Problems of gigantic reindeer slaughter plan for Yamal-Nenets nomads

The recent announcement by the Yamal government to artificially reduce the number of reindeer in the Yamal-Nenets Okrug by a quarter of a million animals has caused a discussion in Russia that has now spilled over to the international arena. The Siberian Times has thoroughly reported about the plans both from the pro and the contra side.


Sometimes reindeer herds in Yamal look huge, but actually nomadism on reindeer requires a lot of transport animals. Will herders be allowed to keep them?

Continue reading

Posted in All, Announcements, Arctic Ark: Human-animal relations, Extractive Industries, Indigenous Peoples, Russian North | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Khanty activists Agrafena Sopochina travelled to Lapland

Together with with my friend and colleague Agrafena Semjonovna Sopochina and her daughter Marija Launonen travelled recently through northern Finland and Norway, to Tallinn and to St. Petersburg during the second part of August 2016. A detailed travelogue about our journey I published here and here.

laplandia-93We made contacts with Sámi activists and politicians, artists and reindeer herders, among the the president of the Sámi parliament in Finnland Tiina Juulia Sanila-Aikio or Skolt Sami: Paavvâl Taannâl Tiina and Johan Mathis Turi, the former president of the Worlds reindeer herders association and a great specialist in reindeer herding culture all over the Arctic. laplandia-194

But the biggest Thank You goes to Marina Falevitch from the Sámi Education Institute, who not only relieved me with the task to connect Agrafena to the Sámi world of Inari, but also hosted and fed us during our stay in Inari!laplandia-45


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Arctic Abstractive Industry

Colleague Arthur Mason sent around a link to the collection of popular short essays that many anthropologists contributed to a theme around extractive industries in the Arctic, but also asking a bit more behind the scenes what are the principles behind such economies and livelihoods.

All of this should be open access.


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Anthrax outbreak on Yamal PENINSULA, not Tarko Sale PUROVSKI Yamal Okrug!

The Siberian Times and other english language sites report about the recent anthrax outbreak among reindeer in West Siberia in a slight geographical confusion . Ignore the maps in this Siberian times article. We are actually witnessing this on the YAMAL PENINSULA close to the FAKTORIYA (trading post) Tarko Sale, which is close to the Yaro To lake around 300 km Northeast of the regional capital Salekhard.


Base map from yandex maps. Tarko Sale trading post (Faktoriya) on the Yamal Peninsula

This is not to be confused with the other (bigger) Tarko Sale, administrative centre of the Purovski District in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The proper location and latest news about this can be found here for example.
I have myself moved together with private herders around the Yaro To lake. The location is an important passway for many reindeer nomads, used in all seasons: The nomads with the furthest longest migration routes use it in early May, just before calving time, moving up North in spring towards their summer pastures. The second “wave” of herders use this location as a summer site, where they group with several households uniting many small herds into a big one for withstanding mosquito harrassment. People stay close to the Yaro To lake for fishing there in summer. In autumn the site is again used as a passway for herders returning from their summer pastures south heading towards the slaughtering sites in the south of the Yamal Peninsula. In winter, some private herders use the site and get supplies from the trading post in Tarko Sale. If you are interested in more detail on these migration routes and nomadic seasonality, you can have a look at chapter 3 of this book, or a part of this chapter.
This shows that the place is very intensively used. Due to the high mobility of herders using this site, utmost care has to be taken for preventing of anthrax being spread all over the Yamal Peninsula.

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Who closed the border between Finland and Russia? A reply to The Independent Barents Observer

The saga about the Northern migrant route for asylum seekers wishing to reach a European country recently got a new turn: Since April 2016 the Russian-Finnish border in Lapland is closed for third-country citizens. The international staff of researchers at the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi including me personally (a Swiss-Italian citizen) are deeply concerned by the new agreement between Finland and Russia about these new border-crossing limitations between Russia and Finland. It limits our possibilities to act as researchers in Russia, as well as it undermines the Euro-Arctic Barents Cooperation in general. For example, I do research among the Russian Sami people, and it has been essential in the past years to cross the border to reach the Murmansk Region for doing my research.

Many people seem to wonder: Why? How could it be that such a deal could happen?


I have been talking a lot with other people both in Finland and in Russia, and also read some materials about it. The most visible English language source of information on the topic is The Independent Barents Observer. In their article “Russia insisted on closing Lapland borders for third country citizens” they basically give this explanation: “Russia wanted to split Finland from the EU”, and this also seems to be a mainstream opinion in Rovaniemi, where I live. However, in my opinion, this explanation inadequately reflects the true situation behind the current border closure for third-country citizens. I would like to elaborate on this.

It has been conveyed also by the Finnish mainstream press (which I am going to criticise below) that the closure of the border was Finland’s initiative, and that Finland asked to include the EU/EEA+Switzerland countries into the list of allowed countries. However, what is not conveyed by any of the mentioned sources is the principle of reciprocity which is a basic principle of any bilateral negotiations (I worked myself in diplomacy before joining the Arctic Centre as a researcher).

