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Mordvins

Mordvins

PRONUNCIATION: MORD-vins

ALTERNATE NAMES: Erzias; Mokshas

LOCATION: Russia (Moksha and Sura rivers region)

POPULATION: 1.15 million

LANGUAGE: Mordvin (Moksha and Erzia); Russian

1 INTRODUCTION

There are many Finno-Ugric peoples living in Russia. These groups speak languages that are related to modern Finnish and/or Hungarian and include the Karelians, Komi, Maris, Mordvins, and Udmurts. These groups traditionally lived in the Middle Volga region of Russia and are culturally diverse. This article will focus on one of the largest Finno-Ugric groups, the Mordvins.

The modern Mordvins live in the Russian Federation. The Mordvins consider themselves to be two separate groupsthe Erzias and the Mokshas. Before the Mongol conquest of the thirteenth century, the Mordvins were ruled by their own princes. After the withdrawal of the Mongols in the early fifteenth century, the Mordvins found themselves between the powerful Russian principality of Moscow and the Kazan khanate, a successor state of the Mongols. With the Russian defeat of Kazan in 1552, the Mordvin ethnic territory fell under Russia's control.

Under Russian rule, the Mordvins were gradually made into serfs (feudal peasants bound to a master's land) and became Christians. During the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, many Mordvins left their traditional homeland. These migrations dispersed the Mordvin population, and they gradually became more like ethnic Russians. By 1917, the Mordvins had become one of the most Russian-like of all the minorities in Russia.

In 1936, Soviet authorities granted the Mordvins a self-governing region, which came to be known as the Mordvin Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR), a part of the Soviet Union. During the Soviet period, the Mordvin ASSR was closed to foreigners, largely because there were many forced-labor camps located there.

2 LOCATION

The Mordvins are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Russia, with a population of over 1.15 million. The traditional homeland of the Mordvins are the Moksha and Sura river valleys and their tributaries. The climate is like much of Europe; in January temperatures average about 16 to 18° F (12 to 11° C) and in July temperatures average about 70° F (20° C).

Most Mordvins live outside their homeland republic, usually in neighboring districts, areas farther to the east, or even in the more distant region of Siberia. Outside of the Russian Federation, there are Mordvin communities in Kazakstan and Armenia.

3 LANGUAGE

The Mordvin language actually consists of separate but closely related languages called Moksha and Erzia. Speakers of Moksha and Erzia do not easily understand one another, making Russian the language of communication. Virtually all Mordvins are fluent in Russian, often at the expense of their native language.

4 FOLKLORE

The Mordvins have retained a rich body of oral literature and music, much of which was recorded in the Soviet era. Many Mordvin historical songs (which are actually long narrative poems) may be the remnants of a now-lost Mordvin national epic. These songs include narratives of the Russian conquest of Kazan.

5 RELIGION

Mordvin communities as a whole were converted to Russian Orthodox Christianity in the first half of the eighteenth century, although some had adopted the new religion even earlier. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Mordvins were one of the region's most Christianized minorities. As Russian Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christianity took hold in the Mordvin communities, the Mordvins retained many of their native religious traditions along with the Christian traditions. Their activities included group prayers and animal sacrifices for various spirits. This aspect of Mordvin religious life survived the Soviet period and is still evident today.

6 MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The major holidays of the Mordvins correspond to the Russian Orthodox calendar, with the chief religious holidays being Orthodox New Year (January 6, by the Gregorian calendar) and Easter (in March or April on the Gregorian calendar). Traditionally, however, Mordvins observed most other Christian holidays and festivals as coinciding with the agricultural calendar. Important nonreligious holidays introduced during the Soviet period include New Year's Day (January 1), May Day (May 1), and Victory Day (May 9).

7 RITES OF PASSAGE

Birth rituals were typically performed by a religious specialist, usually an old woman, and included rituals to protect the newborn from harmful spirits. Although baptism was discouraged during the Soviet period, many Mordvins saw it more as a national custom than a religious ritual. The Mordvins have retained the pre-Christian tradition of funeral feasts for the dead, as well as the practice of holding group prayers and making offerings at the tombs of ancestors.

8 RELATIONSHIPS

Interpersonal relations among the Mordvins (such as greeting, body language, and gestures), do not differ substantially from those of Russians. In both Erzia and Moksha, the typical greeting upon seeing someone for the first time on a given day is Shumbrat.

