Maria Pavlova & Sardana Nikolaeva

Ethnological Impact Assessment (EIA) has been implemented in Sakha Republic for almost eleven years. The existing literature on the EIA process focuses on the experiences of primary stakeholders – mining companies and Indigenous communities. What is missing from this discussion is a critical examination of the important role of consultants responsible for carrying out assessments, creating links, and contributing to productive negotiations between companies and communities. Most importantly, we need more thorough understanding of consultants’ positionality, their perceptions on practices of EIA, their interactions with all key stakeholders involved, and challenges faced before, during, and after EIA. In this article, we investigate the role of specifically native consultants, who occupy a unique position to conduct EIAs more effectively - practicing more transparent and responsible communication and decision-making, and with more benefits for communities. This article builds on the data collected through the professional experiential narrative of the first author, who has participated in more than thirteen EIAs and other projects as a professional consultant in Sakha, and the ethnographic observations, supplemented with the semi-structured interviews with the consultants and communities by the second author in the Arctic Indigenous district. Ultimately, we argue that the EIA projects (and policies based on them) must involve and be conducted primarily by local native practitioners and consultants since they are essential in trust-building and forging power-balanced partnerships with Indigenous communities without prioritizing companies’ extractivist interests.

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Ksenia Barabanova

The area of the North of Western Siberia is a unique project of historical memory. Part of its uniqueness is due to the fact that virgin oil lands continue to remain relevant, unlike other Soviet projects for the development of areas and socialist constructions. The development of the territories of the North of Western Siberia began in the 16th century, but the historical memory of the region dates back to the 1960s. The main plot for the historical memory of the region was the development of nature and the appropriation of natural resources. The most important figure of memory for the North of Western Siberia has become the image of a pioneer oilman. Commemorative practices of the Great Patriotic War were used in the formation of the memory of the conquest of nature. Representatives of the Indigenous peoples of the Khanty and Mansi have become the default figure in the historical memory of the North of Western Siberia. Despite the national projects for the preservation of the culture of Indigenous peoples, their representatives did not become part of the region's memory project. Thus, the Indigenous people are ousted from the region's memory project by the figure of a pioneer, with the arrival of which the history and historical memory of the North of Western Siberia begins.

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Maria Fedina

Urban areas are often perceived as non-compliant with Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and therefore seen as threatening for sustaining Indigenous identities. At the same time, the global urban Indigenous population keeps growing, in some areas already surpassing the rural one. In this setting, the concept of indigeneity and particularly territoriality as its vital component should be addressed critically.

In this contribution I aim to investigate how Komi residents of the capital city perceive themselves in urban space and what meanings they attribute to being a Komi urban resident. I do it by referring to their personal and autobiographical stories told to me during my fieldwork performed in Syktyvkar from October 2021 to February 2022.

I argue that urban Komi employ two major strategies in sustaining their identities in the city. Some of them continue perceiving themselves as products of rurality and therefore maintain their Kominess by continuously returning to the rural areas and searching for rural elements in the city. Others maintain and develop their Komi identity by exploring new possibilities the city may offer and, when doing so, they contrapose rurality to modernity and innovation. In either way, urban Komi residents are regarded, particularly by their rural counterparts, as multifaceted actors combining rural and urban implications of themselves. Being at large connected with their rural counterparts, resilience and actual decision-making power of urban Komi community is therefore closely related to the prosperity of all Komi people.

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Maria Huhmarniemi & Ekaterina Sharova

The Voice of Artists exhibition was shown in an art gallery in Lapland, Finland, as a statement to consider artists’ societal and political roles as opposition to centralised power. At the same time, many Western organisations banned Russian cultural and academic collaboration due to the Russian invasion in Ukraine in the spring of 2022. This article discusses the Voice of Artists exhibition project and considers the possibilities, ethics and obstacles for non-governmental art associations when collaborating with Russian artists in the Arctic region. The study is a continuation of arts-based action research to foster sustainability through international collaborations in arts and education. The theoretical background of the article is based on studies on critical and political contemporary art in Russia, colonial relations in Russia and art history when national romanticism endorsed and appropriated the North and the Arctic region. Power structures in Russian culture are Moscow-centred, and there is a need to decolonise and strengthen regional structures in arts and culture organisations, foundations and policies. Human-to-human contact without interference from the state seems fruitful in providing new dialogue and new knowledge.

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Sohvi Kangasluoma

The oil and gas industry has historically been and still remains, very male-dominated. In Arctic Russia, where the oil and gas industry is an important local employer and actor, the narratives, perceptions, and opportunities that the industry creates are meaningful. Fully understanding extractivism and its multiple natures consequently requires focusing on the different identities connected with it. This article seeks to understand how women are present and presented within the Russian Arctic oil and gas industry. With the concepts of ecofeminism, intersectionality, and biopolitics guiding my reading, I performed affective visual reading and content analysis to examine Instagram posts of the local subsidiary of Gazprom and responses to a questionnaire that I made and distributed among local women. The article shows how assigning certain roles to women and minorities that emphasize motherhood, control the living space of the Indigenous Peoples, and support physical fitness are all tools of biopolitical governance aimed at enforcing nationalist narratives.

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Daria Burnasheva

Indigenous women as water protectors, men as firefighters – this paper contributes to the understanding of gender and indigeneity in the context of climate change by looking at what is underneath this established dichotomy. In the last decades, Sakha (Yakutia) in northeast Russia has literally gone through fire and water. The devastating floods and wildfires have caused not only economic and environmental losses but most importantly, social and cultural consequences. However, this paper does not intend to look at the vulnerability, adaptability, and resilience of Indigenous communities in the face of climate change and related disasters. Instead, it attempts to understand what has shaped the existing power relations, strengthened social inequalities and their gendered dynamics in this particular context. As an Indigenous feminist, I approach these issues from Sakha Indigenous paradigm. In Sakhaspeaking rural communities, we still call ourselves people of woods and we refer to big water bodies as our grandmothers. This particular ontological viewpoint has been a methodological suggestion for my research and defined the specific way the analysis has been conducted. As a result, I claim that an entire shift in paradigm is needed in order to adequately address the climate change impacts such as wildfires. We should think not only about fighting wildfires but also about protecting forests, which will shift our perspective from what to fight to what to protect. In academic research, shifting the subject of study can raise novel research questions and opportunities for new critical analysis. Addressing the root causes of the wildfires will mean not only fighting its consequences but preventing this disaster. Finally, in the Indigenous feminist paradigms, protecting waters and forests means taking care of our human and other-than-human relations and, on a greater scale, our ways-of-being in this world.

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