2015.10 Alexandra Artieva November 2014 Assembly of Sami people of Murmansk region: Congress or Conference. Opinion of a delegate

In November 2014 a big event with the participation of government officials and Sami legal representatives took place.This event is currently referred to as the Third Sami Congress, but I fundamentally disagree with this statement, and there are strong reasons why:

  1. In 2008 Sami people held their First Congress, in 2010 – the Second Congress. The tradition that was established during the First Congress of Sami people of Murmansk region laid down the rules of how to arrange and hold the forthcoming Congresses – only elective representative body has a right to prepare and carry out subsequent Sami Congresses. Therefore, in accordance with the Second Congress’ decision, the members of the Assembly of Sami people of the Kola Peninsula “KuelnegkNearkSamjSobbarj” (further referred to as KNSS) were authorised to arrange and hold the Third Sami of Murmansk region Congress. In 2014 though government authorities excluded KNSS from arranging and holding of the Congress.
  2. The November 2014 event was not held according to the Regulation on Congresses which was approved at the first two Sami of Murmansk region Congresses (2008, 2010). The Regulation for this Congress was prepared and approved by the government of Murmansk region, without taking into consideration numerous demands of Sami public to abide by the Regulation approved by the Sami Congresses, especially in the paragraph “The Principle of election of delegates”.
  3. The organisers did not include into the tentative agenda the report about the activity of a representative body of the Sami of Murmansk region “KuelnegkNearkSamjSobbarj” (The Assembly of Sami people of the Kola peninsula or KNSS)elected and approved by the delegates of the First and the Second Sami of Murmansk region Congresses. Other important issues proposed by KNSS and the Civic organisation of Sami of Murmansk region (OOSMO) were also not put in the agenda of the Congress.
  4. The organisers of the Congress strongly refused to acknowledge the historic evidence of the first two Sami of Murmansk region Congresses. According to their narrative the 2014 Congress is the first and the only one of its kind. Consequently, the name of the Congress in “their” Regulation sounds as “Congress of the indigenous people of the Kola peninsula – Sami”.

It becomes evident from analysing the situation “before”, “during” and “after” the Congress that it was not the Congress of Sami people of Murmansk region, but a conference of Sami legal entities with the participation of government officials. Therefore, in this article I will try to avoid the word “Congress” in regard to the event that took place on the 22nd of November, 2014 in Lovozero.

Introduction into the confusing history 

The work on the establishment of Sami authorised representative body had been going on since 1993. Why for so long? As soon as the process of Sami unification becomes more intense, “some forces” without any difficulty find among Sami people those, who can be used as puppets and pulled by the strings, and with whose help the whole process can either be halted or turned back.

Sami issues come under the jurisdiction of State Committee for public relations and youth affairs of Murmansk region headed by Roman Hatsevich*, and also the following institution controlled bythe above person: the State Regional budgetary institution (GOBU) “Centre of the indigenous minorities of the North” headed by NadezhdaChuprova. Therefore, in this article I will refer to those names as the executives of the will of the government of Murmansk region.

In 2008 during the First Congress of Sami people of Murmansk region the delegates voted for the establishment of the Council of Authorised Representatives of Sami people of Murmansk region (SUPS). Eight days after a group of Sami, dissatisfied with the composition of the representative body, used either hint or advice from the lawyers of the Murmansk regional government to write an application letter addressed to the governor with request to form the Council of Sami representatives under the Murmansk regional government. A few days later the Council of Sami representatives under the Government was established (further referred to as the Council under the government).
According to the Murmansk region governor’s order, the Council under the government can only comprise representatives of nine communities. I wonder, who made the decision according to which only communities can represent the interests of all Murmansk region Sami people? Why those particular nine communities? Out of more than 20 communities only nine were selected. Who chooses the communities whose representatives will form the Council? Based on which criteria is the choice made? There are still no answers to those questions.

