Saturday, October 17, 2015

Moscow Views Finno-Ugric NGOs as Enemies, Threatening Survival of These Small Nations, Estonian Deputy Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 17 – “The role of civil society in the preservation of languages and cultures” of numerically small peoples “is not simply important; it has decisive importance,” Estonian parliamentarian Sven Mikser told a Tallinn Conference on the Finno-Ugric (Op)position.

            “In a world where small peoples are forced to stand up to waves of mass culture, where often scholars cast doubt on the survival of the languages of these small peoples making it difficult to preserve their identities, he told the delegates from Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Karelia, Udmurtia, the Komi Republic and other regions (

            “But it is much more difficult to preserve small peoples in places where the authorities consider a large part of civil society internal enemies or foreign agents,” the deputy pointed out. “Unfortunately, that is how things stand with [Estonia’s] eastern neighbor,” the Russian Federation.

            Estonia, Mikser noted, “is one of the Finno-Ugric peoples which has its own state, the task of which according to the Constitution is the preservation of the Estonian language and its culture. But we know that in the world nothing is completely independent of everything else” and thus seek to help other Finno-Ugric peoples who do not yet have their own statehood.

            Other speakers at this conference in the Estonian capital yesterday, one sponsored jointly by the Estonian foreign ministry, the Estonian parliament, and the Finno-Ugric Institute, expanded on those points. 

            Jaak Prozes, the head of the Institute, noted that “approximately at the end of the 1990s, it became obvious from Esotnia that the local authorities [in Russia] were making efforts to strongly influence national organizations and congresses.” As a result, “recentlyi, ever less has been heard about their activity.”

            The activist said that people had asked him why the Tallinn meeting was about “’the (op)position” in Finno-Ugric communities in Russia. The answer is simple, he suggested: “Today something is a position; tomorrow it is the opposition, and the next day it changes place again.”

            At present, most Finno-Ugric activists are in opposition, but that is not something eternal.

            And Leonid Gonin, a leader of the Udmurt national movement, welcomed the Estonian effort because as he noted “enthusiasm in social organizations” among the Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia because of the opposition of the government. Some of these groups have fallen under the power of the bureaucratic apparatus.

            Regardless of what the nationality of an individual employee of the government may me, he concluded, “the bureaucrat has no nationality [stress added]. He has his pay and his boss, and thus for any of our organizations there is a risk since the authorities will be able to insist on the positions which they must fulfill.”

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