Russia, Tver Region, 2014–2017
first appeared in the Tverian region after the Russian defeat
in the Russo-Swedish war (1610–1617). Under Swedish
rule, residents of Ingria and Korelian isthmus were forced
to convert from the Orthodox religion to Protestantism.
This together with famine and disease led to an exodus.
By 1670 about 25–30 thousands of orthodox Karels found
shelter in Russian lands.
More than 300 years after moving from Karelian isthmus to Tver region, they still preserved their language and culture. But what is sad is that the generation of today’s 50–60 year-olds is the last one that can still fluently speak the language. And that means that in 30 years Karelian language might completely disappear in Tver region.
In 1930-s there
were about 200.000 Karels in Tver region, more than in Karelia
itself. An autonomous district was organized. Until 1939 the
language was taught at schools, newspapers and books in Karelian
were issued. But as the relationship to Finland became
worse, this all stopped, there were no more Karels, all were now
Russians, supporting Karels was considered dangerous. And to call
oneself a Karel was uncomfortable and shameful. This shame
is still there, Karels are ashamed of being Karels.
today’s 30–40 year-olds, born in mixed families, it was
common that a Russian farther prohibited his wife to talk
Karelian to children. Russian and Karelian villages
we in rivalry, Karels were (and sometimes still are)
considered as «second sort» people. My story
is an attempt to sort out what is left from the
Karelian originality, to understand whether Karels still
consider themselves as a nation, and if they do, how
is it shown.