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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July


The institutions and practices of nation building of Finno-Ugric minorities in Soviet and post-Soviet settings

Location Jakobi 2, 106
Date and Start Time 01 July, 2013 at 10:30


Ergo-Hart Västrik (University of Tartu) email
Indrek Jääts (Estonian National Museum) email
Madis Arukask (University of Tartu) email
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Short Abstract

This panel explores institutional and non-institutional practices used by Finno-Ugric minority groups to present and represent their ethnic identity in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. These representations are juxtaposed with institutions and practices that are provided for them by the state.

Long Abstract

Today's Russia is on the one hand heir to Soviet ethnopolitics, while on the other hand Russian nationalities policies are in continuous change. One of the recent developments include the invention of the category 'small-numbered indigenous people'. Finno-Ugric minorities should be looked at in the context of current transformations and general trends of building Russian national identity.

This panel focuses on interaction, cooperation and tensions between Finno-Ugric minorities and the state in the process of nation building in Soviet and post-Soviet settings. Panel participants are invited to discuss various institutional and non-institutional forms of nation building that support or question the ethnic identity of minority groups in particular socio-political environments. The research materials analysed may include, for example, census data, laws and documents of nationalities policies, museum exhibitions, fieldwork recordings from national or regional festivals that can be regarded as manifestations of ethnic revival.

We propose also to explore the ways in which ideas about ethnicity, formulated and institutionalised during the Soviet period, are (re)circulated, transmitted and adapted to new settings. Which ideologies back the process of conscious nation building? What notions of ethnicity and the elements of traditional culture are selected to represent a particular group? How are these elements staged within the framework of regional festivals and how are they presented in museum exhibitions dedicated to minority groups? What are the strategies and ideologies of ethnic activists and of the state in controlling and manipulating the processes of nation building?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Official designation of the state languages of Russia's national republics: a revivalist, instrumentalist or institutionalist choice?

Author: Konstantin Zamyatin (Helsinki University)  email

Short Abstract

The aim is to apply different theories for understanding the official designation of the state languages in the Finno-Ugric Republics of Russia. The argument proposed in the light of existing theories is that one should distinguish at least three types of recognition: symbolic, formal and legal recognition.

Long Abstract

At the time of the disintegration of the USSR most Russia's Autonomous Republics established their state languages. The national movements justified their claim for an official status of titular languages by the need of national revival and language revival. Some Russian scholars argued that national elites, despite their revivalist rhetoric, actually intended to use the official status of languages instrumentally to ensure a privileged position for the titular groups and, foremost, for themselves. At the same time, international scholars illuminated a special role that institutions had in Soviet and post-Soviet nation-building. Based on findings of the latter theories, this study extends the institutionalist view to the state languages as yet another 'ethnic institution', which, however, had only a symbolic meaning for reinforcement of ethnicity. What was the rationale to designate the state languages of the Republics? The aim of this paper is to evaluate applicability of the proposed theories based on the exploration of the official designation of the state languages in the Finno-Ugric Republics. The argument advanced in the paper is that one should distinguish at least three types of recognition of the state languages that were parts of parallel processes with different goals, meanings and consequences: symbolic, formal and legal recognition. The first should be seen, above all, as being a part of the center-periphery relations, the second should be considered in the context of the ethno-political battle between regional Russian and national elites and the third interpreted mainly in terms of the interactions between authorities and the population.

Implementation of a mother tongue in the early Soviet setting: the Komi-Permyak case

Author: Indrek Jääts (Estonian National Museum)  email

Short Abstract

Creating and introducing of the Komi-Permyak literary language in 1920s-1930s deserves academic attention as an interesting example of complex mutual relationship between competitive nation-building projects (Komi-Zyrian; Komi-Permyak) and the Soviet nationalities policy.

Long Abstract

Creating and introducing of the Komi-Permyak literary language in 1920s-1930s deserves attention as an interesting example of complex mutual relationship between competitive nation-building projects and the Soviet nationalities policy.

The Komi-Permyaks were a non-dominant ethnic group in the late Tsarist time. The Komi-Permyak language meant a bunch of dialects spoken among peasantry and was seldom used in written form. Russian served as the only official language in the area.

Revolution of 1917 changed a lot. Leading Bolsheviks believed that active support to the non-Russian ethnic cultures and languages (korenizatsiya) was the quickest way to promote socialist development of the non-Russians. A network of territorial autonomies was created for the "nationalities" and tens of new literary languages were established in 1920s-1930s.

It was not that simple for the Komi-Permyaks. They were linguistically rather close to the Komi-Zyrians and an idea of one Komi nation uniting both Zyrians and Permyaks was spread among the Zyrian communist elite. One literary language should serve both branches of the nation, according to them. However, Moscow continued to consider the Komi-Permyaks an individual ethnic unit deserving autonomy and literary language of their own.

