Accepted Paper:

Traditional culture and the problematics of modern nationality (in Vepsian Case)  


Madis Arukask (University of Tartu)

Paper short abstract:

Aim of the paper is to analyse how the use of elements from traditional culture in public life "legitimise" the existence of a small nation in contemporary Russia. Examples here are taken from the recent fieldworks to Vepsian habitat.

Paper long abstract:

In the 19th century Eastern Europe the creation process of modern nationalities took big portion of its energy from folklore and traditional-way life of peoples. In this process folklore and "folk spirit" in it served as a source for original content and self-justification for the building of nation(s). Displaying of more or less folklore-based cultural representations (be it in contemporary art, music or civil rituals) is still in use by many nationalities even today, in time when the whole cultural context is already totally changed, from traditional to modern.

On the same route seem to be moving small nationalities/ethnic groups in Russia. Still, the traditional culture (or some of its manifestations) in that case does not function any more as a starting point for something, but rather as an institutional trap to where peoples are politically channelled. This way demonstrations of national peculiarity on the smaller festivals or in the local life in general tend become a compulsory and controlled format, without opportunity for spontaneous creativity and new quality. In the future perspective it is probably not sustainable and attractive.

There is big gap between the traditional reality and tradition-based hobby activities what is now the main official output for the small nations in Russia. The latter is mostly women's sphere where men do not feel themselves too conveniently. In this paper I analyse some examples from Vepsian rural environment, where traditional element is used in the museum work and culture house movement.

Panel P34
The institutions and practices of nation building of Finno-Ugric minorities in Soviet and post-Soviet settings