Staunton, June 23 – Convinced that the World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples has failed in its responsibilities to promote the rights of Finno-Ugric nations inside Russia lest it offend Moscow, the Free Idel-Ural group says future meetings of the congress should take place in a country more ready to stand up to Russian pressure.
Specifically, the group calls for holding future meetings of the Congress in Lithuania, a country it says that has demonstrated consistency in opposing Russian repression and oppression of ethnic minorities and has not modified its position in deference to Moscow’s demands (idelreal.org/a/31319962.html).
The eighth World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples took place in Tartu, Estonia, last week. Since the congresses began in 1992, they have been held either in the three now-independent Finno-Ugric countries (Estonia, Finland, or Hungary) or in the Russian Federation where a large number of Finno-Ugric nations live under Muscovite rule.
Moscow had tried to torpedo the latest meeting by attacking organizers, blocking travel of Finno-Ugric activists to Estonia, and organizing a competing congress for Russian Finno-Ugrics to under cut the Tartu meeting (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/06/moscow-erects-new-iron-curtain-between.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/06/moscows-effort-to-isolate-finno-ugric.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/06/moscows-efforts-to-isolate-russias.html).
Many Finno-Ugric activists expected the latest Congress to respond in kind, to showcase Finno-Ugric nationalists from Russia, and to sharply criticize Moscow for its policies. But the congress instead failed to do so, denying entry to some activists because of visa problems and adopting a resolution that spoke of successes rather than criticized failures.
The Free Idel-Ural group, which was created in March 2018 by Idel-Ural emigres and their supporters in Ukraine, reacted by saying that although they had not placed “great hopes” on the congress, they expected far more criticism of Russian repression and far more support for the peoples living under Moscow’s rule than the congress displayed.
The group said that this “onetime authoritative international congress has been transformed into a folkloric-amusement evening with singing and dancing and empty talk aobut ‘the need for the preservation of national multiplicity.” And issues that might have offended Moscow weren’t given the center stage they deserved.
According to the Idel-Ural organizers, the congress should but didn’t talk about the suicide of Albert Razin, the absence of an investigation into the murder of Saami activist Yevgeny Yushkov, the destruction of native-language education and sovereignty in non-Russian republics, pressure on Mari traditional religion, and lack of support for the Erzyans in education.
The Free Idel-Ural group declared that it had been “forced to conclude that the Eighth World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples had demonstrated the unwillingness of the three Finno-Ugric states to show support for their brothers who do not have statehood.” Instead, they are choosing not to focus on those issues lest they offend Moscow.
The group said that the rules of the congress should be changed and that in the future, meeting should be held in other countries less willing to defer to the Russian government. One such, it continued, was Lithuania, which “has demonstrated consistency and decisiveness in the promotion of its foreign policy.”
That is unlikely to happen, but the Free Idel-Ural declaration shows that at least some in the Finno-Ugric community within the Russian Federation expect more from the three Finno-Ugric states than they are now receiving and will speak out ever more clearly as Russian pressure on them and on these states grows.