Staunton, July 9 -- FSB officers, many of them Mordvin speakers, openly harassed a prayer gathering of the Erzya people this year, an action national activists argue reflects the fears of the powers that be that they are losing control and inspiring Erzya to think that the occupation regime may be approaching its end.
Yesterday, representatives of the Erzya people met in the village of Chukaly for a prayer meeting at the burial ground of 11,000 Moksha, Mari and Udmurt warriors who died fighting the Nogay horde. The tsarist and Soviet authorities banned such meetings, known as Ras’kin Ozks, but in 1999, they were resumed every three years.
Until this year, the local and regional authorities mixed freely with local activists who used the occasion to press their demands for greater linguistic and cultural rights. But now the powers that be came with guards and the FSB sought to suppress all signs of protest (idel-ural.org/en/archives/russian-authorities-massively-involved-fsb-operatives-to-prevent-rasken-ozks/).
Participants said that the FSB was well-prepared, knew who the activists were, and systematically confiscated Erzya flags – there were none flying for the firsttime since 1999 – and pulled down banners including in support of the goals of Albert Razin, the Udmurt scholar who burned himself to death in 2019 to protest the destruction of his national language (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/09/udmurt-scholars-self-immolation.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/09/udmurts-remember-self-immolation-of.html).
If the authorities were confident of their power, Syres’ Boliayen, an Erzya who lives in emigration in Ukraine says, they would not be acting like this. But they clearly fear for the future of their power. “Well, they can take away out banners, confiscate our flags, and frighten our activists.”
But “the trust and respect of the people can’t be earned by such methods,” he continues. “We can see that this occupation authority speaks to our people only with prohibitions, repressions and threats.” Boliayen’s use of the word “occupation” is a sign of where things now stand in Mordvinia, a republic better known for its prison camps than for its political activism (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/04/i-looked-to-sky-and-asked-god-for-death.html).