Heritage versus Big Business: Lessons from The YUKOS Affair

in Inner Asia
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Abstract

Two antagonistic forces confronted each other on the territory of the Republic of Buryatia in 2002. One of them was YUKOS, an international petroleum company, the other the Tunka National Park, a legally protected nature reserve of national importance. The essence of the conflict was the intention of YUKOS to build a pipeline from Angarsk (a town in the Irkutsk province of Russia) to Daqing (a city in the Heilongjian province in China) directly through the territory of the national park, though the law forbade it. The mighty YUKOS, supported by the Government and President of Buryatia, faced resistance from Buryat ecologists, the administration and personnel of the national park, and the rank-and-file of Tunka district – cattle-breeders, farmers, teachers, doctors, pensioners – all of whom understood that the ecology of the park would suffer irretrievably, compromising both its natural riches and beauty, and many cultural and historical objects: archaeological sites, sacred groves, clan cemeteries, places of shamanist and Buddhist worship, etc. The practitioners of the local religions, such as shamans, Buddhist lamas and divinators of mountain spirits, united to organise special rituals and prayers around the places of worship and sacred objects, asking the local deities and spirits to defend their worshippers, their land, and their sanctuaries. Although the final collapse of YUKOS was determined politically, the experience of Tunka has demonstrated that oil magnates should not arrogantly disregard the populations and cultures of the territories they intend to utilise for their business activities.

Heritage versus Big Business: Lessons from The YUKOS Affair

in Inner Asia

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