Ethnofuturism: a way of thinking
and a vision of the world
N.A. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Member of the AiC Section
mid-1920's, the Udmurt art started manifesting its
intense thirst for self-cognition. The widespread
aspirations were expressed by Kuzebay Gerd who claimed
that the Udmurts had ancient origins and a religion
of their own, and that they were yearning to break
the centuries-old clasp of impassable woods and
moors that protected the Udmurts' sanctuaries from
the outside world. The pre-war Udmurt literature
gives an idea of the inconsistent, restless world
of the Udmurt country of those times.
figurative art of that period were not so multifarious
or impressive. The vast potential of many-sided
folk culture produced forms that were sometimes
strikingly genuine and perfect. The art of Udmurt
children, described by V. Lebedev, is an example.
The process of "taking the spell off the world",
manifested in children's drawings, is the first
step in the way followed nowadays by many artists.
In the totalitarian period, the experience of children's
art, as well as of the natve art of the 1920's was
completely thrown away.
came half a century later. On the ruins of traditional
country culture, professional art and literature
have started drawing the pictures of that culture.
It is important
here to note that a literature and art school that
originated in 1980's from Estonia has given a strong
impulse to Finno-Ugric peoples for regenerating
their ethnic identity through art¹. This school
shaped in the period of restoration of Estonian
national independence. Its main point was expounded
in the manifest Ethnofuturism:
The Way of Thinking And an Alternative For the Future²
in an attractively simple way: futu means that the
future survival of peoples as nations depends on
self-sufficiency of their cultures as the only quality
on which ethnic identity is based and which provides
the survival of an ethnos.
of reviving and comprehending the foundations of
ethnic cultures of Finno-Ugric peoples has combined
the study of what was accomplished in the pre-Soviet
period with the effort to resist assimilators, be
they the Russians or the Europeans. The school declared
itself as a means of survival and a way of life
of ethnic groups spread scattered over a large territory
and yet about 25 million-strong. As the instrument
to integrate the Finno-Ugrians the Internet was
chosen because the Net makes impossible any centralisation,
domination or ideological control. The authors of
the manifest found the Net to be an appropriate
environment for forest peoples whose population
is dispersed. It is a safe way to retain one's identity
while be included in the world of modern culture².
diverse, ethnofuturism is nevertheless consistent
in defending the importance of a vernacular language
in shaping a person's identity. Moreover, it is
particularly literature "based on the traditional
culture of a small people" that is viewed by
ethnofuturists as the instrument "of breaking
the emerging global monoculture into many original
patterns of thinking engaged in the intercourse
and hence enriching rather than depleting each other"4.
Literature is most efficient in finding new ways
because, as Berk Vaher puts it, "it has the
skill of returning to the stage of a bird's song".
poet and philologist V. Shibanov analyses the creative
process in ethnofuturism, pointing out that "ethnofuturism
is mainly about perception rather than Weltanschauung",
whereas "[...] in the foreground there is not
a rational, logically shaped philosophical reflection
but a profoundly emotional, deeply felt reaction
of the modern human to the surrounding world"5.
school has been very successful in comprehending
the unchanging ethnocultural factors in the Finno-Ugric
art. Moreover, it has apparently started to generate
new meanings that affect the art culture.
It is particularly
important that the conferences on ethnofuturism
in Tartu (1994, 1999, 2001) provide an opportunity
to thoroughly analyse the evolution of ethnic identity.
As the participants are not only theorists but artists,
musicians and poets as well, these conferences have
acquired forms that allow plunging into the art
process, instead of remaining a passive outsider.
the interest toward ethnofuturism was expressed
through annual ethnofuturist exhibitions-festivals
in Izhevsk, Udmurtia. The events were hosted by
an underground art group Odomaa (in Udmurt,
"The Native Land").
the effort to comprehend the Finno-Ugric spiritual
tradition and art has taken somewhat different forms
from those in Finland or Estonia whose professional
art had strong roots in the pre-revolutionary period.
The art of the Soviet Baltic republics performed
the mission of integrating the Western cultural
messages and stylistic approaches in a different
ideological space. The art of well-known Estonian
artists invariably caused deep interest among their
Finno-Ugrian colleagues in Russia whose experience
of personal and ethnocultural self-realisation was
very limited. In literature, the growth of "personal
self-consciousness" among the Finno-Ugrians
of Russia was clearly perceptible already in the
1920's. In arts, however, this process was much
slower. Today, the creative personal impulse in
figurative arts is still in the search of its form.
peculiar response to ethnofuturism can be observed
in the art of peoples of the Volga and Ural areas.
