President Vladimir Putin: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to have had the chance to meet once again with the Hungarian Prime Minister and the Finnish President. Of course, the main subject of our discussions today was the first international festival of Finno-Ugric culture, and it is no coincidence therefore that my colleagues and I held a detailed discussion on ways to continue developing the unique and rich traditions of the Finno-Ugric peoples.
Russia strives to preserve and enrich the values of all the peoples living here. This is our common heritage, a heritage that we treasure and in which we feel pride, and the state is supporting this heritage and will continue to do so. Of the 160 different peoples who make up Russia, 13 belong to the Finno-Ugric group. In fact, as we learned today from our discussions with specialists, their number is even greater, and here, in this village where we are right now, we have seen that there are in fact 19 groups.
From the moment international cooperation between the Finno-Ugric peoples began Russia has played an active part and given its active support to this process and I am pleased to see that first international events are taking place in our country.
We will continue working in this area. Next year, Khanty Mansiisk will host the fifth World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples. Its main theme will be ‘National Identity in a Changing World’.
I note too that Finno-Ugric cultural centres opened last autumn in Saransk (Mordovia) and in Syktyvkar (Komi).
Russia greatly values the efforts made by our partners – Hungary, Finland and Estonia – to promote Finno-Ugric cultural cooperation. I am pleased to have had this opportunity to learn about the life of Mordovia and this village in particular. This is a mostly Mordovian village and its residents have preserved their unique culture and language and make their folk costume traditions part of their everyday lives…
I would like to conclude by thanking all our colleagues for their interest and their constructive participation, and I would also like to thank the Mordovian leadership for the good organisation of this programme of events. Events of this kind unquestionably help to strengthen inter-ethnic harmony in Russia and to develop the dialogue between countries.
President of Finland Tarja Halonen (translation from Russian): Dear friends, Finland and Russia are neighbouring countries. President Putin and I meet often to discuss our common affairs.
I know well that Russia is a large country with a lot of different ethnic groups, and this is a great source of wealth for Russia. To be frank, I have never hidden my interest in the Finno-Ugric peoples living in Russia. We learned in school that Finno-Ugric peoples live not only in Finland and Hungary but also in Estonia, and that many Finno-Ugric peoples live in Russia. The people of Mordovia are also our dear relatives. As I said earlier today, this is my first time in Mordovia. It has been a fantastic day for me and I will be happy to learn even more about you.
Fortunately, many Finns have already been to Mordovia and have established good channels of cooperation, with Mordovia and with other Russian regions. I attended the last two world congresses of the Finno-Ugric peoples in Helsinki and Tallinn, and I have already promised that I will do everything I can to be at the fifth congress in Khanty Mansiisk.
International meetings are important of course, but the most important work of all is that which takes place in the home, in the workplace and in schools. Language is the motherland of the soul and we therefore must preserve our languages, and you should also remember this need to preserve your language. I also call on you to study other languages too. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.
Prime Minister of Hungary Ferenc Gyurcsany (translation from Russian): Mr President, Mrs President, ladies and gentlemen,
In Hungary we say that the life of a nation is in its language. It is not only in its language but also in its culture and traditions. The nation that we see before us now is made up of many ethnic communities with different cultures and traditions.
You know, of course, the laws of attraction in physics. Bodies with a greater mass attract those with a lower mass. To be honest, the situation is the same with languages and cultures, especially when these languages and cultures coexist within the boundaries of a single state.
Minority languages and cultures that come under the influence of the culture of a great people can easily find themselves sharing the fate of comets which, when they collide with a bigger celestial body, are absorbed into it. Minority languages are therefore in need of support to prevent this from happening.
Here in Russia we are seeing this kind of support taking place. We Hungarians also see this support in other countries where Hungarian ethnic minorities live, and we also see it in Finland.
This support is concentrated above all in the family, of course, but we need to see it on a broader scale in the community, because there is a need too for theatres, for schools, for publishing projects.
In short, there is plenty of work to do in providing support for the ‘little comets’. We are aware of this fact and this is why we seek cooperation and will continue to work together in the interests of the unique cultural heritage of the Finno-Ugric peoples.