Friday, May 12, 2023

Erzya National Movement Most Active and Radical among Russia’s Finno-Ugric Peoples, Loode Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 9 – The Finno-Ugric peoples within the current borders of the Russian Federation suffer from “a high degree of assimilation both linguistic and cultural and intellectual,” something that along with their size and dispersal has reduced their ability to act as national entities or attract support from others, Oliver Loode says.

            “The single bright exception which at a certain lever inspires hope is the Erzyan national movement,” the Estonian expert says, “a people where mental assimilation has not gone as far and where there are people both in the traditional Erzyan land and in other countries,” most prominently Ukraine and Estonia, who can act on their behalf (

            The Erzya, a group that Moscow classifies as a subgroup of the Mordvins, along with the Moksha, are now so active in Ukraine and elsewhere abroad that it seems clear that “the political future of the Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia is in the hands of the Erzyan national movement,” Loode continues.

            (For background on the Erzya movement and especially its recent activism abroad and increasing radicalism, see,,,,, and

            While the Erzya movement has existed for more than a decade, Loode says, it has become far more active and radical since its leaders were forced to emigrate and decided to make Kyiv their headquarters abroad. That has allowed them to see parallels between their own situation and that of Ukraine.

            “Pro-Kremlin people say that Ukraine runs them and that the Erzya national movement is simply a political technology project of Ukraine,” the Estonian expert says. But “I think this is not so. Rather the center milieu where you are located, the political milieu is influential.” And the Erzya have been shaped by that.

            With regard to other Finno-Ugric peoples, Loode suggests that the time when the Karels could have achieved state status for their language within the Russian Federation has almost certainly passed. They now number fewer than 50,000; and “that means that they can qualify as a numerically small indigenous people,” a group with some protections but a lesser voice.

            Only after the Russian Federation dissolves – and Loode says he is increasingly convinced that will happen – will the Karels have the chance to revive their language and make it an official state one. 

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