backTang'yra is calling
Prof. V. Vladykin
Vapum Ulonlen Syures Vozhez - Bydzym Vozho Dyr
- The Great Crossroads of Time. Continents
of millenniums are clashing, breaking the Time itself
into smithereens. A terrifying thought arises that
maybe we have entered a Time Gap. Some things are
already Not There, while some are Not Yet There.
Everyone is eager to know: what is ahead? what will
happen to us? shall we be allowed to be There? With
merciless inevitability, each people as well as
each culture and the civilization in general are
facing the Hamlet's question To be or to not to
be? that has tormenting humans for centuries. "In
which direction" shall we live? Which qualities
shall we have? To answer the last of these questions,
ethnofuturists have something to say.
The term ethnofuturism was born in the 80's of
the now expired 20th century. Its fathers were the
Estonian intellectuals. Having offered the term,
the unhurried guys either overlooked or did not
deem it necessary to give it an academic definition
(hence its vagueness, its ambiguity and the abundance
of its meanings down to the so-called "ethnic
surrealism"). One way or another, ethnofuturism
was never on friendly terms with the adepts of academic
approach. It was, in a way, a challenge of the young
generation anxious with its unsatisfactory ethnic
condition. Or we may call it a proposal. To be more
precise, it was an answer to the challenge of globalisation.
It was an attempt to make a seemingly impossible
blend of ethnic antiquity and the up-to-date modernist
style. To achieve this, old content is either cross-bred
with the modern form or vice versa. The main idea
is that ethnic values should not be denied. They
should not be buried in the past and cut from the
actual life, but we must invite them to the future
and give them new impulses for development. Hence
they start a new life, even if at times in somewhat
unusual forms. The idea has turned to be attractive
and catching. The infection of ethnofuturism has
spread among creative youth in many Finno-Ugric
In the summer of 1998, an informal creative group
named Odomaa (The Native Udmurt Land) emerged
in Udmurtia, uniting young artists, actors, poets,
writers and other people interested in ethnofuturist
art. One of its leaders is artist Yuri Kuchyran
(Y.N. Lobanov). One may call him the life and soul
of the Odomaa. He is the author of the state symbols
- the court of arms and the national banner - of
the Udmurt Republic, and was awarded the Udmurtia
State Premium. Members of the Odomaa enthusiastically
participate in the group's actions. Olga Aleksandrova,
a talented Udmurt performer and art director, has
made a tour over European stages with her monoperformance,
acquainting the theatrical public with Udmurt scenic
art. She presented original sincerity of her people's
worldview, multiplied by her talent and modern thinking.
She was a success in Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway,
Germany, France and Canada. And, at last, her innovatory
scenic language seems to have won understanding
at home, in Russia and in Udmurtia.
Since 1998 to 2000, the Odomaa has held the following
conceptual ethnofuturist exhibitions.
The exhibition named Yegit Gondyr Veme
(The House of a Young Bear) was held 25 to 28 June
1998. For the group members, this exhibition was
the maiden attempt and a good occasion to explore
their strength and potentialities. The event was
perhaps more important to the participants themselves,
serving as a convocation under the banner of ethnofuturism.
The ranks of ethnofuturists were inspected, the
basic concepts and ideas were discussed and elaborated.
The new personage entering the world declared itself
as Yegit Gondyr - a Young Bear who is strong
The exhibition named Odomaa was held 13 to 20 July
1998. This event was an important follow-up of the
previous action. It was focused on finding the place
for ethnofuturist movement in the complex world.
The unsaid motto seemed to sound as "the home-coming"
or "the new discovery" of the ancient
native home. The search for this native homeland
was reflected already in the word "Odomaa".
It is a specially composed ethnofuturist word meaning
"the native Udmurt land". In this land,
the young generation is to live and create simultaneously
in the old way and in the new way.
The exhibition named Erumaa (The Loveland)
was held 16 to 25 October 1998. The project surprisingly
turned to be épater, liberated and free, which is
untypical for the Finno-Ugrians in general and for
the Udmurts in particular: these people tend to
be somewhat "reserved", especially in
their personal life. The motto looked rather like
a mixture of unchained constraint, of taboo and
liberty, dominated by the harmony of all-triumphant
The exhibition named Kalmez (The Man-Fish)
was held 20 March to 16 April 1999. I would call
it one of the most successful and promising meetings
in the common context of Person-Community-Nature
and Person-Stream of Life interactions. The exposition
made one feel like a small fish caught in the immense
network of Time, Circumstances and Problems. Those
fishes would like to tear themselves out of the
net and swim away. Some were fortunate, some others
started dreaming of this.
