Setu people against new Estonian-Russian border treaty

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri May 20 13:05:29 UTC 2005

Setu people against new Estonian-Russian border treaty

Alexander Shegedin, Tallinn 5/17/2005

Tomorrow on May 18th in Moscow, Estonia and Russia will sign a border
treaty. Up until now the border between the two countries has not been
fully agreed upon. In 1940 Estonia was annexed into the Soviet Union,
while the previous Estonian-Russian border was defined by the Tartu peace
treaty of 1920. According to the new treaty the border is the same as it
was in Soviet times between the two then Soviet republics, Estonia and
Russia. It means that the historic region East Setumaa, or, in Russian,
the Pechori region, the land of the Setu ethnic group, will stay as part
of Russia. In 1920-1940 it was a part of the Estonian Republic. The
Estonian Setu want a return to the border defined in the Tartu treaty
where all Setu lands were in Estonia.

The Setu people speak a unique dialect of Estonian which has been
influenced by Russian. Unlike Estonians, they are mostly Orthodox. At the
moment Setu are living on the both sides of the border, but mostly on
Estonian territory. In the Russian East Setumaa/ Pechori region live
around 200 to 400 families.

Many Setu who live in Estonia have made claims for their ancestors farms
in East Setumaa and demand their restoration under the terms of the Tartu
peace treaty. Some Estonian right-wing politicians have used this as part
of their campaign against the new border treaty.

On May 9th the Setu Congress organization conducted a picket near the
Riigikogu, the Estonian parliament, protesting against the new border
treaty. They handed over an appeal with 7,000 signatures to Ene Ergma, the
parliaments speaker.

Setu Congress leaders have pointed out that the Setu language and culture
are in danger in Russia. However, commentators have noted that protest
comes from the Setu who live in Estonia with little sign of protest from
the Setu in Russia. (Eurolang  2005)

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