Papers on Finno-Ugric Peoples and other Minority Issues

Ethnic origins of Finno-Ugric nations and modern Finno-Ugric nationalism in the Russian Federation

by Konstantin Zamyatin

Introduction: Finno-Ugric ethnonational movements and pan-Finno-Ugrism

Ethnic origins of Finno-Ugric nations

Advent of the Russian modern state and new attempts of Russification preceding modern Finno-Ugric nationalism

Pan-Finno-Ugrism as a promising way to ensure ethnonational identities

The states with Finno-Ugric core culture in the dilemma of European integration and Eastern European alienation

Ethnopolitical clamis of Eastern Finno-Ugric nations and contemporary ethnopolitical situation in the Russian Federation

Russian ethnopolitical regime and Russian state ethnopolicies change

Conclusion: ethnonational elites as actors in ethnopolitics

Introduction: Finno-Ugric ethnonational movements and pan-Finno-Ugrism

Two issues must be distinguished in assessment of the case of Finno-Ugric peoples to ethnonational and ethnopolitical patterns.

First is the issue of ethnonational movements of every single nation assigned as Finno-Ugric in the context of the historical Russian national domination. Those of Finno-Ugric peoples who are nations can be classified in nationalist terms. The Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian nations are the examples of realisation of nationalist imperative. However, they are not exactly successful, because of Russian irredentist claims to the Estonian nation, and Hungarian own irredentist claims to neighbouring countries. Realisation of the Finnish nation is complicated with Swedish-speaking minority and indigenous Saami peoples. Karelian, Mari, Erzya and Moksha, Udmurt and Komi nations could be presented as bearers of separatist nationalist claims. The issue of Finnish and Karelian nationalisms is further complicated by historical irredentist claims of the former. Saami is an interesting case of divided indigenous peoples bearing potential for simultaneously separatist and unification claims. Other smaller Finno-Ugric peoples probably should be seen rather as ethnocultural movements than national phenomena.

Second is the issue of unifying cross-border pan-Finno-Ugric kinship. The concept of kinship of Finno-Ugric peoples is believed to be originated in languages; according to prevalent philological classification the Finno-Ugric language family is one of four language families in Europe others being Indo-European, Turkish and the Basque. Sufficiency of this justification for contemporary ethnonational projects is challenged already by first confronting analysis. Yet, the Finno-Ugric ethnonational project itself is quite a new and promising elite phenomenon, probably not much older than a century, when first philologists began their work.

At the same time, such distinction of issues concerned should not be exaggerated and, thus, mislead, especially nowadays, because in practice both trajectories of Finno-Ugric national movements are developing simultaneously and reinforcing each other. From all multiplicity of Finno-Ugric nations and peoples I will focus myself in this paper mainly to analysis of what accordingly to philological classification is referred as Eastern Finnish nations of Mari, Erzya and Moksha, Udmurt and Komi. In such choice I am guided by three considerations. First, to a certain degree in many aspects these peoples managed to establish modern societal cultures and, thus, became nations. Smaller Finno-Ugric peoples of the North and elsewhere never had this opportunity. Their exploration in the ethnonational light must rather be concentrated on problems of their very survival. Second, unlike Karelians, the nations listed have survived in significant number the era of Russification and Soviet internationalisation, and are not subjects for irredentist claims. Third, they have autonomies, but not states, and there is always potential for ethnonational projects to be accomplished. What ethnopolitical forms can Finno-Ugric ethnonational project take in the future?

Besides this central question of this part I intend to answer the row of the questions. What were social-communicative boundaries enhancing Eastern Finno-Ugric ethnies to survive? Are Eastern Finno-Ugric nations; what conditions stipulate their modernisation and becoming nations? What are the sources and consequences of recent ethnic revival? Further I address separately the issue of Finno-Ugric kinship. Is it an example of pan-nationalist movement, or unification nationalism? What role plays the doctrine of Finno-Ugric kinship in self-identification of Finno-Ugric nations with non-dominant cultures? Why would Finno-Ugrians having dominant culture need to participate in pan-movement? What is the Russian attitude to Finno-Ugrism? Finally I move to ethnopolitical questions. What part Finno-Ugrians take in activities of the state to sustain and develop social-communicative systems? How do Finno-Ugrians compete with the state to change this distribution? What specific political powers, rights, institutions, and means of access do Finno-Ugrians possess in order to protect themselves? Is there potential of ethnonational and ethnopolitical conflicts?

