Vepsian Books in the Literary Language

Vepsian Society's volunteers (sitting at the chairman' table)   at their work handing the books in turn to every community member
In the early autumn 2000 we carried out another humanitarian action aiming to supply leaning books to the population of Vepsian villages. We chose only one settlement for this time to be sure we are able to cover all its members

During the meeting in the premises of  the former culture house 
Every time coming together with Vepsian people we could realize how strong was their interest to the native language, which is being mastered perfectly  by mostly older persons in a spoken form only. But Vepsian people want to write their language as well! 

Young and old comes together if it is about to regain own identity
While announcing the village meeting we did not expect to get so many visitors. It was a hard harvest time and still people kept on arriving until there were no free seats any longer in the meeting room. So younger people gave their seats to older ones but still participated standing in the hall and listening to the happenings from the opened door.

Vepsian people were satisfied at last to get books after having waited  for yeas
We feeled it to sound really incredible that more than ten years after these learning books were printed by the order of the Vepsian Department of University in Carelia nobody
there was concerned to bring them to people whom they were made for.  The book packages were just lying around in stocks in the halls of the Carelian Teachers' High School and housekeepers racked their head how to get rid of them.  But in the Vepsian province they were heavily dreamed for!

Impressions from the newly created literary language are not always positive
Year after year aiding Vepsian villages we were asked "if there existed any books in Vepsian?"  Of course they did!

We discussed the situation in Vepsian Society and decided to collect our private money for the first time to purchase the books for further distribution. Later we took it to our budget and thus started our long-period literary program, which is being fulfilled until  now along with computer and goods donation programs.

Written in a new literal Vepsian, the books are partly incomprehensive to native speakers 

The obvious fact that the newly created Vepsian literal language is not that one spoken in the Vepsian villages (bearing in mind that Vepsian has preserved only rurally) is to explain by the present economical situation in Russia and it's autonomous republic of Carelia. Working there on their Vepsian books under a very scarce but governmentally granted support the scientists are supposed to provide a language of such a kind that would be surely understood by the Vepsians living in Carelia (Northern Vepsians). Linguistically it is a tiny and the most assimilated dialect and although formally basing upon the Middle Vepsian the literary language has the most features introduced into it especially to make it "good" for local group of Vepsians in Carelia (under 1000 speakers, only 7% of all Vepsian population).

Sentence after sentence was read aloud and interpreted under instruction of two trained teachers of  Vepsian
The result is  frustrating: the language is absolutely incomprehensive for Southern Vepsians and sounds rather alien to the ear of Middle ones. Even school teachers of Vepsian, according to N. Zaitseva's avowal, using textbooks on the lessions are forced to prounce words in their correct way while pointing to unexisting, thought-out forms on paper. It's like teaching English to American children using school books, written in Esperanto with French transcription! The worst thing: older fluent speakers (grandparents), the key generation who are supposed to transmit their language skills to younger people before they are lost forever, get disappointed and crestfallen: "That's NOT OUR language!". And they don't believe any longer there is any reason to let children study it at school. 

These children can understand their grandparents' Vepsian speech 
The honoured language creators don't visit Vepsian villages where the living language is spoken ignoring thus the discontent towards the quality of their books, so the situation can hardly improve soon. It's a pity there was not a single graduate of the Vepsian Teachers' Faculty in Carelian University during ten years of it's existence, who had ever worked as a teacher of Vepsian helping in this way to master the written language.  Paradoxically, but introducing the literary language as it happens now is causing a gap between generation and danger the very existence of Vepsian tongue and identity.

"Shall I know Vepsian when I grow up?"
Last but not least: the Vepsian Society is convinced - it's the most important to support also the oral tradition  - Vepsian has always existed as a spoken language.  Children's knowledge of it is now unsteady and unsure (if any) and rather than let them tear between own village's dialect and a new doubtful literary standard resulting in confusion and desperation feeling one should do work instead to bring them closer to their Vepsian speaking relatives, who are the last keepers of our tongue's treasuries.

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  Young Vepsian men in St.Petersburg
got their first book in Vepsian
(winter 2000)