New article: Two Centuries of Russian Sámi Policy

This article reviews arrangements for Russian Sámi self-government during the Late Imperial (1822–1917), Soviet (1917–1991) and Federal (1992–) Eras of Russian history, comparing them to developments in the country’s general indigenous minority policy.

Berg-Nordlie, Mikkel: Two Centuries of Russian Sámi Policy: Arrangements for Autonomy and Participation Seen in Light of Imperial, Soviet and Federal Indigenous Minority Policy 1822–2014 is available in Acta Borealia, Volume 32, Issue 1/2015.

A version of the article made for this website is also available (PDF)


New book: Developments in Sámi politics

The new book «Samepolitikkens utvikling», edited by Bjørn Bjerkli and Per Selle (Oslo: Gyldendal, 2015), contains one chapter which compares Sámi representation in Russia with Sámi representations structrues in Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

The chapter in question is:
«Representativitet i Sápmi: fire stater, fire tilnærminger til inklusjon av urfolk» (Mikkel Berg-Nordlie)

Read more about the book (in Norwegian) here.

omsl.8-Samepolitikkens utvikling


New book: Indigenous politics – institutions, representation, mobilization

A new book on the indigenous politics in different states across the world. Edited by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie, Jo Saglie, and Ann Sullivan.

The book contains a thorough overview over institutional arrangements for indigenous representation and mobilization processes, and describes concrete cases of conflict and negotiation in a wide range of states.


Several of the chapters touch upon Sámi issues, one of which concerns Russian Sámi politics: «Who shall represent the Sámi? Indigenous Governance in. Murmansk Region and the Nordic Sámi Parliament Model» (by Berg-Nordlie)

Click here for table of contents and excerpts from the book.

The book is published by ECPR Press, with chapters produced by a broad and interdisciplinary international team of researchers: Johannes Bergh, Mikkel Berg-Nordlie, Einar Braathen, Ravi de Costa, Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh, Patrik Lantto, John-Andrew McNeish, Ulf Mörkenstam, Torunn Pettersen, Martin Papillon, Jane Robbins, Jo Saglie, Cássio Inglez de Sousa og Ann Sullivan.


Bridging Divides: A new book on Russian Sámi politcs

The book «Bridging Divides. Ethno-political leadership among the Russian Sámi» was published as part of this project in the Fall of 2012.

Bridging Divides by Indra Overland and Mikkel Berg-Nordlie accounts for key events in the establishing phase of post-Soviet Sámi ethno-politics during the 1990s. The focus on the book is on the challenges and conflicts associated with leading a small ethno-political revival movement, and the establishment of new relationships with the Nordic Sámi afterhaving been sundered from them during the Soviet Era.


Table of contents

Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Who are the Russian Sámi?
Chapter 3. Lost Land, Broken Culture
Chapter 4. Language Revival
Chapter 5. Educational Re-orientation
Chapter 6. Political Representation
Chapter 7. Conclusions

Appendixes: Glossary and Abbreviations; Sámi population estimates; Nuclear bomb testing on the Kola Peninsula; Inter-ethnic relations; Language; Three Intertwined Social Problems; The complexity of ethnic identity.
Reviews and appraisals for «Bridging Divides»
«…a comprehensive, trustworthy and I would even say authoritative soure of data and good analysis about Russian Sámi ethnic politics»
– Vladislava Vladimirova (Max Planck Institute), Review in Acta Borealia 30/1/2013.

«This very well-documented study concerns how problems connected to the collapse of the Soviet Union affected the existence of the Russian Sámi. …a detailed analysis of human efforts to create Sámi ethno-political organizations and rebuild Sámi culture, whilst also integrating this project in the neighboring countries’ political structures»
– Helena Jerman (University of Helsinki), Review in Nordisk Østforum 3/2013.

«..an important case study… of an indigenous revitalisation movement and thereby allows for comparison with similar developments not only among the officially recognized forty [indigenous peoples of Russia] but also with other indigenous peoples in industrialized countries… It is a valuable contribution to the literature on language loss and bilingualism»
Stephan Dudeck (Arctic Centre, University of Lapland).

«[A] close and sophisticated analysis of the almost impossible project of restoring a cultural tradition, a lost language and a way of life balancing precariously under harsh and marginal econological and economic conditions. …[It is] well written, well organized and well documented.»
– Jens-Ivar Nergaard (University of Tromsø – Arctic University of Norway)

Buy it from Berghahn Books or from Amazon,
or your local academic bookstore.


