Sunday 10 July 2016

Grassroots Comics in Udmurtian

Maksim Agafonov (in front) draws a story about red hair
The Finnish Embassy in Moscow organised a grassroots comics workshop together with Udmurtian language activists in Izhevsk, Udmurt Republic (Russia) in May 2016. The workshop took place at the youth center LIFT, which is run by Izhevsk City. The eight participants were artists, art students, graphic designers and library staff. Most participants had experience in comics, but the grassroots comics method was new to them, as was the idea of making comics entirely in Udmurtian language. Some comics that were made in the workshop dealt with minority language issues and differences between Udmurtian and Russian languages. Other comics had a variety of topics, but all were made in Udmurtian.

In spite of the fact that the Udmurtian language is the official language of the Republic, general attitude to it and its speakers is often contemptuous (arrogant) as it is mostly spoken in villages. State structures don't use documents in Udmurtian. However, there has been a rise of the interest to the language and ethnic roots recently among progressive young people. It has been a trend in other republics of Russia as well. Udmurtia hosts annually Finno-Ugric language congresses, international film festivals, and other intercultural events, but popularization and preserving of the language is still a big problem as the amount of its speakers is diminishing. It disappears from schools and gets replaced by English.

The workshop was tutored by comics artist Sanna Hukkanen from Finland and Anna Voronkova from Moscow comics festival KomMissia (, who is also a linguist and translator from Finnish.

Sanna Hukkanen and Anna Voronkova are also planning to take grassroots comics workshops to other Finno-Ugric language groups in the near future. The purpose of the workshops is to promote the use of minority language in new medias.

LIFT also hosted two comics exhibitions at the time of the workshop. One displayed comics from Karelian language activists from Petrozavodsk, Karelian Republic from 2015. The other exhibition introduced workshop tutor Sanna Hukkanen's comics translated in Udmurtian.

Posted by Sanna Hukkanen ja Anna Voronkova

This link takes you to a newscast about the workshop:

Comic from the workshop: Anna Obraztsova's poetic comic about misunderstandings between Udmurt and Russian

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