Tallinn, 31 May 2005
For immediate release


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


A violent incident took place in Yoshkar-Ola, the capital city of the Russia's autonomous Republic of Mari El. Fifteen artists and musicians of Mari origin were beaten by skinheads belonging to the local branch of the notorious fascist organisation The Russian National Unity. The incident was allegedly organised by the local Russian-dominated administration.

In the evening of May 27, 2005, after a concert of Mari music in the Culture Hall when musicians were walking to their bus, they were followed by a group of twenty-year-old skinheads from the Russian National Unity. The first assault took place near the bus. The skinheads said they did not like songs performed in the Mari language, started offending the artists, and hit some of them. A new attack followed when other artists and organisers of the concert walked home along a parkway. And all of them, including women, were beaten unmercifully by a group of thirty Russian skinheads.

Later, in their conversations with local residents, skinheads said they received the orders to arrange a mass assault against Mari musicians from their local leader Andrei Tsaregorodtsev. According to their explanations, the chief of the fascist group was instructed by Head of the Presidential Administration of the Mari Republic Mr. Dmitry Frolov who promised that, as an award for the action, a plot of land would be allotted to the group to build its base. The landed property is located near Yezhovo village in the Sovietsky District. The base will have ten dwelling houses, a guest-house and a bath-house. The group has already ordered frames for the buildings at a sawmill located in the nearby Pemba village.

Frolov obviously could not act on his own initiative. His direct superior is President of the Mari autonomous republic Mr. Leonid Markelov.

There are about two thousand skinheads in the city of Yoshkar-Ola, according to local Mari press (weekly "Izvestiya Mari El" May 20/26 issue). They enjoy patronage of the local president's administration, some of them even hold offices in the bodies of local government.

The presidency of Leonid Markelov has been marked by a chain of assaults, murders and constant persecution of political and cultural figures of the local nationality, the Maris. Markelov comes from Moscow. First elected in 2000, he was re-elected for the second term in 2004. The elections were accompanied by violations of human rights and irregularities. Markelov started his political career in the so-called "Liberal Democratic Party" led by notorious chauvinist Vladimir Zhirinovsky. This party was established in 1989 with the assistance of the Soviet security police, the KGB.

During the first days following the incident, government-controlled press in Russia silenced it. However, when reports about the incident reached the Western media, the local administration of Mari Republic reacted today by issuing a statement. The statement, disseminated by government controlled press and agencies sponsored by the security police, says that employees of the administration were beaten and that alien forces "inside and outside the republic" would make use of the incident "to exacerbate the interethnic situation".

A day before the incident, on May 26, the authorities of Mari Republic issued a statement denouncing the European Parliament for its Resolution on Mari El adopted earlier this month. The European Parliament called on the local and federal authorities of the Russian Federation "to respect their obligations under international law, and to take adequate steps to facilitate the practical implementation of the provisions of the State Constitution and other legislation relating to the maintenance and development of minority languages and cultures".

The preliminary list of victims of the May 27 incident was published on the Internet. It included the following persons: Mr. O.N. Tikhonov, Chairman of the Mari Friendly Association, head of the chair of journalism at the Mari National University and Executive Manager of the International Finno-Ugric Congress to be held in the Mari Republic this August; Mr. V.A. Koltsov, head of a department of the Mari Radio; Mrs. T.N. Stepanova, employee of the Ministry of Culture, Press Nationalities of the Mari Republic; Mrs. A.A. Krylova - singer of the Mari Philharmonic Society; Mr. A. Aleksandrov, violinist; Mr. L.A. Dmitriyev, teacher of physical culture; Mr. A.N. Ivanov, former Minister of Press and Information of the Mari Republic; Mr. V.P. Vasilyev, Professor of the Mari National University; and others.

Sources: Internet editions and news agencies in Moscow and in the Republic of Mari El (Russia)