Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples
Press release 07 June 2005
Press releases by the Estonian Institute for Human Rights:
ETHNIC MINORITY CONVENES ITS CONGRESS IN THE UNDERGROUND
The 2nd Congress of Ethnic Maris of the Republic of Mari El was held in the forest in fear of persecution
The extraordinary congress condemns the policy of Russian administration and expresses its gratitude to the international community for support.
Amidst a wave of persecution on ethnic grounds and physical violence againstthe indigenous nation of Russia's autonomous Republic of Mari El, the 2nd extraordinary Congress of Ethnic Maris of the Republic of Mari El was held June 5 in a traditional holy grove, the cultural organisation Mari Ushem reported.
Attended by foreign press and visitors, the popular representative assembly was decided not to be convened in the capital city of the republic, remembering the 1st Congress in December 2004 that took place in the street, in frosty weather and encircled by the riot police armed with submachine guns. This time the congress was prepared in secrecy. To avoid provocations and attacks organised and supported by the authorities, the event was conducted in the forest, including the press conference.
Speakers at the Congress condemned the acting president of the republic Leonid Markelov for his policy of producing ethnic and economic disorder, and destabilising cultural and social life. In their speeches, visitors and guests of the Congress condemned the late events in Mari El including the mass beatings of ethnic Maris and the policy of breeding a conflict between the Maris and other nationalities, and artificially splitting the population into separate communities.
In its resolution, the congress declared any attempts to accuse the Mari nation in "nationalism" as ill-founded and provocative. The resolution says: "We demand that our constitutional rights in our own republic be observed, without restraining the rights and interests of the whole population irrespective of ethnic origin."
condemned the hysteria boosted by the republic's administration and
the authorities-controlled collection of signatures in protesting against
the European Parliament's Resolution "Violations of human rights
and democracy in the Republic of Mari El in the Russian Federation"
The congress also expressed its gratitude to "all progressively-minded people in Russia and abroad who have publicly condemned the policy of the present authorities of the Republic of Mari El under Markelov".