Ethnic origins of Finno-Ugric nations

After the Caucasus the 'Volga bend' is the second area in the Russian Federation where pre-historical ethnies are traditionally concentrated and where until present times there is ethnic basis for ethnicities and nationalism alternative to Russian. In accordance to Anthony D. Smith's understanding of ethnic origins of nations, history of the area can be described as follows. The contacts between Slavs and Finno-Ugrians were known in the area for many centuries before. As a result of wars, intermarriage and cultural mixture several Central Finno-Ugric ethnies such as Merya, Meshchera, and Muroma disappeared swallowed by Slav majority of Vyatichies, Krivichies and other pre-Russian ethnies. Only some topographic facts witness them as ancestors of the territories of what has later become Central Russia.

However, the first state controlling the areas populated by Eastern Finno-Ugric peoples was not Moscovia, but the Volga Bulgar Khanate defeated by the Tatar-Mongol invasion in the middle of thirteenth century and become a part of the Golden Horde after in thirteenth and fourteenth century. The core ethnie of the Kazan Khanate, one of successor states of the Golden Horde, were a Turkish ethnie Bulgars who came from the Central Asia and lived on the embankment of the Volga River at least since eighth century. They adopted the self-name Tatars, although originally Tatars were the core ethnie of Mongols and came from the Altai Mountains. The area was conquered by the Moscovites mainly at the end of fifteenth and first half of sixteenth centuries during the epoch of Ivan the Terrible after defeat of the Kazan Khanate. Turkish and Finno-Ugric ethnies were collaborating in this struggle against Moscovites. The other successor state of the Golden Horde, Siberian Khanate, was defeated by Moscovites in the end of sixteenth century. Subsequently, its vassals, Ugrian ethnies of Hanty (Voguls) and Mansi (Ostyaks) were subjected to Moscovia.

The areas populated by Eastern Finno-Ugric (or according to philological classification Eastern Finnish) ethnies of Mari (Cheremis), Erzya and Moksha (Mordvins), Udmurts (Votyaks) and partially Komi (Zyrians) were marginal for the Kazan Khanate. The control expressed itself mainly in some taxes and political subordinance. However, the elites were subjected to Tatarisation and islamisation, and ethnic cultures were influenced accepting Turkish component. Otherwise, cultural unification and intermixture between Tatars and Finno-Ugrians did not happen mainly due to religious obstacles. Ethnies co-existed in such a way that the upper strata consisted of Tatar and Tatarised and islamised elites whereas nomad masses of Tatar and other Turkish ethnies as Bashkorts as well as folk masses of Finno-Ugrian peasants and hunters composed the lower strata of the society. Of all ethnies only Chuvashs are believed to have the major Finno-Ugric substrate, who accepted what after became the Chuvash language of the Turkish language family, but did not turn to Islam.

When the territories became the part of Moscovia, ethnic processes already reached the stage of ethnies' crystallisation. Administered forced baptism of Finno-Ugrians in eighteenth century deepened the religious clash between Finno-Ugric and Turkish ethnies, but did not lead to automatic mixture of Russians and Finno-Ugrians due to visible anthropological and cultural differences, communication barriers. It could be said that the ethnic composition of the area was not basically changing except in the direction of all the time increasing influx of Russians into the area, who were first assimilated by locals, but then, due to their numbers running from the yoke, started to settle separately in the area. Eastern Finno-Ugrians also attempted to escape the yoke and baptism and run eastwards to areas of contemporary Bashkortostan. There such policies were not pursued, because these areas were referred as Muslim settlings.

It can be stated that, whereas Central Finno-Ugric ethnies of Merya, Meshchera, Muroma disappeared, Eastern Finno-Ugric ethnies of Mari, Erzya and Moksha, Udmurts and Komi survived and were in the process of transforming themselves to nations principally because their geographically isolated but also culturally border-position between the Orthodox Russia and the Muslim East. They managed to establish their ethnic identity due to periphery location in the Russian empire and to preserve it because of their unique anthropological features, languages, the system of myths, notably, of assumed common descent. Following Fredrik Barth I can affirm in the case that ethnic survival of Finno-Ugric nations depends partly on contingency of history, partly on ethnie’s capacity to create and maintain intra- and inter-group boundaries.2

Advent of the Russian modern state and new attempts of Russification preceding modern Finno-Ugric nationalism

From historical perspective a stabile epoch follows an epoch of crisis in everlasting cycle of social change. First attempt to reform Tsarist Russia and introduce the modern state and early industrialisation was undertaken during the Petrine time. It engendered the Pugachev mutiny, which had the strong component of ethnic resistence. Few years of the Russian distemper after the October revolution were the best time for Finno-Ugric nations in terms of conditions for their ethnocultural development and ethnopolitical rise. Leninist policies of national self-determination of peoples enhanced rapid growth of Finno-Ugric ethnocultural and ethnopolitical institutions. To meet national demands Finno-Ugric states and autonomies were created for the first time in history, new government and non-government institutions established, many intellectuals gained new opportunities ethnicity and nationality provide and most active succeed. Languages were literated on the basis of the Cyrillic script. First newspapers in vernaculars were printed.

