Daily: Russia Finno-Ugric congress withdrawal statement likely posturing

Participants in the VII World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples in 2019.
Participants in the VII World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples in 2019. Source: Sven-Erik Soosaar/Aivar Ruukel

Commentators in Estonia have downplayed a recent statement by Russia's Finno-Ugric umbrella organization which said that its participation in this summer's VIII world congress in Tartu was now off the table, due to the politicization of the event, daily Postimees reports.

Kadri Liik, senior expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Postimees (link in Estonian) that Russia is involved in sending out signals on all fronts making it clear that interference in its domestic politics is not to be tolerated – which Liik said was far from a sign of strength, however, and more one of weakness, with the down-side that if the withdrawal from the congress goes ahead, the event will be much the poorer for it and many Finno-Ugric peoples from the Russian Federation will miss out.

While the foreign ministry has declined to comment so far, Tõnu Seilenthal, Estonian representative on the World Congresses of the Finno-Ugric Peoples' coordinating body, said preparations will go ahead in any case and that the statement had simply read that: "Participation in the congress is not considered expedient," making it more threat and not a given that no people from Russia would be attending.

Seilenthal said that the statement was intended to be provocative, and was not likely to convince all potential participants in June's conference, including those from the Russian Federation, adding that the statement hadn't even been signed by anyone, and was likely the work of a narrow clique.

Similarly, Jaak Prozes, adviser to the congress, said that the event was too recent to comment on and would require more time to digest, while Russia expert Karmo Tüür told Postimees that following the logic of the statement, Russia would be as well to pull out of the Council of European, the olympic committee and all other international organizations, which it perceives as politicized, and that the incident was just one of many.

 The Russian authority which made the announcement, the AFUN, did so the same day Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania opted to expel one Russian diplomat apiece, in solidarity with the Czech Republic, which has done same in the wake of an explosion at an ammunition depot which killed two and which has been linked to Russian agents.

As of last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to the congress in Tartu June 16-18, put off a year due to the pandemic, was still on the table.

The first congress was held in 1992.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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