Erzya is one of the most numerous Finno-Ugric peoples of the RF, which live in the Volga region. The total number is about 500 thousand people. The Erzya language is a Finno-Ugric language of the Finno-Volga group, one of the three official languages of the Republic of Mordovia, along with Moksha and Russian. The Erzya profess Christianity (Orthodoxy and Lutheranism), as well as the traditional national religion, Ineshkipaziya. They are one of the few peoples enslaved by Moscow that have their own system of national representative bodies. It consists of a congress of delegates from the Erzya political parties and public associations, a council of elders and a national court.
The Erzya National Movement has officially condemned the unleashing of a war against Ukraine by the Russian authorities three times: once in 2014 and twice in 2022. Arson of the military enlistment office in Ruzaevka (Republic of Mordovia), as well as the distribution of anti-war leaflets in Saransk in July 2022, are associated with the Erzya underground. There are Erzya volunteers fighting in Ukraine against the RF Armed Forces and there is confirmed data on losses among Erzya fighters.
The Russian authorities have tried to take control of the key organs of Erzya through intimidation and persecution of activists, and having failed, they formed parallel representative bodies headed by public sector workers, people dependent on the authorities.
“It was the intensification of repressions in our native lands, the creation by Moscow of fake structures for the self-organization of our people, as well as new military-political challenges in the Russian Federation that prompted us to immediately convene the Congress on emigration. We`ve prepared it in record time — less than three months. There were no discussions about the venue of the Congress. Estonia is the rising dawn of the Finno-Ugric world, our intercessor and our hope. The Estonian people are our kindred people, we came from the same historical and cultural cradle. Therefore, just as Turkey is not a foreign state for Azerbaijanis, so Estonia is not a distant land for us,” explained the Chairman of the Organising Committee for the convocation of the congress.
On the morning of September 30, the leadership of the parish, Estonian politicians and cultural figures, journalists and scientists arrived in Otepää. The whole city was covered with Estonian and Erzya flags. The national flag in Otepaa is felt very palpably – the first Estonian flag was consecrated in the local church in 1884. The opening of the Congress was marked by a ceremony of raising the flag of Estonia and the Erzya national flag. This year the Russian FSB and the police began to persecute the Erzyans in their homeland — in the Republic of Mordovia for Erzya flag raising.
The Congress began with a minute of silence, honoring the memory of an Erzya warrior — a soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksiy Veshchevailov, who planned to go to the Congress as a delegate, but died on September 26 in a battle with the Russians in the Bakhmut direction in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Other Erzya warriors fighting on the side of Ukraine were supposed to go to represent the Erzya military brotherhood. One of them did manage to get a 4-day layoff and get to Estonia. When the young Erzya in the uniform of a soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine entered the conference hall, he instantly drew the attention of the press and the Estonian public.
“The importance of this event for our nation is difficult to overestimate. In fact, our people found themselves behind the Iron Curtain. More than a third of the delegates could not get to the Congress.The Russian authorities put pressure even on those Erzya who remained in the Russian Federation and were involved in the preparation and holding of the Congress remotely. There were people who could not cross all the borders and did not get to Estonia. However, despite all the obstacles, we were able to convene the Congress and involve not only elders, but also young people in it,” said Olexander Butyaykin, a fighter of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, a young veteran from Erzya.
Very acute political issues were brought to the attention of the delegates. A consensus was found on the most difficult topic – state building. The survival of the Erzya as a people within the RF was deemed impossible. The delegates chose the formation of the federal state of Erzyan Mastor.
The Congress identified the Republic of Mordovia, Penza, Ulyanovsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan and Samara regions as illegitimate territorial-administrative formations, and the “authorities” of these formations to be bodies without representative capability.
After heated discussions, the delegates stated that the continued presence in the RF of territories where the Erzya people densely reside means the final disappearance of the Erzya as a people: “Not a single aspect of the policy of the Russian Federation or the Republic of Mordovia is aimed at preserving the Erzya people, their national identity, culture, language, religion. Moreover, the policy pursued by the Kremlin towards the Erzya, as well as other Finno-Ugric peoples, is aimed at our speedy dissolution in the Russian ethnos. The Russian Federation is pursuing a policy of covert ethnocide against the Erzya.”
Erzya not only accused the Russian authorities of ethnocide, but also directly declared their desire to create a separate state, outlining in detail its borders, political form and state structure: The realization by the citizens of Erzyan Mastor of the right to preserve and develop their national identities, languages and cultures will be enshrined in the Constitution. The territory of the state will include the lands of the Republic of Mordovia, Penza, Ulyanovsk, parts of the Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan and Samara regions. The state will have the following administrative structure: 8 cantons (of which two are Tatar national) and the autonomous Moksha Republic. The capital of the federation would be Saran Osh.The national emblem and the anthem were approved.
The Congress also decided that until the independence of Erzyan Mastor, the struggle of the Erzya people for self-determination is would be headed by the national representative bodies and the chief elder. Only Erzyans can take part in the formation of representative bodies. The Congress recognized people as Erzyans who openly and publicly declare their belonging to the Erzya nation and are able to prove their kinship with a person of Erzya origin — without regard to the level of family ties. Also, an Erzya is a person who has mastered the Erzya language at a level sufficient for free communication, and recognizes himself as part of the Erzya nation – without even having a drop of Erzya blood.
The Congress condemned the invasion of the Russian Armed Forces into Ukraine, the mobilization on the lands of indigenous peoples, expressed solidarity with the protesters in Dagestan, Yakutia and other colonial republics, supported the declaration on the decolonization of Russia adopted in Prague on July 23, 2022 at the Forum of the Free Peoples of Russia and called on all enslaved the peoples of the Russian Federation to fight for the collapse of the empire and the creation of independent states on the occupied lands of these peoples.
Komi, Karelians, Izhors and Mari took part in the work of the Congress as guests. On the sidelines, Estonian politicians and even the military were seen, who came to Otepaa to hold a series of closed meetings.
A member of the Presidium of the Congress, a political emigrant of the new wave, shared his impressions.
“Estonians’ interest in us, as a kindred people, has increased markedly. The main thing is that the Congress abruptly brought the Erzya theme out of the folklore plane into the political one. Energy is felt in the air: both Erzya and Estonians understand that Russia has entered the final stage of its existence and in 2024 the borders of new states will be determined.”
One may say “wishful thinking”. But then there are some one hundred nations in the RF repressed by the Russians, many of whom have voiced not only discontent, but a desire for freedom and statehood. The Erzya people have at least two brotherly NATO members or soon to be, both allies, Estonia and Finland. And, frankly, this is only the beginning. Ukraine will support the Erzya. Russian Christmas, a time for great Russian orthodox christian hypocracy, with a mantra of kill your neighbor, is still two weeks away, but given Russian losses on the battlefield, President Zelensky’s recent historic and moving address to the Congress of the United States and the clearly manifest aspirations of the non-Russians within the RF, the New Year has to be a matter of great concern for Russian imperialists and Christmas should be less than merry for Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lavrov, pseudo Patriarch Kiril and people of their ilk.
Image: Erzya women from Penza Oblast dressed on their traditional clothes, by Erzianj jurnalist, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3407684