Osmo Buller 07 July 2004 Opening of the seminar "Linguistic Human Rights", Taivalkoski

Welcome to the seminar on Linguistic Human Rights, the last seminar of the Baltic Ring project! One way or another all the previous seminars of this project have been associated with language which is only natural for a ring of writers' houses and literary institutions we represent. I think that we have chosen a very appropriate theme for the conclusion of our project – or perhaps it is better to say: the second stage of our project. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you also to the Päätalo Institute as well as to Taivalkoski, my birth place but more importantly the birth place of Kalle Päätalo, the greatest son of Taivalkoski and one of the most popular Finnish writers of the last four decades. Päätalo died four years ago leaving more than 40 works. His opus magnum is his autobiograpichal novel series in 26 thick volumes, each of them sold in almost 150.000 copies. Päätalo's works have made Taivalkoski and its people with their colourful and expressive dialect known throughout Finland. Each summer thousands of his readers come to Taivalkoski to see and feel the original world which they have read about in his books. Tonight also we are going to join them when we visit Päätalo's childhood home Kallioniemi. Kallioniemi has given the name to the Kallioniemi Foundation which has two main activities. It takes care of the author's childhood home and of the Päätalo Institute. This institute was founded in 1990 in order to organize courses and other training in creative writing. At the end of our seminar we will hear more about this core activity of the Päätalo Institute. Another important task of the institute is to take care of the archives of Kalle Päätalo, but if you ask Finnish children what they know about the Päätalo Institute, they will tell you that it organizes every year a fairy-tale writing competition for children which is indeed the best-known competition of its kind in our country. After this quick glance at Kalle Päätlao and the Päätalo Institute back to our seminar. When the idea of this seminar first appeared some two years ago, we had four topics in mind that could be examined in this seminar: 1. For an individual citizen, the right to speak and use his or her native language in the everyday life and to be educated in it, is a fundamental human right. In the common discussion on human rights this aspect is still too often neglected.

2. Respect for linguistic and cultural diversity as an essential aspect of the European identity and of the common cultural heritage is officially declared to be one of the cornerstones of the European Union. As stated in Art. 22 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, The Union respects cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. 3. In the Baltic Sea Region there are many minority languages. Some of them have the status of an official language in one country while they are minority languages in other countries. Even though in many cases the position of minority languages has improved, there is still a lot to do. Some small languages are even threatened in their existence. 4. The international cultural exchange is unequal because of the inequality between languages. In the field of literature this is quite evident: most of all translations are made from English, while the literatures of small languages remain virtually unknown outside their own communities. Today we have got together in order to learn more and to discuss about these issues. We are very happy to have the opportunity to hear during these two days presentations of prestigious experts and reports of our well-informed colleagues. I hope this seminar will be an enriching experience for all of us. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Tuija Eerola, our wonderful project secretary for all the work she has done for this seminar. In March this year I left my job as the director of the Päätalo Institute and moved to the headquarters of the Universal Esperanto Association in Rotterdam. It has not been easy to contribute to the preparations of this seminar from the Netherlands, but it would have been quite impossible if the e-mail and – above all – Tuija had not been invented.