Tallinn, 22 July 2005Tallinn, 07 July 2005
For immediate release


Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples
phone/fax: +372 644 9270
e-mail: suri@suri.ee


The University of Tartu, Estonia, has matriculated its first foreign doctoral students for the upcoming academic year under the new Kindred Peoples Programme approved in August 2004. Unlike in the previous years, the new five-year programme is supporting doctoral studies instead of supporting the whole term of high education. This is intended to facilitate the return of trained specialists to their countries of origin and avoid the brain drain. 'Younger students tend to marry and remain in Estonia but we do not want our kindred peoples to lose talented young people', says Mr. Tõnu Seilenthal who is Chairman of the Kindred Peoples Programme and Assistant Professor at the University of Tartu.

The Kindred Peoples Programme, first launched in 1999, is aimed at helping to preserve and develop the cultures of indigenous Finno-Ugric peoples. In the framework of the programm, a variety of projects are carried out, scientific and practical conferences are held, books and manuals are published on the Internet, CD and DVD albums are made with films and musical records. Among the most important activities is supporting the training of experts for Uralic indigenous peoples of Finno-Ugric and Samoyed areas of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Latvia. Currently there are early fifty foreign Finno-Ugric students in the Estonian universities.

Their studies, as well as scholarship grants, are covered completely by the Estonian State. The annual budget of the Kindred Peoples Programme is 3 million Estonian Kroon. 'This makes about 3 Kroon per each Estonian and 1 Kroon per each Finno-Ugrian of Russia. An average Estonian thus supports other Finno-Ugrians more than an average citizen of any other country, including Finland, Hungary and Russia', Seilenthal explains.

According to Seilenthal, those who would like to apply for doctoral studies in Estonia should address the Paul Ariste Centre for Indigenous Finno-Ugric Peoples. This interdisciplinary institution, established at the University of Tartu in the frame of the Kindred Peoples Programme, is aimed at helping the indigenous Uralic students in creating contacts and facilitating their academic and professional orientation, as well as their adaptation to the Estonian way of life and general cross-cultural communication, at the same time helping them to maintain contacts with their own culture. It provides the Finno-Ugric students with compulsory courses of their native languages, promotes student and teacher training activities in the Uralic studies, organises conferences, lecture and workshop courses.

'An applicant should simply get in touch with the Paul Ariste Centre', Seilenthal says. 'The earlier you do it, the better. It is difficult to find contacts from far away, from another country, and we would do this. For example, if one wants to apply for the doctorate in international law, we would email and telephone law professors and ask who might supervise the studies. Our email is seilu@ut.ee, our phone/fax is (+372) 737 6216, and our home page is http://www.ut.ee/Ural/ariste/.'

The board of the Kindred Peoples Programme holds active contacts with educational institutions in Russia, providing them with information. 'Each February we start sending letters', says Seilenthal. 'This year we sent about 300 letters to all Finno-Ugric universities, research institutions and culture societies, informing on how to apply. This information is also at our home page http://www.suri.ee/hp. However, we understand that not everyone can have the access to the Internet or get fully informed. If we receive documents that are poorly prepared, we instruct and help the applicants. Or, say, we ask for a copy of the diploma but one of our students was to receive the diploma in July and our deadline was 27 June. We asked his dean to send us a fax confirming that the applicant had completed his studies and that the issue of the diploma was a question of time.'

Technical assistance, including financial accounting, is provided to the Kindred Peoples Programme by the Fenno-Ugria Foundation. This unprofitable organisation, established in 1927, is aimed at developing ties with other Finno-Ugric peoples and is financed from the national budget, too.

One of the projects initiated and financed by the Kindred Peoples Programme has been the translation of the Udmurt Encyclopaedia from Russian into the Udmurt language. The idea came from Estonia when prominent writer ArvoValton suggested it to Udmurt intellectuals and to the Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples. By now, half of the project has been completed in cooperation with the Udmurts, financed by Estonia and without any contribution from organisations in Udmurtia. At long last, the Udmurt Institute of Language, Literature and History finally showed its interest in cooperation. This will be the first ever encyclopaedia published in the language of a Finno-Ugric people of Russia.