Accepted paper:

When Russian people claim indigenous status within the Russian state: Pomors' attempt to make the state pay its moral debt


Maria Nakhshina (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

The paper unpacks the imagery of the Russian state as being in moral debt to its people. It explores the case of allegedly Russian people claiming indigenous status within the Russian Federation. Through these claims, Pomors hope to receive benefits in fishing and other subsistence activities.

Paper long abstract:

The liberalisation of the political regime in post-Soviet Russia has led to the rise of new ethnic identities. All-Russian census of 2002 revealed that 6,581 people in the Russian Federation stated their nationality as Pomor. The name Pomors has been traditionally applied to Russian people living in the White Sea and Barents Sea coastal area. The unique nature of Pomor identity movement lies in the fact that while the Russian state has repeatedly referred to Pomors as quintessence of Russian people, to pursue its political agenda in different historical periods, Pomors today claim their status of a small-numbered indigenous people within the Russian Federation. One of the arguments people give to justify the idea that the state should grant Pomors such a status is that it is thanks to Pomors that Russia owns Arctic territories nowadays, as they were the people who moved to northern margins of Russia and endured severe conditions for hundreds of years. Pomor identity movement is an outcome of uneasy relations between the state and people in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union. Infrastructure and social services significantly deteriorated in the area during the post-Soviet period, prompting people to refer to the state as having left them to survive on their own. The proposed paper will unpack the imagery of the state as being in debt to its people. It will explore claims that allegedly Russian people make to the Russian state in order to make it fulfill its moral obligations towards them.

panel SE11
Contestations and aspirations of indigenous people and nation states: need for anthropological intervention