Karolina Sikora & Maria Fedina

Izvatas are a separate group of the Finno-Ugric Komi people, dispersedly inhabiting the vast territories of the Russian North. In the 1920s the policy of ’korenizacija’ aimed at unifying all the Komi people by downplaying the groups’ diversity. As a result, 70 years later the apparent consolidation deprived the Izvatas of the possibility to acquire the status of an Indigenous small-numbered people. The greater prevalance of the Izhma Komi ethnic identity in the early 2000s revealed the ambivalence in self-description as a group, both internally and externally. While some Izvatas have identified themselves as a northern subgroup of the Komi Zyryan people, others have been claiming their ethnic distinctiveness. At the same time, the mere belonging to the group has been contested as well. Recognising the phenomenon of fluid, blended and multiple ethnicities, none of these perspectives can be dismissed and thus need to be perceived as valid. In this paper, we analyse the meaning of the “Lud” festival tradition for constructing and representing Izvatas’ distinct, yet unified, identity across the group divide. In this context, we argue that the recognition of the “Lud” celebration as the cultural heritage of Izhma Komi can facilitate the recognition of the community as such. In the end, we demonstrate that cultural heritage listings may become a valid tool for the wider cultural and political self-determination interests of Izvatas.

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