9 LIVING CONDITIONS

Most Mordvins today live in villages, where houses tend to be made out of wood. Typically, the house forms part of a courtyard, to which is attached sheds, barns, and other outbuildings. In addition, nearly every house has its own sauna or bathhouse. Most villages have electric power, but very few houses have any indoor plumbing, and water is usually obtained from a well or a communal pump. Wages are usually very low, and there is little money available for consumer goods. Similarly, health care in rural areas is of poor quality and not always available. However, Mordvins often make use of herbal medicines and other traditional remedies.

10 FAMILY LIFE

Historically, women were more confined to the home and rarely traveled far from their village, so they were less likely to speak Russian or be exposed to Russian culture. As a result, Mordvin women played a large role in the preservation of the Mordvin languages, oral traditions, and customs. In traditional Mordvin society, when a girl married she would leave her home and move in with her husband's family. As a result, a Mordvin family had an interest in delaying a daughter's wedding as long as possible, so as not to lose her labor, and there was a corresponding interest in a son marrying as soon as possible so as to bring an extra worker (his wife) into the family. As a result, marriages sometimes involved eleven-or twelve-year-old Mordvin boys marrying twenty-five-year-old (or older) Mordvin women. During the Soviet period, this custom gradually disappeared, and today Mordvin marriage patterns are similar to those for Russia as a whole. A typical couple today will have only one or two children, whereas before World War II (193945), family sizes were much larger, and the infant mortality rate was also much higher.

11 CLOTHING

Traditional Mordvin festive clothing was typically white and decorated with elaborate embroidery. By the nineteenth century, Mordvin men were dressing in the Russian manner. Summer clothes were often woven out of linen. In winter, woolens and reversed sheepskin coats were common. Currently, everyday clothing is identical to the clothing typical of Russian society as a whole.

12 FOOD

The basis of the Mordvin economy was cereal agriculture, and the staples of the Mordvin diet were bread made from rye flour, as well as oats and barley. During the Soviet period, potatoes also came to form an important part of the Mordvins' diet. The main vegetables include cabbages, carrots, beets, and onions. The main types of meat are pork, chicken, and mutton. Beverages include tea, beer, and vodka.

13 EDUCATION

The language of instruction during the Soviet years was often Russian. Few Mordvins were educated in their native language, especially in the later Soviet period. Typically, Mordvins achieve the equivalent of a high school education.

14 CULTURAL HERITAGE

Beginning in the 1930s, the Soviet authorities created an official Mordvin national culture. A Mordvin national literature emerged in the Soviet style. Poetry, prose, and drama being produced and performed in the two Mordvin languages, and published both in magazines and as separate books. Similarly, Mordvin folk dance groups were created.

15 EMPLOYMENT

Mordvins have traditionally been farmers. During the Soviet period and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mordvin agriculture has been collectivized, with Mordvins either working as part of a group farm or collective (kolkhoz) or as paid employees on a state-owned farm (sovkhoz). During the Soviet period many Mordvins peasants moved into urban areas for industrial work.

16 SPORTS

Numerous sports and games are played at the religious festivals of the Mordvins, especially foot races and horse races, and other contests. The most popular sports are soccer and hockey, which are not only spectator sports but are played by children and young adults alike.

17 RECREATION

The lack of recreational outlets in rural areas has limited the recreational opportunities of rural Mordvins. In larger urban areas, however, common recreational activities include the theater, movies, sports events, and television.

18 CRAFTS AND HOBBIES

Mordvins are skilled at woodcarving, and this forms an important element of their folk art. Another folk art that is especially well-developed is weaving. Beekeeping is a common money-making hobby.

19 SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Alcoholism is a severe problem among the Mordvins. The problem is especially severe in rural areas, where drinking alcohol is essentially the main form of recreation. In addition, the current economic crisis affecting all of the former Soviet Union is also a problem for Mordvins, who are suffering from low and erratic wages and a severely decreasing standard of living.

Another serious problem facing the Mordvins is Russification (legally forcing Russian language and culture in other ethnic groups). The isolation of the Mordvins and their lack of access to Russian education ensured the survival of the Mordvin language, at least before 1917. However, in the twentieth century, the integration of the Mordvins into Soviet society and the access to Russian education (combined with limited opportunities for Mordvin-language education) has resulted in a rapid absorption of Mordvins by Russian society. In fact, Russia's Mordvin population has gradually been declining.

