Languages

Sami Parliament of Kola Peninsula: fight for right to self-determination

The rights of Sami, the indigenous people on the Kola Peninsula, have been seriously violated by regional authorities during preparations to the 3rd Congress of the Sami of the Murmansk region.

This all started when the Initiative Group for the establishment of a Sami Parliament of Kola Peninsula was created in 2008. The activities of this group resulted in the signing of a cooperation agreement between two big Sami organizations – the Association of Kola Sami (AKS) and The Civic organization of Sami in Murmansk region (OOSMO). Another big achievement was The First congress of the Sami of the Murmansk region. The Congress elected the first Council of Authorized Representatives of Murmansk region Sami (SUPS). However, just one month later a similarly named body only lacking “Authorized” in its name was established as a council under the Murmansk regional Government. From then on all the regional printed media and the TV disseminate information about the Sami Congress having taken place and having elected a Sami Representatives Council under the Murmansk regional government. The membership in this structure was strictly limited by representatives of communities receiving funding under the governmental target program of “Economic and Social Development of Native Minorities of the North.” Nobody knows by whom and to what criteria the members of that Council were selected. This council still exists, but the name has changed to “Council of Representatives of Native Minorities of the North.” Taking the council’s members into account, it is popularly called the Council of Communities, or just the Council under the Government. Regretfully, the regional government has authorized this Council for a representative function (i. e. it represents the interests of the whole Sami people on the Kola Peninsula). 

On the 14th of December 2008 the 1st Congress of the Sami of the Murmansk region took place. The 2nd congress of the Sami of the Murmansk region was held 11th-12th of December 2010. At the 2nd Congress a new Council of Authorized Representatives of Murmansk region Sami was elected and its new name was approved: “Куэллнэгк нёарк самь Соббар” (KNSS). A Regulation on Congresses was approved, according to which the Congress is to be held once every four years. When 2014 was approaching, it was time to think about the coming 3rd Congress…

The 3rd of December 2013 the president of KNSS Valentina Sovkina sent letters аsking to take note of the preparations to the 3rd Congress of the Sami of the Murmansk region and include it into the agenda of the Council of Communities under the Murmansk regional Government. The 30 addressees included, among others, the Regional Governmental State Institution “Murmansk Centre of native minorities of the North” (GOBU in what follows), the communities, the Association of Kola Sami, the Civic organization of Sami in Murmansk region and the office of the deputy governor of Murmansk region. The only reply that came was the one from Nadezhda Chuprova, the head of GOBU: “at the session of the Council of Communities the issue will be included into the ‘miscellaneous’ item on the agenda”. That is how “serious” the representatives of authorities take the issue of the Sami Congress – for them is it “miscellaneous”. While my personal opinion is that for the people that once in four years has (or did have, for now) a possibility to voice it’s vital problems and introduce them into the Congress’ resolution, convey them to the legislating and the executive authorities, that is the first issue and by no means the last one.

On the 13th of December 2013 at the final session of the Council of Communities, the president of KNSS personally handed formal letters on the arranging of the 3rd Congress to “Murmansk Centre of native minorities of the North”, the Association of Kola Sami, the Civic organization of Sami in Murmansk region, and the Council of communities.

19.01.2014 Valentina Sovkina informed everyone about the establishment of a working group on preparations of the 3rd Congress which was to be chaired by Anna Prakhova. The Council of Communities under the Government sabotaged its participation.

On the 13th of April 2014 KNSS and the working group had an extended working meeting in Olenegorsk on preparation to the 3rd Congress. All necessary Congress proceedings were prepared (voters lists, Regulation on the Congresses, schedule of meetings in all towns etc.). The documentation package was sent to the committee supervising Sami issues, namely the Committee on interaction with civic organizations and on youth affaires of Murmansk region (KVOODM). No response on the papers provided did follow…

On the 30th of May the deputy governor sends the answer: “… no funding is stipulated, but [we are] ready for cooperation through the workings group’s chairman Anna Prakhova”. The question about the 3rd Congress of the Sami of the Murmansk region hung in the air. The working group started searching for funding possibilities from various foundations and programs.   

On May 31st Valentina Sovkina once again forwarded the schedule for preparations to the 3rd Congress to 13 addresses: KVOODM, GOBU, the Association of Kola Sami, and members of the working group.

On July 30th it became known about that another working group on preparations to the 3rd Congress had been established. This working group consists of members of the Government, officials, members of the Council of Communities under the Government, and the president of the Association of Kola Sami. This working group takes into account neither the Regulation on Congresses accepted at the 1st and the 2nd Congresses nor the documents prepared by the first working group. Everything is being arranged from scratch to meet the government’s interests.

