Monday, March 8, 2021

Call for Protecting Holy Places of Northern Peoples Puts the Latter on Collision Course with Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 6 – Speaking to an International Arctic Online School this week, biologist Yevgenya Morgun called for creating special arrangements so that places holy to the numerically small peoples of the North in Russia will be protected from development and serve both their original purposes and as tourist attractions.

            She said that in gas-rich Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Oblast alone, there are already arrangements restricting development of “more than ten percent” of the oblast’s area; but she argued there should be more there and that their experience should be extended to other parts of the North as well ( and

            In Morgun’s audience were researchers from across the Russian North, the US, France, Germany, Argentina, Great Britain, Nepal, Spain and Japan, a mix that guarantees attention and support for what the numerically small peoples of the Russian Federation may seek to do in this regard.

            Such attention gives the Northern peoples particular leverage now because the Kremlin is about to assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council and so what it is doing at home will have a more than usual impact on its ability to promote Russian influence there (

            But Moscow isn’t going to want to back down if it harms Russian economic or security interests, and so Morgun’s proposal almost certainly sets the stage for new conflicts between Moscow and these native peoples, conflict that may start as religious ones but that are likely, past history suggests, to grow into political ones as well.


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