We publish a compilation of the speeches of the “Opposing Russian Colonial Oppression: Voices of Different Peoples” panelists. The event was hosted on the 25th of October in the European Parliament by MEP Rasa Juknevičienė in cooperation with the Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial.
I am Ukrainian.
My presentation is about the Ukrainian way of resisting Russian colonial oppression and my personal story which has become part of this way. My story shows that freedom and self-awareness as a citizen can’t be separated from the daily struggle for civil rights.
I am now 35 years old, and my Ukrainian identity did not take shape immediately. Three important milestones on this path are the two revolutions of 2004 and 2013 and the full–scale war unleashed by Russia. I think that this process is over now — I am 1000% Ukrainian, and this will not change. My 6-year-old son has been living in Belgium for the last 2 years because of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Through this time, he has spoken and thought a lot about his feeling of being a Ukrainian.
I come from an apolitical family of scientists. I do not remember thinking about being Ukrainian till my 18 years old. There was no reason to think and question this statement; on the contrary, it wasn’t so popular to raise this topic in post-Soviet times in Ukraine. People were not tolerant of such expressions. In the early post-Soviet period, the political and public life of Ukraine was under the enormous influence of Russia and its political agenda – in this sense, the colonial pressure that developed back in the days of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union continued and was not overcome, although its anti-democratic and illegal nature contradicted progress, independence and human rights.
Like many citizens of the country, I did not understand the danger of this influence for a long time. Political and media propaganda successfully fed us lies. However, at a certain moment we realized that this is a serious and literally life choice: to exist in independent and democratic Ukraine, or to die if civil rights are taken away from us. We decided to live. To be Ukraine and fight for what belongs to us by right.
In 2004, a big peaceful revolution took place, a pro-Ukrainian presidential candidate and his supporters fought for democratic change against a pro-Russian candidate. I was 16 years old, and for the first time I saw an ideological conflict between the future and the past, between what I feel is right progressive, and what can remain “as always”.
Since then, I have been actively defending my own and others’ civil rights. Ukraine was droning in corruption, injustice, and unlawful actions of arrogant officials. As youth activists, me and my friends were fighting for our basic rights: the right to freedom of assembly, the right to vote, the right to medical care for students etc. We demanded high-quality performance of our duties from the authorities.
There weren’t many of us, but we managed to achieve positive changes. It was a good school for me. We felt that we were at the forefront of the Ukrainian civil movement. And we really took on a lot of responsibility as citizens of Ukraine. It was patriotic and brave to speak Ukrainian publicly and privately in Odesa or Donetsk, to gather large rallies in support of some new laws or in protest against actions of some minister. At that time, not everyone shared our activism, it was a bit dangerous, many people said that “this is not normal”, “we don’t usually do this.”
I was an idealist, I didn’t see the whole picture, thus when the pro-Russian government came to power in Ukraine in 2010 with Viktor Yanukovych as president, I didn’t realize that this was the beginning of a real catastrophe. But it was clear that these changes pose a direct threat to Ukrainian democracy and that we must be ready for confrontation and struggle.
When Euromaidan gathered in 2013, when the times of the peaceful Revolution of Dignity came, I was scared, but I was in the forefront. It was obvious: in order to become the Ukraine we want, we need to fight and win. I realized that once again I bear great responsibility for the future of our country, while others sit at home and do nothing. There were so many of us in the main squares of the country during those months of the Revolution of Dignity, and for me this civil movement was an example of such instruments of a democratic society as social protest, public campaigns, educating people, participating in elections, going to the courts, advocacy.
We didn’t use the word “imperialism” then, but my friend was killed in the center of Kyiv among more than 100 participants in a peaceful protest – because of Russia and its imperialism. My Crimea was forcibly occupied by Russia – with all the people and relationships that were between people. Russia went on an open offensive, it was cruel and unfair, and we did not expect it.
But did it stop me from being Ukrainian?
Did I stop being responsible, wanting to live my life in my land with our Ukrainian problems and talents?
Did it make me less rightful to what is mine?
Today we, Ukrainians, and the whole democratic world on our side, are fighting a final battle with Russia. Ukraine will stand to the end, and our people have never had such consolidation. The threat of Russia and its imperial ambitions have existed for centuries, but it was not so easy to realize how deadly it is.
