Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Window on Eurasia: International Arctic Organizations Back Russian Arctic Group Moscow has Suspended

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 14 – International organizations concerned with Arctic peoples have spoken out on behalf of the Association of Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the North  Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation (RAIPON) whose operations the Russian justice ministry suspended five days ago.

            Yesterday, RAIPON’s website posted an analysis of the Moscow directive with its lawyers arguing that the justice ministry had applied the law incorrectly, and today the site features both an appeal to senior officials of the Arctic powers and the letters RAIPON has already received from several international organizations involved with the Arctic peoples.

            Such international support, the product of long and hitherto Moscow-approved contacts between Russian and international Arctic peoples groups, suggests that the Russian authorities may seek a way to suspend their suspension order.  At the very least, this pattern means that Moscow has created new problems for itself internationally by incautious behavior at home.

            On November 9, the Russian justice ministry suspended RAIPON until April 20, 2013, because Moscow said it had failed to comply with Russian laws requiring all-Russian organizations have legally recognized branches in a majority of the country’s subjects (

            According to lawyers with whom it consulted, the justice ministry’s ruling lacks legal foundation.  The provisions of Russian law the ministry cites “do not apply,” RAIPON insists, and the organization notes that it has been working with Moscow since 2011 to ensure it is in compliance which up until now had ruled that RAIPON was operating within the law (

            That has prompted RAIPON to issue an “open statement” to the senior officials of the Arctic Council, a body on which it has represented the Russian Federation but which also includes delegations from Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United States (

            The appeal notes that “for the first time in the history of the Senior Arctic Officials’ meeting, the working place under the RAIPON flag will remain empty. For the first time, RAIPON will not be able to participate in the SAO Arctic Council meeting due to political reasons.”

            And, it continues, “for the first time, RAIPON has to use the Arctic Council venue for an open political statement, something that never happened before given the mandate and spirit of cooperation within the Arctic Council.”

            The Russian organization points out that RAIPON has worked on an entirely legal basis “for the last 22 years,” a period that it said included “years of hope for improvement of the situation in Russia” regarding “the rights of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East.”

            Now, however, the letter stressed, these hopes have largely dissipated. Russian officials by their “repressive” move against RAIPON and their “rude interference in the internal affairs of RAIPON” are responsible for this, and the RAIPON leadership said it will continue to operate as it has up to now.

            Expressing gratitude to the international participants in the Arctic Council, RAIPON said it remains open “for cooperation and dialogue with the Russian federal authorities on the basis of mutual respect.” But at the same time, it calls on the members of that Council to urge Moscow “to stop administrative and political pressure and interference with the self-governance of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East.

            The RAIPON website says the organization is receiving calls and letters of support from allied groups abroad (, and today it published copies of three of them:

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