Why do northern communities return to archaic economic practices?

Theme 1. Environmental protection
Session Name 1.4 Sustainable development of the Arctic - boreal regions
Presentation Type Oral
Author(s) Juri Plusnin (National Research University - Higher School of Economics, Russian Federation)
Abstract text

My researches of local communities in the Russian Arctic documented the phenomenon of the return everywhere to archaic economic practices. This process began in the 1990s and continues today, despite the intensive development of new economic relations. Archaic economic practices are diverse occupations of the population – crafts. They are predominantly informal and in “shadow”. Municipal and state institutions do not control them. They are not registered in statistical documents. This "craft economy" does not also exist in the socio-political area. However, it is now the basis of the social and economic life of communities.

The investigation more than 30 communities in the Russian North, Siberia, Kamchatka (using Q-methodology: direct observation and in-depth interviews, analysis of local statistics) reveals the detailed process of returning transition to archaic economic practices. This process consists in (1) complete abandonment of state paternalism, (2) forced transition to self-support of households, (3) emergence and development of isolating mechanisms, (4) intensity the process of self-isolation, (5) formation of self-organization mechanisms, (6) development of real institutions of self-government. As a consequence, a new life-support system is being formed, which is based on archaic practices. There is a gradation of "archaization": from the preservation of old social relations (inherited from the Soviet period) to a complete transition to exclusively archaic folk craft. Factors of influence are (a) the degree of state participation in support of the communities; (b) the degree of isolation; (c) the degree of community’s self-isolation. Whether this is an independent transition of communities to sustainable development?

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