Finno-Ugric Minority of Russia Grateful to the European Parliament for Support

Posted in Europe | 26-Apr-05 | Source: Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples

The Mari nation expresses its gratitude to the European Parliament and international supporters

As the Mari minority in Russia learned about the move to protect its rights initiated in the European Parliament, their leading organisations jointly published an open letter. The authors point that a traditional holiday, The Day of the Mari Hero, is celebrated on 26 April when the Mari issue will be discussed at the European Parliament. They express their gratitude to members of the European Parliament and to all people who have put their signatures under the Appeal on Behalf of the Mari People open on the web page

The letter reads:


"This time, the Day of the Mari Hero will be unusual. On the same day in Brussels one of the working groups of the European Parliament will be discussing the issue of infringement on human rights and violation of democratic norms in the Republic of Mari El.

"The European MPs scarcely know that the Mari nation has a holiday called the Day of the Mari Hero and that they will hold their discussion exactly on this date. But what a concurrence! May we express our gratitude to the deputies of the European Parliament for their care for the future of our people. Using the occasion, we congratulate our compatriots with the holiday and also thank all people from all around the world for putting about 10 000 signatures of solidarity and in support to our people on the Internet!

Council of All-Russian Mari Movement ‘Mer Kanash’
Republican Council ‘On Kanash’
Nongovernmental Organisation ‘Mari Ushem’
Yoshkar-Ola City Branch of ‘Mari Ushem’
Organisation of Mari Youth ‘U Viy’”

For the complete text of the letter in Russian, see:


Uninvestigated crimes against journalists and opposition in the Russia's autonomous Republic of Mari El that have caused international concern:

November 21, 2001: Aleksandr Babaykin, assistant chief editor of the opposition newspaper The Good Neighbors, is brutally killed in the centre of Yoshkar-Ola, the capital city of Mari El.

November 2001: Leonid Plotnikov, assistant chief of department of the publishing house Periodika Mari El, is killed.

November 2001: Aleksei Bakhtin, journalist of a regional newspaper, is killed.

March 12, 2002: Vladimir Maltsev, chief editor of the newspaper The Good Neighbors, is attacked in the evening and caused severe bodily injuries.

March 14, 2002: The door of the Vladimir Maltsev's apartment is poured over with fuel and put on fire by unknown persons.

April 16, 2002: Viktor Nikolayev, Member of Consultative Committee of Finno-Ugric Peoples and Chairman of the all-Russia movement Mer Kanash, is attacked and brutally beaten in front of his house. Nikolayev had just called the 6th extraordinary Mari Congress due to be held on 26 April.

August 14, 2004: a pogrom is made in the apartment of Valentin Matveyev, a public figure and author of critical articles in The Good Neighbors.

October 4, 2004: masked bandits, armed with weapons and acting in the name of the Department of Criminal Investigations, attack the apartment of an employee of the human rights organization Citizen And Law.

October 2004: journalist Vitaliy Igitov is attacked. Earlier, in personal conversations, Leonid Markelov called Igitov the man who had insulted him most.

January 7, 2005: correspondent of the Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe Yelena Rogacheva is attacked.

February 7, 2005: Vladimir Kozlov, chief editor of the international Finno-Ugric newspaper Kudo+Kodu, Member of the Consultative Committee of the World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples and leader of the all-Russian movement of Mari people Mer Kanash, is attacked and severely beaten.

Federal Union of European nationalities examined the situation of a Russia's minority

The 50th Congress of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) held

4-8 May in Bucharest, Romania, discussed the situation of Maris, a Russia's minority people.

This 650 thousand-strong people living in the Mari Republic (Mari El), some 500 miles to the east of Moscow, demands the restoration of their human and civil rights, the immediate end of ethnic discrimination and harassment of political opposition, mass media and nongovernmental organisations of their people. Organisations of the Maris also demand the right for education, publications and broadcasts in their native language to the extent equal to that available for Russians in the Mari Republic.

