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Supporting Citizens’ Organizations in the Former Soviet Union

photo of a river flowing through a dramatic landscape



The Altai Project

CSE welcomes The Altai Project


The Altai Project is a new project at CSE. We are striving to protect the natural and cultural heritage of this uniquely diverse, mountainous region of southern Siberia.

The goals of the Altai Project are:

  • nature conservation,
  • promoting renewable energy and environmentally sustainable housing design, and
  • supporting indigenous organizations in their efforts to restore and protect their traditional lands and lifeways.

About the Altai

map showing siberia and the altai region withinThe Altai Region is in the southern corner of South-Central Siberia

The Altai links Russia with Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia, and is home to ethnic Russians, Muslims, and indigenous people of many tribes. It contains a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 6 federally protected territories, 120 natural monuments, and a growing number of regionally designated nature parks.

The global significance of the area is indisputable. The Altai's ancient monuments-burial mounds, petroglyphs, Scythian standing stones erected centuries ago-are not only a fundamental part of local indigenous culture, but can also be a source of inspiration and education.

The wild river valleys and snow-capped peaks, habitat for snow leopards, Argali sheep, and other threatened species, serve as a rare remnant of nearly untouched mountain wilderness territory.

The Spiritual-Environmental Charter of the Altai-Sayan Region, agreed upon in 2000 by scientists, governmental and non-governmental organizations from all four countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia), states:

“The Altai-Sayan region, situated in the exact center of the Eurasian continent and inhabited by the key ethnic groups of Eurasia, is its geopolitical, ethnocultural and biospheric heart.”

By and large, the future of the Earth’s entire civilization depends on the region’s destiny in the 21st century and the collaboration of the peoples dwelling here. We are proud to be involved in the historic work of these remarkable peoples.

CSE Altai Project Coordinators

photo of a river valleySusan Cutting is Director of the Altai Project of the Center for Safe Energy (formerly the Russian Environmental Partnership Program, REPP). She served as Director of REPP for Sacred Earth Network (SEN) since 1999, and as SEN's In-Country Coordinator based in Moscow from 1994-1997. Susan began planning and leading Soviet-American exchange projects in 1986; she received a BA in Russian Language and East European Studies from the University of Colorado and a Masters Degree in Public Affairs from Indiana University. Susan also serves as Treasurer of The Global Classroom (GCR); she manages the organization's finances and provides administrative support as a volunteer. Since 1999, she has assisted GCR (then a project of the Institute for Environmental Awareness) in the establishment and expansion of Aula Global Biological Reserve, and she helped GCR become an independent US non-profit organization in 2002. She has also served as co-leader for a number of GCR's volunteer service projects in Mexico, Costa Rica and Siberia.

Alyson Ewald is Program Coordinator of the Altai Project, and served as Program Coordinator for the Russian Environmental Partnership Program at Sacred Earth Network from 2000-2003. Alyson received a BA in English from Bates College in 1990. From 1991 to 1999 she lived in Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, and Croatia, organizing educational exchanges and environmental activist training programs. She spent a year with ISAR in Kiev, developing a monthly newsletter by and for NGOs of the region, and two years in Budapest at the Energia Klub, where she initiated a training and internship program for young safe-energy activists from across Eastern Europe. Alyson is fluent in Russian and has traveled extensively in Eastern and Western Europe as a freelance organizer, trainer, interpreter, and exchange group leader. She serves on the Board of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, where she currently resides.

Our Siberian Partners

Regional NGOs:

Agency for Research and Protection of the Taiga, Mezhdurechensk, Kemerovo Region.

The Russian Environmental Partnership Program assisted Alexander Arbachakov and his team’s research on sacred sites of the Shor people in 2003. This year Alexander, a Shor activist, is completing a map of Territories of Traditional Nature Use in the Kemerov region. Before Soviet times, the Shor people used land on the basis of family groups, which each had their own area for hunting, collecting non-timber forest products, etc. Now the memory of those areas is nearly lost. Alexander and his colleagues traveled the region, interviewing elders and collecting published information on the locations of the family groups since the 17th century.

Argali EcoCenter, Yailu, Lake Teletskoye, Altaisky Zapovednik.

Mikhail Paltsyn, Sergei Spitsyn, Irina Filus and Oleg Mitrofanov are the core of this growing and dynamic organization based in the village of Yailu, on the edge of Lake Teletskoye and Altaisky Zapovednik. Central to their activities is an effort to improve the relationship between the reserve and the surrounding community, in order to reduce poaching and protect natural areas outside the reserve.
Argali EcoCenter has recently taken the initiative to give the benefit of their experience to citizen groups who are forming new protected areas. Among these are the organizers of the future Ak-Cholushpa Nature Park in the Chulyshman valley. What is rare and very exciting about this park is that it’s being formed by local people, who will themselves take responsibility for conservation and controlling poaching - in an area where poaching has been a severe problem and tensions between the local residents and the reserve high.

Association for Protected Areas of the Altai, Ongudai, Altai Republic.

Danil Mamyev, one of the founders of Uch Enmek Nature Ethnic Park is committed not only to his own people’s traditional territories, but also to the preservation of indigenous land and culture across the Altai. With the Tengri School of Spiritual Ecology, he works to bring the traditions of Altai's indigenous people into the environmental consciousness of all citizens, and to develop a network of research centers introducing models of sustainable development based on native Altai philosophy. Last fall he created the Association of Protected Areas of the Altai to promote zoning in Uch Enmek, Chiu-Uzy, Argut (a nature park established by local residents in 2003), and other nature parks. The goal of the Association’s zoning project is to establish areas of economic and cultural activity within the park boundaries, so that indigenous people will not be dislocated from their lands.

