Environment | World

NPR: Indigenous Saami worried about Russia'a claim to the Arctic

"The Russian Arctic has the scars of history. The northwest, around the port city of Murmansk, was pummeled by Adolf Hitler's forces during World War II. The Arctic was also one of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's favorite places to send his perceived enemies, with gulags that dotted the snowy landscape.

The indigenous people of this region bore much of the brunt. The Saami tribe, for one, has lived centuries in Russia's northwest, near the Norwegian border. Saami people were forcibly collectivized on farms under Stalin. Nadezhda Lyashenko, the Saami woman singing traditional tribal music here, can recount the horror stories. Her grandfather, a reindeer shepherd, was shot in 1937, accused of being a spy after he crossed into Finland chasing a reindeer herd.

After decades of relative peace, Lyashenko says, trouble seems to be returning to her native Arctic lands. She sees Russia and other world powers in a race for oil and gas, ignoring the potential impact to a part of the Earth that's been rarely touched.

"The Arctic is just so fragile," she says. "This time, it's a research boat going out there. It's like the prick of a needle, and the land will heal. But if they go with knives, with spears, they could break everything. And then what?""

Get the Story:
Russia Pushes To Claim Arctic As Its Own (NPR 8/16)

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