20 BIBLIOGRAPHY

Vuorela, Toivo. "The Mordvinians" In The Finno-Ugric Peoples. Indiana University Uralic and Altaic Series, No. 39, Bloomington: Indiana University, 1964.

WEBSITES

Embassy of Russia, Washington, D.C. Russia. [Online] Available http://www.russianembassy.org/, 1998.

Interknowledge Corp. and Russian National Tourist Office. Russia. [Online] Available http://www.interknowledge.com/russia/, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Russia. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/ru/gen.html, 1998.

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Mordvins

MORDVINS

The largest Finno-Ugrian nationality in Russia (over a million), the Mordvins are divided into the Erzia and the Moksha sub-ethnic communities. They are a highly dispersed nationality, with over 70 percent of Mordvins residing outside their republic.

The Mordvins are an ancient people indigenous to the area between the Volga, Oka, and Sura rivers. They are first mentioned as Mordens in the writings of the sixth-century Gothic historian Jordanes. Of the surviving Volga nationalities they were the first to encounter the Russians even before 1103, in the first recorded skirmish in the Russian Chronicles. With the conquest of Kazan in 1552, all Mordvins came under Russian rule.

Their history under the tsars is one of expropriations of lands, harsh exploitation, assault on native animist beliefs, and periodic conversion campaigns that led to rebellion and flight. Native leaders were killed in futile uprisings or enticed to the Russian side, leaving the Mordvins a dispersed nation of illiterate peasants. By the seventeenth century, the Mordvin homeland had become central Russian territory and the Mordvins there a minority; those fleeing eastward were soon overtaken by the Russian advance. By the end of the nineteenth century, all Mordvins were listed as Russian Orthodox and were considered "sufficiently russified" not to require special schools or translations in their language. Yet the language-based 1897 census recorded 1,023,841 Mordvins.

Under the Soviets, despite their dispersion, lack of a common language, and a weak national self-consciousness, the Mordvins achieved significant cultural progress. While attempts to forge a common language failed, both Erzia and Moksha became literary languages widely used in education and publishing. In 1934, the Mordvins acquired their own Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (26,200 square kilometers) with its capital in Saransk, albeit the majority were Russians and most Mordvins were left outside. However, by the late 1930s, national revival was halted as the elite was decimated in the purges and Soviet nationality policy shifted to emphasizing the Russian language and culture. The Mordvin population, which had slowly risen to 1,456,300 in 1939, continued to erode, dropping to 1,153,500 in the last Soviet census of 1989.

Since perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Mordvins have been trying to stage a national revival. However, despite new freedoms, conditions are unfavorable. Less than 30 percent of the Mordvins live in their republic, where they are a minority and among the poorest. The new national organizations are narrowly based and suffer from separatist demands from militant Erzias. However, hope is still to be found in their relatively large number, the support of fellow Finno-Ugrians abroad, and the world community's concern for endangered cultures and languages.

See also: finns and karelians; nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist

bibliography

Iurchenkov, Valerii. (2001). "The Mordvins: Dilemmas of Mobilization in a Biethnic Community." Nationalities Papers 29 (1):8595.

Kreindler, Isabelle. (1985). "The Mordvinian Languages: A Survival Saga." In Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Soviet National Languages, ed. Isabelle Kreindler. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Lallukka, Seppo. (1990). The East Finnic Minorities in the Soviet Union. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Tiedeakatemia.

Isabelle Kreindler

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Mordvins

Mordvins

ALTERNATE NAMES: Erzias; Mokshas (self-references)
LOCATION: Russia (Moksha and Sura rivers region)
POPULATION: 1.15 million
LANGUAGE: Mordvin (Moksha and Erzia); Russian

