Working Paper 32

Assigned Territories, Family/Clan Holdings, and Common-Pool Resources in the Taimyr Autonomous Region, Northern Russia

John Ziker

Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 32

In the Taimyr Autonomous Region, an Arctic sub-unit of Krasnoyarskii Krai, in central Siberia, a variety of property relations have taken form in indigenous communities since the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1991. Two types of property established during the Soviet period, including both formally assigned territories and common-pool zones immediately surrounding each village, have been augmented by a third type. The newest arrangement, termed the 'family-clan holding' and more recently 'territory of traditional nature-use', is based on a formal claim with the state. While these arrangements and other legal measures have been adopted in recent years to promote the interests of indigenous Siberian communities in the post-Soviet period, collective bargaining with the regional government has been weak for lack of money and expertise, and thus, few people have ventured to make formal land claims. In addition, the collapsing state-sponsored rural economy in the Taimyr Region after 1991 has favored indigenous subsistence hunting and fishing as the preeminent mode of production. Concomitant changes in property relations have occurred. Two primary questions were asked: 1) What conditions favor the transformation of assigned territories into commonly held territories? And 2) Why is it that formal land claims (clan holdings) are not very widespread among an indigenous population pursuing an agenda of self-determination vis-à-vis a national government? A number of factors when taken together appear to favor common-pool land tenure in the study community, including ancestral proscriptions against overhunting; cross-cutting genealogical- and affinal-kinship relationships; cooperative hunting; non-market distribution of meat and fish; and economic leveling; as well as the migratory nature of the prey species, the distance from urban centers, and the high cost of transportation due to the lack of roads. Boundaries of hunting territories and favorite spots in the common pool zone are not defended as private property. Rather, social boundaries, maintained through cooperation of close bilateral kin and other local hunters, are implemented to manage the use of common hunting grounds. Non-local people are the most likely not to be included in user groups.

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