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The Sami Ethnic Group’s Place in the North’s Cultural Traditions Webinar

On November 30, Arctic.ru organized a webinar entitled “The Sami Ethnic Group’s Place in the North’s Cultural Traditions.” Professor Olga Ivanishcheva, DSc (Philology) and Head of the Russian Philology Faculty at Murmansk Arctic State University, discussed the creation of the Sami ethnic group’s written language in Russia and its development from the 1930s.

After the presentation, Olga Ivanishcheva replied to questions from the audience.

Did the Vasily Alymov case seriously influence Sami language studies and the language's preservation?

Yes, I believe that substantial attention was devoted to this issue, as evidenced by archive documents. I was unable to discuss all my findings, but I have some unique archive documents that I was able to study. To be honest, Alymov's death is a tragic episode in the Soviet history, not only with regard to the Sami language but also with regard to the history of our territory. As I see it, this episode influenced our history and forced us to slow down our pace. But it is the history of our country and it cannot be undone.

What is happening to the languages of small ethnic groups? These ethnic groups consider the preservation of the language and linguistic culture to be highly important. What, in your opinion, should be done to preserve their languages?

Four alphabets are currently available. According to Vladimir Alpatov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, one of them can hardly be called legitimate. "Latin-based alphabets cannot be considered legitimate," Alpatov notes. Three other alphabets, including Antonov's Sami language alphabet of 1990, Kert's Sami language alphabet of 1986 and the Sami language alphabet compiled by Kuruch, Vinogradova and Yakovleva in 1991, can be used for practical purposes because they don't contain Latin letters. Therefore they can be considered legitimate. To my mind, we need to preserve the elements that still exist, such as the high-quality and serious Sami literature and a very active Sami community. I know many of these people, and I am very happy to know that they are always concerned with the state of the Sami language. We cooperate with the Murmansk Regional Government all the time, we single out problems and try to speak our mind, without imposing our opinion on the Sami community. I believe that all these aspects need to be developed.

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