1997 | February | March | April | May | June | July | August


7.01. Canadian Government made apology to the indigenous Amerindian population and expressed “deepest regrets” for the decades of discrimination.

8. 01. The acting Prime Minister of Australia Mr. Tim Fischer declared that Australia does not intend to follow the example of Canada and apologize for the treatment of Aboriginals in the past, referring to several differences between the two countries.

14.01. 1998 the 100th anniversary of Kuzebai Gerd (Kuzma Pavlovitsh Tshainikov), the outstanding Udmurt author, philosopher and prominent figure in education and social life, was celebrated. Gerd's commemoration day is included in the UNESCO schedule of cultural events in 1998 and the celebration has been decreed by the Government of the Russian Federation. In Izhkar, the capital of Udmurtia, a festive meeting with literary banquet took place; the event was also celebrated in the Hungarian Cultural Centre in Moscow where the researcher of Gerd's works Mr. Foma Yermakov gave a speech and Udmurt poets and musicians performed. In Mari El the Udmurtian Cultural Centre and Ministry of Cultural and National Affairs of the Republic of Mari El organized a commemoration evening of Kuzebai Gerd on February 6 with the participation of a numerous delegation from Udmurtia.

23.01. At a meeting in Võru County Government the governmental experts determined on the use of sums allotted for the support of the development of Setu region. As the 1.8 million Kroons allotted last year for the support of Estonian citizens resettling from the Pskov Oblast of Russia went unused, the money is added to the funds designated for the same purpose in this year, thus making up a sum of 3.6 million Kroons. This year the prognosticated number of resettlers should exceed that of the last year. Last year there were 50 resettlers from the Setu region.

30.01.–1.02. The visit of Estonian Premier Mart Siimann to Helsinki, where he met with Finnish business leaders and gave a 1.5-hour speech on the Future of Estonia at the University of Helsinki. The Premier also visited Tuglas Society and the Institute of Estonia.


5.02. Tartu Office of the Finnish Institute in Estonia presented the Finnish satellite television channel TV Finland, which can be seen from Finland to the Canaries. The programme of TV Finland is composed of the best original broadcasts of Yleisradio, TV 1, TV 2 and MTV 3. The programme includes news, sports, social programmes, entertainment, theatre and children’s shows. TV Finland can be received through a digital device or through local wire television. To cover translation costs, the programme is payable, the annual fee being 650 Finnish Marks. The channel coverage includes the Nordic countries and Central Europe, reaching down to Southern Europe and the Canaries.

6.02. the State Assembly of the Udmurt Republic adopted the Udmurt government nationalities' policy conception.

6.02. the Sami national holiday celebrated in Finland, Norway and Sweden.

9.02. Completion of the research of Finnish Gallup concerning the attitude of Finns towards the Karelian issue. About 1000 people answered the inquiries, from whom 58% thought that the frontier of Finland should remain where it is at the moment. 36% of the respondents back the return of Karelia, among whom the majority were young people or people over 65. 43% of the latter supported the return. The majority of the population of Russia are also opposing the return of Karelia. In the research made by Finnish Gallup for the Kaleva newspaper, 70% of the questioned Russians were of the opinion that no area conquered during the war should be returned to Finland.

15.02. General elections in the Republic of Mordovia (Russia) brought back the ex-Head of Republic (glava respubliki) Nikolai Merkushkin. 75% of the electorate participated in the elections, about 90% of whom voted for Merkushkin. His only rival was Aleksei Sharov, director of Saransk Macaroni Factory. Merkushkin is an ethnic Mokshan Mordvin, born on 5 February 1951. He has been at the head of the Republic of Mordovia since September 22, 1995 (then elected by representatives at all levels). Merkushkin is a member of the Agrarian party and a former member of the local CPSU leadership.

17.02. The board of Fenno-Ugria Foundation (Estonia) appointed Himot Lippur as the new director of the Foundation. The new director took office on March 2, 1998. The former director Jaak Prozes will continue his work in the foundation as the counsellor.

