Monday, June 27, 2011

You Learn Something New Every Day

I can waste hours on FaceBook reading everyone's posts and looking at the graduation pictures of kids I don't know (yes, I posted some of an important fifth grade graduation) that pop up at this time of the year. But the wonderful thing about FB is the tidbits of information that appear on my "wall". Because I liked NPR on FB, this story appeared on my FB page: Russian Women Prove it's Hip to be a Babushka. What fascinated me about this story was not the music or the charming woven birch shoes in the video, but the fact that the women are from the Udmurt republic, where the language is in the same Finno-Ugric family as Finnish.

I expected the Udmurt Republic to be somewhere near Lake Ladoga, but it is actually far to the east. Udmurtia is surprisingly distant from Finland. Like Finnish, the Udmurt written language was not developed until the 18th century*. Unlike Finnish, Udmurt is written using the Cyrillic alphabet. Another distinguishing feature of the Udmurts is the predominance of red hair. A population of gingers speaking a Finnishy language written in Cyrillic. The more I learn, the more I realize I have so much more to learn.

And what about Udmurt literature? You can friend Udmurt literature in Estonian translation on FB. I have, but since I understand less Estonian than Finnish it won't be a lively site. Maybe I can find some Udmurt literature for my Kindle. Amazon has a wide selection of translated fiction available for the Kindle. You have to search under World Literature. It is fun to have a world of World Literature within reach of your wi-fi. Sadly I could only find 3 items on Amazon with a search for Udmurt. One item is a children's folk tale and I am tempted by the I Speak Udmurt hat, but the third item does not succumb to Google translate.

Keep your ears open for news of Udmurtia. Now that I have learned that this region of Russia exists, it will suddenly be all over the papers. And, thanks to the babushkas, maybe the country will be famous for singing women in birch shoes rather than infamous as birthplace of the Kalashnikov.

*actually, written Finnish was developed earlier in a religious context. You can read more about the development of written Finnish on my blog!