Vepsian LITERATURE. Long and Thorny Way.
Hello, dear friends! I want to tell you a little about my people, our literature, and our works. I am – Veps. Once upon a time our people were very numerous, but now we are no more than 6,000 people. They live mainly in three regions. In the Republic of Karelia, Leningrad Region, Vologda Region. Partly Vepsskaya diaspora is in Siberia. For many centuries Veppsian language was only a spoken language, not a written one. In the 30 years of the last century, attempts were taken to create a literary language Veppsian. Books were published, poetry and prose works were translated. Then came Stalin’s repressions and books were burned in bonfires, and Veppsian scientists filologists were shot out or imprisoned and exiled to Siberia. A new stage of regeneration and the formation began in the USSR in the 80s, when we started restructuring and reforming. Then appeared the first stirrings of Veppsian literary language in which I’m writing. I started writing Veppsian as an adult when there were first Russian-language publications in newspapers and magazines. In the late 80s, in the midst of radical reforms in the country, I received a letter from Karelia, written by scientists, who were dealing with Veppsian language and its revival. They learned that in the distant village of Veppsian Leningrad region there is Veps, writing poetry, though in Russian and that my works were published in newspapers and magazines. They asked me to try to write something in Veppsian. I followed their advice, tried to do so, but couldn’t manage. But I had already 10 years experience of poetry in Russian. My mother was Veps, I think on it, speak it, my ancestors, my parents spoke this small language. It is not surprising that after a while I began to write in Veppsian, even easier and more beautiful than in Russian. My first poems were published in the journal ”Punalippu” (Carelia) in February 1989. Now on my first works on Veppsian language I look a little bit down, as a teacher at the unlucky student. But at the same time and as a father – on his first and favorite child!
In 1994, in Petrozavodsk my first book was issued, collection of poetry «Koumekümne koume» ”Thirty-three.” Just at that time I was in the symbolic age of 33. It was the first fiction book in Veppsian and its publication was funded by the Society MA Kastrenin from Finland. I must say that this book appeared in the creative throes. Veppsian poetic school doesn’t exist, there were no samples from which I could learn. But, as already mentioned, I have been writing poetry in Russian, knew something about the rhyme, verse size and other subtleties of poetic craft. If we add to this a good knowledge of Veppsian language, we can say that the birth of the Veppsian poet took place.
In 1999 with the support of the Finnish Literature Society in Petrozavodsk my book ”Kurgiden aik” («The Cranes’s Time”) appeared. Then I started doing translations, moreover my translations of Classical Russian literature were published, including Alexander Pushkin, Boris Pasternak, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Vladimir Vysotsky. Already these names confirm that Veppsian poetic language exists.
Nobel lureat Boris Pasternak. HAMLET (reading).
Then in Petrozavodsk my book «Pagiškam, vel’l ’» (Let’s Speak, Brother), dedicated to the memory of my dead friend – poet and translator Paavo Voutilainen. In this book of my poems in Veppsian language, there were also the translations of the poems in Russian, which were made by famous poets of Karelia and Komi Republic.
In 2010, in Budapest (Hungary), he book «Kahtišti koumekümne koume» (TWICE thirty-three), was published, where there were my poems in Veppsian and Hungarian. And there was a collection in Tallinn «KURGEDE AEG» (The Crains’s Time) in Estonian. In 2011, in Paris, there was published a collection of poems «Les chants des forêts» («Songs of the forest”) in Veppsian and French.
Although I am a little writing in prose, which is published in newspapers and magazines, but I think that the literature of small peoples begins with poetry. After all poetry – the most democratic literary genre. They can exist both in oral and in writing. It seems to me that poetry can express absolutely everything without the use of loan words and neologisms. Veppsians lived without Russian for a long time and expressed their thoughts, feelings, emotions, not knowing the Russian language. Now Veppsian published the Bible, children’s version of the Karelian-Finnish epic ”Kalevala”, poetry books, there’s even a novel. There are a lot of translations into Veps of classics of world literature, the Finno-Ugric writers. So, in Veppsian already speak Omar Khayyam and Rabindranath Tagore, William Shakespeare and Paul Verlaine. We cannot say that there are a lot of professionals writing Veppsian, but for a small nation it is sufficient enough. Except the translations of serious literary works, there are more ”light” and popular works.
In my last visit here – it was five years ago, in Overkaliks the famous hit of The Beatles and Paul McCartney YESTERDAY sounded in Veppsian. A young Veppsian singer, who came with me (maybe someone was present at the event in 2009 and heard her singing).
And today I want to show a video clip. It is also a well-known song, the translation into Veppsian I realized it in the framework of an international program, in compliance with the copyright. It is «We Are the Champions group QUEEN» i Freddi Merkjuri. It is performed by the State Ensemble of the Republic of Karelia ”Kantele”. By the way, this year, this song was performed in the cultural program of the Paralympics in Sochi. MOVIE.
But is there any prospects of Veppsian literature? One may ask… The number of Veps with every day is getting smaller and smaller. I say yes – YES! If there will be at least one person, writing in Vepsian really good poems or stories, Veppsian literature exists. And this kind of literary creativity as – literary translation helps to ensure that the works of writers of the smallest people can be read in different parts of our planet.
Personally, I am currently making the translations into Veppsian the poems by Vladimir Brendoev – the founder of the poetry in the Karelian language, and we all know Bengt Pohjanen. Despite the rather difficult international situation, I want to say that not everyone in Russia looks at the West as at the enemy. This is what we have been through in the past, when there was the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. We would like to cooperate, writers of Russia and the West, Scandinavia also continue to co-operate, despite the various prohibitions and sanctions. Now I am working at the National Library of Karelia – this is the main library of the Republic. And that various forms of cooperation in the field of literature between Karelia and Barents region writers are present here. If someone is interested in our co-operation at present, we can exchange the coordinates.
In conclusion, I wish to thank Bengt Pohjanen for the invitation to this seminar and for all the positive things that he does for the prosperity of the writers of our northern region.