Translated by Sven-Erik Soosaar
The Conference of Young Finno-Ugrian authors took place on the 5-9 of May, 1994 in Tartu, to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the foundation of the Estonian Kostabi- $ociety.
To the days of ethnofuturism Udmurts, Komis, Maris, Karelians, Finns, Livonians, Erzas, Samis (Lapps), Hungarians, Võrus and Setos, altogether about a hundred guests were invited.
Tartu is a well known and symbolic meeting place for all of them, because of the University of Tartu, which for a long time has been a meeting place and a source of future hopes for the Finno-Ugrian nations of the Russian Empire.
The aim of these days was to introduce ethnofuturism to young Finno-Ugrian artists and writers by means of speeches, films, exhibitions, songs and meetings. The last day of the conference was spent entirely on the discussion of plans concerning ethnofuturism and on planning of cooperation.
The question is complicated due to the fact that the attempts to Russify the Finno-Ugrian peoples, who live on the territory of Russia, by abolishing their idendity, have been especially intensive in recent decades.
The Conference made the participants aware of their own cultures as the base and the principal worth of identity and decided to support and advocate in all respects activities, that provide 'futu for ethno' i.e. the survival of nations as nations in the future.
A joint decision to survive was made.
In the discussions, it was suggested, that the best way for this purpose is to associate creativly the ancient Finno-Ugrian frame of mind with the recent possibilities of post-industrial society. Present summary is a review by initiators and organizers of the conference of the fundamentals and the formation of the Finno-Ugrian ethnofuturism as a mode of thinking.
Ethnofuturism is a spark, that appears in culture when the two poles of the latter nature meet. These poles are stratifications, which are the most primeval and most peculiar to the nation on the one hand and the newest and most modern phenomena in world culture on the other hand.
The spark, that appeared from this contact, is a force that enlivens culture by natural means .
For centuries Estonians have called themselves "maarahvas" (countrypeople), which is wide-spread self-designation for several peoples.
When J.W.Jansen in 1857 for the first time used the name "eestlane" (Estonian) for "maarahvas", the name Estonia came as well into use to designate the land of the local countrypeople.
By the subsequent rise of self-conciousness and by finding expression in words for Estonian identity, three trends of national ideology branched off. These consisted mainly in the total effect of German culture and orientation towards Germany (Jansen), Russian influences (Jakobson) and a trend, springing from the local people (Hurt).
The nation, that had for 10 000 years ploughed their fields in this land and brought up their children in local tongue had been accustomed to express their thoughts in German. Estonian literati of the period of National Awakening had got their Russian- and German-minded education in Russian and German. The spirit of educational institutions was based mostly either on Russian red-tape turn of mind or German middleclass' blood. Hence young Estonian culture was born mostly following the example of German mass-culture. Still, collecting of Estonian culture had an important place in the founding program of academical Learned Estonian Society, already founded in 1838.
The work at collecting and preseving of Estonian folklore, began in1888 by Jakob Hurt, created in a longer perspective basis for the written retention of Estonian older oral heritage. The main encouridgers of his work were the Finn Julius Krohn, who made the same work in Finnish culture and Estonian schoolmasters from different places of Livonia and Estonia. The biggest organizational supporters of the big work of collecting the heritage were the Society of Estonian Men of Letters (founded 1871), the society of musical comedies Vanemuine (1865), the Committee of Estonian Alexandrian School (1868) and the Society of Estonian Farmers (1870).
The newspaper "Postimees", which published monthly summaries and appeals for collecting by J.Hurt, had a great importance by filling the people with enthusiasm about collecting ancient texts.
The actual situation of that time caused the preference of German basis at the creating of Estonian culture. At the end of the19th century, it was common to support the directions of development, springing from that. Even M.J.Eisen's collecting of folk-poetry supported this in its own way, but popular editions published by him turned out to be extremely important in development of intellectual basis of the new generation of Estonian literati.
The program of collecting oral heritage of J.Hurt had an obvious direction to the future, that presumed living on national basis and creation of constantly reforming cognition of identity.