In this case, reciprocity means an approximate balance in the amount of countries exempted by the agreed border restrictions. According to oral information by a Finnish border guard, during the negotiations Russia asked also to include several countries which it is on good terms with, exactly as Finland did. That are countries like Kazakhstan, Kryrgyzstan and some other countries, which are not producing refugees (although for some Western populists and their followers countries with a name ending on “-stan” may by default evoke such fears). In simple words: If Finland asked to include its friends, then Russia also wanted to include its friends. By all standards, it is highly unlikely that an unequal deal FIN+30 countries vs. RUS+1 country is possible, and in the end the Finns evidently opted for a deal only FIN+RUS/Belarus. As it is a common practice in international diplomacy to make agreements on equal terms, this sounds to me as a much more rational explanation than the simplistic explanation mode “it’s Putin, stupid!”. It must be said clearly: It was the Finns who rejected an equal deal with a higher number of included countries on both sides and thus heavily undermined Barents cooperation and European cooperation in general.

Instead of giving a balanced analysis explaining the reasonable arguments of all involved parties, both the Finnish tabloid Iltalehti and The Independent Barents Observer (which is even more disappointing given its declared “devotion for cross-border cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding“) adhere to a way of reasoning which long since has become a standard explanation for almost everything which goes wrong in relations between Russia and the West. This shallowness of reasoning is highly regrettable. Their statement that Russia insisted on such a deal because it wanted to tear apart Finland from the EU is not just shallow. By presuming that Finland would have had no other choice than agree with Russia’s demands it also wrongly presumes a limited sovereignty of this country. However, Finland is a fully sovereign country, and it could have simply withdrawn its initiative on closing the border if it did not agree with Russia’s legitimate demand for signing an agreement on equal terms. Unfortunately, it opted for the isolationist way.

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Arctic Professorship, Finland, for an anthropologist?

Dear readers,

belown seems to be a really promising job opening. For our community of Arctic Anthropologists, of course we would be most interested in getting as many good anthropologists among the applicants as possible. Because if one of ‘our’ people gets the post, we increase our anthropology professors’ ‘headcount’ in the Finnish North by 33%!🙂, and we strenghthen anthropological expertise in the North. Here is the job ad:

The University of Oulu invites applications for a full professorship position in  Arctic research combined with the post of Vice President of Research of the University of the Arctic.

The professorship as such is a new one at the university, the UArctic Vice President of Research position has been at the University since 2014. The Professor of Arctic Research will have half of the position at one of the University’s faculties (at the most relevant one depending on his/her expertise) and the other half at the Thule Institute, where he/she will be leading the UArctic Thematic Networks and the Research Liaison offices.

More information about the position and the application and selection procedures at the University of Oulu’s Saima recruitment system.

Applications, including attachments, should be submitted using the electronic application form by September 2, 2016.

For further information about the application and selection procedures, please contact

Vice Rector Research Taina Pihlajaniemi

University of Oulu

Tel. +358 294 48 5800

email: taina.pihlajaniemi(at)
President Lars Kullerud

The University of the Arctic

tel: +47 9087 0099

email: lars.kullerud(at)


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resource development versus other community sustainability options’?

This is the general topic of the next course in our PhD programme by the Uarctic Thematic Network “Arctic Extractive Industries. It’s going to take place this time again in the wonderful town of St John’s Newfoundland, Canada.


Offshore oil (see the servicing ships docking in the background) or other development options? St John’s and Newfoundland

PhD students who have an interest in participating (this time self-funded, I hope you find funds to come!!!), can write a 200 words abstract to one of the organisers. Spaces are limited, especially because of the limited presentation slots that we have at the conference, in conjunction to which we will hold this. Preference will be given to those who

1) already participated in an earlier course in our programme and want to complete the entire Uarctic certificate;
2) PhD students willing to commit to completing the program and to presenting at Petrocultures; and
3) Master’s students interesting in participating more or less as observers.

For European students: Uarctic TN partner students can use this course for 10 credits ECTS towards their PhD studies, if approved by their supervisor and completed fully with submitted paper. The Ulapland course code is TUKO 1217.

Here is a course abstract:

An interdisciplinary exploration of resource development versus other community sustainability options’

St. John’s Newfoundland; Aug 29 to Sun Sept 04, 2016.

We will be offering an intensive one-week PhD course comingled with the Petrocultures conference in St. John’s beginning on Monday aug 29, 2016. The theme of this course is ‘An interdisciplinary exploration of resource development versus other community sustainability options’. In brief, there are many reasons why resource development in remote regions can be damaging in social, environmental and economic terms. Yet, alternatives that can lead to sustainable economic security for remote peoples are often elusive, while resource development promises opportunities for local residents.

Our group, the Uarctic Thematic Network in Extractive Industries, has offered semi-annual PhD courses of this nature since 2012. This course will differ from some of the previous one in format: the first two days will consist of three seminars of roughly 2.5 hours’ duration. Each of those six seminars will be co-presented by one faculty member and one or several PhD students. The purpose of these co-presented seminars is to maximize student involvement, and to facilitate an exploration of ideas and implications, and relevant academic readings and theories, across sessions. This will be an interactive course in which students will be expected to join in discussions within each seminar. This format will facilitate even more intensive academic interaction between PhD students and professors.

On the final three days, students in our course will attend the Petrocultures conference, and will present their research within specially designated sessions. There will also be specified conference sessions to attend as part of the course, and a final mandatory discussion session for registered students at the conclusion of the conference, late on September 03, to reflect on the overall themes emerging from the course and conference.

Enquiries: Prof Arn Keeling <akeeling(at)>, Prof Gordon Cooke <gcooke(at)> (cc to Thematic Network coordinator Florian Stammler <fstammle(at)>)

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