"Today there are absolutely no people descending from the Republic of Mari El in the Russia's federal representative bodies. In the Government of the Republic of Mari El itself, only three or four public employees of Mari origin have remained", described the Chairman of the Mari Congress Vladimir Kozlov the ethnic cleansing carried out in the local administration of Mari republic, speaking to the FUEN congress. Kozlov used the term "policy marked with Marifobia" and accused the administration of this Russian province in "a planned action intended to finally abolish the Republic of Mari El as a subject of the Russian Federation".

Kozlov was invited to give the FUEN first-hand information, since the situation of the Maris has caused international attention. This February, Kozlov was brutally beaten in his hometown, just like many Mari journalists, political leaders and cultural workers before him, by unknown persons. This has caused international protest, including the Appeal on Behalf of the Mari People written by a group of Finnish scientists, and an action of collecting signatures to support the Maris. On the web page people from over sixty countries have signed this appeal calling on Russia to stop the oppression of the Mari minority.

The Congress of FUEN decided to include the information on Maris into the report on the realisation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Presiding Committee will draft a resolution on the Mari issue.

Meanwhile the European Parliament is preparing to say its word. A draft resolution on the situation in the Mari Republic was introduced on 2 May by representatives of Social Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals. The draft will be submitted to the plenary session of the European Parliament to be held next week in Strasbourg.

The Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) [In French: Union Féderaliste des Communautés Ethniques Européennes (UFCE); in German:

Föderalistishce Union Europäischer Volksgruppen (FUEV)] is an independent umbrella association of the organisations of national minorities in Europe, which was established in 1949. Today, the FUEN includes 76 member organisations from 32 states. According to its statutes, the FUEN serves the ethnic groups in Europe and pursues the goal of preserving their national identity, their language, culture and the history of national minorities.

This objective is pursued only by peaceful means. It decisively takes a stand against separatism and the violent moving of national borders, and works towards a neighbourly, peaceful coexistence of majority and minority in one state or region. In recognition of its efforts towards attaining protection for European minorities, the FUEN obtained consultative status to the Council of Europe in 1989 and a consultative status to the United Nations in 1995. It is also represented at OSCE (the former CSCE) conferences concerning national minorities and ethnic groups.

Information: Jaak Prozes, phone +372 50 12319,

Russian composer did not celebrate his anniversary in his home town

The eightieth jubilee of Andrei Eshpai, a well-known Russian composer of Mari origin, was celebrated today (18 May) in the National Drama of the Republic of Mari El, but without Eshpai himself. He did not come for his birthday to Yoshkar-Ola, the capital city of his homeland. Earlier the master rejected a proposal by Aleksandr Sokolov, Minister of Culture of Mari El, to host the celebrations.

The most known Mari composer who is the laureate of many awards and titles of the Russian Federation and the USSR expressed his anxiety about the plans of local Russian-dominated administration to close down the Yoshkar-Ola Music School, the centre of Mari musical culture, and to incorporate it into a local college. He is also indignant about the present cultural and nationalities policy in Mari El and about undemocratic dismissal of the mayor of his home town Kozmodemyansk.

Andrei Eshpai, whom five years ago President Vladimir Putin personally congratulated on his birthday (15 May), has added his signature to the Appeal on Behalf of the Mari People in which a group of scientists, writers, composers and politicians denounced the restriction of cultural and language rights of the Maris and the repressions against the democratic opposition in Mari El. The appeal is open at for everyone to sign, and people from over 60 countries have already joined it.

The Republic of Mari El is an administrative unit of the Russian Federation located about 500 km to the east from Moscow. It has the population of 728 thousands of whom the Maris make up now only 43 per cent. The press, radio and television broadcasting in the Mari language have been restricted in the recent years and education in the native language is almost nonexistent. A wide international protest was caused this February by the assault and battery of Vladimir Kozlov, Chairman of the all-Russian Movement of the Mari People. This month, the European Parliament and the Federal Union of European Nationalities called on Russia to stop infringing on the rights of the Maris.