Towards Just, Equitable and Sustainable Arctic Indigenous Economy and Society In the Russian and Swedish Arctic

Last changed: 08 April 2022
Two reindeer in winter landscape. Photo.

JUSTNORTH is a Horizon 2020 project that sets focus on social, economic and ecological justice in the Arctic area. Case study 18 deals with the socio-economic conditions to carry out reindeer husbandry in Russia and in Sweden.

Reindeer herding is a profession and a life-style that is not motivated in the first place by economic profit interests. Meanwhile, one cannot carry out reindeer husbandry without a sound economy. The precondition for reindeer husbandry is impacted and endangered by climate change, declining access to natural resource and grazeland, increasing traffic, losses due to carnivorous attacks, as well as by conflicting land-use claim by extractive industries and other economic activities. To be able to carry out reindeer husbandry today depends on the balance between internal and external factors. External factors, such as state compensations, such as catastrophe compensation and carnivorous compensation, are important for the reindeer husbandry economy.

Even if economic compensation does not handle the root cause of losses, these are important of the branch. The project sheds light on how the system of compensation is formed in Russia and Sweden and explores out of a justice perspective which kind of value systems lie some foundation for how compensations are formed. We are to explore how different key stakeholders, such as state authorities, reindeer herders and their interest organisations and authorities perceive and motivate the current system of supports. We are to focus on three social justice perspectives:

  • Distributive justice: How are current state support and compensatory measures correspond to needs expressed by RH?
  • Participatory justice: How are current state support and compensatory measures incorporate the participation of Indigenous actors?
  • Recognitional justice: How are the concerns and priorities of Indigenous actors given recognition?

Swedish part study within case study 18

Reindeer herding is part of a food system with indigenous routes. It is a food system based on a holistic harmonious co-existence between nature, animals and humans and is unique in Europe. Sapmi, the area where Sami people live who have the sole right these days in Sweden to exercise reindeer herding have been the latest colonized areas in Europe. From the sixteenth century settler colonization, later natural resource extraction motivated the increasing exploitation of forestry. Sami livelihoods have been circumscribed and territorially limited by state regulations. Reindeer herding can be only practiced by those who are member in a ‘sameby’, reindeer herding community. Today multiple conflicting impacts threaten the natural habitat that is the base for reindeer herding, including abiotic threats infused by climate and weather change, biotic factors, such as impact related to shifting vegetation and pressure by predators, and anthropogenetic influences. The latter includes complex risks and challenges accumulating due to completing land use expanding forestry, wind-power parks, mines, roads, tourism. Thus, threat to graze-land is not only related to climatic factors but is intensified by anthropogenetic agency.

In the time of Anthropocene, the maintenance of reindeer herding signifies for humankind the survival of culture based on co-existence with nature and forestry in ways that ensure the global ecological balance. The protection of Reindeer herding as a Sami indigenous culture is part of international treaties, such as UNDRIP signed by Sweden and is also part of the obligations of the Swedish state towards maintaining reindeer herding as an economic base for Sami culture rooted in rights in memorial. As part of these commitments the Swedish state has guaranteed diverse forms of compensations for the negative impacts of abiotic, biotic and human influences undermining the resource base for reindeer herding. These compensations, although do not handle the root causes of declining resources, nonetheless became vital for the continuation of reindeer herding facing global integration into a productivistic food regime.

Case study 18 within JUSTNORTH H2020 project explores how compensation regimes are formed and how different agents representing state and Sami institutions, Sami NGOs and reindeer herders perceive compensations from a social justice perspective. A social justice perspective unravels how Sami reindeer herders are represented in the processes involved in negotiating compensation forms and levels, which way Sami interests are recognised and which ethical value systems underlie judgements on how compensations are perceived as just or not. The study is to be carried out in co-production with Sami and state institutions with the aim of facilitating processes of collaborative democracy. The Swedish study is part of a comparative study with Russia, where with the lead of Elena Bogdanova at Narfu University these issues are compared with compensation systems for indigenous reindeer herders in the Kola peninsula and YAMAL Okrug.

More about JUSTNORTH:


A workshop was organised 1-2 Dec 2021 in collaboration with the project "Reindeer herding: An indigenous food system in transition". Programme, conclusions and YouTube recordings from the workshop can be found here: "Voicing indigenous food sovereignty in the global North: Concerns and struggles in Sweden, Finland, Russia and Canada".


Case Study 18 within JUSTNORTH part of Work package 4 on Justice Participation and Governance

Project leader for Case study 18: Elena Bogdanova

Project leader for Swedish part project in Case Study 18: Ildikó Asztalos Morell, Associate Professor, Department for Rural Development, SLU, Send email to

Project assistant at SLU: Izabel Nordlund, Research Assistant, Department for Rural Development, SLU,

Leader for Work Package 4: Tanja Joona, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi

Leader for JUSNORTH: Corine-Wood Donnelly at IRES, Uppsala University

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