Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples
Press release 17 August 2005
Press releases by the Estonian Institute for Human Rights:
RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES THREATENING AN ETHNIC MINORITY ORGANISATION
The authorities of the Republic of Mari El, Russian Federation, are planning to sue leaders of Mari Ushem (The Mari Union), the organisation of indigenous population, for speaking at a public meeting and for an interview given to the Finnish television on Sunday, August 14.
Under the orders of the Russian-dominated administration of Mari El, a group of lawyers analysed video recordings made during the meeting and concluded that the opinions expressed by speakers as well as by those who gave the interview discredited the situation in Mari El and slandered the local administration.
The meeting held on Sunday was to welcome the arriving participants of the 10th International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies, held this time in the Mari capital, and to attract attention to the interethnic problems in Mari El.
A couple of hours before the beginning of the meeting, the area in front of the Drama House in Yoshkar-Ola was blocked with road-building machinery with motors working at full speed to prevent people from gathering and speaking. The picture story of the meeting is on the web page http://www.mari.ee/rus/news/polit/2005/08/09.htm.
This June, former head of the Zvenigorod district Mikhail Zherebtsov and lecturer of the Pedagogical Institute Vsevolod Zaytsev were found guilty in libel by the local court. It was their reward for having a conversation with Estonian, Finnish and Hungarian ambassadors who visited Mari El.