Summary of Working Paper No. 49-1996

IV.4.1: Influence of the Northern Sea Route on Social and Cultural Development of Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic Zone of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia),

By S. I. Boyakova et al. (Summary written by Deborah. B. Robinson, Institute of Arctic Studies, Dartmouth College, USA.)

As in other regions of the Russian North, the influence of the NSR upon indigenous peoples of the Sakha Republic is revealed not solely in the direct effects of Arctic shipping, but also by the indirect effects of industrial development which is closely connected with opening of the NSR. This paper examines demographic processes, traditional economic systems including reindeer herding, fishing, and hunting, public health, education, and public services. Social and cultural systems are outlined, followed by a sketch of government structures and systems and a description of the region's archeological and cultural resources.

This study suggests problems to be avoided in expanded plans for use of the NSR, as well as revealing long standing problems that need to be rectified. Development of navigation along the Arctic coast ended transport isolation of Yakutia's northern regions, improved provisioning of the northern and Arctic counties (ulusy) and allowed for the development of mining, shipbuilding, and timber industries. The NSR's influence on the Arctic indigenous peoples was concurrent with changes which took place as a result of the building of socialism and industrial development of the former USSR's northern territories; collectivization, settlement of nomadic peoples, transfer of traditional industries to state control, and conversion of natural resources to state property all provoked negative changes. Population influx contributed to other problems that came with the NSR, including: aggravation of social conditions, environmental damage, injury to the traditional economic base, lack of involvement of indigenous peoples in the northern work force, and destruction of cultural values.

Economic perspectives connected with the NSR must not contradict the indigenous populations' interests in environmental and ecological stability. Further improvements must be made to legislative mechanisms for environmental protection and assessment, sustainable use of resources, traditional methods of management, protection of ethnic territories, and Arctic native peoples' rights.