Secrets of the Votic Museum

Marina Petrova, Marina Ilyina, Nikita Dyachkov

A minimum objective is to inspire learning and speaking Votic and Izhorian languages

An initiative of the Votic Museum in Luzhitsy has united the population of the surrounding settlements through an interactive activity. This activity is a quest, designed to teach languages and cultures of Votes and Izhorians, small-numbered peoples of Russia, indigenous for this area.

The Votic Museum

The situation is complicated: the number of people willing to study (30) twice exceeds the number of the native speakers. Thus, a quest format has been considered the most suitable for introducing new words, culture, traditions and history. The rules are as follows: the visitors, in a group of no more than 10 people, jointly resolve various logic and language tasks, for example, search for objects listed in Votic and Izhorian, puzzle solving, etc. The quest covers a vocabulary related to the regional life, nature, wildlife and plants. Upon completion, the participants shall acquire the basics of Votic and Izhorian and, most importantly, develop interest in the further language studies. The quest helps to build a vocabulary applicable in the everyday life.

Resolve the tasks to avoid the anger of the Mother of Fire

Votians and Izhorians have beliefs in good and bad spirits that may affect people. The spirit named Tulõemä (‘Mother of Fire’), lives in the stove and can come out in a shape of a blue ball or a fire belt, rushing around the house. The quest participants shall finish the tasks and discover the secret of the Votic Museum, not to draw down the anger of the Mother of Fire.

The Votic Museum

First, at the entrance hall, the team has to assemble a puzzle, depicting the lands of Votes and Izhorians. The map is in Votic or Izhorian, depending on a chosen language. The next task is to pack a bride’s chest. The dowry shall be found in a museum room; collected pieces shall correspond to Votic and Izhorian words, written on the wooden plates. Then, the team shall go fishing for dummy fish and catch only the local one. All species bear tags with native names. Another exercise is to collect ingredients for a cabbage soup in accordance with a recipe provided in Votic or Izhorian. The following challenge leads to an improvised wood with singing birds. There are plates with names of the local plants, written in Votic, Izhorian, and English. Only plates in Votic and Izhorian shall be gathered. Finally, the team gets in a room of the Mother of Fire, located in the dark attic, filled with wind moaning and scary sounds. Now there will just 5 minutes to match a key to a chest’s lock. In the chest, there are halves of proverbs in Votic and Izhorian that shall be correctly combined together. Should the team act slowly, the scary sounds will intensify, and the Mother of Fire may come for them. Each stage of the quest is accompanied with the traditional music, songs, or sounds of nature.

All tasks were time-based. If we failed, the Mother of Fire Tulõemä was getting angry and released smoke from the stove. During the breaks, we were doing a circle dance. Both adults and children flied into passion. It was a tough job, and it helped studying Votic.

Antonina Chyornaya, quest participant