Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Insights and Discourse: Reflections on "Indigenous Russia and the War in Ukraine"

Highlights from the October 10 panel discussion, held during the week of Indigenous Peoples Day.

Vera Solovyeva speaks at the podium
Vera Solovyeva, a Sakha environmental scientist and social justice advocate, addresses an audience of students and faculty in Rhode Island Hall

Two scholars from Indigenous communities in Russia, Drs. Vera Solovyeva and Pavel Sulyandziga, as well as Charles Norchi, international law professor from the University of Maine School of Law, presented to students and faculty on Tuesday, October 10, in a discussion moderated by Bathsheba Demuth, Brown's associate professor of history and environment and society. They spoke about the ethnic diversity in Russia, pushing back on Russia’s prevalent monolithic image, and how the Russia-Ukraine war and mobilization has disproportionately affected ethnic minorities.

Solovyeva, a researcher at George Mason University and a member of the Sakha people, drew upon her own research to note that many of the federal territories with large Indigenous populations have had the highest per-capita death rates from the war in Ukraine.

“ Who will take care of our elders? And who will take care of our land? ”

Vera Solovyeva

Sulyandziga — a member of the Udege people, Chairperson of the Board of the International Development Fund of Indigenous Peoples in Russia, a former member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and a visiting scholar at Dartmouth and the UMaine School of Law — then shared stories illustrating Indigenous peoples' fight for self-determination and fair treatment from the Russian government.

“ The history of my people is a history of fighting for our land and its rights. ”

Pavel Sulyandziga

To close out the event, Pavel Sulyandziga Jr. — an opera singer clad in traditional Udege garb — performed a song in Udege and Russian that his father had composed.

An Impromptu Performance


Pavel Sulyandziga Jr., an opera singer, performed a song in Udege and Russian that had been composed by his father.

The talk was a collaboration between the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown's Native American and Indigeneous Studies Initiative, and the Department of History.