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Moscow’s effort to isolate Finno-Ugric peoples in Russia from Finno-Ugric world proves less than fully successful

Udmurts and their Finno-Ugric language are threatened with extinction. Photo from
Moscow’s effort to isolate Finno-Ugric peoples in Russia from Finno-Ugric world proves less than fully successful

Angry at the influence Estonia, Finland and Hungary have had on their fellow Finno-Ugric nations within the Russian Federation, Moscow decided to block Finno-Ugric people from attending the world congress in Estonia later this month and to organize a competing meeting for the Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia alone.

That effort was described by Prague-based commentator Vadim Sidorov as an effort to erect a new “iron curtain” between the three Finno-Ugric peoples who have independent statehood and those living within the Russian Federation who don’t at least not yet.

Moscow behaved like in Soviet times, using regional organizations rather than ethnic ones, elevating officials over activists, and completely failing to consult with those in whose name it was operating. But also consistent with Soviet times, many of the activists saw through this ruse; some were angry; and a few ignored Moscow’s attempt to isolate them.

A map showing the approximate distribution of Finno-Ugric Languages. Source: Wikimedia/GalaxMaps

Ramazan Alpaut of the Idel.Real portal, spoke with one of them, Dmitry Kharakka-Zaytsev, who attended the Moscow-orchestrated meeting but plans to go to the congress in Estonia as well given that he and his nation, the Izhors, were not consulted by the powers that be and that meetings of ethnic groups should be that and not meetings of officials.

Moscow may control regional officials and it may dominate officially registered organizations, the Izhor representative says; but it is foolish to think that such officials or structures can speak for the people in whose name they act. The Finno-Ugric peoples want to speak to one another; and in today’s world, they don’t need Moscow to decide whether they can,

In Soviet times, the powers that be had far more leverage in controlling such contacts as there was no Internet; but now the ability of those in the government to do the same has been reduced. And it is striking and symbolic that the representative of one of the smallest nations now feels free to assert his right to speak with other nations without official approval.

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