Non-recognition of the Sami elective representative body by the Murmansk regional authorities

The authorities of Murmansk region were ignoring the decisions of the First and Second Congresses of Sami people for eight years. Initially they explained that the Russian Federation Law does not allow such an institution as the Sami Parliament. During the Second Congress the Sami people representative body was renamed into KuelnegkNearkSamjSobbarj (KNSS). Then the government representatives began to justify their reluctance to recognize the institution by saying that it had no juridical registration.

I would like to mention in advance that during the meeting with the members of the newly established in 2014 SamjSobbarj (SS) the Murmansk region governor called the members of SUPS and KNSS the impostors.

The representative bodies established by the Congresses of Sami people became a big problem for the authorities, because they took an independent stand. The authorities gave their own interpretation of that: if you are independent then stay independent, but we have our own Council of representatives of the indigenous minorities under the government (further referred to as the Council under the government). With the time it became obvious that the Council under the government could only be used within the country, but on the international stage it is not recognised by any NGOs. While KNSS is recognised by international organisations as the elective representative body established in accordance with the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and is actively working in line with the international mechanisms of protection of rights of the indigenous peoples. Pressing issues and concerns of the Sami of the Kola peninsula, which had been intentionally ignored and withheld by the government, started to get announced at international level.

Creating a clone: the first step – substitution of the Congress’ Regulation

The authorities felt an urgent need to set up a controlled “elected by people” institution, in order to replace KNSS at international level. How to ensure that the Congress elects those who are suitable? Solving this problem became possible thanks to the new Congress’ Regulation, according to which not every Sami person had an opportunity to participate in the election of the delegates for the Congress, but only juridical entities! (In general they are the communities which annually receive financial means from the government for their own needs). At this rate the Congress organisers have secured for themselves the maximum necessary selection of the delegates.

This Regulation violates the right of every Sami person to be delegated for the Congress, which means that it deprives them of an opportunity to be elected into the representative body. The Regulation proposed by the government specified the principle of delegation for Sami legal entities (one person from every community, one person from every agricultural cooperative etc.), while the Regulation approved by the First and Second Congresses gave every Sami person the opportunity to be elected into the representative body (on the principle “one from ten”). I do not understand how Sami people voted for such a dishonest Regulation in a room where Murmansk government representatives were presented.

Related purpose – taking a Kola Sami representative under control in WGIP

In the international field there is another form of cooperation of indigenous peoples – The Working Group of Indigenous Peoples in Barents Euro-Arctic region (WGIP), where Kola Sami were represented by the KNSS leader Valentina Sovkina. While being a member of that Working Group she spoke about the Kola Sami problems too bravely. Therefore, it was important for the authorities to organise the reelection of the unwanted representative of Sami of Russia in WGIP as soon as possible.

Added to this is the fact that during the pseudo-Congress Valentina Sovkina was not even given an opportunity to make a progress report about the work done in WGIPand to tell the present Sami people about the essence of this work.

The true goal of the Congress

As can be seen from the above, ensuring controllability of the activity of Sami of Russia on international level became the general purpose of the Congress. In order to secure the above, two following tasks had to be completed:

  1. To create a controlled Sami representative organ – a clone of KNSS
  2. To choose a suitable member of WGIP

Violations during the Congress’ arrangement

A great number of violations on the part of government authority took place during the arrangement and carrying out of the Congress. For instance, the Working Group on the Congress arrangement was headed by the deputy governor of Murmansk region, and the numerical composition of the Working Group initially comprised 58% of officials.

The deputy governor S.I.Skomorohov answered with a “no” to KNSS’ request to combine efforts of the KNSS Working Group and the Working Group under the government. The Congress’ Regulation initiated by the government was published on the 12th of November, while the deadline for protocol applications from organisations was the 14th of November. Is it really possible for all the organisations to receive the information, hold meetings and submit protocols to the State Regional budgetary institution (GOBU) “Centre of the indigenous minorities of the North” within those remaining two days? Definitely not.