Periphery location and isolation of Finno-Ugric peoples guaranteed stability and preserved untouched traditional cultures until nineteenth and twentieth century. The Stalin era signified the advent of industrialisation and modernisation to formerly isolated areas. The change of policies during thirties and repressions of the whole strata of first Finno-Ugric intellectuals during the Stalin era had baneful influence on ethnopolitical resources of Finno-Ugric nations. Who was not sent to Siberia, never dared to mention the very Finno-Ugric term. Following generations were scared. They remembered too well the SOFIN deal when their fathers were repressed.3 Ethnic activists are under close inspection of state authorities also nowadays. The political change in policies did not touch the established complicated system of national-territorial state forms. The social change was enormous in destruction of reproduction systems of social communication through the Khrushchev education reform diminishing practices of learning mother tongue.

New wave of political and cultural revival of post-communist nineties harvested the ideas of first post-revolution Finno-Ugric intellectuals. Institutionalisation of ethnicity repeated on a higher circle 1991-1996. Ethnonational elites regained the losses of thirties. Once more, new institutions were founded, intellectuals gained new opportunities etc. Both revival waves were historically unprecedented in their impact for social change, political and cultural implications for Finno-Ugric peoples. Both came at the end to collaboration with central state authorities. And there is no perspective for collaborators to enjoy really benefits of such cooperation because colonisers rather enjoy benefits themselves. These are not overseas territories but mainland and possessors will never depart. Instead we observe instant decrease of native population share. That is how it works, minorities become smaller.

Today we witness the decline in intensity of ethnonational life, which does not mean that solutions are found. Nowadays provincialism in complex information societies seriously limits access to modernity resources and, thus, diminishes life chances of small nations and indigenous minorities, particularly chances of their young members. New dissatisfaction is being accumulated and potential for ethnonational splash collected. It is not a wonder, then, that Finno-Ugric nationalism is referred to as young nationalism. Youth always signified dynamism, progress and idealism. In places where a Finno-Ugric culture is dominant, it enables the youth actively take part in social change and productively generate social transformations. In places where a Finno-Ugric culture is subordinate, the youth is stuck not given chances to succeed. Its ethnicity resource is not appreciated, not called for. Instead of being the resource, ethnicity becomes the problem of young people. Young people must lead their lives often against own ethnicity. Finno-Ugric indigenous youth continues to moves to cities, to live in strange cultural environment and acquires new cultural modes of life through communication and education. Education and intercultural experience mark it off from parents’ generation culturally and linguistically. Youth cannot conserve traditions anymore. Moreover, youth has to accomplish the opposite mission: it must adopt indigenous cultures, modernise them. It is hard to achieve this mission in strange and often inhospitable environment of dominant culture and language.

The Russian state favours Russian dominant culture and language. The problem of Finno-Ugric nations bearing non-dominant culture, of their ethnonational movements is that they cannot dictate the terms of own survival, unless they negotiate them with state authorities politically. Democratic countries allow and appreciate cultural diversity, adopt it in state structures. International human rights standards demand the state to undertake affirmative actions towards non-dominant nations to ensure their survival, and not only in cultural sphere. Culture is important, but cultural measures are not enough. In the contemporary world even nations who do prefer to stay in the existing state, as do Finno-Ugrians, have to express their demands politically, because in modern era the state and dominant public culture can penetrate so deeply into social fabric of identities that it destructs other cultures.

Evidently, Russia belongs to what Gellner refers as imperial or colonial nationalism. This means also that it could never be easily achieved. “If the nationalist imperative—one state, one culture—was to be satisfied,…then both state and culture had to be created. Both political and cultural engineering were required.” Notably, Gellner mentions that in the ethnic mixture of the Volga bend as well as the Caucasus culturally homogeneous nation-states are possible to achieve only by ethnic cleansing. And further, “[n]ot surprisingly, this system had no very great difficulty in suppressing and containing nationalism during the period of its existence. Contrary to some predictions and analyses [however], it was not nationalism which brought it down: it was defeat in the economic Cold War.”4

It might be correct, although there are alternative standpoints on the issue of economic nationalism. Nevertheless, I my view, rather Anthony Smith is right when he contends that economic factors could be well catalysts for neo-nationalisms.5 Furthermore, whereas ethnic cleansing and deportations were required by the Tsarist and Soviet regime to master the Caucasus, suspension of nations and nationalist rhetoric under the Tsar and the communist rule as well as repressions of national elites served well enough the purpose of ethnicity suppression in the Volga bend areas. But cultural homogenisation is still not attained and internal ethnic boundaries continue to exist. This could become a source for nationalism in the future, Russian, Turkish, Finno-Ugric.

