Tallinn, 7 May 2005
For immediate release


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


The 50th Congress of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) held 4-8 May in Bucharest, Romania, discussed the situation of Maris, a Russia's minority people.

This 650 thousand-strong people living in the Mari Republic (Mari El), some 500 miles to the east of Moscow, demands the restoration of their human and civil rights, the immediate end of ethnic discrimination and harassment of political opposition, mass media and nongovernmental organisations of their people. Organisations of the Maris also demand the right for education, publications and broadcasts in their native language to the extent equal to that available for Russians in the Mari Republic.

"Today there are absolutely no people descending from the Republic of Mari El in the Russia's federal representative bodies. In the Government of the Republic of Mari El itself, only three or four public employees of Mari origin have remained", described the Chairman of the Mari Congress Vladimir Kozlov the ethnic cleansing carried out in the local administration of Mari republic, speaking to the FUEN congress. Kozlov used the term "policy marked with Marifobia" and accused the administration of this Russian province in "a planned action intended to finally abolish the Republic of Mari El as a subject of the Russian Federation".

Kozlov was invited to give the FUEN first-hand information, since the situation of the Maris has caused international attention. This February, Kozlov was brutally beaten in his hometown, just like many Mari journalists, political leaders and cultural workers before him, by unknown persons. This has caused international protest, including the Appeal on Behalf of the Mari People written by a group of Finnish scientists, and an action of collecting signatures to support the Maris. On the web page www.ugri.info/mari people from over sixty countries have signed this appeal calling on Russia to stop the oppression of the Mari minority.

The Congress of FUEN decided to include the information on Maris into the report on the realisation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Presiding Committee will draft a resolution on the Mari issue.

Meanwhile the European Parliament is preparing to say its word. A draft resolution on the situation in the Mari Republic was introduced on 2 May by representatives of Social Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals. The draft will be submitted to the plenary session of the European Parliament to be held next week in Strasbourg.

The Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) [In French: Union Féderaliste des Communautés Ethniques Européennes (UFCE); in German: Föderalistishce Union Europäischer Volksgruppen (FUEV)] is an independent umbrella association of the organisations of national minorities in Europe, which was established in 1949. Today, the FUEN includes 76 member organisations from 32 states. According to its statutes, the FUEN serves the ethnic groups in Europe and pursues the goal of preserving their national identity, their language, culture and the history of national minorities. This objective is pursued only by peaceful means. It decisively takes a stand against separatism and the violent moving of national borders, and works towards a neighbourly, peaceful coexistence of majority and minority in one state or region. In recognition of its efforts towards attaining protection for European minorities, the FUEN obtained consultative status to the Council of Europe in 1989 and a consultative status to the United Nations in 1995. It is also represented at OSCE (the former CSCE) conferences concerning national minorities and ethnic groups.

Additional information: Jaak Prozes, phone +372 50 12319
www.fuen.org, www.mari.ee