2006 IFUSCO and Mari Summer School announced

There’s no guarantee that it won’t be cancelled again for political or other reasons, or that registrants will even get a visa (one notable friend of the Mari hasn’t recently), but a Summer School in Mari Language and Culture is planned to place in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia, from the 2nd until the 19th of July this year. If it doesn’t get cancelled, if I get my invitation letter in time this time, and if I actually get a Russian visa, I look forward to attending. It is a pity that for political and bureacratic reasons one’s participation in a very interesting course becomes quite uncertain.

The wealthy scholar of Uralic linguistics can look forward to two opportunities to visit Yoshkar-Ola this year, as in May the IFUSCO XXII will be held there. As Johanna Laakso announced in ura-list:

The next IFUSCO (International Finno-Ugrist Students’ Conference) will take place in Yoshkar-Ola, Mari El, 18–22 May 2006. Registration deadline 1 March, deadline for abstracts 20 March, contact address ifusco2006@mail.ru. The first official circular is now available on the MAFUN pages.

In Helsinki

I arrived in Finland on Saturday and this morning came to Helsinki where I will be for one week. With daylight being too limited for much sightseeing and my linguistic curiosity insatiable, I probably will spend most of this time in the library. Today’s tour of the university’s Department of Finno-Ugrian linguistics was exciting. I had lunch with faculty members Tapani Salminen and Riho Grünthal (at the extreme left and right respectively of the photograph), and a graduate student whose name I sadly don’t remember. From left to right: Tapani Salminen, Christopher Culver, unknown graduate student, Prof Riho Grünthal.

Later I attended a session of Prof Salminen’s course on Enets. His lecture used an Enets translation of fragments of Luke’s gospel to elucidate the similarities of the poorly-understood Forest Enets language to his own concentration, Tundra Nenets, and their mutual descent from Proto-Samoyedic. (Incidentally, this Enets Biblical translation is published by in Stockholm by the Institute for Biblical Translation, ISBN 91-88394-99-9.)

I have picked up three Mari-related books. One, Poro Keče, is the most lightweight of recent Mari textbooks. The other two items are readers published by Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura (the Finno-Ugrian Society) in Helsinki, Yrjö Wichmann’s Tscheremissiche Texte (from 1953) and Alho Alhoniemi’s Marin kielen lukemisto (1986).

The department was all the more welcoming because Mari is the theme of its display board.
A Mari-themed bulletin board in the Department of Finno-Ugrian Studies at the University of Helsinki

Mari music

The Information Centre for the Finno-Ugric Peoples has a page with links to MP3 files of ten traditional Mari songs. One unfortunately has to put some effort into making out the words due to the low quality of the recordings, but it is nice to see so much made available.

In 2004 a CD of contemporary Mari tunes, Шӯдыр еш 1 was released. One can see the tracklisting on the Web, along with an MP3 of Elvira Toktasheva singing “Кече лектеш, ончалеш” (Keče lekteš, ončaleš). Toktasheva is the “new star” of the Mari stage according to a Russian-language interview on Марий Эл OnLine. This is reminiscent of that sort of syrupy pop-folk music that Bulgarians call chalga, but I suppose that one should be grateful for whatever resources one can find in learning such a little-known language.

New book on the Mari and Mordvinians

An announcement from the Ura-list about a new book by the scholar Helimski:

Mari und Mordwinen im heutigen Russland: Sprache, Kultur, Identität / Hrsg. von Eugen Helimski, Ulrike Kahrs und Monika Schötschel (Veröffentlichungen der Societas Uralo-Altaica, 66). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005 ISBN: 3-447-05166-3 http://www.harrassowitz-verlag.de/

Im immer noch polyethnischen und mehrsprachigen Rußland stellen die Siedlungsgebiete der beiden finnisch-ugrischen Völker Mari (Tscheremissen) und Mordwinen, die häufig zusammen als Wolgafinnen bezeichnet werden, keine ferne Peripherie dar: Ihre Titularrepubliken befinden sich genau im geographischen Zentrum des europäischen Teils der Russischen Föderation, und sie unterscheiden sich ­ was die Natur oder die wirtschaftliche Situation betrifft kaum von den Nachbargebieten mit fast ausschließlich russischer Bevölkerung.

Ist durch diese Lage die Nivellierung der sprachlichen und kulturellen Unterschiede unvermeidlich prädestiniert auch bei den „letzten Heiden Europas”, wie die Mari manchmal genannt werden? Werden die Grenzen der marischen und der mordwinischen Welt ­ dadurch, daß die Zahl der noch verbliebenen ethnisch homogenen Dörfer immer weiter schrumpft immer enger gezogen werden? Ist die ethnische Tradition stark genug, um dem Druck der Russifizierung und der Globalisierung auch langfristig zu widerstehen? Verfügen die Wolgafinnen über die Voraussetzungen für die Bewahrung ihrer Sprachen und Kulturen, für die Stärkung ihrer ethnischen Identität unter den Rahmenbedingungen der urbanisierten und technologisierten Zivilisation?