When one applies Gellner's typology to describe Finno-Ugric ethnonational movements, the types of separatist and unification nationalism mostly meet the realities. However, such judgement also needs qualifications in the light of new realities, because the character of nationalism has changed extremely in the post-modern world. Few radicals would think of Mari, Udmurt, Erzya and Moksha or Komi ethnonational movements as presenting separatist or even nationalist claims. National elites, if there are ones, all are on the road of collaboration with the state authorities and prefer to represent themselves rather as mere ethnocultural movements. The territory of Russia is too big, and sometimes regional political elites seek support of ethnic forces. It must be stated that regionalism and nationalism are realities of quite different origins. But territorial nationalism conjoined with economic regionalism could enter into a promising alliance.

Pan-Finno-Ugrism as a promising way to ensure ethnonational identities

As said at the beginning of this part, kinship of Finno-Ugric peoples is the second dimension of Eastern Finno-Ugric nationalisms. Why this dimension is needed at all; can ethnonational movements not do without it? If nationalism is modern phenomenon, so is pan-nationalism. It is not much older than a century in the case of Finno-Ugrians. On the contrast, human kinship is as old as sociality itself. Nevertheless, kinship of peoples can be compared with kinship of humans in one aspect - territoriality. When our forefathers plundered their neighbours, they did not distinguish kinsmen of a tribe speaking language cognate to their own from non-kinsmen. Even in the modern world very close kindred peoples could be not in good relations due to memory of different statehood, history of miserable together-being like that of Serbs and Croats speaking practically the same language. They say kinsmen are on good terms with each other when they do not live too close together. Fortunately, that is the case of Finno-Ugrians having no common boarders and living like on islands in strange linguistic and cultural environments far enough from each other to forget own historical incidents in the face of more recent acquaintance with new neighbours. The same could be said about pan-Turkism, but not pan-Slavism in the case of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

At the advent of the era of nationalism after the French revolution new elites had to construct the sovereign people, which additionally would speak single language. That was not an easy task. There were usually no strict borders between ethno-linguistic groups with multitude of dialects or vernacular languages hard to distinguish from each other because of their unordered mixture. Unsurprisingly, the national projects pretended to spread over maximum territory the initiators could handle and encroachments of populations having different ethno-linguistic background did not hinder them. Pan-ethnic nationalism was a promising way for national elites to expand spheres of their pretensions. Applying Gellner's classification pan-ethnic nationalism could be understood as the margin of unification nationalism, but it would be hard to draw the line between nationalism and pan-nationalism in unification, for example, of Germany and Italy.

One thing is clear that nowadays unification along ethnocultural markers is problematic be achieved in multi-ethnic societies, and more so across political borders. Some say that even if unification of kindred peoples achieved, this would mark just the beginning of confrontation among yesterday allies themselves, put now to close to each other. But the counter-argument is that practically it will not be achieved. Moreover, ethnonational movements do not persuade such an absolute goal and are rather busy with instrumental use of practical opportunities provided by cooperation based on ethnic kinship. So, pan-movement cannot be understood nowadays as Gellner's unification nationalism. There is no specific researches undertaken which would explore how should one understand this type of nationalism in the post-modern world. Anthony Smith thinks pan-nationalism is failure from strictly political point of view. Probably, he also implies by this that its goal can never be reached. Nevertheless, it provides, in his view, ethnic kin with international fora, positive stereotypes and block votes.6 All these benefits challenge the concept of the nation-state. They lower the borders between the national states and enhance intercultural dialogue, because they erode official social-communication systems and support alternative systems of intercultural communication.

The benefits of international fora and block votes are purely functional to nationalism because they serve the purpose of external legitimation and allow presenting ethnonational claims internationally, thus, raising the dialogue with state authorities to the international level. Positive stereotypes in their turn are the source of solidarity, at least on the level of elites, which is also the source of identity. These are prerequisites for ethnofuturist projects, so it is understandable when ethnic entrepreneurs address to the ideology of pan-ethnic nationalism as a promising way to ensure ethnonational identities. Ethnonational identities are already charged with negative stereotypes and prejudices and rather deprive individuals of their chances being considered as unwanted ballast. But overarching pan-ethnic identity provides first elites and then masses with new communication channels enabling people to use their ethnicity and indigenousness as resource, which automatically changes stereotypes. Of course, it is hardly possible to extent such project from elite phenomenon to mass mobilisation stage without state intervention. Nevertheless, cooperative pan-nationalism is in our time the stable source of social communication. And it is not the aim in itself, nobody want really to unify once separated peoples, it is impossible. Pan-ethnic identity is instrumental for continuing reinterpretation and renewing of ethnic identities in a global context, that is, for their bolstering.

