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''
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
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