New article: Striving to unite. The Russian Sámi and the Nordic Sámi Parliament model

A second article from our project is now available for the public, addressing the issue of Russian Sámi attempts to import the Nordic Sámi Parliament model of political representation.

Berg-Nordlie, Mikkel: “Striving to unite. The Russian Sámi and the Nordic Sámi Parliament model” is available in Arctic Review on Law and Politics 1/2011 and can also be downloaded by clicking on the icon at the end of the text.

This article describes activism in the Russian Federation aimed at reforming indigenous policy by adopting a foreign model – a Nordic-type indigenous elected assembly – for the Sámi of the Russian Federation. Key initiatives ca. 1985-2010 are presented, their origins investigated, and some effects of the activists’ actions – intended and otherwise – are analyzed.

The article also analyses mechanisms for Sámi representation in Russia in light of certain functions of the Nordic Sámi Parliaments.


The Sámi Parliament Building in Norway (Image: Wikimedia Commons).



New article: Need and Misery in the Eastern Periphery

The first article from the project has now been published, addressing the issue of Nordic Sámi media discourse on the Russian Sámi.

Berg-Nordlie, Mikkel: Need and Misery in the Eastern Periphery. Nordic Sámi Media Discourse on the Kola Sámi is available in Acta Borealia Volume 28, Issue 1/2011.

The article investigates Nordic Sámi discourse on the Kola (Russian) Sámi through analysis of texts from Sámi newspapers and journals 1992–2009. Among the findings are that the relationship between Nordic and Kola Sámi is frequently discussed as a donor–recipient pattern similar to that of general Western discourse on “the [global] South” and the 1990s’ “great misery discourse” on Russia. This portrayal of the Kola Sámi is here referred to as “the discourse of need”. However, the study also finds that this most divergent subgroup of the Sámi people is accepted into the border-transcending Sámi “nation” without question – it is never challenged that they are part of a larger “us”.

The article also comments on some similarities between the discourse on the Kola Sámi as a “suffering” group, and certain patterns in Nordic Sámi self-representation. In comparison, a selection of non-Sámi media texts displayed less interest in the Kola Sámi; their paying attention to the group was more dependent on its members being perceived as victims of crisis and/or injustice; and they articulated the discourse of need more often. The two decades from which texts were drawn (1990s and 2000s) differed mainly by the latter period showing a general decrease in interest in the group; and by Sámi media being less dominated by the discourse of need, and containing more texts portraying the Kola Sámi as culturally and politically active.

Read more about the findings on NRK Sápmi’s webpages.

The article as published in Acta Borealia can be read here. A version of the article made for this website is also available (click on the icon below).



Russian Sámi in Nordic media

The Norwegian Barents Secretariat‘s internet-based newsservice BarentsObserver recently interviewed a representative of the project team about the purpose of our project, and some of our findings. The article is available in English and Russian. The interview was also cited on Finugor.ru (Russian) and on the website of NRK Sámi Radio (Norwegian).

The interview focuses on Mikkel Berg-Nordlie’s study of Nordic (mainly Norwegian) print media’s discourses on the Russian Sámi. The group is typically framed as ‘victims’ who are dependent on Western assistance. This discourse exaggerates the problems of the Russian Sámi, and undercommunicates the degree to which the Russian Sámi are active in Russian civil society and politics. There is indeed a general lack of information in Nordic Sámi-oriented media about the nature of Russian Sámi politics and civil society, the structure of which is significantly different from that found on the Nordic side of the border.

PS: The project team wishes to emphasize that our work with this subject began in late 2009, and not in 2008 as the text on Finugor.ru claims.

The Barents Region consists of thirteen ‘provinces’ of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The region’s indigenous peoples are also involved in the cooperation (see: www.barentsindigenous.org). On the map, blue indicates the Barents region, red is Sápmi and violet indicates the part of Sápmi that lies within the Barents region. (Map: modified from Wikimedia Commons).


Eastern Sápmi: The Borderland and its People

When you drive between Murmansk and Kirkenes, you are travelling through an area thick with Sámi – and world – history. Read our on-the-road account of Eastern Sámi history at the NIBR International Blog.