For those interested, the Russian Indigenous Peoples Association (RAIPON) got a new president a week ago, at a very important time in the organisation’s biography, because it had been closed down for formal reasons by Russian authorities late last year.
Now elections for the presidency had been held in Salekhard, the capital of my prime fieldsite Yamal-Nenets Okrug, which always has been very loyal to the Russian government. It is remarkable that almost all the RAIPON presidents so far, since Perestroika, came from West Siberia’s oil and gas extracting provinces: Eremei Aipin (Khanty writer), Sergei Khariutschi (Nenets Politician), and now Grigori Ledkov (Nenets born in Europe but politically acting on behalf of Yamal). I think this shows how much indigenous empowerment in general is connected to extractive industries and development on indigenous lands.
I have known the new president, Grigori Ledkov, since 1999, and found that he can also wear a quite critical hat (well, Khariutschi, the former RAIPON president, did that too sometimes). Last time I experienced that when Ledkov openly argued against oil and gas drilling in the Ob-Taz Bay offshore, in a programme that I organized for BBC World news and Radio 4 and that got apparently many many million viewers. Maybe after all it just wasn’t realistic that at this precarious moment in RAIPON’s biography there would be a leader that is too outspokenly critical of the government…
Ledkov so far was always very supportive of Arctic anthropology and our efforts to link insights from the Russian North with those from the rest of the world, and last December he promised to come to Rovaniemi for a visit. Let’s see if his new position allows for that.
After the RAIPON elections there was ONE newspaper in Russia that covered the topic with a critical story. For those less fluent in Russian, there is a summary here. http://barentsobserver.com/en/politics/2013/04/moscow-staged-raipon-election-thriller-03-04
Very interesting to see how this develops.