SPEECHES OF THE PEOPLES' REPRESENTATIVES
member of Council of the Izhorian "Shoykula" society,
Dear representatives of big and small Finno-Ugrian nations!
There are peoples great in their history and culture and there are peoples which were great. There are peoples with their past and future and there are those for whom only their past remains. There are peoples with which no question about their significance and national self-esteem can even arise and there are peoples which must prove both to themselves and other peoples that they are worthy of attention.
I am glad that the majority of the present here rank themselves to the former I am speaking on behalf of the Izhorians. Sometime that small but strong people which lived from ancient time on the shore of the Gulf of Finland was known both in Russia and in Northern Europe. Even in Rome they knew about it as early as in the 12 century. That proud people from of old defended its cold Baltic lands and was never defeated by anybody. Yet a victor appeared - it is time. Time which has been, regrettably, assisted by many a living being. The 20th century brought to the Izhorian too little sunshine and overmuch of grief. Some 176 persons remain of 20,000 strong people in whose passports "Izhor" or "Izhorka" is written. A nation where you know every individual personally. But a small number is not distress. Distress lies in another thing.
I listened to your addresses. I understand your problems and concerns. But they are at least positive. There is a shortage of teachers? Yet it is good. It means that there is a want of them. It means that your native language is called for. There are people who wish to speak it, there are parents willing that their children know it. Manuals, books and newspapers do not suffice? And this is good. It means that there are people who need those newspapers and books. And what must do the peoples whose significance is not clear to themselves? What should peoples do who were taught to hide their origin and to speak with downcast eyes: "Yes, my father is an Izhorian and mother, unluckily, is an Izhorian, too... but I am a Russian!" How replace in the nation its national self-esteem? And how show to the rest that it is capitally to be an Izhora - like to be a Russian, a Finn or a Hungarian?
To wait help from the state? You know that it is hard to receive it. And to declare everywhere that we were once a great and now are, regrettably, forgotten by everybody - this is senseless. They do not like claimants among us. What is to be one? An unbegun Russian question!
There is a good Izhorian saying: "The crow must flap the wings to fly up on fence". And we began to "flap". We proceeded on a route which, as it seems now, was the most correct. We founded an Izhorian museum. It was established of what was near at hand. Now we can remember tens of dusty lofts, dark lumber rooms full of spider's web, queer looking refuse dumps in the outskirts. And grizzled barrels and cracked high boots, old dusty cloths and entangled nets hung on beams much more else. "May we take it? - But why? - In the museum. - Who does need it? - You - And what for? Nobody needs it". It was so in the beginning.
The museum opened on 1 October 1993 in the settlement Vistano on the Soikinski peninsula. People went there and recognized neither their own, as it seemed, things earlier unnecessary nor their fathers and grate-grandmothers which looked tired at them from old photos. They came and did not understand that their distant past is great and the late past is beautiful. I saw how the people were changing. First their faces were changing, then also their thoughts. The word "Izhorian" started sounding with pride. We had not expected such a result: national self-esteem began to appear in front of our eyes. One small village museum (however good it can be and these are not my words), a thousand of old things and photos changed the status of the people. Izhorians are now also known to other nations (thousands of persons come to us both from villages and towns of Leningrad region and from Finland, Sweden, England, Holland and American Indians from the Appalachian Mountains have visited us for two years - they founded among the Izhorians their brothers of nous!). The Izhorians are now known to themselves, too. The museum became a means of self-preservation of the people. After that a national Izhorian "Shoykula" society was founded. Then an Izhorian choir appeared.
The pioneer will pass the road - this is an old truth. But everybody opens it himself anew. One should not be waiting. For many people will never get it. One should not hope for a help from above. Since disillusion is always sown in vain expectancies. One should not challenge, declaring of his uniqueness and possibility of evanescence, for we all are unique and nobody is eternal.
One ought to do something at least. We should do it ourselves. A Museum, A Book, A Newspaper, A Choir. One ought to act. Then difficulties surrender.
Source: III World Congress of the Finno-Ugrian
Peoples. Helsinki, 2000 [Joshkar-Ola,2001], pp 40–41.