First national conference on Finno-Ugric studies was held in Nizhyn (Ukraine)

І Національна конференція з фінно-угористики

First national conference on Finno-Ugric studies in memory of Anatoliy Ryabov was hosted in Mykola Gogol Nizhyn State University (Nizhyn, Ukraine) on 28 September 2021.

The event was organized by Prometheus – Center of secure environment studies and Mylola Gogol Nizhyn State University with the assistance of Ukrainian research social consortium in order to provide a discussion platform for both academic scientists (historians, linguists and political scientists) and public activists of Finno-Ugric national movements.

Rostyslav Martyniuk, moderator, shares his impressions about the conference:

“Words and expressions such as Erzya, Erzyan, Erzyan Mastor [eng. Land of Erzya] were heard today loud and clear, nobody asked “what’s it is all about?”. Dmytro Levus’ from Erzya community in Kyiv summed up 20 years of hard work of Erzya diaspora – virtually the first national community in Ukraine that cast aside habits of imitation, such as making cakes,  demonstrating old dances, drinking kvass. Hell no! We’ve started to speak about national security tasks at the MFA level “.

The conference consisted of three thematic panels: “Nizhyn University and it’s graduates in Finno-Ugric studies”, “Contribution of Ukrainians to the development of Finno-Ugric studies and modern literatures of peoples from Finno-Ugric language group” and “Finno-Ugric national movements: current situation, tendencies and challenges”. 

“Ukraine continues to form and promote its own agenda on indigenous peoples in Russian Federation. These efforts hardly remain unnoticed by representatives of national movements of Finno-Ugric peoples as well as all indigenous peoples under rule of Moscow. Links formed here are not just personal connections but also build up institutional level. Establishment of systemic exercises in the field of human rights protection for native peoples of Russia and advocacy of their national movements significantly changes international attitude toward Ukraine. Kyiv acquires more real supporters and allies within Russian Federation”, – Pavlo Podobied, expert of Prometheus – Center of secure environment studies, explains.

Such event was held in Ukraine for the first time. However, as participants and guests note, this did not prevent from gathering quite a respectable audience here in Nizhyn. The conference entitled “Ukraine and Finno-Ugric world” brought together about 80 students and scientists, diplomats and public activists, including such guests of honour as: Olena Bohdan, Chairwoman of State service on ethnic policy and freedom of conscience; Anton Drobovich, chairman of Ukrainian institute of national remembrance; Kaimo Kuusk, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Estonia to Ukraine; Mykola Velychkovych, Ukrainian MP; Arvo Valton, Chairman of Finno-Ugric writers’ union; Syres’ Boliayen’, chief elder (Inyazor) of Erzya people; Hanna Hopko, Chairwoman of Committee on Foreign Affairs of Verkhovna Rada (Parliament of Ukraine) in 2014-2019; Oleksandr Biletskiy, board member of Ukrainian research social consortium; Viktor Yagun, ex-deputy chief of Security Service of Ukraine; Oleksandr Paliy, political scientist; Olena Biletska, chairwoman of Ukrainian women guard and others.

“For us, Erzya people, such events are the chance to make our voice heard, to tell the world about Erzya national movements and challenges we face. it is also an opportunity to make new academic and activist contacts”

Syres’ Boliayen’, Chief elder (Inyazor) of Erzya people, summarises:

“For us, Erzya people, such events are the chance to make our voice heard, to tell the world about Erzya national movements and challenges we face. it is also an opportunity to make new academic and activist contacts. There were participants who travelled 500, 600 kilometers to Nizhyn so meaningful and representative today’s event was. Some people couldn’t participate because of visa problems, for example, representatives of Karelia national movement, who are currently live in emigration in Western Europe because of political pursuits in Karelia. We are very grateful to the Nizhyn State University and personally to Oleksandr Samoilenko, Rector of the University, who become very fond of the idea of our conference and had made considerable efforts to organize it at such high level: politicians, diplomats, professors, local assemblymen, and maybe the most important, young scientists for example, Denys Kovaliov from Poltava, who represent the new bright future of Finno-Ugric studies in Ukraine. I saw many talented young people here at the conference”.

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