20.02. The Russian State Duma ratified the Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms with the protocols annexed to it, with the exception of the protocol on the abolition of death penalty. The Convention contains the obligation to guarantee principal civil and political rights to persons under the jurisdiction of Parties of the Convention. The document contains a control mechanism involving hearing of cases of human rights violation and taking decisions binding to all participating States. By ratifying the Convention, Russia recognizes the right of its citizens to submit individual appeals to the controlling authorities of the Convention, as well as the mandatory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights for Russia.

20.02. The State Assembly of the Republic of Mari El sent Boris Yeltsin, the President of the Russian Federation an appeal to change the decree on the Russian passport so that the bearer's ethnicity could be recorded in the document.

23.02 A memorial to Konstantin Päts, the first President of Estonia, was opened in Vantaa (Finland). In 1906-1908 Päts spent his exile years at Mäkelä farm in Hämeenkylä, Vantaa. At the same time, February 23 is his anniversary. This year saw the 124th anniversary of Päts. Päts died in 1956 in Siberia, being deported together with his family. In 1906 Päts was forced to leave Estonia for having voiced the idea of self-government for Estonia. The farm of Mäkelä belonged to Vihtori Alava, a shorthand typist of the Finnish Parliament. Alava was a news reporter who was devoted to Finland and had a good command of the Estonian language. As far as is known, three or four Estonians who shared Päts’s views lived in the farm together with him. That it was Mäkelä where Päts had lived was not known before last summer. Konstantin Päts was one of the initiators of the Fenno-Ugria Foundation.

24.02. The 80th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia celebrated in the Republic of Komi. Tatyana Nishanbaeva, director of the Centre of Finno-Ugric Culture at the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Komi announced that Estonia's independence day has been celebrated in the Republic for the last five years by pronounced media (the press, radio, television) attention to the co-operation between Komi and Estonia, speech days, contests and quiz games dedicated to Estonian history and culture in schools. On February 24, the Komi-Estonian friendship society held a festive gathering in the Finno-Ugric Culture Centre of the Republic of Komi.

24.02. The 80th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia celebrated in the Republic of Mari El. In Yoshkar-Ola a festive gathering organised by the society Mari El–Estonia and the Ministry of Culture and Nationalities attended by Cabinet members of the Republic, members of the society, cultural and public figures. The representative of Estonia, counsellor of the Fenno-Ugria Foundation Jaak Prozes took part in numerous meetings, articles about the history and contemporary life of Estonia were published by local newspapers.

27.02. A branch office of the Estonian Institute opened in Budapest in the presence of the Estonian Minister of Culture Jaak Allik.


An exhibition of books on Uralic studies in the University of Göttingen (Germany).

6.03. The office of the secretary of state restored in the Republic of Mari El, with the former vice-premier Nikolai Gavrilov appointed to the office by the President of the Republic Vyacheslav Kislitsyn. The former head of the State Committee for Youth Affairs Larisa Smirnova was appointed as the new vice-premier. The previous change in the cabinet was the sacking of the finance minister Yevgeni Ryzhakov for his inability to fulfill his required tasks on March 5.

9.03. to 13.03. The session of the Council of the Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples (YAFUP) in Budapest. Estonians were represented by the president of the Association Jaak Prozes (presided at the session) and the member of the Council Margit Kohjus. The president reported newer developments in the work of the Association, reports were also presented by the committees formed at the 4th Congress of the Association (Laulasmaa, Estonia, November 18 to 22, 1997). Representatives of the different peoples shared knowledge about events taking place in the Finno-Ugric territories. The Charter of the Association was amended and the rules of the Council passed. The foundation of a Council of Elders was ruled. The Council decided to authorise the president to find a new ensign for the Association. Other issues discussed included membership questions and the foundation of the Association's newspaper. The Council ratified the agenda of events to be organised by the Association (1998-2000).

March 19 in Tallinn (Estonia): the annual general meeting of Fenno-Ugria Foundation elected the board of the Foundation. The seven members of the new board are: Kaido Kama (vice chairman, Võro Institute), Tõnu Seilenthal (Tartu University), Mart Meri (chairman, the linguistic journal Keel ja Kirjandus), Aivar Jürgenson (the Institute of History), Piret Surväli (Estonian Television) and Kristiina Ross (Institute of Estonian Language).

