PRESS RELEASE Tallinn, 28 February 2005
For immediate release

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The Appeal on Behalf of the Mari People calling on Russia to stop persecuting Mari journalists and leaders of political opposition, as well as infringing on the rights of this minority nation, has quickly gained international attention. This document is now open on the Internet to everyone and additional signatures are arriving from all continents. The Estonian Institute for Human Rights supports the Appeal and calls on the human rights organisations and the international community to join it by signing the Appeal on the web page

The appeal was initiated by a group of Finnish researchers who reacted to a report by the Mari El Association in Moscow of the political terror 'reaching its climax'. This initiative was supported by writers, composers and politicians from USA, Britain, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Hungary, including former speaker of the Finnish parliament Riitta Uosukainen and former presidents of Lithuania and Estonia Vytautas Landsbergis and Lennart Meri.

The irony is that Russia has now been caught in its own trap. The Maris say that Russia is abusing their human and cultural rights and they appealed for help to other Finno-Ugric peoples, including Estonians. Russia has constantly accused Estonia in violating the rights of Russian-speaking population. These accusations found no confirmation. All international commissions, including those of EU and OSCE, found no jamming of Russian-speakers.

Cultural rights of Russians in Estonia are better protected than those of Maris in Russia. Estonia has is a round-the-clock public radio programme in Russian, TV news in Russian, a number of Russian private radio stations and a Russian TV station. None of the organisations of minorities in Estonia have ever complained of any infringement of their civil or human rights. This is a contrast to what takes place in the Russian Federation.

The situation of Mari cultural rights in Russia is pitiful. The TV and radio programmes in Mari language in the autonomous Republic of Mari El are reduced to a minimum. Only brief news on the TV and less that an hour of Mari radio broadcasting have remained.

The Russian propaganda war against the three Baltic states - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - is a result of fear that the former colonies give a bad example to others by demonstrating rapid progress in contrast to their fading down under the Moscow rule. However, having raised attention to the issue of human rights by falsely accusing its neighbours, Russia was now accused by its own minority in bad practices of establishing the reign of terror for its minority peoples and eroding their cultures and languages.

The issue of violation of human rights of the Mari minority will now be examined at the European Parliament. Its commission on ethnic minorities and regional languages has included the issue of violation of human rights of Maris in its agenda.

The issues that the Mari minority complains about were touched on by U.S. President George W. Bush at his meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin but without precisely pointing at a specific nation. At the joint press conference following the meeting, the American President stressed: "Democracies always reflect a country's customs and culture, and I know that. But democracies have certain things in common: they have a rule of law and protection of minorities, a free press and a viable political opposition."


APPENDIX - Uninvestigated crimes against journalists and opposition leaders during the presidency in the autonomous Republic of Mari El of Leonid Markelov, a man openly contemptuous of democratic processes:

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 the 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.

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

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.


APPENDIX: The report of the Moscow-based Mari El Association requesting for
international support

The Climax of Political Terror in Mari El
7 February 2005

An unprecedented hunting against the leaders of political opposition in the
Republic of Mari El, Russia, has reached its climax. 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, was attacked
and severely beaten yesterday. In this connection, the Council of Mari El
Association in Moscow has issued the following statement.

all members of the all-Russian movement Mer Kanash
all representatives of Finno-Ugric peoples
the Consultative Committee of the World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples


1. We evaluate the attack against the leader of All-Mari Council, Member of
the Executive Board of the Consultative Committee of the World Congress of
Finno-Ugric Peoples, journalist and chief editor Vladimir Kozlov as a
dishonest provocation marking the climax of political terror in the
republic. We are indignant at the state of law and order in Mari El and at
the lack of visible results in investigation by Valery Krasnov, Minister of
Internal Affairs of Mari El, and Georgy Mikhoparkin, Attorney General of
Mari El, of similar cases of slaughter and threats by physical action
against members of political opposition.

2. In connection with this incident we consider it expedient to immediately
hold an extraordinary session of the executive committee of the the
all-Russian movement of Mari people, the All-Mari Council. An attack on a
leader of a movement challenges the idea of democracy and is incompatible
with the observance of legitimate rights of citizens in the territory of
Mari El.

3. We recommend the Executive Board of the Consultative Committee of the
World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples, headed by Mr. Valeri Markov, to
immediately visit the capital city of Mari El and to take steps to initiate
a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the attack against a
member of the Executive Board. The cynicism and the confidence in their
impunity demonstrated by those who committed the attack is a dangerous sign
of violation of the internationally recognised human rights in a republic of
the Russian Federation.

4. We demand from Mr. Valery Komissarov, Mrs. Natalya Dementyeva and
Vice-Speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation Mr.
Aleksander Torshin who are representatives of Mari El in the State Duma, as
well as Mr. Sergey Kiriyenko, Plenipotentiary Representative of the
President of the Russian Federation in the Volga Federal District, to
initiate steps for establishing the constitutional order in Mari El and for
examining by the State Duma of the Russian Federation, as a separate issue
at its session, the state of national security in the Republic of Mary El
and the policy of genocide against the indigenous population of Mari El
conducted by the administration of Mari El headed by its President Leonid

5. We appeal to all non-governmental organisation of Finno-Ugric peoples
based in the territory of the Russian Federation to initiate actions for the
support of the Mari people's movement Mer Kanash, and to address the United
Nations Organisation and the Council of Europe with a joint statement on the
situation of lawlessness in Mari El and the persecution for their opinion,
during the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples of the World, of those
people's representatives who speak for protection of the rights of
indigenous peoples.

An attack on the prominent public figure shall not remain unpunished. The
political terror unleashed in Mari El affects the interests of the entire
Finno-Ugric population of Russia and the international Finno-Ugric
community. The bloody bacchanalia in Mari El must be stopped!

Council of the Mari El Association, Moscow