SPEECHES OF THE PEOPLE's REPRESENTATIVES
The Third World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples is taking place
on the eve of a new century. This makes our forum more encompassing
and significant than before. After all, at the dates such as this
one, the human mind tends to reflect upon the passed way and,
making use of previous experiences, to conceive the future.
During the last decades the world economy developed rapidly
due, above all, to technological progress. Unfortunately, the
developed world far too often did, and continues to, exploit the
natural resources of indigenous peoples who no longer have control
over the land on which they have historically resided. This is
done without taking into consideration the opinions of indigenous
peoples, and without any reward. The industrial countries have
focussed their attention only on high production indices. The
devastating effect of different technologies on the environment
has been overlooked completely.
Mankind, in its constant process of development, has now reached
a new and critical stage: the global population has reached 6
billion, and in many regions the environment can no more bear
this burden. Based on scientific research, it was asserted in
a collection titled The World in 1999 that for the Earth to sustain
the use of natural resources all over the world at the intensity
practiced in the United States or Canada, our planet should have
an area three times as much.
This all indicates that mankind, to avoid utter depletion of
our natural resources, should adopt a sustainable and non-wasteful
path of development. This has been a natural approach to life
for indigenous peoples of the northern climate zone. Since, throughout
time, Finno-Ugrians have had to survive under severe conditions,
they have learned the value of moderation and conservation. The
positive message of the Finno-Ugric world is that using this experience
as a basis, Finno-Ugrians can offer mankind a workable model for
In the first half of the elapsing century, indigenous peoples
were subdued by colonial imperialism. Today, they suffer in many
respects under the burden of economic, humanitarian and ecological
problems caused by industrial imperialism. The needs of regional
development, instead of being supported, are ignored. The fact
is, however, that people, beside their personal national identity,
have ethnic and national identity shaped in the course of cultural
development during centuries.
As well as every person must have a home, every people must
have its homeland and be its master. Disregard of the rights of
peoples to cultural independence in no way contributes to peace
and harmonious development; quite the opposite, it creates the
ground for contradictions and hostility. The only way to lay a
basis for productive international co-operation in solving global
problems of mankind is to ensure survival and development of all
peoples, of their languages and cultures, and to recognise their
equality, because co-operation can be founded on equal partnership
only. Such equality must not be barely declared but its actual
realisation must be ensured.
It is the traditional culture of the Finno-Ugric world that
Estonia’s co-operation with indigenous peoples of Ural is
based upon. The Fenno-Ugria Foundation, re-established in May
1991, unites more than 50 Estonian organisations and institutions
as a coordinator of their co-operation with kindred peoples in
the areas of education and culture, and technical organiser of
large-scale events. In 1996, the Information Centre of Finno-Ugric
Peoples (SURI) was established to promote the dialogue between
academic Uralistics and the live culture of Uralic peoples. The
SURI’s web page covering affairs and concerns of Finno-Ugric
peoples was visited nearly 500 000 times during this year.
Estonia has always appreciated the important role of continuity
and tradition in the co-operation among kindred peoples. This
is why the celebration of Pan-Finno-Ugrian Days in October, the
month of the so-called souls wandering at the darkest time before
the winter solstice, has a special meaning to us. Each year in
the third week of October nearly a hundred Finno-Ugric representatives
visit Estonia. Exhibitions, conferences and concerts are organised.
Events are arranged at schools. In 1998 we celebrated the 70th
anniversary of Pan-Finno-Ugrian Days, the tradition that had once
Since 1996, traditional holidays of Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia
are also celebrated in Estonia. On these occasions, lectures are
delivered, concerts and exhibitions are organised.
Since the last congress, a considerable amount of scientific
literature on Finno-Ugric studies has been published in Estonia,
particularly works on linguistics and ethnology, as well as interdisciplinary
complex studies. The largest attainment in this field was publication
of a fundamental multivolume dictionary of the Votic language.
The cultures of kindred peoples have been popularised among
the general public as well. In 1996, a beautifully designed anthology
of Komi, Mari and Udmurt classic poetry was published, containing
original texts in parallel with Estonian translation. In the following
years, similar collections of modern poetry Four Komi Poetesses,
Four Mari Poetesses and Four Mordovian Poetesses were published.
Another collection, Four Udmurt Poetesses, is ready for publication.
Since 1996, multilingual Finno-Ugrian kinship calendars are published
annually, acquainting the public with traditional holidays of
Finno-Ugric peoples. The calendars are illustrated with materials
of Finno-Ugric expeditions of the Estonian Academy of Arts.