INTRODUCTION

The Mordvins are a Finno-Ugric nationality inhabiting the Russian Federation. The term Mordvin, however, is not used by the Mordvins themselves, who consider themselves to be two separate groups-the Erzias and the Mokshas. The first mention of the Mordvins in historical sources may reach back to the 6th century, when the historian Jordanes mentions the "Mordens" as subjects of the Ostrogoths, then inhabiting the South Russian steppe. The Mordvins are identified with more certainty in the Russian Primary Chronicle (a 12th-century collection of history) as inhabiting their present homeland in the 10th century. The Russian chronicles, our earliest sources for Mordvin history, relate that the Mordvins, before the Mongol conquest of the 13th century, lived under their own "princes." Some Mordvin communities paid tribute to Russian princes, while others paid tribute to the Muslim rulers of Volga Bulgaria, centered to the east of the Mordvins at the confluence of the Volga and Kama Rivers. As a result of the Mongol conquest, the Mordvins found themselves subjects of the Golden Horde. In fact, the Mongols established a local administrative center known as Navrochat in the middle of Mordvin ethnic territory. After the collapse of the Golden Horde in the early 15th century, the Mordvins again found themselves straddling the border between the powerful Russian principality of Moscow and the Kazan khanate, a successor state of the Golden Horde roughly corresponding to the geographical location of Volga Bulgaria. With the Russian conquest of Kazan in 1552, the Mordvin ethnic territory as a whole fell under Muscovite control.

Under Russian rule, the Mordvin peasants were gradually enserfed (immobilized) and Christianized, although these processes only began in earnest at the beginning of the 18th century, during the reign of the Russian tsar Peter the Great. As a result of these pressures, the Mordvins took part in the periodic peasant and Cossack rebellions against Russian rule, most notably in the Pugachev uprising in the 1770s. During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, many Mordvin communities migrated out of their traditional homeland along the Oka and Moksha Rivers to the newly conquered steppe lands on both the western and eastern banks of the Volga River. In the 19th century, Mordvin peasants also migrated to the more distant regions of the Transcaucasus, Siberia, Central Asia, and even California.

One result of these migrations was to disperse the Mordvin population, making them more susceptible to Russification, and many Russian observers of the Mordvins before 1917 noted that they were among the most Russified of all Russia's minority nationalities. Although the Mordvins have defied, and continue to defy, the frequent predictions of their total Russification, this dispersal may be one among several reasons for the Mordvins' failure to articulate any political demands as Mordvins during the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917.

The Mordvins' apparent indifference to the political articulation of ethnic issues continued into the early Soviet periods, and it was only in 1936 (more than a decade after neighboring ethnic groups) that the Soviet authorities granted the Mordvins an autonomous region, which came to be known as the Mordvin Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR), a constituent region of the Russian Soviet Federated Republic (RSFSR). However, most Mordvins lived outside of the republic. During the Soviet period, the Mordvin ASSR was closed to foreigners, largely because of the presence of numerous forced-labor camps in the territory of the republic. The republic's Communist administration was notoriously severe, and during the Gorbachev era conservative.

During the era of perestroika (1985-91) and soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a small Mordvin national movement emerged called "Mastorava" after the pre-Christian Mordvin earth spirit. However, the Mordvin republic remained a notoriously conservative and pro-Communist region within the former Soviet Union, and by 1992 the Mastorava movement had ceased to function.

LOCATION AND HOMELAND

According to recent estimates, there are approximately 1.15 million Mordvins in the Soviet Union, making the Mordvins one of the largest ethnic minorities in Russia. The traditional homeland of the Mordvins is the Moksha and Sura River Valleys and their tributaries (these rivers are themselves tributaries of the Oka River). This area corresponds in broad terms to the territory of the current Republic of Mordovia, which occupied 26,200 square kilometers (10,100 square miles) and whose capital is the city of Saransk. The Republic of Mordovia and the immediately adjacent regions are located within the forest-steppe zone, with broadleaf forests interspersed with isolated areas of grasslands and fields. The climate is very much continental, with January temperatures averaging -12 to -11ºc (about 16 to 18ºf) and July temperatures averaging 20ºc (about 70ºf).

Most Mordvins, however, live outside their titular republic, either in the neighboring districts of Penza, Nizhnii Novgorod (formerly Penza), or in areas further to the east, such as Tatarstan or the districts of Simbirsk (formerly Ul'ianovsk), Saratov, Samara (formerly Kuibyshev), and Orenburg, or even in the more distant region of Siberia. Outside of the Russian Federation, Mordvin communities can be found in Kazakh-stan and Armenia.

