Local Government and the Socioeconomic Development of Indigenous Northern Populations in Siberia
Gennadii N. Chebotarev
There are two autonomous okrugs (territories): Khanty-Mansi and Yamal- Nenets. The Khanty, Mansi, Nenetses, Komis, Selkups, and other minorities making up 1.7 percent of the total population are now living in their territories. The intensive development of natural resources (primarily oil and gas) has resulted in the deterioration of the natives' living conditions, and has decreased their numbers. For example, in 1970, 19,800 people lived in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug and now only 18,000 live there.
The causes of the population decrease are migration, assimilation, and depopulation. The life span of the Nenetses in Yamal in the 1970s fluctuated from 45 to 55 years. The aborigines have a high morbidity rate from tuberculosis and gastrointestinal diseases. There are serious problems in education, in national culture development, in providing employment for the natives, and in environmental protection (the latter being most acute).
While inspecting the Ob flood lands in the Nizhnevartovsk and Surgut oil industry districts, it was found that the amounts of petroleum products in the water and ground there greatly exceeded the maximum permissible concentration. Pollution and other negative results of economic activities has contributed to a loss in fish catch in the Khanty-Mansi Okrug of nearly 10-12,000 tons. To compensate for the loss, the fishing industry needs a great amount of funds.
The economic development of the Northern territories was usually carried out without any scientific basis, and without taking into account the social, economic, and ecological consequences of development. (Development plans often contradicted the traditional way of living of the indigenous peoples.) The deer pasture areas and the number of deer decreased and the number of unprofitable farms involving traditional trades increased.