There are all prerequisites for a Finno-Ugric project to work successfully. There is a Finno-Ugric myth of common descent grounded in kinship of languages, that is, ethnic kinship is assumed. Due to location within the orbit of Russian empire there is shared history of all peoples. There is clear distinctive shared culture with common archetypes like forest.There is solidarity of elites. Such dimension of ethnie as a collective name is also present. Finno-Ugrians have double names, self-names and names ascribed by Russians: Mari and Cheremis, Erzya, Moksha and Mordvins, Udmurts and Votyaks, Komi and Zyrians. The Barthian vision of shifting bundles of sentiments working through boundary mechanisms and cultural markers is engaged to the Finno-Ugric context by Sirkka Saarinen when she writes “[i]t is the feeling of “other” which can be seen as the bond of union. All the Finno-Ugrians are surrounded by larger nations speaking other languages and often displaying a condescending attitude towards the Finno-Ugrians.”7 However, Smith emphasises in Barth’s claim, that it is the cultural content of ethnicity that defines the group, not ethnic boundaries per se. 8

The states with Finno-Ugric core culture in the dilemma of European integration and Eastern European alienation

It is clear why minority peoples need reinforcing their identities pan-Finno-Ugrism. But why might peoples accomplished external national self-determination in form of the independent state participate in pan-movement? In my view, at least two reasons for this could be named. The first is that the cultural content of national identity of the newly independent states is being ensured this way, particularly in the face of the process of European integration. Exactly the cultural content of pan-ethnic projects distinguish them from political and economic projects like deeper European integration. The European project is being met with suspicion on the side of small nations, especially those recently acquired independence, who are afraid that European nation-building would happen and new European identity promoted. The memory of sub-ordinate status is too fresh. Economic welfare and political dividends of integration were welcome by recent referenda, but for small nations culture and history also both means and ends of their existence. 9

Nowadays, it is argued, in all three countries the theme lays at the margins of the current political debate and is not being articulated in foreign policy of the states. Critics of the Finno-Ugric project argue that the theme was called for and actual for only during the collapse of the Soviet system. For Estonia the Finno-Ugric discourse was important in the struggle for re-establishment of independence. The theme was caught up to lesser degree in Hungary. For Finland it signified the end of dependency status and practice of Finlandisation. Indeed, political stability and economic prosperity lessen and even neutralises the presence of nationalist prospective in public debate as well as in everyday life. However, nationalism is a recurrent phenomenon. It is illustrated also in Finno-Ugric realities, because the project appeared first during the period of large crises of identities at the end of the First World War and with the beginning of the October revolution and re-emerged in Perestroika times. In the future, the cultural component of national identity remains to be potential capital for nationalist stance, which can always be activated in the time of crises.

The second reason is also to be contained in the field of international relations and foreign policies, but now in its Eastern perspective. At the core of the Finno-Ugric project lay relations of Estonia, Finland and Hungary with the Russian Federation. Russia pretends to take care of Russian speaking minorities living in neighbouring countries. In fact, this care could be understood as indirectly formulated irredentist claims dressed in concerns about minority rights. The Finno-Ugric project would be useful for Estonia and Finland to justify own policies in relations with Russia, to respond to its irredentist claims by reference to the disastrous situation of their ethnic kin in Russia. It is also concern on the fate of democracy in Russia from the angle of minority rights protection. The East-West border line moved a little bit eastwards but, apparently, the Iron curtain still threatens to divide the continent. In this context the enlargement of the EU and strengthening of its outside boundaries it will certainly end up the Finno-Ugric project.

Ethnopolitical claims of Eastern Finno-Ugric nations and contemporary ethnopolitical situation in the Russian Federation

Contemporary ethnopolitical situation in the Russian Federation is to be characterised first of all by its inheritance from the Soviet Union legacies with their system of institutionalised ethnicity or institutionalised multinationality, where political principle was converged with ethnocultural one in basement of nationhood. 10 This institualisation had such an impact that to the end of the Soviet era and the beginning of the newest time Eastern Finno-Ugric nations were instituted. Nowadays four Eastern Finno-Ugric nations in focus have republics titled after them. However, due to results of the Soviet geopolitical and ethnopolitical policies share of titular nation representatives in population of republics is about forth part. And there are sizeable diasporas in neighbouring territories.

