The Russian Arctic regions are accounted for up to 1/3 of the country’s gross domestic product and it seems that its contribution will only grow as Russia announced its plans to invest around 5,5 trillion rubbles in different infrastructure and natural resource projects in the next 5 years [1] and develop eight core zones: Kolskaya core zone, Arkhangelskaya core zone, Nenetskaya core zone, Vorkutinskaya core zone, Yamalo-Nenetskaya core zone, Taimyro-Turukhanskaya core zone, North-Yakut core zone , Chukotskaya core zone (Social and Economic Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation).
These developments incite us to look at the interactions between natural resources companies and local indigenous communities.
Russia has special legislation on compensation to indigenous peoples in case of the damages caused by the commercial activities, particularly: Federal Law on guarantees of the rights of indigenous peoples; Federal Law on territories of the traditional natural use; Federal Law on product-sharing agreements. At the level of regions some subjects of the Russian Federation also adopted special legislation on the rights of indigenous peoples, for example, Law of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) on ethnological expertise whose objective is to protect socio-economic and cultural development of indigenous peoples. Moreover, some resource companies are guided by international standards, promoted by the World Bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, the International Financial Corporation and etc. Finally, at the company level some of them adopted corporate norms which to be employed in the relations with indigenous peoples and used in the conclusion of benefit-sharing agreements (for example, Gazpromneft, Loukoil, Rosneft). Formal benefit-sharing arrangements are usually concluded at regional and local levels, but they also can be negotiated directly with the affected indigenous communities.
There exist three main modes of benefit-sharing in Russia: state and/or corporate paternalism, company-centred social responsibility and partnership. Researchers’ opinions on the practice of conclusion of benefit-sharing arrangements are not unanimous. Thus, in their research Tulaeva and Tysiachniouk found that a mix of all three modes have existed in the regions of their study. They determined that companies operating in Sakhalin utilized elements of partnership and CCSR and this practice is the best suited for the needs of indigenous communities, while paternalism, inherited from the Soviet era, presupposes a dominance of powerful actors (the government and oil companies) [2]. Researchers pointed out the existing gap between the proclaimed CSR policy and the actual practice: with few mechanisms of participation and little consultations residents of the Arctic region do not have means to further their interests. [3] However, not everyone shares this criticism of paternalism. In view of Gogolev, paternalism is necessary because otherwise indigenous peoples cannot be in an equal partnership with companies with unlimited resources. In his opinion, it is possible to talk about “new paternalism” when a state creates a system of principles which consider interests of indigenous peoples and extractive industries. [4] Osipov’s study in Yamal Nenets Okrug shows that interests of indigenous peoples are indeed being accounted for in the agreement-model involving tripartite negotiations at the regional, municipal and local levels. Although the state involvement in negotiation process is the most significant, because the budget of a whole arrangement is defined at the Governor’s level, the representatives of indigenous NGO are present at all stages and more practical matters are settled at the local level [5].
Therefore, the Russian state is necessarily involved in the relations between resource companies and indigenous communities and has a role of a guardian who set a balance of different interest. In principle this corresponds to recommendations which were given by researchers and UN Special Rapporteurs. According to Morgera, benefit-sharing contract are meant to secure public benefits, and there is positive impacts of government’s participation in negotiations [6]. UN Special Rapporteur Anaya stressed that the state has a responsibility to oversee negotiations and mitigate power imbalances between the companies and indigenous peoples (A/HRC/24/41, para. 62). However, from the evidence presented by the researchers it is unclear how invasive is the state participation in Russia and what is a role of indigenous peoples’ representatives in the agreement negotiations at the regional level where the entire arrangement framework is settled.
Moreover, the objectives which are stated in legal provisions and an actual practice might significantly differ. There are some warning evidences about the dangers of the misuse of benefit-sharing as a means to gain social acceptability for certain natural resource projects [7], creation of dependency [8] and interpretation of benefit-sharing as an attempt to put price on the societies’ existence [9].

1. Staalesen, Atle. “Russia presents a grandiose 5-year plan for the Arctic”. accessed 13 January 2018,
2. Tulaeva, Svetlana and Maria Tysiachniouk. “Benefit-Sharing Arrangements between Oil Companies and Indigenous People in Russian Northern Regions”. Sustainability, 9, 1326, (2017): 1-22.
3. Henry, Laura A., Soili Nysten-Haarala, Svetlana Tulaeva and Maria Tysiachniouk “Corporate Social Responsibility and the Oil Industry in the Russian Arctic: Global Norms and Neo-Paternalism”. Europe-Asia Studies, 68:8 (2016): 1340-1368.
4. Gogolev, Petr. “Indigenous small ethnic communities in the constitutional-law politics of Russia: paternalism, protectionism and partnership”. Constitution and Municipal Law, N 7, (2014): 24-33. [in Russian]
5. Osipov, Igor. “Negotiation strategies and agreement-making models in large-scale resource development projects in Yamal, Arctic Russia”. Nordia Geographical Publications, 41: 5 (2012): 9-21
6. Morgera, Elisa. “Under the Radar: The Role of Fair and Equitable Benefit-sharing in Protecting and Realizing Human Rights Connected to Natural Resources”. BENELEX Working Paper N. 10 (2018). Available at SSRN: or
7. Ibid, p. 18
8. Samsonova, Irina, Aziza Neustroeva and Mariya Pavlova. “Relationship issues between the indigenous people of the North and exploration companies of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia)”. Sociodynamics № 9 (2017). Available at :
9. Orellana, Marcos. “Saramaka People v Suriname Judgment”, The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 102, No. 4 (2008).