Consultative Committee
of Finno-Ugric Peoples

Section for Culture and Education

As an introduction to the work of the section three writers, Gennadi Yushkov and Boris Shakhov from the Komi Republic and Aleksandr Doronin from the Republic of Mordva were granted the literature price of the year 2000 of the M.A. Castrén Society. All three writers deal in their novels with the history of their country and people, which has until now not been spoken of, in a manner that is new in the literature of the minority peoples of Russia. The aim of the prices was also to honour the long life's work of these classics. In addition two smaller prizes were granted to Zoya Dudina and Albertina Ivanova from the Republic of Mari.

At its best more than 200 participants took part in the work of the section at one time. Speeches were given by more numerous representatives of small peoples and ethnic groups than ever before. Among the 42 lecturers and participants having asked for the floor there were representatives of 28 Finno-Ugric peoples and one representative of the Tuva people, the Vice-President of the Committee for nationality issues of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, compiler of the Russian language law (1991).

The issues dealt with in the section were related to the right to education in the mother tongue and organizing of teaching in the mother tongue in a bilingual surrounding, the importance of the woman and the family in the development of a bilingual culture and preservation of the mother tongue, cultural tradition and challenges of the 3rd Millenium; enrichment of the national languages, taking into consideration their originality, culture, social organizations and the national intelligentsia and its significance for the the intensification of the national development, as well as diaspora problems with respect to the preservation and development of the cultural and language tradition.

Introductory speeches were given by Galina Shkalina from the Republic of Mari and Tonu Seilenthal from Estonia. The former dealt with the part played by women in the preservation of the language and culture based on the example of the Mari people and the latter presented the Estonian program for related peoples aimed at supporting the languages and cultures of the Uralic indigenous peoples (1999-2004).

The major problems are mental impoverishment, caused by the fact that it is not possible to receive complete and especially modern education in the minority languages. Economic impoverishment is partly based on the same reason. We speak of global problems in general, although problems must however be solved at the local level.

In general the situation of small languages has improved, but there is still much to be done and the lack of money is not always the main reason for failure. This was the first time that a representative for the Kvens of Norway spoke at the Congress, telling about the seriousness of their situation. There are almost no speakers of the Kven language under 50 left, because the language has during many decades been submitted to repression and even now no attention is paid to supporting and research of this language.

Language is an essential factor from the point of view of the identity of a people. As to the mental development of the individual a good knowledge of the mother tongue is necessary. A language remains vital only, if it is suitable for serving as means for all human communication. The influence of the home is essential, but a language cannot survive, if it does not have an officially acknowledged status in society.

After major demands many peoples have themselves taken action in order to save their language and culture. Active work is done around the Baltic Sea with the aim of development of the literary languages, farther away new many-sided terminology is being developed in order to enlarge the field of use of the language within the different sectors of society.

Support from Estonia, Hungary and Finland has during the recent years been lent to the education of native Finno-Ugric specialists – not only linguists – of small and medium sized peoples. Many representatives wished that such co-operation would continue to expand.

In many areas there is not as yet a sufficient amount of national schools. Teachers of different subjects as well as study materials in the mother tongue are lacking. The contents of the education often depends on the principal of the school or the local administrative authorities. The influence of language laws does not extend outside the native republic proper, peoples living in diaspora are in quite a different situation with respect to teaching of the mother tongue. The motivation of parents and children as to demanding teaching in the mother tongue should also be enhanced.

The minority peoples have difficulties in publishing books, which are expensive because of the small print run of copies and the fact that they do not spread efficiently among the diaspora. The circulation of newspapers has also decreased at the same time with the fall of the standard of living of people in many areas. Supportive measures for the prevention of newspaper deaths and publishing of literature are still needed. A wish was expressed that more literature translated from one Finno-Ugric language into another would be published.

The traditional folklore festivals are to some extent pining away. On the one hand there is a lack of money, on the other hand the organization of the festivals has been left to those who are less experienced in this matter and they are not any more as authentic as they according to many should be. There is also a need to renew musical material, new compositions and songs are required. Different competitions on cultural issues could be organized.

With the changes in society the status of women has in principle become stronger. The men are often away from the home and the responsibility as to matters of the home and social matters is to a great extent passed on to the women. The problem is that they do not receive enough support from society. In the countryside there are still in many places traditional womens' networks based on help given to neighbors and relatives. Womens' networks and organizations are needed, because they further the awareness of the women of their status and responsibility also as care takers of the self-esteem of their people.

The Uralic peoples of Siberia are submitted to other kinds of threats. The traditional means of livelihood and way of life are endangered because of environmental pollution and social problems. In order to preserve the Siberian languages the prerogatives of their traditional culture also have to be guaranteed.

The Presidium reminds of the following:

  • the day of related peoples is celebrated everywhere (during the 3rd weekend of October), it can if necessary be extended to being a theme week of one related people (as the Hungary week celebrated in Finnish schools),
  • on January 21 the day of the mother tongue is celebrated on the initiative of UNESCO,
  • the year 2001 is the year of European languages,
  • the decade of indigenous peoples still continues,
  • one can ever more often find different information on related peoples in the Internet,
  • the Consultative Committee organizes training according to plans with the aim of finding financing from European foundations and funds, of which Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa spoke in her speech.

Chairman of the Section
Enikö Szij

Vice Chairman of the Section
Tatiana Kleyerova

Secretary of the Section
Merja Salo