SPEECHES OF THE PEOPLES' REPRESENTATIVES
chair of plenipotentiaries' Council
of the Karelian Congress of the Karelian republic,
Candidate of History
Dear participants of the III World Congress of the Finno-Ugrian peoples! Ladies and gentlemen!
The Karelians of Karelian republic participate with the trust in future at work of the III World Congress of the kindred people. Finland, having attained independence, has shown to the whole world in the 20th century, what can be achieved by a nation which respects its country, itself and builds good relations with the neighbours.
We are thankful to Consultative committee which took the decision of carrying out the III Congress between two centuries and on the eve of a new millennium. In our opinion the Consultative committee has done a great and positive work in the last 4 years. The Finno-Ugrian world grew to a real factor. Our peoples solve common tasks, thus helping to each other. We are grateful to the Hungarians, Estonians and Finns for that all-round support which they provide for us, especially at preparation of national manpower. We ratter think that co-operation among the kindred peoples of Russia can be more effective.
Serious changes occurred in 4 years in republic of Karelia. With all difficulties and contrarieties the Karelians moved forward in solving their vital problems. Naturally, we wanted to reach more. But we did not succeeded to do it to a full extent.
The III Karelian Congress passed. They took a decision to organize the VI Karelian congress in the native place of the world famous epos "Kalevala" in June 2001. Books and newspapers are published in the Karelian language, a National theatre works, specialists are being prepared at two faculties of our Universities. We can not be satisfied with what we have achieved. And the situation with our nation in its entirety does not allow us to rest on our laurels. Possibly, many will not agree with our estimation which is subjective in our opinion, but on the whole, the situation of the Karelians has not improved, the nation is threatened by a real disappearance from our ever-green and juvenile Earth. What we are especially disquieted with?
In the first place it is the position of the Russian federation. The centre tries to regulate all the sides and activities of the big country Russia in the level of tiny details in the form of federal law. Now, a tough process of making all legislative acts of subjects of Russia coincident with federal law is under way, and this is often without taking into consideration the national traditions. In Moscow all the matters are determined upon, including those that concern property issues. All the forests went to the federal property. Now the question of free sale of land is being decided upon. As a result of this policy of the centre many peoples will remain without their historical and national living conditions and it means that they continue to be exposed to the threat of being extinct in the Earth.
We are seriously concerned with the demographic situation. During the whole century the relative and absolute share of the Karelians in the population of the republic continuously decreases. In the present time the relative number of the Karelians amounts to 10% only. This process was aided by the nationality policy of the state, one-sided industrialization mainly directed towards felling of timber in Karelia and partial processing of it and liquidation of so called "unpromising" villages as the base for the life of the Karelians. The situation can be changed only through improving of the social and economical condition of the people and prerequisites of it are recovery and further development of economics in the republic. We consider this a single task for all the subjects of Russia where the Finno-Ugrians live. Therefore the economic integration of our republics must be closer. And the level of economical ties with Finland, Hungary and Estonia could be more effective.
The most complicated problem for us is the language. We are not satisfied with the present day situation of teaching the language at school and the pace of preparation of new books. We take all the possible measures for the development of the Karelian language. A commission on terms and orthography works. Today it is possible to say with confidence that the Karelian language is ready to discharge all the functions proper for a language. And we are particularly glad and secure by the fact that House of representatives of Legislative body of the Karelian republic when adopting Constitution of the Karelian republic validated the official status of the Karelian language on a par with the Russian language. This is a prime event for us the Karelians. Chair of government of the Karelian republic S. Katanandov supported single motions of the Karelians, Vepsians and Finns and moved an amendment to validate the official status of the Karelian language. I think that all the participants of the Congress will subscribe to that this is a virile act of a true political figure. And it was dictated not only by the necessity to prepare to the III World congress of the Finno-Ugrian peoples, but also by a deep insight into the problems. We do hope for that House of republic will support age-old aspirations of the Karelians.
A public consultative committee is planned to form with Head of republic, which will be constituted of the Karelians, Vepsians and Finns. We hold that that body will guarantee, though in a recommendatory form, the participation of these peoples at administration of republic. Those decisions allow to conclude that it is possible to solve very knotty questions if there is the wish to solve them. Naturally, representatives of the Karelians will take part at elections to official bodies and bodies of the local self-administration.
A serious issue for us is manpower and preparation of it. It will be more difficult to solve the problems - whose settlement is an imperative demand of time - without young and enthusiastic representatives of the people.
Ladies and gentlemen!
This is an incomplete list of problems whose settlement will allow to preserve the Karelians and our unique culture. As you see it, almost the same questions as in Budapest, but we have now more optimism. We hope that at the Congress we shall jointly design the solutions which help to all of us, the Finno-Ugrians.
Thank you for your attention.
Source: III World Congress of the Finno-Ugrian Peoples. Helsinki, 2000 [Joshkar-Ola,2001], pp 42–44.