Dr. Dmitrii Kharakka-Zaitsev | Discussion Sustainable cities: Present and future of humanity
Representante Izhora “Shojkula”

Dr. Dmitrii Kharakka-Zaitsev | Discussion Sustainable cities: Present and future of humanity

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Dr. Dmitrii Kharakka-Zaitsev

Izhora “Shojkula” Indigenous Community (Russia Federation)


So these were some words in my native language, just for you to hear how it sounds.

So, actually this is very strange and very unusual moment for me and for my people, because I think there were no presidents before, when people of my nationality are presenting something in Central America or Latin America in general.

So when I told my people that I’m going to Guatemala and I have to make a presentation about the Izhora people, I would say that people were surprised; because they asked me, “Why are people in Guatemala or Latin America interested in us?” But I think this is kind of a recognition that we are all equal; all indigenous people are all equal and the only problem is that we do not know each other well, and we do not always know that somebody is existing with the same problems, like 10 hours from this place.

And this is also a kind of evidence that our people are making new and new steps forward, to be integrated in the international discussion about sustainable development, about recycling, and new ecological movements, and also the territorial problems of the indigenous peoples.

So, I’m very sorry that I did not translate the English to Spanish, so I would ask the translator to translate what I am going to say.

So just a few words about us: I think you know of such countries as Estonia, Finland, and Hungary. So these three countries where founded by our closest relatives: Finno-Ugric people; and these are only 3 independent countries of Finno-Ugric and are people who are, according to the last official census, we are only 266 persons.

So of course, we are not struggling for any independency, (it would be absurd) but we are struggling for our land, for perseveration of our land, because we are really patriots of our land.

So our community was always existing, but in accordance with the laws, the members of the community decided to register the community as a legal entity, as an NGO in 2005; and I would like to admit the role of indigenous women of our community who led this process, and I think indigenous women are really leaders of all indigenous movements.

So we have the membership and we have more than 130, nowadays 140 adult members, and we made our own unofficial census only in our traditional land and we calculated that now we have around 500 people, inhabitants of this particular area.

So the problem is that while we are so small, we lost 90% of the population during the repressions of 1937 and 1939 in the Soviet Union, because of the preparation for the World War; people were executed, killed.

And also another reason is the relation with Finland: After the Second World War people who departured to Finland were executed or departed from the border to different areas of the Soviet Russia Federation. And people, until the end of the 1950s, people couldn’t –there was restriction to return back to the villages. So people wanted to clean their biography, and clean their history that they belonged to this minority, to these indigenous peoples.

So that is way we, nowadays, we are kind of revitalizing and the self-identity is now growing up, and especially among the young generation and in one year and a half, in the Russia Federation, we will have a new official census, and we are expecting that more people will register as Izhora people.

So in the…actually it was in a previous picture, it was a picture of our community, not all of them but it’s just to ruin the stereotype; we are not a wild indigenous people, that indigenous people could be… could look like this, I don’t know: Driving cars, talking on cellphones, and doing regular working, earning money a lawyers, teachers, and so on. It doesn’t mean that we are losing our indigenous features because of it.

This is our neighborhood, which is advantaged and disadvantaged as well, because we are kind of an… we called it… during the Soviet time we called it “Third Column.” So this is a category of citizens which are… could be considered internal enemies. Why? Because we are Finno-Ugric and we are very close to the border with Estonia, and across the sea we have Finland, and culturally we are, of course, much closer to Finish Estonian culture than to Slavic culture.

And we have our neighbors which are Ingrian Finns, the people who came from Finland let’s say 300 or 400 years ago, they… and Izhorian and  Volscian peoples who are only 70 people of this population, of this indigenous people. We are the native nations of this land; the first nations of this land, so we are very proud of it, that St. Petersburg which is 2 hours by car from our compact area were built instead of our villages.

Just a few illustrations. “Zoikkola,” you can read it, Zoikkola is the name of our peninsula, which is now the last place of compact inhabitants of my people. This is in our original language, Zoikkola, and we name our area as the last bastion of living culture, because as we concede… we believe that the culture… we believe that the indigenous culture can live in the sustainable form, in the living form, only within the territory of the indigenous people; because, of course, the indigenous culture can be presented in the libraries, in archives, universities, but this is something different. It’s more for conservation, but not for development.

Few illustrations of what we look like and where we live.

So nowadays, what we are doing to preserve the culture is the language classes; so we try to revitalize, even though it’s not official, the language is not officially presented in the education system because the education system was totally eliminated in 1937, even the books. So anyway, we are trying to organize these language classes.

We try to return back the traditional pottery, as one of the main industries of our area; and of course, we preserve our culture. And I would like to mention that the main economy [source] of our place is fishing and gardening and the community organized this during Soviet times, after the second World War, Izhorians organized the richest fishing factory and port in Soviet Russia, and the second in Soviet Union. Now it does not exist anymore.