Actualisation of the ancient pre-Christian cosmogonic
and ethnogonic ideas became tied to the remnants
of the agrarian and family rites. The titles of
exhibitions-festivals held in Izhevsk are characteristic:
"The House of a Young Bear" (Yegit
gondyr veme), "The Native Udmurt Land"
(Odomaa), "The Loveland" (Erumaa),
"The Man-Fish" (Kalmez), "Tang'yra"6
(a traditional drum). Ancient ideas and ritual norms
are used not only as the subject matter for easel
painting or plastic art but also are experienced
in performances. On the stage, traditionally important
behavioural stereotypes are actualised and the culture
of ancient rites acquires personal interpretation.
Still, the unique personal elements play a secondary
role and the characteristic attributes of the ethnic
entity are viewed as more significant. Here lies
the principal distinction between a postmodernist
performance and a specifically ethnofuturist performance.
of a game, typical of a ritual action, apparently
makes is easier to construct new models of behaviour,
to fill the gap produced in the cultural tradition
with the destruction of the ritual culture of the
traditional rural community. The native culture
being split in two - into the urban culture and
the rural culture - is perceived by the most part
of Udmurt artistic intellectuals with pain. Creation
and performing of authorial happenings (produced
by artists, actors and musicians) may serve as a
substitute to participation in a traditional ceremony
in which music, rhythm and gesture were fused in
the associative and expressive whole. New forms
of syncretism thus emerge that once existed in the
traditional Finno-Ugric culture.
accompany every exhibition-festival. The organic
character of performances based on ancient rites
becomes evident when staged in a village. The improvisational
ease of the country folk joining a performance indicates
that its meaning is close and clear to them. (Performances
by Udmurt artists Y. Lobanov and Z. Lebedeva).
Now at last,
enjoying their freedom of conscience, Finno-Ugric
peoples of Russia can do what was impossible for
decades: observe their traditional agrarian calendar.
Paganism has turned out to be the actual basis on
which ethnofuturism is developing. Traditional holidays
are tied to the age-old ideas about fertility of
the Earth, about space rhythms affecting the lives
of humans and the Nature, about links between the
three spheres of the universe.
King of the Seto is elected (in Võromaa, Estonia),
the event is accompanied by good-natured jokes by
Võro and Seto spectators. In contrast with this,
crowds of thousand Udmurt prayers on the holiday
of Gyron-Bydton - the day of the first furrow -
testify to the stable system of values of their
culture that has retained its ancient ecological
adaptive dominant. In Estonia, holidays in Võromaa
are rather an entertainment and a game. In Udmurtia,
pagan prayer serves as a functioning communicative
channel of the culture.
ethnocultural dominant of Udmurts, Komis, Maris
and Mordovians is their patrimonial tradition. Its
function is keeping the memory of the common ancestor
and of belonging to a particular kin. The Udmurt
cult of happiness and well-being is centred around
the worship of the Progenitress. With centuries,
the sanctuary where she was worshipped became the
place for collective prayer and sacrifice. In the
pre-revolutionary times, common prayers of the cult
of Vorshud (happiness and well-being) in the summer
and in the late autumn were served in special groves
not only for particular families or villages but
also for the whole country.
of natural elements personified in the three supreme
deities of the Finno-Ugric pantheon was partly extinguished
by the worship of Christ while, in turn, Christianity
acquired some characteristic features in the Finno-Ugric
environment. The "double belief" is a
certain state of mind when the idea of the supreme
pagan God and the idea of Christ tend to merge.
While the foundations of Christian ethics and recognised,
the ancient pagan ideas about elemental phenomena
are still retained and the patrimonial cult is still
maintained by believers.
of the world based on the ancient mythology of Finno-Ugric
and Turkic peoples was expressed in figurative art
(mid-1970's to mid-1980's) by a handful of remarkable
individualists: Khanty G. Rayshev, Udmurt M. Garipov,
and Chuvash A. Mittov. Their art provoked fierce
disputes in their homelands and it took a long time
before their works reached the audience and gained
recognition. Each of these artists had also a unique
style. For Mensadyk Garipov, the rituals and holidays
of his people are just a colourful show that he
depicted authentically and with a good portion of
humour. Rayshev, on the contrary, interprets his
own life as a chain of acts connected to the rites.