That is Eastern Finno-Ugric nations are in the minority situation in "own" republics, which substantially lessens they chances as political actors. In fact, nowadays the political forms of national republics are being empted. There are no national quotas anymore. In executive branch ministries of culture, education and sometimes mass-media continue their work fro ethnocultural development. But ministries for nationalities affairs are liquidated on federal level as well as often lowered in status to departments on republics' level. What they still are able to do is only symbolic representation. Still the number of deputies in legislative branch dropped from the level reflecting ethnic composition in eighties to just a few percent at the present time. This means that Finno-Ugric national elites are in shortage of political resources, and basically excluded from the process of political decision-making. The Russian federal state has full control over ethnopolitical resources. It is not ready to let other ethnopolitical actors to the game which are considered to be obstacles in pursued of nation-building strategies.

Socially national elites appeared to be not effective in their organizational capacity to obtain social capital from ethnicity. Because of purposeful state ethnopolicies and use of state power to change ethnic identities, Finno-Ugric identities are not accentualised. According the results of the first post-Soviet population census 2002 in the Russian Federation numbers self-ascription of individuals as Finno-Ugrians decreased on average at 10 percent. Number of offices for professionals ensuring reproduction of unique societal cultures, rediscovery of a convincing past, reinterpretation and re-telling of basing it national myths diminishes sweepingly. Higher education institutions close.

This considerably reduces number and extensity of channels to ethnic mobilization for attainment of political power. However, emancipation of perestroika resulted in emergence of the strata of younger generation of national intellectuals, who are ready to take part in the struggle over ethnopolitical power. Ethnonationalist rhetoric on their own can hardly generate mass feelings. The generation at hand was brought up on the ideas of socialist internationalism, friendship of peoples and national nihilism. Generation next of majority acquires Russian nationalist rhetoric. So, ethnopolitical forces should take the tactics of conjunctions of ethnonational claims with regional, social and other claims. Capacity of national intellectuals is still strong in terms of discursive resources. The minority stance could be built on the discourse of ‘nativeness’ of Finno-Ugrians, thus, it is important to get the status of indigenous peoples. It implies claims for recognition of certain communal rights. Finno-Ugric peoples are native groups on historical territory who were occupied by the Moscovite state. It will also justify the claim on material resources including historical usage of land and resources, although there is no remarkable change in material resources.

Following presumption of practical meaning of nationalism studies Rogers Brubaker focuses his attention not on forms, which engendered nationalism, but rather he explores forms resulted from nationalisation. It allows him coming much closer to exploration of ethnonationalism. He distinguishes triadic pattern of "nationalizing" nationalism, cross-border "homeland" nationalism and national minority (nationalism)11. If one uses this pattern, what relevance this can have to Finno-Ugric nations? Igor Kalinin gives preference to the term “Eastern Finnish peoples”, because he believes these peoples are in kinship rather by their history, destination and political status than language.12 What prospective could have the project on umbrella identity of Eastern Finns as co-nationals of Finns? Of course, only Karelia has common border, political memory, ethnic kin, few differences in languages, thus, could be considered as a potential minority. Huge geographical space and long distances between languages, quite different cultural heritage and even anthropological type complicate the case. However, given the imagined and constructed character of nations this project could be also realized. There is ground for sympathy, common ethnocultural roots, and, what is more important, political will of elites, symbols developed, actions regularly performed. Rein Taagepera finds the underlying rationale for the Finno-Ugrian kinship beliefs in a shared feeling of isolation among Indo-Europeans and Turkic populations and of relief to find a language sharing similar grammatical features with one’s own tongue.

One consequence from this model is that in the contemporary post-modern world existence of “international” trans-border identity is possible. Moreover, I argue that, if available, reference to a cross-border overarching “international” identity is vitally needed for international legitimization of ethnic claims of minority peoples. I dispute that the project of extended ethnic kinship in pan-nationalist terms has to be accomplished by national intellectuals to present a strong case of ethnic claims on global arena. Finally, I think intercultural communication reaching the stage of international cooperation is in its turn crucial precondition for sustainability of this overarching identity itself and, consequently, of ethnic identities. In addition to Brubaker triadic nexus the new prospective of internationalised ethnopolitics and international resources was introduced recently.13

Russian ethnopolitical regime and Russian state ethnopolicies change

The Russian state is the federation of 32 national-territorial as well as 67 mere administrative-territorial units. Self-ascribed Russians compose 80 percent of the population in the Russian Federation as to the year 2002. There are nations, indigenous peoples, immigrant groups in 20 percent of the very diverse non-Russian part of the population. The multi-nation people of the Russian Federation is proclaimed to be the bearer of sovereignty by the current Russian constitution 1993, so nations are a constitutive part of Russian ethnopolitical regime. The regime is grounded ideologically on the document called the concept of state nationality policy of the Russian Federation 1996, which develops this multinationality statement of the constitution.14 Remarkably, the law on national-cultural autonomy was accepted in the year 1998, which conception promotes in line with Otto Bauer's ideas rather individual choices freely to belong or not to belong to exterritorial autonomy. Nations perceived this law as potentially diminishing their status to that of immigrant groups, that is, as the threat.

