THE ENDANGERED PEOPLES

Although the following peoples are not directly threatened by assimilation, their national survival is in danger (because of their small number, dispersion, administrative territory, which does not correspond to their actual territory of habitation, unfavourable demographic situation or other reasons).

One of the characteristic features of the endangered Uralic peoples is that until this day they have not succeeded in creating their urban culture i.e. as a rule, urbanisation brings about assimilation. The intellectuals of these peoples come predominantly from rural areas; intellectuals of the second and third generation are almost non-existent. In the recent times Sámis have successfully started to create their modern urban culture; other nations have recognised the need, but in the situation of being a minority in the town population, it is an unusually difficult task to cope with. All these peoples, except the Permyak Komis, are also minorities in the administrative unit that bears the name of the people, or do not have one altogether (e.g. Ingrian Finns in the Leningrad Province), or they are divided among different administrative units (Vepses, Selkups, Nenets; indeed, the Sámis are divided among different countries). At the same time, it is characteristic of many of these nations to live dispersed, so that a notable percentage of them, sometimes even the majority (of Mordvins, Maris) of the nation live outside their national administrative unit.

Of the Uralic peoples of Russia the Komis, Maris, Udmurts and Mordvins have the administrative unit of the highest rank in the Russian Federation republic (since 1936 Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic; before that Autonomous Province, which is legally all but equal with a province). In the republics, the language of the indigenous population has been proclaimed the official language equally with Russian. In reality, there is no equality, because the acts of lower rank regulating the use of the official languages do not exist. Officials refuse to learn the local language, the status of these languages is low. As for decades already these languages have not been used in official affairs and Russian has prevailed in several vital spheres, their vocabulary lacks many necessary words. Even worse is the situation of the peoples that have their national Autonomous Districts (Earlier National Districts) Permyak Komis, Nenets (two districts), Khants, Mansis. The peoples lacking even a nominal autonomy are in the worst situation. Considering their dispersion, the best form of self-government of several of the Uralic peoples would be something different from the traditional territorial autonomy. Unfortunately, there are not enough precedents to create something like that, and so the peoples are forced to try and keep what little they have.

Differing from the other Uralic peoples in their living conditions, culture, and hence also the dangers they are facing, are the Ob-Ugrians and Samoyeds living in Siberia and Far North of Russia. Since their specific problems are largely identical, these peoples are treated under a separate chapter with special introductory notes.


ENDANGERED URALIC PEOPLES