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Language of Karelian People

Language of the Karelian People. Karelian language – Zaonezhsk dialect – is formed at the territory of the modern Republic of Karelia during: from the end of IX century to the middle of XVIII century, a separate Slav-Ihorsk language, relating to the group of the East Slav languages and including a considerable amount of words and lexicon uses from Slav-Izhorsk, Ancient Russian and Karelian languages, as well as various words and phrases from Finnish, Swede, Vepsian and Lepps languages, with Runic writing, and from the beginning of the XVIII century – with writing on the basis of the Russian alphabet.

The formation of the Karelian language took place quite rigidly over many centuries. This is due to the severe north climate and the vast territory of Karelia. Ancient predecessors of the Karelian people first emerged in the land of Karelia around eight thousand years ago and lived in small groups at great distances from each other, divided by boundless forests. With this, their languages, beliefs, life patterns and everyday life were very similar to each other, which is also confirmed by the various archaeological finds and survived: ancient Runic inscriptions and rock drawings - petroglyphs.

Originally Karelian people were formed of five major kindred tribes, who lived in the land of Karelia: Karelian tribes living in the north and north-west of Lake Ladoga; Suomi tribes living west of Lake Ladoga; Veps tribes who lived between the Ladoga and Onega lakes; Suomi tribes who lived almost across the entire modern Karelia and the Izhorsk Slavic tribes who lived in the south of the modern Republic of Karelia.

In the IX century, during the period of emergence, to the south of Karelia, of an ancient Russian State, the territory of Karelia was visited by the first ancient Russian immigrants, who mixed with the tribes living in the territory originally. In X-XI centuries, the southern part of Karelia was under the sphere of influence of ancient Russian state, resulting in new ancient Russian pioneers heading into the Karelia, and after them - the many peasants who had fled from the oppression of their princes, and Orthodox priests. These brave people formed their settlements in different, hard to reach places of Karelia and went further into Karelia - on the coast of the White Sea to the Kola Peninsula and Arkhangelsk regions. At the same time, ancient Russian settlers gradually mixed with the residing here Izhor Slavs, Karelians, Suomi, Veps and Lepps; resulting in their ethnic fusion, use of their cultural traditions and phonosematic mixing of the languages.

At the beginning of the XII century a large part of Karelia has voluntarily joined the old Russian Novgorod Principality, while the western part of Karelia was soon captured by the Kingdom of Sweden, which formed next to the old tribal center Karel - city of Korely a Swedish border stronghold - Vyborg. Immediately after that, the territory of western Karelia was resettled by many Swedish farmers, who then mixed with the local population. During this period, the process of formation of the Karelian language intensified and reached its peak by the end of XII century, when the majority of Russian immigrants and Izhor Slavs almost completely mixed with the Karelians, Veps, Suomi and Lepps. It is in this historical period the inhabitants of Karelia began to feel as the formed people's community - the Karelian People.

With this, in the middle of XII century Suomi tribes who lived in the western Karelia and mixing with the Swedish settlers, moved to the west in Sweden and later assimilated there with the Sum and Em tribes, initiating the formation of modern Finnish People.

When in the second half of the XV century large part of Karelia, together with the Principality of Novgorod formally joined the Moscow State, and the south-western part of Karelia, belonged to the Kingdom of Sweden, the process of formation of the Karelian language was almost complete, with this, by this time the Russian immigrants and Izhor Slavs became to form an ethnic dominant of the Karelian people. This was reflected on the Karelian language, which became to have a Slavic-Izhor structure and contain mostly Ancient Russian vocabulary, enriched by many Karelian, Sum, Vepsian and Leppsian words and phrases. Karelian language itself, with this, became to be known as Zaonezhsk dialect. The emergence of this commonly accepted name of Karelian language completed a diachronic process of its formation into a separate national language of the Karelian People.

By the end of XVIII century Karelian language - Zaonezhsk dialect was spoken by an absolute majority of the Karelian people. In addition, Zaonezhsk dialect became the language for inter-tribal communication of Karelians, Sum, Veps and Lepps, who lived in remote locations, isolated from the rest of Karelia. Zaonezhsk dialect was used in the first recordings of many of Karelian folk tales and Karelian epos «Kalevala». With this, Zaonezhsk dialect was not spoken or understood by neither the Russian Empire government officials who came to Karelia from St. Petersburg, nor the new Russian immigrants, that during the XIX-XX centuries continued to arrive to Karelia from other provinces of the Russian Empire. Moreover, even today almost all words and phrases of the Zaonezhsk dialect are not clear for the representatives of the Russian and other East Slav people. Thus, despite the unquestioned phontosemantic resemblance of the Karelian and Russian languages, their dialect relationship is far from unclear.