Until recently Russian ethnopolitical regime composed an interesting mixture of different and as show often contradicting ethnopolicies. Sometimes the state was criticised for absence of any ethnopolicy, but the well known fact is that absence of policy is policy itself. Among the eight methods of ethnic conflict ‘regulation’ suggested by McGarry and O’Leary in their taxonomy two, integration and/or assimilation plus hegemonic control, are useful in understanding of Soviet as well as post-Soviet Russian state ethnopolicies.15 On the one hand, Russian state ethnopolicies are directed at elimination of differences through integration and assimilation, though the later was not given publicity. During the Soviet time the scheme started to succeed. Integration through voluntary acquisition of Russian linguistic-cultural communicative system without abandonment of one’s original ethnicity was unofficially considered as the first step towards assimilation, because it created the bilingual basis for the further step of actual assimilation. On the other hand, institutionalised multinationality was directed at management of differences through hegemonic control. That is national and ethnic belonging was prescribed in passport. So assimilation happened mainly from younger generation.

The main ethnopolitical dynamics happens in interplay of these two methods and expresses it the shift of policies. The internal minorities are believed to be already sufficiently integrated to accept them as Russians, so integrationist stance is slowly fading away. An observer cannot overlook the existing challenge to integrationist policies from the side of political forces that have chosen Russian nationalism as their stance in ethnopolitics with method of hegemonic control over minorities. Emergence of the block "Rodina (Motherland)" on the last election to the State Duma is a symptomatic phenomenon. These forces build their capital through multiplication of depopulation fears and the use of resentment feelings. The target groups for creation of boundaries are new immigrants from the CIS countries, especially from Trans-Caucasian and Central Asian republics, who visible differ from majority, as well as immigrants from East and South-East Asia.

To put it to a broader context, it is not a secret that general process of power centralization happens in Putin's Russia. In ethnopolitical field it becomes apparent through the campaign of enlargement of federal units, which already started with the arrangements of annexation of Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug to Perm oblast. It became a common place in theory of ethnic conflict resolution that any abolition of autonomies and other forms of territorial self-determination of peoples infringes upon rights of national minorities and indigenous peoples and, therefore, leads to intensification of tensions in inter-ethnic relations. Especially it were inadmissible if a people composes substantive majority in population of a territory concerned. Evidently, central authorities feel to have enough power just to push through new ethnopolicies, thus, breaking the balance of the existing regime. In my view, this is a symptom foretelling establishment of a system of hegemonic control in the close future. The matter for an inquiry would be if it will take form of undemocratic ethnocracy, ethnic control or ethnic democracy.

Conclusion: ethnonational elites as actors in ethnopolitics

What responses to contemporary post-modern ethnopolitical situation in the Russian Federation do national elites have to offer? Obviously the time of positive ethnopolitical change for minorities is over now. Again comes the era of cultural accumulation to be prepared to the next phase in circle of social change. History teaches the circle will turn to its phase may be in fifty years, and may be earlier. If the shift presupposed above will happen and new ethnopolitical regime of hegemonic control will be introduced in the Russian Federation, there is sense for ethnopolitical forces of Finno-Ugric peoples to struggle for ethnic democracy as the mildest form of control, which at least ascertains some collective rights to minorities.

Ethnopolitically literate Finno-Ugric social managers and entrepreneurs are needed to participate effectively in political life of the state and to negotiate efficiently the dialogue with the state authorities on an equal basis. Finno-Ugric ethnology still reflects too much Soviet ethnography. Elite activities directed at strengthening of Finno-Ugric identities among kindred minority peoples are based on presumed primordial attachments and could be well understood in instrumentalist light. It is used as a function of legitimation in Breuilly’s understanding for external purposes or as a means to accommodate minorities’ identities by reference to Finns and in lesser extent to Hungarians, who would be probably surprised to know, as a fashionable. Unfortunately, indigenous authors often continue to explain ethnicity exclusively in primordialist terms.

There are Finno-Ugric congresses and festivals mostly in cultural sphere like those of philologists, historicists, writers, artists, and mass-media. Except the political-legal section at the world congress there is no place where ethnopolitical issues can be discussed. There is a lot to be done in the academic political-legal field. To take just European minority peoples, there is huge variety of materials available for case study on the Celtic peoples, the Basques. Even the Turkic peoples were subject of recent scientific researches, but about Finno-Ugrians in Russia there is few publications. A brilliant representation of Martin Scheinin at the third world congress of Finno-Ugric peoples was all what legal scientists could give for that moment on the legal status. There are scientific resources concentrated in institutions like the Institute of Human Rights at the Abo Akademi University, dealing with minority issues, or the Nordic Institute for Minority and Environmental Rights, which has materials on the Saami people of help for indigenous peoples of the North in Russia. The time came to create a forum to meet this challenge. On the side of the state there is the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Russian Academy of Science, which provides state ethnopolitics with ideological basis, for example, prescribing what questions should be asked at the census and what not. There is the Congress of Ethnologists and Anthropologists of the Russian Federation for collaboration with national elites and rotation of their representatives to state authorities.

