Estonians not welcome at Finno-Ugric festival

  • 2007-07-11
  • From wire reports
TALLINN 's Russian President Vladimir Putin has delivered another snub to Estonia by conspicuously failing to invite the nation's leaders to a festival dedicated to Finno-Ugric culture.

The Russian head of state has invited the president of Finland and the prime minister of Hungary to the Finno-Ugric festival taking place in the Mordovian republic next week but somehow forgot to invite the government of the only other independent Finno-Ugric state in Europe, Estonia. It's as if a festival of Celtic culture was to take place without the Irish.

A three-way meeting between the Russian president and the leaders of the two other Finno-Ugric countries is planned in the Mordovian capital, Saransk, on July 19 at Putin's initiative, spokespeople for the Kremlin said.

Representatives of the state chancellery and the foreign ministry admitted that Estonian leaders have not been invited to the festival of kindred peoples. Estonia has been invited to participate in the cultural events of the festival, but its leaders are regarded as personae non grata, the Eesti Paevaleht newspaper said.

The snub met with an immediate call from Estonia's head of the parliamentary European Affairs Committee for Finnish and Hungarian leaders to boycott the festival.

"The fact that the Russian president has invited the Finnish head of state and Hungarian prime minister, but not the Estonian head of state, to a Finno-Ugric festival should be a clear signal to our partners in the European Union to turn down the invitation," Marko Mihkelson said in his web log.

In his words, President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany would cast serious doubt on EU solidarity if they took part in the event without the Estonian leader.

"The Russian president has of course purposely left the Estonian president out of the list of invitees to see whether a wedge could be driven between Finland and Hungary and Tallinn," the lawmaker said.

"Moscow might be vexed by Estonia's being perhaps even more active than Finland and Hungary in defending the rights of kindred peoples," the committee chairman continued, "but in the sober international world this could not be a reason for not extending an invitation."