He perceives the existence as the constant struggle
for life in the severe northern environment. Hunting
and fishing in his paintings are interpreted as
the fight with the forces of nature, while his images
of birds and animals are close to portraits.7
by Garipov show the daily life and the ancient handicrafts
of an Udmurt village. In his poetic illustrations
to the Legends, Myths and Fairy Tales of the
Udmurt People (Izhevsk, 1986) the legendary
past is shown with detailed exactness. His cycle
Incantative Folk Songs of the Udmurts is a comprehensive
survey of the myth: unlike in his previous works,
the size and the volume of objects are noticeably
transformed, the plasticity of movement and the
general appearance of human body are changed, and
planes are stretched in the vertical direction.
The accentuated two-dimensional character of the
space in the works by M. Garipov and G. Rayshev
was quite novel in the art at the time. Relieving
the spectator from recalculation of objects, it
gives an impression of another, magical dimension
in which the objects change their physical properties
at the wizard's will.
works of A. Mittov, as well as those of M. Garipov,
reached the public in a book. It was a collection
of poems by Chuvash enlightener K. Ivanov titled
Narspi (Cheboksary, 1976). The tragic fate
of the main character, beautiful young woman Narspi,
is caused by the annihilation of foundations of
the traditional way of life and the disunity of
the person and the nature. In illustrations to the
book, deadening of customs is presented in mass
scenes: the rite turns into a mechanical action
and its participants become depersonalised. The
characters and the nature look different only in
the scenes where young people manifest their love
G. Rayshev and A. Mittov were repeatedly accused
of "inept drawing" and in "inconsistency
of expressive means". Their drawing is indeed
far from academic correctness, though all three
graduated from metropolitan high schools of art.
Characters in their works are obviously countrymen
who do agrarian labour; their bodies lack correct
proportions and their movement lacks grace and smoothness.
Instead of picturing ideal characters costumed as
"common folk", these artists depict unique
types easily recognisable in their ethnic context
as personifications of emotional characteristics
of their fellow countrymen.
self-portrait The Sunny Boy by G. Rayshev
depicts a child looking like a vivid golden idol
who discovers the world of the boundless spaces
of the tundra with amazement. Here the child looks
more authentic and genuine than if it were a realistic
It was G.
Rayshev who made another important step that facilitated
the advance of ethnofuturism. His cycle The
Yugorian Legends (1985 to 1987) incorporated
the whole epos of the Khanties.
In this cycle,
time regains its property of being eternal, because
the world of the dead is eternal, too. Timelessness
is depicted as actually existent, as a part of the
world inhabited by the living and separated from
it merely with an invisible wall.
to prominent Saint Petersburg scientist G. Lebedev,
the tendency to counterpoising the world of the
living and the world of the dead is one of the crucial
factors for personal self-identification in a particular
cultural topos. Moreover, a well-elaborated
cult of the dead is a precondition for the living
to enjoy spiritual freedom8.
Both the scientist and the artist addressed this
problem virtually at the same time. Similarity of
their conclusions is not an accident. Culture retains
its continuity only when the bonds with the past
are perceived and comprehended.
of reconstructing the stately flow of time and the
stability of the country life with its triumph over
the mortality of existence - this is what the
village huts by G. Rayshev are about. The human
is portrayed as the centre of the universe; people's
businesses are full of eternal significance, postures
are steady as those of idols, the opposition of
male versus female is clearly designated. The older
generation is followed by the young one. The home
is perceived as a microcosm, with all its bonds
end of 1980's the myth has become the territory
where the cultural memory of peoples revived. Indeed,
mythological motifs in art are perceived by some
as a mere fashion, yet there are others to whom
it is an internal need or who see it as a means
of dialogue with other cultures.
of artists who are now 35 and 40 year old had a
good experience of avant-garde transformations and
metamorphoses already at the start of their professional
career. Young underground artists at the time (the
end of 1980's to the mid-1990's), they found that
for the situation in the Udmurt art to be changed,
the existing practice of exhibitions had to be demolished.
