SPEECHES OF THE PEOPLE's REPRESENTATIVES
chairman of the "Inkerin Litto" and the national-cultural autonomies
of Ingria Finns of St. Petersburg and Leningrad region
Dear Mr. Chairman! Dear delegates of the World congress!
Finnish tribes had lived at the shores of the Neva and the Gulf of Finland since the earlier Middle Age. But from the point of view of history the Ingria Finns are a rather young people, formation of which started in the 17th century in the territory of Ingria. Inkeri Finns have absorbed culture of the surrounding Slovenians (Russians), culture of Finnish tribes (Izhora and Vod) and have preserved the original culture of proper Finns.
Ingria Finns are a community of people historically formed at the shores of the Neva and the Gulf of Finland which is united by a common language - Finnish with a variety of dialects, a similar origin (Suomen sisu), unity of the traditional material and spiritual culture which has absorbed culture of the surrounding peoples. A fixed self-appellation is incident for the Ingria Finns - Inkeri Finns - and also a common consciousness of their unity with the unifying aim to preserve the people and realise its progress. If we add to all that the identity of confession - the Reformed faith - and affinity of the physical type, so we obtain a definition of the people that corresponds to every necessary quality after which one people is segregated from another from the point of view of international legal norms.
Thus the Ingria Finns or Inkeri Finns are a people which together with the proper Finns or Suomi Finns build two branches of one Finnish trunk. To the 30s of the XX century Finns numbering about 150000 made up approximately 3/4 of the rural population of Ingria and numerically were the second largest among the rural people of Leningrad region. The presence of Kujvosovo Finnish national district, 64 national Finnish village Soviets, an extended net of schools and other educational institutions with Finnish as the teaching language - all that emphasised a major and important status of the Ingria Finns in Leningrad region.
We see quite another picture in the second half of the XX century: there is no national administrative body, the Finnish language is taught as a foreign one at 4 schools in St. Petersburg and as an optional subject at some local schools. A status of the Finnish language as a language of an aboriginal people of Russia is absent. Furthermore, after a census of 1989 Finns are enlisted as a people for whom Russia is not the ethnic motherland - like, for example, Englishmen, Ethiopians or Japanese. One should agree to that as far as a citizen of Finland is concerned. The Ingria Finns are not mentioned here at all.
One could agree to that "confusion" in 1989 at the beginning of the revival process of peoples' national self-consciousness. But in January 1997 a Parliamentary hearing on the program "Revival and Development of Cultures of the Finno-Ugrian Peoples of Russia" was held in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg was chosen not at random as a place to carry on the hearing. A decree "On Vindication of the Russian Finns" was adopted by Supreme of Soviet Russian Federation and a special program "Preservation and development of the Ingria Finns" was launched by Ministry nationalities.
The Ingria Finns were again not mentioned in documents of the Parliamentary hearings among the peoples which historically and ethnically formed in the territory of Russia. As a result of mass victimization our people was both expelled from its territory, where it had formed, and bereft of its legal right to its historic and ethnic native-land accordingly.
If we proceed from the aforesaid, we neither possess the right to a federal support from Russia in the form of a program for "Preservation and Development of Ingria Finns" nor the to for a status for our language as that of a aboriginal people of Russia etc. But we are not citizens of Finland. Thus, the Ingria Finns turned up to be among the peoples on the globe destitute of their land, native country and only partially retaining traditions and culture of their ancestors.
In the end of the 20th century some 75000-80000 Inkeri Finns live in the world, and they are scattered in many countries of the globe. About 20000 of them live in Ingria proper or they are 0.3% of the population of St. Petersburg and Leningrad region. 17000-18000 Finns live in Karelia and the majority of the same number of Ingria Finns who had lived in Estonia moved to Finland.
In Finland in the last decade the number of Ingria Finns reached 20000, some 8000-9000 of Inkeri Finns live in Sweden and circa 3000 in other countries of Europe, America and Australia. It must be noted that approx. 10000-13000 Ingria Finns and their descendants tarry in the exile places in Siberia, Komi and the Urals. In spite of Russification policy and Stalinist victimization we could partially preserve the Finnish language, the Lutheran church and the Finnish spirit.
The economic situation in Russia and absence of an official program do not allow thousands of Ingria Finns to return to the native parts from the exile places and special settlements. About 30 families returned back to Inkeri and thousands moved to live to Finland. This process will discontinue if the economic situation improves in Russia and a real mechanisims designed to put the rehabilitation Act into effect.
Finland's policy is changing gradually, too, which began to be oriented to assistance to Inkeri Finns in the places of their compact residence. We have lobbied interests of lngria Finns in government of Finland since the earlier 90s and we have good achievements. A net of homes for the elderly is organized in the places of their compact residence in Ingria, Estonia and Karelia. A four years long "Ingria project" started in 1999. According to it we try to ensure employment assistance for the Ingria people in the places of their traditional habitation and strengthen their national identity. In accordance with this project a poly-functional centre is, opened in Gatohina and an Ingria labour exchange is registered in St. Petersburg. I should like to thank government of Finland for the care showed for the Inkeri Finns.
Naturally, we have enough problems. At least one can make mention of the right
to study the native - Finnish - language, support to the Ingria Finns in Siberia,
assimilation in the Russian and Estonian environment. In connection with that
we have the following motions for the Congress:
1.Persons living in Russia do not have the possibility of studying at schools in Finland, since a single practice of participation at international pupils' exchange is absent there. We request to ensure the possibility of teaching of 30 learners at schools of Finland during half a year or a year. This can be carried out into practice on the basis of a special agreement among Educational Ministry of Finland, "Inkerin Liitto" and Ingria educational and scientific centre.
2.According to laws of Finland the Finnish schools abroad are assisted by Educational Ministry. However, that does not cover the schools in Russia with teaching of the Finnish language, for citizens of Finland do not leam there. And the Ingria children namely there receive the base for studying the language of their ancestors. It would be better if Educational Ministry could find a possibility of helping the Finnish schools in Russia. This issue concerns insignificant amount In this case an agreement should be signed among Educational Ministry of Finland "Inkerin Liitto", Ingria educational and scientific centre and schools.
3. When travelling to summer job to Finland the pupils have to pay 800 markkas
for the right to accommodation and work. This is a very big amount. Can government
of Finland reduce that amount?
All the problems still mean one thing - our organizations must work more productively. This work is easier to carry on jointly in the Finno-Ugrian family and at our Congress. We would like to wish good speed to the Congress.
A nation without its history, traditions, culture and language is doomed to disappear, to dissolve. Nevertheless, we shall exert every effort to prevent that. World culture can lose one of its parts. Therefore we apply to official bodies of Russia to redeem to Ingria Finns their historical status of an aboriginal people of Russia, to enact program documents on preservation and development of Inkeri Finns' culture, to legalize the status of the Finnish language as a language of an aboriginal people in the territory of St. Petersburg and Leningrad region.
They often say that Vod and Izhora are aboriginal peoples of Ingria. And that Ingria Finns moved from other places here. Really, our ancestors were mainly Yevremeyans and Savakotes. And they lived in the northern part of the Karelian neck, Vyborg district, on the northern Ladoga-river and the south-eastern part of the modem Finland. If they do not recognize us - the Inkeri Finns - an aboriginal people of Russia, so the aforesaid territories ought not to be a part of Russia. Then political problems will arise. This is a reason for serious deliberation in nationalities' Ministry and governments of St. Petersburg and Leningrad region.
Source: III World Congress of the Finno-Ugrian
Peoples. Helsinki, 2000 [Joshkar-Ola, 2001], pp 36–39.