At UN, Ilves Speaks Up for Votic People and Izhorians ({{commentsTotal}})

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President Toomas Hendrik Ilves addressed the United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples on Monday in New York.

Ilves led off with sharp criticism of attempts to keep native peoples from having a strong voice in the international community, saying that indigenous peoples were not allowed to participate in the final stages of an outcome document adopted at the meeting.

This appeared to be a reference to what Estonian NGO Fenno-Ugria said were actions by Russia to keep Kola Sami parliament speaker Valentina Sovkina from making it to the airport. Her car was vandalized and passport confiscated by Russia police while on her way to Kirkenes, Norway.

"The rights of indigenous peoples must be respected," Ilves said in the general part of the speech. "For Estonians, the future of Finno-Ugric peoples with whom we are linked in kinship and language is particularly close to our hearts."

"Urbanization, industrialization, world wars, deportations and extensive migration all have left deep wounds within many indigenous populations, including the Votic population, our Finno-Ugric cousins."

The Votic people live in the Kingiseppsky District, which is part of Russia's Leningrad Oblast.

"[The large Laugasuu (Ust-Luga) port] is being built on traditional Votic lands where our cousins have lived for as long on their territory as we Estonians on ours. This construction poses a great danger to the last three remaining Votic villages: Luutsa, Liivtšülä and Jõgõperä."

This he said was in conflict with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"Another small Finno-Ugric nation, the Izhorians, […] are especially endangered by the plan to erect a chemical plant right next to the their villages of Rutši and Viistina. If the chemical plant is be erected and the environment destroyed, the nation and culture would be endangered and might be even destroyed. And mankind will grow ever poorer."

The Izhorians live in the Western part of Ingria, between the Narva and Neva rivers in northwestern Russia.