Two Estonian ministers yesterday refuted Russian assertions that Estonia uses its Finno-Ugric kinsmen in Russia in order to subvert that country. Russia’s Minister for Nationality Affairs, Ramazan Abdulatipov, stepped up the accusations last week by claiming that Estonia “brainwashes” guest students of Finno-Ugric nationalities from Russia in order to turn them into “spies,” “fan anti-Russian sentiments,” and organize an Estonian “fifth column” in Russia (Russian agencies and BNS, October 23).
In their responses yesterday, Estonia’s Population Minister Andra Veidemann, who is responsible for ethnic affairs, and Education Minister Mait Klaassen pointed out that Estonia, Finland and Hungary–the three Finno-Ugric nations–have regular cultural and student exchange programs designed to preserve the ethnic identity of Russia’s Finno-Ugric nationalities: the Karelians, Komi, Mari, Mordvins, Khanty, Mansi and other small groups. Approximately 100 students from these groups are currently enrolled in language study programs at Estonian universities.
The two Estonian ministers described “cultural support for the small peoples [as] a perfectly normal practice,” particularly when contemporary globalization processes jeopardize that identity. They dismissed the notion that small Estonia would set about creating a fifth column inside Russia (BNS and Russian agencies, October 28).
Since the restoration of its independence, Estonia–as well as Finland and Hungary–has hosted Finno-Ugric conferences and festivals, which have been well attended by representatives of those nationalities from Russia. President Lennart Meri happens to be a scholar of Finno-Ugric studies.
UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL ANSWERS FORMER PREMIER.