Caught between Traditional Ways of Life and Economic Development: Interactions between Indigenous Peoples and an Oil Company in Numto Nature Park

  • Maria Tysiachniouk Centre for Independent Social Reasearch, Russia
  • Irina Olimpieva Centre for Independent Social Reasearch, Russia


The paper examines the conflict between indigenous people living in Numto Nature Park in the Khanty-Mansy region of Russia and the oil company Surgutneftegaz, which is trying to expand to new areas of the Park for industrial development. We analyse this conflict by looking at different perceptions concerning the threats and benefits underpinning the conflicting parties’ arguments. We show that the oil company, whose approach is based on the principles of benefit sharing, seeks to provide economic benefits as well as infrastructure to ensure development in the indigenous community. In contrast, the indigenous people in Numto prioritise environmental safety and the possibility of maintaining their traditional ways of life, which means eliminating the negative impacts of oil development on fisheries, reindeer herding and the general state of the environment. The study indicates that focusing on indigenous peoples’ and oil companies’ differences concerning perceptions of threats and benefits provides a better understanding of desirable benefit-sharing arrangements between oil companies and indigenous peoples in areas that have so far only been marginally affected by industrialisation and modernisation. This insight suggests that the introduction of community-centred perspectives emphasising cultural and environmental security in benefit-sharing policies in oil companies could improve practices. The analysis draws on interviews with members of the indigenous Nenets and Khanty peoples of Numto Park as well as representatives of Surgutneftegaz, NGOs, the regional administration and the Numto Park administration

Original Articles
indigenous people, benefit sharing, traditional lifestyle, economic development, oil extraction, conflict