Estonians Withdrew from Finno-Ugrics
// Stalking out of the Khanty-Mansiysk congress Dialogue in Khanty-Mansiysk turned out a scandal
Yesterday Estonia’s delegation headed by the country’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves stalked out of the Fifth World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples, which was held in Khanty-Mansiysk. The demarche came in response to a speech of Russian Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev, who censured the national policy of the Estonian government. It was a development of a scandal that broke out a day before as Toomas Hendrik Ilves in a veiled form urged that the Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia gain independence.
The Fifth World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples, which opened in Khanty-Mansiysk on Saturday, summoned delegations of Russia’s all Finno-Ugric peoples as well as the Presidents of Hungary, Finland and Estonia László Sólyom, Tarja Halonen and Toomas Hendrik Ilves. On the threshold of the forum Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev received each of them. His talk with Ms Halonen, despite recent contradictions between Russia and Finland concerning timber supplies, appeared a meeting of old friends. Tarja Halonen told Dmitry Medvedev that she felt incredibly comfortable in Khanty-Mansiysk and invited him to a hard rock festival which is now held in Finland.
Dmitry Medvedev was so much delighted that he suggested they should set off for the festival immediately, but he had to meet with the Presidents of Hungary and Estonia first. For all that, the meeting of the Russian President with his Estonian opposite number Toomas Hendrik Ilves – one of the rare moments in the post-Soviet history as the leaders of the two states communicate – was held in quite a different atmosphere than the one with Tarja Halonen.
Mutual misunderstanding started with the language.
During the meeting with Dmitry Medvedev the Estonian president spoke English in spite of the protocol (the Presidents of Finland and Hungary had spoken their national languages). PR Chief of the Presidential Chancellery Toomas Sildam explained it by the fact that “there was no interpreter there.”
The Presidents of Russia and Estonia turned out to have spoken different languages. Sergey Prikhodko, Aide to the Russian President, had to acknowledge, “There have been much warmer meetings.” Mr Prikhodko told journalists that in the course of the talk President Ilves supported mitigation in the harsh rhetoric in the relations between the two states. President Medvedev replied that it’s Mr Ilves who often makes harsh statements regarding Russia, whereas he has never permitted himself to speak so about Estonia.
The opening of the forum and its further work caused even a bigger alienation of the parties. Opening the congress, Dmitry Medvedev claimed, “Russia became the initiator of the international Finno-Ugric movement.” He reminded that 1992 Russia hosted the First World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples. Speaking about the Russian community of Finno-Ugric peoples, Mr Medvedev condemned “political speculation” about their life. In his view, “only those who have a superficial image of the life of the Finno-Ugrics in our country engage in it, concealing at the same time the facts of galvanized assimilation in several European states.”
The address of President Ilves that followed the one of Mr Medvedev was the illustration of the approach the Russian leader warned against. The speech of the Estonian leader was not that diplomatic. Russia’s representatives saw a veiled appeal to a dissolution of the Russian Federation. Toomas Hendrik Ilves stated, “Freedom and democracy were our choice 150 years ago. Even poets didn’t dream about state independence at that time. Many Finno-Ugric peoples haven’t made their choice yet.”
Commenting on the address of the Estonian President, Russian Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev said that the speech “was discordant with what had been said before: the participants of the Congress didn’t make out what he was talking about.” According to Mr Kosachev, you could perceive an appeal to follow the “happy” way Estonia went. “It was an incorrect address,” the Committee Chairman concluded.
The scandal reached its climax during the speech of Mr Kosachev. He poured scorn on the Estonian government because of the national policy it pursued, and the European Parliament, which has often sided with Estonia. He said that as 2005 Chairman of the Russian Public Movement of the Mari people Vladimir Kozlov was attacked, the European Parliament demanded that Russia should conduct investigation of the matter, which was rendered a fact of discrimination of the Mari people in Russia. At the same time as Russians in Estonia were attacked because of their protests against the removal of the Bronze Soldier monument, and one of them (Dmitry Ganin) was murdered – the European Parliament didn’t urge the government of Estonia that it stop the discrimination of Russians. “You can’t address problems so that they could foster escalation of ethnic conflicts,” Mr Kosachev said.
Nevertheless, the demarche of the Estonian delegation happened after Mr Kosachev set off Moscow’s national policy against the measures undertaken by a number of post-Soviet republics. “Unlike the new states on the territory of the former Soviet Union, Russia has no need to pursue a special policy towards different ethnic groups,” said Konstantin Kosachev adding, “We have no problems with co-existence and good-neighborly relations of peoples of diverse nationalities.”
After these words the entire Estonian delegation left the hall, with those gathered there applauding. “I assess your applause as support of the negative estimate of the unfair policy of several the states of the Finno-Ugric world,” Konstantin Kosachev said in a triumphal tone.
The position of the Estonian delegation was supported by Estonian politicians. According to Sven Mikser, Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Estonian parliament Riigikogu, the demonstrative leaving “was a relevant response to the slanderous speech of Mr Kosachev.” “Russia lacks good intentions,” summed it up Sven Mikser in his interview to the television of Estonia.
Analysts in Tallinn point to the fact that the window of opportunities opened due to the Estonian leader’s visit to Khanty-Mansiysk, got nailed up.