It was the only way to come out of the underground.
Exhibitions organised by the association Lodka
("The Boat") did not attract young artists
only; they actually affected the activities of the
Artists' Union. A creative environment favorable
for the development of a new youth culture was formed.
For the first time, the contact of people of different
arts was so organic and productive.
is not just younger but it enters the postmodernist
situation with a wider range of problems. The motifs
of socialist art and ecological disaster are perceived
today as the context, while the motifs of archetypes
in ethnic cultures, of the connection between the
purpose of human existence and the supreme spiritual
values, of the search for reference points in ethnocultural
tradition come to the foreground.
Let us consider how the basic material substances
of culture – the human body, the object and the community
– are interpreted in ethnofuturism.
manifests itself mostly through ritual action or
traditional game. Generally, ethnofuturist performances
are based on Finno-Ugric rites.
Y. Lobanov has found, beside his graphic art, another
form of expression in the genre of monoperformance
based on the principles of happening. This is a
ritual narration with the speech as recitation and
singing and the movement as rhythmical tramping
accompanied by the percussion of a drum (performance
Oti-Tati, Ottsy-Tattsy - "Here And
There, This And That"). In the magic atmosphere
of monoperformances the public, along with the artist,
addresses the eternal themes as the birth and growth
of a person, the love and the death, the sense of
human life. What is common to all mankind is conceived
here in its unique ethnic shape, the imperishable
values appear in their ethnic manifestation.
body is viewed by ethnofuturists as a repository
of mysterious forces that wake up in extreme situations.
It may be a body of a shaman in convulsions like
in the painting by A. Suvorov. Or it may be a figure
symbolising the progenitress in whom the animal
and human elements are combined, like in the panel
by S. Orlov. Even the angel and the devil in conversation
in the work by A. Timushev are rather symbolic than
physical. His self-portrait Me And Him is
constructed as a comparison of the physical and
and meaningful subject matter in ethnofuturism,
rendered in accordance with certain rules,
is the theme of the animal guardian, the ancestor
and the man-animal. Stable archetypal images of
the duck, the elk and the bear have been constantly
used in Finno-Ugric cultures since the deep antiquity.
We can see them in figured flints found in Volosovo
(from the end of the 3rd
to the mid-2rd
millennium B.C.), as well as in the materials found
in peatbogs of Vis (8th
millennium B.C.), Gorbunovo and Shigir (3rd
millennium B.C.). The easily recognisable pattern
and the specific style of these images remained
constant through millenniums. The complete formal
clarity of the worshipped totemic images was finally
reached in the Perm animal style as a part of cultural
tradition of the Finno-Permian peoples and other
the bear in the posture of adoration (the sacrificial
bear), the elk, the man-deer and the cheiropteric
goddess, constantly varied in the plates of Permian
animal style, became the distinctive mark of the
Finno-Permian culture. Actualisation of this cultural
layer today was caused, on the one hand, by the
study of Finno-Ugric patrimonial traditions and,
on the other hand, by the attraction of artists
to the contemporary verbal and pictorial folklore.
This motif is a counterpoint in the art of S. Orlov
(Udmurtia). It is also addressed by P. Mikushev
(Komi). Mikushev's paintings In the Search Of
the Vanished Soul, The Dialogue, Duality,
Evil Spirits Dancing, displayed at the exhibition
in Viljandi (Estonia, summer 2001), reconstruct
the ancient idea of mighty and formidable animal-people.
Their stylistic affinity to the Perm bronze (4th
millennium B.C. to 8th
millennium A.D.) is obvious.
of a totemic ancestor is interpreted in a very interesting
way in linear drawings by Kasim Galikhanov (Udmurtia),
as well as in installations and panels by V. Nagovitsyn.
as if these pictures themselves are aspired to become
physical objects; they recall the ancient plastic
figures as their prototypes and assert their generic
affinity to them. There is a specific streak in
the interest of Finno-Ugric artists in installation
art. Namely, it looks as it the Finno-Ugric world
positions itself in a multitude of different situations,
aspired to find a physical form for each of them.
The artist is focused not so much on the depicted
object but rather on the physical character of the
of the bird has been particularly diverse and multifarious
in ethnofuturist painting. The Rural Bird
by Y. Dyrin looks good-natured and quaint, producing
an association with a hen breeding human nestlings.
