Dispute between…

Dispute between the famous Nenets poet and writer Yurii Kylevich Aivaseda (Vella) and  the “Lukoil-Western Siberia” company in the Surgut area of the Hanty-Mansiiskii Autonomous Region


(Fall 2000)

Reposted from IASSC Newsletter

With an axe against “Lukoil”With an axe against “Lukoil”
At midday
A fawn
Above the brook he bent
He said
I am hot, mum,
I think I will drink from the stream
Don’t drink this water, son,
Be patient
It smells of petroleum
And it is like poison for all.
(Yu. Vella “White shouts”)

The dispute between the famous Nenets poet and writer Yurii Kylevich Aivaseda (Vella) and  the “Lukoil-Western Siberia” company in the Surgut area of the Hanty-Mansiiskii Autonomous Region has been on for the third week. On 14 of September, 2000 Yurii Aivaseda with his family and his guests from France and Estonia was travelling from his tribal land to Variegan settlement. He carried his grandsons, who are being trained in the tundra, to meet with their schoolmates from Variegan school, at the school assembly. Having approached the bridge on the Hapleuta river, which has the only road in the area, connecting the remote pastures of the tribe to the settlement, he saw that the workers of the “Lukoil-Western Siberia” company were tearing down the bridge with a power shovel. Yurii Kylevich’s request to present the documents that would license the destruction was ignored as well the request to contact the law-enforcement body to resolve the arisen dispute. To stop the destruction of the bridge, Yurii Kylevich  cut the tires of the power shovel with an axe.The “Lukoil-Western Siberia” company sued the owner of the tribal lands for the damage and,  simultaneously attacked through mass media trying to depict the known public figure as a hooligan and a troublemaker, and the Hanty people (in spite of the fact that none of the Hanty tribe members was involved) as militant hooligans. At the present moment Yurii Kylevich, supported in this dispute by the Association “the Ugra Rescue” , the Association of the indigenous people of the North, Siberia and the Far East of Russian Federation, is getting ready for the fight in court. We will soon know on whose side is the Law.

The reason of the conflict, as we see it, not in the damaged tires, and not at all in the disassembled bridge. It is one more sample of how the old well-hidden conflict between the indigenous population of the district and the land users may burst out. For a long time in relations to the indigenous peoples (not only in Russia, but also all over the world) the patronizing policy of the state worked quite well. How to live, where to be employed, what one should teach one’s children – all this was decided by the state, which was not interested in the people’s opinion on. During the last few years at the international level a new principle of partnership and agreement in relations to the indigenous people including the field of economy was proclaimed.

The traditional forms of land use have the same right to exist, as well as the oil companies. But it is true in principle. The existing legislation gives the priority to the industrial land users, and it is understandable. We at present live at the expense of natural resources’ export. The budget Hanty-Mansiiskii Autonomous Region being (in the terms of modern Russian political jargon) the “donor-territory”, has the budget based on the taxes paid  by the oil companies. That results in the inconsistency of the legislation concerning rights of the indigenous people to have access to the natural habitat, as it is proclaimed in the Law “On guarantee of the rights of the national minorities of the Russian Federation”. The owners of the tribal  grounds Hanty-Mansiiskii Autonomous Region have official instruments of ownership on the grounds, including Yurii Kylevich Aivaseda.

The adoption of a new law on territories of traditional land use could partially ease the tension but the draft of the law has been roaming around the corridors of power for three years already. According to Tatyana Gogoleva the president of the Association “The Ugra Rescue”, the Regional Duma deputy, none of the bills in the Region has passed so many revisions and disputes on various levels as this one, but all the same till now was not adopted even in the first reading. So one side of the conflict which emerged in such a form, when the owner of the land with an axe attacks the power shovel, is clear. It is struggle for the right to live on the land of his ancestors, to earn one’s living in the traditional way, to care of the rivers and lakes, to save the land for the future generations.

But there is more one latent party of the conflict. On 14 of January, 2001 there will be elections to the Regional Duma of Hanty-Mansiiskii Autonomous Region. The charter of the Region stipulates the creation of the Assembly of the Representatives of the indigenous minorities within the structure of the Regional Duma. In 1997 the Assembly was created. However, whereas the mechanism of the Assembly formation is not clarified completely, out of six elected deputies only two are the representatives of the minorities – Hanty and Mansi  and the other four – represent the interests of “oil cities” (Surgut, Nizhnevartovsk, Megion), where the indigenous population is scarce. In April, 2000 the deputies of Duma have accepted the Law, in which candidates to the Assembly members will be nominated by the Congress of the indigenous people the Region, so the chances of getting into the Duma for the representatives of indigenous people appear to be better.

Such arrangement does not suit some of the deputies who do not wish to part with their places in the Duma. D. Ogulchanskii (Surgut) and V. Grebennyukov (Nizhnevar-tovsk) have proposed to permit self-nomination to the Assembly. If this initiative had found support among the Duma majority, the named deputies (as the representatives of the small peoples) would continue to protect their interests in the following convocation. But the Duma at the extraordinary session on 5 of October has left the Law without change. Such decision has hardly satisfied of the representatives of certain circles and institutions structures wishing to have of the “pocket” deputies, therefore with the help puppet mass media they have started a campaign of discrediting the indigenous people of the Region and their leaders.

After the scandal with Yurii Aivaseda, Tatyana Gogoleva became the target of the Lukoil attack. The company officials have forwarded the angry letters into the address of the broadcasting company “Yugra” and the chairman of the Regional Duma of the Hanty-Mansiiskii Autonomous Region, where they accuse Gogoleva of damaging the company’s business reputation by her report broadcasted by the company “Infosevice”. They also ask “to look into the matter and discuss the actions of the deputy”. Who is next?

O. Moldanova,
Information center of the Association “The Yugra Rescue”
email: zoja@hmansy.wsnet.ru

Note: The following email was sent on IASSA.Net on December 4, 2000

Dear friends,

The conflict about Jurij Ajvaseda (Vella) the nenets activist is not settled. Jurij is now officially accused to rowdyism and needs all support. LUKOIL seems to start a broad campaign also in mass media to defame Jurij and the indigenous reindeerherders.

We would like to ask you to support the interests of the indigenous population of the Russian Federation. The conflict between the indigenous population of Western Siberia and the oil industry is escalating. Yuriy Ajvaseda (Vella) a Nenets reindeerherder, writer and human rights activist in the Khanty Mansijskij Avtonomny Okrug is accused by the oil company LUKOIL of having threatened oil-workers with an ax. He expects court procedures nd imprisonment. Yuriy Ajvaseda (Vella) has for years been engaged in the interests of reindeerherders against the regardless oil and gas extraction. He co-operates with many environmental and human rights NGOs and last year received an award of the Sorros Foundation for his achievements. Yuriy Vella is supported by the Russian NGO ” Rodnik “, which represents natives in legal conflicts.

We ask you to influence in the context of your possibilities that constitutional norms and human rights will be assuredin the conflict between the indigenous population and the oil industry. Please send a letter in support of the interests of the Western Siberian indigenous population to the decision makers in Russia. You can find further information on the Internet page:

Yuriy Ajvaseda has a mobile telephone at his living place in the taiga. When desired we can pass the telephone number on. For further information please contact also the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North:

Russia 117415 Moscow,
Prospect Vernadskogo,37, korp.2, office 527
Tel/fax: +7(095) 930-44-68, 938-95-27,
email: raipon@online.ru

With best regards,

Stephan Dudeck
email: nikodim@zedat.fu-berlin.de

26 December 2000