Staunton, November 18 – “For the first time ever,” an article in “Novaya gazeta”on Friday says, the Russian government of Vladimir Putin has given an honest explanation on why it has been moving against ethnic leaders and their community organizations: Such people, officials suggest, “interfere with business.”
The “Novaya gazeta” article focuses on the Russian justice ministry’s recent decision to suspend the activities o the Association of Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East (RAIPON) for supposed violations of that group of Russian laws on public organizations (www.novayagazeta.ru/economy/55433.html).
Moscow in fact took that step and others like it, according to human rights activists and ecologists, because, in the words of “Novaya,” “the regime is cleansing the space from which resources are being extracted and thereby making it as convenient as possible” for the businesses involved to do so.
RAIPON presents particular problems for Moscow, the paper continues, because it defends “the interests of the time immemorial population” of an enormous resource-rich part of the country, because its leaders are outspoken, and because it enjoys the status of a permanent participant in the Arctic Council, which brings together the eight countries of the Arctic.
And its leaders are not shy about using their international connections to bring pressure on Moscow. Rodion Zulyandziga, the organization’s first vice president, told “Novya” hat he had just returned from Stockholm where he had spoken out against the Russian government’s latest actions against his organization and against the peoples of his region.
The industrialization of the Russian North is proceeding very rapidly, he said, and today “the indigenous peoples are one of the last barriers on the path of companies and governments seeking to extract these resources.” In that situation, “it is easy to apply force measures, using selective legal actions” in order not to spend “extra efforts, time and resources in negotiations with the indigenous peoples.”
According to Zyulyandziga, Moscow is seeking to take control of the situation in the Russian North by a police of “’divide and conquer’” and has plans to “lower the status of [RAIPON] and fiind a replacement” that will be more cooperative at home and reflect Moscow’s wishes in international venues like the Arctic Council and the United Nations.
Moscow’s move against RAIPON is part of a broader campaign. Last month, the FSB moved against the Dylacha ethnic community in Buryatia so that a Russian company could get control of jade mining there. Moreover, the Russian authorities have accused Ivan Moiseyev, a Pomor activist of treason. His trial starts this week.
And clearly under guidance from the Kremlin, the Duma rejected a proposal that would have created an ethnological expertise body. Such a group would have been allowed to way in on business projects, getting in the way of mining in the North and the construction of hydro-dams in many parts of the Russian Federation
Moiseyev and especially RAIPON have already attracted widespread attention and support (www.peoples-rights.info/otkrytoe-pismo-vladimiru-putinu-ob-antipravovom-zakrytii-minyustom-rf-associacii-korennyx-malochislennyx-narodov-severa-sibiri-i-dalnego-vostoka-rossijskoj-federacii/), and the Social Chamber is set to discuss these issues on Monday (raipon.info/component/content/article/1-novosti/3608------------lr.html).
This media attention has led at least one Moscow commentator to speculate on whether all this is intended to create a situation where President Vladimir Putin can interfere and present himself as the savior of the North (www.mk.ru/politics/article/2012/11/15/774933-pomozhet-li-putin-narodam-severa.html). But given his priorities, that seems a very distant hope.