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Udmurt Language Day celebrated grandiosely

The Udmurt Language Day was initiated by the Udmurt representative organisation Udmurt Kenesh and first celebrated on 27 November 2018.

udmurdi keele päev

On 27 November 2001, the State Council of the Republic of Udmurtia adopted a decision on the state languages of the Republic of Udmurtia, and Udmurt became the state language. However, as of 2020, Udmurt Language Day has been a national holiday in the Russian Federation.

Udmurt Language Day was widely celebrated again this year, with major events starting on 21 November, when the 125th anniversary of the births of the greatest Udmurt poets Ashalchi Oki (1898-1973) and Kuzebay Gerd (1898-1937) was celebrated at the Udmurt National Theatre. Events took place at the Udmurt National Library, where an exhibition of contemporary Udmurt literature was opened and a new book by Svetlana Potorochina, written in collaboration with local scholar Alexei Korobeinik, was presented. In the evening, a Udmurt music evening was organised at the Friendship of Nations House, with a keynote performance by the Estonian Udmurt poet and rapper Bogdan Anfinogenov.

However, the highlight of 27 November was the first live broadcast of the evening internet radio Daur FM.

Throughout the week, both in the capital of Udmurtia, Izhevsk, and in the districts, there was a variety of events dedicated to the Udmurt Language Day, including lectures, educational games, excursions, as well as, for example, Udmurt dance evenings.

The tone of all the events was positive, and the greetings from the leaders of the various Finno-Ugric peoples, as well as the greeting from Pyotr Tultaev, Chairman of the Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples of Russia, which included three speeches, underlined the positive tone: ‘the Udmurt language lived’, ‘the Udmurt language lives’ and ‘the Udmurt language will live’.

In reality, the Udmurt language is in a very bad shape, as pointed out by the scholar Albert Razin (1940-2019), who set himself on fire holding a poster with a poem by the Avar poet Rasul Khamzatov: ‘And if tomorrow my language disappears, I am ready to die today’. The number of Udmurt speakers fell from 324,000 in 2010 to 256,00o in 2021, a decrease of 21%. 69.2% of Udmurts consider Udmurt as their mother tongue. Last year, only eight books were published in Udmurt.

On the occasion of the Udmurt Language Day, the situation and problems of the Udmurt language were not discussed at any of the events, judging by the media coverage.

For those who are more interested in the Udmurt people and culture, we offer further reading on the Udmurt National Library’s website (in Russian, link below).