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Published: 2022-06-20

Rights of indigenous peoples in Russian law

NEWS In her article, Ekaterina Zmyvalova, a PhD student and Arcum associated, discusses the challenges and needs for change in human rights legislation for indigenous peoples in Russia.

Text: Anngelica

Ekaterina Zmyvalova is a PhD candidate at Language studies at Umeå University, and an associated researcher at Arcum, the Arctic Centre at Umeå university. Her research is dedicated to Sámi children’s right to learn their language and its enforcement at school in Russia.

In late 2020 she published an article in the Arctic Review on Law and Politics journal dedicated to the human rights of indigenous peoples in Russia.

Most indigenous small-numbered peoples of Russia live in the territory of Arctic. In Russia, there exist legal norms providing for the protection of indigenous small-numbered peoples’ rights. Yet, indigenous small-numbered peoples face multiple challenges when it comes to the implementation of their rights.

One of the core challenges that Ekaterina discussed in the article are impediments to the legal provisions regulating the status of indigenous small-numbered peoples, the attribution of individual members of indigenous communities to indigenous small-numbered peoples, application of the notion ‘foreign agent’ to individuals and non-commercial organizations, the State’s pressure on independent indigenous organizations.

Ekaterina also addressed the issue of possible impact of amendments to the Constitution approved by popular vote in July 2020 on the rights of indigenous small-numbered peoples.

Harmonization and adjustment of the legislation as regards the issues addressed as well as effective implementation of the legal provisions could potentially improve the situation with human rights of indigenous small-numbered peoples in Russia. 

According to Ekaterina, the imperfection the Russian legislation as well the so-called gap problem between legal norms and their effective enforcement are one of the reasons with decreasing interest to the Sámi language in Russia. 

She believes that her PhD research that addresses these problems could propose potential solutions for the Sámi language revitalization in Russia. 

This fall Ekaterina will develop her dissertation during her research trip to the Department of Sociology of Law at Lund University. Both the publication and research trip is partially funded with Arcums strategic funds.

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