Symposium A2: Contradictions inherent in temporal and spatial conceptualisation in the Finno-Ugric Ontology: Oppositions and Constructivity

Organiser: Tatiana Minniyakhmetova (

Monday, August 22, Department of African Studies (Afrikanistik)

(Original symposium call)




Tatiana Minniyakhmetova:

Symbolic and Visual Border Loci: Their Reciprocity and Incompatibility

Symbolic and material or visual representations of borders are not similar in the Udmurtian worldview. The notion of border is not fossilized concept, and it can be examined not only according to the standardized modern disciplines but also from the traditional point of view. The concept of boundary presents a complex phenomenon and there are essential distinctions between material borders and symbolic boundaries although all types of them represent a contact area of various processes. In reality, most boundaries are perceived as symbolic ones and each one of them has its own semantics and purpose, and accordingly requires special attention and treatment of it. In this study, I attempt to analyse the notion of a symbolical spatial boundary according to the traditional and modern perceptions of Udmurts. I also analyse and try to answer the question, what does a symbolic boundary represent in its relation and communication of two adjoining spaces or their mutual exclusion? Is there any connection between spatial and temporal boundaries? Symbolic boundaries include their own conceptualisations and additional semantic meanings which will be considered in this study. The availability of a wide range of definitions for concept of “boundary”, reveals its heterogeneity, uncertainty and abstractedness at the same time. The implications of the term “boundary” are based on an in-depth and profound nature of experience on micro- or macrocosms, which is expressive of attitudes and reflects on behaviour. The given concept changes its essence depending on the significance and constancy of spatial and temporal dimensions.


Irina Moldanova & Tatyana Voldina:

Культ кошки у казымских хантов: к вопросу об угро-пермских мифоритуальных параллелях 

(The Cult of a Cat Among the Kazym Khanty: On the Question of Permian-Ugric Myth-Ritual Parallels)

The formation of the Ugric and Permian peoples is a long historical path associated with constant waves of migrations that periodically flowed in the forest zone of the Ural and Trans-Urals, as a result of which stable interethnic contacts arose, accompanied by close cultural interaction of ethnic groups. Among the "mysteries" in the traditional culture of the northern groups of the Ob-Ugrians, awaiting their answer and having a clear exit to the Finno-Permian material, one can name the presence of sacred, toponymic and onomastic vocabulary translated from the Komi language. For example, the most important cult centers of the Ob Ugrians bear names that go back to the Permian names with the ending in -kar, -kary, for example, Vezhakary, where periodic bear games of a seven-year cycle were held.

The Permian component is clearly visible in the culture of individual local groups of the Ob-Ugrians. Among them are the Kazym Khanty, which are distinguished by their mobility, active development of territories, and a leading position among other groups.The Kazym goddess is one of the most revered patron spirits in the Khanty people. As the patron saint of the Kazym Khanty, she is also respected by other territorial groups. She is called Vut-imi, Kasum-naj, Kasum-imi, and the Kazym Khanty themselves call her Pupi S'asi ‘spirit (holy) grandmother’.

The history of the life path of the Kazym goddess, which is contained in the legends and sacred songs of the Khanty, reflects contacts with neighboring ethnic groups – the Sosva Mansi and Nenets, and also indicates constant migration and the development of new territories.Like other patron spirits of the Ob-Ugric peoples, Kasum-naj also has her own zoomorphic images, among which the main one is the image of a black white-breasted cat. The sacred name of the cat - kań (Perm:‘ cat ’, compare Khant .: kati) indicates Permian origin.

It is also interesting that the Kazym Khanty still recently had a special language for communicating with cats - adding the syllable -jan to the usual words. For example, referring to a pet, the owners could say to her: “Kati-jan, jam pojk poiki-jan” (‘Cat, good prayer, moth’).

It is supposed to consider the main features of the cat cult of the Kazym Khanty in comparison with the data on the Perm peoples: ritual and folklore materials, lexical layer.

Key words: Kazym Khanty, Kazym goddess, cat cult, Permian component, interethnic contacts, language of communication with animals.


Raisia Reshetnikova & Marianna Anduganova:


Паремия как отражение этноэтики в культуре обских угров 

Ethnoethics as a feld of science is on the way of its formation. It is aimed at studying the ethnos from the point of view of its moral culture, moral consciousness, and behavioural norms. In this context, proverbs and sayings are the most appropriate demonstratve language material. Paremias contain the age-old wisdom of naton, its ethnic morality and norms of behaviour. They refect the foundatons of an ethnic society and serve as a powerful means of educaton and formaton of personality.

The correct use of paremias makes speech accurate, expressive and emotonally rich. And this is no coincidence, since proverbs and sayings afect and relate to many areas of life and actvity; for instance:

  • Religion: “The gods love living sacrifce”; “God is great, (but) people are insignifcant”;
  • Interpersonal relatonships: “A truthful word is more precious than gold”; “If you gave your word, (you should) fulfl it”; “There is no wall without ears”; “Do not rejoice in someone else’s grief, it can come to you”; “If you want happiness, do not forget others”; “Doing good, do not repent and do not show of your hood”;
  • Fishing and huntng: ”It is not water that feeds the fsherman, (but it is) nets”; “One cannot catch fsh and animals with bare hands”;
  • Behavioural stereotypes: “The released fsh and the arrow cannot be turned back”; “Having failed to do one thing, do not grab onto another”;
  • Attitude to fire and handling of fire: “Fire is our golden mother”; “Do not torture fre with a knife: fre is holy”;
  • Attitude towards animals and birds: “Capercaillie is a ttan of the taiga”; “Bear is a taiga spirit”; “Wolverine is a bear’s younger brother”, etc.

