Staunton, July 5 – The future of Karelia’s only Finnish-language literary magazine has long been in doubt: the number of Finnish speakers there has declined to fewer than 9,000, and the Russian authorities view their support for Karelian and Wepsy media outlets instead. As a result, the frequency and tirage of “Carelia” has fallen.
But even though it currently appears only twice a year rather than ten times and with a print run of 300 copies, its editor says they are optimistic about the future because the appearance of the journal even now is “hardly a defeat as it might appear to some but on the contrary a tactic victory” (smi-pravo.ru/?p=2053).
Anatoly Tsygankov of the Center for the Defense of the Rights of Journalists and the Media interviewed Armas Mashin, the longtime editor of “Carelia” about why he thinks that he has a chance to reverse the journal’s fortunes and what his specific plans are for the coming year now that the first issue of “Carelia” in its new format has appeared.
Given the emigration of many Finns from Karelia to Finland after 1991 and Moscow’s identification of Finnish exclusively as a foreign language, the future of “Carelia” has been in doubt for much of the past decade, Mashin says. No one wants to close it lest that be viewed as an attack on Finnish culture, but few want to support it either.
For budgetary reasons, the frequency of the journal was cut from ten times a year to two, an action that sparked protests not only among Finnish speakers but also among Karelians who saw it as indicative of where Moscow was going. In order to try to save the situation, the editors decided to refocus the publication.
The just-released number is the fruit of that effort. Although less frequent, the magazine is now larger with 112 pages and 16 color inserts and more diverse: this issue featured 15 writers rather than the usual two or three and included not just short stories and novels but also reports and features. The focus of the first issue was the Finnish community of Petrozavodsk.
The 400 copies of the first issue – 300 ordered by the government and 100 additional ones – have sold out, with 80 of them going to Finland. The second issue, scheduled to appear in October, will in fact be issued in September to correspond with the 16th Russian-Finnish Forum of Culture in the Karelian republic’s capital.
Whether this represents a turning point for the better as the editor hopes or simply another twist in the slow death of “Carelia” remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: the magazine promises to be an even more important source about the Finnish community in Karelia than it was before at least as long as it lasts.