Raisiya Sungurova: "Mari people in Yugra are on the land of our kindred peoples"

Raisiya Sungorova. Photo: Facebook page. 

As reported by Fenno-Ugria NPO (Estonia), Raisiya Sungurova was awarded the Lennart Meri’s Waterfowl prize for her role as Mari community leader in the Yugra region. 

Raisiya Sungurova is a prominent Mari poet, who has been awarded several national and international prizes for her work. She is also a leader of the Mari community in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug – Yugra, where thousands of Mari migrants live. After graduating from the Mari State University, Sungurova moved with her husband to Yugra, a land of kindred Finno-Ugric peoples Khanty and Mansi, thousand miles away from their native places, to start a new life. Soon after arriving in Yugra, Sungurova established her own Mari people’s organization, Mariy Ushem (The Mari Union), in the city of Surgut, bringing together hundreds of Mari people who had moved to this new "promised land" looking for better opportunities. Now her organization has 7 branches in different settlements of Yugra region. Yugra is known to be a region of active oil and gas extraction and people usually come here to make more money.

"I feel myself as I’m at home. We are on the land of our kindred peoples – Khanty and Mansi – there are plenty things that we share together', Sungurova told URALIC Beat. „Despite this close cultural connection to the indigenous peoples of the region, the region itself somehow reminds America as a land for newcomers to settle in, where the general profile of the inhabitants show more diversity than in many other Russian regions“, Sungurova explained. She says that the Mari who came to Yugra are a distinct people.  „They are courageous to start a new life in new circumstances, they have stamina to overcome all the obstacles they could face, they are devoted and hardworking. They earn not only for themselves but for their parents and relatives overseas to create better opportunities for them,“ Sungurova said.

During the announcement of the Waterfowl Prize to Sungurova, Fenno-Ugria board member and founder of the prize, Tõnu Seilenthal, noted that Raisiya has authority among the youth, we are convinced that her activity reduces the Russification of Mari youth. Raisiya Sungurova is a true leader of her people, because she believes in her people and culture and is proud to be Mari.“

Sungurova is an author of three poetry books, for the second book Chaygorkashte sandalyk ("The world in a tea cup") she was awarded both in Mari El by state prize for the youth and in Estonia. Her last book (Kava vola kopash, 2017) includes free verses which is an innovation for Mari poetic tradition.