Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples
Press release 16 August 2005
Press releases by the Estonian Institute for Human Rights:
SCIENTISTS REPLACED WITH OFFICIALS AT A SCIENTIFIC CONGRESS IN RUSSIA
A lengthy opening speech was delivered by President of the Republic of Mari El Mr. Leonid Markelov who announced that, as he took his office in 2000, democracy was established in Mari El. He also spoke about economic successes and about installing gas pipelines in Mari El. Other speakers were representatives of various Russian ministries, Chairman of the Advisory Committee of Finno-Ugric Peoples Valeri Markov, Finnish and Hungarian diplomats. The congress received greetings from both houses of the Duma (Russian parliament).
Estonian Minister of Education Mrs. Mailis Reps emphasized in her speech that ethnic culture is a complex phenomenon that must be lived and not just studied or taught. She pointed as an example at Estonian composer Veljo Tormis who, in his choir music, applies traditional tunes of all Baltic-Finnic peoples and texts in their languages.
The participants stood in memory of the late President of the congress Professor Yuri Anduganov who died in a mysterious car crash a month ago. His widow who was with him in the car suspects that the collision was not accidental. Three years ago Anduganov was constrained to leave the university in Yoshkar-Ola and continued his work in the neighbouring region. There, at the Yugra University in the city of Khanty-Mansiysk, he chaired the department of Finno-Ugric studies and general linguistics.
At the congress, there are 31 members from Finland (against 210 at the previous congress in Tartu, Estonia, in 2000), 17 from Estonia (165), 35 from Hungary (44), and about 500 from the Russian Federation (156). Yesterday, Estonian Social Democrat MP Mrs. Katrin Saks arrived in Mari El with the mission of drawing an official report on the situation of Finno-Ugric peoples in Russia for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
On Sunday, a day before the opening of the congress, a mass rally against President Markelov was arranged in Yoshkar-Ola by the Mari organisation Mari Ushem. The participants in carried slogans 'Our president is Putin, not Markelov', '1937 again?' (the year notorious for Stalin's repressions), 'No to Fascism!' 'No to breach of human rights'. A message of the Maris to the President of Finland Tarja Halonen was read at the rally.
Of late, the Republic of Mari El has become notorious for constant reports about the violation of rights of the Mari people, cultural and opposition leaders being violently assaulted and murdered, the teaching of Mari language being curbed. Although the Maris make up 43 per cent of the population of Mari El, the yearly amount of radio broadcasting in Mari has been limited to 271 hours (44,5 minutes per day). Many scientists from all over the world have joined The Appeal on Behalf of the Mari People (see http://www.ugri.info/mari). The Appeal was signed by each tenth of those who had intended to participate in this congress and, outside Russia, even by each fourth. Many have refused to attend the event held in the Mari capital.
One of those who refused to attend the congress, Finnish member of the International Organizing Committee Prof. Pauli Saukkonen, sent a letter to the Organizing Committee that reads:
'I will thus cancel my participation to the X International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies as a PROTEST against president Markelov's administration and the Russian Foreign Ministry. The answer of the Russian Foreign Ministry to the resolution of European Parliament, concerning the oppression against the Maris and other Finno-Ugric people, included lies and support to Markelov's policy. This i s n o t against the local Organizing Committee. On the contrary: all my best wishes to the Congress and Finno-Ugric Associations.'
The first congress of Finno-Ugric studies was held in 1960 in Budapest. Since then, congresses are convened each fifth year successively in each of the Finno-Ugric states (up to the 1990s Hungary, Finland and USSR, and today Hungary, Finland, Estonia and Russia). The previous congress took place in 2000 in the Estonian city of Tartu. This will be the second congress hosted by Russia. The 6th congress in 1985 was held in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic of the Russian Federation.