What kind of role did the Soviet power and its various institutions play in creation and implementation of the Komi-Permyak literary language? How eagerly did small local intelligentsia, split between the Komi (Zyrian) and the Permyak orientations, join this effort of Soviet style nation-building? How did the Komi-Permyak peasants react to implementation of the new literary language in schools and in public?

An audience of ethnofuturistic discourse in Russia

Author: Valery Sharapov (Institute of Language, Literature аnd History, Komi Science Centre of the Ural Вranch of the Russian Academy of Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

Along with the discussion of symbolic representations of regional cultures and identities, considerable interest has been expressed in certain trends in 'ethno-futurist' movement across the the Finno-Ugrian regions of Russia as forms of expressing regional self-consciousness

Long Abstract

The aesthetics of ethno-futurism is orientated towards a contemporary comprehension of traditional ethnic symbolism and, at the same time, in its artistic constructivism on the destruction and diffusion of the language of symbols typical for any given ethnic culture. This duality provides the very sources of ethno-futurism, which arise out of a conflicting intersection of ethnic, traditionalistic, (anti-)globalising and ideological discourses of the Finno-Ugrian space. Inherent in the contemporary visual arts, literatures, theatres and cinemas in the post-Soviet Finno-Ugrian republics are neo-mythological tendencies that can be characterised as manifestations of 'peripherality' in culture.

The point of view of artistic circles is that ethno-futurism is an underground movement, which opposes everything 'official' in the arts. At the same time, ethno-futurist exhibitions and festivals are financed by the governments of the various Finno-Ugrian republics as events that reflect the development of ethno-national cultures. In fact, ethno-futurism has become an institutionalised component of the regional authorities' ideological propaganda. However, ethno-futurist artists stress their political indifference to and non-participation in the various national movements of the Finno-Ugrian republics.

Objectively, ethno-futurism is not only a reflection of new creative expressions in literature, the visual arts and cinema, but also of the paradoxes of contemporary ethno-politic processes that are happening in the European Russian North, just as they are occurring in the Baltic countries, Scandinavia and Finland

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Finno-Ugric ethno-pop and ethnic revival: traditional music of Finno-Ugric nations in the context of contemporary popular culture

Author: Helen Kõmmus (Estonian Literary Museum)  email

Short Abstract

The paper is concentrated to comparative research of Finno-Ugric nations (Udmurts, Permi-Komis, Estonians, Finns) traditional music in context of contemporary popular culture and ethnic revival movement, f.ex. in international folk festivals and fusional music performances.

Long Abstract

During the presentation will be discussed the processes of small Finno-Ugric nations traditional music popularization in contemporary cultural and ethnical context. Traditional and fusional musical material will be comparatively analyzed by possibilities of cultural and sociological theories. Research interests are musical and ethnical behavior, motivation and concepts of small ethnic groups in socially ruled performing situations in international folkfestivals and fusional music performances.

Research material (video and audio recordings, media responses, structured interviews) has been collected systematically since 2004 from different Finno-Ugric traditional music based festivals and performances in Finland (Kaustinen Folk Music Festival), Estonia (Viljandi Folk Music Festival) and Russia (multicultural festivals in Permi-Komi and Udmurtia). Besides the traditional music the musical styles of these events are different musical fusions f.ex. folk-pop, folk-jazz, alternative folk etc.

One research case is Udmurtian ethno-pop ensemble "Buranovskiye Babushki" ("Grandmothers of Buranovo") who won the second place in international Eurovision Song Contest 2012 as representativ of Russia with Udmurtian and English language folk-pop song. Group consists of eight ca 70 yeas old traditional village singers who have since year 2010 recorded with cooperation of Russian professional popmusicians many Udmuritan folk and auctor songs and rockmusic covers from The Beatles, Deep Purple and Eagles repertoire in Udmurtian language.

Staging ethnicity on regional festivals: Votian and Ingrian cases

Author: Ergo-Hart Västrik (University of Tartu)  email

Short Abstract

In this presentation two regional ethnic festivals of Finnic minority groups of northwest Russia will be compared. The aim of the paper is to outline differences and similarities of the festivals focussing on the strategies of representing Ingrian and Votian ethnic identity within these events.

Long Abstract

Collapse of the Soviet Union brought along cultural renaissance of various ethnic groups within their own territories. Several Finno-Ugric minorities that were supressed or "invisible" during the Soviet era came to the fore in the late 1990s. New cultural associations were founded that, among other things, opened museums dedicated to ethnic history and ethnography, started to organise regional ethnic festivals, and publish small-scale publications in their native language.

In this presentation two regional ethnic festivals of Finnic minority groups of northwest Russia will be compared. These are festival of Ingrian culture, held annually since 2004 in the village of Vistino, situated in Kingiseppsky Rayon of Leningrad Oblast, and the Votian festival, Luzhitskaia skladchina, organised since 2000 in the village of Luzhicy that is located in the same administrative district. Both festivals are convened on the second or third weekend of July, around the Day of Sts. Peter and Paul.