March 21 to 22 in Khanty-Mansijsk (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District, Russia): Session of the Consultation Committee of Finno-Ugric Peoples. Preparations for the Third World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples (due to take place in Helsinki, December 2000) were discussed. In order to prepare the regulations and the agenda of the congress, a working group was formed (chairman: Valeri Markov, first session: August 21 in Syktyvkar). The budget of the Consultation Committee was ratified and 6000 Finnish marks allocated to the Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples (SURI) to cover the mail and communication expenses of the working group of media and information.

March 23 to 25 in Khanty-Mansijsk (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District, Russia): the international conference Indigenous peoples. The Oil. The Law.

March 27 in An?r (Inari, Finland): the S?mi museum Siida opened. The museum's exhibition is about the nature of S?pmi (Lapland) as well as the culture and livelihood of the S?mi. One of the museum's tasks is to compile an archive and a databank of S?mi culture. The founding of the museum was sponsored by the European Union with 12 million Finnish marks (FIM). Address: Siida, Inarintie, 99870 Inari; phone: +358-16-665212. Open: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (until August 31)

March 27: a protocol of co-operation between the Faculties of Philosophy of the University of Tartu and the University of Oslo signed. Among the rest, the faculties agreed to collaborate in the field of Finno-Ugric studies.


April 4 and April 25: in Yoshkar-Ola (Republic of Mari El, Russia): the conference of the non-government organisation Mari Ushem (Mari Union) . The conference adopted a resolution on the socio-political situation in the Republic of Mari El and ratified the charter of the organisation. Nikander Popov was elected chairman of the organisation's board. Problems that had arisen on the conference (such as the possibilities for improving the Maris' opportunities for receiving education and problems of relations with Mari diaspora groups inhabiting areas outside the borders of the Republic) were discussed by the new leaders of the organisation with the President of the Republic of Mari El Vyatcheslav Kislitsyn at a meeting after the conference.

April 9: The board of the Mari El Journalists' Union protested against attempts by the Republic's Secretary of State to censor the Mari-language youth newspaper Kugarnya and the newspaper Mari Chang of the non-government organisation Mari Ushem (Mari Union). The printing of both newspapers was halted by the Government of the Republic of Mari El, effecting the delay in the publishing of Kugarnya.

April 16: the Day of the Erzya Language. In Saransk (the Mordovian Republic, Russia), the Ryabov Foundation for the Saving of the Erzya Language and the Erzya women society Litova organised a festive gathering. The day was also celebrated elsewhere in territories inhabited by Erzyans, but also for the first time in Estonia.

April 20 to 25 in Pécs (Hungary): the 15th International Finno-Ugrist Students' Conference (IFUSCO).

April 24: the Day of the Mari Hero celebrated both within and without the Republic of Mari El, also in Estonia.

April 24 in Helsinki: the Vepsian Society (Vepsän Sebr) presented a CD-ROM on Vepsian culture, traditions, history and present. The CD-ROM is available at the Vepsian Society. Address: Vepsän Seura c/o Eurohostel, Linnankatu 9, FIN-00170, Helsinki, Finland.

April 24: law on official languages (Russian, Erzya, Moksha) passed in the Mordovian Republic (Russia). The law does not oblige civil servants to understand or speak the official languages. The native movement activists assess the law to be too indefinite and vague to guarantee the Erzya and Moksha languages any rights.


The film Father, Son and Holy Torum by Mark Soosaar received the Silver Spire award (Sociology - International) of the San Francisco film festival (April 23 - May 7).

General elections in the Republic of Karelia (Russia). The former mayor of Petrozavodsk, Sergei Katanandov was elected chairman of the Government of the Republic of Karelia with 49.48 per cent of the votes in the second round. The previous chairman of the government, Viktor Stepanov, known for his positive attitude towards the Karelian, Vepsian and local Finnish populations, received 43.16 per cent of the votes. The Vepsians' representative in the Consultative Committee of Finno-Ugric Peoples Zinaida Strogalshchikova, former head of the Karelian legislative assembly's commission on inter-ethnic relations, was not re-elected. The indigenous peoples of the republic are represented in the new assembly by only one member. Foreigners were elected as administration leaders even in the Aunus (Olonets) and Uhtua (Kalevala) regions which have the largest percentage of indigenous population in the republic.

