ERM director: Travelling exhibition withheld at Russian customs point

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"Hunting Trails". Source: ERM

A traveling Estonian National Museum (ERM) exhibition has been held at a customs point in Kingissepp, east of Narva, for some time now and the lack of a single stamp could lead to the whole shipment to be destroyed, said ERM director Alar Karis.

"The statement made by the Association of the Finno-Ugric Peoples of the Russian Federation (AFUN) about considering participation at this summer's World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples "inappropriate" sheds new light on the withholding of one of ERM's traveling exhibitions at the Kingissepp customs point. The lack of a single stamp apparently gives them the right to completely destroy the shipment," Karis wrote on social media on Monday.

Karis explained that the "Hunting Trails" exhibition was up at the National Museum of the Republic of Komi in Russia and that ERM planned on setting the exhibit up for the upcoming World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples on July 16-18. ERM is the central location for the event and the theme of the congress is "Cultural Landscapes – Mind and Language".

AFUN's statement

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: "...in 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.

On Monday, Estonian commentators downplayed the statement and noted 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.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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