The exhibition named Mushomu (the Land of Bees)
was held 25 May to 18 June 2000. Its name was not
an accident. There is a legend telling that there
are bees in every place where the Finno-Ugrians
live. The Finno-Ugrians have often stricken their
neighbours by their being industrious like bees.
A traveller who visiting Udmurtia in 18th century
exclaimed: "All over the Russian State, these
people are beyond compare in diligence". Ancient
Udmurts had a custom to welcome their guests with
bread, butter and honey. The Udmurt language, too,
is rich with words connected to bees; linguists
have counted at least a couple of dozens. The land
has also a distinct kind of a bee of its own, the
Udmurt bee. Traditionally, the bee and the beehive
were considered as examples of "nectariferous"
diligence and of an "optimal social organism"
in ideal agreement with the harmonious world of
Those were not simply exhibitions but rather broad
actions that included performances, installations,
discussions, sightseeing, etc. They gained wide
international resonance, as well as large popularity
in the republic. The precept of Kuzebay Gerd, the
great figure of Udmurt culture, is coming true:
at last, the Udmurts seem to wake up from lethargy.
They actively declare themselves in the contemporary
ethnocultural time and space, they scrutinise their
history and start carefully collecting it. A constrained
and even a shy Udmurt already "dares to be
Obviously, in this sense one may already speak
of the history of Udmurt ethnofuturism. Indeed,
why not consider Kuzebay Gerd himself as the earliest
Udmurt ethnofuturist? Let us recall his short novel
Mati which was frequently overlooked in his time
and later. The main character of the novel finds
out that she is needless to others and escapes to
the primitive "wooden civilization" of
her own, back into her original element where the
forest becomes her "homeland". The author
of this strange dream novel, however, was woken
up by some fierce realists of 1930's and 1940's
who bitterly tore him away from his fantasies and
put him to sleep forever in obscurity. After all,
it is probably not accidental that the root of the
word "ethnofuturism" is futurum, thus
connected with future - in this case, with our today.
The last ethnofuturist project of the group Odomaa
was named Tang'yra (held 26 to 29 April 2001). The
name produces many associations, among them with
the ancient musical instrument. Tang'yra is a peculiar
Udmurt tam?tam. At the village outskirts, ropes
woven of horse-hair were pulled between two pines.
Suspended on these ropes were resonant blocks of
fir-tree. The blocks, each with the "voice"
of its own, were percussed with a bat. The instrument
allowed villages to communicate with each other,
telling others about a funeral or a wedding.
The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods,
or is that a wandering echo,
or is that the thunder from the skies
telling us something?
The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods -
The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods
amidst the stems deep in the thicket.
Is that a lover's appeal
or is that a sad honk of crane
or is that the beat of your heart?
The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods -
The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods.
Others heard this sound before
and now it is almost forgotten.
But it disturbs us again.
The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods!
The ancient Udmurt lived in small villages lost
in the boundless primeval forests and covered with
snow to the very roofs of houses. They knew, however,
that they were connected to the world, as well as
to their past and to their future.
In our mad time of widespread alienation, when
centuries-old bonds are broken thoughtlessly, it
is so easy to get lost, to forget each other, to
lose your mind in the immense ocean of people. Not
only single individuals but peoples as a whole can
get lost and disappear. These problems are particularly
urgent in our great and long-suffering country.
Maybe it's the high time to declare the Age of Rediscovery,
Unity and Kinship? Perhaps in this frightful harmony
of chaos, among the stunning silence of universal
hullabaloo, in the stirring planetary ant-hill of
people who are losing their individuality, it is
the time to eventually rediscover yourself, you
own face, your voice, and your people. And to find
a unique gift edition produced by the Nature and
the Culture. The young ethnofuturists from the boring
today are peering into the exciting Tomorrow. Sometimes
these are just fantasies. Many of them, however,
are tempting and attractive. Perhaps they may come
I believe the hope is not totally lost.
The vivid voice of tang'yra still sounds in us!
The ski-track of Kalevala calls us to move on.