In conclusion, three points that I have learned:
- democratic rights should be constantly fought for, since reactionary forces use any weakness of opponents;
- this fight should be serious, civil rights protection mechanisms should be strong and effective, since the price of the issue is the independence of the country and the lives of its citizens;
- we cannot wait for violent conflicts – we need to prevent them and take measures when dialogue is still possible, and not when weapons are used.
Russian colonial pressure in Central Asia
My presentation is about the opposition to Russian colonial pressure in Central Asia, which I know firsthand. It’s an honour for me to be the voice of peoples of Central Asia. Our region is multinational, multicultural, and therefore it is not surprising that many people there have a complicated identity, such as mine – there are Uzbek, Ukrainian, Pamir-Tajik, Moldovan components. All these peoples experienced colonial oppression during the Russian Empire, and in Soviet times the policy of suppression continued. The results of this policy have affected the history of my family and my personal history even now, when more than 30 years have passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Throughout my life, I have faced injustice as a migrant in Russia, as a Pamiri in Tajikistan, and as a Ukrainian, when a full-scale war in Ukraine began.
In the Soviet Union, internationalism and friendship of peoples were proclaimed, but in fact national movement was suppressed. That’s why so many ethnic conflicts and pogroms happened after the collapse of the USSR. Since childhood, my roots have been suppressed and erased, even if they were diverse, but I did not feel like a Pamiri, a Ukrainian or a Tajik. Concepts connected with culture, native language, tradition and religion of the peoples were considered as nationalism or even extremism. Already at the time of independence, such a policy continued in the countries of Central Asia towards minorities.
The countries of Central Asia are still very dependent on Russia. In the time of the Russian Empire, it related primarily to the exploitation of natural resources and cheap labor of the local population, in mines, salt extraction, construction of railways, and military fortifications. Nowadays, in the 21st century, there is a multimillion labor migration of Central Asian residents to Russia. I have experienced it myself – this is a biased attitude, constant humiliation, oppression, disrespect, and rudeness, both from the side of ordinary people and from the authorities and state structures in Russia. This is a cruel exploitation of workers; they live and work in poor conditions, safety regulations are often not observed, and workers die from accidents. Russia’s migration rules are designed in such a way that it is impossible to comply with, thus workers from Central Asia often become victims of police raids, constant extortion of bribes from the police, corruption in migration authorities, expulsions, blacklisting entry bans. Racism remains a huge problem in Russia, both at domestic and state level. People of non-Slavic appearance, of non-Russian nationality feel this at every step. In my case, it was not my appearance or skin color, but my documents and citizenship. I have been looking for a job in Russia for a long time. I have a higher education; I speak Russian perfectly. I made a very good impression at the interview, but as soon as the employer found out that I was from Tajikistan, the attitude towards me changed dramatically. It no longer mattered what kind of experience I have, what kind of knowledge I possess – since I am a migrant and a Tajikistan citizen, it means that there is no trust.
Now, during the war in Ukraine, labor migrants from Central Asia are paying a terrible price for their migration and for the dependence of our region on Russia. Many of them, in order to avoid bureaucracy and corruption, document checks at every step, decided to obtain Russian citizenship, and now they are forcibly subjected to mobilization as citizens of Russia. Many migrants who have retained the citizenship of their countries are tricked into signing a contract with the Russian army, or they are attracted to work in the occupied territories of Ukraine, thus they participate in war crimes. Thus, they are now dying not on construction sites in Russia and not from attacks by Russian racists, but in the criminal war.
This also has its analogies in the history of the Russian Empire. During the First World War, Tsar Nicholas II issued a decree on the mobilization of 400 thousand so-called aliens, meaning non-Russian population of Siberia and Central Asia, into the army for rear work. Then it became the cause of a mass uprising, which was suppressed in the most brutal way by punitive detachments of the Russian army and Cossacks. Fleeing from the repression, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz fled to Western China. Now history repeats itself, in line with the full-scale war in Ukraine and the mobilization of migrants and indigenous peoples in Russia.
Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Ukrainian identity has awakened in me, I have become more aware of all these analogies, of the influence of Russian history on our countries. I have seen two wars – the civil war in Tajikistan and now the war in Ukraine. I didn’t want such a life for my children, but my children also experienced the war. We again became refugees.
There is such an expression “Russia is a prison of peoples.” The peoples of Central Asia remain hostages of the Russian Federation. The situation will change only with the victory of Ukraine.
