D. Berezhkov. A fundamental gap in the understanding of reality between Norilsk Nickel and indigenous peoples

For the Norilsk Nickel leadership, indigenous peoples are legal objects — “consumers” (according to Elena Shumilova) — those with whom it is necessary to «to struggle for» (according toSvetlana Ivchenko) the «free, prior and informed consent,” and even then, only because some unknown international standards require it. 

It’s like with small children in kindergarten. Yes, sometimes you have to ask whether Vasya or Petya wants to eat and whether they need to go to the toilet. But more serious issues such as when breakfast will be served or when new curtains for the kindergarten’s sleeping room will be delivered are not discussed with the children by teachers. Why should children know about such serious things? After all, this is the business of those «who analyze all of this.»

In her speech, senator Shumilova argued with clearly good intentions. She wanted to help and cared that such roundtable discussions must provide some benefits for the “consumers” as well, but at the same time, she naively revealed the main secret and the main message of the Russian state and business in relation to indigenous peoples.

This reminded me of something that happened to me personally several years ago. In days of old, when Dmitry Kobylkin had just replaced Yury Neelov in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, some Moscow guys were working on creating a new strategy for the development of the Yamal region. And I had become friends with some of them along before — just personally without professional relations. They learned that I also come from the indigenous peoples’ environment and that I work in Raipon, so they invited me to a couple of meetings in Moscow and then invited me to visit Salekhard where they organized a final discussion on Okrug’s development strategy.

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The city of Norilsk. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

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