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Press release

3 March 2006

Mari ethnographic film now available in internet (28.02.06)

Mari minister promises his assistance in obtaining a Russian visa (20.01.06)

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Report of the International Helsinki Federation on the Mari Minority is ‘objective’, says Mari Minister of Culture

‘I had never encountered such a systemic evaluation of the situation’, said Mikhail Vasyutin yesterday about the ‘Report on the Mari Minority of the Republic of Mari El (Russian Federation)’ published this February by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.

Mr. Vasyutin, Minister of Culture, Press and Nationalities Affairs of the Republic of Mari El, an administrative unit of the Russian Federation with the population of seven hundred thousand, was speaking in Helsinki at a seminar ‘The Maris and the Mari culture in the 21st century as a part of the Russian and European community’ organised by the Russian Embassy in Finland.

Vasyutin told journalists that he personally communicated with the authors of the report and highly appreciated their work. He called the report ‘objective’ and added that he recommended it as a manual to his assistants.

However, in a press release of February 15 titled ‘Escalating Harassment of Mari National Activists’ the International Helsinki Federation pointed that the problems faced by Mari activists may have intensified after the publication of the report about the Mari minority on 1 February. It also expressed concern in connection with new attacks by the administration against the All-Mari Council ‘Mer Kanash’ and the Mari Culture Association ‘Mari Ushem’. The press release reads: ‘The report shows that members of the Mari national movement have been the targets of a growing crack-down on their activities during the period in office of the current president of Mari El, Leonid Markelov.’

Speaking at the seminar were also Russian ambassador to Finland Mr. Vladimir Grinin, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Finnish kindred peoples programme Mr. Urpo Vento, and General Secretary of the Finland-Russia Society (formerly, Finland-USSR Society) Mrs. Merja Hannus who is also Finnish co-ordinator of the Consultative Committee of Finno-Ugric Peoples.

After the seminar held in the new house of the Finnish parliament, a ceremony of opening an exhibition of Mari photography took place in the premises of the Russian Embassy.

See the press release of February 15 by the International Helsinki Federation:

See the IHF Report on the Mari Minority of the Republic of Mari El (Russian Federation):