Dear fellow travellers
Minority language radio broadcasting takes a step forward in Sweden today, when a new dedicated Sámi language radio station hits the airwaves in the Lapland region of northern Sweden. The Sámi minority has always benefitted from some local language broadcasting in northern Sweden, often just a couple of hours daily, but commencing 16 January 2006, there will be 24 hour broadcasting in the Sámi language. Long time Sámi media activist, Ole-Isak Mienna, who will head the new station, which is part of the Swedish state broadcasting network, highlights that local language broadcasting is a key element in enhancing opportunities for Sámi people to play a fuller role in civic society. More details of the Kiruna based station on http://www.sr.se/sameradion (to listen online click on 'lyssna på SR Sápmi', and then choose the SR Sápmi channel).
hidden europe's article on Latin language broadcasting by radio stations in Germany and Finland (hidden europe 6, p. 37) prompted a number of responses from members of living language minorities who do not find themselves so blessed as those who prefer their news in Latin. There are many thousands of members of cultural and language minorities across Europe who simply do not have access to any radio broadcasting in their preferred languages. Lapland's Sámi people are better provided for than most, with the new Swedish offering complementing existing Sámi language radio in both Norwegian and Finnish Lapland.
Racism in Russia
Well to the east of Lapland, in northern Russia, there is a worrying upward spiral in the number of attacks on individuals and property that are evidently racially motivated. Syktyvkar in northern Russia's Komi Republic is not the sort of place with many handsome buildings. So the burning down of the town's little wooden mosque last month is an assault not just on Syktyvkar's small Islamic population, but also on the heritage of this remote northern region. Last March, anti-Semitic slogans were daubed on the Jewish community centre in the same town.
Meanwhile the announcement by the University of Arkhangelsk, on Russia's Arctic coast, that the authorities there are to provide special protection for foreign students is a measure of the level of apprehension that is now commonplace among minorities in northern Russia - though, thankfully, there have not been attacks on Arkhangelsk's foreign students that have anything like the ferocity of those reported in past weeks further south in St Petersburg and Voronezh.
A tale of two ships
In hidden europe 5 (November 2005), we bemoaned the withdrawal from service of one of our favourite ferries, the MS Duchess of Scandinavia, which until the past autumn served the sole remaining passenger and car ferry route linking Germany with the United Kingdom. Ferry operator DFDS scrapped the Cuxhaven to Harwich route, but now the MS Duchess of Scandinavia has turned up under another name. It is now called the MS Atlantic Traveller and operates on the Fjord Line service that links Hanstholm (Denmark) with Bergen (Norway).
But it looks as though there is to be no return for another ferry beloved by many travellers: the GTS Finnjet has for a quarter century been a mainstay of Baltic shipping, serving various routes and since 1999 linking the north German port of Rostock with Tallinn and Helsinki, or latterly with Tallinn and St Petersburg. The ship's owners, Silja Line, withdrew these German-Baltic ferry connections in the autumn and the ship is now on an unusual charter assignment, housing some seven hundred medical students in Baton Rouge, just up the Mississippi from the US Gulf Coast. The local Louisiana State University (LSU) took a battering in Hurricane Katrina and has chartered Finnjet until the end of this academic year in June. No-one is more bemused than the eighty crew (mainly Finnish and Philippine) who, instead of criss-crossing the Baltic, find themselves firmly berthed on the Mississippi River, ministering to their student clientele. Alcohol is barred on board by the LSU authorities, so this is a quite different Finnjet from that which made the Baltic runs.