I am from Dagestan, and it’s hard to speak on behalf of the whole republic because there are many views about the policies of Russia towards Dagestani people. Thus, I will cover the diversity of opinions present in Dagestan society about the imperial policies of Russia. They depend on social status, religion, or ethnicity, and many other factors. For us, the period of the imperial policies of Russia has started since 1859 when Imam Shamil was imprisoned, he was the leader of the Caucasian opposition to Russia who later surrendered, and Russia guaranteed freedom of religion for Caucasus, Dagestan, and Chechnya. For a long time, they respected this agreement.
Already in 1980-90, discrimination of Dagestanis and en mass other Caucasians in Russia became obvious. It includes, for instance, difficulties in renting apartments (in the announcements it is mentioned “For Slavs only”) or in employment. It happens even in the army; when I was serving in the border troops, a FSB agent recruited people for the elite troops to safeguard presidential facilities, and he said that only Slavs are allowed. When I asked why only Slavs, he was a bit confused because it was not legal, and referred to a recommendation from higher authorities. I think many people from Caucasus have faced such situations.
In the state federal media, the origin or ethnicity of Caucasians are always stressed in publications about committed crimes. And, referring to my 14-year professional experience as a Human Rights lawyer in cooperation with the Memorial, Caucasians in central regions of Russia usually get longer prison terms than representatives of the Slavic population for the same crimes with the same aggravating or mitigating circumstances. In prison facilities, Caucasians are frequently discriminated by prison guards and administrations only because of the ethnicity and religion.
Some events made Dagestani people doubtful about being an equal actor in Russia. For instance, in 2010, Russia gave two Dagestani villages in Magaramkent district to Azerbaijan, together with surrounding pastures. It’s not only about the land; it’s also about water resources (Samur river) which is more expensive than gold in southern Dagestan. After the collapse of USSR in 1991, these villages found themselves surrounded by Azerbaijani territory, but they always belonged to Dagestan. In September 2010, the agreement was signed on the state border between Azerbaijan and Russia, signed by former Russian President Medvedev and the President Aliyev, while Dagestani people were not asked about it; no one spoke about this on state media. The previous President of Dagestan Mukhu Aliyev blocked the agreement at the stage of the negotiations in Baku and even had a conflict with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov. The agreement was signed after Mukhu Aliyev had to leave his position due to his opposition to the issue of new demarcation.
In Dagestani society, there is an opinion that corruption, which, according to the formal statistics, is one of the highest in Dagestan among other regions of Russia, is determined as a tool used by the federal center to retard the economic development of Dagestan. The thesis that Dagestan lives on subsidies from Moscow is very actively promoted by the federal government, but many people in Dagestan don’t believe in it because the republic has very good economic potential to be sustainable, and it could survive as an independent state.
We observe an imitation of fight against corruption in Dagestan, it’s obvious to the population of the republic. 10 years ago, there were so many arrests of high officials (mayors, ministers), but the arrested ones were replaced by people who don’t have good reputation and had been involved into corruption schemes before.
The problem of pressure against the religious communities of Dagestan is acute. Muslims are about 90% of population in Dagestan. The federal center has introduced the so-called preventative registration of people inclined to Islamist extremism and terrorism, but in fact these semi-official lists include random people, even those who do not confess any religions. Our Human Rights center Memorial was approached by many people who found themselves on the list. The authorities deny that such list exists, but everyone knows about it. People are stopped at checkpoints, they are interrogated, fingerprinted, photographed, kept for hours, the police take samples of their saliva and voices, their homes are visited; so it creates a problem in day-to-day life. The officers of the Ministry of Interior aim at identifying as many as possible persons inclined to extremism; as they fail to identify many people, they just try to fulfill the plan grabbing believers in a mosque during a police raid. According to some estimations, there are about 20,000 to 25,000 persons in Dagestan included in this list, and the majority are those having nothing to do with any extremism or terrorism.
On the background of all these issues, the opinion of independence of Dagestan is becoming more popular, but the majority thinks that it is not realistic. The strong argument against it is the experience of Chechnya. Two wars in Chechnya, as you know, were not only for territorial independence, but also along the religious lines. Many Dagestani people know the situation firsthand, and they understand that Dagestan can turn into another Chechnya with radical religious groups grabbing the power. This factor is a serious concern for many Dagestanis, no matter how much they disagree with the federal center. Although many Dagestani people hate Russia as a metropolis, the issue of sovereignty is frozen, and people don’t know how to go about this idea and how to avoid the Chechen scenario.
