III World Congress of the Finno-Ugric Peoples

Helsinki (Finland) December 10–13, 2000

 
   
 

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Consultative Committee
of the Finno-Ugric Peoples

   

Address by A.V. BLOKHIN,
Minister in matters of federative, national and
migration policies of the Russian Federation,
head of the delegation of the Russian Federation
at the III World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples

Dear chairman, dear delegates and guests of the Congress!

First of all I would like to thank the organizers of this representative forum for the possibility to state and exchange opinions on current topics, which will be discussed during this Congress on revival and development of the culture and languages, and of the national self-esteem of the Finno-Ugric peoples.

The Russian Federation is one of the largest multinational states of the world with its more than 170 ethnic communities. Furthermore the peoples of Russia belong to different language groups and are bearers of very different cultures, traditions and religions. The vast majority among them have formed during the centuries ethnic communities on the territory of Russia and played an important historical role in the formation of the Russian statehood.

The multinational structure of Russia has determined the specific character of our state. One of the essential features of Russian federalism is the fact that it is based on two factors: the national-territorial and administrative-territorial. 23 peoples of Russia have their own national and state formations, 21 – a republic within the Russian Federation, five of which have a compact Finno-Ugric population.

At the same time Russia is an integral formation, where parallel with the preservation of the cultural and linguistic versatility and the feeling of belonging to a certain ethnic community, practically all citizens are able to interact on the basis of the multinational all-Russian culture.

The national feeling of well-being of any people is above all connected with the attitude taken by the state to its mother tongue and culture, together with the willingness of the power-holders to help to preserve its originality and to further its development.

Russia as a democratic juridical society builds up its national policy on the basis of thorough regard for the national interests of all peoples and national groups living on its territory, in making them agree with the all-national and statewide interests. This policy covers all aspects of relations, including those between individuals, and is directed at all communities irrespective of the number of those who make up the community or the existence or absence of a national state formation.

The principles of the national policy of the state arise from the historical specific features of century-old Russian statehood, present day realities and universally recognized international legal regulations.

Among the basic principles the Conception of the national state policy of the Russian Federation determines the following:

- equality of the rights and liberties of the individual and citizen irrespective of his race, language, relation to religion, belonging to social groups and public organizations;
- prohibition of any forms of restrictions of citizens' rights on the basis of their social, racial, national, linguistic and religious affiliation;
- guarantee of the rights of small peoples in accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the universally recognized principles and regulations of international law and international agreements of the Russian Federation.

Similar principles are included also in the Constitutions of the republics of the Russian Federation and above all in the articles of the Constitution of our country.

The Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees to all peoples of the country the right of preservation of the mother tongue, creation of conditions for studying and development of the same. The realization of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, which makes up the basis for the federal structure of the country, has in the field of language relations found its expression in securing for the republics the right to determine their official languages, which are used in the governing bodies of the state, the institutions of local self-government, the state institutions of the republics parallel with the official language of the Russian Federation.

Issues dealing with the state language policy have received their consecutive development in the federal law "On the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation". In this law the equal rights of the languages of all peoples of Russia are secured with respect to their preservation and development. They all have the support of the state, a guarantee system is being introduced in relation to the rights of ethnic communities as well as the rights of individual persons in the field of language relations. The law states as work language of the supreme legislative organs of the country the official language of the Russian Federation with the right to use the official languages of the republics in their work.

As to the laws on the languages of the subjects of the Russian Federation, they have applied the regulations and structure of the federal law. Nevertheless they differ from it with respect to a different approach in solving problems of language development, consisting in a different arrangement of priorities.

The main aim of legal regulation has become the creation of favourable conditions for the revival, preservation and development of the language of the (people after which the republic in question has been named.

Moreover, the constitutions of the republics include special regulations on the preservation and development of the national cultures of the peoples living on their territory, as well as on the right of these national groups to establish their own national and cultural organizations.

According to the federal law "On education" the citizens of the Russian Federation have the right to receive basic general education in the mother tongue and to choose the language of education within the limits of the possibilities offered by the system of education.

