Finno-Ugric conference ends with Estonian protest

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Jul 4 19:31:10 UTC 2008

  Finno-Ugric conference ends with Estonian protest [image: PDF]
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Friday, 04 July 2008 by Katriina Kilpi     On Sunday morning the President
of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and the Estonian delegation, left in
protest the 5th session of the Finno-Ugric World Congress held in Khanty
Mansi, Russia. Mr Ilves walked out of the session as the chairman of the
Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Russian State Duma, Konstantin
Kosachev,  attacked Estonia in his speech. In his speech Kosatsev
concentrated on criticizing the European Union and drawing a parallel
between the treatment of the Mari people in Russia and the Russians in

Kosatsev said that the European Parliament complained to the Russian Duma
about the assault of the Mari Council Chairman Vladimir Kozlov in 2005.
However, according to Kosatsev, the EU was not similarly interested over
Russian speakers' complaints last year in Tallinn during the protests over a
Soviet statue.

After his walk-out protest, Ilves joined the Finnish President Tarja Halonen
and the Hungarian president László Sólyom on a museum visit and  boat ride.

According to President Halonen, Ilves protest was a spontaneous reaction to
a provocative speech. Halonen added that Kosatsev's speech was a reply to
Ilves' Saturday speech in which Ilves stated that European union and the
European values would provide the best security for linguistic minorities.
Apparently, the Russian delegation interpreted Saturday's speech as Ilves'
call for Finno-Ugric people to work towards independence because Mr Ilves
suggested that Finno-Ugric people follow the "happy path" of Estonia.

President Ilves hinted that only the European Union could protect the rights
of Russia's ethnic minorities. "The European Union umbrella has given the
Estonian, Finnish and Hungarian languages new guarantees they have never
before possessed in their history," he said. "We might thus ask: How can we
put all Finno-Ugric languages under European Union protection to ensure
their preservation and development?"

*Tarja Halonen underlines importance of language nests*

In her speech, Finland's President Tarja Halonen assured that Finland wants
to support the languages and cultures of the Finno-Ugric peoples. She also
urged the Finno-Ugric peoples to pay better attention to the first language
teaching of their children and adolescents.

President Halonen underlined the importance of the language nests concept in
maintaining a threatened language. "I believe that with many threatened and
small language groups it will be the language nests that will be the crucial
tool in making sure that the next generation will be able to maintain their
mother tongue."

According to Halonen, Finland will help Finno-Ugric language nest activities
financially. The Finnish Cultural Fund has allocated 1.6 million euros for
this. "We are especially worried about the fact that the minorities are
declining generation by generation. Therefore, we have to pay special
attention to the willingness of these small children to speak their mother
tongue", said Halonen. (Eurolang 2008)


Ilves's speech to be seen here…

Moscow Times

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