It produces the impression of a reconstructed image
of a majestic demiurge bird. In the works by S.
Orlov, lovers are presented as native rural hens
that move towards each other. The Angel Of Spring
Flowers by Y. Dyrin, flying over a fantastic
meadow, resembles rather a bird than an angel. Is
this a new presentation of Ange Patyay - the Mordovian
goddess of blossoming meadows? We can see a figure
of a swan-woman even in the coat of arms of the
In the modern
Finno-Ugric art, the body of an animal is as perfect,
powerful and mysterious as the human body. As a
part of complex conceptual structures it denotes
some models of the universe, as it did in antiquity.
Today, a new aspect has emerged that is important
for understanding the underlying ethnocultural values
of this motif. Images of mighty animal-people ancestors
serve today as a reminder of our responsibility
to preserve the link between the person and the
Nature, and to save the world from ecological catastrophes.
What does the community mean to the ethnofuturists?
Is it just a dream world? Or is it a utopia existing
in the mind of an artist attracted by traditional
values? Or is there some protest, some negative
feature in this image of the community?
in which the motif of the community is used today
are mostly fantastic. The motif of labour, so important
in the recent past, is now understood as some action
carried out within the Nature or even as a conjuration
of the forces of Nature. It is interesting to notice
some concurrence in the search of M. Garipov and
G. Rayshev. Both tend to show the humans in confrontation
with the forces of nature, while not implying that
the dialogue between the humans and the elements
will necessarily have a happy end. The atmosphere
of dynamic and tense struggle penetrates the painting
The Pike, a Man And a Boat by G.
Rayshev. In the etching The Fisherman from
the series The Udmurt Conjurations by M.
Garipov, the struggle between the Big Pike and the
fisherman goes deep into the underlying layer of
the motif, conveying the atmosphere of magical fight
between the animal and the human.
painter V. Mikhaylov has made a rapid evolution
in the last five or seven years. His favourite motif
has always been the village labour, interpreted
as the motif of a human within the nature. The labour
process is of secondary important to V. Mikhaylov.
His characters submit to the natural rhythm of seasons
of the year and the time of day. In The Black
Moon, fishing is set into the gravitation field
of the luminous eye of an enormous totemic silvery
fish. Here the ancient, the primary and the modern
are fused inseparably. Likewise, To the
Hunting by P. Mikushev depicts elk-people resembling
rather archaic warriors than hunters. This work
carries us into the times when the creators of Karelia
and Onega petroglyphs lived. Its monumental stateliness,
definiteness and rhythmic harmony allude to the
ancient art of the region.
of creation is typical to Mari painter A. Ivanov.
In his paintings Under the Mark of the Bull,
Under the Mark of the Bear and The Creators
of the World, people are shown as created and
protected by their ancestral totems. Despite the
external tranquillity and the static character of
postures, these works are very dynamic. Colouring
is intensive, the technique is vivid. A. Ivanov
creates a cosmogony of his own; his demiurges are
an original interpretation of Finno-Ugric mythology.
ethnofuturist artists highly estimate the value
of personal statement. Here lies the essential difference
of ethnofuturism from postmodernism with its inclination
to clichйs, propensity
to quoting, and condescending attitude to the search
the art process, artists tend to follow two different
strategies can be observed. Some proceed from the
religious ideas and ritual practice of the country
culture. Others attempt at synthesising the ethnocultural
experience and creating worlds of their own through
performances and figurative art. M. Garipov, G.
Rayshev, V. Belykh, V.Mikhaylov and Y. Lobanov can
be considered as belonging to the first category.
S. Orlov, A. Timushev, Y. Dyrin, K. Galikhanov,
P. Mikushev and A. Ivanov belong to the second category.
Some of these artists, born and grown up in the
country, came to the town to get higher education,
while others are townsfolk with rather feeble links
to the traditional culture; not all of them even
speak the vernacular language.
A new thinking
in art is thus arising through reconsideration of
traditional cultures in their totality, including
rites, beliefs, verbal and pictorial folklore. There
is no direct link between the myth and the ornamental
pattern. Geometrical symbols and colours used in
weaving, embroidery and carving convey a set of
encrypted symbols that even a bearer of the culture
cannot fully grasp. However, the contrast of the
symbolism and the sign language of these ornaments
from those of the traditional academic school gave
the ethnofuturist artists an impulse for the search
of new expressive means appropriate to the ethnocultural
found it essential not to confine themselves to
studying the pictorial folklore but learned the
language of their people, while others get their
impulse from the memories of their childhood spent
in the country. "There is no culture",
says Y. Dyrin (Erzya), "but the roots exist.