For example, the Karelian word "lyudiki" - translated into Russian as: "people", the word "kehtat" - "desired", "kalaydat" - "clink", "udnovat" - "sleep", "lifkat" - hang out, "torok" - "wind", and Karelian phrase "si akoy pravoi" - is translated into Russian as: "you are right" (all these examples, Russian person, not possessing the Karelian language will find it quite difficult to suggest the exact meaning of Karelian words, despite their phontosemantic proximity to Russian words). As seen from these examples, although the Karelian and Russian languages are phontosemanticaly similar to each other, however, the Karelian language is not a Russian dialect and vice versa. That is why, to understand the meaning of words and phrases of the Karelian unprepared for an un-prepared Russian person is quite difficult. This only proves once again the fact that Karelian language - Zaonezhsk dialect is a distinct and fully-formed East Slav language - the national language of the Karelian People.

As a result of the Socialist Revolution in the Russian Empire, which took place in October 1917, in Karelia in the period of: November 1917 to March 1918 Russian power was established, and on 8 June, 1920 Karelian Labor Commune was formed, which on 25 July 1923 was transformed into Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Karelia ASSR) within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Karelian ASSR on Mar 31, 1940 received the status of the sixteenth Soviet Republic and was renamed into the Karelian-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic (Karelian-Finnish SSR). At the same time, the territory of the Karelian-Finnish SSR has increased due to new areas, that were now owned by the USSR after the war with Finland in the 1939-1940 - Karelian-Finnish SSR was granted the Finnish industry enterprises and human settlements. Mainila, Lembolovo, Kerro, Termolovo, Kallelovo and others. Thus, Karelia for the first time in its history has gained statehood and became legally full constituent Entity of the international law, while being the part of USSR.

However, the Soviet authorities at the same time attempted to abolish the historic memory and national identity of the Karelian People. To this end, in 1920, for more than six decades under the cover of communism "education" and the preservation of minority tribes of Karels, Veps and Lepps, preserved in isolated and remote areas of Karelia, the Soviet authorities pursued a deliberate policy on the artificial division of the Karelian people into the individual language groups, the so-called: "Russian", "Karelian-Finnish", "Vepsian" and "Leppsian". Thus, the Karelian language - Zaonezhsk dialect was forcibly replaced by the Russian language, and the use of the Zaonezsk dialect was prohibited in the official institutions and public places. In addition, the Karelian people were now expected to learn, in addition to Russian language, even more rarely used languages: Karelian-Finnish, Vepsian and Leppsian, which were spoken only by few representatives of the tribes living in isolation from the civilization and not having even a remote understanding of the achievements of the modern science and technical progress. This is why the many described languages do not have scientific words and technical terms, without the daily use of which, the obvious to us modern civilized life activity is absence to use, and moreover the modern education.

Despite such anti-Karelian policy, the Soviet authorities have not been able to artificially divide the Karelian people into separate fictional “nationalities”, as by the end of 1970, more than 90% of all new Karelian "nationalities" were evenly mixed among themselves, including all minority representatives of Karelian-Finnish, Veps and Lepps tribes. Thus, the active mixture of different Karelian "nationalities" occurred not only on the territory of Karelia, but also on the territories of the adjoined Leningrad, Archangelsk and Murmansk regions. Thus, in spite of the undertaken by the Soviet authority numerous and long lasting attempts for formal abolition of the Karelian People, it was revived again in the second half of the XX century and, thus, clearly established its historical right to exist.

Currently Karelian People represent the most of the inhabitants of the Republic of Karelia. Unfortunately, the national language of the Karelian people - Zaonezhsk dialect, at present has lost its former importance and wide distribution. Now Zaonezhsk dialect is not heard around Karelia, as it was less than 80 years ago. But, although in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Karelia, the official language throughout the territory is the Russian language, however, now Zaonezhsk dialect is slowly, but surely revived in the real life. At the same time, in some hard-to-get-to, north and north-western parts of Karelia there are still some small Karelian-Finnish, Vepsian and Lepps people, which, as before, live far away from civilization and speak their rare languages, not applicable for modern education and scientific and technological development. However, the vast majority of young members of these peoples have long lived in cities and forgot their relic languages.

