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«THE TATAR GAZETTE»

N 3-4, 18.04.2000


AN INTERVIEW WITH WEBMASTER

From the editor.

What's a webmaster? This is the person without whom our newspaper wouldn't come out to the Internet – he's administering our web site – Esa Anttikoski from Finland. But how could that happen that Internet version of The Tatar Gazette from Mordovia is made by a Finn?

For a long time I've been dreaming of making our newpaper's site on the Internet. Since my computer is at my home, in a simple Tatar village of Aksenovo, and the nearest Internet provider is in Saransk, I thought that I would go bankrupt paying for the long-distance calls because you have to pay for the telephone line connection from Aksenovo to Saransk. Thinking so I lost a lot of time till I found out quite by chance that there is a provider's modem in Lyambir, our district centre, and I wouldn't have to pay for long-distance calls.

In March, 1999, our newspaper got the Internet access. But it turned out that you have to pay quite a lot of money to get a page, big enough to place the newspaper. I was cast down, we had not enough money even to pay for our stationery and paper for printer.

Over six months had passed. I worked in the net, took part in different Internet conferences. I got to know a lot of interesting people, I wrote and got hundreds (thousands now) electronic letters.

That's how I got acquainted with Esa Anttikoski. We started corresponding on a quite bitter question (first we used English and then we got to Russian, Esa speaks Russian very well; now he is working on his Ph.D.) and soon we came to the same opinion. On the 1st of November he wrote me that he could make the e-version of our newspaper for us, he read the 15 articles I had placed in the Tatar discussion group in the Internet and they seemed rather interesting for him. But what impressed me the most, Esa offered to make it FOR FREE! And here in Russia it is usually considered that the foreigners are near, mean and even a little bit greedy people!

I agreed immediately and I'm not sorry about it. I'm very grateful to our Finnish friend Esa Anttikoski. Thanks to his efforts our newspaper appeared as the first Tatar newspaper in the net. It was on the 3rd of November, 1999. The name of Esa Anttikoski has entered the history of the Tatar electronic newspapers forever. Read the interview with this extraordinary man!

Date of the interview: March 22, 2000.

Esa Anttikoski– Esa, how is it going at the moment?

– I'm in panic because of my dissertation. A lot of work, too little time...

– Though you have little time, could you please tell some words abour yourself for our readers?

– Well, I'm 32 years old, not married. I'm a Finnish Protestant-Lutheran, but I'm rather an atheist. I was born in the town of Espoo near Helsinki and I grew up in Lappeenranta in the South-East of Finland not far from the Finnish-Russian border and the town of Vyborg.

– Who are your parents, brothers and sisters?

– My dad, his name's Aimo, he was an engineer at a pulp and paper mill, now he's retired. My mom, her name's Saara, is a housekeeper. My brother Timo is an engineer, works for the company “Ahlstrom” producing heating plants. My sister Marja-Liisa graduated from Sibelius Academy, higher musical Institute of the country. She plays the piano and works as a concert pianist and as a teacher as well. Soon she is going to leave for Swiss to her fiancee, she'll be working there.

– Where did you study?

– I grew up near a pulp and paper mill, worked there in the summers and maybe that's why I decided to choose the humanities. In 1986 I entered the University of Joensuu (in the East of Finland).

Joensuu is a medium sized city (over 50 000 inhabitants), it's the centre of the Northern Karjala province (don't confuse it with the Russian Karjala Republic!). It's peculiarity is a large number of orthodox Finns (the Finns are mostly Protestant-Lutherans). Before the so called Stolbovski Peace treaty of 1617 between Russia and Sweden, our area belonged to Russia, later the most part of the orthodox Karelians left for Russia, where they live up to now (the Karelians of the Tver region). But a part of the Karelians stayed here and having kept their religion, they accepted the language, and the culture of the Lutheran people, that inhabited the region later.

Except that, there came many Russians recently (a few thousand people) to our city. These are mostly the so called repatriants, i.e. Russian Finns, who got the possibility to come back to their historical land (from which most of them, however, left for the Leningrad region back in the 17th century, when Finland didn't exist yet as a state). Their language is Russian, their culture is Soviet, they adapt with great difficulties.

Our province is also one of the poorest in the country, it has a high rate of unemployment, people gradually leave for the South, closer to Helsinki and other big cities.

– Esa, tell us about your University.