So just a few worlds about why we are indigenous people. We are recognized as indigenous people in Russia Federation among another 47, because of the law which was introduced in 1999 and it says that the Russian Federation recognizes indigenous people who fulfill two requirements: Quantity requirements; quality criteria and quantity criteria.

Quality criteria means that you have to live in the traditional land and you have to perform the traditional economies; and quantity criteria is your people should be less, (the quantity, the population) less than 50,000 people; so all other indigenous people who are more than 50,000, they are not recognized as indigenous people [by the] Russian Federation.

But even, having a very, very wide, and very specified legislation, like sector specific laws… 7 peoples, 7 indigenous peoples who are recognized among these 47 cannot use the law, so because there is one kind of, there is one special requirement to apply to the whole law is to be in another list, in a special register list where [the] government, Russian Federation, listed all territories inhabited by indigenous people.

So they take a territory and they name it or they fix it after some kind of indigenous peoples. So this is… I think this is correct, but if all 47 indigenous peoples will be in the list.

Now, 7 indigenous peoples are kind of outsiders and Utians and Izhorians are among these outsiders. And now we are talking… now we are discussing this situation: How can we classify this situation? We can classify it as discrimination practice because we have a law but we cannot use this law. So this is like internal discrimination within indigenous peoples.

So going back with reference to the previous speaker about the blue zones, I would like to mention we are absolutely not a blue zone, we are a very red zone, and this is the Solkinsky peninsula; the place it’s like, this area, and the total population is 1,300, something like [that], and 25% are belonging to indigenous, like Izhorian, community.

Do we have any conditions for the sustainable development and [for] the preservation of indigenous peoples in this area? Nowadays, I can say no, first of all, because of the migration process.

We can consider this migration as a migration because of the pressure, let's say like this. So we see… we have the information and a few data about population with immigration from Russia to the small area because of the construction force and industrialization and we have the movement, now things that are only in the mind not on practice kind of the movement and thought, “What we are going to do nowadays: Should we move from our land or should we stay in our land and die?” basically.

Why this idea, what is going on? Why are we talking about Izhorian problem and Izhorian case during the last five years? This is the industrialization project; you can see that this is the industrialization, one illustration of the sea terminals [AUDIO CUT] so this is the coast which we used for the [AUDIO CUT]. Now this romantic color, those terminals of the sea port… and I listed the type of terminals so you can understand, you can see how endangered they are. So first of all its gas, coal, oil products, bulk cargo (this is the minerals), fertilizers, and Sulphur; and also now we have the problem with forests when…

In Shojkula we see a lot of problems… in a lot of movies and documentary movies, we watch on TV about Brazil, about Africa, about the problem with forests but just two hours from Saint Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Federation, we have the same problems; we are losing our drinking water because the swamps are ruined, the streams are ruined, and blocked as well.

So this gray area is the future industrial park of chemical plants. Here will be the cargo airport; and the villages are now here, so it’s kind of boxed, and we are in the box, and I don’t know how we can survive. 

So then, this is the Nord Stream 2 project; this is one of the scandalous, most scandalous projects in Europe nowadays, because several countries had to give the approval, the official approval for this project because this is like this huge gas tube going to Germany.

So this is the tube which will connect to the new plants, chemical plants; and of course, the Izhora community is working, not against, but they are working for the dialogue with Nord Stream 2 to find out the compromise, how to work on indigenous territories.

And nowadays, Ultramar is also the company who is building, just in the middle of the village, the mineral fertilizers terminal.

So regarding the sustainable status, this is the peninsula which we saw in the previous slide, and this the town of ** which was promised to the local people by the government, and we can see that no villages are included in this plan.

There is a town of Drim; there is a sea port which is now under operation, it works; and this is the industrial zone which is actually covers much more land. So this is how it should look like, but is there any place for indigenous peoples and for any people?

So just several illustrations of like before and now for you to understand how we feel living in this area and how people are… what they should think about the future.

So this is the development effect around the villages; we have 19 villages in this peninsula. And what we are talking about, when we are starting to talk with government and with investors, we are talking about our existence in these territories but we want all three stakeholders to follow the complex approach.

So we understand that we need to preserve our food culture, our natural resources culture, the access to the sea, the access to the forest, because it’s the integral part of our life. Of course, we would like to establish or revitalize the educational system in the villages, to introduce the Izhorian language, at least into the kindergartens or the first… like elementary schools.

But what we are receiving as an answer that, “We have different plans for this territory and you are not included in these plans.”

So now you can see, this is the “Now” the modern, the current condition; and this will be in a couple of years. So we can see the gray is the industrial zones of chemical plants and dangerous objects like hazardous, industrial objects, and the orange… these are the settlements.

And what we are doing to preserve and to… how can we use the law? Because the local community are now… has a very high level of legal understanding or of understanding of law, of rights, which is controverse to the level of education of the people who are making decisions, I mean the people who are working for the government as well.

So, I just put several remarks; I will explain to you. So, what [AUDIO CUT] interesting policies in terms of our people: The government is organizing a folk festivals; this is their favorite thing of what they can do for indigenous peoples. And the idea is that they have to…we should be happy to think at this folk festival, but during the rest of the year nobody pays attention on any problems, like village problems or global problems.

