Tallinn, 22 July 2005Tallinn, 07 July 2005
For immediate release
Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples
phone/fax: +372 644 9270
e-mail: suri@suri.ee



The 28th Finno-Ugrian expedition of the Estonian Academy of Arts, upon its arrival on July 21 evening to the town of Kozmodemyansk (the Republic of Mari El, Russian Federation), was immediately expelled from the republic by
the Mari El authorities. The expedition included seventeen master students of the Estonian Academy of Arts, a Belgian photographer and the Research Manager of the Munich Museum of Anthropology.

The expulsion was explained by the local Ministry of Culture (of Mari El) having not been notified in good time about the arrival of the expedition. Local officials also said that security of the members of the expedition cannot be guaranteed considering a festival taking place in Kozmodemyansk these days.

The expedition, having arrived in the Chuvash Republic on July 11, continued its way to the Republic of Mari El on July 21. The task of the expedition was learning the Chuvash culture and studying the extent of its similarity to that of the Maris, as these two peoples are culturally close to each other. It was planned to display the collected materials at an exhibition in the Estonian National Library and to hold a conference.

The incident, occurring on the eve of the 10th International Congress of Finnougristics to be held on August 15-21 in Yoshkar-Ola, the capital city of the Republic of Mari El, creates an unfavourable background for the event and questions the traditional practice of co-operation between the Finno-Ugric peoples. The Republic of Mari El is an administrative unit of the Russian Federation.

This year, interethnic relations in the republic have deteriorated. The local administration, however, whitewashes the situation and justifies its actions. The state-owned media is publishing hostile articles about Estonia. Earlier this year (on May 12), the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the breach of human rights in Mari El and the pitiable situation of the Mari language.