Erzya partisans: We will be operating in the lands we want to build our new state on

On June 15, 2023, in Zubova Polyana work settlement (Republic of Mordovia), a Japanese SUV which belonged to the head of the settlement Sergey Lyapunov was set on fire. The responsibility for the arson was claimed by the Erzya resistance unit Od Vij. In spite of the wide public response to this event in Mordovia and beyond, local and republican authorities refuse to comment on the matter, trying not to draw attention once again to the topic of the officials’ windfall gains and to the scandal over the construction of a landfill site in the Zubovo-Polyansky District.

The VANDY channel was able to have a conversation with the Erzya resistance member who was directly involved in the operation in Zubova Polyana.

An SUV which belonged to the head of Zubova Polyana settlement Sergey Lyapunov

– Hello! If you go to the local VK (Russian social network – ed.) public page, you can see that your act has made a lot of fuss both in Zubova Polyana and beyond. People are actively discussing the burning of Lyapunov’s car, but also the Erzya resistance that claimed responsibility for the arson. What kind of resistance is this?

– Šumbratado! The resistance is a people’s movement. We stand for the creation of the Erzyan Mastor, a European rule of law state.

– So this is an Erzya nationalist movement?

– Not really. It is a movement of those who advocate radical change toward the rule of law and justice. Those who don’t want to live in a police state. The main things that unite us are freedom and justice. Although we are small in number, we have a diverse range of people, by both nationality and beliefs. And even by religion. Of course there are Erzya nationalists as well.

– And what’s the ratio, how many Erzya?

– I can’t say that for sure.

– Excuse me, but you just said the movement isn’t numerous, and now you say you don’t know how many Erzya nationalists are in it. What’s that supposed to mean?

– Well, I’m not the leader of the Erzya resistance. Everything is arranged in a way that I only know the immediate commander and the group I belong to. Whether the commander of our group is a leader, I don’t know either.

– Is your group a unit of Od Vij?

– Yes, we are part of Od Vij.

– You mean there are other groups as well?

– Yes.

– And just how many people are in Od Vij and the Erzya resistance in general?

– I can’t tell you that. First of all, it’s classified information, and secondly, I don’t know for sure myself.

– Okay, let’s assume there are other units. However, we have heard of only one act of Erzya resistance – the burning of Lyapunov’s car. Why should we believe there is some kind of resistance? Maybe it’s even a plot against Lyapunov. After all, the man is wealthy, has certain connections, the one “taking care of things”. Lyapunov must have many enemies.

– Certainly, you shouldn’t blindly believe what you hear. Especially in our times. Everything must be viewed critically and the information must be verified. We urge our people to do this. When someone tells you something – before you take it for granted – think who’s telling you about it and why they are telling it.

Concerning the other units, first of all, I know of their existence, I know for sure that they exist. They helped us prepare for other acts. Secondly, the resistance isn’t just about arsons and bombings. Acts of violence are just one of the methods of our struggle. But in order to make such an act happen, we have very serious prep work to do.

– Let’s say there are other units, united by a single leadership and a single idea. How come we didn’t see any other acts, but only one, in Zubova Polyana? By the way, Zubova Polyana is a Moksha land. What does the Erzya resistance have to do with it?

– That’s enough questions for three interviews already (laughs – ed.). Let me try to explain. The Erzya resistance is not an ethnoclub or a community of fellow countrymen. The resistance is joined by those who share our views and are willing to act. There are Russians and Moksha among us, and not just the ones from Mordovia.

We are the militant wing of the Erzya movement. This means there’s a political wing, and there’s a power bloc, let’s call it this way. The political wing is the Inyazor, the Council of Elders, the Erzya congress that took place last year in Estonia. The political program and the particular goal of all our struggle – the creation of an independent state of Erzyan Mastor – was approved there. The territory of the state we want to create is much larger than the territory of the Republic of Mordovia. There are Moksha lands, as well as Tatar and Russian. You can find it all online, with pictures and maps.

Territories of the Erzyan Mastor, the country of the Erzya, independence of which the Erzya national movement struggles for.