Thus, at present the most important national issue for all the Karelian People is the revival of the national Karelian language - Zaonezhsk dialect. Recovery of the use, across the Karelian territory, of the Zaonezhsk dialect its mass popularization and dialectical development, will make the Karelian People more united, strong, original and free!

One of the famous Patriots of the Karelian People, that today revives the Zaonezsk dialect, is the famous Karelian poet, writer and artist Vyacheslav Alekseev Agapitov, who is an Honorary Member of the Regional Public Organization «Free Karelia». Books of poems and songs of V.A. Agapitov on the Zaonezhsk dialect are today printed in large numbers and can be found in bookstores across Karelia and at the organized by V.A. Agapitov thematic lectures in the sanatorium «Martsial waters» and educational tours to the Kondopoga area, was visited by more than five thousand people from different cities of the Republic of Karelia and the Russian Federation. V.A. Agapitov is constantly engaged in the website «Free Karelia» on the Zaonezhsk dialect, ensuring the timely translation of new material of our website and popularization of the Zaonezhsk dialect among residents of the Republic of Karelia, including among the members of our Organization.

This is what Vyacheslav Alekseev Agapitov says about his activities in the Zaonezhsk dialect, so much needed by the Karelian people:

Kogda ya khodil v shkolu, to khorosho pomnyu, kak nashi novye uchiteli, u kotorykh bylo priekhano iz Moskvy I Leningrada, pravili nash yazyk Karel’skiy, yazyk, na kotorom bayali etta vekami. Mne dumno non’, chto gorodskim tyazhelo bylo kazhen den’ slukhat’, kaki z-za part neslos’: “Uberi kumpol!” ili “Konchi kyraidat’!”A my verteli svoimi kumpolami, kyraydali chto-ni russko-karel’sko, nyugaidali, libaidali, lavaidali, kolaidali, guraidali, sholyaidali (za myatasom u reki), lochkali orekhi Kedrovy da inogda vtyurivalis’ v devok, bole, pomnyu, v internatskikh; osenny kanikuly mogli v odnochas’ye stat’ goryushkom velikim: layba motorna torkalas’ v poselkovu pristan’, sbirala nashikh devok i vezla Onegom azhno do Uzkikh Salom. My rosli, slukhali, kazhis’, “Bitlz”, strogali iz gorbylya gitar’ya, istoshno myalyaidali cho-to s klubnoy sceny, na vonyuchikh furgonakh tryaslis’ kudy-ni pod Seletsko, ryli v tamoshnikh lyadinakh yamy da sadili semena yelovy. Nas tyanulo v drugi zemli, a kak poraz’yekhalis’, to skoro stosnulis’ po rodnoy dereven’ke lambasrutskoy, etym krasovitym gub’yam ozernym, po scheleikam surovym, po gory Lyubvi. Gdi-to v samom nutre nashem vidat’ gorel tikhim ognem Karel’skiy yazyk rodnoy – takoy komedny dlya ukha chuzhogo. On, Karel’skiy yazyk, pyalilsya v temnyakh i na svetu, teplya serdtsovya nashi, nu a dushi uzh somy neslis’ tudy za more (tak zovut u nas Onegushko), terebya dushen’ki drugi – srodnikov, druzey da priyateley. Koli kto mni-ka nun’ku perechit (mol, zachim virshi sochinyyat’ na Karel’skom yazyke – ved’ narodu uzh pochti ne ostalos’), to v otvet odno skazhu: esi nashi slavny zemlyaki Fedosova, Ryabininy, Schegolyonok da i mnogi drugi – govorili i peli na Karel’skom yazyke – na zdeshnem Zaonezhskom govore. I kto mni zapretit delat’ to zhe? Nash Zanoezhskiy govor, chto I nashi Karel’skie lyudi – ne suetny lyudi, drugim – ne pomeshnya, no i svoe, dumno mne, na porugan’ ne otdadut. Vse, chto etta v knige napisano, vse virshi i pesni daryu s lyubovyu rodnym zemlyakam, vsim lyudyam dobrym. Primite, druzi, moi skromny darovya!