These country roots [...] they remain in your soul
[...] They rise to your consciousness through your
hand holding the pencil and they pass to the canvas
[...] they are tied to your childhood memories [...]
it begins speaking through you".9
With years, a person comes to comprehend the ethnic
determinants in what once seemed most precious -
in the person's "I". The ethnic reminds
of itself in many ways: through the life tempo,
through the person's gustatory preferences, through
the composition of works. The problem is particularly
serious for native artists who are Russian-speakers.
It is more difficult for them to see the link between
the ordinary and the high in the local culture,
to find the sacred behind a custom. In this case
discovering the culture of one's own people can
be compared with authorised translation.
actors and poets find in ethnofuturism the means
to display their gender positions in art. This may
be a result of the Finno-Ugrian woman having always
been the bearer of ethnic stereotypes of behaviour.
Among the Udmurts, the woman's role in shaping the
ethnic psychology has been particularly decisive.10
The recent sociological studies reveal higher intolerance
toward the Russians among Udmurt women, which is
quite understandable in the context of the currently
growing process of ethnic identification.
and Irina Orehhova propagandise a new system of
children's education that would agree with the values
of Finno-Ugric culture. Above all, education must
proceed in vernacular and be based of traditional
ethics. In their opinion, global religions bear
totalitarian attitudes. The works by Udmurt painter
Z. Lebedeva touch upon the deep foundations of aesthetics
of Finno-Ugric cultures. In her weaving she uses
"live" materials like stem and flowers
of plants that retain their natural colour and fragrance.
Her dolls are made in the traditional way, with
the use of genuine home-made fabric. In her work
with children, she teaches them to understand ancient
characters and traditions.
of Russian artists in ethnofuturism is a separate
topic. Those whose families have been living in
a Finno-Ugric territory for generations find it
easier to orient themselves in the local spiritual
culture. Today, instead of marching in a column
when there was no time even to glance at each other
and it was demanded that everyone look only forward
and above, we abruptly broke our ranks and stopped.
And we found the expression in our faces and our
speech to be very dissimilar. This feeling of cultural
difference is now transforming into a concept of
the common multicultural room. The need for a productive
cultural dialogue becomes obvious. Comprehending
the different, we learn to understand ourselves.
character of ethnic and cultural relations in the
Volga and Ural areas is caused also by the formerly
cultivated picture of two different subcultures
living in parallel spaces. One of them, predominantly
urban, was the Russian one; the other one, rural,
was Finno-Ugric since ancient times. On closer examination
this picture turns out to be false, as factory settlements
were multiethnic from the beginning. During almost
250 years of living together and marrying each other,
the Russians and the Finno-Ugrians in the area drew
closer in their way of life and in their material
culture, although each of them retained their language.
It took me
nearly all my life to comprehend the links between
the two cultures and to see the undistorted picture
of my native land (the topos, according to
G. Lebedev) in which I ought to identify myself.
Since my childhood I had a feeling of something
mysterious going on close to me; people lived, spoke,
dressed and thought in a different way. That was
a parallel universe. Once, during an expedition,
I finally made a breakthrough from one space to
the other. It was a journey in time. The other world
was strange but attractive. A ceremony in the sacred
grove of the Udmurts was a miracle to me. It is
not an accident that the Russian language retained
the collective ethnonymic chud¹
for Finno-Ugrians. This name refers to
"wizard people" who once worshipped the
playful birch. The word was used already in the
hagiography of St. Stephan of Perm compiled by Yepifaniy
the Sage. The sacred grove that I visited was of
birches, too! I experienced the hidden meanings
revealed by V. Dahl² through my
own encounter with ancient culture. All of this
simply because of my place of birth.
the Finno-Ugric world in the works of Russian artists
are associated with the world of natural elements
and with reflection on the origins of human culture.