Therefore, if we carried out an act in Zubova Polyana, it doesn’t mean there is a Moksha group there, which decided to form a resistance. No way. Things are arranged differently. The command saw there was lawlessness going on in Zubova Polyana: the authorities decided to build a landfill site for waste from miles around, including neighboring regions, ignoring the opinion of the people, impudently, without regard for the people. Hence, in Od Vij we decided to stand up for the people and teach the authorities a lesson.

We will operate in those lands where we want to build our new state, not where the Erzya live now, not where we have been driven in the last hundred years…

– Does it turn out that Zubova Polyana is your only act?

– No, it’s not.

– And why has only this action become known?

– Because that was the order of the command. They considered it necessary to reveal the landfill case, and do everything to make the authorities back down. That’s why Od Vij decided to give an interview to your channel; we know that VANDY is one of the resources of the Erzya national movement.

There was simply no need to issue appeals or statements on the other acts. Maybe it is not the time yet.

– We monitored the social networks and we must admit that your action has gained support among many local residents. People want to believe in the existence of “people’s avengers” who punish corrupt officials. However, there are those who are intimidated by your methods. Why act so radically? As you said yourself, you are fighting for a rule of law state. Then fight using legal methods! Write appeals to the police, to the prosecutor’s office, to the investigative committee.

– Sorry, but that’s pointless! We’re not going to write to yet another place. Writing petitions, appeals, and court statements makes sense if the law works or if there is at least a semblance of justice. Just ask people, who these days believes the courts, the police, and the prosecutor’s office? If the minister’s son or the prosecutor’s wife sues you, guess who will win? Any grade school student will tell you that.

The idea of an independent state of Erzyan Mastor didn’t come about by chance. We won’t be able two survive the other way! Russia is a big prison or a colony, which breaks a person down and makes him obedient since his childhood. Russian authorities only need the people as serving personnel or as cannon fodder for war. We’ve been taught since school that “the country’s leadership knows best”, “all authority comes from God”, and so on. But we understand that with Russia, there will be no future for neither the Erzya, nor the Moksha, nor the Tatars, nor even the Russians themselves. Only suffering, patience, and the dream of fleeing as soon as possible.

– So a radical reboot of the system is necessary to do?

– Freedom is necessary. A reboot will lead to a new Putin and a totalitarian state. If we have freedom, we’ll have independence. This is a natural process. If Russia is given freedom – it immediately begins to fall apart, that’s proven by history. Russia can only exist off dispossession, KGB of various kinds, terror, persecution of foreign agents, etc. Try to give freedom to the penitentiary. What’s going to happen? Even if Navalny and Khodorkovsky would rush from barrack to barrack shouting: “Re-establishment of the colony on a voluntary basis! New treaty has been signed! Stay with us! Don’t destroy the colony, otherwise chaos will ensue!”. How many people will want to stay in the colony if there is an opportunity to live, work, and develop freely?

– So, Navalny, Khodorkovsky, and Kasparov are not your allies?

– No. The Erzya movement has repeatedly stated this. We have fundamentally different goals. We want freedom and independence, they want to be instead of Putin.

– But without ousting Putin, you will not be able to implement your ideas.

– Political and strategic questions are for Syreś (Boläeń, Erzya Inyazor – ed.). He was entrusted by the congress to lead our movement. I can state my own understanding. Navalny, Khodorkovsky, Kasparov, and Gudkov are not our allies.

– And Ponomaryov? Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom of Russia Legion?

– What kind of question is that? (laughs – ed.). Today they are not our enemies, but what might happen tomorrow? I haven’t heard them delcare which territories this “Free Russia” of theirs will be on! And after that, I’d like to hear from them the moment we take over all the territories of the Erzyan Mastor, that they will not interfere in our affairs, they will not send their troops, their volunteers here. They must clearly declare that they have no claims over the Erzyan Mastor, that they have no claim over all the Idel-Ural territories. New states will be emerging here: Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, possibly Chuvashia, Mari El, and Udmurtia. How this will happen, what will the political system be – this is no longer the concern of the RVC and FRL.

– Thank you for this frank conversation!

– Mongak sükonän! (“Thank you too!” – ed.)