Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 164

164 Arctic Yearbook 2015 indigenous peoples became state employees, losing authority over their herds to Russian specialists (Thompson 2008). Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the policy of ukreplenie was employed to consolidate residents into larger communities (Krupnik & Chlenov 2007). Thompson (2002) describes the early post-war period as the era of “Soviet mastery” – the extraction of resource wealth and the enlightenment of indigenous peoples. The key feature of Soviet mastery was the establishment of large, permanent settler populations (Thompson 2002). This period featured the large-scale and rapid development of the industrial complex of the Russian Far North (Gray 2005; Silanpää 2008). A massive in-migration of new skilled workers occurred and these workers were tasked with organizing mining operations, consolidating state farms, preparing cadres, and searching for new ways to organize reindeer herding (Gray 2005). Substantial development and industrialization shifted the demographic profile of Chukotka from a largely rural to a largely urban population and, as in other indigenous regions in northern and eastern Russia, indigenous peoples became outnumbered by settlers (Gray 2005; Schindler 1996). During the 1960s, infrastructure was built to support mining and nuclear energy development (Silanpää 2008). Indigenous peoples’ employment in sovkhozy (state farms) was largely directed at supplying goods to the industrial development of the Soviet Union. They were underrepresented in the new industrial workforce, while traditional activities such as trapping, hunting and fishing were unprofitable and unsuccessful, as there was no infrastructure to support traditional economic activity (Silanpää 2008). Chukotka’s economy was constructed to secure the supply of minerals and strategic resources for the development of the national economy (Krupnik & Vakhtin 2002); however, damaging and unsustainable practices in resource extraction resulted in multiple centers of industrial pollution and environmental degradation (Diatchkova 2010). The collapse of the Soviet Union brought about another set of changes to the lives of Chukotka’s indigenous peoples. Between 1985 and 2000, the already low employment rate of indigenous peoples dropped from 59% to 21.5%, and purchasing power to buy food decreased by 12.3% (Borodin et al. 2002). Soviet era social programs and subsidies ended, a reality that was felt particularly in remote villages where there was nothing to replace the lost structures. People became politically and physically disenfranchised. Inflation depleted savings and made pensions worthless and, as noted above, massive depopulation and out-migration ensued. Medical supplies and facilities were depleted, and unemployment increased while access to goods decreased (Kertulla 2000). In the 1990s, Chukotka was in an advanced state of humanitarian crisis initiated by the exodus of nonindigenous skilled labour, the failure of shipping deliveries and the liquidation of state enterprises. As a result, starvation, suicide, and alcoholism became prevalent amongst the indigenous population (Thompson 2008). There was also a shift in the local administrative demographic. As settlers left Chukotka, they were replaced by villagers to fill positions in the administration of loca