Violations during the conduct of the Congress

Not only the pressure from the authorities was unprecedented during the organisational stage, but also during the process of holding of the Congress. The number of the officials who arrived for the Congress significantly exceeded the number of the actual delegates. The delegates spent over six hours listening to the speeches of the officials, without having an opportunity to proceed with the formation of the agenda of the Congress. I do not understand why during the Congress of Sami people nearly the whole time allocated for speeches was planned for the government officials.

The unexpected surprise for the organisers was that the person who was elected for the Chairman of the Congress was not the one who they counted on. Ivan Matryohin had a bigger number of votes. Therefore the organisers had to call him for an “interview” and recommend which proper actions should be taken.

The Minister of Russian Federation** was putting pressure on the Chairman, accusing him from the stage of incorrect conduct ofthe Congress. The fact that the Minister of Russian Federation himself, A.V.Zhuravsky, came to monitor the completion of the specified tasks only confirms the great importance of the goals that had been set for the Congress (creation of KNSS clone, WGIP member replacement). From beginning to end he was taking part in the Congress. At midnight he began helping the drafting commission to correctly formulate the proposal on the election of SS members and the establishment of the Union of Sami of Russia in the Congress’ protocol, dictating what to write and how to write it in the resolution. This is considered a gross violation of Russia’s legislation on the activities of non-governmental organizations!

How the decision about the foundation of the Union of Sami of Russia was made

The idea of KNSS’ replacement with a new organisation was kept secret from everyone (with the exception of the Sami in the government). Even the agenda had no question about the formation of a new organisation and the liquidation of the old KNSS. There was a point about the unification of Sami people and the establishment of other representative bodies. At 11.30 pm, when everyone became tired and sleepy, Andrey Ageevproposed the foundation of a new organisation, the Union of Sami of Russia and demonstrated a Charter prepared in advance. Debates began, during which there was lots of chaos, people were shouting “for unification”, “it’s time we’ve gone home, enough” etc. Olga Melentyeva came out to the microphone and said that the decision on such an important question should not be rushed, and that it was necessary to take time to get familiarised with the Charter suggested by Ageev. The shouting about it being “already late” and “it’s time to round off” intensified. There was no time to become familiar with the Charter. The Chairman of the Congress insisted on the preservation of the Sami representative body SamjSobbarj (SS) that was elected during the first two Congresses. The officials grabbed hold of the idea that SamjSobbarj was even better than the Union of Sami of Russia (SSR). The name was similar to KNSS, and therefore it could be later declared that a new composition of KNSS was elected, only the name was replaced. To make a comparison: KNSS – The Assembly of Sami people of the Kola peninsula, SS – The Sami Assembly. (In 2008: SUPS – the Council of Authorised Representatives of Sami people of Murmansk region, and SPS – The Council of Representatives of Sami people of Murmansk region).

The idea of the SSR foundation consists in the establishment of such a civic organisation that would unite “under its roof” all currently existing civic Sami organisations and by doing so take a representative role upon itself.

I believe that the presentation of the idea of the SSR foundation in the way it happened during the Congress displayed an utter disrespect towards one’sown people. Such important question should not have been raised right at the end of the Congress, at 11.30 pm, without any preliminary introduction of the delegates into the whole idea and the Charter. Sami community could have certainly been familiarized with the idea during the general meetings of organisations. Why the idea was made secret?! Why copies of the Charter had not been given out and offered for the discussion at least in the intervals during the Congress?!

What is SamjSobbarj?

I still cannot comprehend which status SS has nowadays. During the Congress Ageev suggested that the civic organisation SSR – the union of Sami civic organisations should be established, Ivan Matryohin insisted on the preservation of the body elected by the people during the first two Congresses.

General tiredness, tight time frames for making decisions, lack of an opportunity to familiarize oneself in greater detail with the suggestion of Ageev and his Charter – all that resulted in the election of a group of nine people, who will be preparing statutory documents for the new organisation – The Union of Sami of Russia.

