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In Search of Merjamaa. Aapo Kihlanki

In Search of Merjamaa: Volunteering as a Means of Revitalizing the Meryan Heritage of Central Russia by Aapo Kihlanki.

University of Kent


This master`s dissertation deals with voluntary activity as a means of sustaining the neoMeryan movement of Central Russia. The movement aims to revitalize ancient Finno-Ugric

Meryans` cultural heritage by practicing cultural philanthropy. Local studies, publishing, and art projects are the principal forms of neo-Meryan activity which reflects the ideals of the ethno-futurist cultural movement.

The neo-Meryan movement comprises a heterogeneous group of volunteers. Therefore, the study approaches neo-Meryan activity as a form of capital. Pierre Bourdieu`s theories on symbolic, cultural, and social capital provide the theoretical framework of the study. The study shows that these types of capital are closely intertwined in the activity of the movement.
The Meryan cultural heritage lives in cultural archetypes which constitute a source of symbolic capital. These archetypes are charted out by means of local studies, and art projects provide a way of reproducing them. However, the culturological comprehension of these archetypes is what makes one to volunteer for the Meryan cause. This comprehension is the precondition of those symbolic exchanges which turns individual voluntary initiatives into social capital.

Moreover, the study demonstrates that local studies as a type of grassroot organisational activity can effectively contribute to the post-Soviet Russian civil society. The interest in Central Russian inhabitants` Meryan habitus shows that the local can be a source of cultural capital. This habitus, manifested in local religious practices and beliefs, lays the moral foundation for civil society.


I would like to thank the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent for giving me an opportunity to learn about philanthropy and volunteering in an inspiring atmosphere. I am especially grateful to Eddy Hogg, the supervisor of my dissertation who showed remarkable patience when guiding me through the practices of modern social research. I am thankful to Meryan activists for their help. Their comments to my research questions helped me to find a meaningful approach to the Meryan theme, and their enthusiasm inspired me throughout the research process. Finally, I would like to thank my wife Sanna and my children Elsa and Jussipekka for their love and support.



1. 1 The Study
1. 2 The Research Design
1. 3 Research Ethics


2. 1 Previous Research on the Neo-Meryan Movement
2. 2 Research on Ancient Meryans
2. 3 The Cultural Background of the Neo-Meryan Movement
2. 4 Local Studies
2. 5 Green Grassroot Organisations


3. 1 The Data
3. 2 The Research Method
3. 3. 1 The Thematic Categories
3. 3. 2 The source of texts
3. 4 The Research Theory


4. 1 Ethno-Futuristic Art Exhibitions
4. 2 Reproducing the Meryan Heritage
4. 3 Festivals and Performances


5. 1 Publishing
5. 2 Samizdat
5. 3 Financing Samizdat


6. 1 The Individual Nature of Local Studies Activity
6. 2 A Thematic Approach to Local Studies Excursions
6. 3 Defining the Thematic Categories
6. 4. 1 The Sphere of History and Linguistics
6. 4. 2 History and Towns
6. 4. 3 History and a Region
6. 5. 1 Sanctuaries
6. 5. 2 Sanctuaries and Villages
6. 5. 3 Sanctuaries and Legends
6. 5. 4 Sanctuaries and Religion
6. 5. 5 Symbols
6. 5. 6 Religion and Civil Society




Appendix1 The Number and share of texts published in the Merjamaa portal
Appendix 2 The subcategories of the thematic category ´Anintroduction of a current issue`
Appendix 3 The sources of texts published in the Merjamaa portal
Appendix 4 The number and share of interconnected thematic categories
Appendix 5 The approaches to religion in articles dealing with places or regions



мерянский Павел Травкин чашечник меря финно-угры чудь весь Merjamaa Меряния финно-угорский субстрат вепсы История Руси меряне суздаль владимир история марийцы мари Ветлуга Ростов Великий ростов новгород Русь экология славяне топонимика кострома КРИВИЧИ русские Язычество камень следовик синий камень камень чашечник сакральные камни этнофутуризм археология мурома Владимиро-Суздальская земля мерянский язык ономастика Ростовская земля балты финны городище Векса озеро Неро краеведение православие священные камни этнография святой источник общество Плёс дьяковцы Ивановская область регионализм культура идентитет искусство плес ингрия антропология россия москва ярославль мифология вологда лингвистика Марий Эл будущее Унжа вятичи Залесье волга поэзия нея галич деревня туризм север мерянский этнофутуризм Древняя Русь шаманизм латвия русский север иваново буй капище Ярославская область Языкознание реконструкция скандинавы средневековье Европа магия Этногенез коми старообрядцы Костромская область христианство