TALLINN - Estonians were angered by being excluded from a festival of Finno-Ugric culture that is taking place in the Russian republic of Mordova on July 19.
In what was seen as a political snub, Russian President Vladimir Putin extended invitations to Finnish and Hungarian leaders to attend the festival for a three-way meeting.
But Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Prime Minister Andrus Ansip were left off the guest list, causing some politicians to call for a total boycott of the event.
Estonians count themselves as key members of the Finno-Ugric people, who are linked by similarities in culture and language.
The head of the Estonian parliamentary European affairs committee, Marko Mihkelson, called on Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany to show solidarity with Estonia by rejecting their invitations.
"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," Mihkelson wrote on his website.
He said the snub showed Russia was in no way ready to normalize relations with Estonia, which have been rocky since the removal of the Bronze Soldier monument in Tallinn.
Mihkelson said Russia might still be smarting over Estonia's occasional criticism of the treatment of Finno-Ugric people living in Russian territory.
Several members of the European Parliament also urged the Finnish and Hungarian leaders to reject their invitations. Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam and Hungarian MEP Gyorgy Schopflin wrote an open letter calling the snub an "obvious provocation" and an attempt to isolate Estonia from its cultural allies.
Even Hungary's own parliamentary foreign affairs committee chair, Zsolt Nemeth, urged Gyurcsany not to attend, arguing the meeting could isolate Estonia.
But the protests failed to deter Halonen and Gyurcsany, who both said they would attend the event and meet with Putin. Halonen was supported by an editorial in the Finnish newspaper Kaleva, which urged her to take up the invitation to avoid future strain between Finland and Russia.
Estonia may not be totally excluded from the event, which takes place in the Mordovan capital of Saransk. The cultural attache to Moscow was invited to take part, but only in the cultural elements of the festival.