Thank you very much for inviting me. It is very interesting to listen to the stories of all the speakers that echoed in me. I’m going to dwell on my own story, and tell you about the general situation of indigenous peoples of Russia. I belong to the Shor, a small indigenous people from Russia, living in Kemerovo Oblast, which is the coal area of Kuzbass. Five years ago, I had to flee from Russia because my family and I were fighting against the barbaric excavation of coal in Kuzbass and we were threatened and harassed by Russian authorities and large coal corporations. We got asylum in Sweden.
Indigenous peoples of Russia are different. I’m from a small indigenous people, and there are larger ones. Non-Russians in Russia have always been suffering. In Russia, my people have been fishing and hunting for centuries and used to do smith work before we lost this type of our traditional handcrafting because the Russians prohibited smith working to our people. Today, we are losing traditional crafts like fishing and hunting because of the barbaric excavation of coal. Our taiga is being destroyed, and our rivers are polluted by the barbaric open mine excavation of coal. Today, we are losing such traditional crafts as fishing, hunting, and many of my people relocate to urban areas. They lose their native language; they assimilate, undergo urbanization, and naturally, our health really suffers. Our children are born with horrible diseases. There’s a very high rate of cancer because of the environmental disaster in our region. This is one of the chains in the link of the colonial policy of Russia.
Indigenous peoples of Russia have been suffering, and we can see this today. We could see this when a large-scale invasion of the Russian troops started in Ukraine a year ago. Who were the first people to be mobilised in the army, who were sent to the front? The representatives of indigenous people: Yakuts, Buryats, Tuvans. Some of our men escape mobilisation just going to taiga for hunting, berry-picking, and traditional survival. There was a case of escape via Alaska when men crossed the border by boat and asked for asylum. Many people could not hide; they didn’t know what to do. They are grabbed and enlisted. There were reported cases in Yakutia in faraway villages, there were no roads, the mobilised people were taken by helicopters. Some representatives of indigenous people go to the war voluntarily because they are subjected to propaganda. Many of them go there just to make their living. They die, and then their bodies are brought home. The Shors are 10,000 people, and if they enlist 10 or 20 men, it’s a big lost. Some of our people are prisoners of war. Many of them get back from the war wounded and disable. It’s a horrible tragedy for our peoples. Some people who are in prisons conclude contracts to come back to their homeland as alleged heroes. In general, it’s horrible, scary, and very sad. It’s important to highlight it, and it’s important that we’re here today to discuss it.
The agenda of colonial oppression is very acute. We have been speaking about that for a long time. This situation in our region, the situation with coal excavation, has been going on for quite a while. Indigenous peoples not only in Russia but around the world usually live in areas with a lot of resources, and there is a conflict between the peoples and businesses. We have a right to our area, and there should be informed preliminary consent. However, Russia does not recognize the rights of indigenous peoples. Russia tries to manipulate indigenous peoples when those who have lots of money and leverage buy the representatives of some organizations among indigenous people. They present us as funny people who just dance and sing, but they do nothing for our native language, they do nothing to really develop us, and they do not support the right for our self-determination.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the idea that has been mentioned today, that Ukraine today pays a very high price. This is a tragedy. We can see they pay this price not only for their own freedom but for the freedom of all other nations and people who for centuries have been suffering from discrimination, suppression and xenophobia.
Dmitry Berezhkov (International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia / ICIPR)
I am a representative of the Itelmen people from Kamchatka. It’s a big peninsula in the Russian Far East and one of the richest regions in the world by fish and biological water resources. Indigenous Peoples have big problems with commercial companies involved in the fishing industry in our region. Sometimes, we have even a situation when a commercial company receives a license and place for fishing inside the village or near the village where indigenous people live, and it is prohibited for the local population to catch fish there, where they have fished for centuries. It’s just one example of discrimination.
I also am a member of the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia. It’s a relatively new organization we created in March 2022 as our reaction to the war in Ukraine. I escaped Russia for political reasons under the pressure of the Russian security service in 2011. Later, other Indigenous activists from Russia joined our team and are located now in different countries. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, we realized that we needed to unite our efforts to express our disagreement with this war and to show the world that the Indigenous Peoples of Russia do not support this conflict. I need to mention that it is very dangerous for Indigenous activists, our colleagues, sisters, and brothers who continue to live in Russia to express themselves openly about this war because of the fear of repression.
