This report examines the human rights situation of the 41 indigenous peoples living in the Northern and Asian territories of the Russian Federation.
While their historical homelands account for two-thirds of the territory of contemporary Russia, these people number a little over 250,000 individuals in total. This is the equivalent of a medium-sized city stretched out over the better part of the world’s largest country, featuring some of the harsh¬est environmental conditions to be found anywhere on the planet.
The history and the human rights situation of these groups is little known to most people, even within their own country, the Russian Federation.
Contemporary situation of indigenous peoples in Russia
In recent years, Europe’s dependency on Russia’s fossil fuels has come high on the political agenda and yet the indigenous inhabitants of the regions from where these natural riches originate remain mostly invisible.
One of the main problems of Russia’s indigenous peoples is their invisibility: they are overlooked by corporations exploiting the natural riches of Siberia, by policy makers devising laws and strategies to shape the present and future of the Russian Arctic, by public and private donors, who deem Russia’s indigenous peoples ineligible for technical and financial assistance due to their geographic location in the developed world, and even by civil society activists who regard the situation of indigenous peoples as a negligible issue compared to the many other pressing human rights challenges facing Russia or to the current threats to the Arctic environment.
This report offers a contribution to raising the visibility of the indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation and their serious and pressing human rights concerns, which require all parties involved to take immediate and effective action.
First and foremost, this obligation concerns the Russian state as the principal bearer of human rights obligations, duty-bound to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of every person within its boundaries or under its jurisdiction. However, it also concerns all other parties whose actions or omissions have an influence over the human rights situation of Russia’s indigenous communities: foreign governments in whose territories business enterprises are domiciled but whose operations affect these communities’ means of subsistence; Russian and foreign business enterprises extracting natural resources from indigenous peoples’ territories; conservation organisations seeking to establish natural parks in indigenous territories; and the international human rights community as a whole.