LANGUAGE

The Mordvin language actually consists of separate but closely related languages called Moksha and Erzia. Moksha and Erzia belong to the Volga Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric language family. These languages are most closely related to Mari, another member of the Volga Finnic branch, and are more distantly related to Finnish and Estonian. Moksha and Erzia constitute two separate literary languages as well and, for the most part, these two languages are not mutually comprehensible, making Russian the language of communication between Erzias and Mokshas. Moksha speakers number approximately 300,000, and Erzia speakers approximately 500,000.

Virtually all Mordvins are fluent in Russian, often at the expense of their native language, and both Moksha and Erzia are heavily influenced by Russian, especially lexically. However, there also exists a small community of Mordvins in Tatarstan, known as Karatais, who long since abandoned the use of Mordvin, and speak only Tatar while retaining a strong sense of Mordvin identity.

Mordvin names consist of a first name, a patronymic (the father's name), and a surname. Since their Christianization in the early 18th century, Mordvin first names, patronymics, and often surnames are identical to common Russian names. However, some Mordvin surnames are derived from Mordvin words, such as Vergazov (vergaz meaning wolf) and Atiakshev (atiaksh meaning rooster).

FOLKLORE

The Mordvins have retained a rich body of oral literature and music, much of which was recorded in the Soviet era. Of particular interest are Mordvin historical songs, which some scholars have tried to identify as the remnants of a now-lost Mordvin national epic. Whether or not this is the case, a number of Mordvin historical songs (which in fact, are extensive narrative poems), have been passed down. These include narratives of the Russian conquest of Kazan, as well as accounts of Christianization in the 18th century.

In addition to the many songs, riddles, folk tales, and fairy tales that constitute the body of Mordvin oral literature, the Mordvins, despite their conversion to Christianity, have retained much of the mythology describing the spirits of their native religion. To be sure, Christian motifs are evident in many of the narratives, but at the same time much of the native tradition was retained and recorded by ethnographers. This mythology includes accounts of the creation of the world. In these accounts, the Erzia supreme deity is Paza, or Chama-Paz, and the Moksha one is called Shkai.

RELIGION

Mordvin communities as a whole were converted to Russian Orthodox Christianity in the first half of the 18th century, but some communities and individuals had adopted the new religion in the 17th and even 16th centuries. Although the Russian missionaries involved in the conversion of the Mordvins often made use of violence (and occasionally used troops to subdue Mordvin resistance), by the end of the 18th century, Russian observers often noted with satisfaction that the Mordvins were not only the most Russified of the region's minority nationalities, but also the most thoroughly Christianized. In fact, while Russian Orthodox Christianity as well as non-Orthodox sects sank deep roots in the Mordvin communities, the Mordvins retained much of their native religious orientation, which coexisted with Christian traditions. Not only did Mordvins retain their native mythology, but they continued to venerate native spirits, shrines, and their ancestors. Their activities included communal prayers and animal sacrifices for various field spirits, tutelary spirits known as keremed ', and ancestral spirits. This aspect of Mordvin religious life survived the Soviet period and is still evident today. Various Old Believer sects were also prevalent among Mordvins before 1917, and since 1991 many Mordvins have been attracted to Protestant sects that have been introduced.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The major holidays of the Mordvins correspond to the Russian Orthodox calendar, with the chief religious holidays being Easter, and Orthodox New Year (January 6, by the Gregorian calendar). Traditionally, however, Mordvins observed most other Christian holidays and festivals as coinciding with the agricultural calendar. Equally important, if not more important, among modern-day Mordvins are the secular holidays that were promoted during the Soviet period and that continue to be observed today. These include New Year's Day (January 1), May Day (May 1), and Victory Day (May 9).

RITES OF PASSAGE

The major rites of passage among the Mordvins are closely connected with religious life. These include birth, baptism, marriage, and burial rituals. Birth rituals were typically performed by a religious specialist, usually an old woman, and included rituals to protect the newborn from harmful spirits. Baptism, although discouraged during the Soviet period, was nevertheless seen by many Mordvins not as a religious ritual, but rather as a Mordvin national custom. Mordvin weddings, at least in traditional society, were elaborate and complex rituals that differed widely from village to village. They included a specific repertoire of songs and other traditions and included feasting and other entertainments. Before the conversion to Christianity, Mordvin funeral rituals involved the inclusion of grave goods in the tomb of the deceased, but this tradition was largely abandoned by the late 18th century. However, the Mordvins did retain the tradition of funeral feasts for the dead, as well as the practice of holding communal prayers and making offerings at the tombs of ancestors.

