Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 168

168 Arctic Yearbook 2015 legislation states that members of an NGO labeled ‘undesirable’ may be subject to fines and jail time (Tétrault-Farber 2015). These changes have impacted the ability of indigenous organizations such as RAIPON and affiliated organizations in Chukotka such as YESC to operate and to engage with indigenous organizations outside Russia. In 2012 the Russian Ministry of Justice found “irregularities in [RAIPON’s] organizational statutes” and forced RAIPON to cease operations (Staaleser 2013). Both organizations were accused of failing to abide by the aforementioned legislation requiring NGOs to register with the state and secure themselves as ‘legal entities’ while obtaining funding from outside of Russia. As well, the suspensions of both organizations lasted about a year before the state determined the appropriate paperwork was submitted and they could return to their business. In 2014, an indigenous hunter’s association in Chukotka was asked to voluntarily register as a foreign agent because the association was using joint American and Russian funding to study walruses. Although the organization was not involved in political activities, the leader was a candidate for a seat in local government, which clearly constituted a political activity to the authorities (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs 2014a). The association refused, but the authorities made it clear that they would be harassed, and in the end will be forced to register as a foreign agent. International collaboration The geographical proximity of Chukotka to the United States (Alaska) and Canada, coupled with historical connections between the indigenous peoples of this part of the circumpolar north has facilitated international collaboration since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In particular, the representatives from YESC have become actively involved in the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), a transnational organization representing Inuit peoples in four different countries. During the socioeconomic crisis in the early to mid-1990s, the ICC worked with the Canadian government and other organizations to deliver humanitarian aid to the indigenous peoples of Chukotka and the Russian north (Wilson 2007). Additionally, a number of bilateral projects dedicated to wildlife management, cultural preservation and environmental protection were initiated between Alaska and Chukotka including the Chukotka Walrus Harvest Monitoring Project and the joint US/Russia Polar Bear Commission (Diatchkova 2010). Such examples of collaboration between the indigenous peoples of Russia and other regions in the circumpolar north are important because they open the region and its inhabitants up to the outside world after decades of isolation during the Soviet period, thereby allowing for the sharing of best practices and new ideas. The Inuit peoples of Alaska, Canada and Greenland, for example, have made great strides over the last several decades in their quest for political and economic autonomy. Their progress provides a benchmark for other indigenous peoples, not only in Russia, but also in other parts of the world. Of course, there are many barriers to continued international collaboration on the part of Russian indigenous peoples. In addition to the controls that the state places on non-governmental organizations, indigenous groups that do engage actively in international collaboration are often very small in numbers and have limited human and financial resources to draw on. Tatiana Achirgina, the President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Chukotka, has commented that her organization simply At the Margins