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 Erzya minority complains of linguistic and cultural oppression

The Foundation for Salvation of the Erzya Language, a nongovernmental organisation of the Erzya ethnic minority in the Republic of Mordovia in Russia, disproves the rosy picture painted by the state-controlled media of the conditions of Finno-Ugric peoples in the Russian Federation.

In its open letter to the participants of the 10th International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies held 15 to 20 August in Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of Republic of Mari El in the Russian Federation, the Foundation says that the Russian state-owned media is spreading misinformation to decorate the miserable situation of cultures and languages of the Finno-Ugric peoples, including the Erzyas.

The situation of Erzya and Moksha, the indigenous peoples of Mordovia, is disastrous, says the open letter. Their languages are excluded from the school curriculum in towns and large localities, while the number of rural schools is diminishing. There are no textbooks on their languages and cultures, and the history of these peoples is not taught at school. The policy in favour of Russian language and culture has produced a reduction in the number of both Erzya and Moksha by one-fourth during the last decade.

The open letter contains an invitation to Mrs. Katrin Saks, Estonian MP who is preparing a report on the situation of Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to visit Mordovia to see the piteous situation. The authors recommend her not to trust assurances of the officials.

The Erzya and Moksha peoples, often jointly called Mordovians, are close in culture. According to the most recent data of the last population census, their total number in 2002 was 845 000, and the number of native language speakers was 67,4 per cent.

Following is the complete text of the open letter.


To the Participants of the 10th International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies

Dear kins and relatives in language,

Reading our incoming e-mail with the coverage of the 10th International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies, we cannot agree with their contents. In Mari El, as well as in other republics*, the authorities are deliberately using their subsidiary media to disseminate false information about the supposedly ideal situation of the languages and ethnic cultures of Finno-Ugric peoples. This is a misinformation with all the ensuing consequences.

The situation of the Erzya and Moksha languages in the area where 85 per cent of the Erzyas reside, that is in the Republic of Mordovia and near it, is particularly critical and even hopeless. Rural schools that one way or another have been teaching the native languages are dying away, while in schools of towns, settlements and large localities these languages are missing in the curriculum. The history of the native people is practically non-existent in the school syllabus and there are no related textbooks. In the programs broadcasted by the local TV, even the word 'Siyazhar' (The Light), the name of the local editorial office, has been cut out. The results of the imperial aggression are obvious: the population of Erzyas and Mokshas in Russia has dropped during the last decade by more than 300 thousand, that is by 25 to 27 per cent.

We ask representatives of the international community and particularly Mrs. Katrin Saks, Social Democrat member of the Estonian Parliament currently working on the report for the Council of Europe, to visit Mordovia. We also recommend to carefully read the material published in the newspaper Erzyan Mastor. Instead of ministers who would certainly draw an optimistic picture for you, upon your arrival first meet the Board of the Foundation for Salvation of the Erzya Language. Only then you will comprehend the fact that, indeed, the situation of the Erzya and Moksha languages, and hence of these ethnic entities, is catastrophic. It is needless to speak about human rights here in Mordovia. The genocide of the Erzya and Moksha peoples by the local as well as federal authorities of Russia is being carried out in all its manifestations.

In the name of Members of the board of the nongovernmental organisation Foundation for Salvation of the Erzya Language,

G. D. Musalyov
Chairman of the board
* of the Russian Federation (Translator's note).