Die Herausgeber und die Autoren des Bandes (von denen die Hälfte aus den Republiken Marij El und Mordwinien stammt) sind sich darin einig, daß der Wert der ethnischen Sprach- und Kulturtradition unbedingt anerkannt werden muß, und daß die Wolgafinnen sich gegenwärtig in einer neuen und entscheidenden Phase ihrer Identitätsbildung befinden. Der Band verfolgt das Ziel, die widersprüchliche Dynamik der Verluste und der Revitalisierungsprozesse, des Schutzes der alten Heiligtümer und der Suche nach neuen Formen aufzuzeigen ­ und den Lesern des Buches eine vielschichtige Momentaufnahme der Entwicklungen der letzten anderthalb Jahrzehnte zu präsentieren.

Belarus on the Volga?

That is what Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is calling the political situation in the Republic of Mari El, Russia. Here’s a rundown of the latest trouble there.

First, Prof Yuri Anduganov, who was president of the Tenth International Finno-Ugric Congress, was killed in a car accident on July 7 under suspicious circumstances. Anduganov was forced to leave Mari El three years ago for the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region, so suspicion is reasonable here.

On the eve of the congress, members of the organization Marii Ushem defied municipal authorities and staged a demonstration in Yoshkar-Ola, with many being arrested. Then, as previously reported here, the congress was heavily disrupted by regional authorities:

In one of the police exercises, the officers rehearsed removing a bomb from the location of the congress – the large stage of the Mari National Theatre. In another exercise they defused a dummy explosive in a Lada parked on a highway, and in another, they captured a terrorist after a shooting incident. In the imaginary situation, a sniper was removed from the building where the guests of the congress were housed.

“It was in this atmosphere that we were supposed to engage in scientific discourse”, said Riho Grünthal, Professor of Baltic Finnish Languages at the University of Helsinki.

…Municipal leaders would often begin their speeches by saying “Thanks to President Leonid Markelov, we are doing well”. After a folk dance performance it was said: “Only a happy nation dances like this!”

‘Russian security forces keep tight rein on Finno-Ugric congress in Mari Republic’, Helsingin Sanomat (International Edition), August 26, 2005

Finally, Vasli Petrov, president of the Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples (MAFUN) was attacked in his home village of Ismentsa and was taken to hospital with skull injuries, a shattered jaw-bone and broken arm.

Appreciating minority languages must mean protecting their speakers. I urge all readers to send off a letter to their representatives drawing their attention to this ongoing tragedy.

Mari grammar

When mentioning the Mari resources of Kimberli Mäkäräinen several months ago, I didn’t notice that she has a page of ‘Meadow Mari Grammar Bits’, pretty much the only English-language introduction to Mari grammar available online. It’s a good thing for one to keep bookmarked while he is saving up his pennies to buy Routledge’s The Uralic Languages.

In other Mari news, it is depressing indeed to see that the Russian government couldn’t resist the urge to stir up trouble during the Tenth International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies in Yoshkar-Ola, Republic of Mari El last month. I’m happy now that I did not attend after all, since the absence of many experts, who chose to boycott the event, resulted in many cuts to the programme.

Mari language resources

Mari (марий йылме) is a Finno-Ugric language spoken by over half a million people living in the mid-Volga region as well as in Bashkortostan in the eastern part of European Russia near the Urals. It has two literary languages (Meadow-Eastern Mari and Hill Mari), which, along with Russian, are both official languages in the Republic Mari El of the Russian Federation. The language used to be called ‘Cheremis’, which is still in use in linguistic literature published in the ‘West’.

Kazuto Matsumura

In preparing to attend the aforementioned course of Mari language and culture, I was under the impression that there are few resources indeed for this Finno-Ugric language. Luckily, a few helpful items may be found on the Web. Anatoly Kuklin and Kazuto Matsumura have prepared a Mari Core Vocabulary with translations into Russian and Japanese. They also provide a few Mari texts. Kimberli Mäkäräinen has drawn up a small Meadow Mari – English Vocabulary with 442 words.

Concerning print resources, Timothy Riese reviews (PDF) three Mari textbooks published in the last decade: Марийский язык для всех I + II (‘Mari for Everybody’, 1990 and 1991) and Поро кече! (‘Hello’, 1998), and Марийский язык (‘Mari Language’, 1999). I look forward to buying these as well as a new Mari-language prayer book when I arrive in Yoshkar Ola in June.