May 5: the Government of Estonia approved the programme to aid the kindred peoples (the Kindred Peoples Programme), prepared by a committee of experts. The government programme is designed to support the culture, education and science of indigenous Uralic peoples without statehood for five years beginning from 1999. Provision is made for 20 students representing all the Finno-Ugric peoples to study in the universities of Estonia entirely on the expense of the Estonian government.

May 8 in Tampere (Finland): the symposium The Bible and Finno-Ugric Peoples. The symposium was organised by the Institute of Bible Translation, the Finnish Bible Society and the city of Tampere.

May 8 to 10 in Åre (Sweden): the annual conference of the Saami youth organisation Sa'minuorra celebrating the 35th anniversary of the organisation with the participation of more than 100 representatives of the indigenous youth from Finland, Sweden and Norway. See also: Aanta Forsgren's article in Samefolket (May 1998).

May 14, in Yoshkar-Ola (Republic of Mari El, Russia): the presentation of a bilingual (Estonian and Mari) collection of poems by four Mari poetesses. The book was published by the Estonian publishing house Virgela. The translator, Arvo Valton, was also present.

May 20 in Moscow (Russia): power-sharing agreement between the federal government of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Mari El signed by the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin and the President of the Republic of Mari El Vyacheslav Kislitsyn.

May 23 in Saransk (the Mordvin Republic, Russia): the passing of 60 years from the political mass repressions aimed against the Erzyan nation commemorated by means of a mourning rally on Theatre square. The larger part of the Erzyan intelligentsia was exterminated by the NKVD in the year 1938. Although other nationalities were represented, the amount of the Erzya among the repressed was 58 per cent.

May 24 to 27 in Toronto (Canada): the annual conference of the Finno-Ugric Studies Association of Canada (FUSAC) organised by the Chairs of Estonian, Finnish and Hungarian studies.


June 11 to 12, in Izhkar (Izhevsk, Republic of Udmurtia, Russia): an international conference on the heritage of the the Udmurt poet and researcher of folklore Kuzebai Gerd.June 20 to 24 in Vilnius (Lithuania): an assembly calling itself the World Congress of Ethnic Religions with delegates from Western and Central Europe, the United States, and India. No representatives of the Estonian native religion movement could attend the congress, as it fell into the summer solstice period; no representatives of other Finno-Ugric native religions were invited. See also:


July 6 to 12 in Pärnu (Estonia): the 12th annual International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival. The grand prix of the festival went to the Gaia’s Children, a film by the Danish author Bente Milton. The film was said to give a “fresh and optimistic point of view on the disabled in an accomplished cinematographic form”. The only prize-winning film on Uralic peoples was Anna (directed by Markku Lehmuskallio and Anastasia Lapsui; Finland–Russia), “retrospect to the Soviet era and its devastating aftermath by a daughter of the Nganasan people, onetime functionary of the [communist] party”`.

July 6 to 29: an expedition to the Ob Khanty (Berezovo and Beloyarsk regions of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District) by students of the Estonian Academy of Art. The expedition carries on the Academy's tradition of organising expeditions to the eastern Finno-Ugrians. The students brought back slides and three hours of filmed material documenting the everyday life and artefacts of the Khanty. The students were shown a Khanty kindred sacred place and given a unique opportunity to delineate the ceremonial dress of a shaman. The materials collected at the expedition shall be exhibited in the Library of the Estonian Academy of Sciences from October 13 until the end of the month. The leader of the expedition Kadri Viires would like to thank Svetlana Gyndysheva of the administration of the District for the practically-minded reception.

July 7 to 12: a delegation of ten Estonian secondary school students representing five Tallinn secondary schools visited the Republic of Mari El in order to establish contacts with Mari youth.

