III World Congress of the Finno-Ugric Peoples

Helsinki (Finland) December 10–13, 2000


Brief information


Speeches of the peoplesí representatives




List of participants

Consultative Committee
of the Finno-Ugric Peoples



Arnold Rüütel
Estonian delegation

Dear delegates,
Dear guests,

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 balanced development.

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 been interrupted.

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 taught.

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 home.
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 Finno-Ugric Peoples.

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], pp 29–32.

print version

I - Syktyvkar, 1992
II - Budapest, 1996
IV - Tallinn, 2004