The law of the Russian Federation "Bases of the legislation of the Russian Federation on culture", issued on October 9,1992, guarantees the right of peoples and other ethnic communities as to the preservation and development of their cultural and national originality, as well as the protection, revival and preservation of their age-old cultural and historical environment. The law secures the right of all ethnic communities living compactly outside their state formations or lacking their own statehood, to a cultural and national autonomy.

The approval of the federal law "On national and cultural autonomy" (1996) was an important step in the legislative securing of the rights of all peoples and national groups in the preservation of their national originality and balanced national and cultural development.

The right to national and cultural autonomy, belonging in an equal degree to all peoples, is most timely in the case of national minorities. The dispersely living national minorities have great difficulties as to the preservation of their national identity (their language and culture). This is why in the contemporary civilized society when considering issues of national and cultural autonomy serious attention is paid to the creation of guarantees for the realization of national and cultural autonomies of national minorities and the elaboration of the necessary legal mechanisms.

In several subjects of the Russian Federation laws have been approved, which regulate the legal status of national and territorial units on their territory. For example, the law of the Republic of Karelia "On the legal status of national districts, national town and rural councils in the Republic of Karelia" issued on November 22, 1991, was approved with the aim of furthering the national development of Finns on the territory of Karelia. This law contains issues on the establishment of administrative-territorial units, including the order, time limits, determination of boundaries and other issues e.g. economic development: self-financing and financial aid.

The examples stated above are directly connected also with the processes of national cultural development of the Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia.

In the Udmurt Republic a Conception of the state national policy of the Udmurt Republic was approved in 1998 by a decree of the State Council and a plan has been drawn up for its realization. Since 1995 there has been a special item in the budget of the republic, which envisages expenditures for the realization of the national policy. In the republic bills have been drawn up "On the national and cultural autonomy of the Udmurt Republic", "On the languages of the peoples of the Udmurt Republic", "On staff policy in the Udmurt Republic", as well as regional and goal-oriented programmes on the improvement of the national policy, such as:

"The social and cultural development of Udmurts, living outside the boundaries of the Udmurt Republic", "The national development and co-operation between the nationalities of Udmurtia".

In the Mordovian Republic a "Programme on national development and cooperation between the nationalities of Mordovia" has been drawn up, the realization of which has required the approval of laws and acts pertaining to them, which regulate the social, legal and cultural activities of ethnically oriented political forces, ethno-cultural organizations and citizens of different nationalities. This programme was approved by the government of the Mordovian Republic in 1997.

The Conception of state national policy of the Republic of Mari El was also approved in 1997 and from this year on for the first time there has been a special item in the budget of the republic called "Relations between nationalities". A "Coordination plan of measures for improvement and development of national relations and co-operation between nationalities in the Republic of Mari El" was drawn up and approved by a common decree of interested ministries.

In the Komi Republic the programme "Preservation and development of the Komi language" is in force and "Measures for organizing of the International Decade of indigenous peoples in the Komi Republic" and "Measures for realization of the state national policy" are in force.

Reviewing the above, it should be noted that due attention has during the recent time been paid to the support of national cultures and languages of Finno-Ugric peoples in the general context of the national problems of Russia. This implies the realization at the level of federal and local state institutions of a complex of measures, including the elaboration of legislative acts and special programmes in support of the development of the cultures and languages of these peoples.

During the eight years, which have passed since the I World Congress, many things have changed in the life of the Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia. The development of the cultures and languages, of the national education system and the media in the regions, where the Finno-Ugric peoples live, have raised their national self-esteem to a new quality level.

The government of the Russian Federation will continue to give state support and assistance to the Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia in their efforts to preserve their language, culture and traditions within the multinational Russian state.

In conclusion I would on behalf of the delegation of federal executive organs of the Russian Federation like to wish the guests and delegates of the Congress success in their work, productive co-operation in the multiplication of the spiritual and moral values of the Finno-Ugric peoples in the name of universal peace and harmony.

Thank you for your attention.

Source: III World Congress of the Finno-Ugrian Peoples. Helsinki, 2000 [Joshkar-Ola,2001], pp 13–17.

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I - Syktyvkar, 1992
II - Budapest, 1996
IV - Tallinn, 2004