July 12: an all-Mari religious ceremony on Hill Tashto Kshumantchya (Untcho village, Morko region, Republic of Mari El, Russia). The ceremony was conducted by Aleksei Jakimov, spiritual leader of the Mari ethnic religion organisation Osh mari – chi mari and three other high-ranking kart-vlak (priests) of the Mari religion. Vyatcheslav Kislitsyn, President of the Republic of Mari El, was also present.

July 15: Kohtla-Järve (Estonia) and Saransk (Mordovia) become twin towns. The mayor of Saransk Ivan Nenjukov, while in Kohtla-Järve, signed a friendship agreement with the mayor of Kohtla-Järve. On July 16, the mayor of Saransk and the head of the city administration's culture department Pyotr Tultayev paid a visit to Fenno-Ugria Foundation where they discussed problems of cultural co-operation between Mordovia and Estonia with the leaders of the Foundation as well as the chairman of the Estonian Mordvin Society Iouri Koulnine. The mayor was satisfied with his visit to Estonia and pointed out the Estonians' good attitude towards guests.

July 19 in Tashto Kshumantshya village (Republic of Mordovia, the Russian Federation): the celebration Velen Ozks introducing the Erzyan traditional culture. An ox was sacrificed and consumed, folk songs were sung and partiotic speeches delivered. The event was organised by the Ryabov Foundation for the Saving of the Erzyan Language, the society Erzyan Mastor and the ensemble Lamzur.

July 27 to 31 in Geneva (Switzerland): the 18th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities Working Group on Indigenous Populations. The central themes of the session were language and education. Of the indigenous peoples living in the territory of the Russian Federation, the Circassians, the Altai, the Khakas and Crimean Tatars were represented. The Consultation Committee of Finno-Ugric Peoples was represented by Alexei Beznossikov, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Komi who gave no formal statements. The Saami Council had submitted a report of the UNESCO 1998 Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development (Stockholm, March 30 - 2 April) and on the Agora Session on indigenous peoples' cultural rights, the declaration of which was distributed as an official document of the session (annex of the aforesaid report, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1998/8). The representative of Estonia gave a survey of the Kindred Peoples Programme adopted by the Government of Estonia and promised to continue Estonia's contributions to the Voluntary Fund of the Decade of Indigenous People. See also: The UNPO Monitor on the session.



August 1, in Ire (Mazirbe, the Livonian Coast, Republic of Latvia): the Liv Day celebrated for the tenth time in the period after World War II, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Liv Society. The President of the Republic of Finland Martti Ahtisaari and the President of the Republic of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis participated in the celebration. President Ahtisaari delivered an address (see the text of the address) to the Livonians who had gathered to the Livonian Coast, replied by President Ulmanis with a speech (see the text of the speech). Speeches were also made by the chairman of the Liv Society Aldis Ermanbriks, the Estonian ambassador to Latvia Juhan Haravee and several other prominent personages. The Livonian Poulin Klavina and the Estonian Professor Eduard Vääri delivered their speeches in Livonian. The occasion was attended by the Riga diplomatic envoys of several countries. The two presidents opened a wooden monument to the founders of the Liv Society. Several Livonian ensembles, a singing choir and the participants of the Livonian children's camp (took place during the two weeks immediately preceding the Liv Day with the participation of more than twenty descendants of Livonians) and guest performers from Estonia gave a concert. Altogether over 3000 people visited the Livonian Coast on the occasion of the Liv Day. The association Friends of the Livonians was founded by a group of visiting Estonians, Finns and Latvians. The association shall be registered in Finland and the purpose of it is to support the Livonian culture. Professor Tiit-Rein Viitso (the University of Tartu) was elected chairman of the association. The Livonian Culture Centre (Livõ Kultur Sidam) published an anthology of Livonian poetry containing works of 22 poets who have written poetry in Livonian from the middle of the last century to the present. The anthology was compiled by Valt Ernstreit who is also the author of the afterword.

August 22: the 77th anniversary of the Republic of Komi. As the Republic considers itself legal successor of the Zyryan Autonomous Oblast, the establishment of the Autonomous Oblast (1921) is considered the beginning of the Republic.

© SURI, 1998