Thursday, September 15, 2022

Russian Repression Forces Finno-Ugric Erzya Nation to Move Congress to Estonia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 18 – Intensifying Russian repression of ethnic minorities since the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine has now forced the Erzya nation to move its congress from its native Mordvinia to Estonia. Leaders of the Erzya, one of two subgroups of the Mordvin nation, have infuriated Moscow by their appeals to the international community and support for Ukraine.

            The Erzya were supposed to have a congress in Mordvinia in August, but Russian police actions have blocked that. Their leaders now say they will convene on in Estonia September 29 to October 1 ( and

            Vitaly Romashkin, head of the organizing committee and permanent member of the Erzya council of elders, says that the Russian powers that be “have been trying to establish complete control over the Erzya national movement and when they fail have created clones” they fill with people in the pay of the Russian state.

            Syres Bolyaen, an Erzya leader and activist now in emigration in Ukraine, adds that “we are grateful to our Estonian friends who in this complicated time have shown us their hospitality by allowing us to hold our congress in an atmosphere of Finno-Ugric brotherhood and the absence of police supervision and the threat of arrests.”

            Moscow has been furious about Erzya support for Ukraine and its appeals to the West about Russian mistreatment of their nation (, but they have an additional reason for their latest moves against the Erzya.

            The changing demographics in Mordvinia mean the Erzya now occupy a more important position than in the past, one that could lead to the rise of a serious Finno-Ugric challenge to Russian dominance in the republic and more generally by other Finno-Ugric groups inside the Russian Federation (, and


            That has led the Russian authorities to take heavy-handed measures against the Erzya in the last year, measures that some members of that nation fear may lead to the suppression of the community. That has radicalized them and led to an escalation of Russian repression (

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