Defining, Regulating and Balancing Rights: A Constitutional Law Study of Indigenous Peoples' Rights to Land and Natural Resources in the Russian Federation

  • Date:
  • Location: Sal X, Universitetshuset, Biskopsgatan 3, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Elmerot, Åsa
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Juridiska institutionen
  • Contact person: Elmerot, Åsa
  • Disputation

Article 69 of the Russian Constitution proclaims that the Russian Federation shall guarantee the rights of indigenous minority peoples in accordance with generally recognized principles and norms of international law (in essence, customary international law), as well as international treaties of the Russian Federation. Furthermore, under Article 15(4) of the Constitution, international law is an integral part of the Russian legal system.

The purpose of this study is to analyze the level of protection provided by the Constitution regarding indigenous peoples’ rights to use land and natural resources in Russia. Because the study aims for a wider approach than to simply address the rights of those peoples who are officially recognized as indigenous minority peoples, it is structured along two avenues: the potential for international law to provide protection of indigenous peoples’ rights in the Russian legal system; and the potential of the constitutional protection of the right to property and the freedom of economic activity to achieve the same purpose.

Concretizing the constitutional provisions, the study addresses the preconditions according to which international law becomes applicable and enforceable law within the Russian legal system. Thereafter, it ascertains whether there are any rights in international law protecting indigenous peoples’ rights to land and natural resources that fulfil these requirements. Subsequently, the study evaluates the potential of international law to provide protection of indigenous rights in Russia.

Regarding the potential of constitutional rights, the study determines whether the rights by which indigenous peoples use land and natural resources for pasture, hunting, and fishing could potentially be included within the protection of property and the freedom of economic activity, as interpreted by the Constitutional Court, and to what extent such inclusion constitutes protection. By structuring the reasoning of the Constitutional Court into the stages of defining, delineating, and balancing rights, the study concludes that, although there is a difference between how legal rights are treated, when compared to mere privileges to use land and natural resources, this difference is on the verge of being negligible due to the way the Constitutional Court makes use of the principle of proportionality.