Tallinn, 22 February 2005
For immediate release


Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples
phone/fax: +372 644 9270
e-mail: suri@suri.ee

Mari Nation Under Threat in Russia

An appeal to the authorities of Russian Federation to stop infringing on political and cultural rights of the Maris, a 600 thousand strong nation, was distributed today by a group of American, British, Swedish, Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian politicians and public figures.

They urge the Russian government to immediately stop the rising tide of discrimination and persecution of Mari nation in the Republic of Mari El, and to initiate an investigation into the assault on prominent Mari leader Mr. Vladimir Kozlov who was beaten nearly to death earlier this month. Kozlov is the editor-in-chief of an international Finno-Ugric newspaper and head of the all-Russian movement of the Mari people. The authors call on human rights organizations of the world to support the action. Everyone is called to join the appeal at the Internet address http://www.ugri.info/mari/.

Among those who signed the appeal are former speaker of the Finnish parliament Mrs. Riitta Uosukainen, former president of Estonia Mr. Lennart Meri, long-term adviser of U.S. governments Prof. Paul Goble, composers Veljo Tormis from Estonia and Kari Rydman from Finland, First Vice-President of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Prof. John Hiden from Britain, and former Finnish foreign minister Pertti Paasio.

The appeal of Western politicians was published on 22 February in the Finnish Helsingin Sanomat and Estonian Paevaleht, dailies with the greatest circulation. It was the reaction to a report by the Mari El Association in Moscow issued 7 February. According to the report, local officials did not even launch investigation into other similar cases of attacks on leaders of political opposition.

The association condemned the attack on Kozlov and called on Mari representatives in the Russian State Duma to take an action to stop 'the political terror' and ensure the constitutional rights to all citizens in Mari El. The report asked the international community and especially the Finno-Ugric nations of Estonia, Finland and Hungary, relatives of the Mari people, to speak out against this dangerous trend (http://www.mari.ee/eng/soc/polit/apogei.htm)

On behalf of the signatories,
Mart Meri
Editor in Chief, monthly Keel ja Kirjandus
Tallinn, Estonia