How people perceive their role in the natural environment. The Primorye paradox  

Pozanenko A.A.  




              page 165173




In the North, Siberia and the Far East, most villagers live in close connection with nature, primarily through using renewable natural resources. However, there is hardly any coverage in literature as to how people position themselves in relation to the surrounding nature. Even when the issue is raised, it addresses only indigenous peoples, and not all local inhabitants without reference to ethnicity. People living in different types of localities tend to have dissimilar perceptions of their role in the natural environment. For urban residents, we propose distinguishing four main self-perception types: outsider (stays away from nature), visitor (e.g., holidaymakers, athletes, and tourists), user (e.g., anglers and gatherers of wild plants), and protector (various eco-activists). Residents of small towns and densely populated rural areas tend to perceive themselves mainly as users. Where the population density is low and natural resources are vital for sustenance, the basic perceptions are master and son. Masters believe they have exclusive rights to use the surrounding natural resources and claim to be doing it responsibly. Perceiving oneself as a son is mostly common for indigenous peoples; their discourse about respect for nature stems not only from a rational, but also sacred attitude. Field research on the east coast of Primorye revealed a self-perception untypical for villagers. Many locals call themselves thieves of natural resources. This means the subjective perception, and not objective differences in practices (doing the same thing, a person in the Russian North can consider himself a master, in Altai a son, and in Primorye a thief). We propose three reasons for this Primorye paradox. 1) Weak rootedness of the local population, spurring its turnover, which, in turn, makes it difficult to integrate into the natural landscape. 2) Saturation of the surroundings with outsiders, preventing to perceive the territory as one's own. The main outsiders are seasonal fishing crews from elsewhere; the Chinese; and crews of North Korean fishing vessels, whom the border guards treat more loyally than the local fishermen. 3) Constant pressure from the supervisory authorities. Primorye has a high concentration of hunting, plant, and aquatic biological resources. Business based on procuring natural resources is profitable, but according to the State, it is mostly illegal. If one can remain unnoticed in the taiga, on the water such chances are next to none. The situation is aggravated by a variety of specially regulated territories (federal and regional protected areas, maritime frontier regime, hunting grounds with different status), which expands the range of supervisory authorities.

Keywords: Primorsky Krai, Russian Far East, human attitude to nature, use of natural resources, appropriating economy, rural areas.


Acknowledgements. To the participants of student expeditions for their contribution to the collection and processing of field data. To Tatyana Zhuravskaya, co-leader of the expedition to PrimorskyKrai from the Far Eastern Federal University. To Vladimir Bocharnikov (Pacific Geographical Institute, Far Eastern Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences) for his assistance in organizing an expedition to Primorsky Krai. To Sergey Seleev for his invaluable, virtually round-the-clock organizational support of student expeditions under the NRU HSE Rediscovering Russia project.

Funding. NRUHSE Rediscovering Russia project; Hunting and hunters of the southeast of Altai Republic research project, Khamovniki foundation; The Social Structure of Local Communities Territorially Isolated from Public Authorities research project, Khamovniki foundation.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 30.05.2021

Article is published: 15.09.2022


Pozanenko A.A., National Research University Higher School of Economics, Myasnitskaya st., 20, Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation, E-mail:,