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

Interpersonal relations among the Mordvins (such as greeting, body language, and gestures), do not differ substantially from those of Russians. In both Erzia and Moksha, the typical greeting upon seeing someone for the first time on a given day is "Shumbrat."

LIVING CONDITIONS

The bulk of the Mordvin population today continues to live in rural areas-that is, in villages. In Mordvin villages, the houses tend to be made out of wood. Typically, the house forms part of a courtyard, to which is attached sheds, barns, and other outbuildings. In addition, nearly every house has its own sauna or bathhouse. Most villages have electric power, but very few houses have any indoor plumbing, and water is usually obtained from a well or a communal pump. By American standards, the standard of living is rather low. Wages are usually very low, and there is little disposable income available for consumer goods. Similarly, health care in rural areas is of poor quality and not always available. However, Mordvins often make use of herbal medicines and other traditional remedies.

Very few Mordvins own their own cars, and most rely on public transportation. In urban areas, this includes buses and trains. In rural areas, bus transportation is not always reliable, and Mordvins, like others in Russia, must hitch rides with passing vehicles or rely on horse-drawn transportation.

FAMILY LIFE

Women have traditionally played a special role in Mordvin society as the preservers of Mordvin cultural tradition. Historically, women were more confined to the home and rarely traveled far from their village, so they were less likely to speak Russian or be exposed to Russian culture. As a result, Mordvin women played a large role in the preservation of not only the Mordvin languages, but also of oral traditions and customs. In traditional Mordvin society, when a girl married she would leave her home and move in with her husband's family. As a result, a Mordvin family had an interest in delaying a daughter's wedding as long as possible, so as not to lose her labor, and there was a corresponding interest in marrying a son as soon as possible so as to bring an extra worker into the family. As a result, Russian observers noted the frequency of marriages between 11- or 12-year-old Mordvin boys with 25-year-old (or older) Mordvin women. During the Soviet period, this custom gradually disappeared, and today Mordvin marriage patterns are similar to those for Russia as a whole. A typical couple today will have only one or two children, whereas before World War II, family sizes were much larger, and the infant mortality rate was also much higher.

CLOTHING

Traditional Mordvin festive clothing was typically white and decorated with elaborate embroidery. The most elaborate and artistic clothing was worn by women. By the 19th century, Mordvin men were already dressing in the Russian manner. Summer clothes were often woven out of linen in winter, woolens and reversed sheepskin coats were common. Currently, everyday clothing is identical to the clothing typical of Russian society as a whole.

FOOD

The basis of the Mordvin economy was cereal agriculture, and the staples of the Mordvin diet were bread made from rye flour, as well as oats and barley. During the Soviet period, potatoes also came to form an important part of the Mordvins' diet. The main vegetables include cabbages, carrots, beets, and onions. The main types of meat are pork, chicken, and mutton. Beverages include tea, beer, and vodka. Traditionally, Mordvin eating utensils, with the exception of knives, were made out of wood. Mordvins also carved elaborate ladles and spoons out of wood for religious rituals.

EDUCATION

Before the Soviet period, Mordvins had some access to religious schools established by church officials in their villages, and the most educated members of Mordvin society were often priests. However, access to higher education was extremely limited for Mordvins. Illiteracy rates were very high; among women, illiteracy was nearly universal.

In the Soviet period universal education was applied to Mordvins, as it was to the rest of Soviet society. The medium of instruction was often Russian, however, few Mordvins, especially in the later Soviet period, were educated in their native language. Typically, Mordvins achieve the equivalent of a high school education.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

The creation of the Mordvin ASSR in 1936, in keeping with Leninist nationality policy, also necessitated the creation and sponsorship by the Soviet State of a Mordvin intelligentsia and a formal Mordvin national culture. Before the Soviet period, the only written Mordvin documents intended for Mordvins were prayer books and Bible translations published by the Russian Orthodox Church. By the 1920s, the standardization of the Mordvin languages into two separate literary languages, Erzia and Moksha, was already underway. Subsequently a Mordvin national literature emerged along Soviet lines, with poetry, prose, and drama being produced and performed in the two Mordvin literary languages, and published both in journals and as separate books. Similarly, the Mordvin intelligentsia created formal folk dance ensembles. Among the most well known Mordvin artists is the painter and sculptor Stepan Erzia (1876-1959), who was active before 1917, but is best known as a Soviet artist.

