Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
According to the 2010 national census, there are 228,235 Komi and 94,456 Komi-Permyaks in the Russian Federation. Komi-Permyaks are ethnically close to Komi and share a common language, Komi. They are shamanist-animist in religious beliefs. Most Komi-Permyak live in the former Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug in the former Perm Oblast.
The Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug (AOk) was formed in February 1925. Since the late 1980s a local movement has advocated the unification of the AOk with the Komi republic.
In November 1992 the First World Congress of Finno-Ugrian Peoples took place in the Komi Republic. Delegates called for self-determination for all indigenous peoples and national minorities and condemned ‘Russian imperialism’. The Second Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples was held in July 1995 to demand new rights, including property rights in their traditional areas of settlement and language privileges.
In 2004 residents of the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug (AOk) and neighbouring Perm Oblast voted in favour of merging their territories to form Perm Krai (district). The unification came into force on 1 December 2005, as of which date the Komi-Permyak AOk was replaced by the Komi-Permyak Okrug (also sometimes referred to as Permyakia) within Perm Krai. The merger was the first of a series of proposed mergers between federal units of the Russian Federation, and specifically the unification of smaller, ‘ethnic’ territories designated as the national homelands of eponymous ethnic groups and Russian provinces. Eighty-five per cent of those who participated voted in favour. One of the principal arguments in favour of the merger was that living standards in the Komi-Permyak AOk would rise.
However, activists have subsequently protested the amalgamation, which they argue has undermined their cultural rights, pointing to the closure of a number of important institutions including a theatre, publishing house and child art centre following the 2005 merger. In 2009, the Komi-Permyaks National Movement sent an official statement to local authorities and to the Moscow Kremlin, expressing their concerns about the future of their national culture and traditions.
Updated December 2020
Minorities and indigenous peoples in
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