On the history of CIFU

After World War II, during the Cold War, organizing international academic events across the Iron Curtain was a challenging task. Some meetings of Finno-Ugricists with international participation could be organized in Finland and Hungary already in the 1950s. Finally, the first International Congress for Finno-Ugric Studies (CIFU) took place in Budapest in 1960, convened by an international committee consisting of renowned and influential academics, such as the Finn Kustaa Vilkuna, the Hungarian Gyula Ortutay, the Russian Boris Serebrennikov, and Wolfgang Steinitz from the German Democratic Republic. 

Since then, the congresses have taken place every five years, rotating first between three states (Hungary, Finland, Soviet Union), since 1995 between four states (Hungary, Finland, Estonia, Russia), as follows:

Throughout these years, the congresses have been organized by an international committee of scholars, to which new members are co-opted at the general meetings, in connection with each CIFU (see Organizers).

In the Soviet period, the CIFU, alongside its academic role, had a covert ethnopolitical function, enabling contacts across the Iron Curtain and offering the participating members of Finno-Ugric minorities an opportunity to celebrate their Finno-Ugric ethnocultural identities in an international context. Accordingly, the first CIFUs were characterized by a rich cultural programme and generous support from the side of the host states. These symbolic and cultural functions have now largely been taken over by other projects, numerous Finno-Ugric cultural cooperations and festivals or other institutions, such as the World Congresses of the Finno-Ugric Peoples (most recently held in Lahti 2016 and in Tartu 2020).

One of the central goals of CIFU XIII, for the first time organized in a “non-Finno-Ugric state”, is to highlight the character of Finno-Ugric studies as a field of academic research beyond national and ethnopolitical research agendas. Finno-Ugric studies are practiced in both national and international frameworks, and they are essentially connected to many other fields of study (general, historical and typological linguistics, applied and sociolinguistics, general and comparative literature research and cultural studies, ethnography, archaeology and history of Northern Eurasia, minority research, native and postcolonial studies, etc. etc.). The congress wishes to encourage cooperation between nations and disciplines, transcending the borders of schools and traditions.