Ecodom, Novosibirsk

Igor Ogorodnikov and his colleagues have been promoting environmentally sound housing in Siberia since the early 90's. They have constructed a number of his "Ecodom" houses on the outskirts of Novosibirsk, and they have recently begun building straw-bale houses that include a wide variety of sustainable energy and waste management technologies. Ecodom's dream is to create a working community and educational center that demonstrates working and affordable approaches to environmentally sound housing.

Staff of the Fund for a 21st c. Altai and our volunteers

Fund for a 21st Century Altai, Barnaul, Altai Krai

people in a group photo; cyrillic poster behindThe Fund for a 21st Century Altai was established in 1997 by long-time Siberia environmental activist, Mikhail Shishin. Among the Fund's achievements are helping to have the Altai region given UNESCOs World Heritage Site designation, and facilitating the establishment of an international council on the Altai.

The Fund owns an independent TV studio and creates environmental and social awareness programs. The group is also creating a center for renewable energy and environmental technology in the Altai Republic, and they promote ecotourism programs.

Altai Regional Public Organization of the Kumandin People (Istok), and Network for Promotion of Indigenous Rights (NPIR), Biisk, Altai Krai

Gulvaira Shermatova has recently emerged as a shining star of indigenous activism. Already the regional coordinator of the association of indigenous people called “Light of the Ancient Lands” (supported by SEN), last year she collaborated with a group called Lauravetlan to create a new network of information centers on indigenous rights in Russia. These information centers are being funded in part by the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations.

Gulvaira is now project coordinator of NPIR, working with project manager Chagat Almashev of the Foundation for Sustainable Development of Altai (Altai Republic) and with indigenous NGOs in Karelia and Krasnoyarsky Krai.

Protected Areas:


Altaisky Zapovednik

photo of a lake, forest, and mountainOne of the most celebrated protected areas in the Altai, Altaisky Zapovednik (State Nature Reserve) covers 871,212 hectares of wilderness in the south-east portion of the Altai republic.

It was established in 1939, and is the most biologically rich (in plant and animal species) of any protected area of the Russian Federation.

Most of the territory is highland tundra, visited by the endangered Argali Sheep and snow leopard, however it is also well known for its remote forests and steppe.

A team of deeply committed scientists, rangers and educators live in the village of Yailu, in the northern part of the park, on the banks of the Lake Teletskoye.

Chiu-Uzy Nature Economic Park, Yodro, Ongudai District.

photo of a mountain scene, people entering and leaving a small, shrinelike sturctureThe Chiu-Uzy Nature Park, an area allowing limited economic activity, received protected status in January 2003.

This new park, rich in native sacred sites, has been commended as an example of a locally-initiated traditional nature use territory that facilitates the continuation of traditional sustainable land uses while providing employment opportunities for the indigenous population.

Headed by a mother-daughter team concerned about the destructive effects of disrespectful tourism on the petroglyphs, this park is striving to combine public education with conservation.

Uch Enmek, Karakolsky Nature Ethnic Park

photo of a mountain meadow with dolmens standingThe Karakol Valley is a highly important place to the local indigenous populations. Rich with standing stones in mysterious interlinking patterns, "kurgans" or burial mounds, and other sacred places, it is an excellent site for teaching people about history and cultural heritage.

Archaeologists believe the ancient standing stones and burial mounds were left by the nomadic horseback-riding Scythians or their predecessors, the Kurgan people, who inhabited this area up to 6,000 years ago. The stunning snow-capped Uch Enmek mountain, larch trees, attractive landscape, and ancient relics make the Park a popular tourist destination.

Having honored and preserved the sacred sites of more ancient cultures for many centuries, the indigenous Ongudai community now educates locals and tourists about the importance of treating sacred and ritual sites with respect.

Danil Mamyev and his colleagues recently founded Uch Enmek- Karakolsky Nature Park, where visitors learn about what the protected sites represent: the intersecting paths of human history, and our place in the natural world. "The first step in protecting native culture is protecting native land," he wrote in a 2003 article.

The park's founders strive to incorporate the values and priorities of the indigenous population into Uch Enmek's planning and implementation. As such, Uch Enmek is a bright example of the integration of indigenous culture into park management.

Tigereksky Zapovednik

Tigireksky Zapovednik, covering 40,000 hectares in the Altai Krai was established in 1999 to protect the unique "black taiga" in the foothills and lowlands along the north-western edge of the Altai mountains.

How You Can Help


Please support our efforts to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy, and citizen empowerment in the former Soviet Union.

Help us build partnerships between the U.S. and former Soviet Union for the development of effective citizen organizations.

Use our online donation form for your tax-deductible contribution to our efforts today!

For $50 or more, you will receive a one-year subscription to the award winning Earth Island Journal!

Click here to make a donation using the secure Online Credit Card Form or our Fax/Mail Order Form (check, money order, or credit card).

Donate to the Altai Project!



photo of people with shovels near a construction projectJoin us in the Altai in 2005!

Altai Conservation Volunteers, Karakolsky Nature Park and Chiu-Uzy Nature Park.

In the summer of 2005, Project organizer Susan Cutting will lead US volunteers in practical service projects at Altai nature parks, while learning about their ecology and local cultures.

Help Build a Straw-Bale building!

Travel to the Altai in the summer of 2005 to help build a straw-bale building for an emerging center for renewable energy.


At Home: Help us with Translation

Using your Russian Language skills at home help us in translated written materials for our Siberian partners (both ways).

Contact The Altai Project for more details.