At the same time, it’s essential to underline who are the Indigenous Peoples in Russia. The Russian Federation, at the beginning of the 90s, recognized so-called small-numbered Indigenous Peoples, and it is rather unique terminology. It’s not used in other parts of the world. These are peoples who continue their traditional style of life, like reindeer herding, hunting, and fishing. At the same time, according to Russian legislation, they must be less than 50,000. From one perspective, it’s a very restrictive and discriminating situation for other Indigenous Nations in Russia, like, for example, Yakuts, who are bigger in number. On the other hand, we must recognize that our small-numbered Indigenous Peoples are among the most vulnerable. Some of our nations are less than several thousand, even hundreds of persons. About two-thirds of the small-numbered Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Arctic, Siberia, and the Far East are involved in the traditional economy, continue their traditional cultural practices, and preserve their traditional style of life. They depend economically on fishing, reindeer herding, and other customary livelihoods. Indigenous peoples continue to be one of the poorest parts of the general population of Russia. Such events like today’s discussion are significant for us because we experience a lack of resources, including intellectual, human resources, and financial ones, and our voice is not visible on the national as well as international levels because bigger players do not consider it important to hear some voices who are so small in number.
I also want to underline a significant point: what colonization is and how Russian officials and historians consider it. In the discourse that Russian historians and official representatives of the state promote, they do not recognize that Russia is a colonial empire. They say that Russia did not colonize Siberian territories as it was a voluntary unification and creation of nations’ brotherhood. At the same time, we understand that Russia is a pure example of a classical colonial empire. It’s a tradition that goes from Moscow Tsardom to the Russian Empire, then to the Soviet Union, and it continues today as the current Russian Federation. Russian officials insisted that the Russian empire was totally different from European empires like the British or Spanish ones.
But according to our point of view, the only significant difference was its economic nature. For example, when the Spanish came to America, they hunted for gold and killed everybody who possessed it to grab the treasure. In contrast, Russian Cossacks who came to Siberia needed, first and foremost, highly valued furs for external trading, and that’s why they did not kill too many Indigenous populations because they needed Yasak as a tax from conquered communities.
Further, the same economic nature of indigenous peoples’ engagement continued throughout the Soviet Union’s history, but the main trading item and its extraction system had just changed. The oil and natural gas extracted in Siberia and Yamal became the source of the Soviet Union and further the Russian Federation’s economic power. One more shift in the extractive nature of the same resource-based economy we are witnessing right now while the fossil fuel economy is transforming into a green one that is greedy for transitional minerals like lithium, nickel, and other similar metals.
It’s like waves of attacks for different treasures on the same conquered territories.Such an economic approach is especially crucialfor Moscow because the trade of natural resources is one of the primary sources of income for the Russian budget.
There are 40 small-numbered Indigenous Peoples in the Russian Arctic, Siberia, and the Far East. Their general population is about 250,000; for example, we have only about 2,500 people in my Nation, Itelmens. But these Indigenous Peoples live in a vast territory from Finland to Chukotka and China. It’s about two-thirds of the Russian territory because many Indigenous Peoples remain nomadic. They use huge areas, for example, for reindeer herding.
Today, Russia tries to use the Indigenous Peoples’ movement as an instrument of their further colonization. As you maybe know, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) operates in Russia as a representative body of small-numbered Indigenous Peoples. I worked for this organization for many years before I had to leave the country. When I worked there, it was a usual human rights organization that protected indigenous rights and promoted the human rights agenda. But now, it has become an instrument of the Kremlin’s propaganda. This year, the UN body, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, prepared a report on the influence of militarization on Indigenous Peoples around the world. They include several points about Russia; when we read these points, we can even imagine that they were written in the Kremlin directly. For example, when the authors spoke about the recruiting campaign and forced mobilization among Indigenous Peoples for the war against Ukraine in Russia, they said that Indigenous Peoples had the right to alternative military service during the recruiting campaign and could refuse to go to the war.
But I have two friends in Yakutia who were recruited for military service and forcefully mobilized explicitly because they were Indigenous hunters. They were speaking not only in Russian but in the Indigenous language. They also were officially jobless as they continued their traditional style of life.
If you consider the percentage of recruiting of indigenous peoples, it is a huge number. But the challenge for us is that Russia, through its influence and negotiations with other countries of the Global South, targets the UN documentation. We protested against approving this report; we said that this was not true, it was a lie, and it ultimately did not reflect the accurate picture, but finally, it was approved by the UN under the pressure of Russia and with the support of the RAIPON’s indigenous agents. Today, it’s an official UN document, and we ask for the support of the international expert community to fight against such apparent lies in the internationally recognized documents.