At an intercessional meeting in the end of September the Council of Communities was offered voting for the delegates to the Congress to be elected out of legal entities (communities, private entrepreneurs, agricultural cooperatives etc.), while from civic organizations only chairpersons can be elected. (The Regulation on the Congresses ignored by the officials stipulates that the delegates are to be elected based on territorial principle, “1 person out of 10”). With the “governmental” Regulation the right to be delegated to the Congress is unobtainable to those Sami who are not members of communities, civic organizations, private enterprises, … ! And, the Sami taking part in the Association of Kola Sami and the Civic organization of Sami in Murmansk region are deprived the possibility to be elected as Congress delegates as well. 

On the 3rd and the 10th of November Valentina Sovkina met with the deputy governor A. Vekshin in order to influence the situation in any possible way. It becomes clear that the date of the Congress, the 22nd of November, has already been announced in the media although the new working group has never assembled for a meeting and has never discussed neither the date nor the principles of the delegates’ election etc. That is what the administrative resource is like: anything can be done quickly and without much care of compliance with laws. Letters demanding to move the 3rd Congress’ date in order to have it prepared and carried out properly (in accordance with the Regulation accepted by the Sami people at the 1st and the 2nd Congresses) were addressed to the Governor and Deputy Governor of Murmansk region. No reaction followed.

The Congress is due to take place in two weeks, but so far its agenda and the Regulation are kept in secret. All questions to the Murmansk regional government officials in charge of the Congress about the reasons for ignoring the Regulation on Congresses accepted by the 1st and 2nd Congresses of the Sami of the Murmansk region, are left unanswered. Civic organizations have been contacting the “Murmansk Centre of native minorities of the North” in order to find out how the meetings are to be held, how many delegates are to be elected… No answers are offered.

Members of the KNSS are categorically kept out from the meeting of the working group. Members of the KNSS are categorically denied to see the agenda. The agenda suggested by the Civic organization of Sami in Murmansk region (OOSMO) is being ignored. Any report about KNSS’ activities is categorically declined to be added to agenda of the Congress.

(For information, here are some of the suggestions from KNSS and OOSMO: a register of Sami in the Murmansk region; recognition of the Murmansk region as a territory of traditional inhabitancy for the native Sami population; recognition of KNSS as the main authorized and representative organ for Sami…)

Thanks to persistent written requests from Andrey Danilov to the Committee on interaction with civic organizations and on youth affaires of Murmansk region, on November 11 – eleven days before the congress, regulations for the congress were posted on the official website of the Murmansk regional government. On November 12 the authorities published the program for the congress, which made it clear why everything had been done in secrecy. The regulations for the congress provide a totally undemocratic way for electing delegates to the congress. The agenda looks more like a big conference with participation of a large number of bureaucrats. According to this program, the delegates will be divided in three sections and in course of 1 hour and 45 minutes (from 14:15 to 16:00), they should have time to listen to speeches, discuss and address suggested issues (in every section there will be from 4 to 8 issues), discuss the resolution of the Congress. The agenda suggested by the government does not allow for discussion of issues suggested by OOSMO and KNSS – a register of Sami in Murmansk region; recognition of Murmansk region as a territory of traditional inhabitancy for the native Sami population; recognition of KNSS as the main authorized and representative organ for Sami, and other issues.

Instead these issues are up for discussion: “Mortgage programs in the Murmansk region; strategies for social and economic development in the Murmansk region; development of entrepreneurship in the Murmansk region; support to starting small innovative enterprises…” Obviously, these are the most important questions for Sami in the Murmansk region, at the same time as territories for reindeer pasture are being alienated, when Sami have no possibilities to unhindered catch fish in rivers and lakes, when physical and social illnesses are taking the lives of tens of Sami…

The whole congress is planned to take four and a half hour. (For comparison: the 2nd congress took place over two days).

The new regulations suggested by the Murmansk regional Government are changing the name of the congress. Now it’s not the 3rd Congress of the Sami of the Murmansk region, but “Congress of the Indigenous People of the Northern Kola – Sami.” In this way the two previous Congresses of the Sami of the Murmansk region are being erased from history, and any statutory subsequent Congress every fourth year is not provided.

On November 22nd 2014 there will be a big event that in no way can be called a Congress for Sami of the Murmansk region. This will be a big conference of juridical entities, with participation of bureaucrats.