On September 21, 2022, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, announced the partial mobilization of the 18-49- year-old male population in Russia to participate in the war with Ukraine. On the same day, an order of the military commissar No. 182, “On the Announcement of Mobilization,” was issued in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Unfortunately, partial mobilization activities in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) involve numerous human and Indigenous rights violations and violations of the provisions of federal Russian legislation on deferral and exemption from military service.
For example, as the Russian Ministry of Defense argues, there are no set quotas for mobilization. Instead, each region and ethnic republic have a separate mobilization task, which depends on the number of citizens registered in the military. However, in reality, mobilization is carried out indiscriminately in both large and small rural villages, without regard to the size of the ethnic and male population, and without considering the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Thus, in addition to the people eligible for military service, many people who are not eligible for military service were mobilized in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) – those, who did not serve before, students, elders, people with disabilities, and heads of families with many children (Source: Open letter to Putin from the chairman of the Sakha Shamaev Congress). Summonses were handed out late at night (1:00 – 2:00 am) with a minimum time for gathering of their belongings (2-3 hours) and with the threat of imprisonment for five years in case of refusal to mobilize. In the early morning (5:00 – 6:00 am), the mobilized men were taken by bus or planes to the assembly point in the city of Yakutsk, where there were sometimes not enough places for accommodation. There were not enough blankets, linen, or basic shelter. At temperatures below 0°C (less than 32°F), mobilized people from uluses (districts) were forced to spend the night in tents without heating, covered with mattresses.
There are cases when subpoenas were served during calls to the enlistment office for reasons not related to mobilization. Some men were taken from their working places even without returning to their homes first.
While the official Russian authorities conceal the real statistics, an analysis of the first days of mobilization in the Russian Federation from September 22 to September 25, 2022, conducted by anti-war activists in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the Republic of Buryatia, the Republic of Tyva, and the Republic of Kalmykia, as well as independent Russian media shows ethnic selectivity and a blatantly disproportionate number mobilized from ethnic regions compared to the central regions and cities of the Russian Federation. Thus, from the small settlements of the Far North, almost the entire able-bodied young male population has been mobilized. In the Olenek Evenki national region, where the total number of people is 4,324 people, and the number of young men aged 18-35 is only 128 people, 50 people are subject to mobilization. This is 39.07% of all young Evenk men in the region. In the Kobyaysky ulus (district), where Evenk Peoples (a small numbered Indigenous Peoples with a population around 22,000 people) live, men have been taken from their reindeer herds by helicopters.
At the same time, according to eyewitnesses, there was practically no mobilization among the Moscow and St. Petersburg residents. This mobilization is taking place just ahead of the cold Arctic winter, which requires serious preparation and efforts. Despite this, men working as stokers, electricians, drivers, as well as men engaged in traditional economic activities – horse breeders and reindeer herders – are taken away from communities that need them. Who will complete tasks that require physical strength – heat and repair houses, take care of horses and reindeer during long and cold Arctic winter? (Source: a letter from Vinokurova, U.A., a member of the Supreme Council of Elders of the Republic of Sakha). Hunters and fishermen have also been mobilized. Who will provide food for people in the Far North?
The Arctic regions, comprising two-thirds of the territory of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) are already suffering from the harsh effects of climate change. Devastating tundra and forest fires over the last few years and extensive floods, the consequences of which people are still coping with, have shaken the foundations of the traditional economy of the Indigenous Peoples. The current situation, in which the most vital men are drafted into hostilities, undermines the very possibility of normal life in these regions.
In Yakutsk, the capital of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), several hundred women protested against the mobilization on September 25, 2022. Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, which took the form of a ritual dance and prayer of the Sakha people, the police arrested 24 women.
Under pressure from the public, Il Darkhan of the Republic of Sakha, Aisen Nikolaev finally admitted violations in the process of mobilization and said that work was underway to return back to the republic some men mobilized by mistake. However, identification of violations requires a personal approach and a great deal of time. This may not be possible due to the hasty dispatch of those mobilized to the West. According to eyewitnesses, the training of the newly recruited in Khabarovsk lasts only a few days, after which they are sent to the Ukrainian border. Even if all the men who were mistakenly mobilized return home, there are thousands of Indigenous men who will be sent to war with Ukraine. How many of them will die and never return?
Also, in order to avoid mobilization, some men are fleeing the country hastily. Mobilization and this situation are real tragedies that will entail irreparable losses for the Peoples of Sakha, whose total number does not exceed 500,000. It is also true for other Indigenous Peoples of Siberia whose populations are even smaller.
The long history of discriminatory policies in Russia, starting from the time of early colonization, has already led to the loss, partial and sometimes complete, of the traditions and languages of the Siberian Indigenous Peoples. The loss of such a huge number of men in the current conflict with Ukraine will lead to even greater negative and irreversible consequences for the ethnic minorities of Russia. The Peoples of Siberia are under a real threat of losing their genetic heritage, numbers, integrity, languages, culture and traditions.
Military mobilization grossly violates not only human rights, but also the rights of Indigenous Peoples – Articles 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 11, 21, 22, 24 and other articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, the problems of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia – large and small numbered, still remain invisible to the world community. We strongly urge the attention of the world community to the gross violations of the international rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Russian North.