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International PEN Voices Support for Finno-Ugrians

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM) promotes cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and free speech.




International PEN, meeting at its 76th International Congress in Tokyo, Japan, on 25 September to 1 October 2010, notes that the Finno-Ugrian peoples of Russia are in a difficult situation. Many of them are in danger of extinction or becoming absorbed by the majority Russian population.

The proportion of the Finnish-Ugrian population within the different republics of Russia is as follows: Mordovia 32%, Udmurtia 30%, Mari El 43%, Komi Republic 25%, Nenetsia 9%, Khanty-Mansia 1,2%, Komi-Perm 59%. All together, there are around four million Finno-Ugrians in Russia.

Pressure is exerted on minority media. Central powers have taken over many independent media and journalists are oppressed in many ways. According to a report by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in 2010, there are no free media left in any of the regions of the Russian Federation. Only the internet enables some independent Finno-Ugrian reporting.

Legislation developed since Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999 has been openly hostile to minorities. The use of the Cyrillic alphabet has been legally authorized in every federal language. Russian has been declared the only official language of the country and is compulsory in all official communications.

The language legislation of the republics has lost its standing when the laws of the administrative districts and republics have been harmonized with the Russian constitution. According to the school law of 2007, schools, parents, and pupils are themselves allowed to choose the language of instruction. This has led to a drastic decrease in minority language teaching.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) is increasingly using laws against so-called extremism to suppress dissidents and minority activists whose only actions are to criticize the the government.

Despite this, there are positive developements such as the birth of the strong literary and artistic ethnofuturistic movement in Udmurtia and the creation of Wikipedia in Erzyan.

Also, the first Assembly of Russian Minorities in February 2010 passed a resolution demanding the repeal of the disputed school law. The forum demonstrated what a sensitive and important issue the preservation of the mother tongue is for the 30 million non-Russian individuals in Russia.

In view of the above, International PEN demands that the Russian government cease the repression of the country’s Finno-Ugrian minorities and ensure the protection of minority language media outlets.



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