Washington International Law Journal


Stephen R. King


The traditional homelands of the indigenous peoples of Siberia and the Russian Far East harbor vast wealth in the form of timber, minerals, oil, and gas. Throughout much of the 20th Century, the Soviet Union used forced relocation of native peoples, expropriation of native lands, and other harsh means to gain access to these resources. The native peoples received little or no compensation for the vast natural wealth that the Soviet government took from their lands, and the government often left the land so polluted that it could no longer support the native people's hunting and herding ways-of-life. The Russian Federation currently has sovereignty over these native lands, and continues to extract resources as a way of supporting its distressed economy. Russian environmental laws are poorly enforced, and Russia's fluid political structure makes it difficult to determine which level of government controls these lands. To protect native lands and the indigenous peoples whose livelihoods and cultures depend on them, the Russian Federation must create native-controlled local governments.

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