Summary of Working Paper No. 152-1999

IV.4.1 The Northern Sea Route and Local Communities in Northwest Russia: Social Impact Assessment for the Murmansk Region

By Yulian Konstantinov, New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria.

Murmansk Region is the most urbanized administrative area in the Russian Far North and also an area with a very sizeable presence of the military-industrial complex (VPK). The local communities whose livelihood is based mainly on reindeer-herding and fishing are only about 8% of the total of 1,250,000 people. As this tundra-connected population has been concentrated mainly in the inland, central part of the Kola Peninsula (Lovozersky Rayon), NSR expansion may be expected not to affect them directly, but mainly insofar as it has a bearing on current processes in the urban and VPK communities.

NSR expansion may be expected to alleviate the currently very critical situation of a stranded urban population - labour migrants from the South who are unemployed, but have no place to go back to. Participation of the VPK in the project may help improve its own state. As poaching-pressure on renewable resources in the Region comes primarily from these two major actors, alleviation of the crisis in their sectors, combined with new economic means for increased control, will with certainty contribute towards saving the resource-base of the tundra-connected local population.

The concept of tundra-connected local population is discussed in detail in the paper. Due to historical and demographic reasons it has come to include not only the indigenous Sami people, but also other groups: those of the Komi, Nenets, and Pomor communities. The area of concern for the local population must be expanded beyond the confines of a strictly indigenous status.

The main recommendation of the paper is that NSR expansion must not disrupt the traditional resource-base of the local groups by taking industrial, mining, or infrastructural projects into the main reindeer-herding area, administratively comprised by Lovozersky Rayon, i.e. east of the Murmansk-St. Petersburg railway-line. It is strongly suggested that the Rayon should be helped to acquire the status of a protected reindeer-herding and wild-nature zone, with infrastructural (transport) problems being solved by improved air transport. Furthermore it is emphasized that the ecological safety of the Region as well as of territories far beyond its boundaries critically depends on solving existing problems of storage and processing of high concentrations of nuclear waste which may be expected to increase with nuclear-powered ice-breaker additions and projected conversion activities.