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Mari El Most Russian-Occupied Non-Russian Republic

Statistics Show

Mari_El_russiansDespite Vladimir Putin’s much-ballyhooed power vertical, Moscow has not imposed an identical approach to running the various non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation, as new statistics about ethnic representation in government positions in three Middle Volga republics, Mari El, Tatarstan and Chuvashia, show. Continue reading

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Will the Sixth Finno-Ugric Festival in Udmurtia Be the Last?

Officials Tighten the Screws

palezyanAn official action in Izhevsk this week has some dangerous implications not only for the more than 2.3 million members of Finno-Ugric peoples now living within the borders of the Russian Federation but also and more ominously for the cultural life of all non-Russians in that country. Continue reading

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The Resilient Pagans of Russia

Mari5-690Wen the Bolsheviks went about counting and cataloguing the ethnicities they had inherited from the Russian Empire, they identified not one but two Mari nations: the Mountain Mari, numbering about fifty thousand, and the Meadow Mari, a hundred and fifty thousand strong. Both were related to the Finns, spoke Finno-Ugric languages, and had received a modified Cyrillic written language from Russian missionaries in the nineteenth century. Continue reading

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Is there still multilingualism in the Middle Volga region today?

VolgaizmThe structural similarities of the Middle Volga languages, sometimes referred to as the Volga Sprachbund, would not have been possible without a significant amount of multilingualism. In contact zones, multilingualism was normal.

Moreover, following the conquest of Kazan in 1552, Tatar remained the lingua franca of the Middle Volga. For example, if a Mari met an Udmurt, they would have likely spoken Tatar to each other. Continue reading

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Polluted Volga an Ecological Disaster for 60 Million Russians

VolgaThe increasingly polluted Volga River is creating ahealth crisis for the 60 million Russian citizens who live in its enormous and economically important basin, but the Russian government has not been independently monitoring this situation since Vladimir Putin disbanded the State Ecology Committee in 2000.

In the current issue of “Argumenty nedeli,” journalist Denis Terentyev surveys the damage, noting that few officials appear to care although people living along Russia’s great river can see the increasingly negative impact of pollution on the river, its wildlife, and on themselves. Continue reading

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The Priest Speaks

Starting the fire. Marla ceremony, Mari-El. May 2012.The Ensai souvenir shop was, it assured passersby, the home of authentic Mari souvenirs. Inside was a jungle of multicoloured fabric, giddying geometric patterns of whites and reds, traditional costumes of the kind usually kept in dusty display cases of the national museum. Yoshkar-Ola, (“the red city,“) is the capital of Russia’s autonomous Republic of Mari El. Heavily forested and sparsely populated, it is a nondescript, provincial town, which, as I had discovered on my first visit in 2011, was increasingly defying description. Continue reading

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Google’s next mission: Save dying languages

Obscure tongues like Arogonese and Navajo are just a few generations away from disappearing. Enter Google, which aims to preserve them digitally

By some estimates, about half of the world’s languages could disappear by the end of this century. And that’s why Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, is launching a new initiative called the Endangered Languages Project, which aims to digitally archive the world’s lesser-known tongues Continue reading

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