In the last years we have started paying substantial attention
to the smallest Finno-Ugric people living next to us, the Livonians.
The 1997 Pan-Finno-Ugrian Days were dedicated especially to this
people. It has become a tradition to celebrate the anniversary
of the Livonian flag. Estonian members make up a considerable
part in the International Society of Friendship with Livonians.
Estonia is one of the few countries where the number of societies
engaged in developing relations among Finno-Ugric peoples is constantly
growing. Some years ago there were twelve societies. Later, the
Academic Club of Kindred Peoples, the Udmurt Society “Osmes”,
the Estonian-Erzyan Society of Culture “Syatko”, the
Toorama Worshippers, the Society of the Friends of Erzya and Moksha
Peoples were founded. The two latter issued a compact disc with
the music of the group Toorama.
The Setu youth have recently better organised their activities.
To preserve their language, they successfully apply new information
technologies. Other minorities of southern Estonia have achieved
considerable success as well. Supported by the state programme
for South-Estonian language and culture, an alphabet of the Vyru
language was published, the teaching of the Vyru language at school
was started, and the Mulgi Institute was established.
Estonia has always been interested in sending its teachers to
universities of the Finno-Ugric peoples in Russia. A good co?operation
has is going on with the Mordovian State University, where Estonian
guest lecturers have been working the last four years. At the
University of Tartu, nearly all Finno-Ugric languages are taught.
The Tallinn Pedagogical University follows the same line: in addition
to Baltic-Finnic languages, the Erzyan and Mari languages are
At the national level, the Programme of Kindred Peoples was
started this year. The programme is intended to support the education
of Finno-Ugrian guest students in Estonia and sponsor other Finno-Ugric
projects aimed at developing and strengthening the indigenous
languages and cultures.
Estonia is currently the country where the largest number of
Finno-Ugrians from Russia – more than 100 students –
are trained outside the Russian Federation. Our state will always
support the admission of Finno-Ugric languages’ speakers
to our high schools. The only condition is that after his or her
graduation from a high school in Estonia, the student must return
At the University of Tartu, the Paul Ariste Centre of Finno-Ugric
Indigenous Peoples was established in 1999, aimed at offering
support to Finno-Ugric students and promoting Uralistics. With
its immediate aid, the Finno-Ugrian students’ newspaper
Vita Studiosi is published.
This year, a Group for Support of Finno-Ugric Peoples was formed
in the Estonian Parliament. Out of 101 MPs, nearly one-third take
an active part in its work.
The last four years have been remarkable for Estonia in the
field of international co-operation. Immediately after the previous
World Congress, the 4th Congress of Finno-Ugric Literatures The
Bridges, dedicated to the sphere of literary contacts and translation,
was held in Estonia. In 1997, the 6th Folklore Festival of Finno-Ugric
Peoples and the 4th Congress of the Youth Association of Finno-Ugric
Peoples were held in our country. The 7th Days of Finno-Ugrian
Television Films, held outside Russia for the first time, and
by the Congress on History of Finno-Ugric Peoples, marked the
year 1998. In 1999, a Finno-Ugric children’s festival Suveharja
Ilo (“The Summer Solstice Holiday”) was organised.
This year, the 9th Finno-Ugristics Congress was held in Tartu.
During this congress, under the Estonia’s initiative a meeting
was held of representatives of the Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian
ministries of culture and education and agreement was reached
on coordination of Finno-Ugric co-operation. All this has encouraged
Estonia to candidate as the host of the next World Congress of
In conclusion, I would like to stress once again: the ethnic,
linguistic and cultural diversity is a treasure of the whole of
mankind. The purpose of development it by no means a uniform world
with one standard culture that would assimilate and later exterminate
ethnic and national cultures – and then ultimately drive
mankind into a deadlock. The objective must be an integrated world
in which peoples would recognise and respect each other, ready
to solve common problems on the principle of balanced development.
The only starting point to create a world of this kind is the
right of every people to be the master of its own destiny and
to take its own decisions concerning its cultural heritage. The
world is developing as a dialectic unity of the common and the
different, of the global and the local; we must recognise and
respect this. We the Estonians believe that the Finno-Ugric peoples
will submit a considerable contribution to a better world.
Source: III World Congress of
the Finno-Ugrian Peoples. Helsinki, 2000 [Joshkar-Ola, 2001],