Russia may pull out of summer's Finno-Ugric congress in Tartu

President Kersti Kaljulaid meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow  during a 2019 official visit.
President Kersti Kaljulaid meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow during a 2019 official visit. Source: Stanislav Moškov, VPK

A Russian organization says it has withdrawn its participation from this summer's VIII World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples, to be hosted in Tartu, citing political reasons. The announcement came within twenty-four hours of Estonia's move to expel one Russian diplomat, in solidarity with the Czech Republic.

A statement made by the Association of the Finno-Ugric Peoples of the Russian Federation, the cultural body overseeing Russia's participation, announced Friday that it would not be taking part.

The statement (link in Russian) said that: " our opinion, destructive, clearly politicized tendencies have begun to manifest themselves more and more clearly, in the activities of the World Congresses of Finno-Ugric Peoples, where the "Finno-Ugric map" is used as one of the methods of pressurizing on one country or another country, and ethnic issues are deliberately used for the purpose of ethno-political speculation."

The statement went on to say that the organization does not see the congress either this year or, as things stand, in future, either productive or meeting its expectations, which, together with the coronavirus pandemic situation, has caused the Russian delegation to both withdraw: "... and to question the necessity of holding congresses in the future.

The statement also hit out at Estonia's participation in the 5th world congress, in 2008, in Khanty-Mansiysk, where, it is claimed, then-Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves lobbied for national self-determination for Finno-Ugric groups within the Russian Federation, later vacating the chamber when progress on this was not made.

Finno-Ugric World Congresses held since breakup of Soviet Union

The statement drew the curve of decline from what it described as an optimistic first congress (in 1992 in Syktyvkar, in Russia's Komi Republic - ed.) following the 4th event in Tallinn in 2004, after which, it said, moves were made to highlight the sorry situation of Finno-Ugric peoples in Russia, a plight which Russia rejects.

It also called a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) statement by Estonian former MEP Katrin Saks (SDE) on the issue as biased, and the stance of western Finno-Ugric partners (meaning primarily Estonia, Finland and Hungary - ed.) as patronizing and not acting in the interests of unity.

The statement also said that the main Russia-based Finno-Ugric umbrella organization has the ear of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), meaning Finno-Ugric and Samoyed people's in the Russian Federation get representation at UN level.

Estonia holds a non-permanent UN Security Council seat for 2020-2021.

As reported by ERR News, President Kersti Kaljulaid had invited President of the Russian Federation to this June's congress, itself put back a year due to the pandemic. This invitation was still open as of last week.

The presidents of Finland and Hungary are also invited to attend the congress' opening event.

The World Congress says it aims to develop and protect national consciousness, cultures and languages of the Finno-Ugric peoples, promote cooperation between the Finno-Ugric peoples and also to exercise the self-determination right of all Finno-Ugric peoples in accordance with international norms and principles.

Various Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic (whose languages belong to the same Uralic group as the Finno-Ugric tongues such as Estonian and Finnish - ed.) peoples can be found across the northwest of the present-day Russian Federation. Small numbers of speakers of the Livonian language reside in Latvia, while speakers of the Sami languages can be found in Sweden and Norway, as well as Finland and Russia.

Estonia expelled one Russian diplomat Friday, as did Latvia and Lithuania, in solidarity with the Czech Republic. A 2014 explosion at an ammunition depot in the town of Vrbetice which killed two people is thought to be the work of Russian agents, operatives who are part of a network connected by the 2018 Novichok poisoning of the Skripal father and daughter, in Salisbury, England.

The VIII World Finno-Ugric Congress takes place June 16-18 in Tartu.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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