V.А. Agapitov continue his story but in Russian:

Karelia is a unique region, representing a common historical and cultural complex. The uniqueness of Karelia is in its wonderful historic monuments, the most famous of which are Zaonezhsk peninsula and the island of Kizhi. Zaonezhsk peninsula and adjacent Kizhi archipelago, accounts for around 500 islands - the historical center of Karelia. But in addition, Zaonezhe is surprisingly rich with natural resources, in particular schungite remarkable landscapes and their talented narrators, that preserved their Karelian folk tales about the heroes of the Ancient Karelia. It is curious that Russian tales were also written on the territory of Karelia, runes, and the Runes of the Finnish People, that formed the famous epos «Kalevala». So the dialect of the people of Karelia softly accommodates the words from Russian and Finnish-Ugric languages, giving the dialect a unique feature. This Zaonezhsk dialect - the Karelian language - is spoken not only by the residents of our wonderful region. Quite recently we began creating literary works on Zaonezhsk dialect. For example, here is one of my poems, written in Zaonezhsk dialect:

Ya Lyubil Vas, Ta lyubov’ moya, kazhis'.
Ne otmadela, vnutri skhoronyas’,
No puskay ona bole Vas Ne blazhit,
Net kekhtanya Vas dolit' u menya.
Ya lyubil Vas storonkoy, bez nadii,
Onogdy robel, to odynsi styl.
Ya lyubil Vas, zhadobushka, chto div’e,
Chtob kto-ni asche edak polyubil.


Once one of our venerable Karelian poets said to me: «Vyacheslav do not write poetry on Zaonezhsk dialect. It is futile, you cannot write "I love you" on that dialect!» I was upset by this statement and translated many of the Pushkin's poems into Zaonezhsk dialect. But by the time of the arrival of the translation, I have already written many of my own poems in Zaonezhsk dialect. Curiously, in these verses there is not only Onego, forest, birds - things about which the residents of my beloved Karelia sang hundreds of years ago, but there are modern realities as well. Here for example:

I sit in the kitchen small,
On the side jazz.
Kalaidat Jackson
Louis with couple of words.
Udnovat’ mne ili
Or pour new tee?
«Beacon» moved: in Chili
May is now.
In the dark I want to sleep,
Air got colder to the night.
I will open windows,
In the window Each one is you.

Perhaps this poem confirms contemporariness of my other poems, written in the Karelian language. And yet I am often asked: what is the number of your potential readers? - I answer: the older and middle aged generation of Karelian People understand this language, only in Zaonezhe, at present, resides about seven thousand people who understand Zaonezhsk dialect, but in Petrozavodsk every twenty-fifth resident is from - Zaonezhe. There are those who understand the Zaonezhsk dialect in Kondopoga, Medvezhyegorsk ... By the way, these verses came to liking not only for those who from a young age are familiar with Zaonezhsk dialect. For example, known Petrozavodsk bard Zhidkov Alexei, born in the Russian city of Vyatka, wrote several of his songs to my poems, written in Zaonezhsk dialect. Here's one of those songs:

Rosstani ne syskat’,
Tropy odva vidat’.
Ne nab dolgo lifkat’,
Chtoby vse uvidet’.
Tserkvy netu sleda Na
gorushke – pusto. Bylo
izb ob leto Etta dosyul’ gusto.
Zhit’ye kto porushil:
Tat’ al’ svoi cherti?
Vozere ni dushi,
Toroktryastoy vertit.

I never had national arrogance. This is how people are brought up in Karelia. And my ancestors lived here since the 17 century, prior to end of the school I lived in Zaonezhe and then, for ten years, worked at the museum «Kizhi» and lived there as well. In recent years the literature of indigenous peoples, small peoples throughout the world is developing quite strongly. As an example one could use Karelia, where new books are more often published in Karelian language, the Karelian-Finnish, Vepsian languages. I am writing poems in not very common Karelian language, which should not be confused with some Russian dialect. I think if to talk about it as a phenomenon, than its catalyst was globalization. We are, indeed, imposed one world language - English, and with it a state of thought. Many people are trying to resist it. I think this is no simply the resistance to globalization, but also to urbanization. We watched the loss of the root layer of our culture, manifested in the language of the village, province. The same Russian classics, with the exception of some, lived in the province. In return to the Karelian roots I see the desire to understand the threat, that hangs over the distinctive culture of the Karelian People, as the culture is formed of traditions, including language tradition.