Paremias serve as a compass of behaviour as they refect the moral code of fshermen, hunters and reindeer herders. For example: “It’s warm with a kind man without a hut”, “Keep an axe and a knife sharp, the sled and boat are ready:life is not the same”, “You will recognize a deer in a harness and you will recognize the man in the feld.”

In accordance with the ethical norms of the Ob Ugrians, it is considered inappropriate to complain about fate or brag about a happy life. For example, “People go blind from immeasurable happiness”, “If you get happiness, do not forget others”, “Doing good, do not repent and do not show of the hood.”

Thus, paremias can be an object of scientific analysis not only in folklore, linguistcs, ethnopsychology but also in ethnoethics which reveals the deep layers of the origin of morality and ethical norms of an ethnos.

All this makes possible to understand the nature and essence of society, formaton the norms of customary law.

In this talk, texts of Khanty and Mansi proverbs and sayings will be analysed using descriptive, typological, and contextual methods.

Key words: paremias, proverbs and sayings, ethical norms, ethnoethics, moral culture, norms of behaviour.




Ranus Sadikov & Farida Galieva:

Матица в традиционных представлениях финно-угорских, восточнославянских и тюркских народов: общее и особенное

The cross-beam log on the ceiling is one of the most symbolic features of dwelling house and in the ceremonial practices of various peoples around the world. It is associated with a lot of construction and family rituals designed to ensure well-being, prosperity and warmth in a household. Particular attention is paid to its lifting and installation in a log cabin, which is accompanied by significant ritual actions. Earlier, Udmurts lifted it up, bound a bottle of wine to it, along with a loaf of bread covered with a fur coat. After installing the cross-beam, the owner treated the builders with alcoholic beverage, because it was believed that the central part of a house is built as he puts on a fur coat. Afterwards, they did no work on that day. On the housewarming ceremony, Udmurts hammered silver coins believed to carry good wishes on to this log. Bashkirs had a custom of putting a piece of wool, the equivalent of money which symbolized cattle, providing food and other vital necessities in the culture of nomadic people.

Cross-beam log was considered as the boundary of the outer and the inner (“own”) part of a dwelling. Among the examined peoples, it was considered impolite to cross the line under the log without any invitation of the hosts. For example, among the Trans-Kama Udmurts even a son-in-law could not occupy any place on the other side of the cross-beam log without invitation. For Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians it was a border space, where matchmakers seated for the first time. This marked possible changes in the lives of members of this house.

In traditional understanding, the cross-beam log on the ceiling is a boundary between the worlds of ancestors and gods. On either side of the cross-beam log, the Udmurts performed rites either for the gods or the ancestors. The cross-beam log as boundary is associated with idea of taboo: standing under it during a thunderstorm will cause lightning will strike! As a border, it was influenced by “outside” forces.

For the Eastern Slavs, the cross-beam log was a sacred place and it was seen as a apotropaic object belonging to the house (“matica” /”mat’”/ “matka”). Recruits hammered silver coins into it, which stayed there until their return. Among the Trans-Ural Bashkirs, a bride leaving her home tied a cord to the log as a symbolic substitute of herself for her parents. There is a remarkable custom among the Trans-Kama Udmurts: when relocating to a new place, the cross-beam log from the old destroyed house is always left behind. This is an example of the deployment and winding down of the ritual space when the quality of space changes from a certain point of time.

Key words: cross-beam log; Finno-Ugric, Turkic, Slavic peoples; rituals.



Natalia Ermakov:

Collections of Mordovian (Erzyan) material in the Estonian Literary Museum and other Estonian archives 

The presentation is not only a retrospective view of the Erzyan tradition but also discusses the current state of folklore and the Erzyan-Mokshan communities living in Estonia. This can be analyzed by examining the repertoire of data in the archives, information about the performers, and the activities of the societies. The materials have been collected by various scientists from Estonia and other countries and are now stored in the Estonian Literary Museum, the Estonian National Museum, the Estonian Language Institute, the University of Tartu, the Estonian Music and Theater Academy, and the archives of societies.

For example, the Estonian Folklore Archive has an estimate of a few hundred pages of Viktor Danilov's manuscript material and audio recordings. A total of 2,450 songs and about half a hundred stories and beliefs have been recorded. This points to the need to collect additional data on the background of songs and other phenomena of song culture, as well as to add data specifically on customs and narratives. He collected the lore of a specific region - the village of Ohonkino in Tatarstan and its surroundings. The material is very rich and was collected in the 1960s-1970s. At that time, the folklore tradition was rich, but it was not possible to record everything with the means of Mordovian ASSR. Publication of the material is important because the written culture of Mordovia is young, while oral heritage is a very important part of the culture. The material collected in the Estonian archives is of great interest because of the authentic material, it provides valuable information for both folklorists and researchers in other fields, and it can also be used in the education system.