III World Congress of the Finno-Ugric Peoples

Helsinki (Finland) December 10–13, 2000


Brief information


Speeches of the peoples’ representatives




List of participants

Consultative Committee
of the Finno-Ugric Peoples


III World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples
Helsinki, December 11-13, 2000

President of the Republic of Estonia Lennart Meri at the III World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples in Helsinki, on December

Dear President of the Republic of Finland,
dear President of the Republic of Hungary,
dear representatives of Finno-Ugric peoples,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen!

The third World Congress of Finno-Ugric peoples is taking place at the historic Finlandiatalo, and all our peoples, greater or smaller, can participate equally in this event. Let me heartily thank the Republic of Finland and the organisers of this Congress, as well as the President of Finland, who arrived here directly from the plane taking her home from Nice, for your hospitality! Our background, where we come from, is of course linguistic and cultural. Our peoples may be different from the anthropological, genetic, historical and even cultural viewpoint, yet we clearly stand out as islands in the vast Indo-European sea. For centuries, this sea has shaped the face of the world and determined its power lines. And yet our feeling of solidarity is manifest in the world. The World Congress of Finno-Ugric peoples can be looked upon as islands uniting into a continent. And yet the representatives of each of these islands have come here with their own problems, with their own opinions. And of course, with solutions for these problems and readiness to accept the help and co-operation of others. The problems of islanders are a little similar everywhere, and in their similarity, they can often be cured by similar treatment. This was also clear to those who initiated the first World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples eight years ago at Syktyvkar. The World Congress has now become a beautiful tradition: four years later, the gathering took place in Budapest. Today we are here at Finlandiatalo, and for the year 2004, I have the pleasure to invite you to Estonia.

The gatherings of Finno-Ugric peoples are not a tradition for tradition's sake, but an organised discussion, where we can set our goals and see how we should proceed. And yet, have we accomplished anything, have the demands and appeals approved four years ago in Budapest or eight years ago in Syktyvkar set something to motion? Resolutions are no poems; they are instructions for self-realisation. Our peoples have opened their door to the future. But is this door a passable one?

Ladies and gentlemen, if I were speaking to linguists today, there would be no question marks in this introduction. The Finno-Ugric languages, as well as the Samoyedic and the Paleo-Asian languages, are being studied, and the studies published in the United States, in Japan, in South Korea, in Canada, and in most of the European countries. The dictionary of the Yukaghir language was published in Hamburg even before the extinction of the people, and you can still see the last of the Kamas people, Klaudia Plotnikova, moving and living even today in the film ''The Waterfowl People''. Languages do not die in archives or dictionaries, or on recording tapes. But we are now talking not about language, but about peoples, we are talking about the living culture of our language relatives. ''Greenpeace'' protects nature, the very precondition of human life. We are already protecting the whales and we are protecting Rhinanthus osiliensis, a cockscomb that can only be found at Saaremaa, and nowhere else in the world. Have we neglected to protect small nations? Is it our duty to extend the activities of ''Greenpeace'' to humans?

This is how I would like to express the main task of this World Congress, but not so as to strew the ashes of the past on our heads, but in order to seek, hand in hand with the Russian Federation, solutions to the problems that the Finno-Ugric peoples have inherited from the Stalinist national policy. This is not a simple task. We are dealing with small islands, big distances, and different problems. Russia and Western Europe get their heating from the gas and oil coming mostly from the ancient inhabitation areas of the Khants and the Mansis. Those are the richest square kilometres in the world – and the poorest peoples in the world, as their rich natural resources have become their own undoing and triggered the ecological conflict. Therefore, we must welcome the decree of the Duma of the Russian Federation from May 26, 1995, which considered the situation of the small northern nations to be extremely deplorable, and recommended the establishment of the inspectorate for the rights of minorities – even though this noble decision may have come fatally late for the Khants and the Mansis.

Furthermore, I would like to draw attention to the Finno-Ugric peoples and languages that have preserved their vitality and the will to maintain their identity. I am doing this out of conviction that each culture and each language in the world is our common treasure, which we have learned to appreciate even more today, in our fast-globalising civilisation that has been subjected to mass culture. I especially appreciate the Congress' contribution to the preparations of native-language education and its orientation towards the establishment of native-language education. This would be a loyal way for the Finno-Ugric nations to support the democratisation of the Russian Federation with their cultural contribution and creativity. Future always begins from education. In this self-realisation you can, besides the support of the Russian Federation, also count with the firm support of the Republic of Estonia, and I believe also with that of Finland and Hungary. I think very highly of music, folklore, folk dancing and ethnography, but we can still build our future only on the basis of the twenty-first century. I am glad that the United Nations has called the years 1995-2004 the Decade of Indigenous Peoples. Let us use these years in brotherly spirit!

I wish the Congress strength in its work and say: ''See you in Tallinn in 2004, on the fourth World Congress of the Finno-Ugric Peoples!''

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