Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Chuvash Linking Turkic and Finno-Ugric Peoples Together to Defend Non-Russian Languages

Paul Goble


            Staunton, December 9 – The Chuvash, a Christian Turkic nation which has its own republic in the Middle Volga, are, by virtue of their activism on behalf of their own language and culture, becoming the bridge between the Turkic nations like the Tatars and Bashkirs and the Finno-Ugric peoples like the Mari.


            They have traditionally played this role among the peoples of Idel-Ural, who include the Tatars, Bashkirs, Chuvash, Mordvins, Mari and Udmurts, but they now appear to be expanding that effort given Moscow’s campaign against national languages and cultures and the need for a united front against it.


            To a large extent, Moscow’s approach to the non-Russian peoples of the empire has been one of divide and rule. Consequently, any efforts at cooperation such as those between the Baltic nations and the non-Russian union republic nationalities at the end of Soviet times or those of the Chuvash with Finno-Ugric groups are important developments, even if they appear to be small.


            Last Saturday, the website of the Chuvash national movement reports, there was a meeting in Moscow of Chuvash, Udmurt and Mari national activists devoted to the question of how best to preserve and develop the non-Russian languages of the Middle Volga region (irekle.org/news/i1974.html).


            The Chuvash activists at the session, many of whom are members of the Khaval movement, described their work at promoting their national language via summer schools and the promotion of new media products. The Udmurt representatives from the MUSH working group talked about various Internet projects, And the Maris discussed films they are making.


            Attending the meeting as an observer was Ruslan Idrisov, a Moscow linguistics specialist who has been involved in documenting one of the dialects of the Udmurt language.  But the focus of the session was on ensuring the continued vitality of the non-Russian languages and cooperation among non-Russians for that purpose.


            The participants agreed that they would come together in the future to discuss what had been achieved and what more needs to be done.


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