Section for culture and education
As an introduction to the work of the section three writers,
Gennadi Yushkov and Boris Shakhov from the Komi Republic and Aleksandr
Doronin from the Republic of Mordva were granted the literature
price of the year 2000 of the M.A. Castrén Society. All
three writers deal in their novels with the history of their country
and people, which has until now not been spoken of, in a manner
that is new in the literature of the minority peoples of Russia.
The aim of the prices was also to honour the long life's work
of these classics. In addition two smaller prizes were granted
to Zoya Dudina and Albertina Ivanova from the Republic of Mari.
At its best more than 200 participants took part in the work
of the section at one time. Speeches were given by more numerous
representatives of small peoples and ethnic groups than ever before.
Among the 42 lecturers and participants having asked for the floor
there were representatives of 28 Finno-Ugric peoples and one representative
of the Tuva people, the Vice-President of the Committee for nationality
issues of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, compiler of
the Russian language law (1991).
The issues dealt with in the section were related to the right
to education in the mother tongue and organizing of teaching in
the mother tongue in a bilingual surrounding, the importance of
the woman and the family in the development of a bilingual culture
and preservation of the mother tongue, cultural tradition and
challenges of the 3rd Millenium; enrichment of the national languages,
taking into consideration their originality, culture, social organizations
and the national intelligentsia and its significance for the the
intensification of the national development, as well as diaspora
problems with respect to the preservation and development of the
cultural and language tradition.
Introductory speeches were given by Galina Shkalina from the
Republic of Mari and Tonu Seilenthal from Estonia. The former
dealt with the part played by women in the preservation of the
language and culture based on the example of the Mari people and
the latter presented the Estonian program for related peoples
aimed at supporting the languages and cultures of the Uralic indigenous
The major problems are mental impoverishment, caused by the fact
that it is not possible to receive complete and especially modern
education in the minority languages. Economic impoverishment is
partly based on the same reason. We speak of global problems in
general, although problems must however be solved at the local
In general the situation of small languages has improved, but
there is still much to be done and the lack of money is not always
the main reason for failure. This was the first time that a representative
for the Kvens of Norway spoke at the Congress, telling about the
seriousness of their situation. There are almost no speakers of
the Kven language under 50 left, because the language has during
many decades been submitted to repression and even now no attention
is paid to supporting and research of this language.
Language is an essential factor from the point of view of the
identity of a people. As to the mental development of the individual
a good knowledge of the mother tongue is necessary. A language
remains vital only, if it is suitable for serving as means for
all human communication. The influence of the home is essential,
but a language cannot survive, if it does not have an officially
acknowledged status in society.
After major demands many peoples have themselves taken action
in order to save their language and culture. Active work is done
around the Baltic Sea with the aim of development of the literary
languages, farther away new many-sided terminology is being developed
in order to enlarge the field of use of the language within the
different sectors of society.
Support from Estonia, Hungary and Finland has during the recent
years been lent to the education of native Finno-Ugric specialists
– not only linguists – of small and medium sized peoples.
Many representatives wished that such co-operation would continue
In many areas there is not as yet a sufficient amount of national
schools. Teachers of different subjects as well as study materials
in the mother tongue are lacking. The contents of the education
often depends on the principal of the school or the local administrative
authorities. The influence of language laws does not extend outside
the native republic proper, peoples living in diaspora are in
quite a different situation with respect to teaching of the mother
tongue. The motivation of parents and children as to demanding
teaching in the mother tongue should also be enhanced.
The minority peoples have difficulties in publishing books, which
are expensive because of the small print run of copies and the
fact that they do not spread efficiently among the diaspora. The
circulation of newspapers has also decreased at the same time
with the fall of the standard of living of people in many areas.
Supportive measures for the prevention of newspaper deaths and
publishing of literature are still needed. A wish was expressed
that more literature translated from one Finno-Ugric language
into another would be published.
The traditional folklore festivals are to some extent pining
away. On the one hand there is a lack of money, on the other hand
the organization of the festivals has been left to those who are
less experienced in this matter and they are not any more as authentic
as they according to many should be. There is also a need to renew
musical material, new compositions and songs are required. Different
competitions on cultural issues could be organized.
With the changes in society the status of women has in principle
become stronger. The men are often away from the home and the
responsibility as to matters of the home and social matters is
to a great extent passed on to the women. The problem is that
they do not receive enough support from society. In the countryside
there are still in many places traditional womens' networks based
on help given to neighbors and relatives. Womens' networks and
organizations are needed, because they further the awareness of
the women of their status and responsibility also as care takers
of the self-esteem of their people.
The Uralic peoples of Siberia are submitted to other kinds of
threats. The traditional means of livelihood and way of life are
endangered because of environmental pollution and social problems.
In order to preserve the Siberian languages the prerogatives of
their traditional culture also have to be guaranteed.
The Presidium reminds of the following:
- the day of related peoples is celebrated everywhere (during
the 3rd weekend of October), it can if necessary be extended to
being a theme week of one related people (as the Hungary week
celebrated in Finnish schools),
- on January 21 the day of the mother tongue is celebrated on
the initiative of UNESCO,
- the year 2001 is the year of European languages,
- the decade of indigenous peoples still continues,
- one can ever more often find different information on related
peoples in the Internet,
- the Consultative Committee organizes training according to plans
with the aim of finding financing from European foundations and
funds, of which Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa spoke in her speech.
Chairman of the Section
Vice Chairman of the Section
Secretary of the Section