Petition to support KOTUS/FOCIS

Johanna Laakso johanna.laakso at UNIVIE.AC.AT
Wed Nov 19 15:31:55 UTC 2008

Dear Colleagues,

the Research Centre for the Languages of Finland (known by the Finnish
acronym KOTUS, or FOCIS in Swedish) is now facing a severe threat: According
to the new "productivity programme" (sic) of the Ministry of Education, the
personnel resources will have to be cut down by a third (this implies, in
practice, random cuts directed to those posts which happen to become vacant
by 2015). This will endanger the vital functions of KOTUS: Finnish,
Finland-Swedish and Sámi language planning and counselling, dictionary
projects and archives, online resources (in the last few years, the services
such as the corpus server have been developed quite
impressively!) and the research of the languages in Finland in general.

The appeal of concerned colleagues and other citizens, with more information
about the situation, is online at (text in Finnish, Swedish and now in
English as well), and every signature (by now, almost 6000) counts: the
appeal will be forwarded to the Ministry of Education.

It might also be a good idea that concerned colleagues, also in the name of
their institutions, if possible, contact directly the responsible
decision-makers (the planned cuts will be discussed at the budget meeting of
the Cabinet next Tuesday!), stressing the fact that the research of the
languages of Finland is not just a national matter but of interest for the
community of linguists worldwide. The addresses:

Prime Minister
Mr Matti Vanhanen
matti.vanhanen at, matti.vanhanen at

Minister of Education
Ms Sari Sarkomaa
sari.sarkomaa at

Minister of Culture
Mr Stefan Wallin
stefan.wallin at
[Colleagues in Scandinavia could write him in Swedish etc. and add something
about the importance of Swedish in Finland...]

(for more contact information see )

(I already wrote to these addresses and received from Ms Sarkomaa an
obviously ready-made feedback e-mail, without special reference to the
special concerns I had referred to but with a lot of hollow phrases: she is
convinced that there are "other solutions" which will retain the
productivity and quality of the services of KOTUS, in particular, "other
solutions involving cooperation between active institutions in the area of
language and culture", and a thorough planning work to secure the quality of
the functions of KOTUS will be launched already before Christmas... Anyway,
these e-mails obviously are read by somebody!)

And, while you are still there, a few words about my special concerns: as a
Finno-Ugrist, I do not particularly sympathize with the policy of KOTUS in
the last few years, the policy of systematically giving up the research into
minor Finno-Ugric languages (other than Sámi). As the great dictionary
projects are finished and the employees retire, no new Finno-Ugrists have
been hired and no Finno-Ugric research projects initiated. Yet, KOTUS with
its valuable Finno-Ugric archive materials, hosting one of the best
Finno-Ugristic libraries of the world, could be the home of continuity of
research traditions for which there is less and less space in the
ever-changing, reform-ridden university departments... But, anyway, this
problem will certainly not be solved by further cuts in the funding of

Thank you for your patience and, in advance, for your support!

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Johanna Laakso
Institut für Europäische und Vergleichende Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft
Abteilung für Finno-Ugristik
Universitätscampus AAKH, Spitalgasse 2-4 Hof 7, A-1090 Wien
Tel. +43 1 4277 43019, (VoIP) +43 599664 43019 | Fax +43 1 4277 9430
johanna.laakso at |

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