At the end of the Congress Roman Hatsevich came on stage and vowed that all the nine people who had been elected during the Congress would be included into the membership of the Councilunder the government. Does it then turn out that this working group has become a representative body? How is that possible?

After a while I asked some of the delegates of the Congress about what they were voting for at the time. I was shocked to hear their answers: some said that they were voting for SSR formation, some – that they were electing a new KNSS membership, and others tried to convince me that during the Congress we had created one large organisation “The Association of Kola Sami (AKS) + The Civic organisation of Sami of Murmansk region (OOSMO)”.

As for the promise given by Hatsevich, the authorities have fulfilled it just enough to fit in with was initially planned. The point is that during the voting for the membership of SS, an employee of the State Regional budgetary institution (GOBU) “Centre of the indigenous minorities of the North” proposed for a vote the list of members of a future organisation that had been prepared in advance. The delegates refused to vote for a list of candidates, they voted by surnames instead. As a result, six people from that list and also three “unplanned” persons became SS members. But only those six people from the list became members of the Council under the government, while according to the promise of Hatsevich it should have been all nine of them.

Despite the fact that up to now not all voting protocols of the Congress have been signed (protocol of voting for the agenda does not exist), and that there is still no Congress’ Resolution – nevertheless SS exists. Moreover, it exists without any regulation, charter or juridical registration (as it was required from KNSS). However, all those factors did not hinder the government of Murmansk region from recognising this group as legitimate. The governor of Murmansk region held a personal meeting with SS as with a representative body, although at the time the Congress’ protocols had not even been agreed, and the protocol on the formation of that group had not been signed.

Meanwhile, KNSS elected by people during the first two Congresses never managed to obtaina meeting with the governor of Murmansk region during the 8 years of its existence.

Soon after the Congress the Chairman of the Council under the government Andrey Yakovlev together with Andrey Ageev (the author of the SSR Charter) hastily informed all the mass media about the foundation of a new Sami representative body and liquidation of KNSS. The most outrageous lie is that KNSS liquidation issue was never put to the vote.

Conclusion

My personal profound conviction is that the results of the Congress that had been accepted under conditions of tight control and pressure on the part of authorities cannot be considered legitimate. In order for the elections of a new membership of a representative body to become fully legitimate it is necessary to elect the delegates for the Congress according to the “one from ten” principle, because every Sami person should have a right for an opportunity to be elected into the Authorised Elective Representative Sami body, and not the way it happened during the delegates’ election at thatCongress.

In order to unravel a tangle with the “genuine” and the “clones”, it is necessary to carry out the Third Congress of Sami people of Murmansk region in accordance with democratic principles and the only valid people’s Regulation approved by the First and the Second Congresses of Sami people of Murmansk region.

Kuelnegk Neark Samj Sobbarj (The Assembly of Sami people of the Kola peninsula) continues its work on the ground of the Regulation approved at the First Congress. It is an elective representative body of Sami people of Murmansk region that has been acting on the basis of the following normative legal documents: Constitution of the Russian Federation (article 69), Laws of the Russian Federation “On guarantees of rights for Indigenous Small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East” (article 8), Charter of Murmansk region (article 21).
All the above mentioned facts about the Congress come with documentary evidence (video records).

Artieva Alexandra

  • * the following changes occurred while the article was in progress: Roman Hatsevich was the Committee’s head until 21.09.2015
  • ** officially Alexander Zhuravsky was not Russian official during the III Sami Congress (Assembly) of the Murmansk region. In September 2014 he finished to work as a head of the department of inter-ethnic relations of the Ministry of regional development of the Russian Federation. Since December 2014 he started to work as the head of the department of inter-ethnic relations of the Ministry of culture of the Russian Federation. Since September till December 2014 A.V. Zhuravsky was unemployment. In February 2015 he was appointed as a vice-minister of the Russian Ministry of culture.

The original publication at the Forum Sapmi:

Russian verstion:


Артиева-А.Н., A-Artieva, Sami, Murmansk, III Congress, self-governance, self-determination

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