WORK

Throughout their history, Mordvins have been primarily engaged in agricultural labor, and this would traditionally involve the entire family. During the Soviet period and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mordvin agriculture has been collectivized, with Mordvins either working as part of a collective farm (kolkhoz) or as paid employees on a state-owned farm (sovkhoz). Before the Soviet period, it was common for Mordvin laborers to belong to a cooperative organization, known as an artel, and during the Soviet period many Mordvin peasants moved into urban areas for industrial work.

SPORTS

Numerous sports and games are played at the religious festivals of the Mordvins, especially foot races and horse races, and other contests. The most popular sports are soccer and hockey, which are not only spectator sports but played by children and young adults alike.

ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION

The lack of recreational outlets in rural areas has limited the recreational opportunities of rural Mordvins. In larger urban areas, however, common recreational activities include the theater, movies, sports events, and television.

FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES

Mordvins are skilled at woodcarving, and this forms an important element of their folk art. Another folk art which is especially well-developed is weaving. Beekeeping is an economic activity that is also common among the Mordvins, but it is not practiced by every household, and it is often approached as a hobby.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Among the most severe social problems of the Mordvins is alcoholism, which is endemic throughout the Russian Federation. The problem is especially severe in rural areas, where recreational opportunities are limited, if not entirely absent. In those areas, drinking alcohol is in effect the main form of recreation. In addition, the current economic crisis affecting all of the former Soviet Union is also a problem for Mordvins, who are suffering from low and erratic wages and a severely diminishing standard of living.

A different sort of problem facing the Mordvins is Russification. Historically, the Mordvins have managed to maintain some sense of separateness from Russians while being one of the most acculturated nationalities in Russia. The isolation of the Mordvins and their lack of access to Russian educational establishments ensured the survival of the Mordvin language, at least before 1917. However, the integration of the Mordvins into Soviet society and the access to Russian education coupled with limited access to Mordvin-language education has resulted in a rapid assimilation of Mordvins into Russian society. In fact, Russia's Mordvin population has gradually been declining.

GENDER ISSUES

In traditional Mordvin society, particularly up until World War II, women and men had sharply divided social, economic and religious roles. Women were mainly responsible for child-rearing, domestic duties, and a portion of agricultural production. Observers of Mordvin communities commonly reported on a common practice among Mordvins of delaying marriage for girls as long as possible, so as not to lose an important source of labor for agriculture. As a result it was common for young Mordvin men to take much older brides. Before the 1940's literacy was extremely rare among Mordvin women due to their limited access to education. World War II brought large numbers of Mordvin women into the industrial and urban work-force, and into the Soviet educational system, after which they largely remained in the workforce, while retaining their traditional roles in child-rearing and domestic duties. Their limited access to education also made Mordvin women particularly culturally conservative, especially in terms of native language retention and religious activities. Since 1991 Mordvin women have largely maintained their access to education. Certain religious ceremonies excluded either men or women, but more generally it was women who retained religious ceremonies and practices, despite official anti-religious pressure from the authorities during the Soviet era.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Belitser, V. N. Narodnaia odezhda mordvy, Moscow, 1973

Frank, Allen. "Traditional Religion in the Volga-Ural Region: 1960-1987" Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher 63 (1991); 167-84.

———. "Resolutions of the First All-Union Congress of the Mordvin Mastorava Society for National Rebirth" Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher 64 (1992):153-55.

Kreindler, Isabelle. The Mordvinians: a Doomed Soviet Nationality? Jerusalem, 1984

Lallukka, Seppo. East Finnic Minorities in the Soviet Union: An Appraisal of the Erosive Trends. Helsinki, 1990.

Makarkin, P. N. (ed.) Mordva: Istoriko-kul'turnye ocherki. Saransk, 1995.

Maskaev, A. I. Mordovskaia narodnaia epicheskaia pesnia, Saransk, 1964.

Mel'nikov, P. I. Ocherki mordvy (Saransk, 1981) [originally written in 1867].

Vuorela, Toivo. "The Mordvinians," in: The Finno-Ugric Peoples, (Indiana University Uralic and Altaic Series, No. 39), Bloomington, IN, 1964, 221-236.

—by A. J. Frank

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