Sami people arrived on the Kola Peninsula, in northwest Russia, some 4,000 years ago. Traditional Sami occupations are hunting, fishing, reindeer herding and farming, though only a minority of today’s Sami make a living from these activities alone, and virtually none live in a natural economy nor have a nomadic lifestyle. The Soviet Union had the worst record for Sami human rights violations, mainly afflicted by mining activity, but also provided the means to support the Sami culture, which was used as a living piece of propaganda to show the western countries that the Soviet Union was a state that not only accepted but also actively supported other cultures and lifestyles.
At present, there are over 2000 Sami people living in Russia. Around 600 of them live in Lovozero. This multicultural village of just 3000 people, situated in the middle of the Kola Peninsula, gathers Sami, Komi, Nenets, Tatars, Ukrainian and Russian communities.
The Kola Sami culture and language are practically dying but there are some signs of recovery in the appreciation of the Sami culture over the last years. The newly built Sami Cultural Center in Lovozero is the result of the cooperation between Sami communities in different countries. The goal of the center is revival, preservation and development of Sami culture in the Kola Peninsula. There are courses where old and young people can learn Sami language, traditional Sami folklore and handicrafts. The center is home as well for the Sami radio studios, which even though the main language of broadcasting is Russian, there are some programs broadcasted in Sami.
But most important of all is the conservation of the reindeer herding, hunting and fishing as a lifestyle. The recently created company called “Tsaar”, meaning tundra in Sami, may pave the way for future generations. In cooperation with the Danish company Info Nor, the goal of “Tsaar” is to secure the rights of the Sami people and create options that are economically viable in the market economy, keeping the traditional values of the Sami people. The company is waiting for funding and looking for more partners to support them economically before they start to act next year.
The future does not look bright but there is some hope for Sami people in Russia.