Challenging Soviet-Imposed Identities

Valentina Alemaikina & Petryan AndyuRussia’s Finno-Ugric Peoples Challenge Soviet-Imposed Identities

The Erzya and Moksha, two Finno-Ugric peoples more commonly known collectively, as a result of Soviet-era ethnic engineering, as the Mordvinians, are now seeking the reassert their separate identities, yet another indication, along with the actions of the Circassians, that these nations want to be identified on their own terms, writes Paul Goble on Window on Eurasia.

And while that may seem a small thing, it could prove explosive not only because it represents a challenge to ethnic and territorial divisions imposed by the Soviets and continued by Russia but also because President Dmitry Medvedev has called for the celebration of the millennium of “the union of the Mordvinian people with the peoples of Russia” in 2012.

Such a commemoration, intended to highlight inter-ethnic accord, could in fact, given the divisions between the Erzya and Moksha and the difficulties Moscow already has with language and cultural policies as a result, make these two Middle Volga peoples yet another challenge to existing arrangements in the Russian Federation.

The Erzya and Moksha, when counted together as Mordvinians in the 2002 census, number more than 800,000, but as Andrey Chepelyev points out in yesterday’s Saint Petersburg “Vedomosti,” ever more of them consider themselves “neither Mordvinians nor Mordva.”

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