preservation of Cultural and Linguistic Heritage of Northern Ethnic Groups

3 November 2022
Сохранение культурного и языкового наследия этносов Севера обсудили  на Саммите коренных малочисленных народов Арктики

Participants in the Arctic Indigenous People’s Summit, which took place on 2 November in Moscow, discussed the latest approaches to preserving the languages and cultural heritage of the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic, their traditional economy, cross-border cooperation, and state regulation of the activities of communities of Indigenous ethnic groups of the North. The Summit was held as part of the plan of events for Russia’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023, which are organized by the Roscongress Foundation.

“Russia consistently works to improve the well-being of the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic and preserve their cultures, customs, and languages. The Summit participants presented their expert assessments and ideas concerning the most significant issues in the development of the small-numbered ethnic groups of the Russian North. I am confident that the work that was carried out will become a solid foundation for future projects in this area and will be reflected in new legislative initiatives,” said Anton Kobyakov, Advisor to the Russian President and Executive Secretary of the Organizing Committee of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021-2023.

Specifically, the Summit participants discussed the implementation of the Arctic Council’s project ‘Digitalization of the Linguistic and Cultural Heritage of the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic’, which was initiated by Russia. Mikhail Pogodayev, Special Representative of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council for Indigenous Peoples and Regional Cooperation and Deputy Minister for the Development of the Arctic and the Peoples of the North of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), said the project primarily aims to preserve the endangered languages and cultures of the peoples of the North. As part of the project, a GIS map of the languages of ethnic groups in Russia will be created. In the future, these materials will be used for educational purposes and to promote the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic.

Reports were also presented on the initiatives of the Association for the Preservation and Development of Native Languages, an interactive atlas of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East, as well as an Olympiad in the native languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation.

“We will encourage interaction between Indigenous and economic operators in high latitudes. This is important for the people and to ensure the socioeconomic development of the regions. I would like to specifically point out the Arctic Council’s project ‘Indigenous Youth, Food Culture, and Change in the Arctic’, which aims to study the gastronomic traditions of the peoples of the North, promote the products of Indigenous Peoples, and increase their added value. This will all help to solve food security problems. We are also mulling the possibility of putting forward an initiative to establish the Creative Arctic project. This is an important project that will help to develop and establish creative competencies and skills among representatives of the Indigenous Peoples of the North,” said Nikolay Korchunov, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials and Ambassador-at-Large for Arctic Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Summit participants also discussed the implementation of a programme to provide state support for the traditional economic activities of the Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation, which was approved in 2021. Soslan Abisalov, Director of the Department for the Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and the Implementation of Infrastructure Projects of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Arctic, said the programme includes 40 measures that aim to improve the well-being of Indigenous Peoples and develop infrastructure, education, and the tourism industry. The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and the Nenets and Chukotka Autonomous Districts are participating in the programme.

“The plan’s measures aim to support Indigenous communities. Some of the interesting projects that are being implemented include the creation of a network of trade and logistics centres for northern deliveries, the establishment of production facilities for nomads on the territory of the Nenets Autonomous District, and the provision of vehicles for educational organizations in Yakutia,” Abisalov said.

An expanded meeting of the Expert Advisory Council of the Russian Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs on the socioeconomic development of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East was held as part of the Summit. Experts from specialized organizations, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, and the Government of the Nenets Autonomous District discussed the practice of registering the place of residence of Russian citizens from among Indigenous Peoples who lead a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle and do not have a permanent place of residence.

During the Summit, Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation Tatyana Moskalkova and President of the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the North Grigory Ledkov signed an agreement on cooperation to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, organize educational projects, exchange information about human rights violations, and hold joint events to draft bills and promote them in parliament.

The discussions were attended by representatives of 40 Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic, the legislative and executive authorities, as well as experts and specialists from public organizations. Nyadma Nyaruy and Masne Vanuyto, artists from the National Cultures Centre of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, performed on the sidelines of the Summit.

The Summit was held as part of the 3rd Peoples of Russia National Forum and was timed to coincide with the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022–2032). The event was organized by the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs.

Russia is the chair of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023. One of the main priorities of Russia’s chairmanship is to develop human capital in the region, including the Indigenous Peoples of the North. Russia devotes special attention to maintaining the sustainability and viability of the peoples of the North, promoting measures to adapt them to climate change, improving people’s well-being, health, education, and quality of life, and ensuring sustainable socioeconomic development throughout the region. The Russian side has initiated projects to digitalize the cultural and linguistic heritage of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, develop renewable energy sources, create an international Arctic research station that runs on carbon-free energy, and ensure biosecurity in the Arctic. In addition, Russia is preparing draft proposals on the traditional medicine of Indigenous Peoples and the development of creative industries in the Arctic, and is working on an initiative to create Digital Museums of the Arctic