What I like from the Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples Issues is one of the main slogans, “Nothing for us, without us.” When we are talking with the… when we are trying to initiate the dialogue with the government and with the investors, we are saying, we are pronouncing this idea; and what we are receiving as an answer is, “What? Are you serious? What does it mean, nothing for you without you?”  

Another thing is that defending for minimal standards, and this is actually the main problem because the local people… they feel the new wave of repression, they feel the new wave of ignorance; and this is very difficult for most of the people at this area, to accept any kind of actions which are [made] by the government.

So you know some people in the dialogue, in direct dialogue with the governor say that, “You know, were departured, we were executed, we were restricted, the language was restricted and so on. Are you preparing some new action plan against our people? Does it look like genocide?” And you know the next day in the mass media was the article, “The Izhorian Women Blame Governor of Region in Genocide.” So it is very difficult for us to say something, and here is a very good opportunity but I will return back to my home, where [my family is] so I would send you a message if something [is] wrong.

This is very difficult because when we are and insisting on sustainable development, on fulfillment of Agenda 2030, and when we are talking about the sustainable development goals, people say… the government says, “Are you against development of Russian Federation, you 266 people against… you want to ruin the economy of Russia?” So, how can we react on this question? And what I said is the geopolitical situation is very difficult because we are in the neighborhood; if somebody says something that we are not agreeing with this industrial plan, [the] next day you will see in mass media some article or interview saying that probably Izhora people are working for NATO or Izhorians are paid by Estonian government, something like this.

And we try to avoid… we try to block, hide these articles from our old people, because if they would read it they would have at least a heart attack because this kind of disrespect and ignorance from mass media is not acceptable; it’s very old methods, very old instruments… actually it’s not dialogue at all with the people. 

Once we ask for the dialogue… we’ve asked [for] a lot of public hearings, a lot, many, many public hearings with the participation of [the] Government, with participation of the Federal Government, with participation of industrial investors, and you know, one lady from… one investor when presenting their project to our leaders, and the Izhorian community, not to be, but somebody stood up and said, “You did not agree… you did not receive free prior informed consent from us, for this project,” and she said... (I’m finishing. One minute, good).

She said, “Come on, you are only three people. Are you existing?” And it was so… it was a harm; it was so difficult for the local people to understand this kind of behavior, why you are coming to this land with your rules.

Like, I like one expression of my neighbor. She is over 55 years old, and she said, “When you are coming to somebody’s house, you’re asking: ‘May I do this?’ or   ‘should I speak loud or no?’’ So you’re asking… you want to be polite, and you want to learn the rules of this house.  And she’s asking why we, native people of this land, should ask somebody about something’s rules to be implemented at our land.

And what we are thinking to do next, we would like to apply to UNESCO to recognize these territories of Ingrians, of Izhorians and Bosnians, as an integral object under protection; because we have special ecological, cultural, social, constructive system, because we have already in Estonia…

Estonia has a very good example of Kisno Island, when the whole island were included in the heritage because people are preserving their… they conserve… they are developing their culture within this island. 

And another way we’d like to apply for the convention on the ***, to pay attention to the destruction of natural and indigenous environment in the *** region of [the] Russian Federation; *** region is the name of the region.

And of course, we are going to work , continue our work with Expert Mechanism [on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples], because they are also kind of monitoring these issues.

And of course, we call for mass media, mass media community all over the world, to consider the Izhorian and *** cases [as] subjects of attention, and to make more reports, more interviews with people, and to… not to hide this, to make this more public, this problem, because (I’m finishing, I’m saying the last words) we always think that when you say “the indigenous people, the problem of indigenous peoples” you… some kind of *** are coming into your mind, but nobody thinks about Europe. I think so; nobody. This is… I mentioned before that this is happening nowadays, every day, every hour, five hours by car from the cultural capital of [the] Russian Federation.

And now, this last slide.

[IN SPANISH] Thank you, thank you very much [IN ENGLISH] and [SPEAKING NATIVE TONGUE]


In principle, to Dmitrii, the frequency the energy, the vibration of all of us who are participating in CUMIPAZ here in Guatemala, 2018, we will be with you supporting the whole project and when you get to Russia nothing will happen to you.

To conclude this panel, this discussion, now with us is Mr. Félix Ovidio Monzón, elected Representative from the municipalities of the parliament of Guatemala for the period 2016-2020. He has a degree in pedagogy and Educational Administration from the University of San Carlos de Guatemala and has studies in public policies from the Rafael Ladívar University, Master's degree in artibus in Political Science from Rural University, Master's degree in Educational Innovation at the Versailles University, doctorate in Public Administration at the University of Galileo; and he has also been a driving force behind initiatives of the law of social benefit in favor of the environment, health, education, and integral rural development before powerful economic and political actors who have historically opposed it. To give us his reflections and his comments, Dr. Ovidio Monzón will talk about this topic and sustainable cities.