Tallinn, 12 May 2005
For immediate release


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


A resolution on the condition of the Mari minority nation in the Russian
Federation was passed unanimously by the European Parliament at its plenary
session in Strasbourg today. The Parliament deplores breaches of human
rights and democracy taking place in the Mari Republic (Mari El), an
administrative unit of Russia.

The resolution says that the Maris face considerable difficulties in
obtaining education in their native language, that there is no secondary or
higher education in Mari, and that the publication of Mari textbooks has
severely declined in the past years. It says that journalists of non-state
mass media have been continuously and frequently assaulted, harassed and
intimidated in Mari El, including the killing of three journalists in 2001
and the beating of Chairman of the Mari Congress Mr Vladimir KOZLOV on 4
February 2005, and that local and federal governments fail to take adequate
steps to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The resolution calls on Russia's federal and local authorities to respect
the freedom of press, to immediately stop political retribution directed at
dissenting public servants, and to refrain from undue political interference
in the affairs of educational and cultural institutions. It calls on Russia
to respect its obligations under international law concerning protection and
development of minority languages and cultures.

The Estonian member of European Parliament Mrs. Marianne MIKKO said in her
speech before the voting: "Altogether, national minorities in Russia make up
28 millions of people. Four million of them speak Finno-Ugric languages. In
the Mordovian language spoken by around a million people, just some twenty
books are published each year, no newspapers are published, nor is this
language taught in any school. The situation of the Maris is but a bit

The draft resolution was submitted by representatives of the Group of the
European People's Party and European Democrats (EPP-ED).

This move followed a wide international protest against the oppression of
the Maris, 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. The web page www.ugri.info/mari has collected signatures
from over sixty countries.

The Maris are a 650 thousand-strong people (however, according to the last
census, there number has decreased already to 604 thousands) living in the
Mari Republic (Mari El), some 500 miles to the east of Moscow. Today, the
Maris are grossly underrepresented in Russia. A constant ethnic cleansing
carried out in the local administration of Mari republic has reduced the
number of public employees of Mari origin from 30% to some three or four
persons. Neither are there any people descending from the Republic of Mari
El in Russia's federal representative bodies. The Maris have repeatedly
demanded the observance of human and civil rights, as well as the right for
education, publications and broadcasts in their native language to the
extent equal to that available to Russians in the Mari Republic.

Information: Mart Meri, phone + 372 51 27314