The authorities of the Perm Krai deceived the Maris of three villages and decided to turn the only Mari national comprehensive school into a primary school. Residents disagree with the decision and are fighting to save the school.
On 4 June, in the House of Culture of the village of Ivankovo, a general meeting of the Mari inhabitants of the villages of Ivankovo, Vaskino and Tebenyaki of the Sukson district of the Perm Krai was held. Here, the question of reorganizing the Vaskino comprehensive school, turning it from a comprehensive school into a primary school, was discussed.
152 local residents attended this meeting; as did the head of the Suksun District, Alexander Osokin; the deputy head in questions regarding health and education, Olga Kruglov; and six members of the local administration. Representatives of the authorities introduced the plans of re-organizing the school. The planned complex will only include a kindergarten and an elementary school. Previously, authorities had promised residents that the comprehensive school in Vaskino would remain – to carry out a general renovation of the old school building and to connect it to the new building by a warm passage.
The decision to turn this school into a primary school was met by rejection and resentment by local citizens.
The general meeting of residents recommended considering general order 99 of the Suksun District Office of Education from 3 June 2010 invalid and to stop the reorganization based on article 50, paragraph 17 of the education law of the Russian Federation.
It was also decided to petition the Ministry of Education of the Perm Krai to award the school the status of a school with intensified study of the native national language, history and culture.
If There Is No School, the Maris Will Disappear
When addressing the authorities and the public, residents were more straightforward. It was especially stated that:
“We, the parents of the villages of Vaskino, Ivankovo and Tebenyaki, declare our opposition to the reorganization of the Vaskino comprehensive school.
We were repeatedly promised that our school would be renovated, and that our children will study in this school until a new one is built…
We are outraged by the lies and the arbitrariness of the authorities…
We do not understand what happened to the finances with which our school was to be renovated, heated and with which the school canteen was to be overhauled…
We cannot imagine that our children will study in a Russian school, where the children do not know Mari at all; we want our children to communicate with one another in their native language…
We, the parents, have not talked about this anywhere up to this time, as we are constantly given promises. But how long can we continue to remain silent and to keep our mouths shut? First we were promised that a new comprehensive school would be built, and then it was decided to build a new primary school and to repair the comprehensive school completely. Now what?
We demand that the government fulfills its promise: to keep the comprehensive school in operation until a new one is built. You must understand that if there is no school, our Mari villages will disappear as well. The Maris will not only disappear from the Suksun District, but from the Perm Krai.
We will set a condition: If our school is closed, we will not send our children anywhere. They will sit at home and not receive any education”.
A Unique Ethnic Group Will Be Destroyed
The Maris of the Perm Krai constitute a unique ethnic group – according to the 2002 census, there were 5,395 Sylva Maris, most Maris’ roots in the Suksun Disctrict date back to time immemorial. There are seven Mari villages: Vasinko, Ivankovo, Tebenyaki, Syzganka, Krasnyj Lug, Kamenka and Tukmany.
The core of the Mari community lies in the three Villages of Vasinko, Ivanko and Tebenyaki, where Mari has been retained as a language for every-day communication not only by the elderly, but also among children. The other villages are mixed – Maris of the younger generation can hardly speak the language. Children from the three aforementioned villages went to the Vasinko comprehensive school, which the villagers are trying to save.
Sylva Maris are not only unique in the diverse specter of peoples home to the Perm Krai, but also in the Mari world. They have preserved many elements of ancient Mari culture, have an own unique national dress, an own dialect, and an own way of thinking.
In spite of their low number in the Perm Krai, they still retain their language. This was made possible by the existence of a national school. Maris, speaking their national language in the remote Perm region, should be the pride of the krai and could at this point could be seen as an indicator for how much attention has been given to national languages and cultures in the Perm Krai.
However, state officials apparently do not understand this, and in spite of the opinions of residents have decided to close the only Mari school in the Perm Krai.
Video from Perm state TV regarding the Vaskino school, March 2008: