Staunton, September 7 – In the name of fighting poaching and other forms of illegal hunting, officials of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District together with officers of the Russian National Guard and fishing agency are confiscating the weapons of the indigenous population there, sparking protests.
Representatives of the Northern peoples say that “anyone in the tundra without a weapon is condemned to death” and that the Russian officials who are swooping down in helicopters on isolated groups of these communities and taking away weapons are ignoring this reality (mbk.sobchakprotivvseh.ru/region/chelovek-v-tundre-bez-ruzhya/).
Eiko Serotetto, a Yamal resident, tells MBK journalist Anton Voronov that officials have taken guns away from local people before, but “people didn’t advertise this because they were afraid to do so and did not have access to the Internet.” Today, however, both of those conditions have changed.
Serotetto doesn’t think there is much chance that the Northern peoples will get their guns back. The authorities want to reduce the Northern peoples to the same status as far as weapons are concerned as residents of all other parts of the country, even though the conditions of life in the north are very different.
Most of the numerically small ethnic groups in the Yamal, he points out, live by hunting and fishing. If they don’t have the tools they need for this – and in this case, that includes hunting rifles – then they will be condemned either to death or giving up their traditional way of life.
The Yamal officials who are engaged in this confiscatory practice are often local Russians, but they are not representatives of the numerically small peoples who could explain why such a campaign is counter-productive, however much Moscow and oil and gas companies want the Northern peoples to be disarmed.
Not surprisingly, officials see the situation differently, Voronov reports. They say they are only going after illegally acquired or stored weapons and not all guns and that many local people are more than ready to cooperate with them in enforcing the law. Serotetto disputes such claims, pointing out that they ignore longstanding traditions and attitudes.
He does acknowledge that often members of these numerically small communities don’t know their rights or are afraid to assert them, things that the Russian authorities count on so that they can do whatever they like and whatever benefits them regardless of its consequences for the people.