Vladimir Putin has named Nikolay Merkushkin, the man he just replaced as Samara governor to be his special representative to the upcoming World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples, an assignment many will see as a consolation prize but that reflects growing concern about the Finno-Ugric peoples within the Russian Federation. Continue reading
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Despite 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
Officials Tighten the Screws
An 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
Wen 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
The 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
The 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
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