The other reason why such events are essential for us is also about colonization and colonial aspects. I don’t like this terminology, “the window of opportunity,” but a lot of discussions are going on, not only in ethnic minorities, at national and different nations’ levels, but also, for example, in Russian political opposition, – discussions about what happens in the future. And we all agree the war in Ukraine must be kind of a final step in the Russian state policy towards Indigenous Peoples and other minorities. We don’t want it to be the same in the future; the situation must be changed. There are a lot of different discussions about how it could happen.
Will Russia be disintegrated in the future? Will there be there separate states created? Is it possible or not? There are different points of view on these challenging questions.
One perspective among the so-called1 democratic opposition is often discussed. They are saying that it will not be possible future for Russia as disintegration or separation of different Nations. But in some of their arguments, we hear the exact words that the Kremlin uses in its colonial discourse. For example, their argumentation states that when Russians came to Siberian or Arctic lands, these territories were empty: «many territories east of the Volga River were historically scarcely populated». Another doubtful argument I heard is that many of today’s ethnic republics or other Federation’s constituent units have regional administrations that consist of representatives of the local minorities: Yakuts in Yakutia or Tatar in Tatarstan. They consider it proof of these nationalities’ participation in regional governance. Without further analysis of these postulates, we can see that they precisely reflect standard Moscow narratives reproduced in thousands of history research and schoolbooks.
But the biggest disappointment for us is that they stage such discussions without any consultation, without even asking the people who live in this region, who represent these Nations, who are members of these ethnic communities. One of the Russian opposition activists said that the idea of an independent Bashkortostan is interesting only to a few marginals inside the republic, and that’s why it is not a question for a broad discussion. We consider it a very disappointing point of view and a continuation of the imperial paradigm because an empire is not only about lands, economy, or policy. It’s also about your mindset, your brain, and what you’re thinking about. In general, we can say that empires exist not only on the maps, but also in our heads.
The other disturbing point of view is the opinion of some ethnic activists who say that they want to organize their own separate states, destroy the empire, and obtain independence by any means, regardless of the ultimate outcome.
As Indigenous Peoples, we support the general paradigm of the Nations’ self-determination up to the opportunity to create separate national states.
But as ethnic Indigenous minorities, we understand that small-numbered Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Arctic, Siberia, and the Far East cannot create their own states in the future because, first of all, of their small numbering. We will anyway find ourselves in somebody else’s state, like Russia or, for example, Yakutia, or another country.
And we are very cautious about such discussions as their initiators aim to create independent states and don’t want to pay much attention to the future governance or political system like democracy. We had an experience with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which disparted in the beginning of 1990th into different types of sovereignties like Central Asian republics or Baltic democracies.
Today, these countries have entirely different historical and political backgrounds. And I’m not sure that Siberian Indigenous Peoples, in the case of Russia’s disintegration, will be too interested in finding ourselves in a kind of Central Asian type of autocracies in the future instead of Putin’s authoritarian regime.
That’s why such discussions as we have here today are essential for us. We need to discuss what will be the future of indigenous peoples, small-numbered indigenous peoples of the Russian Arctic, Siberia, and the Far East, in the future political agenda of the region. Unfortunately, we understand that bigger (more numbered) players are not interested or find it challenging to discuss such political perspectives with so small (small-numbered) stakeholders, like the Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Arctic. That’s why we ask for the support of the Western political and intellectual powers who understand what international law is and the place of indigenous peoples in it to participate in such discussions as a mediator with enough capacity to invite different political stakeholders to the table.
1 This glossary item is not an accidental one. In my opinion, the proponents of democratic views who now live outside Russia (most often not of their own free will, but due to political persecution) and who continue to actively discuss the Russian political agenda and ways its changing, who organize broadcasts on YouTube and try to influence the situation inside Russia, should rather be called political emigration than political opposition.
In the history of Russia, we remember a leader of the political opposition who, after being in exile, with the help of his supporters inside the country, still managed to return and build his highly successful political project, which later brought numerous disasters to the whole nation. His name was Vladimir Lenin.
However, his role was unique, while most Russian political emigrants remained as such and had no further significant influence on politics and governance inside Russia. In my opinion, this situation fully applies to the representatives of indigenous peoples, who have also been forced to emigrate due to the pressure of the Russian authorities in recent years.