- The life of Joensuu largely depends on the University. This is one of the provincial universities established in 1960s-1970s according to the regional policy of developing the unsuccessful regions of our country. Our university was established in 1969, it has 5 departments, the teaching and scientific work is directed in 7 profiles: pedagogical, humanitarian, natural and sociological sciences, forestry, orthodox theology, psychology. It has over 5 thousand students.

– What did you study at the University?

– In Joensuu I studied Russian and English, sociology and the Baltic-Finn languages a little. In 1989-90 I passed the alternative service (worked for our University's library without being paid), in 1990-1991 I worked on the trainee job in the Moscow University, at the same time I worked as a translator for the Finnish editorial office of “The Soviet Union” magazine, for the foreign broadcasts office of the Radio Moscow. I had been visiting Russia rather often (mostly St.Petersburg, Moscow, Petrozavodsk). I also worked with Russian tourists and “businessmen” in Finland. In 1995 I graduated from the University and entered the post graduate course.

– Esa, what's your dissertation about?

– I'm writing a dissertation called “The Planning of the Karelian Literary Language in 1930s”. That is I'm researching the attempts to create the Karelian written languages, taken in the Tver region and Karjala Republic at that time.

The situation in Karjala differs from the situation in the other republics of the former USSR, because the leading posts in the republic were at first occupied by some Finnish communists, who had to save themselves in Russia after the Civil War that they had lost in Finland. First as the literary language for the Karelians the close Finnish language was used, the attempts to create the Karelian written language failed partly because of the language and territorial dissociation of the Karelians, and mainly for political reasons. The work on creating the Karelian written language recommenced only in the late 1980s.

– Where did you collect the data for your dissertation?

– I collected the materials mostly in the libraries and archives of Petrozavodsk and Moscow. In the end of 1998 I defended my candidate dissertation, and this autumn I should defend my doctorate dissertation.

– What do you do and what are you interested in except the Internet and your dissertation?

– Except all this, I'm interested in the languages and the peoples of Russia in the whole, in its national and lanuage policy. A few years ago I decided to learn some language apart from Karelian for I could easier research the history of the Soviet national and language policy. Sure, I wanted to learn Tatar, the language of the largest “minority group” in Russia, but since there were no Tatar text-books and dictionaries in our University's library, my choice was to study the Komi-Zyran language that is a kindred language to the Finnish. Now I can easily read Komi newspapers, their literature using a dictionary despite the fact that I have never spoken it and have been to Komi Republic only once.

Now I've got a teach-yourself book of the Tatar language but I don't have enough time for a serious study. It's a curious fact that the Tatar language, being from another language family, has a lot of common features with the Ugro-Finnic languages, with the Finnish, in particular (the harmony of vowels, the existence of possessive suffixes, postpositions and others). There was a period when the linguists spoke about the existence of the Ural-Altai languages family, to which supposedly belong both Turkic and Ugro-Finnic languages. Nowadays, this hypothesis of their relations is supposed not to be proved, but that will be enough to take a look at the grammar of these languages to make sure that they are much closer to each other, let's say, by their grammar structures, than Finnish and Russian, or Tatar and Russian.

– Tell us, please, do you have any Tatar friends?

– I have some Tatar friends in Kolomna. They are Mishars from the Penza region. The young have lost their language there, the only expression of their being Tatar is, according to my observations, the folk songs, some peculiarities in the way they speak Russian (some elements of “rustic”, “uneducated” Russian speech), some kind of uncertainity about the religion (as I understand, only the funeral remains traditional). I think that the Tatars, living in Finland have kept their traditions more carefully in this respect.

– Esa, how do you earn your living, do you get a scholarship?

– Well, speaking about this scientific or close to scientific work, the most curious thing is that they pay for it here, even if not much.

For four years I had been receiving a small salary from the Ministery of Education, and now I'm being payed a grant from the “Fund for the Karelian Culture Developement” (though I'm not Karelian – my parents come from the West of Finland, not far away from the Finnish and Sweden language border). I prefer not think about what happens after the defense. It's rather difficult to get a job at the University and I don't think that the commercial structures will be eager to employ a specialist with Ph.D. in language planning...

Well, that's the way life is. You see, when I was eighteen, I had a possibility to stay and work for the pulp and paper mill where I had been earning much more that I am now, and maybe ever will. My former classmates who stayed there have cars, houses, children and wives, whom they have, however, already divorced... I don't think I should be jealous.


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