Case study: Sakha Republic (Yakutia)

A very unusual degree of advanced local legislation, including Russia’s first law on indigenous communities; first law giving a
salary to reindeer herders; first and only law on anthropological expert review. However, problems remain in implementation.

 The population of Sakha is about half Russian and half Asian. Among the Asian population, the dominant group are the Sakha people, who could be considered indigenous by international standards, but not by Russian legal standards, where the term applies only to ethnic groups with fewer than 50,000 members. Therefore, the officially recognised indigenous people in Sakha are Evenki, Eveny, Dolgan, Yukaghir and Chukchi.

Sakha has Russia’s most advanced regional legislation on industrialisation and land use. Sakha has been at the forefront of passing legal acts even before the Russian Federation passes corresponding laws for all of Russia.

Our research and case study of south Sakha has shown that this advanced governance does not rely on the mainstream international laws, conventions and guidelines in this field, or even refer to them, although some elements can be found in relevant regulatory documents. On the other hand, the situation of indigenous livelihoods in south Sakha looks more satisfactory on paper than it is in the lived experience of indigenous land users themselves. As in so many cases in Russia and beyond, problems remain in the control and actual implementation of good or best practices.