In the forming of Estonian national identity, works of many authors and thinkers have had a vast influence, e.g. the poetry, basing on the cognition of countrypeople of Kr.J.Peterson, epics and national-psychological papers of A.Annist, people's books and essays on native power by O.Loorits, A.Oras' mediation of European culture, rising from the cognition of countrypeople, B.Kangro's publishing and social activities, seeking after own values, U.Masing's comparison of religions and philosophy of national faith, P.Ariste's support to Finno-Ugrian nationalities and connecting of them, I.Laaban's search for uniting ethnography and surrealism , V.Salo's views of curiosities of Estonian culture and literature from countrypeople's standpoint, bringing of world's ancient myths into Estonian culture by R.Sepp, A.Kaalep's cognition of rural culture in comparison with other cultures and polemical discussions, A.Valton's introductions to myths and life-style of Finno-Ugrian peoples and comparisons of them, the cognition of J.Kaplinski's papers in manuscript, ethnographical films about Finno-Ugrians by L.Meri, treatment and use of folk-music by V.Tormis.
The rebirth of ethnofuturism in Estonia is bound with the time of preparation of restoration of Estonian independence and restoration of it in the years 19861991.
Literature, art and thinking were still influenced by the time of socialism; but accommodation with the extended world and clearance of cognition, rising from this, took its time.
New time demanded new approach, which was difficult to start in the beginning. Most of the older writers and artists went into politics, hence there were relativly few of them to come along on the new way of art.
The need to renew identity after every certain period of time is inevitable for a living culture, like a snake has to slough the skin in the meantime in order to stay alive.
Despite of differencies in the historical development and present situation of nations, the similarities of main problems of Finno-Ugrian nations arise clearly nowadays. Statehood, spread like the form of contemporary civilization, has taken its original form from the ancient societies of Southern European nations, developing and reproducing constantly its errors. Units of Finno-Ugrian peoples have been family, community and tribe, in extreme situations district has worked. In the case of statehood, some of the following possibilities have come into use:
At the Finno-Ugrian peoples, living on the territories of Russia, old folk-culture has preserved as a village-culture. The most important vital components of this are their own religion, live folk songs, articles of handicraft as utensils, preservation of national language as language of their home. National culture of town lacks. How to survive as a nation in contemporary world without own national culture of town? The changing world has created favourable possibilities for development for young Finno-Ugrian cultures:
Finno-Ugrians are conscious, that in the issue, it makes no difference, either to assimilate into Russians or Europeans. Assimilation is still the death of nationality in both cases.
There is altogether ca. 25 millions Finno-Ugrians, which is sufficient amount in order to be an active factor among world's nations. Belonging to a greater amount arises as well the pride of a nationality.
The development of technology and civilization has been disadvantageous for Ugrians for a long time. Cities, hierarchical organizations and stiff models of thinking have not been acceptable for our temperament. Nations with individualistic frame of mind haven't had any success in the world of states, wars and churches. The result of accommodation with this world is wide-spread stress with alcoholism and suicides.
The development of the post-industrial society of 1990-ies has taken a direction, based on the commonly used computer-networks. The amount of users of Internet has risen up to ca. 45 millions and it is still only a startingpoint. The Net, that has more and more importance and without of which the life becomes soon unimaginable, creates an environment, totally different from the traditional relations existing hitherto.
Such a net is not subordinated to a central guidance, it is possible to exclude manipulation and serving some political, religious and commercial purposes. It is first free working structure, which lacks central guidance, possibility for domination and control of ideas.
Net is a place, where Ugrian may feel comfortable. Information may be distributed more than Christianly it is sufficient for everybody and in the use it will not lessen but creates new one beside itself. It is an open system.
The superabundance of information approaching to entropy, often compared with a jungle, does not act ruinously upon the psyche of forestpeople, but enables him/her to reach into environment, passing with his/her nature.
Individualistic Ugrians, who have been used to count on themselves and who have more complicated and effective apparatus for orientation than it would ever be possible to build on the Ten Commandments, can thus continue their life in contemporary way, at the same time relying on the traditional national nature of their ancestors.
The net helps Ugrians at preservation peculiar to them dispersed way of life, without loosing contacts with the world, it helps to get unseen possibilities for self-expression and association. No nation has lead of centuries in the net, it is new as in America as well in Scandinavia and Siberia.
Ugrians' plan of conquering the world is built on the creative harmony of ancient turn of mind and contemporary technology.
Here is hidden the great possibility of Finno-Ugrians.
Ethnofuturism, that puts in motion creative powers, is not an ideology, but a mode of continuance and modus vivendi.
Tartu, 5th of May 5th of Dec. 1994