My analysis is based mostly on the fieldwork carried out in July 2012. The aim of the presentation is to outline differences and similarities of the festivals focussing on the strategies of representing Ingrian and Votian ethnic identity within these events. Attention will be paid to the organisers' agendas and roles, general structure of the events, communication between presenters and audiences, speeches and musical performances of the 'official programme' of the festivals (taking into consideration both linguistic and performative aspects), as well as on the spatial organisation of the festival scenes.

Traditional culture and the problematics of modern nationality (in Vepsian Case)

Author: Madis Arukask (University of Tartu)  email

Short Abstract

Aim of the paper is to analyse how the use of elements from traditional culture in public life "legitimise" the existence of a small nation in contemporary Russia. Examples here are taken from the recent fieldworks to Vepsian habitat.

Long Abstract

In the 19th century Eastern Europe the creation process of modern nationalities took big portion of its energy from folklore and traditional-way life of peoples. In this process folklore and "folk spirit" in it served as a source for original content and self-justification for the building of nation(s). Displaying of more or less folklore-based cultural representations (be it in contemporary art, music or civil rituals) is still in use by many nationalities even today, in time when the whole cultural context is already totally changed, from traditional to modern.

On the same route seem to be moving small nationalities/ethnic groups in Russia. Still, the traditional culture (or some of its manifestations) in that case does not function any more as a starting point for something, but rather as an institutional trap to where peoples are politically channelled. This way demonstrations of national peculiarity on the smaller festivals or in the local life in general tend become a compulsory and controlled format, without opportunity for spontaneous creativity and new quality. In the future perspective it is probably not sustainable and attractive.

There is big gap between the traditional reality and tradition-based hobby activities what is now the main official output for the small nations in Russia. The latter is mostly women's sphere where men do not feel themselves too conveniently. In this paper I analyse some examples from Vepsian rural environment, where traditional element is used in the museum work and culture house movement.

Modification of Udmurt traditional rituals and its reasons

Author: Tatiana Minniyakhmetova (University of Innsbruck)  email

Short Abstract

The paper discusses the rites of commemoration as an important part of the ritual life and the calendar of the Udmurts. The customs are performed at the beginning of the "winter year". This practice is being modified and "globalised" nowadays, the reasons for that are scrutinised in the paper.

Long Abstract

In Udmurtia, the cult of the deceased and the related customs have been preserved in a very archaic form. The paper discusses the commemorative rites, which are the main obligations of the descendants and as such dominate in the spiritual life of the Udmurts. The ritual complexes are included in the ritual calendar and usually take place at the beginning of the "winter year".

According to the tradition, in autumn, in the liminal period, the commemoration for the dead ancestors will be given, and three years after the parents' death or even later, their children should perform a thank-offering ritual.

Nowadays when the members of the family live far from their home, the preparation for as well as the very act of commemoration is complicated. Initially people who are not relatives of the deceased were not allowed to participate in this ritual. Nowadays this regulation has changed and occasionally people from the outside can take part in it. Colleagues and friends send presents and offerings to the family and express their good wishes for the deceased. The date of those events does not contemporize with the liminal period anymore; in the Soviet time, it was adopted for the October revolution day, since people had holidays and could come home and celebrate this fest. This innovation provokes discussions among the adherents of the traditional culture. The major concern is that these modifications can gradually eradicate such an important part of the Udmurt world-view and ritual life.

Transformation processes in education of Udmurt children in the 20th century

Author: Olga Troshkina  email

Short Abstract

In the 20 century, there had been some tendencies in education system of children. Periodically it is possible to examine it as the traditional, soviet, and post-soviet periods. The paper proposes to discuss the changing and developing processes, their reflection on the education and the role in forming of children in the Udmurt society.

Long Abstract

Traditional upbringing had persisted in Udmurt families up to the second half of the 20th century.

The emergence of new trends for establishing kindergartens in the country has had an impact on both parenting methods and the development of the younger generation. The institutionalized approach and its forms were fundamentally different from the established and customary norms; the only thing that was preserved in its initial state was the mother tongue in monoethnic groups. Norms that were completely new were gradually introduced: children’s folk games and entertainment as well as related oral poetry, song-and-dance art, and musical art were replaced by the Soviet counterparts which more often than not had to be performed in a foreign language. Eventually, cartoons and feature films for kids became the spectacle of choice for preschoolers.

Transformation processes in the post-Soviet period started with an increasing pace. General policies and strict control over their implementation have receded into the background. Before long, the influx of migrants started which brought a new wave of foreign styles and fashion into the educational process; the exotic flavor was incorporated into the indigenous culture without much pretense. In recent years, there has been an attempt to restore some of the traditional ways of raising children in kindergartens.

The report will analyze the abovementioned tendencies, their impact on raising children of the younger generation, and their role in shaping the new generation in the Udmurt environment step-by-step.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.