Their style, marked with a Finno-Ugric "intonation",
develops into a way of self-expression. Likewise,
the speech of Russians in the Ural and Volga areas
has some distinctive features; intonations borrowed
from Finno-Ugric languages make it appreciably differ
from other Russian dialects.
of V. Okun' bring us again to the animal mythology.
We can see the mighty deity the Elk hurrying through
millenniums with the shaman as its rider. His decorative
and applied works, however, are linked to the ethnocultural
tradition in a more indirect way.
felt, the traditional stuff of Finno-Ugric handicraft,
are used already for a long time by A. Pilin. Without
deliberate emphasis, his leather works bear a distinct
mark of the traditional style. This is evident also
in his felt works, for example in the mantelet
Sounds Of the Sun. His aesthetics of demonstrating
the basic properties of the material, its softness,
volume and natural colour, is emphasised by hand
treatment. All this brings him close to the local
tradition. The panel by Y. Lisovskiy The Dance
of the Sun, though solved in a purely avant-garde
manner, refers directly to a rite of the solar cult.
In the catalogue
of the international exhibition of Finno-Ugric art
Ugriculture (Helsinki, 2001) there is a chapter
presenting the work "[...] of artists who lack
Finno-Ugric roots". Kati Kivimäki in her article
refers to them as "converts"12.
This seems to require a more detailed consideration.
On the verge of the 19th
and the 20th
centuries, the interest to the Kalevala
in Russia was so enormous that the epos was published
several times. Indeed, those editions can hardly
be compared with the works that made a name for
A. Gallen-Kallela whose art, too, enjoyed a wide
response in Russia in the context of the rise of
the generation of 1920's remain untouched by the
great epos. The Kalevala was illustrated by artists
of the Filonov school13.
This illustrative cycle is now a subject of intent
has been a constant interest in Russia to the Finno-Ugric
cultural tradition. It took a longer time, however,
to comprehend the Finno-Ugric cultural space and
the history of Finno-Ugric culture.
is now high time to pay homage to the work done
by two remarkable individuals who made a huge step
in the dialogue of the Russian culture with the
cultures of Finno-Ugric peoples. These were eminent
Erzyan ethnographer M. Markelov and Russian painter
I. Yefimov. Their unique cooperation took place
during the expeditions to Mordovia, Udmurtia and
Bashkiria organised since the end of 1920's till
1930 by the Central Museum of Ethnography and directed
by Markelov. This resulted in the amazing project
of preparing two fundamental works The Erzyan
Epos and The Agrarian Cults of East European
Peoples written by Markelov and illustrated
by Yefimov. These studies remained unpublished despite
the desperate efforts by the scientist who was sent
into exile to Siberia, and by the artist who stayed
loyal to his colleague. Yefimov and his family still
had the spirit to preserve some materials. These
have definitely remained up-to-date, while the Yefimov's
illustrations appear to fall in line with ethnofuturism14.
a variety of opinions as to the importance of ethnofuturism.
In Estonia, it is believed that ethnofuturism is
the only entirely new art school from that country
that gained international recognition.15
Prominent art critic Heie Treier, however, has now
changed her mind. Her point is that the modern Estonian
art is focused mainly on all-European cultural values
and on the problem of the eternal. Estonian artists
and poets inspired by ethnofuturism - like Peeter
Laurits, Sven Kivisildnik and Raoul Kurvits - are
small in number.
the firm tendency among the Estonian applied artists
to study the foundations of the traditional Finno-Ugric
culture, at which Treier pointed in her earlier
articles, is still there.16
Not only the art of the foreman of the senior generation
Prof. Kaljo Põllu from the Estonian Academy of Arts
but the decorative and applied works, based on the
findings of expeditions to Finno-Ugric areas of
Russia, by young artists like Kärt Summatavet are
a good evidence.
explains her work in jewelry, she points at the
importance and, at the same time, difficulty of
comprehending the ancient common language of Finno-Ugric
culture in its entirety. It is like the things are
singing and telling you their mystic secrets, she
says. To comprehend these secrets of culture, there
must be silence and concentration.
In the modern
multicultural world, ethnofuturism offers a channel
for ethnocultural self-identification of Finno-Ugric
peoples, as well as a means of dialogic comparison
of ancient and modern layers of their cultures.
By integrating the most important symbols of the
Finno-Ugric ethnocultural tradition, ethnofuturism
enters the dialogue with the art of other peoples.