Majority of participants attend Finno-Ugric world congress remotely

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The map of Finno-Ugric nations. Source: ERR

The eighth World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples will take place in Tartu this week but the majority of representatives will attend remotely online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting Wednesday, the congress takes place at the Estonian National Museum and representatives of 14 Finno-Ugric peoples are expected to attend. Of the 127 delegates scheduled to speak, more than half will do so remotely. ETV's evening news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported that none of the Finnish, Karelian and Komi will attend in person.

Helle Helena Puusepp, congress project manager, said: "The hybrid form allows for absolutely everything, from the beginning to the end, people can participate. In working groups, plenary sessions and final sessions. We have a lot of cultural programs, everything is online."

Of the 23 Finno-Ugric peoples, 14 different peoples will be represented at the congress this year. Estonians and Setos will attend the event in person, as well as the entire Hungarian embassy and individual representatives and observers from other nations.

Although many are prevented from coming to Tartu by the pandemic situation, the Finno-Ugric peoples in Russia are held back by politics.

In May, Russia's umbrella organization of Finno-Ugric peoples announced that it would not participate in the congress calling it was a European attempt to influence Russia's domestic politics. Now many people who initially planned to attend, will not, including the Mari and Udmurts peoples.

"Unfortunately, for many Russian nations, it is difficult for them to come to Estonia. Or let's be honest: some may not dare to come," said congress organizer Tõnu Seilenthal.

Presidents and ministers from the Finno-Ugric countries, including the Russian minister of culture, will attend the opening ceremony at 2 p.m.  

The Finno-Ugric peoples live mostly in northern Europe and Russia. Despite the fact that they are the indigenous inhabitants of the territories where they live, most of them have never had their own nation-state, the website Fenno-Ugria writes.

According to recent studies, the peoples speaking Finno-Ugric languages have inhabited Europe for about 10 millennia. Today, almost 25 million people belong to the Uralic (i.e., Finno-Ugric and Samoyed) language family, and inhabit an area that extends from Norway in the West and the Ob River region in the East, to the lower reaches of the Danube in the South.

Finno-Ugric languages include Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian and Saami.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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