Sunday, October 9, 2022

Erzya Congress Calls for Pursuing Independence from Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 1 – Declaring that the Erzya nation cannot survive if it remains within the Russian Federation, a congress of the Erzya people meeting in the Estonian city of Otepaa calls for the pursuit of independence of a federative nation state, Erzyan Mastor, in the Middle Volga, one far larger than the Mordvinian Republic of which the Erzya are now a part.

            Because of increasing Russian repression against the Erzya in the past year, organizers were forced to hold the meeting in Estonia; and most of those in attendance were from Ukraine where they are either fighting against Russian invaders or have the status of political emigres ( and

            The congress declared that the existing political-territorial divisions of the Russian Federation in the region – the Mordvinian Republic and Penza, Ulyanovsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan and Samara oblasts – are illegitimate because they do not represent the multi-national populations they include.

            The Otepaa meeting said the Russian authorities in these places were engaged in “a covert genocide” of the Erzya and other nationalities and suggested that the only way to prevent that from destroying all of them was the creation of a new and independent state that would include all of Mordvinia, Penza and Ulyanovsk oblasts, and part of Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan, and Samara oblasts.  The new country would have as its capital Saran Osh.

            The Erzya, a Finno-Ugric people in the Middle Volga, are typically submerged in Russian official counts under the exonym Mordva, but Erzya activists say they number as many as 500,000 people and would be growing rather than declining if they achieved independence and Moscow’s repressions were thus brought to an end.

            This meeting and its declaration highlight the growing radicalization of non-Russian groups as a result of Putin’s repressive policies and his aggressive war in Ukraine. But they also show how many borders might have to be redrawn with inevitable controversies if the Russian Federation does disintegrate as groups like the Erzya clearly do.  

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