Amur River
Amur women

After Soviet power was established in the area, it tried to protect Native people by designating their traditional lands as territorial "autonomies". A handful of "Native districts" were created in the 1920's to boost Native political activity and participation. Those districts were integrated into a larger Lower Amur "national area," following the pattern applied to other minority nations in Siberia.

But the valley, with its abundant fish and timber resources, was too important for Russian industry. The Lower Amur "national area" was soon annulled. "Native districts" lost their specific rights and gradually became ordinary precincts. Native languages dwindled, as Native speakers had no say in public life. Although Native people received government funds to develop village schools, medical facilities, and economies, they were ever more outnumbered and overpowered throughout the area.

To protect their lifestyle, Amur River nations are becoming more assertive. In 1992 the Udegei gained worldwide attention through their staunch refusal to surrender tribal lands in the Bikin river valley to a Russian-Korean logging venture. Udegei village councils rejected the proposal and sent hunters to guard the borders of their land. The Udegei hired a lawyer to defend their rights and held public rallies outside government buildings. Several international groups, Russian activists, and government officials also rallied to support the Udegei. As of 1993, the Bikin valley logging project was delayed for further social and environmental evaluation.

- Igor Krupnik
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