Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 169

169 Arctic Yearbook 2015 lacks competent and persistent leaders who are able to attend international forums and work hard and consistently to preserve Yupik culture and traditions (Leonova 2015). Conclusions As in other regions and countries around the world, indigenous peoples in Chukotka have suffered greatly at the hands of the state. After centuries of relative isolation within the Russian Empire, Soviet communism brought about a wholesale change in the political and economic circumstances facing indigenous peoples in Chukotka. Soviet development also brought an influx of settlers from other parts of the Soviet Union which demographically overwhelmed and marginalized the indigenous populations of the region. The demise of the Soviet Union brought new and unprecedented challenges; namely in the form of socio-economic collapse and a massive outmigration of people from the region. While indigenous peoples now form a very strong plurality in Chukotka, they still struggle to realize and assert their traditional indigenous rights. As the indigenous peoples of Chukotka look to the future, there is some hope that they will be able to achieve some measure of self-governance and control. The stabilization of the region (at least relative to the chaos of the 1990s), coupled with other developments such as the prospects for developing obshchiny and connecting with indigenous peoples in other parts of the circumpolar north who have been successful in building self-governing indigenous regions, are signs that the future may hold some promise. As noted earlier, the indigenous peoples of this region have a long history of resistance and independence and, as leaders such Aleksandr Omrypkir and Tatiana Achirgina have argued, it is critically important that they preserve their traditions and remain united in the face of political and economic change. At the same time, it is important to note the very different and difficult political context in which indigenous peoples in Russia operate. Whereas indigenous peoples in Alaska and Canada have been able to work with other levels of government to achieve self-government, the federal and regional governments in Russia are still suspicious of and even hostile to any attempts to bolster indigenous autonomy. As a result, indigenous peoples in Chukotka still find themselves at the margins of Russian society, politically, economically and geographically. Notes 1. Chukotka was the only one of 10 autonomous okrugs to become independent from their host regions. Since 1991, several autonomous okrugs have been politically and territorially amalgamated into their host regions (Wilson 2003). For a more in-depth discussion of Russia’s autonomous okrugs and their status within the federal system (see Wilson 2001 and 2003). 2. Popular discontent with the Nazarov administration and the extremely poor living conditions in the region was also reflected in a collective letter that was sent by the residents of Provideniya in eastern Chukotka to the President of the Russian Federation in 1999 (Bogoslovskaya 2000). Wilson & Kormos