Finno-Ugric over-arching identity could become a "bridge" for rapprochement between peoples of Russia and Europe. Eastern Finno-Ugrians constitute the interest for their kindred European Finno-Ugrians. Turkic and other peoples are also oriented towards European space. Thus, there is the prospect of fruitful interaction to be directed at mutual rapprochement with the European world in cooperation between Finno-Ugric and Turkic peoples' families, and other peoples in achievement of joint goals. There is potential for joint movement of both peoples' families in their junction to European civilisation. The Turkic peoples of Tatars and Bashkorts have done a lot. Kazan is a European city with European pretensions of alternative intellectual centre in Russia. There is a plan to open in Kazan the Institute of Peoples’ Rights. Tatars participate in the Federal Union of European Nationalities and other European and international fora. They were traditionally oriented due to Islam towards the East and South, because their ethnic kin abroad lives there. But Europe attracts them also. For example, the flagman in the Turkic world, Turkey expressed its wish to enter the European Union. In this they lack straight support. Eastern Finno-Ugrians, on the contrary, have advantage of interest of Western Finno-Ugrians to their fate. Finno-Ugric peoples in the Russian Federation share European values and are clearly oriented westwards. In this they can be helpful for Russian people and other peoples in Russia as a bridge, also as a bridge with Turkic peoples. Nothing could be more sad and destructive, desolate and disastrous for Eastern Finno-Ugrians than re-emergence of the "Iron Curtain".

Civil society is necessary condition for democracy. It is not achievable without activities of nongovernmental organisations. Third sector organisations and mass-media are urged express public opinion including interests of national minorities. There is a circle of national stereotypes formation in Russia, which wires the atmosphere of intolerance and everyday racism. This circle is to be torn, and mass-media has the key role in this. One thing is wrong with the Russian society, it is monocultural and monolingual. Promotion of the ideas of multiculturalism and pluralism among monolingual populations, shaping of positive attitude of majority towards national minorities and indigenous peoples, clarification of multiethnicity and multilinguism as the norm of every modern democratic society will help enormously in creation of a democratic society in Russia.

Date: May, 2004

1 Smith, Anthony D. Ethnic origin of nations, Oxford Blackwell, 1986
2 Barth, Fredrik. Ethnic groups and boundaries, Boston: Little, Brown 1969, p. 15
3 Kulikov, Kuzma. Delo SOFIN, Izhevsk, Izdatelstvo Udmurtskij Universitet, 1993 (SOFIN - The Union for Liberation of Finno-Ugric Peoples, sojuz osvobozhdenija finnskih narodov)
4 Gellner, Ernest. Nationalism, London, Phoenix, 1997, pp. 54-57
5 Smith, Anthony D. Nations and nationalism in a global era, Cambridge Polity Press, 1995, p. 77

6 Ibid., pp. 119-121
7 Saarinen, Sirkka. The myth of a Finno-Ugria community in practice, Nationalities Papers, Volume 29, No 1, March 2001, p. 49 8 Smith, Anthony D. Nations and nationalism in a global era, Cambridge Polity Press, 1995, p. 164
9Ibid, p. 27, also Ethnic origin of nations, Oxford Blackwell 1986, p. 217
10 Brubaker, Rogers. Nationalism reframed: nationhood and the national question in the New Europe / Cambridge University Press 1996, pp. 23-25
11Ibid., pp. 4-5, 58
12 Kalinin, Igor. Eastern Finnish peoples in process of modernisation, Moscow, Science, 2000, s. 3
13Smith, David J. Framing the national question in Central and Eastern Europe. A quadratic nexus? The Global Review of Ethnopolitics, Vol. II, Issue 1, September 2002, pp. 3-16
14 Koncepcija gosudarstvennoj nacionalnoj politiki Rossijskoj Federacii, 1996. The term used in the language of the concept can be loan translated as 'state national policy' or closer 'nationality policy'. In order to avoid misunderstandings further I will use rather the term 'ethnopolicies' to refer state policies towards its nations and national minorities.
McGarry and O’Leary. “Introduction: the macro-political regulation of ethnic conflict”, from McGarry & O’Leary Politics of Ethnic Conflict Regulation


© SURI, 2004